Sports & Entertainment

Sports & Entertainment

Serena Williams, Jack Kramer and me

A couple of weeks ago was the week of outrageous outbursts, from an unknown South Carolina congressman’s rude interruption of the president’s speech to Congress on healthcare to tennis star Serena Williams’ crude meltdown at the U.S. Open. It also is the week when tennis star Jack Kramer died at 88. There is a connection between these seemingly disparate tennis events, and it makes an interesting story.


Woodstock and the Other Mother: A Brief History of the New Age

When the wave of Woodstock nostalgia awakens this week with the 40th anniversary of that spontaneous celebration of peace, love and dope that so deeply marked a generation and impressed the media so thoroughly that we still listen to these people, youth will want to know: Is that Granny and Grandfather dancing naked in the mud? Is that Great Auntie Eleanor firing up a jumbo? To find the answers to these questions, youth might ask: Is Great Auntie a lawyer or a journalist? Then probably yes, because virtually everyone who was at Woodstock then is either a lawyer or a journalist today.

There are several unmarked or unnoticed elements of the storied Woodstock festival. First, the music sucked. Most of the performers — Country Joe, Sha-Na-Na, Quill, Mountain — were never heard from again. But Janis was there, and so was her elegant shadow, Grace Slick with the Jefferson Airplane. Nothing free and awakening like that which they had at Haight-Ashbury in California just a year or so before, but well enough for a bunch of fledgling lawyers on acid. Woodstock would be Haight-Ashbury for lawyers.

Tom Watson

When I was growing up, Tom Watson was one of my heroes. I loved his compact swing, his calm demeanor, his regally American bearing, and his intense competitiveness. I also liked the fact that he couldn’t putt, because I can’t putt either.

To that point, I once saw the famous broadcaster Jim McKay at a Baltimore Orioles game in the early ’90s a couple weeks before the British Open and I asked him who he thought would win the tournament. He said Norman. I said, “What about my hero, Tom Watson?” He shook his head and said simply, “He can’t putt anymore.”

To the Moon and Back

By returning and rest we shall be saved ...
— The Book of Common Prayer

One giant step to the moon 40 years ago today changed things. Possibly it changed everything for all the future and for everyone. Shortly thereafter, in 1977, film critic Stanley Kauffman went to the movies and saw a film that he called an epiphany, “an event in the history of faith.” It was Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” This movie could not have been appreciated before July 20, 1969, when we landed on the moon, for prior to that we were afraid of the moon. We were afraid of space.

Sam’s Army & the Green Party

Over this past weekend, while watching the U.S. soccer team lose a gut-wrenching Confederations Cup final to the Samba Boys of Brazil, I had a strange insight: that being a U.S. Soccer fan is a lot like being a member of a third political party. I can only claim knowledge of what it’s like to be a U.S. Soccer fan, but the similarities seem striking.

Consider that in both cases, casual acquaintances think you’re a bit strange — it’s not that they consider your choice a fatal character flaw, but it’s obvious that you possess a very different worldview. I’ll admit that I’ve tried to work soccer into more discussions than normal conversational etiquette would recommend and I’ve observed the same thing about members of a third party (ever get caught in a three-hour conversation about the elimination of the income tax?). U.S. Soccer is always looking for a savior to lead it out of irrelevance, a player on the shortlist for best in the world. In short, it is looking for someone like Abraham Lincoln, someone who can displace one of the “big four” American sports, like Honest Abe vanquished the Whigs.

The Palins Should Sue Letterman: A Hero’s Medal for Bristol Palin

It was good of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has a daughter of his own, to come out in support of his running mate, Sarah Palin, after her daughter — or daughters — were slandered by late-night comedian David Letterman.

The Palins have shown remarkable grace and restraint in this. Other commentators have disgracefully attacked their children in the past, some working for the highest newspapers. If it was my daughter, I’m not sure that I could be so restrained.

‘Lost’ and the Millennial Task

Just when we leave town for a few days for Son No. 1’s college graduation in Tennessee, key events occur; not in the Punjab, Iraq or Washington, D.C., but closer to the mythical core of our American being — on the strange and timeless island of J.J. Abrams’s long-running TV show “Lost.”

This is important to us because, like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, set in the background of an ancient European tribal and ethnic conflict with religious overtones that expands to every corner of the world, the “Lost” hero is given a task that much be successfully completed before the endless conflict and confusion can stop and the world can begin again. Frodo must kill the Golem in the Tolkien series. In “Lost,” John Locke. Man of the Enlightenment, must kill Jacob, the spirit voice of the island’s ancient temple, before the new millennium, identified in the mythology as the first Aquarian millennium, can awaken. In this week’s episode, Locke goes to kill Jacob.

Cougar Alert!

“Over the last few years, we have all witnessed the decline of the music business, highlighted by finger-pointing and blame,” singer John Cougar (née Mellencamp) alerts us in the Huffington Post before pointing fingers and laying blame of his own. As can be expected, the targets range from the predictable — Wall Street, record companies and “bean counters” — to the absurd — “The Man” and Ronald Reagan.

That Reagan remains a bête noire for the left is nothing new, but blaming Reagan for the current state of music is taking tortured logic to the extreme.

When March Went Mad — Seth Davis’s Page-Turner on Magic vs. Larry Contest

(Full disclosure: I am reviewing the book written by my oldest son, Seth Davis, When March Went Mad: The Game that Transformed Basketball, published by Times Books on the 30th anniversary of the 1979 NCAA college basketball national championship game between Indiana State University, led by Larry Bird, and Michigan State University, led by Ervin "Magic" Johnson.)

So, first, how do I justify reviewing my son’s book in my own political blog?

Are We Lost? The Secret Language of ‘Lost’ — The Return of the Hippie Gods

God doesn't know we're here. No one knows we're here.
Henry Gale

Whenever I see one of those pretentious bumper stickers — are all bumper stickers pretentious? — that says “Kill Your Television,” the TV show “Lost,” beginning its end-run next week, comes to mind. Because in our time, some of the best writing and troupe acting — “The Sopranos,” “House” — is on television. And “Lost,” directed by the young visionary J.J. Abrams, is at the top of the pack.

In “Lost,” there is no false distinction between highbrow culture and low theater. Any episode may contain references to both Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain and George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead.” Likewise, Catholic priests travel in harmony and consort with Taoist Immortals and Tibetan Dakinis.