Monday, February 13, 2023

The Long Game.

My best friend of more than 50 years, Fred, died around his 64th birthday--about 15 months ago. As you'd expect from people who had been friends from their girl-riven ninth-grade years, through high school, college, marriage, children, careers, and old age, Fred and I got along. 

We agreed on most things.

Even if we began a conversation disagreeing, after some time, I could see things Fred's way, or he could see things mine. We might not have been completely persuaded by each other's arguments, but at least we could see the other side and see the 'reason' of an alternative viewpoint.

The central thing Fred and I disagreed with over the last few years was watching sports on TV. I'm writing this on the Saturday before Super Bowl Sunday and once again, and Fred and I would fight about this, I will not watch the game.

I won't watch for a simple reason.

The game is being broadcast on Fox. And the money the game earns Fox supports their radical right, racist, anti-woman, climate-change-denying, anti-CRT agenda. 

Every minute you watch something on Fox puts money in Tucker Carlson's pockets. And all the other Crypto-Goebbels who clog the public trust that are America's airwaves.

The ad industry does a lot of lip-flapping about a whole host of liberal values, including Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and working toward reversing global warming. And then we funnel literally billions of dollars in the form of our clients' media budgets to the biggest threat of all to what had been America's democratic institutions.

I had a long dialogue not long ago with the chief of one of the world's biggest agencies. I maintained we should be steering our clients away from Fox, OAN, Newsmax and Sinclair. He said that was not our job.

We will never agree.

About three decades ago, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, turned the scholarly world on its ears with a book called "Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust." You don't have to read the book to understand the thesis. The masses of people placidly accept corruption.

I refuse to be "Tucker's Willing Executioner." 

So I abjure Fox.

Fred loved sports. He was a great basketball player as a kid--he could have played at Brown, where he went to college, but focused instead on grades. He played throughout his time at Columbia Law, and when he joined New York City's District Attorney's office, he played on their squad. From what I gather, it was a pretty talented five.

Later on in life, Fred ran marathons. And then took up golf. As he convalesced after numerous cancer treatments he watched a lot of sports. While he was hospitalized I'd send him books on sports. We never lacked things to talk about, but we enjoyed reading these two together. They brought us back to our youth and reminded me of A.E. Housman's "To an Athlete Dying Young." [Below. And worth reading aloud.]

Fred and I enjoyed "City" by ex-New York Times writer, William Rhoden, with a forward by Walt "Clyde" Frazier. We spent a lot of time talking about Lew Alcindor, now Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and the great photos of him as a teenager in 1960s New York shot by the unsurpassed Richard Avedon. We had hours of conversation about this photo, of Mr. Jabbar, then Lew Alcindor taking the subway home from practice, while wearing his Power High varsity letter jacket. How innocent it all seems today.

We also loved "The Baseball 100," by Joe Posnanski, a look at the one-hundred greatest to ever play the summer game. 

What makes Posnanski's book different and better than any similar "bar-argument" book of rankings is that Posnanski, to my eyes, is the first writer to dig deep and consider the achievements, accomplishments, skill and sufferings of Black and Latin players who were banned from so-called major-league baseball, until drip-fed integration began in 1947. (I say drip-fed, because for instance, the Red Sox didn't integrate until 1960.)

Fred would have watched yesterday's Super Bowl 57. I did not. 

Fred would say to me, "Bomber, life's too short to be so angry." 

I'd say, "Earl, life's too short not to be so angry."

We'd both be right.


To an Athlete Dying Young

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears.

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.

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