Anjali was in biology class with her nice teacher. Somebody came in and told the students to look out the window, at a red-tail hawk with the remains of a pigeon.
The other day I wrote a column for the Times about Major League Soccer, which stimulated comments on the NYT web site, most reflecting the readers’ knowledge and passion for the sport and the league.
This response only strengthened my point that modern communications – the web and cable TV – have involved American fans with the best soccer in the world, and raised hopes and expectations for MLS.
I’d love to address a few points the readers made:
1. I did not fully represent the fan experience at MLS matches. Excellent comment. I have watched matches on TV and have matches at Red Bull Arena and am well aware that fans have come up with clubs and traditions and chants that can only grow over the years. They have seen the singing and demonstrations of love (and disdain) from the best leagues and want to be just like it (maybe without the nastiness.) The rebellion in New Jersey over the sacking of Mike Petke is one example of loyalty.
2. I did not stress the new stadiums. Another good point. The league has pushed clubs to come up with soccer-specific stadiums, medium sized, so that crowds of 25,000 will seem intimate yet large. Early soccer stadiums were functional but I was in the new Kansas City stadium two years ago and it was state-of-the-art.
3. How could I underestimate Lionel Messi? Fair enough. After watching Messi pick Man City apart, I wrote: “Up to now, I have resisted talk of Lionel Messi among the very greatest players — dismissing him, in a way, as a finisher.” This struck some readers as ludicrous, given his all-time stature in assists as well as goals. Let me add: Messi has earned those statistics by staying with the same club in the same league since he was a kid, but obviously he is a great player. I think I resisted ranking him among Pelé, Cruyff, Maradona, Eusebio, Puskas, Drogba, you name it, because I have seen him limited in some of the biggest World Cup matches. (Not that every great player can win a World Cup; four I mentioned did not.) I did see Didier Drogba carry Chelsea on his broad back in a Champions League final in 2012, and had never seen Messi carry his team the way he did last week. I stand up for my comment – as a mea culpa.
4. I need to subscribe to beIN. My correspondent Joel Berger has virtually ordered me to spring for the upgrade so I can see La Liga. I should. But I am not. My cable bill is huge anyway, and as a humble pensioner I just don’t want it to go any higher. I’ll take my chances watching Champions League and Premiership and World Cup qualifiers.
5. How could you say MLS is “perhaps the eighth- or 10th-best league in the world?” Key word there is “perhaps.” Attendance figures put MLS eighth in the world, but perhaps we can chalk that up to American affluence, American ability to put fannies in seats. (The U.S. still holds the World Cup record, going back to 1994. Somebody remind Sepp Blatter.) After watching Our Lads get burned by Denmark – oh, yeah, leave Nicklas Bendtner alone upfield; the game is almost over, anyway – I’d be willing to concede that a top club in a less-attended league could eat our boys’ lunch. Still, MLS is growing in all ways.
6. You clearly know nothing about soccer. Ouch. A few readers did point out that I wrote a book, “Eight World Cups: My Journey Through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer,” that got a lot of attention last year. The paperback edition will be out in a few months, with a new chapter about the 2014 World Cup, which I watched on the tube. I also picked Germany in Cigar Aficionado magazine. (Picked Manuel Neuer to be one of the stars of the Cup; said Spain was worn down.) I know what you are saying: “Dick Tracy!” It is great to be in the electronic age with world soccer fans.
John Robben of Connecticut has fourteen grandchildren and loves them all the same. One happens to play in the National Hockey League, so it's easy to keep tabs on him.
John has been telling me about Cam Atkinson since the young man was scoring 68 goals in three seasons at Boston College. Now John follows him on his swings around the league, even when Columbus is playing in a distant time zone like Vancouver.
John sent this mass e-mail Saturday morning:
I watched the first period last night against Vancouver, then stuck around for the beginning of the second period. When Vancouver struck twice for a 2-0 lead I turned the TV off and went to bed. I knew their record was better -- a lot better! -- than the Blue Jackets, and it was already after 11 PM and I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.
First thing GM said to me this morning was, "The final score last night was 6-2."
"Oh," I replied. "Too bad. At least Columbus got two goals."
"Columbus won 6-2, not lost. And Cam got the winning goal!"
Well done, Cam!
First of all, GM is Grandmother, Margie Atkinson, whom John spotted at a church dance in the Bronx, oh, a few years back and predicted, on sight, that they would be married.
Before that could happen, John had aircraft carrier duty off the Korean coast. His pen pal at the time, writer named Hemingway, sent him a letter that said, "Remember kid, if it's rough at sea, it's rough all over." Then John got home and married Margie.
John, a fine writer and long-time e-mail pal (we have never met), never misses a game on television when Columbus is playing in the east. The young man is small by modern NHL standards – 5-foot-8, 174 pounds – but clearly has a feel for the net, with 53 goals and 49 assists in 208 NHL games.
On Saturday evening, Cam tipped in a goal on a power-play late in the second period to put his team ahead. Next game is Tuesday at home. John is going to catch all of that one.
* * *
Here's the link to the screen above.
Cam's career statistics.
The game result from Saturday night.
This is a good week for the Pennsylvania part of the family.
Our oldest grandchild, George, forgot to check his email Monday, until 2 o’clock in the morning. Then he sent the above text message to his parents, down the hall.
I keep telling George he reminds me of me, a late bloomer. He fell in love with the state university at Bloomsburg, where he has some family history, along the Susquehanna River, two hours from his home.
He’s had a pretty good year – made himself into a reliable wrestler, holds a job in a nice supermarket chain, got his license and a car, but was sweating out college, until he discovered the email from Admissions.
George’s enthusiasm at getting into the college he wanted reminded me how I felt at home the first time I walked onto the nice little campus of Hofstra College a long time ago.
There are many right colleges for people, as Frank Bruni is saying in his latest book, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be,” aimed at people facing the elite-college-admissions rat race. All colleges have good teachers, good courses, a mix of students. We think he’s going to thrive.
George's sister is also having a good week. Lulu and her dad Peter (and later her mom Corinna) are flying to Las Vegas for the Players College Showcase soccer tournament, attended by many college coaches.
Lulu plays for the FC Pennsylvania Strikers, currently rated fourth nationally in the 15-and-Under class, coached by Jim McLoughlin, a former Canadian Olympian and member of the old New York Arrows.
Lulu travels from Harrisburg to the Philadelphia suburbs once or twice a week for practice, competes with very good players for playing time, and also plays for the high school team with her friends from home. She’s an A student and is thinking about becoming a doctor.
There are no guarantees, plenty of work ahead, day by day. For the moment, George and Lulu are having a good week.
The young lady in the change booth at Heathrow inspected my maroon Éire passport.
“So, you are a plastic Paddy?” she said.
This was my first time using my passport, two decades ago, and I was feeling quite proud.
The shiny new passport had already gotten me through the European Union lane, quicker than the regular Arrivals lane, but now the change agent put me in my place. My newness, my American-ness, came through. Plastic, indeed.
I think about her every St. Patrick’s Day when I rummage around for some vaguely green sweater or tie but decline to join any parade that might be taking place.
My second passport, beside my beloved American passport, is courtesy of my grandmother, born in County Waterford in 1875. We lived under the same roof until she died when I was twelve (actually, it was her house, thrifty woman that she was) but I don’t recall her ever talking about the Ireland she left as a teen-ager. (I wrote about her three years ago.)
Being Irish, via a maroon passport, is a state of mind, and I claim to be Irish, deep down inside. I say it is the moody, emotional side, the side that cares. I love to hear the trace of an Irish accent, particularly in women, newscasters on the BBC or Euro News, or the lovely staff at Foley’s on W. 33rd St., and a few friends (they know who they are.)
Last Sunday, Christine Lavin was filling in for John Platt on WFUV-FM, and was host to Maxine Linehan in the studio, singing “Danny Boy” live. (This is not a song most artists rush to perform, just as jazz musicians charge extra for “When the Saints Go Marching In” at Preservation Hall.) But Linehan sang “Danny Boy” and damned if I didn’t get tears in my eyes.
Being Irish is part genetic – and part choice. I had a three-week binge on “Ulysses” back at Hofstra, and now I re-read it every five years or so. I am touched by Seamus Heaney and Frank McCourt and the plays of Brian Friel and Sean O’Casey.
My wife, with her own spouse passport, talks about a visit to Galway or Cork. Our one visit to Ireland (Canadians and Australians and Americans buying all kinds of green souvenirs), I remember the way old men chattered with each other, and one old lady who stopped us on a street corner in Ballsbridge and apologized for the heat wave. (It was 75 Fahrenheit, in July.) I file away some terrible things that have happened on the island. Life is complicated. But there are few days when I don’t remember the maroon passport in my desk, and my grandmother’s gift.
* * *
(Maxine Linehan, below. Go for it, it's St. Patrick's Day.)
Martin Goldman was the valedictorian at Jamaica High School in 1956, which is saying a lot. We had 821 graduates and needed two graduation sessions.
Martin’s average of 97.484 was the second highest in the history of the school at the time. He was also president of the General Organization and was widely respected as both smart and genial, and he remains so today, as a physics professor at the University of Colorado.
Goldman is also a project scientist at the successful launch at Cape Canaveral Thursday.
From Kenneth Chang’s article in The New York Times on Thursday:
“A NASA mission called Magnetospheric Multiscale, scheduled to be launched Thursday night, aims to make the first detailed measurements of a region of colliding magnetic fields about 38,000 miles above Earth. The magnetic collisions, which can potentially disrupt satellites and power grids, are not well understood.”
It continued: “The protective bubble of the Earth’s magnetic field typically deflects high-speed particles from the sun. But an onslaught of particles from a solar explosion can pop the outer layers of the bubble.”
Asked to describe his role in the mission, Martin wrote in an e-mail: “I am the PI and Team leader for one of three Interdisciplinary Science Teams which each received a ten-year research grant from NASA seven years ago to do research in support of MMS. Our mission was to predict what MMS will measure by performing computer simulations of magnetic reconnection, by developing mathematical models to describe the physical processes and to study relevant results from existing spacecraft.”
Martin continued: “MMS is NASA's most complex mission ever. There are over 100 experiments on board each satellite. This kind of "robotic" exploration of space has a much greater scientific payoff than manned exploration of space (such as the space shuttle) and is much more cost effective. The MMS mission will reveal key energization processes triggered by the sun in Earth's magnetic field over many 10's of Earth radii.
“These processes occur explosively and can affect our power grid as well as expose astronauts and pilots to high levels of radiation. The same processes cause the auroral borealis at northern latitudes. We need to know how to predict when they will occur and how much energy will be released from Earth's magnetic fields. The physics that will be learned will be relevant to other venues in which magnetic reconnection occurs such as in astrophysical objects and in harnessing the fusion energy of hydrogen for sustainable energy production far into the future.”
Martin and Helen Goldman, who catch up with old friends on trips home to New York, were at the blastoff at 10:44 PM Thursday.
“It was a Hollywood launch,” Martin wrote. “I was just as thrilled as my 25 family members surrounding me at the lift. My 11-year-old niece Cella Sawyer expressed my feelings perfectly.” Cella wrote:
“THIS IS NOT THE SUN!!! It’s a rocket, and it seriously lit up the ENTIRE SKY!!! Like NO JOKE!!! It is also 11 PM – not the morning!!! This is probably the most AMAZING 5 minutes of my life!!! Thanks Uncle Marty and Congratulations!!!”
Congratulations from all of us, too, Martin and Helen.
* * *
The mission can be followed on NASA various sites:
Great assortment of photos:
Project Scientists (including Martin Goldman)
Launch Schedule for Cape Kennedy:
Tom Moore, a leader of this mission, was a student of Martin’s at Boulder:
Colleges seem to have lost their way. I think about that as I follow the blatant breaking of rules at so many schools – North Carolina! Notre Dame! Syracuse!
But it is not just football and basketball. More and more, college seems to be a highly expensive country club, forcing less affluent students to mortgage their futures for the right diploma, the right contacts (never mind the right education.)
The food services. The pools and health clubs. The exotic “study” programs abroad.
Now we are reminded that colleges can also be a breeding ground for prejudice and arrogance. Fraternity boys and their girls (I deliberately do not use the words “men and women”) at the University of Oklahoma chanting vile (and apparently traditional) doggerel about African-Americans while in formal wear on a chartered bus.
What a caricature of America, no doubt leading to the racist scams of places like Ferguson, Mo.
These privileged fraternity louts and city officials take their cues from the highest court in the land:
“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote with smug assurance in the 2013 Supreme Court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act.
Fortunately, David L. Boren, president at Oklahoma, came down hard on the punks and punkettes who rode the charter bus. He shut down the fraternity house, which should be razed, just to exorcise the bigotry, and he has ordered two ringleaders expelled. Boren’s righteous anger was appropriate, but there is a broader question:
Why have colleges become a haven for rich boosters to underwrite powerful basketball and football teams that have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with education?
Yet at the same time, less affluent students cannot keep pace with the tuition and luxuries at the landmark schools? It’s all connected, you know.
In the Times on Monday, Joe Nocera discussed better ways to deliver actual education at a reasonable price. There needs to be a way for qualified students to learn from the best schools and teachers, via the web at times.
Three separate articles and columns in the Times on Monday, all describing higher education out of control. But now it’s time for March Madness, prime athletes shoehorned into “college” for a year – I’m talking about you, Kentucky -- another gross caricature of higher education.
Have a good bracket.
Our daughter Laura has had many good assignments in her career as sports columnist in Albany, Seattle and Baltimore and as political columnist in Harrisburg.
This would appear to be one of the better gigs. Just saying.
But she has been working. Here is the proof:
Some of her stories:
Bob Goldsholl once saw two teammates squabbling over a uniform -- with No. 9 on the back.
This memory came flooding back as New York University begins its first baseball season since 1974. Goldsholl, a retired New York sports broadcaster, pitched NYU into the College World Series in 1956, wearing a hand-me-down uniform from a certain team in Boston.
The venerable NYU coach, Bill McCarthy, had friends with the Red Sox, ranging from a scout to the owner, Tom Yawkey. Every year, the Red Sox shipped used uniforms to NYU, which led a couple of top dogs to bicker over Ted Williams’ elongated uniform. (The team name was altered on the front.)
Those were great days for baseball in New York – three teams in the major leagues and seven local rivals in the Metropolitan Conference – City College, Wagner, Brooklyn, St. John’s, Hofstra, Manhattan and NYU.
Personal note: As the student publicist for Hofstra, I sat on the bench, kept score and heckled the other team. The St. John’s players used to shout, “Shut up, Pencil.” Three players I saw made the majors – Chuck Schilling of Manhat-tan, Ted Schreiber of St. John’s and Brant Alyea of Hofstra.
From the home-and-home series, you got to know the players in the Met Conference. City College had a squat little center fielder named Tim Sullivan who bravely wore No. 7 in a city with another outfielder bearing that number, and a junk-balling lefty named Lubomir Mlynar. (My Hofstra guys made fun of his nose and his name and his stuff – but they could hardly hit him.)
City College had an all-star third baseman, Weiss, who had missed a scholarship to NYU because of a bureaucratic slipup. He savored playing his good friend, Jerome Umano, the shortstop, whose NYU uniform had Johnny Pesky’s name sewed inside.
(Weiss would play well into his 70’s in adult hardball leagues, and is currently featured in a book about New York and baseball, Penance and Pinstripes: The Life Story of Ex-Yankee John Malangone, by Michael Harrison.)
NYU had a great history, sending Ralph Branca to the majors plus Eddie Yost, Sam Mele and my good friend, a two-sport star, Al Campanis, who had a war-time cameo with the Dodgers. They played on the uptown campus, right next to the Hall of Fame.
No New York team had ever reached the College World Series in Omaha until Goldsholl and Art Steeb pitched NYU there in 1956.
“I was warming up in Omaha before our first game against Arizona,” Goldsholl said Thursday. “The public-address announcer introduced the squads -- NYU, with a record of 16-4-1 and the University of Arizona, with a record of 45-6.”
Struck by the ludicrous disparity between northern baseball and southern baseball, Goldsholl said, “I just stopped throwing and started to laugh.”
NYU lost to Arizona and Wyoming. Goldsholl played two years in the Giants’ system, and later became a familiar New York voice. NYU gave up baseball after 1974 and moved from Division I to Division III and consolidated (to say the least) its presence in Greenwich Village.
The new players need not inspect their uniforms for any Red Sox names.
THIS JUST IN
My friend Ron Swoboda has some thoughts on the steroid-era players. Now a broadcaster in his long-time home in New Orleans, Swoboda admits that he and other players from the 60’s have no idea what decisions they would have made if the stuff had been available back then.
If I was the new commish coming in the front door I'd try to figure out how to bring all of God's wayward children into the Hall. Even if it meant admitting that baseball was lax on steroids when Sosa and McGwire were bringing fans back to the game after the stupidity of 1994. Of course, the players would all have to own up to their transgressions as well. Then after the truth has set us all free, we have the players in the Hall who belong there and a good set of rules and blood checks to go forward with.
Since I'm not in any danger of becoming commish, these musings come cheap.
Your thoughts? (Comments Below)
I couldn’t wait for a baseball game so I popped in a DVD for one of my favorite baseball movies.
I love “Eight Men Out” for the Dixieland music and vintage suits and funky hotel lobbies and ball parks – also for the loving look at the game even in a dirty time, the Black Sox scandal of 1919.
Well, I guess all times are dirty. Baseball currently has two separate scandals hanging over it. One involves Pete Rose, who bet on games while managing, and then lied about it. I am conflicted about Rose, a total knucklehead who gave me a great amount of enjoyment as writer and fan.
I think Pete played honest, although we all knew he had a major gambling jones and ultimately broke the major rule of baseball – No Gambling. I wish Rose the player were eligible for the Hall of Fame – but I don’t know I would make that decision if I were commissioner.
Then there is the whole steroid generation, when the union fought testing, for reasons I am sure the union leaders understood. No player identified or suspected as a steroid user has later been voted into the Hall by the writers. Some come back as coaches and guests at old-timers’ games and some just vanish with bloated home-run and strikeout totals.
Now Alex Rodriguez, the ghost of scandals past, is haunting Yankee camp, yawning his way through first-base practice. What a chump. But the Yankees and baseball are legally stuck with him, no doubt hoping he breaks a leg taking grounders, and the insurance kicks in.
What are we going to do with all those specters? A friend of mine says baseball writers of the past generation will never vote for suspected users because of guilty consciences for not breaking the story. Fair enough. I do not vote because the Times does not want its writers making news; I also never had proof of anything, except what my eyes told me about body sizes, and what common sense said about union stonewalling.
Apparently, some writers did suspect some White Sox players were throwing the 1919 World Series. I love “Eight Men Out” because I am a huge John Sayles fan but also because I was there when they were filming it – in Indianapolis, an old ballpark – and also because I wrote about how D.B. Sweeney learned to hit left-handed to portray Shoeless Joe Jackson.
I love the movie for the portrayal of a cheapskate owner and a hanging judge turned commissioner who channeled eight players of varying guilt into a lifetime ban. I love the image of the great David Strathairn as a pitcher, Ed Cicotte, who is cheated out of a bonus, and John Cusack as a tormented infielder, Buck Weaver, who plays it straight, but will not squeal. The gamblers and thugs and cynical sportswriters and innocent wives are all part of a beautiful American period piece.
Today, would Shoeless Joe Jackson (.375 in that Series) and Buck Weaver (.324) be included along with the core fixers? I do not feel any sympathy for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and A-Rod, great players who got in deep, as far as I can see.
But the game goes on. I helped myself to a seasonal preview in “Eight Men Out” – dirt, grass, finger signals, wood on ball, clunk of ball on an outfield fence, and a Dixieland band. Hang in there.
Looking for a poem about work, for my visit to a New York high school, I came across “Let America Be America Again,” by Langston Hughes. It is as contemporary as the current flap over Rudolph Giuliani’s comments about President Obama.
The President, a graceful writer, has often talked about his love for America, as it is, as it could be. Giuliani, particularly disappointingly for a New Yorker, deliberately overlooks the President’s body of work.
Langston Hughes, writing in a time of lynching and outright segregation, begins his poem this way:
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Hughes then touches on the aspirations in this country:
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
But near the end, Hughes raises what sounds to me like a prayer of hope:
O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
The high-school class I visited had mature young people from other lands -- young women in head scarves, several young men from Asia, a young woman from Mexico about to begin an internship, a young woman from Ecuador who in two years has learned to speak English almost perfectly.
It’s Black History Month. I wanted them to share the hope I feel when I listen to President Obama, the hope I feel when I listen to Langston Hughes.
On Tuesday, Feb. 24 at 9 PM, Terrance McKnight will host a show about the pianist Hazel Scott on WQXR-FM.
And as a bonus, here is “I’ve Known Rivers,” a jazz version of Hughes’ poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” performed by Gary Bartz:
For business reasons, my friend had to stay overnight in Queens. His hotel window looked out on the architectural jumble that is New Shea and the lumpy mounds of Chop Shop City (foreground), under ice and snow.
The good news is that the ball park did not sink into the muck over the winter. In this most unlovely of places, something glorious will happen on April 13, the home opener against the Phillies. Perhaps the Yankees will also be starting another season around then.
My question is, what is it that baseball junkies miss the most in the off-season?
Is it the games themselves -- outfielders going back on a fly ball, hitters putting the ball in play to advance a runner, the fundamentals that drive the sport?
Is it the arguments, of theological nature, about saving a few seconds on every pitch, or the use of instant replay, or all the new mathematical gauges?
Shaun Clancy of the Irish baseball pub Foley's on W. 33 St. advances the theory that it is history: something we see today reminds us of the past. It is true. Juan Lagares, going back on a ball, reminds me of Curt Flood, 40 years ago.
A pitcher who can hit in the National League, where they play Real Baseball, reminds me of Don Newcombe or Bob Lemon or Bob Gibson. Then we start arguing about the Designated Hitter gimmick. If we start now, we may settle things by opening day.
What do you miss in the off-season?
Óscar Arnulfo Romero seemed like a holy man -- including his very real danger of martyrdom. Now the Roman Catholic Church has confirmed the late archbishop of El Salvador as a martyr, a major step toward sainthood.
I met him in Mexico in February of 1979 when I was covering a regional conference of bishops and cardinals in Puebla. My colleague Alan Riding, who was based in Mexico, knew Romero quite well, and sought him out.
Standing on a street corner, they spoke and I tried to follow with my poor Spanish. My impression was of an austere man who was unafraid to speak with a reporter from The New York Times. I later learned that he spurned all luxuries back in San Salvador, insisting on a modest apartment, where he slept in a hammock, peasant-style.
Archbishop Romero was associated with Liberation Theology, the concept that Christ’s teachings must be applied in an option for the poor. Romero said, “There are two theologies of liberation. One is that which sees liberation only as material liberation. The other is that of Paul VI. I am with Paul VI.”
But what did the new Pope think? John Paul II, the former Karol Wojtyla of Cracow, was making his first trip out of Italy since his selection the previous fall. The world was awaiting his vision, which was delivered in the crowded Zócalo, the ancient center of the Aztec city, once named Tenochtitlan.
The Pope's views can be interpreted many different ways. It sounded to me that he had suggested priests and nuns get back into uniform and stick to administering the sacraments. If so, it seemed quite likely that Oscar Arnulfo Romero had been set up as an enemy, a radical, although the cardinals tried to deny the Pope would ever be so overtly political.
The Pope went back to the Vatican and the conference began in Puebla, on the other side of the twin volcanoes. I requested an interview with Archbishop Romero, and was honored when he slipped out of a conference for a few minutes. In the wintry sunshine, I asked him, as best I could, if he thought the public interpretation of the Pope’s message could be dangerous to people working with the poor in Latin America.
I have lost my notes -- and the brief conversation never got into print – but the Archbishop understood my question. The danger had been ratcheted up.
On March 24, 1980, I was driving in Florida and heard that Archbishop Romero had been shot once in the chest while celebrating Mass in San Salvador. Tears in my eyes, I had trouble staying on the road. That December, four American nuns were raped and killed by soldiers in El Salvador. I had met heroic nuns like that in Mexico; I think of them often.
For over three decades, people have been compiling their memories of Romero – how he climbed hillsides to deliver Communion to the peasants, how he dealt with Vatican bureaucrats while watching his priests get knocked off.
The current Pope, Francis I – who saw murderous activity up close in his homeland of Argentina – has encouraged the process to honor Archbishop Romero. The Pope has asked “Who am I to judge?” about gay people and is currently installing bathrooms and showers for the homeless off St. Peter’s Square. He reminds me of the cleric I met in 1979, the man with the kind, fearless eyes.
Anybody remember the movie “The Hustler” – Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason in a contest of pool talent, and guile, and will.
Newman is Fast Eddie and Gleason is Minnesota Fats.
I thought about “The Hustler” this week when I read about the latest verdict in the Lance Armstrong saga – an arbitration ruling that Lance owes $10-million to the man and the company that made a legal insurance bet about how many Tours de France Lance could win.
Even when witnesses like Betsy Andreu provided extremely creditable testimony that Lance had been doping all along, Armstrong was sure he could bluster his way through.
Even when Lance admitted – on Oprah, America’s ultimate confessional – that he had cheated, he seemed to think he could avoid this judgment from a three-person panel.
I once interviewed Bob Hamman, the world-level bridge champion and proprietor of SCA, a company that makes insurance policies on odd events. He was in from Dallas, and used somebody’s board room for our interview. He exuded power and money.
In her knowing column in the Times on Tuesday, my colleague Juliet Macur wrote: “In going up against Hamman, who is 76, white-haired and stocky, Armstrong underestimated his competition.”
That reminded me of the scene in the “The Hustler” in which Fast Eddie makes a midnight challenge to Minnesota Fats, who returns, all shaven and dressed, for another round.
Eddie: (unsteadily) You look beautiful, Fats, just like a baby, all pink and powdered up. (In contrast, he looks down at his own ragged, wrinkled shirt.)
What follows -- I am not surprising anybody about a 1961 classic -- is the pool equivalent of a $10-million arbitration.
The common denominator between the Newman character and Lance is callow arrogance. Fast Eddie had only a small-time manager but Armstrong had lawyers and investors from a murky company called Tailwind. Captains of 1990’s financial entitlement assured Lance that nothing could go wrong, go wrong, go wrong. And Fast Lance believed them.
He still does not get it, as Macur reminds us, bringing up the recent episode in which Armstrong’s lady friend tried to take the rap for an auto collision, to keep Lance out of it. How gallant of him. What does Oprah think about that?
I want to swerve here and note how much Armstrong has meant to some people touched by cancer. He truly did survive a terrible bout with cancer, and he put himself out front as an example – and he still does. I heard about him recently reaching out to an amateur cyclist who has been stunned by a cancer diagnosis. He deserves that slice of respect for what he means to cancer patients.
I also need to say that, despite all the things we know about him, I keep rooting for Armstrong to get it. Meantime, he says he is going to challenge the arbitration ruling.
What does the insurance version of Minnesota Fats have to say about this? The terrific reporter Macur quotes the lawyer for SCA: “This is just a very good start to getting SCA full compensation. Oh, no, we’re not finished with Mr. Armstrong yet.”
I don’t remember that line from “The Hustler.” But this is real life, isn’t it.
The Times put David Carr on the front page, above the fold, as well they should.
He gave everything he had until he collapsed in the office Thursday evening and passed at 58.
He was a voice, an honest voice, a reliable voice, a smart voice.
I never met him – that happens at such a large paper – but I read him, and I knew about him, his long addiction, his rehabs, which only made me respect what he accomplished even more, but mostly I knew him through the digging he did and the insights he provided.
He was burning it in recent days -- my wife said he looked like hell on the tube early Thursday -- explaining all the breaking media news. I can only guess at the high-wire act to write, edit and print the obituary on the front page, in literally minutes, before the first edition of “the paper.That tangible part of journalism still matters in these digital times, as David Carr noted so well.
* * *
With homage to that great pro, I’d like to drop a few other current thoughts on the media:
*- I have never totally trusted the concept of the anchor, those great men and occasional women, who spoon-feed us the news on television. I grew up on Edward R, Murrow and his CBS colleagues at the end of the war. They were reporters; today’s anchors are performers. I always thought Brian Williams was a symptom of the time -- show biz. I’ve often wondered when anchors are preening in front of the camera how they managed to do any reporting.
*- Bob Simon of CBS was the real deal, a correspondent who went to all those places, with a staff, of course, but also with reporter smarts. When he reported on 60 Minutes, you knew he had done the homework. His death in an auto crash brought out a very impressive detail: he had just worked on a piece on Ebola medicine, at the age of 73.
*- I’ve always been leery of the Jon Stewart-Stephen Colbert school. They are funny, but perhaps without meaning to they have insinuated themselves ahead of reality. For the new generation that does not read newspapers, they are the first line of information. Kids hear about vital events from a very savvy adult making yuks on the tube. Not Stewart’s fault. Our fault.
Stewart’s remark to Brian Williams’ face is classic: “You don’t write any of that stuff,” Stewart told Williams, as David Carr reported on his final day. “They take you out of the vegetable crisper five minutes before the show and they put you in front of something that is spelled out phonetically. I know how this goes.”
*-And finally, I have no problem with President Obama’s video for BuzzFeed, to promote the program bringing health care to more people. (How dare he!) We all know Obama is a writer and a performer and a wannabe hoopster. He made me and my wife – who predicted his victory in 2007 – roar with his delivery in the BuzzFeed video. Some people may fret that the President demeans the office. (That is Boehner's and McConnell's job.) I say, let the man have a few minutes of fun.
Watching the current Inoculation Frolics, I was reminded of my recent reading of the superb biography, “Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman,” by Robert K., Massie.
In the spring of 1767, smallpox was rampaging through Russia. Catherine II, the German-born, French-speaking empress of Russia, saw a beautiful young countess die in mid-May. After that, Catherine took her young son and heir, Paul, into the countryside, avoiding all public gatherings.
Catherine was well aware that smallpox vaccination was being done in western Europe and the British colonies. (Thomas Jefferson, 23, the squire of Monticello, had himself inoculated in 1767.)
She sent for Dr. Thomas Dimsdale, 56, of Edinburgh, who arrived in August of 1768 and cautiously tried to inoculate other women before the empress, just to prove his process worked. (Massie notes that Dimsdale proclaimed Catherine, 39, “of all that I ever saw of her sex, the most engaging.”)
However, Catherine bravely insisted she go first and he took a sample of smallpox from a peasant boy, Alexander Markov, and inoculated the empress on Oct. 12, 1768. She developed the anticipated modest amount of pustules and illness but was back in public by Nov. 1.
The doctor inoculated 140 people in St. Petersburg and another 50 in Moscow, including Catherine’s son and grandson. Before Dimsdale returned to Scotland, she rewarded him with 10,000 pounds and a lifetime annuity. By 1800, over 2 million Russians had been inoculated.
The final word belongs to Voltaire, as it often does. The French philosopher was a regular correspondent with Catherine, although they never met. Massie writes:
“Catherine’s willingness to be inoculated attracted favorable notice in western Europe. Voltaire compared what she had allowed Dimsdale to do with the ridiculous views and practices of ‘our most argumentative charlatans in our medical schools.’”
Fortunately, in these enlightened times, we do not have any “argumentative charlatans.”
(My mother-in-law passed recently at the age of ninety-three. Her grand-daughter, Corinna V. Wilson, composed an obituary, from fond memories.)
By Corinna V. Wilson
On February 1, my grandmother, Mary Mase, passed away. She lived many years in Levittown and Shelter Island NY; Bloomsburg and Camp Hill, PA, and Leesburg, FL.
Mary Betsy Grundy was born on April 3, 1921 in Ledyard, Connecticut. She and her twin brother Elwin were the second and third of eight children born to Betsy Crouch and Harold Grundy. Harold had emigrated from England as a young man while Betsy’s family had been in the United States since 1633, when Noah Whipple landed in the colony of Massachusetts. One of my grandmother’s ancestors, Stephen Hopkins, signed the Declaration of Independence on behalf of the new state of Rhode Island.
Life on the Grundy farm was not easy, and Mary told stories of selling apples door-to-door during the Depression and of the kids going without shoes in the summer to save money. To survive, Harold got a job on the railroad, Betsy opened a bakery in New Haven, and the family operated a boarding house in Orange. Later, they moved to a farm in Waterbury, where Mary met her future and former husband, George Graham.
Mary always said that the invention of double-knit was the greatest thing because she had ironed all of the laundry for her big family and their boarders and really didn’t want to iron ever again. To the end, Mary was also a tremendous baker and could teach anyone how to make the perfect pie crust.
The Grundys were religious people, and Mary’s deep faith in God sustained her throughout her entire life. She often spoke of talking with Jesus directly and of his multiple interventions in her life.
Mary was preceded in death by only two of her siblings – her twin and her baby brother, Tommy. Donald, Harold, Pearl, Bettina, and Lila all survive her and are still formidable in their own right.
Mary was also predeceased by her son, Edward Mase. Her remaining four children, Marianne (my mother), George Lauren (Larry), Peter, and Rachel survive. Mary has 16 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.
Mary married her second husband, our “Grampa,” Richard Mase, in 1947. After his death in 1988, Mary remarried two more times, to Ariel Eisenhauer and Marlin Reisinger. Still attractive to the end, Mary received a marriage proposal when she was just shy of 90, which she declined, despite the amused teasing of her grandchildren that she could be like the Pittsburgh Steelers and have “one for the thumb.”
Mary’s long life had many chapters. She was a jewelry model and worked in a munitions plant in Groton during World War II, an original “Rosie the Riveter.” She was an accomplished seamstress and quilter. She made the best gravy of anyone, ever, and her pin always matched her blouse. She taught her grandchildren how to clam the sandbars of Long Island and she prided herself on being a homemaker and a perfect size 6.
Ninety three years is a long time to live and our family is going to have to adjust to her absence.
(We are thankful to Corinna for expressing what we feel.)
Sometimes in sports, it is possible to over-think.
We saw that in the Super Bowl when the Seahawks coaches decided to “waste” a down by putting the ball in the air at the goal line. Some waste.
New Yorkers are watching an entire basketball season get wasted as the Knicks stumble around the court, consulting copies of a textbook titled “Triangle Offense.”
The flawed reasoning is clear in Harvey Araton’s fascinating luncheon interview with Phil Jackson in Wednesday’s Times – too old New York hands talking hoops.
What I take away from the candid conversation is that even very smart and successful people like Jackson can over-think. I am reminded of that in the computer age,when people belatedly employ statistical analysis to what athletes and coaches did on the field, on the fly.
The 2014 World Series ended with the tying run on third base for Kansas City. Many hours afterward, the great Nate Silver – who aced the 2012 presidential election –wrote that the runner should have been sent home as the ball was kicked around in left field. Silver came up with statistics that the tying run scores from third with two outs only 25-27 percent of the time.
Silver suggested that the Royals were not likely to get another hit off Madison Bumgarner and postulated that a collision at home plate would have favored the Royals because of rule changes since Buster Posey of the Giants had his leg broken in a collision in 2011. I found that specious over-thinking because Posey remains a tough and resourceful catcher.
Having seen the play as it happened, on television, and in many replays, I go along with the decision by the Royals’ third-base coach – Mike Jirschele, a baseball lifer – as he lined up the wayward ball, the butterfingered Giants fielders, and the hitter, Alex Gordon, as he steamed toward third.
This was a decision on the fly that journalists and numbers crunchers will never have to make.
If the coach had tried to remember the statistical probabilities of tying runs on third base, the process would have interfered with his complicated spot decision.
After a lifetime of covering sports, up close, talking to managers and coaches, I have great respect for what they know and do, in real time. Not that mistakes don’t happen. We saw one in the Super Bowl, when the very smart Pete Carroll and his offensive coordinator called a pass from half a yard outside the end zone.
A day later, I read an “analysis” in the Times that said in football, as in life itself, people have to employ a “mixed strategy” or else they become too predictable. I agree, in theory, but I say that second-and-goal, maybe 18 inches away, is not the time to get cute and put the ball in the air, where a defensive back, having the greatest moment of his career, maybe his life, can go get it.
Somewhere in the Football Handbook of Statistical Probability, there is a rule: Give the Ball to the Big Fella.
That’s not statistics, a day later. That is common sense, for playing the game in the moment.
Before the Super Bowl, I had huge issues of conscience about watching when I wasn’t being paid to cover it. However, it worked out because I witnessed the worst “strategy” I can recall from any major sporting event.
“They’ll just give it to the big guy,” I said as the Seahawks lined up on the 5-yard line with time to run four plays. Of course, Marshawn Lynch would lug it in. But the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator and head coach agreed on a second-down pass from the 1, and it was picked off, boggling the sports-savvy watchers, two of them Fleahawks fans.
I’ll leave the details to reporters who were there. I just want to say that in over 50 years of covering sports, I have never seen a decision that bad.
I’ve seen botched passes in the final seconds of basketball title games, pitches that got away in the World Series. I saw Harold Snepsts of Vancouver fire a cross-ice pass that wound up on the lethal stick of Mike Bossy, in a Stanley Cup game. I saw the referee totally miss (or ignore) the blatant Hand of God punched “goal” by Diego Maradona in the 1986 World Cup. I wasn't there, honest, but Babe Ruth, a very heady player, was thrown out trying to steal second for the last out of the 1926 World Series.
I can also think of coaches and managers making personnel decisions that backfired – Grady Little leaving Pedro Martinez in too long and paying with his job in 2003; the Dodgers’ choosing Ralph Branca instead of Carl Erskine in 1951; the bullpen coach, a fine man named Clyde Sukeforth, was scapegoated; my man Butch Van Breda Kolff kept Wilt Chamberlain on the bench in the final moments of an NBA championship game because Wilt had said he had a sore knee; Butch paid with his job. What happens to a very good coaching staff that puts the ball in the air with three downs and more than a minute to go, at the goal line?
The game was better than all the other stuff. John Travolta’s favorite singer sounds like chalk scratching on the blackboard. The half-time show was an open invitation to walk the dog, even if you don’t have one. And the commercials went nowhere. I laughed harder at Flo in a Salem-witch gig on the Progressive ad Monday morning.
Nevertheless, I’m glad I watched the Super Bowl. It’s like eating fried foods -- makes you appreciate healthier fare.
Pitchers and catchers!
(Here's what I wrote Saturday when facing my dilemma.)
After consulting theologians, ethicists, lawyers and soothsayers, I have concluded that I will not be committing a grave moral sin if I watch the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Since I normally denigrate pro football (and college football), it would seem hypocritical to watch the big game. However, I can justify it on these grounds:
1. I will be watching with actual fans. Laura and Diane moved back from Seattle recently with an attachment to the team they fondly call the Fleahawks. They know about the players and the coaches and bring real sports knowledge to the strategy. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Super Bowl with fans. I’ve either been in the neutral press box or, semi-secretly, watched at home, purely for the sociological experience. To watch with authentic fans should be, how to say this, interesting.
2. I’m really only watching for the commercials. This has been my rationalization in other years when I hunkered down at home. The game takes forever, often is a dud, but I am entranced by the new and expensive commercials, sometimes crude and stupid, sometimes even touching, like the Eminem automobile spot a few years back, using Detroit’s struggle as the theme. Plus, I love the energy and pulchritude – young women in bathing suits in the frozen North. Most commercials I see on a certain liberal-bias news-chatter channel refer to maladies of the aging – things that don’t work very well anymore. This will be a relief to watch healthy young folks.
3. This could be a morality play. What with the deflated footballs, one could work up a good-vs-evil theme here, although that is always tricky when football coaches are involved. Still, feel free.
4. Let’s be honest: the athleticism is tremendous. The only football I watched all season was a Seattle playoff three weeks ago. I watched a receiver propel himself toward the corner, rotate in mid-air, and plant the ball on the flag for a touchdown, just before he crashed to earth. Huge defensive linemen performed balletic turns. Quarterbacks read defenses with half a ton about to fall on them. I get it.
5. The Super Bowl is essentially a rite of passage into spring training. The Los Angeles Dodgers stage workouts in their pastel stadium and photos go out all over the world, spreading the good news that darkness will pass and light will return. Pitchers and catchers in a few weeks. Hang on.
6. Plus, the snacks will be good.
My wife says football is still stupid, people destroying their brains and bodies. The league never much cared until forced to, recently. Hard to forget that. Still, for therapeutic purposes, I have granted myself a dispensation to watch the Super Bowl.
Our relatives in London were hoping we’re okay. Our friend outside Tokyo was wishing us well. My friend in Ontario said they have had very little snow this winter. We've heard from Brazil and Norman, Okla., and Grapevine, Tex., and my sister Jane outside Atlanta, waxing nostalgic about childhood sledding on Red Brick Hill in Queens.
That is the difference between now and the great storms of the distant past. We are all connected.
Nowadays the storms have doomsday theme music on the all-news radio. Sometimes they live up to the hype. This one fell short of the worst-case. The storm veered eastward on Long Island -- which is 120 miles long -- and we got what looks like 6-8 inches to me, but officially could be 8-12 in this area, near the city. The lights have not flickered here.
There was no all-news radio back in 1947 when I was 8 years old. I don’t remember any warning whatsoever. It just snowed and snowed – 26.4 inches, one source says. Did my father miss work because he couldn’t get to the subway? (There was no “working from home” the way some members of the family are doing on Tuesday.) How long were we out from school in 1947? How did my mom feed us all? How long was it before my Irish grandmother walked to church? I don’t remember.
I remember two things from that Big One of 1947 – the Rose Bowl on the radio on New Year’s Day, touching off national envy of sunny California (Michigan beat USC, 49-0; I looked it up) and also a major thaw, days or weeks later, sun glaring in our eyes, rivers flowing down off the glacial hills of Queens, toward Hillside Avenue, kids sloshing up to our knees.
The point of reference in 1947 was the Big One of 1888 – 21 inches, according to one source, with drifts 30 feet high. Thirty feet? The newspapers of 1947 carried 1888 photos of wires sagging over narrow city streets, a locomotive overturned. People in 1947 who were the age I am now talked with great clarity about their own memories of 1888, without the help of electronic clips.
In recent years, the web sites of our age tell me there have been other two-foot storms in New York. They all tend to blur, which is a good sign, because it means we survived.
The worst hardship came from Sandy, two years ago, when we were out of juice for 10 days but people on the Atlantic coast, friends, suffered much worse. I have no complaints.
To Sam and Jen in Islington, Haruko outside Tokyo, Bruce in Hamilton, Altenir in Rio, RJ in Oklahoma, Jane outside Atlanta: we’ve charged our gadgets, put batteries in the mobile lanterns and flashlights, checked the all-weather cord to the generator from our lovely neighbors out back, that would give us a modest charge, if and when.
Fifty years from now, some people will tell their grandkids about the Big One of 2015. For the record: I just saw a snowplow down the hill, scraping the road clear, and our neighbor Kirk cleared our driveway for us. It's all good.
Type in the letters P-A-T-R-I-O... and the wizard of Google completes the thought:
Just that automatically.
If Robert Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, is doing his own searches he might be aghast to see where his team stands in the web. Kraft is in a position to win his fourth Super Bowl, but what might he have lost?
Kraft's name was already associated with a coach who spied on the Jets in 2007 and got caught. Bill Belichick paid a fine of $500,000 for that transgression -- riding-around money on the MTA.
Now the Patriots have won a lopsided conference championship game in which the footballs were deflated just enough to change their aerodynamics.
Did this help guide Tom Brady’s passes well enough to beat the Colts? Not enough to create the 45-7 score.
The NFL – in the age of concussion carnage and Ray Rice and the weekly police report – is not likely to void that victory. But with all the cameras at work in the stadium last Sunday, the NFL just might find evidence of a low-level employee named Elmo skulking around the ball bag with a one-dollar needle, deflating the balls while everybody else in the place was gaping at the obligatory NFL jet flyover.
Our theoretical Elmo was not acting on his own, any more than the Jets assistant was acting on his own when he, oops, edged onto the field and shivered a Dolphin ball-carrier in 2010.
This is the NFL. Nobody thinks on his own, except Coach.
The way it looks, the footballs were softened, and not by accident. Does Bob Kraft really like being associated with this stuff along with Belichick's seventh Super Bowl?
Belichick’s values are questionable and his public persona is miserable. (To be fair, I have friends who know Belichick and describe his thoughtful side.)
Bob Kraft, 73, cares what people think of him. He and his late wife Myrna were active in many charities and good causes. I wonder what she thought of Belichick, and what she would think about a sack of tampered footballs.
I don’t think the NFL is capable of a moral stand, not with its ratings and income. But if the Patriots did what it looks like they did, Bob Kraft should wait til after the Super Bowl and then give Belichick a year off, without pay. At best.
As I sit here typing my little therapy blog – not in classic blogger underwear, I promise – I am supervised by a phalanx of editors.
They perch over my shoulder, the ghosts of deadlines past, monitoring my every whimsy.
Before I can push the “Submit” button on my site, I must satisfy editors who kept me tethered for all those decades.
They suggest temperate phrases like “alleged” and “so-called” and “was said to be” for assertions I cannot totally back up.
“You need to do this over,” I can hear Jack Mann or Bob Waters snarling at me in Marine patois when I was learning to play the game right at Newsday.
“Ummm, that doesn’t read like Vecsey,” I can still hear a Times national-desk editor named Tom Wark saying to me about a long profile of a bank robber who had earned a degree behind thick federal walls. “Could you run it through the typewriter again?” What a wonderful compliment.
“Ummm, could you make a few more phone calls?” I can hear Metro copy-fixers like Marv Siegel and Dan Blum, or Bill Brink in Sports, saving me more than once.
And early on Saturday mornings, right on deadline for my Sunday column, I would get a careful final read from the superb Patty LaDuca (about to retire, for goodness’ sakes.)
When I am talking to journalism students, one of my main points is that if you have an editor supervising your work, you are actually participating in journalism. But if you expect your precious words to appear in print just the way you wrote them, you are merely a blogger.
Editors keep you from making an ass of yourself. And sometimes the best editor is….yourself.
I was thinking about editors a month or two ago when a major movie studio allowed “The Interview” to come out with the premise of the dictator of North Korea having his head blown off. Charming. The self-indulgent director waved the “creative freedom” flag, and the studio heads folded, with predictable world-wide tremors.
Movie directors and producers could use a reality check from an editor – “Ummm, could you look that up?” -- when making films like “Selma” and “Lincoln,” as Maureen Dowd pointed out on Sunday.
More recently, a weekly satire magazine in France published a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, touching off horrible violence around the world – violence that surely had been waiting to be fomented by opportunistic lunatics. Then the staff came back with another cartoon of the prophet.
Was any of that necessary? Journalists have this implanted in their brains at an early age, by editors. What are the consequences? What does the other side say?
Those of us who learned to present all sides – to make a few more phone calls – are lucky. So are the people who read (or watch, or listen to) those increasingly rare sources.
(I don't count Stewart or Colbert. I am talking about their sources. That is, journalists.)
* * *
One of the most rational posts on the Charlie Hebdo issue is by Omid Safi, the director of Duke University's Islamic Studies Center, for that great site, onbeing.org.
And here are a few others:
I always accepted William Blake’s observation, “The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction” – until I listened to Michael Jordan one night.
Jordan had just made some amazing aerial maneuver for a dunk in heavy traffic. I cannot remember if it was in the Garden or Chicago, but I was there.
Afterward, a reporter asked Jordan how he had invented the move while in mid-air. Jordan normally sneered at “you guys” but this time he doubled up on his derision.
“I’ve made that move a thousand times in the gym,” he said, patronizingly.
Ever since then – 15 or 20 years – I have been vastly more respectful of repetition, performed by tigers of wrath, working on their moves 100 or 200 times per day in the gym or rehearsal room before they perform in the arena.
The value of reps was brought home recently while I was simultaneously reading two books that turned out to have the same message. Practice makes.
By sheer accident, I was reading Tim Howard’s “The Keeper,” skillfully co-written by Ali Benjamin, and Daniel Coyle’s “The Talent Code,” which I missed in 2009.
As it happens, I know both people – Howard as one of the nicest athletes, Coyle as a colleague at the Tour de France who has done epic work exposing cheating in cycling.
Howard recalls how he was taken in – for free – by Tim Mulqueen, Coach Mulch, a goalkeeper mentor in New Jersey: “He hammered ten in a row, so fast it was hard to get back on my feet between them. The moment I saved one, another was already whizzing past me.
“'Recover faster,’ he barked. ‘You can do better than that.’”
Coach Mulch also trained Howard to throw the ball rather than punt it, even in the closing desperate minutes. That way you have control. Fast forward to the 91st minute against Algeria in South Africa in 2010, when Howard started a full-field attack that kept the USA in the World Cup. The pass dated to New Jersey, two decades earlier.
Howard could have sulked when Manchester United brought in Edwin van de Sar. Instead, Howard studied how van de Sar threw his long body to the ground, cradling the ball. Tim Howard imitated the man who had taken his job.
The Howard book arrived over the transom from HarperCollins and the Coyle book was recommended by two disparate friends, a classical musician and a second-career keeper coach, who live 9,000 miles apart. Neither knew that Daniel Coyle is a friend of mine.
The cellist and coach were both impressed by Coyle’s scientific description of how the human system learns the lessons of repetition, through a material called myelin.
“(1) Every human movement, thought, or feeling is a precisely timed electric signal traveling through a chain of neurons – a circuit of nerve fibers. (2) Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy. (3) The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.”
All the rest is practice. Gym rats. Musicians improvising with purpose. Teachers imposing order. Coyle has a great segment on a charter school (KIPP) in Houston. Students doing their reps, like Tim Howard diving for a save, over and over again, building up his myelin.
Wait a minute, that’s my city.
I seem to be saying that a lot these days.
Boston in 2013, London in 2005, New York in 2001, Sydney recently, and now the most beautiful city in the world.
If you have walked a city for a few weeks, you have lived there, it is yours.
The horror raised memories:
The first time, my wife and I, still kids, wandering on the theory of $5 a day, back in 1966, criss-crossing the river, bridge by bridge, just because.
Taking our children in 1976, five of us, walking to the Louvre on a chill April day, thinking, This is as good as it gets.
Our friend Roby and his grandson David driving us to our hotel, seeing the lights flash by, Paris at night.
Another friend had a corner apartment in a quiet district, a walkup, just high enough to feel we were looking out on an Impressionist painting.
And the most recent time, a full moon, our pal had the top down, and we circled the Eiffel Tower around midnight, just laughing at how outrageously gorgeous it is.
We know the block in Boston. Our London rellies live not far from the bus line the nihilists blew up in 2005. My wife knows the coffee shop in Sydney, a stopping point in her long walks in 2000. How could one not take it personally, when a few people hate so much that they could do this kind of harm? What do they hate? What do they resent?
Paris is our city, built on the arts and the sciences of the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the emerging Europeans. It shimmers for all of us.
The faces on the BBC and Euro News are familiar, so is the language. It’s our home, too.
So far away, I could only dig out the French national cycling shirt Roby gave me, 30 years ago. He was a national cyclo-cross champion in the 40’s, and later coached French cyclists. In 1982 he drove a few journalists on the Tour. When we had a question, he would pull alongside Bernard Hinault and ask why he was making his move at this time.
Roby loved his country. The first time he came to the States, he saw the Washington Monument up ahead and he started to cry.
“J’adore l’Amérique,” he said.
Today I put on Roby’s jersey – it’s way too tight, from too many washings, too many races – but I put it on, and I thought, “J’adore La France.”
(My friend in Rio, Altenir Silva, in the Comments below, recommends this clip from "Casablanca." I would add, let us also note Angela Merkel, front and center among world leaders, on Sunday.)
A former college basketball star I know sees way too much of the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers.
An intense player and demanding coach once upon a time, my friend has the distinct feeling he is observing a crime being committed.
We both knew players, decades ago, who dumped games, shaved points, to satisfy gamblers on one side of the point spread. Some (not all, I suspect) got caught. Many had their lives ruined; a few went to jail.
That is not the problem with the 76ers and Knicks, whose cumulative record was a ghastly 10 victories and 63 losses, as of Friday morning. The players are doing their earnest best to win but the owners are doing their dishonest best to keep the talent level down, in order to choose a top star in next spring’s college draft.
It enrages my competitive friend to see teams in the National Basketball Association skimping on salaries. He calls me and rails: What is the ethical difference between NBA teams ironically dumping games in plain sight by “virtue” of dumping salaries and the old point shaving by players?
My outraged hoopster friend asks if some of the executives’ activities are not some kind of crime, or at least a significant breach of competitive integrity? Why do the NBA poobahs allow such a public breach of faith with its fan base, the ultimate victims. Are the poobahs’ eyes shut to this “gaming of the system?”
I wonder if there is not some eager prosecuting attorney out there who could investigate the business tactic of tanking an entire season.
And what about the wealthy patrons who pay outrageous prices for seats and so-called food in Madison Square Garden? These folks did not accumulate their riches by being pushovers in their business lives. Is there not a potential class-action suit festering among the expensive suits at courtside?
Adam Silver, the still-new commissioner of the NBA, may be preoccupied by his announced goal of allowing gambling on his sport. Gambling used to be considered a vice. Now it is a way of raising money because people don’t like paying taxes for roads and bridges. Meanwhile, Silver has part of his league playing with inferior rosters in an attempt to reload, cover up past personnel mistakes, and take advantage of a system that is anti-competitive.
My friend used to dive for loose balls and rage against indifference. Now he sits in front of the tube and watches the Knicks and 76ers stagger around, according to the schemes of their ownerships.
I know of a former college player who got caught taking a few dollars to shave a few games. He’s never re-connected with teammates who would love to see him. He lives a clean life, after what he did. But the owners of NBA clubs sit in the front row and smirk.
Shouldn’t there be laws against owners blatantly trying not to win?
Whether it’s the owners or the players, dumping a game or a season emits the same foul odor.