Wednesday Required Reading

1. Canceled Races Aren’t Stopping Endurance Athletes From Setting Wild New Records. I’ve been lethargic lately, postponing and/or bagging workouts altogether. Maybe I should try to take one of these records down, but which one? Wonderland in 18 hours? With the help of an electric mtb.

2. Is Your Blood Sugar Undermining Your Workouts? Uh, maybe that’s my problem seeing that I’ve been hitting Costco’s cakes hard all summer.

3. Garmin reportedly paid multimillion-dollar ransom after suffering cyberattack.

4A. Liberty University Poured Millions Into Sports. Now Its Black Athletes Are Leaving. 4B. Photo appears to show Jerry Falwell Jr. with zipper down and arm around a woman. I recommend college presidents, to the best of their abilities, keep their zippers out of the news.

5. Shira Haas of ‘Unorthodox’ on Sharing the Joys of Her First Emmy Nod. I dare you to try to watch Unorthodox’s four episodes over four days.

6. Make Pizza … On Your Grill. Then invite me over.

Elite Level Arm

That’s what scouts concluded after watching me play little league in Louisville, KY and Talmadge, OH.

Of course, they also said my hitting was so bad I was a serious liability to whichever team I played for. I resembled that!

So it’s really no surprise I made the greatest throw of all time. It happened twenty years ago when the Byrnes family was daytripping at Paradise on Mount Rainier. Despite it being mid-summer, as always, snow was aplenty at Paradise. Both daughts excitedly hurried ahead while I prepared a perfect, baseball size, snowball. When Eldest was WAY, WAY above and in front of me on the long mountain pathway, I took dead aim and unleashed my howitzer. The snowball landed right between her seven year old shoulder blades.

The Good Wife was horrified with herself. How could she have picked me to spend her life with. I was torn between worry about whether Eldest was okay and amazement at my incredible accuracy. Okay, I was mostly amazed.

Yesterday, back at the exact place of the crime, The Good Wife was a Good Sport and agreed to re-enact the historic moment with me. I planned to share the vid with you, but WordPress isn’t cooperating.

So all I have to share is the second greatest throw of all time.

 

 

Two Wheel Craziness

Everesting is seeing how fast you can go uphill the equivalent of Mount Everest, 29,029 feet (8,848 meters). To be official, the rules dictate it has to be one climb, up and down, over and over. The most I’ve ever climbed in one day is approximately 10,000 feet, a sad sack one-third Everester.

Now some unhinged cyclists have decided Everesting isn’t challenging enough. Real climbers now are “trenching”, as in descending the equivalent of the Mariana Trench, which requires climbing almost the same distance, 36,037 feet (10,984 meters) because again, it has to be on one climb, up and down, over and over.

 

Dear Adam Silver

Do you really want to restart the National Basketball Association season in Orlando, FL with the 346 cases per 100,000 people in Orange County rising rapidly?Screen Shot 2020-06-21 at 10.04.47 AM

Especially when you could push “restart” in Thurston County, Washington with only 78 cases per 100,000?Screen Shot 2020-06-21 at 10.02.43 AM

I would be happy to work with your advance team who will find the Olympia, Tumwater, Black Hills, Capital, North Thurston, River Ridge, Timberline, South Puget Sound Community College, and Evergreen State University gyms to their liking. And I have no doubt the players will love the Motel 6 Tumwater mostly due to the outdoor pool and it’s proximity to McDonald’s, Subway, and Lemon Grass.

And then there’s the local golf courses which will be welcome respites from Florida’s brutal heat and humidity. Tumwater Valley is a fine test not to mention Capital City and  the underrated Delphi Golf Course.

Assuming a team is not scheduled to play, nighttime entertainment is no problem. The hotel provides free wi-fi.

Also, unlike Florida, Washington State’s politics are much more in line with the Association’s. The person posing as President even called our Governor a snake, so we have that going for us.

I challenge you to find a nicer place to be in July, August, and September.

Look forward to hearing from you.

A Public Service Announcement

For right wing reactionaries. Read. The. Room.

Chuba Hubbard starts Oklahoma State boycott after Mike Gundy pictured in OAN shirt.

“The nation’s top running back could lead a boycott against his own coach. Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State’s Heisman contender, is threatening to sit out of all team activities after seeing a picture posted of head coach Mike Gundy wearing a t-shirt promoting One America News Network, a right-wing station. ‘I will not stand for this’ Hubbard tweeted. ‘This is completely insensitive to everything going on in society, and it’s unacceptable. I will not be doing anything with Oklahoma State until things CHANGE.'”

If you don’t believe there’s structural racism in the (dis)United States, you may want to think through a little more carefully the t-shirts you wear, what you write, what you say, and whom you associate with. More simply, if you want to keep your job, start reading the room. Which has shifted, markedly, in short order.

As conservatives are screaming, of course Gundy has the right to wear whatever t-shirt he wants when he goes fishing.

And Jemele Hill has the right to tweet the truth:

Screen Shot 2020-06-16 at 10.30.29 AM

More specifically, his players are free to not follow his leadership. Or transfer. And recruits are free not to choose Oklahoma State.

In the end, out-of-step right wing coaches are free to field less talented teams, and to lose games, then fans, meaning money.

And in the end, university President’s are free to fire them. If the Presidents’ are not fired first for not reading the room themselves.

 

Nice Guys Don’t Always Finish Last

The parallels between Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong are fascinating. Both seized on real and imagined slights and then exaggerated them in their minds, making them much more scandalous than they were, in order to, as Lance says in ESPN’s Armstrong documentary “Get my hate on.” The angrier they were, the better they performed. Realizing that, they became expert at sparking their anger.

They also had a win at all costs approach to their respective sports; treating teammates, and in Lance’s case support staff, as means towards that one end. Apart from their athleticism, there was very little to admire about them.

The parallels haven’t been lost on other viewers of ESPN’s recent Jordan and Armstrong docs, which has caused people to conclude that you have to be an asshole to win six NBA Championships or Seven editions of the Tour de France.

To which I call bullshit. Nice guys don’t always finish last.

Among many other examples, Magic Johnson smiled his way to five NBA titles. Russell Wilson, a regular visitor at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital, won the SuperBowl. Tom Brady never denigrated his teammates. Jack Nicklaus was universally liked and Adam Scott won the Masters.

And in 2017, Ron Byrnes won the Seattle Marathon’s 50-55 age group. And a lot of people are saying he’s the nicest guy of all.*

*this is potentially misleading

The GOAT, But At What Cost?

The Last Dance, the ten episode Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls documentary, was a  welcomed oasis in the live sports desert some of us are wandering aimlessly in.

But even at eightish hours, it felt woefully incomplete in that it ignored the the costs of ultimate professional success on personal well-being.

The doc’s one overarching insight was that Jordan’s work ethic, drive, and competitiveness were unparalleled; as a result, none of his teammates ever measured up. And so he beat them down, to the point that they had no affection for him.

Here’s Noam Scheiber describing the dynamic in The New York Times:

“As Jordan himself said of his teammates in ‘The Last Dance,’: ‘I’m going to ridicule you until you get on the same level as me. And if you don’t get on the same level, then it’s going to be hell for you.’

More than 15 years after Jordan retired from professional basketball — for the third time — the mix of power and grace he displayed on the court remains a breathless thrill. But his leadership style, such as it was, feels outdated.

In the intervening years, a chorus of experts has warned employers, investors and board members against tolerating such cruel or demeaning behavior. Academics and government officials have used terms like ‘toxic worker’ or ‘superstar harasser’ in preaching vigilance against flawed if seemingly talented performers.

‘Every organization needs the ‘no-asshole rule’ because meanspirited people do massive damage to victims, bystanders who suffer the ripple effects, organizational performance, and themselves,’ Robert Sutton, a Stanford University management professor, wrote in a 2007 best seller named for that rule.

Watching the Michael Jordan depicted in ‘The Last Dance’ presents a paradox of sorts: The Bulls dominate the league. Yet Jordan is frequently meanspirited. He appears to make light of one teammate’s migraine and uses words like ‘dumbass,’ or more foul-mouthed epithets, to refer to others. He doles out postgame abuse as easily as high fives, complaining, ‘You couldn’t make a damn jump shot all night long.’ He seems to delight in embarrassing a teammate on camera.

One struggles to know whom to believe: the experts or your lying eyes.

According to the studies Mr. Sutton cites in his book, the problems with toxic workers range from the obvious to the subtle. Their belligerence creates costly distractions. Their treatment of co-workers increases turnover and absenteeism. When the demoralized colleagues do show up, they perform apathetically.”

Hey Scheiber, it’s very easy to decide who to believe, IF the question is professional success. Jordan took one of the worst franchises in the league and almost single-handedly turned it into a historic dynasty with six NBA championships. The ends justify the means. Professionally.

But personal success is an altogether different question, and I contend at least as important a one. The little bit of light the doc shined on Jordan’s personal life was telling. In particular, he didn’t have meaningful relationships with his teammates. They seemed largely a means to an end, championship rings, a historic legacy. Steve Kerr, who attributed it to his unrivaled fame, said Jordan lived separately from his teammates, but Kerr also acknowledged there was an “emotional” distance. The picture of Jordan sitting alone of the bus with headphones on spoke volumes.

The question that went unexamined is whether Jordan was too competitive for his own good OFF the court. Interpersonal success hinges on one’s ability to cooperate with others. Can someone as hyper-competitive as Jordan, who at one point admitted to “having a competition problem” throw a switch when the stadium lights go off?

We never hear from his first wife. Or his adult children in any meaningful way.

But we do hear from his teammates and competitors. Yesterday I listened to a podcast interview with Wright Thompson who has a piece out about Jordan’s family history. Talking about Jordan’s relationship with some of his security guards and staff, Thompson said he is intensely loyal, once you’re in his circle of friendship, you’re in it for life.

Tell that to Charles Barkley, who after criticizing Jordan for making some poor decisions as owner of the Charlotte Hornets, was deemed persona non grata.* Formerly friends, they haven’t spoken since and Barkley doesn’t expect to reconcile with Jordan.

Fast forward from the bus. The enduring image of present day MJ is sitting alone in his mansion with his drink and cigar in hand. He’s considered by most the greatest basketball player of all time.** The GOAT. His net worth is $2b. And yet, it’s unclear how rich he is when it comes to meaningful friendships.

Through the imperfect, incomplete lens of the doc, Jordan doesn’t appear to have any regrets, and of course, every one gets to decide for themselves how to balance their work and non-work lives. And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’s living large not just professionally, but personally. Maybe he’s surrounded by people who know him well and who love him unconditionally and who he knows and loves back.

In which case, nevermind.

*Barkley wasn’t exactly making news.

** The increasingly tiresome GOAT debate is whether LeBron is Jordan’s equal. Three-point hysteria aside, I might start my team with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.