This is a new weekly column from Leitch. It has words, and pictures. It's called Ten Humans Of The Week. It might or might not work. But here it is.
Back in June 2002, I knew something had happened to Jack Buck when I woke up to his voice on my clock radio. Jack had been suffering from Parkinson's for a while, and he'd looked particularly frail the last time I'd seen him, during his 9/11 poem just days after the attacks.
New York radio was playing his call of Ozzie Smith's home run in the 1985 NLCS — the "Go Crazy, Folks!" home run off Tom Niedenfuer — and I knew that had to mean he was gone. In my remembrance of him later that day, I noted that I'd probably heard Jack Buck's voice more than any other human's voice on earth. I suspect that's still true, seven years later. It'll probably still be true 30 years from now.
I thought about that when Harry Kalas died yesterday, when Daulerio went through what I did seven years ago. (His remembrance was particularly well done.) It was sad, of course, to lose someone you've been attached to for so long, but with distance and time, you realize that you've lost something different than just a person: You've lost an attachment to something that will never, ever be mended, or even replicated.
There aren't many broadcasters like Buck and Kalas left. Vin Scully seems to be it, yes? Marty Brennaman, maybe? Ernie Harwell, if he were still doing games? They are relics of a more permanent era, when people really did have one job for 50 years and couldn't be happier about it. (And back when people listened to the radio, the one station they could get, only if they happened to be on a hill.) That doesn't happen anymore, in any field. The people who have been doing this for so long, whether they're a broadcaster, or a newsman, or just the guy who does your taxes, are the last of their breed. We are a transient society, constantly moving, looking for the next thing, never sitting still for too long. There isn't much constancy. This makes for a more vibrant, exciting life. (Theoretically, anyway.) But it also casts darkness on all our institutions: When nothing lasts for too long, those things have lost value. We appreciate them more ... but we find ourselves mourning them less when they're gone. There's always something else.
That's what we lost when Jack Buck, and Harry Kalas, and Phil Rizzuto, and Harry Caray, left us. That what we lose when newspapers close. There's always a new thing. Harry Kalas was one of the last of his breed. Not just because he was a beloved broadcaster. But because he cared enough to stick around so long. People don't do that anymore. For better or worse.
Nick Adenhart. Like everyone, I was as saddened by the tragic death of the Angels starter as you can be by the death of someone whom you've never met and had no strong opinions about. (Like any baseball-obsessed son, the stuff about his dad just wrecked me.) But life goes on, as it must, because if it didn't, this column would be a lot shorter. More specifically: Fantasy baseball goes on, and considering fantasy baseball is the ultimate dispassionate, players-are-not-human activity, I found it fascinating to see how fantasy owners handled Adenhart over the weekend. I'm not sure I'm getting the straight scoop, though: ESPN doesn't list Adenhart among its most dropped players, nor does CBS Sportsline (which isn't called Sportsline anymore, yet I'll always refer to it that way) and Fantasy Baseball Geeks doesn't mention him either. Am I an asshole for waiving him on Friday? I don't think waiving Nick Adenhart from my fantasy team is any more of an insult to him personally than waiving Jose Guillen is to him. I probably shouldn't be writing this.
Usain Bolt. I'm pretty proud to live in a world where this headline marks a legitimate Associated Press story: "Report: Bolt tried weed as a kid." Holy crap! And he hasn't overdosed since then??? Another highlight: "Bild said one of its reporters met Bolt at a disco in Kingston, Jamaica, and that the sprinter drank Guinness mixed with Red Bull." What kind of message is this sending to children? (By the way, sorry I copied a whole sentence there, AP. Don't sue me!) I have no idea why anyone would want to be an Olympian. Your earning potential is capped, people walk behind you to catch and test spare urine and people freak out if you say you smoked pot 15 years ago. Whose life would you rather have: Usain Bolt's, or Matt Stairs'?
Angel Cabrera. Speaking of smoking things, it took me a while, but I finally found a subplot from a golf tournament that interests me: Our new Masters champions is trying to quit smoking. (Hey, it's golf. Slim pickings.) Amusingly, he decided to quit because he was afraid the public would think he was "out of shape" if they saw him smoking between holes. Hey, no offense, Angel, but I'm afraid the jig is up on that one. Besides, that is the exact opposite of how smoking works: You smoke so you appear to be in better shape than you actually are. That's how models, cokeheads and bloggers have been doing it for years. This is yet another way that President Obama puts us all to shame, by the way: The man smokes (Marlboro Reds, even!) and still makes it to his 6 a.m. workout every day. Oh, and runs the country. Honestly, though: I think that's a stupid looking dog. Sorry, I do.
Jody Hill. As someone who's as big a fan of "Eastbound and Down" as anybody — and hey, it's coming back next year! — I was downright crushed by how obnoxious and disappointing I found Observe and Report to be. (Hill is the film's director, and co-creator of the show.) I won't get into aggressive detail — though you can read my review here — but there's a little part of me that wonders if Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which I haven't seen, might actually be better. It's at least more honest and less hostile to its audience. I've been calling it the Funny Games of comedy, and a few days after seeing it, I think that's exactly right. I suspect Hill would be proud of that designation. He shouldn't be. Plus, I always appreciate a good Danny McBride cameo, but this movie has his worst one.
LeBron James. I've said it before, but since I write for New York, I have to keep saying it: Why in the world would LeBron James ever want to play for the Knicks? Ignore for a moment that the Knicks still have a long way to go toward being competitive. (Even though they're inching closer! Baby steps!) Have you seen this Cavaliers team? ESPN's Chris Sheridan points out they have few holes anymore, and I keep waiting for an epic Free Darko the-world-is-melting-all-around-us ode to LeBron. (They're podcast regulars now, by the way.) And as for the supposed marketing opportunities of New York ... is their a corporation on earth that's thinking of using LeBron James as their product's spokesperson right now, but just needs more people to find out about him first? He's LeBron James! I'm salivating over a Cavaliers-Lakers final. Aren't you?
Denny Neagle. It's awfully nice to have Denny Neagle back. The notion of libidinous former athletes scoping our ladies on Facebook is too delicious to comprehend: It's the closest thing to a real-life Dugout as we'll ever come across. And, in case you've forgotten, Neagle has a history of questionable decisions involving women. The woman in the picture right there? Yes, he paid for her. I always enjoyed that story because it showed the difference between "soliciting" a prostitute and "patronizing" one. From the district attorney in that case: "[patronizing] actually fits the crime even better - it refers to the completed act." Got it!
Rob Neyer. Nobody gives him nearly enough credit for it, in my opinion, but I think Rob Neyer might be one of the important figures in 21st century sports journalism. I don't know about you, but the first time I'd ever even heard of Bill James was in one of Neyer's old ESPNet SportsZone columns. He's actually been writing for that site since 1996. That's 13 years! Nate Silver, Michael Lewis and Billy Beane might be the ultimate big names in sabermetrics and advanced baseball analysis, but a lot of us heard about it through Neyer first. Bill Simmons was a bartender when Neyer started. I was a junior in college. Elvis Andrus was seven years old. Anyway, I enjoy Neyer's new-ish site on ESPN — I guess this means the contract negotiations went all right — but man, oh man, that name. The site is called SweetSpot by Rob Neyer. Rob Neyer's Sweet Spot. That'll bring in the pageviews! By the way, speaking of terrible names. do you realize Deadspin was almost called benchrider.com? I was the one fighting for that. Thank you, Nick Denton and Lockhart Steele, for overruling me.
Todd Palin.. Absolutely epic piece about Sarah Palin's worse half in this month's Esquire. The snowmobilin' hockey dad seems like a rather amazing guy, actually. He's ended up with the craziest life possible, which was the exact opposite of his plan: "All I ever wanted to do growing up was be a commercial fisherman," he says. "Fish in the summer and play in the winter." You know, if it weren't so freaking cold, that wouldn't necessarily be a terrible plan. The story ends with the line, "He doesn't mind riding in the snow dust." And he comes across great in it. It almost makes me want to grow a goatee. (Note: I could not grow a goatee if I wanted to.)
Barry Zito. Forgive my juvenelia, though I'm sure you're used to it right now, but I'm still giggling about Barry Zito's snotrocket. (Great band name! Actually, everyone always says things are great band names that are not, in fact, great band names. Barry Zito's snotrocket is one of those, I suspect. I was listening to Damon Lindelof's and Carlton Cuse's LOST podcast the other day, though, and they got a letter from a guy who has a LOST tribute band. The band's name is Sonic Weapon Fence. That is a great band name. I bet Sonic Weapon Fence fucking rocks.) I'm surprised that no one has started a Tumblr yet exclusively featuring athletes shooting stuff out of their nose, mouth or ears. Oh, don't look at me like that. You'd all read it.
Ron Zook. Another example of why it's more fun to live in the land of make-believe? Ron Zook has a Twitter, and it's not nearly as much fun as a Fake Ron Zook Twitter would have been. I think Zook only has a Twitter because someone told him it's what the kids are doing — which they're not, for what it's worth — and Zook was like, "The kids do it! A recruit might do it! BAD! ASS! I'm on it!" Sadly, he's pretty dull so far. I do like this one, though: "About to head out to speak to students at the UI law school. Probably going to hit on topics like agents, contracts, etc." Kind of love that Ron Zook is speaking at the Illinois law school. Sounds about right.