HALFTIME ADJUSTMENTS: Have I got a story for you
That’s the brand-new cover for my upcoming book EARNHARDT NATION, the biography of the entire Earnhardt clan. It’ll be out Feb. 16, 2016, and you can order it right here. You can also sign up to get updates, behind-the-scenes info, excerpts and more right here. And oh, will you be hearing a lot more about that in the months to come.
But that’s for later. For now, let’s get to some current material. (If you’re not already subscribed, get this delivered to your inbox every week by clicking here.) We had some tremendous writing this entire week, much of it a result of tragedies a decade apart.
Photo: New Orleans. Beth Wyner, 2012.
Wright Thompson brings the heat, of course, with his 25,000-word ESPN tale of New Orleans a decade after Hurricane Katrina: “Rebirth has been the standing field order of the past 10 years in New Orleans, a powerful force shaping the city in ways big and small. Everything is governed by this spirit of renewal, and everything is viewed through its lens, from the fervent love of brass bands to the New Orleans Saints, the standard-bearers of a city struggling back to its feet. But within this hopeful word an idea hides in plain sight: For something to be reborn, it must have first died.”
Same subject, different angle, as Holly Anderson at Grantland zeroes in on Tulane University’s struggle to survive and rebuild in the hours, days and years after the storm: “The full impact of the storm became clear before the team got to Texas, when the buses pulled off the road at an Interstate 20 rest area. “Coach lets all the guys off to let their legs out, grab something to eat if they want to,” said Ricard. “And when we go inside, it hits. There’s TVs all over the truck stop. And all of a sudden you see the damage. And we’d been getting the wildest stories, that there were alligators running around downtown New Orleans, anaconda snakes, that the chief of police had been murdered. We get on the bus, and you can hear a pin drop. No one’s talking. And that’s when it hit that this could be not over for football but just everything. This was gonna be different, you know?””
Frank Schwab, Eric Edholm, Eric Adelson and Mark Spears in Yahoo Sports on players touched by the legacy of Katrina: “(Green Bay running back Eddie) Lacy, 25, has done his best to tuck away his teenage memories about that Sunday night in 2005 when wind, rain, terror and fear ripped through the family’s Gretna, La., house and left it for naught. The house’s foundation cracked. Furniture was ruined. Mold made its way up the walls. Water took down everything in its wake. The few valuables that were inside and not packed in a pinch, including Lacy’s change-filled piggybank, were taken by looters. The people who could afford the least had suffered the most. ‘Having your life taken from you in a matter of hours, everything gets left behind …’ he said, his voice trailing off. ‘I hate reliving it.'”
Shane Ryan takes a break from his incisive golf writing to hurl some truth in the face of people who run and hide from images of the Roanoke live-on-television murders: “The whole incident was flat-out typical, and if reading that description offends you, good, because in order to come to terms with the reality of violent crime in our nation, you need to accept the fact that the atrocity we just watched is, somehow, standard. As a friend told me yesterday, it’s the same old story, but with better packaging.”
Will Leitch in Bloomberg on Donald Trump and his constituency, all of whom are a lot sharper than you’d believe: “At one point, a CNN crew set up a shot where they pointed their camera at a subsection of the line consisting of about 15 people. The producer said, “All right, we’ve got a question for you guys. We’re rolling. You ready?” The people in line, bored and hot, nodded vaguely. “All right, here’s the question: Are you guys here for Trump the candidate, or Trump the celebrity?” Half the people in line said, “Candidate”; the other half groaned loudly. “That was a dumbass question,” one said, and he was of course right. That’s the sort of question someone asks when he is trying to make fun of you.”
Kevin Van Valkenburgh of ESPN looks at Javier Baez, a can’t-miss Cubs prospect who’s seen his major-league dreams deferred by tragedy and injury: “Even listening to him take indoor batting practice is mesmerizing. On a recent afternoon in August, Baez sings along in Spanish to “Esta Noche” by Justin Quiles as he waits patiently for his turn to hit, deep in the bowels of the Iowa Cubs’ Principal Park. He fiddles with his fluorescent green batting gloves, cracks jokes with his teammates and bobs his head in time with the music, looking every bit like a baby-faced 22-year-old without a worry on earth. But when he steps inside the cage, his entire body, and his demeanor, hardens. A man emerges from the shadow of a boy, each swing unleashing an explosion of sound that reverberates off the facility’s cinder block walls at a deafening volume.”
An excerpt from Greg Renoff’s upcoming Van Halen biography documenting how the band’s SoCal backyard house parties tended to veer to the extreme: “After yelling and waving, Denis caught Roth’s eye. Van Halen played on as Roth pranced over to the party’s host. Roth leaned down as Denis yelled, “They’re going to shut it down! You guys need to stop playing!” Denis waited for Roth to stop the song, but the Van Halen frontman just kept singing and dancing. “He ignored me, and they kept playing. Roth had control of the whole thing; he egged the crowd on.” A frustrated Denis decided to take matters into his own hands. As he headed through the broken sliding glass door, he glanced up at the sky. A police helicopter was approaching.”
Charlie Pierce in Grantland on the ongoing Baylor rape scandal, and the culture that permits such atrocities: “Now it’s the Baylor football team’s turn, and while the current scandal is nowhere near as baroque as the ones that surrounded the murder of Patrick Dennehy, it nonetheless raises the question of what in the hell is going on at this 170-year-old Baptist university, which didn’t even allow on-campus dancing until 1996. Say what you will about Baylor, but it caught up on the seven deadly sins in a hurry.”
Joshua Zeitz in The Atlantic places Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run,” released 40 years ago this week, in the context of its very specific moment in American history: “In the opening lines of “Born to Run,” Springsteen invoked one of his favorite metaphors—the automobile as an engine of escape from the many dead ends and disappointments that seemed to constrain young, working-class Americans. “In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream / At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines / Sprung from cages out on highway 9 / Chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin’ out over the line / Baby this town rips the bones from your back / It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap / We gotta get out while we’re young.” It was a fitting emblem for its time.”
Spencer Hall of SB Nation stars in a sharp (ho ho!), funny video about how to lumberjack in Wisconsin.
Quentin Tarantino is starting to chill out in advance of his latest movie, The Hateful Eight: “I probably am mellowing. I’m happy about that. I was a pretty angry young man, but if I were angry now, it’d be like, What the fuck is my problem? I’ve got a really terrific life. It’s so rare to be an artist in my position. How can I get mad at anything? I get irritated, but I have mellowed. Life’s too short.”
Joe Posnanski in NBC Sportsworld profiles the don’t-call-him-newly-mature Kyle Busch: “When he was 20, he had his trucks painted to look just like Rowdy Burns’ car from “Days of Thunder.” But that was a long time ago. Things are different now. Sure, he still loves racing. And he still loves the idea of being dangerous. But, you know, he’s still got a plate in his foot and he’s got a little boy who can’t walk or talk just yet, but already he’s watching closely.”
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A warm Thursday night in Atlanta