Hurricane Harvey

For the past several days, of course, our news media has been saturated with coverage of Hurricane Harvey. Pretty steep price to keep Trump off the headlines, and I think we all look forward to the day when the man and his haircut are again our most interesting new story.

Obviously I’m grateful I live in a part of the country completely unaffected by the storm. Actually, that’s been the pattern my whole life, even when disasters have hit close to home for me, my home has always been spared. Just lucky, I guess.

I read today that the number of people killed by this storm had reached 22. That’s an unimaginable tragedy for the families of those 22 people. But it wasn’t that long ago that literally thousands of people would have been killed by a storm such as this. Even today, in less-developed parts of the world, unthinkable numbers of people are wiped out by hurricanes and floods and tsunamis. With the forecasting we have today, the ability to move out of the way of danger, and the capacity of our engineers and builders, even Biblical storms are manageable, and for that we should all be thankful every day.

Thought you could use some good news today.

A welcome distraction

Sports, sweet sports, keeping me up two nights in a row, and now this work week looks hard. Well, given everything that’s going on in the world (and when can’t that phrase be said) I suppose it’s a welcome distraction. I’ve been lucky my whole life to have basically a series of useful distractions from war and poverty and disease and all that, and I am truly thankful.

This week’s message of gratitude sponsored by sports, sweet sports.

Mayweather-McGregor

I know, I know, it’s just a PR stunt. But if someone offered me anywhere near the amount these guys are getting tomorrow night to get in a ring and box (or whatever Conor McGregor plans to do), I’d be right there, of course.

I’m sure the whole thing is a great affront to boxing purists and MMA purists (is that a thing?), but who cares. This is TV. This is great reality television, actually, because here’s this thing and you don’t know what’s going to happen. This is why we love sports, after all, even silly exhibitions with guys who don’t even play the same sport.

I, for one, am all in. And hey, it’s gotta be better than that lackluster “eclipse” I saw the other day. Just sayin’.

Two comic legends pass

Last Saturday evening I, along with much of the country, was saddened to hear of the death of comedian Dick Gregory. Calling Gregory a comedian, of course, is a little bit like calling Abe Lincoln a lawyer. Yeah, he did that, but he did some other things too. Mr. Gregory, who was 84, was a champion in the fight for civil rights, children’s rights, human rights, disabled rights, animal rights, and, well, you get the idea. Mr. Gregory also promoted what I suppose we’d now call a “clean” lifestyle, a diet and exercise guru decades before it was mainstream, permitting him, I suppose, the ability to stay on the comedy circuit into his ninth decade. Known in Vanguard circles as one of the major headliners in the early days of the Playboy Club in Chicago, it was these performances that are now cited as the first steps toward true social integration. Until then black performers just didn’t perform in “white” clubs. (Not as equals, anyway. I’d hardly call minstrel shows integration.) This changed through the influence of performers such as Dick Gregory, who would be cited for decades by black (and white) performers as a major inspiration.

Problem with Gregory was that many times he was overshadowed by others. Case in point: Who dies the next day but Jerry Lewis?

If you need to read this tribute to know who Jerry Lewis was, please check out his Wikipedia page first. He was world famous for 70 years, so I’m guessing you’re familiar with his work. Actor, comedian, singer, fundraiser, activist, and yes, to use a trite phrase, legend of show business. He also happens to have been born in 1926, that magical year in which so many legends arrived. (See Club 90 gets fourth member.) Why didn’t Jerry make the original list, you might ask. Well, to be on the list one had to be still doing whatever it was they were famous for doing, and Jerry’s been in a well-deserved retirement for some time.

Not entirely out of the business, of course. Though it was not widely released in the United States, Jerry’s Max Rose is an underrated piece of cinema. Premiering at Cannes in 2013 but not shown in the U.S. until 2016, Max Rose is the story of an aging jazz pianist, among other things hanging out with Mort Sahl, Lee Weaver, and Rance Howard at the coolest old folks home ever. (Well, that’s a piece of the story; there’s a lot more to it than that, but I’d hate to give it all away.) Jerry in his late eighties still had the movie star magic, even if his moves were a little more reserved than they were in his forties. Or the 1940s.

Two comic legends pass but their legacies live on. Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis performed in an era before the ubiquity of YouTube, etc. so it’s not as though every performance was captured.

You had to be there.

Kind of makes you wish you’d been there.

Eclipse draws near

I’ll admit it, I’ve got eclipse fever.

Unless you’ve been in outer space the past few months (well, no, they’re probably talking about it there too), you know that today is the cosmic event of the century: the day that Americans can stare into space for two minutes without looking silly. (Well, individual results may vary.)

Who’s got official eclipse-watching goggles? Not this guy. The line at our local library yesterday started three hours before the place opened. I’ve got a cereal box with a pinhole and I plan to use it with great aplomb.

The last time I remember any kind of full or partial eclipse was sometime in the mid ’90s when I was in middle school. I remember that they kept us inside during lunchtime, because they feared slack-jawed kids staring up at the sun and burning out their retinas or some such thing. (Never cared about the sun when it was on full display.)

I’ve been ticked off about that one for over 20 years. Time to make up for it today.

I wish I’d thought of this headline

This past Sunday my local paper (that’s The Washington Post) ran a story under the headline “A training camp deal that went south.” Front page of the Sports section, and it couldn’t have been better.

The piece, written by hit-and-miss author Liz Clarke, points to the “deal” the Redskins struck five years ago with the City of Richmond to hold their preseason training camp in Virginia’s capital. What sounded like a good idea at the time…

I visited Richmond a few weeks ago, at the beginning of the mania that surrounds every preseason, and yes, the atmosphere was congenial, of course. It’s always fun until the bill comes. According to Clarke (who scores a touchdown with this article), not only is the City of Richmond paying the ‘Skins upwards of $500,000 a year for the privilege of hosting, the team has made good on only about 10% of the money it “borrowed” from Richmond to build that flashy new $10 million training facility. Sidenote: the Redskins are the NFL’s fifth-most valuable franchise, estimated to be worth just under $3 billion. That’s billion with a “b.”

Redskins economists point to increased tax revenue and charitable contributions in an attempt to balance the scales. It’s funny because this is what the government usually does to justify spending public money on sports, not the other way around. It seems here that public officials in Richmond have embraced the Vanguard way of thinking about such deals (that tax dollars spent on sports is useless and unfair) but are now stuck. Clarke notes decaying infrastructure in Richmond City Public Schools (which should benefit from such a deal, no?), a cheap journalistic trick I’ll let slide because in this case I agree. Schools with decrepit facilities while the city funds millionaire athletes. Sounds like a bad comic book storyline on display.

Amusing sidenotes include the revelation that under the deal, the ‘Skins are not allowed to play scrimmages against other teams in other training facilities. There are football and fan reasons for undertaking such exhibitions. Can’t do it under the current deal though. Good one, guys. Reminds me of one of the more ridiculous stories still discussed in Washington circles: that shortly after owner Dan Snyder bought the team he decided to charge fans to come to preseason games. Distasteful but not stupid, right? Well, when you give the tickets away you can sort of vet who’s getting them, no? But when people are buying them they can sort of go to anyone, right? Guess who figured this out and started coming to ‘Skins practices? Try “scouts” (spies) from other teams in the league. Whoops.

That one’s in the “what sounded like a good idea” file as well.

File’s getting pretty thick.

Baseball and dating

I feel as though complimenting Howie Kendrick and Mike Rizzo again today might border on gloating (two home runs for the former last night and solid bullpen work set up by the latter), so let me shift a bit on Washington business.

One of my favorite features in my hometown rag (that’s The Washington Post) is “Date Lab,” the paper’s matchmaking service usually good for a laugh. This week my friends have launched “Date Lab 2.0,” with new writers and apparently some greater focus on something. It isn’t exactly clear what.

This week we were treated to descriptions of four such dates, rather than the usual one, and the difference in style was noticeable. The writers this week, all four of them, spent half their pieces writing about themselves, as though they were on the dates as well. Were they? I’m not sure.

One bit of good old-fashioned Date Lab remains. On one encounter, when complimenting his date’s sense of humor, “Alex tried to convince her that he had voted for [Donald Trump] and that he was a good president. ‘I think she knows I was joking and she was game,’ he said.”

Because anyone in Washington indicating he or she had voted for Trump is obviously joking, right? Trump! What a ridiculous notion. Might as well say you preferred the Nats’ old bullpen!

Rizzo/Kendrick ticket

I’m still pushing Mike Rizzo for President this week, offering now Howie Kendrick as his running mate. The future vice president is hitting .371 in 11 games for the Nats, and in two weeks he’s gone from never-heard-of-the-guy to possibly my best friend. In picking up Kendrick at the trade deadline GM Mike Rizzo once again looks like a genius. Last night’s walk-off grand slam for Mr. Kendrick, capping two wins in three games in 24 hours, made both spots on my presidential ticket look like shoo-ins for the White House.

Or the World Series.

Mike Rizzo for president

Mike Rizzo has got to be the most popular president in D.C. right now. Currently team president (and general manager) of the Washington Nationals, I say Rizzo moves his office up the street from the Navy Yard to Pennsylvania Avenue immediately. Let last night’s ballgame be Exhibit A.

Starting pitcher Tanner Roark leaves the game after six passable innings, unfortunately on the wrong side of a 2-0 game. Washington scores two in the bottom of the sixth, getting Roark off the hook, then the beleaguered and much-maligned bullpen shuts down the opposition for the next three innings, during which time the Nats tack on the winning run. We have Messrs. Kintzler, Madson, and Doolittle to thank, none of whom were on the team but a few weeks ago. That’s good GM-ing, especially considering none of those guys was an overpriced free agent and/or obvious rental player.

An even greater bargain, of course, may be the game’s offensive star, Mr. Goodwin, who scored two runs and knocked in two, including a home run to provide the aforementioned go-ahead run. Let us recall that Brian Goodwin was drafted by the Nats in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft, the same draft in which the Nats picked up Anthony Rendon. This was the draft after the Nats picked up a certain Mr. Harper (2010) and a certain Mr. Strasburg (2009). Know who became GM in 2009?

President Rizzo.

 

What’s the real issue?

For the past four or five days I’ve been hearing criticism of President Trump’s comments re: the state of New Hampshire. You know, the drug-infested den.

I find it amusing and certainly a sign of our times that controversy surrounding this statement has centered not on its accuracy but on its coarseness, meanness, and presidentialness. What a meanie, say most in the media, and many from the state that literally mentions death in its motto.

How about: Is New Hampshire a drug-infested den?

Maybe it is.

(Shrugging emoji.)

And I think that’s the place to start.