The Perfect Competition for These Wild Times
When Thomas Waerner and his 10 sled dogs pulled into Nome, AK, late Tuesday night, they were entering a very different world than the one they left ten days prior. At that time, Waerner was also one of the only people on Earth experiencing that particular type of pride and joy that comes with dominating a sporting event, the champion of the Iditarod, a competition that’s known as “The Last Great Race.” This year, more than ever, it lived up to that billing. As league after league suspended their seasons and tournaments, the Iditarod carried on—and it was the perfect competition for these crazy times.
The famed dog sled race through the Alaskan wilderness has its origins in a crisis eerily reminiscent of our own. In the winter of 1925, the city of Nome was facing an outbreak of a sickness marked by—what else?—a pronounced cough, fever, and body aches, and the town’s only doctor was out of medicine to treat it. No ships could access the local port; it was iced over, and it was too dangerous to deliver anything by plane. So, a relay of 20 mushers and 150 sled dogs was organized to transport the serum from the southern town of Seward to Nome. Working day and night, they got the treatment to Nome in 5 ½ days and saved the town. Today’s mushers follow a similar path to the one those dog teams ran to keep a pandemic at bay.
The Iditarod […]
The Healing Power of Sports
A month after Pearl Harbor, baseball’s owners were scrambling. At a time when so much in the world appeared unknown and dangerous, was it worth continuing to play ball? During World War I, the MLB season had been cancelled, and for guidance as to whether the 1941 season would suffer a similar fate, commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis petitioned the president. He sent a handwritten letter to the White House, noting, “The time is approaching when, in ordinary conditions, our teams would be heading for spring training camps. However, inasmuch as these are not ordinary times, I venture to ask what you have in mind as to whether professional baseball should continue to operate.”
President Roosevelt responded immediately, and his letter was front page news across the country. “I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going,” he said. “There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before. And that means that they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before.”
As a result, baseball continued throughout the war, even as stars like Bob Feller and Hank Greenberg were drafted into service, and indeed, Roosevelt was right. Baseball was a welcome respite from the grim newsreels; by 1945, attendance had climbed to its highest mark in MLB history.
Baseball provided a sense of normalcy, as well as an escape. It’s a role that […]
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All Betts Are Off and So Are the Red Sox
You would think that they would have learned by now. About a century ago, the Red Sox traded Tris Speaker–one of the greatest hitters to ever live–to cut salaries after winning a World Series. Four years later, they sold Babe Ruth for a pile of Yankees cash. This time around, it’s Mookie Betts packing his bags, who despite having played for only six seasons, is already the tenth most valuable Sox player of all time, at least according to WAR. Betts is exactly the type of player a team dreams of developing. He should have been in Boston for his entire career, his number 50 retired, a beloved icon like Williams and Ortiz.
He would have been, too, if not for some cheapskates.
Fans and owners have always had a complicated relationship. It’s the owner’s team—they own it after all—but every sports franchise also belongs to its fans. The generations of support earn some kind of sweat equity, and in that way, an owner is really more of a patron. An owner is supporting something that’s not just for them, and in return, fans have no choice but to trust that their benefactor is a benevolent one.
For the owners, there’s a certain responsibility that comes with that agreement. They don’t need to put a winning team on the field every year. And they don’t need to lose money consistently, […]
I have a lot of favorite memories from working with Kobe and could never narrow it down to just one. So here are two:
Early on in the edit for Muse when we were deciding what we really wanted the tone of the doc to be, we’d have these all-hands-on-deck meetings in our edit bunker down in Newport Beach. Oh yeah, WE BUILT AN ENTIRE EDIT ROOM down in Newport where Kobe lived because he demanded it. He said there was no way we were editing a film about him up in L.A. I argued with him about this, and eventually pretty much everything else, but there was no version of him that was willing to compromise. So…Newport it was. Anyway, back to the brainstorm. At one point, one of our collaborators made a reference to Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky and how maybe we could emulate the opening of the film–capturing its brewing intensity and sense of foreboding. Everyone loved the idea and there was growing enthusiasm the more we discussed it. Except for Kobe, who remained quiet. I asked him what he thought and he just shook his head. He hadn’t seen Black Swan, so didn’t really have an opinion. I told him we could probably pull up a link online and watch it together so he could check it out and react to it.
“No,” he said. “I’ll watch it tonight and we can talk about it tomorrow.” I agreed to the plan.
The following morning, I met him in his office. It couldn’t have been […]