Month: February 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

⦿ Friday Links

To kick off the week’s links, one that I did not find until last Sunday, but would have been better suited for last week’s edition. Early 1980’s SNL cast member Gary Kroeger shared his observations from the anniversary reunion/broadcast. It’s really awesome. I love his interaction with the Mannings and his son’s reaction to meeting certain stars.

Backstage at SNL’s 40th

I’m sure many of you who are parents heard about this earlier this week. In a study, some physicians found that introducing peanuts into the diets of infants dramatically reduced their likelihood of developing peanut allergies.

Eating peanuts prevents allergy

Your long-read of the week is this fascinating piece by Jeff Wise. He was a mainstay of CNN’s coverage of the missing Malaysian airliner last spring. Over time, he’s developed a theory about what happened to the plane.

Now, I did not follow the coverage of the missing plane all that closely. So, at first blush, this seems like absolute lunacy. And perhaps it is.

But what I love about this piece, and the interview I heard with Wise on NPR, is that he completely acknowledges that he might be nuts. As much as presenting his theory and the evidence he bases it on, he offers a commentary on how our modern media covers massive events. It is also a statement on how easy it is to go down the rabbit hole, as he puts it. When you accept one piece of information that goes against mainstream belief, it becomes much easier to begin accepting everything that challenges the official story.

How Crazy Am I To Think I Actually Know Where That Malaysia Airlines Plane Is?

Going in a completely different direction, Grantland sent Matt Taibbi to Indy to cover the NFL Draft Combine. Like most things that he writes, it’s excellent.

…The new reality-show format subjects the draft entrants to a hilarious nine-week stretch of goofball obstacle courses and campy personality tests that collectively play out on TV like a cross between Battle of the Network Stars and the Miss America pageant, with a faint but troubling whiff of 1830s slave auction mixed in.

America’s Second-Greatest Reality Show: A Visit to the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis

A lot of writers, or wanna-be writers as I should call myself, fetishize writing implements. Whole corners of the Internet are devoted to discussing fountain pens, paper notebooks, writing spaces, and the most effective software writing workflows. And writers love typewriters.

I admit there is a certain nostalgic pull on me by typewriters, which makes me recall when I received one for Christmas one year and spent the next few months manically typing letters to anyone I had an address for.

But, perhaps because I grew up on electronic typewriters, as cool as I think the machines are to look at, I’ve never been drawn to using one again as some folks are.

So this article, about one of the last typewriter repairmen in New York, hit me perfectly. It’s cool to read about a man who keeps these ancient machines working. But I’ll still go with my Apple and Logitech keyboards to enter text into virtual piece of paper, thank you.

The Last of the Typewriter Men

I bet you learn something new and useful if you scroll through this list.

57 Things You Can Do to Be a Better Cook Right Now

File Under: Why Do We Need To Change?

If you’re going to adjust the day new albums comes out, it really should be Monday and not Friday.

The record industry will make Friday the standard release day for all albums

And finally, a brain teaser to close out the week. How many Division 1 basketball schools can you name in 20 minutes? This is kind of maddening, especially after you see the schools you missed. Also, note it has not been updated for this year, so at least one major school is still listed in its old conference.

Oh, I got 179 correct.

College Basketball Teams Quiz

Friday Vid

“Pedestrian At Best” – Courtney Barnett

In terms of music, it’s been a slow start to the year. Some solid songs, but there has yet to be a great album. Each Tuesday I check the new releases, hoping for something exciting and amazing that I want to listen to on repeat for days. But each week I’m disappointed.

Although it is still over three weeks from its official release, Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit promises to break that drought. Which should not be a surprise; Barnett is kind of fantastic.

I would not object to a fine album or two coming out between now and March 24. But it’s good to know that something great is not too far around the corner. Who knows, it might even feel like spring by then!

Small School Benefits

M.’s volleyball team wrapped up their season over the past few days.

Sunday, they played the only other undefeated team in their division. St. P’s won the first game easily, then struggled in the second and lost their first game of the year. I was running the scoreboard and both I and the mom next to me keeping the scorebook were a little antsy. Even more so when St. B’s rushed out to a 5–1 lead in the third game.

But St. P’s rallied, got the lead, and closed it out for a 15–11 win.

Then, in their final regular season game yesterday, they followed the same script. Won the first game convincingly, couldn’t get a serve over the net and lost the second game handily, and after a tense stretch where every serve was a side-out, finally got four-straight points to close it out 15–9.

So they finish the season 7–0. Unlike kickball, where only the division champs go to the tournament, it looks like everyone gets to play in the city volleyball tournament. And it looks like every other undefeated team is on the opposite side of the bracket. If they win their first game, over teams they beat easily already, they’ll have to play the team that pushed them last Sunday to get to the semifinals. If everyone can find their serves again, they have a pretty good shot at the final four.

One of my favorite things about going to school-sponsored sports is how I get to see the girls interact with kids from different grades. My view tends to be limited to what I see when I’m working in the library, managing playdates, or other times when I’m inside the school. And those are almost always moments where it is just one of the girl’s classes on its own.

But at kickball and volleyball games, I see fifth graders run over and give L. hugs. I see C. hanging out with one of her buddies, and then that girl’s sister who is in third grade. When I ask who So-and-so is in the 5th–6th grade game, M. knows and can say hi to them after the game.

This morning at drop off, when L. opened her door she yelled, “Emma!” I looked at the smaller girl walking by, thinking that was Emma. But, instead, a very tall girl smiled and waved to L.. Because the kindergartners all have an Eighth Grade Buddy L. both knows, and looks up to the biggest kids in school.

A couple weeks ago, when I was picking M. up at a friend’s house, the friend’s eighth-grade brother walked into the room and said, “I know your daughter, L.. She’s pretty cool.”

When you have two sisters, relatively close in age, and go to a fairly small school, there’s a lot of overlap. Growing up in fairly large schools[1] and not having siblings meant my friends were almost exclusively from my grade until high school.

I think it’s pretty cool that L. knows a bunch of eighth graders, C. knows who the cool girls in sixth grade are, and M. has the whole K–3 hallway class rosters memorized. And even if they don’t directly know another kid, they often are in class with a sibling or simply know who they are because you kind of know who everyone is anyway.

I’m not saying the same thing can’t happen at a bigger public school. Especially if you have three kids across five grades. But it is way different than how I grew up. And I think the sense of community they have for each other, with the big kids looking out for the little kids and everyone at least passingly famiL.r with everyone else, is a really cool thing.

Once we moved to Kansas City, I remember my school having four classes per grade.  ↩

Sick Day Reading

I have a sick kid at home with me today. And since this article seems worthy of a share independent of the Friday links, this is a perfect time to do so.

There was a lot of buzz about this article, in which Graeme Wood goes into great detail about the Islamic State, last week. Then I heard him on NPR one day and made sure I saved it. I finally dedicated the half hour or so needed to read it last night and think it’s a very important piece of education for anyone who follows world events.

I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about what ISIS was, what they stood for, or how they were different from other groups like al-Qaeda. While I admit I still get some of the technicalities of Islam mixed up, this was a helpful piece. There’s a surprise twist in it, too, when you get to the section about how ISIS views the future of human history and what person will be involved in bringing about Armageddon.

Again, I highly recommend carving out the time to read this.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

What ISIS Really Wants

⦿ Friday Links

Man, do I love Chipotle. I would eat there all the time if I didn’t know, in the back of my mind, that my 43-year-old metabolism isn’t built to process that much food that often. I have enough trouble getting through the holidays and winter without gaining 10 lbs. as it is.

After reading this breakdown of how many calories and how much sodium the most popular ordering options pack, I may stretch out the gaps between my visits even longer. I’m pretty sure that even though I subtract the beans from my carnitas burrito, between that half-cup of guac I have them throw on and the bag of chips I usually down with it, I’m in the 2000 calorie range.

I hate it when we things we fear are confirmed.

At Chipotle, How Many Calories Do People Really Eat?

This is a super cool, very detailed, and lengthy look inside how The New York Times is produced and distributed each day.

How The New York Times Works

Some more SNL stuff.

First, there may be no greater expert on the show’s history than critic Tom Shales. He offered up some thoughts about the show’s anniversary over the weekend. And, as seems required, he rips Chevy a lot.

Comedy Mountain: 40 Years of ‘Saturday Night Live’

And I just found this earlier today. It’s a collection of sketches that probably got zero consideration for inclusion in Sunday’s anniversary show, but are worth watching. I watched a few and will likely run through and watch some more shortly.

40 Less-Iconic ‘SNL’ Sketches That We Love Anyway

As we argue about vaccines, climate change, and other scientific matters, those of us on one side of the debate wonder how the hell people can put their heads in the sand and ignore what seems perfectly reasonable to us.

National Geographic tries to determine why so many people have a hard time accepting science.

Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?

And finally, a pretty fantastic interview/profile of Kobe Bryant. Quite simply there’s never been anyone quite like him, not just in the NBA, but in all of American professional sports. I can’t think of anyone else who was the clear best player in his sport for close to a decade, but was also so polarizing and simply did not give a fuck.

Kobe Bryant Will Always Be an All-Star of Talking

Friday Vid

“Turn Me Up” – Twin Shadow
I’ve listened to a little of Twin Shadow’s music over the years. There’s a growing buzz for his next album, which will come out in March. Based on this performance on Letterman, and a quick listen to the three tracks available on Rdio, I’m really looking forward to it, too.

I think it is odd, though, that so many people have said this song makes them think of Prince. It doesn’t sound anything like a Prince song to me. Just because a black man mixes R&B and rock and plays some nasty guitar does not mean you have to compare him to Prince.

Exceptionally Hot Sports Takes

At last check, the wind chill was still –12. That’s at about 1:30 pm on February 19. Stupid.

So the perfect time for some ultra hot sports takes.

Like any Midwesterner worth his salt, I despise the endless hype for the Duke-North Carolina rivalry.

But, holy crap, was last night’s game fantastic.

I switched by early and saw Duke was up big. When I checked again, deep into the second half, Carolina had just taken their first lead of the game. Over the next 3–4 minutes, Carolina just about ran Duke out of Cameron Indoor Stadium. They were getting stops and defensive rebounds and turning those into quick scores on the other end. Once, off a missed free throw, they threw an outlet pass to mid court then had two guys under the rim waiting for a pass. Roy’s teams have always been able to run.

Carolina was +7 with right around 2:00 to play. Then Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones took over. Okafor scored some big man points down low. Jones abused whoever was guarding him for crazy drives to the rim.


In OT, there was about a 90 minute sequence that was sublime. Up-and-down, 1980s-style basketball. Layups answered by layups. Long outlet passes. Just breathtaking basketball.

And then bad Roy caught with good Roy. Despite two horrendous possessions with the ball in the final minute, he refused to call timeouts to set something up. Thanks to his obstinance, the Tar Heels had the ball down three with nine seconds to play. He called two time outs in those final seconds and got one point out of it.

But here’s the thing: if Quinn Cook, a 90+ percent free throw shooter, hadn’t missed two free throws in the final 20 seconds, Roy never gets a chance to use those timeouts to try to get a tying/winning basket. When he really needed the time outs, he sat on them. When they were of marginal use, he called two.

He was lucky Cook’s misses gave the Tar Heels one last chance. It could have easily been a five-point game on Carolina’s final possession.

I checked the RPI results earlier and saw that, even with their fifth loss of the year Monday night, KU has moved back ahead of Kentucky in that ranking system. Which means there are people complaining about the RPI. Not just in Kentucky.

I will admit the current RPI ratings are silly. Kentucky is, of course, far and away the best team in the sport this year. And they settled the question of whether they are better than KU or not pretty emphatically back in November. If the teams played again tomorrow, on a neutral court, I hope KU could stay within 20 this time. But I have a feeling that Kentucky would get up big time for that game and win easily again.

But people need to stop getting worked up over the ratings. They are one tool that can be used to compare teams to each other. One tool of many. And not a tool that has any real meaning. Sure, it tells us who has played a tougher schedule, helps us compare the strength of conferences, and can expose teams with gaudy records who haven’t played anyone of consequence. But KU doesn’t get three extra points each night because they have the #1 RPI. They’re going to get a high seed in March because of their schedule, but they’re not getting seeded higher than Kentucky. Besides, as we have seen in the past, the NCAA weighs the RPI differently from year-to-year. It’s become a tool much more for the regular season than for the post season.

Kentucky is still going to get the #1 seed in the tournament, and the most geographically convenient path back to Indy. They will still be the overwhelming favorite. Even if KU’s non-conference schedule and the much deeper Big 12 keeps them in the #1 RPI spot when Selection Sunday rolls around.

Don’t sweat the numbers.

A story is developing here in Indy that could be awful. Trent Richardson was suspended for the AFC Championship after failing to show up for a pre-game walkthrough and flight to Boston because of a “personal matter.” There had been rumors ever since that game that the Colts would use that as an excuse to void his contract and save them the $3+ million owed in its final year.

Word emerged this week that Richardson may have missed practice and the flight because he was at the hospital with his girlfriend who had gone into premature labor just 28 weeks into her pregnancy.

At this point, there’s a lot of speculation and rumors with few definitive statements from either side. If the Colts want to cut Richardson, that’s fine. He’s been a huge disappointment since they acquired him. But if they think that’s the best move for the franchise, they need to eat the $3M and change due to Richardson. Don’t invent some bullshit excuse to void his contract if he was attending to a legitimate family emergency.

SNL 40

I would imagine a few of my loyal readers, who share my pop culture obsessions, pulled the site up the last couple days anticipating a break down of the SNL 40 special.

My apologies for the delay. I was unable to watch live, and basketball viewing obligations got in the way Monday. But I was finally able to watch most of it Tuesday night and then finish up this morning. So, thoughts!

Overall, I really enjoyed the show. It was a tough balance to strike, and I think Lorne Michaels, et. al. did a decent job getting it right. They couldn’t show clips for 210 minutes (minus commercials). Nor could they just have extended monologues or group discussions. So, they went with the traditional format of the show and blew it up to giant size. A cold open. A super monologue. Live sketches. Four live musical performances. Several live sketches. Celebrity cameos. And clips. Lots of clips.

It wasn’t perfect, but I laughed a lot – at both the old and new stuff – and was often at least smiling if not laughing.

The thing that stuck me about the show was how did they manage the celebrity logistics of the evening. Who gets to actually perform vs. who just gets to stand on stage? Who gets extended camera time vs. a brief moment to introduce the next segment? And how did they choose which of the non-cast members in the crowd got TV time as well? The simple act of planning out a 3 1/2 hour show must have been a nightmare, between writing the live pieces and picking the taped segments from 40 years of material. But managing the egos and expectations of everyone invited must have been the toughest part of the evening.

I’ve saved several articles written after the special to Instapaper that I have not read yet. So if I’m repeating things others have said, it is because we are of like minds rather than me copying them.

On to the bullet points:

  • The cold open made a ton of sense, to the point of being predictable. But like so much of the night, it was amazing to think about the process of picking what characters, sketches, and catch phrases would get name checks in the opening act of the night. Lorne Michaels famously has a large board on his office wall where they organize each week’s show. How did they track things over the course of this one, making sure they didn’t skip anyone or reference a particular sketch too many times? Was there a wall on a warehouse somewhere where each reference was carefully noted and cross-referenced?

  • While watching the cold open, I realized that Jimmy Fallon is, arguably, one of the biggest, most successful SNL alums. Which amazes me. When he first showed up on SNL, he seemed like he was just ripping off much of what Adam Sandler did, going on Weekend Update and playing his guitar. Over time it became apparent that he had more range than Sandler did, but he never seemed like he was the guy poised to break out. He couldn’t stay in character, he generally was a supporting element of sketches, and even when he moved to co-host of Weekend Update, he seemed like an outlet for Tina Fey’s writing. Yet here he is, host of The Tonight Show, getting great ratings. I never watched his old show, nor have I watched The Tonight Show since he took it over. But I’ve almost always enjoyed the clips that turn up on YouTube. You never know, I guess.

  • Like the cold open, I really enjoyed the monologue. Well, up to a point. It seemed a little long and a little big. And I think the focus waned as it went on. But I enjoyed the point being made.

  • I skipped through most of the musical performances, watching just the first 30 seconds or so of each. The contrast in performers was interesting. Paul McCartney and Paul Simon have been favorites of and friends to Michaels since the show began. It was no surprise that they were on. Being countered by Miley Cyrus and Kanye West seemed odd at first. Two exceptionally conservative choices with two rather daring choices. But McCartney and Simon were forces that changed music in their heydays. They weren’t shocking in the same way that Miley and Kanye are, but still they altered the structure of the music, and pop culture, worlds. Whether Miley and Kanye stand up the passing of time remains to be seen. But I think they embody the idea of challenging the status quo that Lorne Michaels always wanted the show to put forward. You could argue that Taylor Swift, who was on stage but did not sing, is more in line with the mainstream pop that McCartney and Simon represent. But, as good as her music is, she’s not challenging anything. She’s safe where Miley and Kanye are daring and controversial.

  • Speaking of McCartney, man, age has finally hit him hard. There’s a sad, tired, old man’s face hidden behind all the tucks and injections. And that hair. Positively Trump-esque. How far back on his head does that comb-over begin? And his voice is notably weaker than it was just a few years ago. But, still, when he walks on stage, you can’t help but get a jolt. That’s Paul Fucking McCartney!

  • I enjoyed the live sketches that were new much more than the rehashes of old stuff. Dan Aykroyd clearly had a lot less stimulants in his system than he did when he first did the Super Bass-o-matic commercial. And I did not like the bits on weekend update where actors did their favorite characters from the past at all.

  • But Jeopardy was pretty great. It pretty much always has been, in every form, but its highest moments were when Will Farrell was Alex Trebek. The way he struggles to hide his rage at the contestants was always fantastic.

  • It cracked me up that one of the first commercial breaks was from the current State Farm campaign with Hans and Franz. Throw in a commercial for an upcoming Ferrell flick and a Parks and Recreation promo and there were at least three commercials featuring SNL alums.

  • As I was fast-forwarding through commercials, I had to go back and watch the one with Jon Hamm for Red Nose Day. I wasn’t sure if that was a real commercial or some new, fake commercial. Interesting timing, as I bet it got a lot more attention from people who were thinking like me than it normally would have received.

  • The reaction to Chevy Chase’s introduction was noticeably muted. Is there anyone he hasn’t pissed off over the past 40 years? He looked kind of terrible, too.

  • Robert DeNiro was awful. Jack Nicholson and Christopher Walken were wasted. Amazingly, Keith Richards had the best moment of the night from the “very old guys who Lorne loves and get 30 seconds on stage” category.

  • I was a little surprised when Martin Short came out to host a segment. He was a cast member for only one year, although that was a pretty great year. When he hosted, many years later, he was great. But still, it seemed odd for him to get a long stretch in front of the camera. AND THEN HE FUCKING STOLE THE SHOW. He was phenomenal. He and Maya Rudolph destroyed in their segment about musical acts. Great writing, better performances.

  • “We’re about to flip you the funk bird.” The argument for Will Ferrell as greatest ever cast member largely stems on his longevity. You forget how many great characters he had.

  • So we knew Eddie was coming back. All us who grew up on his era could not wait to see what happened when he got on stage again. That said, I figured, in the back of my mind, that it would be a disappointment. Children of the 80s wanted Buckwheat and James Brown Hot Tub Party and Velvet Jones and Mr. White all wrapped up into an epic, five-minute performance. That was not fair or realistic. Instead we got a fawning introduction by Chris Rock, and then an awkward moment on stage by Eddie. My first thought, when it was over, was, “They must have promised him a Sinatra-sque introduction and no requirement to perform to get him to finally come back.” What a shame.

  • Eddie’s appearance became even more awkward when Jerry Seinfeld killed it moments later. He didn’t quite reach the highs that Martin Short hit, but he was still great. And the back-and-forth with Larry David was just terrific.

  • It’s not an official media event if Peyton Manning isn’t involved. And props to him for getting seated next to Catherine Zeta Jones, who still has it going on.

  • Very nice shout out to the still-recovering Tracy Morgan by Mr. and Mrs. Alec Baldwin, errrr, Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin. Perfectly toned and presented.

  • I didn’t put a clock on it, but it seemed like “White Like Me” got one of the longest clips of the night. Which makes sense. It was such a great piece, easily one of the best in the history of the show.

  • The obligatory salute to cast and crew members who have died was excellent. Including people who were (mostly) behind the camera was a very nice touch, especially since their faces elicited such noticeable reactions from the people in the studio who had worked with them. And the Jon Lovitz thing was the perfect final touch. It said “We’re serious, but we’re not that serious.”

  • Closing out the night was Wayne’s World, which also hit all the right notes. The look of mock terror on Mike Myers face when Kanye acted like he was coming on stage the second time was brilliant. Myers has been involved in some Kanye shenanigans before. The Lorne Michaels entry in the top ten was another moment where they both honored the show, and Michaels, while making fun of the pageantry of the night at the same time. There was a lot of inside baseball in Myers’ and Carvey’s lines during that bit, but it was still all great.

  • Finally, the closing credits with the cast crammed onto the stage. I wondered how much jockeying there was for spots near the front, and near Lorne. Did the director or a producer place everyone, or was it a free-for-all? Lot of egos and Lorne/daddy issues in that moment. And I paused and looked, but I could not find Eddie anywhere. Maybe I just missed him in the crush.

So, 40 years down. I almost wondered, as I watched, if this was an ending, too. Would Lorne look at what he’s managed over four decades, think of his age and the other shows he’s producing, and perhaps think it was time to close the show down after this season? I think likely not. By all accounts, he still burns more for SNL than his other ventures. He’s in good health, as far as we know. I think those thoughts are a bit premature. But the end isn’t too far off, and from everything I’ve read the show will likely end when he decides he has had enough.

I’ve rarely watched the show since Ferrell left, although when I catch a clip show (like the recent Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day specials), I enjoy the segments that feature current/recent cast members. It’s still nice to know it’s there, though, and that as long as it continues, there will be reruns on at 10:00 pm Eastern on Saturdays with the occasional clip show in regular prime time.

On The Courts

Long weekends suck. At least when the weather is crappy and you have nowhere to go.

St. P’s annually stretches out President’s Day weekend to build some snow make-up days in the schedule before spring break. Since we’ve had no snow days this year, we’ve been lucky enough to have a five-day weekend. When the temps have been stuck below freezing with wind chills below zero the entire time. And no snow to play in.

I was sick of my kids 48 hours ago and we still have another day to get through.

Serenity now…

Both Saturday and Sunday had nice, short diversions, though. M. had volleyball games both days.

Her team is good. Really good. Coming into the weekend, they had swept every match 2–0 and only once had the other team made it to even 19 points against them.[1] They have several decent players, but one girl in particular is kind of kick ass. She serves overhand, and hard. With some swerve. In a sport where at least half the players can’t get an underhand serve from a box inside the main court over the net, having a couple girls who can serve is huge. When you have someone who has pace and movement on the ball, you’re tough to beat. And this girl is also athletic, so she can get around the court and return balls not hit directly to her. A week ago, she nearly blocked a girl at the net and came close to spiking.

Again, she’s a fourth grader. Although she is, by far, the tallest kid in her grade at St. P’s.

Anyway, she was gone over the long weekend. So there was some nervousness as the team had two games, and one loss might be enough to knock them out of the post-season tournament.

Should have not worried. They crushed both teams they played, easily. They were actually behind 5–0 in one game and still roared back to win without much effort.

There are just two games left in the season. The standings are a week behind for some reason, but it looks like one of the teams they will play was still undefeated as of a week ago. Win that game, and our girls will go to the city championship tournament. Which would be pretty cool. St. P’s won a couple city championships in boys basketball last week, including the fourth grade team. So it would be awesome if the volleyball girls matched them.

M. has done well. She served out the match Saturday, winning the final two points. She’s typical of most of the girls on her team. Sometimes the serve gets over the net; sometimes it doesn’t. She’s made some good returns. She’s not super aggressive, but that fits her personality. I think she likes volleyball better than kickball since it’s less dependent on strength.

It’s been really frustrating for me to watch the games, though. As a few readers know, from being on a team with me, I played a lot of volleyball back in the day. In my final few years in Kansas City, I generally played on two teams at a time — both 6-on–6 and 4-on–4 — in my employer’s rec leagues. I’m not going to pretend I was great, but I was a pretty solid player, better on defense than offense at the net, decent serve, and able to chase down and return just about anything that came to me in the back line.

So when four girls stand there and watch the ball hit the floor between them, it kind of drives me crazy. I know, they’re fourth graders playing the game for the first time. Still, I do a lot of muttering under my breath during games.

Fortunately, they get better quickly. We can already see improvement in M. and her teammates. Sunday all the games were running behind and we got to watch a 5th/6th grade game between two good teams. It was fun to watch, as just about every serve made it over the net and most girls could return the ball. The St. P’s team was even passing to the middle then setting the ball for outside hitters, although the hits were decidedly below the net. Still, good, fundamental volleyball.

If you haven’t played volleyball since high school gym, all games are rally scoring now. Which means the team that wins the point, gets a point, even if they were receiving the serve. First two games are to 25, win by two. If a third game is needed, they play to 15, again needing to win by two.  ↩

⦿ Friday Links

Two basketball giants died this week. So, obviously, I have some links related to them, plus one about another fading giant of the sport.

To begin, two different views of Dean Smith. The first is a profile on Smith by Gary Smith for Inside Sports magazine from 1982. Or just before he won his first national title. It’s funny to look back and think a coach like Smith, or Coach K before 1991, could have so much success and still be seen as a failure by some because they didn’t win the last game of the season.

Gary Smith always found an angle to write about his subjects that other writers missed. As with most of his work, this is amazing.

The Relentless Scrimmage In Dean Smith

For a post-humous perspective, it’s no surprise that no one wrote better about Dean this week than Joe Posnanski.

Dean Smith: A Life Well-Lived

On the complete opposite side of the coaching spectrum was Jerry Tarkanian. Where Dean’s teams were buttoned-down and often joyless, Tark’s UNLV squads were audacious and brash, paving the way for Michigan’s Fab 5 and the hip-hop culture of the 90s. They dunked, pressed, and woofed while kicking your ass.

Dan Wetzel offers a fantastic look back on The Shark’s life, full of gut-busting anecdotes.

Jerry Tarkanian: A true rebel if ever there was one

Bobby Knight is still alive. But the basketball genius, who seemed light years ahead of his contemporaries from 1975–87, is long gone.

Jeremy Collins, who grew up a Knight and Indiana fan, takes a look at where Knight is today and how he got there.

The General Who Never Was: Requiem For Bobby Knight

One last college hoops link. Again, it is one about perspective. While Duke has had some early flameouts in the NCAA tournament recently, you never hear people wondering, “Why can’t Coach K win in March anymore?” In fact, a lot of people would assume that Coach K has been the most successful coach over the past decade.

Wrong. By one measurement the best coach in the game over the past decade is a man who, for some reason, suffers more for his team’s early losses than Coach K does.

Coach K isn’t college basketball’s best coach over the past 10 years

Finally, the SNL 40 special is this weekend. Just in time, the show has launched an app that allows you to filter through the entire history of the show to watch many of your favorite sketches and commercial parodies. It’s pretty awesome.

Live from your phone, it’s … SNL’s addictive 40th anniversary app

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