Volume 2, Issue 88: You Never Know

"Every generation thinks it's the last, thinks it's the end of the world."

Our annual mailbag newsletter is coming in two weeks. Send me questions! Ask me any question you want at williamfleitch@yahoo.com. The rule around this here newsletter is that I have to answer whatever you ask. So send ‘em over. I’ll answer all of them, every single one of ‘em, right here.

Wednesday of this week marked one full month since Deadspin published its last story. As someone who once would start twitching when the site went 30 minutes without updating, it has been disorienting. Not a day goes by when I don’t absent-mindedly type the URL into my browser. There are no other sites I do that with, just randomly go to because, man, there’s probably something there I want to read. I wonder if there will be ever be a new one.

We don’t have to go down the rabbit hole of sad again here. I was merely a consumer of Deadspin at the end and am forlorn mostly because I don’t get to read it anymore; I didn’t lose my job like the staff did. Deadspin being gone—and apparently they’re still trying to hire a new editor-in-chief, and it has been heartwarming the number of people who have told me they were contacted by G/O Media and subsequently told them to stuff it—still just kills me, but it’s not like I was regularly writing there or anything. (I just write everywhere else.)

But once a year, I did write for Deadspin. Every year since 2011, the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I would fill in for Drew Magary on his weekly NFL Jamboroo column. At first it was a way to hang out with the old crew of readers over there, but as the years went on, and I became less and less associated with the site, I just became the annoying guy who showed up who wasn’t Drew. I always enjoyed that. It’s like walking through the halls of your old high school: You know where your locker used to be and where people hide stuff from teachers and where the closest bathroom is, but nobody actually going to school there cares or know who you are because jeez, why would they? Isn’t it even a little bit creepy that you’re still hanging out here?

I would always use the column to tackle something meaty, initially about media and ultimately about the terrifying world we all currently inhabit. I used it as an excuse to take big huge swings, to use the massive audience that Deadspin had and the freedom they would always so kindly give me to get experimental, and write super long on The Big Issues Of The Day. It always irritated Drew’s dedicated Jamboroo fans, which I’ll admit tickled me too. It was always one of my favorite pieces to write every year, and to be honest, I always started thinking about the next year’s version just a few minutes after filing that year’s one. It’s invigorating to push one’s self like that. I assumed I’d write it forever.

It didn’t turn out that way. Drew wrote one Jamboroo column for Vice after all the madness, but that has been it, and even if he finds a new home for it, it won’t be Deadspin and there won’t be any point in filling in for him. (It was always nice of him to let me do it nonetheless.) So it’s over. I miss it. They were my favorite pieces to write every year, my annual tradition of thinking all galaxy brain.

So this week, I thought I’d bring those old Jamboroo fill-ins back out and link them one last time. You never know what those ghouls are going to do with the Deadspin archives: This could be one of the last times anyone gets to read them.

By the way, there’s no reason to read past the opening essay on any of these. Not only is all the football stuff wildly outdated, I never really cared about the football part anyway. All the effort went into that opening essay.

(All this art is from the incredible Jim Cooke.)

2011: Twitter Is Driving Everyone Insane

Topic: How the emerging media platform of Twitter was making otherwise normal people act like self-aggrandizing morons.
Key Line: “Conversations are much more open and truthful on Twitter. That openness and truthfullness doesn’t make us any less dickheaded, though.”
How It Holds Up: Considering basically the entire American conversation is taking place on Twitter, and we made a Twitter troll President, I’d say it turned us all into dickheads like I worried it would.

2012: It's Not OK To Be Shitty: Guy Fieri, BuzzFeed, And The Tyranny Of Stupid Popular Things

Topic: Just because something is popular and successful does not mean it is still not terrible. We should call it out as such.
Key Line: “Just because a bunch of morons and teenagers are watching The Voice doesn't mean that the rest of us have to give a shit.”
How It Holds Up: This is another battle I lost. Martin Scorsese makes a work of genuine, lasting art, and the primary reaction is THIS IS TOO LONG FOR ME TO HOLD IN MY POOPS WATCHING IT. But no one will shut up about freaking Cats.

2013: Why That Dumb AIDS Tweet Was So Captivating

Topic: The infamous Justine Sacco Tweet, which had just happened a few days earlier, in which our outrage was less about what she had said and more about being in on a joke that she, on a plane for so many hours without the Internet, wasn’t.
Key Line: “Sacco sent the tweet, and then vanished into the dark, empty netherworld we used to call Real Life.”
How It Holds Up: I barely Tweet anymore, and to be honest, I’m pretty sure it has rendered me mostly invisible. (Still worth it.)

2014: A Nation Of Echo Chambers: How The Internet Closed Off The World

Topic: How people being able to choose their own media sources puts us in danger of believing things that are profoundly wrong despite being convinced we are right. (Using the example of how stupid Rob Schneider was about vaccines.)
Key Line: “The entire strategy for succeeding at anything, whether it's winning elections, selling a product or attracting visitors for your Website, revolves around pitching yourself as loudly as you can to those people on your side and turning those who disagree with you into the worst version of themselves, demonizing them into something subhuman and venal.”
How It Holds Up: I dunno: How much do you having political conversations with people who disagree with you these days?

2015: Nobody Cares If You Lie

Topic: That’s it: Nobody cares if you lie. You can lie and lie and lie and lie, and if you do it long enough, people will just give up and go along with you out of self-preservation, venal opportunism or just exhaustion.
Key Line: “I need you to listen to my speech for my speech to have any meaning at all. Otherwise I am simply releasing air from my lungs through my teeth and throat in order to produce a certain sound, rather than just letting it go out my nose like it wants to. I am moving my fingers right now in a pattern that produces words that people other than myself can see and understand. If there is no one there who is doing so, I’m just a mammal cracking his knuckles strangely, alone in a room.”
How It Holds Up: This is the best one of these, and maybe one of the best things I’ve ever written. And reading it this morning made me want to collapse in my chair. Because it’s so much worse now.

2016: How To Save The World

Topic: The importance of trying to be good in the world of a Trump Presidency.
Key Line: “Decades from now, our children and grandchildren will be looking at how we reacted, what we did, what we said, what we stood up for, in this exact moment, right now.”
How It Holds Up: Just a few weeks after Trump’s election, I was still in too much shock to really have much perspective on anything.

2017: We've Forgotten How To Fear

Topic: We should be a lot more worried about nuclear war than we are.
Key Line: “I think we simply got bored and distracted and we forgot. I think that we are not scared enough.”
How It Holds Up: 3,000 words on the constant threat of everyone I know and care about dying. Yeah, the first year of the Trump Presidency went swimmingly.

2018: You Can Only Grieve So Much

Topic: There is about to be so much death in the world that it will become too much for any of us to process. (An insight gleaned from an interview with Columbine author—and University of Illinois graduate!—Dave Cullen.)
Key Line: “We are living longer, which, while causing overpopulation problems in the macro, is a unquestioned positive in the micro; no matter how bad each Trump Tweet might make it seem, it is in fact better to be personally alive than personally dead.”
How It Holds Up: Yeah, seriously, what a fun time.

So yeah: I guess that’s what I did this decade. I truly loved doing this column every year. I’ll always miss it.

Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. You may disagree. It is your wont.

  1. It's Time to Admit That This Georgia Season Just Hasn't Been That Much Fun. But Then Again: It's Just Getting Started, WSLS Podcast. My big annual Georgia Football piece. I like writing one thing a year that the people I see every day will actually read.

  2. Data Decade: Most Shocking Events of the 2020s, MLB.com. This wasn’t initially on the Data Decade agenda, but it was an excellent idea that I think turned out really well.

  3. The Return of the Sports Scolds, New York. Just let the guy pretend to be a dog peeing on the field.

  4. Scarlett Johansson Movies, Ranked, Vulture. The No. 1 was probably the easiest selection we’ve had for any of these.

  5. Craggs & Leitch: On Illinois Basketball After a Loss to Miami, Smile Politely. Got Craggs to start doing this again. My job, as always, is simply to set him up and get out of the way.

  6. Mookie Betts Potential Trade Destination Power Rankings, MLB.com. He’s probably not getting traded, though. Side note: One of the many aspects of working for MLB.com that bring me joy is that all their articles are translated into Spanish. Spanish speakers: How does this read compared to the original?

  7. Debate Club: Star Wars Characters Who Deserve Their Own Spinoffs, SYFY Wire. Lots of Star Wars business coming up, you’ve been warned.

  8. The Thirty: Best Player on Every Team in 2020, MLB.com. Tommy Pham is a Padre now!

PODCASTS

Grierson & Leitch, we discussed “Knives Out,” “Queen & Slim” and “The Two Popes.

Waitin' Since Last Saturday, we reviewed the Georgia Tech game, and previewed the SEC Championship Game. Also, apparently they were playing our show at the ESPN GameDay set this morning.

Seeing Red, no show this week, but we’re taping Monday.

GET THIS LUNATIC OUT OF HERE 2020 POWER RANKINGS

Kamala Harris was No. 1 in these rankings for a very long time, but over the last two months, it became obvious that it wasn’t happening. I still believe she is a good person who would make an excellent President, but it was not her year. I bet she’s a logical veep pick when inevitably a white guy wins.

Also, goodbye Steve Bullock. I think he would be a good President too! Alas.

1. Elizabeth Warren
2. Joe Biden
3. Cory Booker
4. Bernie Sanders
5. Amy Klobuchar
6. Pete Buttigieg
7. Julian Castro
8. Deval Patrick
9. Michael Bennet
10. Michael Bloomberg
11. Andrew Yang
12. Tom Steyer
13. William Weld
14. John Delaney
15. Marianne Williamson
16. Tulsi Gabbard
17. Joe Walsh

ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!

I love that some of you are sending me holiday cards. Ours are about to arrive. You send me one, I’ll send you one. (But also write me full notes too, please. Your last letter was terrific and I’ve read it four times.)

Will Leitch
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO

“Think For Yourself,” The Beatles. I go through an Early Beatles Stage every couple of years, and I’m in it right now. It is not unpleasant.

Thinking of starting a new glam band with these guys.

I’m in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game today. Go Dawgs.

Best,
Will

Volume 2, Issue 87: Let’s Not Get Carried Away

"Honey, if I blow your fuse, can I please be excused?"

Our annual mailbag newsletter is coming in precisely three weeks. Send me questions! Ask me any question you want at williamfleitch@yahoo.com. The rule around this here newsletter is that I have to answer whatever you ask. So send ‘em over.

Also, thank you for everyone who wrote in concerned about my father after last week’s missive. He is up and moving around, sore and grouchy about it all but otherwise in about as good a shape as someone who fell 10-15 feet off a ladder and landed on his head onto loose rock could possibly be. (Let alone someone 70 years old who did so.) I’m touched you all reached out, and Dad would be too, if he weren’t so busy grousing at Mom, my sister and me for asking him how he’s feeling all the time. Thank you. I promise we will be a lot lighter in tone this week.

Friday afternoon, the Virginia Cavaliers defeated the Virginia Tech Hokies 39-30 to advance to their first-ever ACC Championship Game. Virginia had lost 15 consecutive games to their in-state rival, and their fans, as you might expect, lost their damned minds. As the final seconds clicked down, Virginia students streamed onto the fields in droves. There were so many happy young rich white people. It’s nice to see young rich white people finally having a moment.

Look at them, the dumb giddy schmucks. Good for them. I’ve wanted to rush the field my entire life. My God, who wouldn’t? A court/field storming is the collegiate mindset brought to life: an irresponsible, spontaneous, silly little explosion of joy, a moment where you're so happy and loony that the only way you can express it is by jumping up and down and screaming like an idiot. This to me is the pinnacle of what watching sports brings to us, this unadulterated bliss, this unfettered, harmless elation. The example I always use for this is that there is nothing on this planet, save for maybe a sudden spider, that will make me spontaneously leap into the air and scream other than sports. Sports allow us to express emotions that would otherwise be unacceptable or embarrassing in the public arena. They’re healthy. They’re good for us.

There are different kinds of court stormings and field rushings, but the best come out of nowhere, on a last-second shot, the ones when you're on the court hugging everyone in sight before you even realize where you are and what is happening. My favorite one might have been when a beautiful maniac in a wheelchair ran onto the court when North Carolina State beat Duke back in 2013 and promptly got mobbed by a thousand other lunatics.

(The kid turned out to be fine, by the way. Still probably not recommended standard operating procedure.)

But it has never happened. I’ve never had the opportunity to be such a loon. The closest I’ve ever come was November 13, 1994. My Illini football team was hosting the No. 1 and undefeated Penn State Nittany Lions, led by quarterback Kerry Collins, running back Ki-Jana Carter, wide receiver Bobby Engram and defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. It was freezing and raining and miserable, or at least it would have been had I not been an indestructible college sophomore in the I-Block student section. Illinois jumped out to a 21-0 lead behind quarterback Johnny Johnson, and when the Illini led 31-14 in the third quarter, you started to feel the rush of people pushing toward the front of the stadium. This was the best team in the country, and it was about to lose to a bunch of dopes in Champaign. The rain began to fall as dusk turned to night, and we jumped and screamed and prepared for the greatest moment of our collegiate lives. Some thick-necked Delta Sig kid elbowed the girl next to me to try to sneak down closer to the field, and everyone in our section pounced on him and shoved him back. We then all high-fived each other. We were ready. This was it.

Then Penn State pulled off one of the greatest comebacks of its history. We all sulked home, Charlie Brown, in the rain. Illinois would go 8-26-1 the rest of my time on campus. There would be no more field stormings.

A few years ago, on an assignment for The Sporting News, I sat in the Orange Krush section for an Illini game against ranked Purdue. (By “an assignment,” I mean “I begged my editor to let me and then just went ahead and did it before he had a chance to say no.”) This was probably going to be the last opportunity I’d ever have. I was in the student section—looking like a graduate student who had stuck around for a decade too long—my face was painted, I had carte blanche to just go nuts. But alas: Illinois did end up winning, but it wasn’t a close game, and it just wasn’t a big enough win to run onto the court. Not that I didn’t do my best to make a court storming happen anyway. There might not be much more pathetic than a man in his mid-30s imploring teenagers to commit misdemeanor trespassing to celebrate a game won by unpaid college students just so that he might have one last hope of hanging onto to his long-gone youth years past its expiration date. I still apologize for nothing.

I know that court storming and field rushing is dangerous, and I absolutely understand why players and coaches dislike it so much. Imagine completing an exhausting task at your office successfully and, seconds after it’s over, a thousand drunk idiots sprinting directly toward you, wailing like banshees and looking to hug-punch everyone in sight. The practice probably should be banned, as it has in most professional sports and some collegiate ones. But I can’t help but love it anyway. It’s basically the college experience in miniature: Reckless, dangerous, stupid, joyous, pure sensation without considering the consequences or ramifications, just plunging forward into the abyss because what could possibly go wrong I’m immortal.

I know it’s never going to happen for me now. I’m too old, too responsible. Not only would it be a bad decision, and not only would end open me up for endless justified derision, I don’t even think I’m capable of it anymore. That sort of spontaneous euphoria doesn’t come that easily these days. We’re all too aware of all the downsides anymore. There are too many variables and consequences. Nothing can be so simple now. I ran into an old friend of mine a couple of months back with whom I used to smoke weed and talk for hours, in a different lifetime for both of us. I asked him if he still smoked. “Not really,” he says. “It used to be that I’d get high and feel like I was looking at the world in an entirely different way, and I’d want to explore it and soak it all up. Now? Now I get high and just think about all the bills I haven’t paid.” The world is a lot more purely pleasureable the less you know about it. It’s easier when the world is so small.

So good for those kids, those poor, underprivileged undergraduates at the University of Virginia, who got to go crazy and run around the field, high-fiving players who mostly just want them to go away, who got to drink themselves into oblivion and pass out in some poor townie’s backyard. You’re idiots. You’re fools. You’re beautiful. Hold onto this as long as you can. You’ll miss someday having an excuse for being that stupid. You’ll miss when you thought nothing really mattered.

Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. You may disagree. It is your wont.

  1. Data Decade: The Ten Best Players of the Decade, MLB.com. It was a light week, which is what is supposed to happen on a holiday week.

  2. Stephen Strasburg Suitor Power Rankings, MLB.com. He’s not leaving Washington, though.

  3. Debate Club: Worst MCU Movies, SYFY Wire. Every once in a while, it’s fun to write something just to get yelled at.

  4. The Thirty: Best Free Agents From Each Team NEXT Year, MLB.com. In case you want to start speculating and guessing a year early.

PODCASTS

Grierson & Leitch, we discussed “Marriage Story,” “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” “21 Bridges” and “Frozen 2.”

Waitin' Since Last Saturday, we reviewed the Texas A&M game, and previewed the Georgia Tech game.

Seeing Red, no show this week, but we’re taping on December 9.

GET THIS LUNATIC OUT OF HERE 2020 POWER RANKINGS

It is worth noting that I did not think Michael Bloomberg was a bad mayor. He made several public health improvements, the city generally ran efficiently and effectively and he was in between perhaps the two most polarizing New York City mayors of the last 50 years, which helps. He was not perfect. He’s smug and creepy around women and has all sorts of billionaire-white-guy blind spots. But I voted for him twice. (I voted for Bill Thompson in 2009.) Because I work in media, I even spent some time working for him, with Bloomberg Politics, though I never met him and only saw him skulking around the office one time. (He’s very short.) I think he honestly believes he is helping the country by running for President. But he is wrong. And if he really wants to help, he can spend half the money he’ll be blowing by running for President working on voter registration and voting rights and make a legitimate difference. Until then, get the hell out of here with this.

1. Elizabeth Warren
2. Joe Biden
3. Amy Klobuchar
4. Kamala Harris
5. Bernie Sanders
6. Cory Booker
7. Julian Castro
8. Pete Buttigieg
9. Michael Bennet
10. Steve Bullock
11. Deval Patrick
12. Michael Bloomberg
13. Andrew Yang
14. Tom Steyer
15. William Weld
16. John Delaney
17. Marianne Williamson
18. Tulsi Gabbard
19. Joe Walsh

ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!

You can also send holiday cards here if you want. I love those!

Will Leitch
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO

“Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle,” Nirvana. Perhaps the angriest of the many angry Nirvana songs, this might be the most underrated song in their whole canon. This song, written in 1993, obviously isn’t about Donald Trump and the world we live in now. But that’s also exactly what it’s about.

Hope your Thanksgiving was a little less wild than ours, which ended with this.

We eventually got him rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

Have a great weekend, all.

Best,
Will

Volume 2, Issue 86: White Wooden Cross

"What would I do if a white, wooden cross meant that I'd lost you?"

One late morning in February 2003, in my old apartment in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan, I crawled out of bed, because when you are 27 years old, single and have no children, you can crawl out of bed in the late morning because no one needs you. My old flip-top Sprint PCS phone had the little mail icon flashing, indicating that I had a voice mail message. I didn’t have any friends I knew who would call me before noon on a Saturday—I didn’t have any friends I knew who were awake before noon on a Saturday—so I assumed, correctly, that it was my mother.

Her voice was shaky. She was upset. "Will, I wanted to see if you were watching CNN,” she said.” Have you seen it? It’s terrible, Will, just terrible.”

I had no idea what she was talking about. It was instantly terrifying. This was February 2003, less than a year and a half after 9/11, and I, like everyone in New York and pretty much everywhere, was still in shock, and still looking around every corner for the next attack. Something terrible that she was seeing live on CNN … it could be anything. It could be what you most feared. Or it could be something you hadn’t thought to imagine.

I shuffled to the living room of my apartment (both my roommates were of course still asleep too) and sat down on the futon. I picked up the remote and stared at the television for a moment, looking back at my own reflection before hitting the POWER button. What awaited me on the other side of that screen? Was there another attack? Was Times Square, 10 miles south of me, in flames? Did somebody drop a nuke in the Middle East? I took a deep breath. The world as I know it was about to be different the second I pushed that button. I lit a cigarette and stared out the window for a second. There didn’t seem to be panic in the streets, or at least not yet. Maybe they don’t know. Maybe they haven’t pushed the button yet either.

I sighed, steeled myself and pressed POWER.

I was greeted with this:

It was the space shuttle Columbia, which on February 1, 2003 broke apart while re-entering the earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts on board. Viewers watched live as the debris from the doomed shuttle flew back to earth, a ghastly collective elegy aired live by all the major networks. To many, it brought back memories of the Challenger explosion in 1986. It was awful.

But it was not what I had feared. Seven brave astronauts perishing is a tragedy. But it is not a cataclysm. I had expected a cataclysm. I called my mom back. “Yeah, I saw it,” I told her. “It’s very sad.” But then, in the cadence of every twentysomething shithead who just thinks their parents are the stupidest people in the world, I explained to her that at this current cultural moment, her vague message had me thinking the worst. She told me that a space shuttle explosion seemed pretty close to “the worst” to her, and I growled that she didn’t get it and went back to bed.

They grounded the space shuttle program for four years after that, and we haven’t launched a shuttle into space since 2011.

We’re always just one phone call from everything changing forever.

*******************

About nine years later, I was a bar in Tribeca, celebrating a win for our New York Magazine company softball team over the puny weaklings at The Daily Show. I was in the middle of a long soliloquy to the features editor about how the Knicks were about to turn their season around when my cellphone rang. It was my father. That was highly unusual. I didn’t remember the last time Dad had called me after 7 p.m. for any reason other than a Cardinals game, and the Cardinals weren’t playing.

I stepped outside, lit a cigarette and answered. “Hello.”

My father coughed for a second, and then gave a little resetting grunt. Another deep breath. He was fortifying himself for what he was about to say. My body tensed.

“Well, Will, it’s a sad day for the Leitch family.”

My mind raced. Did something happen to my grandmother? My sister? My mom? Him? Was he calling me to tell me he had some horrible disease? It had only been a few years since Mom had beat breast cancer. Was it back?

“What? What’s going on?”

I don’t remember the precise details of the conversation, only that Dad clammed up and kept talking around whatever had happened to make this such a sad day for the Leitch family. I was already on my second cigarette when he got down to it.

“Your mother’s had a motorcycle accident.” My mom was obsessed with motorcycles at the time, an obsession my sister and I mostly attributed to her being healthy and clear after all the chemo and needing something dangerous and fast to make her feel more alive. (She had always been wary of motorcycles before then, always reminding us that she had worked in the ER long enough to learn that patients needing organ transplants always looking forward to the spring because that’s when the motorcycles would come out and thus there’d be more deaths and organs to donate.) My parents would ride their motorcycles everywhere, to work, to Cardinals games, to car shows, everywhere they could. Mom became incredibly easy to Christmas-shop for: Just get her motorcycle stuff.

Apparently they’d stopped out at a gas station by their house and when Mom was getting off the bike to gas up … something happened. Dad was looking away, and when he turned back, Mom and her bike were in a ditch just up the road from the Amoco. Mom had blacked out and wasn’t entirely certain what had happened. Had there been a car? Did she think the bike was shut off but it wasn’t, and it took off on her? Was there a strange wet spot that sent the bike careening? She didn’t know the answers to those questions, and Dad didn’t either, but honestly Dad wasn’t giving me much of anything. I was still reeling from the “sad day for the Leitch family” comment, and he was providing circular, unhelpful answers to all my questions. I know now that he was still a little bit in shock from the incident—he’d waited to call me until she was out of surgery—but at the time, I was in an absolute panic.

It turned out that she broke her pelvis in the accident, but because she had her helmet on, and it appears there was not in fact another car, she had no other major injuries other than scrapes and cuts. My cousin Denny, who rode motorcycles professionally, had helped train her on the new bike, and he said all he could think about was how small she was: He’d never considered his aunt that small before. She had a small motorcycle. But no motorcycle can be all that small.

I finally got Dad to explain to me that Mom was OK, that she’d broken her pelvis, but otherwise, she was in good shape and that it could have been so much worse. I did ask him to lead with the “in good shape” part next time. I saw her about two weeks later, and she was limping around with a walker but mostly just felt embarrassed. She said she was sorry for making me and my sister so worried. She stopped riding motorcycles after that.

We’re always just one phone call from everything changing forever.

********************

I spend all week thinking about these newsletters, about what the topic’s going to be the next week, and it’s simpler when I have a basic, linear, point-a-to-point-b story to tell. So I have a big Word file of anecdotes, with things like “NEIGHBOR JERK AND MY FINGER” and “THAT LOUSY PROM.” I’ve had “DAD TELLS ME ABOUT MOM’S CRASH” in there for a while, and I’ve found that story increasingly relevant in recent years. We are always just one phone call from everything changing forever, something that becomes more apparent as your parents get older, as your friends’ parents get older, as you and your friends get older, when everyone and everything is just a little bit more fragile than you ever realized. Someday that phone call is gonna come, and the world is gonna be a different place after that phone call than it was before. I was going to use this anecdote to write about how we must appreciate every moment, that we have to keep our loved ones as close as we can, because it can all be gone, and it can be gone in an instant. It was going to be a good newsletter, I think.

And then, Friday afternoon, I got one of these calls.

I’d spent Friday morning serving as Dashman, the superhero character at my kids’ school for the annual Barrow Dash. Basically, every class, pre-K to fifth grade, runs laps for 15 minutes around the gym, raising money for the school and promoting physical fitness and health. My job was to wear a mask and a cape and encourage the kids during the runs, either by supporting them when they got tired or pretending like I was the fastest person alive and if they passed me (which I made sure they did), they must be SO FAST. I spent most of the day shockingly proclaiming, “nobody told me these kids were so fast!” as they cheered and mocked me and ran faster and it was an absolute blast. My iPhone tracker informed me I’d run a total of 25.5 miles on the day. I was feeling it. I am feeling it. But it was worth it.

I was about to settle into a screening of “21 Bridges” for the G&L podcast in a theater with mercifully reclining seats when my mother called. I’d just texted with her 20 minutes earlier. I wasn’t sure why she was calling.

Her voice was shaky and plainly scared. “Your dad fell off the ladder,” she said. “The ambulance is on its way.” I heard my father moan vaguely in the background. He has been putting up aluminum siding on his new garage, and he was on an extension ladder and fell off and onto the rocks below. She couldn’t figure out what else was going on from him. “He’s not making very much sense, and he doesn’t know where he is.” I told her I was on my way over.

Twenty agonizing minutes later, I pulled into their driveway. There was a fire truck outside and a police officer pulling out. Mom had already texted me that the ambulance had taken him to the hospital, so I was just picking her up so we could go together. I flagged down the police officer.

“Hey, I’m his son. I came straight from home when my mom called me. Can you tell me what I’m walking into here?”

He gave me a stricken look. “He fell off his ladder. They took him off to Piedmont. You should know: He has a very significant head injury.” He paused. “We’re praying for you. Good luck.”

When we got to the hospital, I dropped Mom off at the entrance and went to park. I am not uncomfortable around hospitals; my Mom worked at one for 30 years, and that will give you a good cold look at what hospitals actually are, and an appreciation and gratitude for the people who work there. They are always just trying to help. But I stood outside those automatic doors for five minutes, opening and closing, before I could walk through. “Room A9,” Mom’s text rang. A deep sigh. In we go.

Dad lay in the bed, and to my immediate relief, it was still him. He was bloody and pale and worn, but it was still Dad. He was telling jokes: He had told the paramedics that he hadn’t fallen off a ladder, that his wife had finally gotten fed up with him and started beating with him with a bat. He was actually a little annoyed with her that she’d called me. The last thing he wanted was this sort of fuss.

But it was justified fuss. He couldn’t remember anything that had happened—he looked at the clock on the wall and it said 3:15, and the next thing he remembered he was in the ambulance—but we pieced it together. He was 10-15 feet in the air putting up the siding when the ladder, unsecured and resting on loose rock, buckled beneath him, and he landed on the back of his head. Mom was inside the house and didn’t see anything, but Dad, once he came to after the fall, pulled himself inside the house and climbed the stairs. He told her he fell, and she rested him on the bed and called 911 and me. He then asked her where he was and how he got there. He was bleeding all over the bed. Dad remembered none of this. That he didn’t remember it bothered him more than the gash in the back of his head.

But honestly : This was the best-case scenario. He ended up having a concussion, 13 (13!) staples in his head and a very sore back, but we got him home last night and he slept in his own bed. He didn’t break any bones, he didn’t have any brain bleeding, his neck was fine. I was proud of him, actually. Most of the 70-year-olds I know, they fall in the shower and they’re never the same afterward. Dad fell 10-15 feet onto loose rocks below and all he got was a concussion and a head gash … basically the same thing he would have got if he’d fallen from that distance 45 years younger. I’d find it pretty badass if I wasn’t so scared.

He’s good today. He’s sore, and I’m heading out to see them after I send this newsletter out, but he’s looks healthy, if uncomfortable. He’s also going to be irritated that I wrote all this. But I’m still processing it as well. We were so lucky. He was so lucky. I couldn’t have possibly asked for a better outcome. But I’ll never forget the timespan between that initial phone call until I actually saw him and realized that he was going to be OK.

The thing, though, about always being just one phone call from everything changing forever is that phone call can change everything even it’s not as horrible as your worst fears. I get to go see my dad today, and once he’s healed up, we’re gonna go drink some beers and watch an Illini game, and he’s going to play with his grandchildren, and he’s going to be back to some semblance of normal. But that phone call changes things anyway. It will make me appreciate what I have, that I have him and the other people I love near me, that I’m able to walk around and do all the things that I do because you never know, someday that phone call could be about me. My Dad’s OK. My mom’s OK. My family’s OK. My friends are OK. I spent that time between Mom’s phone call and the time that I saw my dad obsessed with the worst-case scenario, horrified by what I hadn’t said, what I hadn’t told him, desperate to get another chance to tell him, to just spend more time with him. Now I have that time. Now I have to use it.

You see: Every phone call should change everything. Every phone call should change everything. What you have now will someday be gone. The world is constantly shifting on its axis. It’s always in danger of slipping away. That person next to you you’re taking for granted — don’t. Every call’s a gift. Every call’s an opportunity. Every call’s a new day. So let’s go do something with it. While we can. While it’s here.

Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. You may disagree. It is your wont.

  1. The Astros Scandal Is Fun, and We Should Be Having Fun With It, New York. This is about as close to a Hot Take as I get … but I really do think I’m right about this.

  2. Anthony Rendon Suitor Power Rankings, MLB.com. I wish the Cardinals were on this list, but they’re not.

  3. Tom Hanks Movies, Ranked and Updated, Vulture. We think Captain Phillips is very underappreciated.

  4. The Thirty: Bounceback Players for Each Team, MLB.com. I’m dreamcasting on Matt Carpenter.

  5. Debate Club: Best Marvel Villains That Aren’t Thanos, SYFY Wire. I think about Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther more often than I realize.

PODCASTS

Grierson & Leitch, we dug into “Ford v Ferrari,” which I loved (and is a terrific Thanksgiving with the extended family movie) and “Charlie’s Angels,” and Grierson soloed on “The Report” and “Waves.” Also, I had my annual Thanksgiving chat with Jeb Lund. We talked rather in-depth about all the Deadspin stuff on that show too.

Waitin' Since Last Saturday, we reviewed the Auburn game, and previewed the Texas A&M game.

Seeing Red, no show this week, but we’re taping on December 9.

GET THIS LUNATIC OUT OF HERE 2020 POWER RANKINGS

I’ve had several friends tell me to take a closer look at Amy Klobuchar recently, and I’ve been impressed. She’s tough but … seemingly normal? Also, the debate the other night was incredibly strange. The only thing that really matters right now is impeachment, and it’s bizarre to talk about something other than that, at least at this particular second. I dunno. It’s a very odd time. I suppose it always is.

1. Elizabeth Warren
2. Amy Klobuchar
3. Joe Biden
4. Bernie Sanders
5. Kamala Harris
6. Cory Booker
7. Pete Buttigieg
8. Michael Bennet
9. Steve Bullock
10. Julian Castro
11. Andrew Yang
12. Deval Patrick
13. Tom Steyer
14. William Weld
15. John Delaney
16. Marianne Williamson
17. Tulsi Gabbard
18. Joe Walsh

ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!

You can also send holiday cards here if you want. I love those!

Will Leitch
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO

Chuck Berry, “Maybellene.” When I’m working, I play all my albums in a row in chronological order … and I just flipped over back to 1957. Up next: Miles Davis and Bob Dylan!

Look, two future legends meeting at last.

I think … I think I need a nap.

Have a great weekend, all.

Best,
Will

Volume 2, Issue 85: Box Full of Letters

"I got a lot of your records in a separate stack. Some things that I might like to hear, but I guess I'll give 'em back."

Our annual mailbag newsletter is coming in precisely one month. Send me questions! Ask me any question you want at williamfleitch@yahoo.com. The rule around this here newsletter is that I have to answer whatever you ask. So send ‘em over.

My parents are settling into their new house out here in Winterville, Georgia, and they’re finally unpacking the boxes containing 60-plus years of their compiled lives in Mattoon. They are discovering all sorts of goodies, from old family photos to long-thought-buried report cards to drawings my sister and I made in grade school. I’ve also discovered that my parents had been secretly collecting decades of newspaper clippings both written by and about me and my career, from an article in The New York Times about Deadspin all the way back to a letter to the editor of the Mattoon Journal-Gazette that I wrote about H. Ross Perot in high school. (I did not like him.)

But this might be my favorite discovery.

That is a resume I put together in May 1998, when I lived in Los Angeles and was working a one-year fellowship for U. The National College Magazine. That was the job I had straight out of college. The magazine hired three top student journalists to move out to Santa Monica, California, to live in the same house together on the beach and to make a monthly magazine together. My colleagues were Lynda, from Michigan State, and Marisa, from Florida State. We were total strangers who instantly became roommates and colleagues who were with each other essentially 24 hours a day. I went through a rather dramatic personal upheaval when I first moved out there, and Lynda and Marisa, two uncertain kids stumbling through the dark like the rest of us, got me through it. I’ll always be grateful to them. And they took a mean editors’ photo.

But the problem with a one-year fellowship is that it’s only one year, and when it’s over, you have to go find an actual grownup person job. One of my biggest regrets has always been that I entered the working world the every next week after I graduated from college. I should have traveled, or hiked, or bummed around, or something. I’ve had to pedal as fast as I can since May 1997. Once you’re in the rat race, that’s just your life from then on. I wish I had understood that better then.

So, that resume, my first ever resume, the first one created out of desperation. So much amusement in that resume. First off, the font, which seems to be some odd mix of Comic Sans and Wingdings. I list two awards I won from the Illinois College Press Association, under “Skills” for some reason, as if any potential employer would say, “Whoa, he wrote a film review that finished in second place in some random contest held by an organization I’ve never heard of. Sign this kid up.” My “skills” also included “tireless researcher and worker” and—and this is my favorite—“exhaustingly enthusiastic.” Please hire me: I will physically tire you. And there isn’t much that’s more “1998” than boasting that one is capable of using QuarkXPress.

I remember the specific job I was applying for with that resume. There was an opening for a film critic at the Contra Costa Times, now known as the East Bay Times, a newspaper in Northern California that needed a regular film critic based out of Los Angeles. I drove about 30 miles out of town to interview for the job, an earnest 22-year-old kid wearing a skinny tie and feathered hair, and I was passionate and dedicated and prepared with a detailed case for why that newspaper should take a chance on me. My fellowship would end in two weeks, which meant I wasn’t just losing my job, I was losing my apartment. I was desperate. I had to get that job.

A week later, the paper called. They thought I was a terrific candidate, but they decided to hire from within. I sat alone in a barren room full of boxes and wept. I had no idea what I was going to do.

I ended up moving out of Los Angeles a week later. In that week, I got offered a job with The Sporting News in St. Louis, and my cousin Denny flew out and we drove across the country together. I remember the day we left, May 28, 1998, because we turned on the radio and learned that the actor Phil Hartman had been killed by his wife. The first few hours of the drive were spent trying to process that. It would be several years until I would return. I don’t think I’ve seen Lynda or Marisa since. I just picked up and left.

When you are young, so much happens so quickly, but time elongates. I was only in Los Angeles for one year, but it seems like I was out there a whole lifetime. In the span of two weeks, I lost what I thought was a dream job, found another job halfway across the country, and scattered out of town, like that, like it was nothing. Today, the idea that my life would change so dramatically in two weeks is absolutely terrifying. But then I barely even noticed: I just sort of went with it. That’s the glory of being young and stupid. A one-year fellowship lasts forever; two weeks where you lose one job, gain another and then move 2,000 miles away is just normal, regular business.

There is a oblivious recklessness to youth that is idiotic and irrepressible and that I miss terribly. The less you know, the less you realize how much every second of all this matters. Sometimes all you have are your wits, some boxes full of resumes, your QuarkXPress skills and your exhausting enthusiasm. That’s more than you think, kid.

Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. You may disagree. It is your wont.

  1. The Genius of Don Hertzfeldt, Vulture. Don Hertzfeldt is one of my heroes—I wrote a whole newsletter about him here—so that Grierson and I got to interview him is a legitimate career highlight. You can watch It’s Such a Beautiful Day, his masterwork, on Vimeo. I honestly believe it will change your life.

  2. The Ugliness of Sports Efficiency, New York. My view on efficiency in sports has changed so much in the last few years that I feel like a different person entirely.

  3. Mike Petriello and I Each Drafted a Team From the Free Agent Pool, MLB.com. I find it wise to attach myself to smart people so people think I’m smart too because they associate with me.

  4. Matt Damon Movies, Ranked, Vulture. I have a soft spot for Matt Damon. He runs his career the way I would probably run mine, if I were a handsome talented actor. (I probably wouldn’t go to Patriots games with Bill Simmons, though.)

  5. Data Decade: The Best Teams of the Decade, MLB.com. Speaking of grudgingly respecting the Red Sox …

  6. Review: “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Paste Magazine. It’s a little more prickly and rigorous than you might think.

  7. Gerrit Cole Suitor Power Rankings, MLB.com. The Cardinals should be on this list, but they aren’t.

  8. The Futures Issue, New York. I was honored to be a small part of this.

  9. Woody Harrelson Movies, Ranked and Updated, Vulture. Sorry, this was in last week’s newsletter, but this is the right link.

  10. Debate Club: Best Disney Sci-Fi Movies, SYFY Wire. Tron! TRONNNNNN!

  11. The Thirty: Future MVPs From Each Team, MLB.com. This one was a little closer to last week’s than I meant it to be.

PODCASTS

Grierson & Leitch, “Doctor Sleep,” “Last Christmas” and “Midway.”

Waitin' Since Last Saturday, we reviewed the Missouri game, and previewed the Auburn game.

Seeing Red, no show this week.

GET THIS LUNATIC OUT OF HERE 2020 POWER RANKINGS

I’ll confess, I don’t understand the antipathy to Deval Patrick entering the race. The goal is to get Trump out of there, and another smart, qualified person getting into the race … doesn’t strike me as all that terrible? Either he contributes to the discourse and raises issues that need raising, or he doesn’t. Either he catches on, or everyone ignores him and stick with the candidates we have. We still have a long way to go. What’s the problem again?

That said: Hard to get too excited about a Bain Capital dude.

Also, Mark Sanford dropped out this week. I am not certain anyone noticed.

1. Elizabeth Warren
2. Joe Biden
3. Bernie Sanders
4. Amy Klobuchar
5. Pete Buttigieg
6. Kamala Harris
7. Cory Booker
8. Michael Bennet
9. Steve Bullock
10. Deval Patrick
11. Julian Castro
12. Andrew Yang
13. Tom Steyer
14. William Weld
15. John Delaney
16. Marianne Williamson
17. Tulsi Gabbard
18. Joe Walsh

ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!

Man, I got a bunch of these this week. You all were very upset about Deadspin! Good to see. Keep ‘em coming.

Will Leitch
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO

“Oskee-Wow-Wow.” After that Michigan State win, it’s all Illini fight songs, all the time over here.

I have been waiting so long to get to watch an Illini video like that.

Meanwhile, my son is out here murdering mascots.

Have a great weekend, all.

Best,
Will

Volume 2, Issue 84: Someday Soon

"Wind will blow, and the sun will shine, on that hill where we used to climb."

Every summer, my Dad and I used to have one night out a week. On Friday nights, he and I would hop in his truck, drive to the local liquor store’s drive-through window—this is a thing in the Midwest, or at least used to be—grab a six pack of beer for him and two Choc-olas for me and cruise around Mattoon for hours listening to Jack Buck and Mike Shannon call the Cardinals game on the radio. Dad would start at a gas station by buying 20 bucks worth of lottery tickets, and he’d led me scratch them all off as we motored through Gill’s Drive-In on Dewitt and past the Cinema 1-2-3 on Broadway. When I’d scratched them all off, we’d buy more lottery tickets with whatever we’d won, and we’d keep going until we were out of winning tickets, the Cardinals game ended, or both.

We didn’t talk that much in the car. He didn’t ask me about school, or try to give me life advice, or anything touchy-feely like that. We were just listening to the game and unwinding. Mom hadn’t gone to nursing school yet, and Dad was just catching on at the power company, and there was a hungry family that seemed to need a little bit more each week. I bet it was stressful. I bet he needed to just get outside, roll down the window, drink a couple of beers and get the hell away from it all for just one damn night a week. And I bet there was a part of him, at the age of 33 or so, who couldn’t help but wonder how life had crept up on him so fast that his night to blow off steam involved driving around Mattoon with his 12-year-old.

What I remember most, though, is the houses. We rarely stopped on these drives, but every once in a while, he’d pull off to the side of the street and have me get out of the car. “Grandpa built that house,” he’d say. My grandfather, the previous William Franklin Leitch, as a way to help bring in money to raise the eight children in his house, used to build houses on the side, in addition to building the house they all lived in. We’d be driving down Commercial Avenue, and he’d just stop in front of a place, and Dad would say, “yeah, he built this one too,” and we’d walk around and just take a long look. Dad’s grandfather, the previous William Bryan Leitch, had built houses around Mattoon as well, and we stopped to see those too, but there were so many that Dad had trouble remembering all of them.

We’d keep doing this after my grandfather died in 1989. Dad would stay a little longer in front of the house after that, admiring the handiwork, the craftsmanship, the blood and sweat put into each and every house. Other people lived in the house, of course, people we didn’t know, and sometimes they’d come out and they’d talk. Dad would tell them about the history of the house. They humored him, but they didn’t care, at least not as much as he did. Who cares who built the house they live in? But Dad cared. Dad had worked on some of those houses with my grandfather—that’s how he’d learned to build houses himself—and he’d sometimes tell me the story of how long it took to put together that porch, and how there was a storm that one day and that shed barely made it up. The houses became a way to see his dad one more time. They were a piece of him that Dad could go visit. They were a place to remember.

********************

Mostly, though, Dad and I used to work. When I think of my childhood, the primary memory is not of running free or playing baseball or watching TV with my friends. I remember work. I remember mowing the lawn, running the weed eater, digging ditches, chopping firewood, laying bricks, holding the ladder for Dad … mostly, now that I think about it, it was holding the ladder for Dad. I was not assigned chores for which I would receive reward upon completion. I just worked when Dad told me to work, and Dad was always telling me to work. There was always something to do. Dad didn’t just work on our house: He was the neighborhood handyman as well, which meant there was no shortage of jobs. Somebody’s always got something that needs fixing somewhere.

I understand now what the plan was. Dad was trying to teach me how to be as useful as he was, to teach me to someday build houses the way that he did, and his dad did, and his dad did. It was reasonable for Dad to assume that he’d have a son who was as naturally skilled in that regard as the rest of the William Leitches. But this assumption was very incorrect . My brain was just never quite wired that way. I didn’t mind the working, I’ve always liked the working, but no matter how hard Dad tried to get me to understand the intricacies of basic construction, he could never get it to stick. I’d get confused as to what we were trying to build, my mind would wonder off to the book I was reading at the time, I’d keep forgetting what size wrench Dad had sent me out to the toolshed to get in the first place. This was endlessly frustrating to Dad. He was a natural at these things, and his only son definitively was not. I wanted to help. I really did. But I just didn’t catch on, it didn’t click, the way he wanted and expected it to. He kept trying. I did my best. But it became clear quickly that Bryan’s son wasn’t going to be building any houses.

It took us both a long time to accept this. It was hard for Dad to wrap his mind around the fact that his son felt more comfortable constructing long-form essays than floor plans, and it was hard for me to not feel somehow like a disappointment. I was good at other things: I just wished I had been good at that. I wish it came as naturally to me as did to him.

Once we realized that I had the same work ethic that Dad did, that all the Leitches did, just deployed in a different field all together, we made our peace with it. Dad wasn’t trying to teach me to build things. He was just trying to teach me the value of work. He was trying to make sure I was useful. I always try to be useful.

Still. There are pangs. My wife is a successful interior designer, and there are always handymen and carpenters and plumbers and landscapers coming in and out of our house working on various projects with her. They know nothing about my career. They only know me as The Husband—one guy actually called me this when I introduced myself, as in, “so you’re The Husband, huh?”—who is upstairs all the time on his computer. Claims he’s working up there. Don’t seem like work to us. Those are Dad’s people. Workers. And I know Dad must think that sometimes. Don’t seem like real work to me. I know that I do.

*******************

Friday afternoon, Dad called me and said he needed some help. My parents now live out here in Winterville, about 10 miles outside of Athens, and, like any Midwesterner, even one living in the South, he decided he needed an exterior garage. So he built one. I brought the boys over about a month ago, when it was still 98 degrees, and Dad was setting up running water out there, so there he was, in that incredible heat, a 70-year-old man digging freaking trenches, the maniac.

Dad need me to assist in pouring concrete for a little side area next to the garage where he can grill. So I put on work boots he had for me—because I of course don’t have my own, because I have failed as a Leitch son—and met the cement mixing truck in his back yard. “We’ve got a full afternoon ahead of us,” Dad said. The man’s name was Safij, and he was from Bosnia, and he smoked filtered Marlboros, and he poured the cement, and the three of us waded through it all and smoothed it out and troweled and sweated and waded through there for more than three hours.

I still required basic instruction. Safij and Dad had to keep explaining things to me over and over that my brain still doesn’t quite get, basic work things that men like Safij and Dad and his dad and his dad understand in their bones—and in many ways work so hard so that maybe their sons and daughters will not have to. I am a grown adult with children of my own, as well as a professional who is very confident in his ability to handle virtually any assignment, but I was instantly that 12-year-old kid again, nervous about grabbing the wrong wrench, trying to show Dad I could be useful, pedaling to keep up with the grownups but just not quite able to pull it off.

But we finished it. Three-plus hours out there, covered in mud and cement and sweat, the job got done. We got the stuff poured and the whole thing smoothed out and raked and troweled and all of it. I had to rush out to leave to pick up the boys from school, so I didn’t get a chance to have a beer with Dad when we were done, which is the point of the whole damn thing. He was still polishing up one thing or another when I left. I made my mom take a picture of us, which mostly just irritated him but he indulged anyway. Don’t bother him until the job is done. Get out of here with that.

That garage is nearly done. It was an empty space that is no longer empty. Something is there that wasn’t there before.

It stands, like the house I grew up in, like the house next door to it that Dad built after the kids moved out because Mom wanted a new house but didn’t want to move so Dad just built her one right next goddamned door .. because Dad made it stand. It has every bit of him in it.

I am proud to say, in my small, three-hours-investment, borrowed work boots way, that part of me is in it too. We will grill out there with the boys, and we will use that area with cement that we poured to have beers and talk and enjoy being outside together. I will have been useful. I always want to be useful.

And someday, decades from now, I will stand outside that garage, and outside those houses in Mattoon, and I will say to my sons, maybe my grandchildren, “Grandpa built this,” and I will feel like he is standing right there with me, telling me to hold the ladder, pull that wheelbarrow over here, no, not like that, like this. They are not houses and garages. They are monuments. They will live long past him, and me, and my kids. And they will always be a little part of him out in the world. He has made things that have made a permanent mark on the world. Isn’t that all anyone wants? Isn’t that all anyone could hope for?

Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. You may disagree. It is your wont.

  1. What Happens to the Corpse of Deadspin Now? New York. I tried to put my analytical hat on rather than my righteous-fury hat to write this piece. I ended up just wearing two hats.

  2. Golf Magazine Instructional Column No. 11: The Final One, GOLF Magazine, print only. This was the final one of these. I had more fun doing these than I had expected I would.

  3. Arnold Schwarzenegger Movies, Ranked, Vulture. This one was actually written more than a year ago: We had forgotten we had done it.

  4. Five Teams With the Most to Prove This Offseason, MLB.com. I talked about this on MLB Network on Thursday morning while sitting at my desk in my home office. I was wearing a nice shirt and jacket and no pants. It’s true!

  5. Craggs & Leitch: Illinois 2019-20 Men’s Basketball Season Preview, Smile Politely. I’m sure I’ll write about 10 times more pieces for this than Craggs will, but I’m happy to have him doing this with me again.

  6. The Best and Worst MVP and Cy Young Picks in MLB History, MLB.com. I said an untoward word about Willie McGee in this piece, and for that, I am sorry.

  7. Woody Harrelson Movies, Ranked and Updated, Vulture. Updated with Midway.

  8. Debate Club: Scariest Disney Movies, SYFY Wire. I had forgotten about Something Wicked This Way Comes.

  9. The Thirty: Every Team’s Untouchable Player, MLB.com. I think we do this one every year.

PODCASTS

Grierson & Leitch, the big review was The Irishman, which is a great movie. We also discussed Terminator: Dark Fate, The King and Motherless Brooklyn.

Waitin' Since Last Saturday, we reviewed the Florida game, and previewed the Missouri game.

Seeing Red, no show this week.

GET THIS LUNATIC OUT OF HERE 2020 POWER RANKINGS

I thought this John F. Harris piece about why the media is so scared of Elizabeth Warren, and why they’re both wrong and right (but mostly wrong), was excellent. I’m a longtime reader of his and am excited he has a regular column now.

Also, I am not counting Michael Bloomberg as officially in yet. But: No thanks.

1. Elizabeth Warren
2. Joe Biden
3. Bernie Sanders
4. Amy Klobuchar
5. Cory Booker
6. Pete Buttigieg
7. Kamala Harris
8. Michael Bennet
9. Steve Bullock
10. Julian Castro
11. Andrew Yang
12. Tom Steyer
13. Mark Sanford
14. William Weld
15. John Delaney
16. Marianne Williamson
17. Tulsi Gabbard
18. Joe Walsh

ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!

I am now officially caught up. Which means you need to get to writing me.

Will Leitch
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO

“Heavy Metal Drummer,” Wilco. Sorry to be back on the Wilco train, but they finally posted their Solid Sound shows to the Roadcases section of their website and I haven’t stopped listening since. They even do a show in which selected fans get to come on stage and sing with them. There’s an inspired version of “Dawned On Me” with a particularly good vocalist, which led to the amusing Tweedy aside of, “you know, it just occurred to me that Wilco could really use a singer.”

He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector … a Dark Knight.

Have a great weekend, all.

Best,
Will

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