Graceful to the End

Roger Federer announces his retirement:

To my tennis family and beyond, of all the gifts that tennis has given me over the years, the greatest, without a doubt, has been the people I’ve met along the way: my friends, my competitors, and most of all the fans who give the sport its life.

Today, I want to share some news with all of you. As many of you know, the past three years have presented me with challenges in the form of injuries and surgeries.

I’ve worked hard to return to full competitive form. But I also know my body’s capacity and limits, and its message to me lately has been clear.

I am 41 years old. I have played more than 1,500 matches over 24 years. Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognise when it is time to end my competitive career.

Always know when it’s time to go. Even greatness must eventually bow before Father Time.


The Perfect Convergence

This account is not permitted to watch the NFL.

As the football-watching worlds watches and waits for news as to where it will be watching Sunday Ticket in 2023, a new contender for the package has emerged. According to the New York Times, Google has made a bid for the out-of-market service. The games would be streamed through YouTube, which is owned by Google.

It would be HILARIOUS if Google acquired the rights to the Sunday Ticket. It wouldn’t be long before the audience would be cut in half, not because people were turning off the NFL, but because Google was thought-policing the audience and banning everyone whose political and religious views offended them.

No NFL for you!


Easy to Miss

I really thought it was going to be difficult to stop following the NFL when I first decided to drop my NFL GamePass two years ago. As it happens, they made it much, much easier to not pay any attention to the sport than I, a lifelong fan from the age of 5, could have ever possibly imagined.

Literally gay thought policing just isn’t something in which I have any interest.


15 Tennis Players Withdraw

The Miami Open is hit by an astonishing number of player withdrawals during the tournament:

Fifteen players have already dropped out of the Miami Open, an unprecedented number for a major sports event.

The tennis world reacted with shock after favorites Paula Badosa and Jannik Sinner had to retire during the quarterfinals of the Miami Open. Badosa, soon to be the number three in the world, became unwell during her match against Jessica Pegula and left the court in tears.

Badosa, who was comforted by her American opponent, decided to stop after consultation with her physiotherapist. Pegula reached the semifinals of the Miami tennis tournament for the first time in her career after Badosa’s resignation, reported Yahoo Sports.

In the men’s tournament, the Italian phenomenon Jannik Sinner was forced to withdraw. He gave up after 22 minutes in the game against Francisco Cerundolo, the number 103 in the world ranking. “When I served at 3-1 and 30-0, I saw him bend over. It was very strange,” Cerundolo said during an interview. “I hope he’s okay, he’s a great player.”

Whatever could be the cause? We don’t KNOW it’s the vaxx… but it’s the vaxx.


We Don’t Know it’s the Vaxx

But it’s the vaxx. RIP Shane Warne.

Australian cricket hero and legendary leg-spinner, Shane Warne, has died, aged 52.

Warne’s management released a brief statement in the early hours of Saturday, that he passed away in Thailand of a suspected heart attack. He is believed to have been in Ko Samui at the time of his death.

‘Shane was found unresponsive in his villa and despite the best efforts of medical staff, he could not be revived,’ the statement reads.

To put it in perspective for American readers, Warne’s death is the Anglo-Australian equivalent of Kobe Bryant’s death. But his position on requiring the vaxx certainly hasn’t aged well.


Diversity Time Bombs

One danger of hiring Diversity Officers that has hitherto been ignored is the way their customary posture-and-lament routine places their employers at serious legal risk due to the way their rhetorical posturing will be interpreted as damning legal evidence of structural bias within the organization.

The civil lawsuit filed by former Dolphins coach Brian Flores includes this damning quote at paragraph 7 from Troy Vincent, the NFL’s longtime executive V.P. of football operations: “There is a double standard, and we’ve seen that . . . And you talk about the appetite for what’s acceptable. Let’s just go back to . . . Coach [Tony] Dungy was let go in Tampa Bay after a winning season. . . Coach [Steve] Wilks, just a few years prior, was let go after one year . . . Coach [Jim] Caldwell was fired after a winning season in Detroit . . . It is part of the larger challenges that we have. But when you just look over time, it’s over-indexing for men of color. These men have been fired after a winning season. How do you explain that? There is a double standard. I don’t think that that is something that we should shy away from. But that is all part of some of the things that we need to fix in the system. We want to hold everyone to why does one, let’s say, get the benefit of the doubt to be able to build or take bumps and bruises in this process of getting a franchise turned around when others are not afforded that latitude? . . . [W]e’ve seen that in history at the [professional] level.”

Paragraph 8 attributes this quote to NFL senior V.P. and chief diversity & inclusion officer Jonathan Beane: “Any criticism we get for lack of representation at the GM and head coach positions, we deserve. We see that we’re not where we want to be. We have to do much better. We’re focusing on all roles at the league, and all these roles are key roles . . . But certainly at the top of the house, general manager and head coach, that’s the responsibility of the NFL to make sure that we are representing our current fan base and we’re representing those that are in the league today. And if you look at it right now, we’re grossly underrepresented.”

Shed no tears for the NFL. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving organization; the NFL absolutely deserves to suffer for its embrace of its own convergence. But it is a salient lesson in the foolishness of permitting activists inside one’s organization, and the intrinsic danger of permitting even seemingly harmless token gestures in the direction of diversity, inclusion, and equality.


Pad for Performance

And elevate for excellence. Bill Belichick’s system illustrates the effort and the level of detail that are required to set yourself apart, even among the most successful:

As the son of a coach, and a lifelong football devotee, Brian Ferentz figured he could handle every possible expectation that came with his new job as a low-level offensive assistant in New England. He would live the Patriots’ infamous 20/20 coaching existence, working up to 20 hours a day, for about $20,000 a year. He knew he would become an anonymous cog in a high-functioning machine, spending his days—and most nights—swamped in grunt work while receiving little credit for his toiling. But he also knew he had gained entry to a coaching laboratory that could change the trajectory of his life, starting in 2009.

He expected it would be hard. He didn’t expect … an art project? But the team assigned him the NFL equivalent of one, immediately. Bill Belichick summoned Ferentz to his office, where he’d school him on one particular—and particularly tedious—process that New England emphasized more than any other team. Belichick called it “padding,” his method of diagramming plays from opponents. It served to gauge football knowledge, inform game plans and teach the nuances of an infinitely complex sport—part torture chamber, part proving ground, part barrier to entry and part football seminar all wrapped into one exercise.

Every NFL team charts its opposition, on some level, to varying degrees. And other coaches, like Bill Parcells, made their entry-level assistants pad. But while those familiar with the process claim not to know its origin—whether it started with Parcells; Belichick; Belichick’s father, Steve; top-secret Patriots assistant Ernie Adams; or elsewhere—all agree that no one embraced the method, or gleaned more value from it, than Belichick himself.

Ferentz understood the extent immediately. Two words popped into his mind: “holy” and “s—.” A man who once considered himself ready for every nuance of the job was now doubting whether he could do it. He would scour film of upcoming opponents and diagram their offensive plays in staggering detail, then take those diagrams, cut them out, place them into booklets and hand them over for review. Some games took eight hours, depending on the number of plays and the complexity of the scheme, while others could be completed in closer to four. With four or five games to review each week, his mass of other responsibilities and actual coaching, he started to add up the math for a 17-week season, only to stop because he had to pad again.

The “pads” were sheets of paper, 8½ x 11 inches, with a horizontal line dividing the page. They sketched one diagram on top and the other on the bottom. The assistants filled in four plays on each sheet by using both sides. They noted the down and distance; field position, quarter and time remaining; numbers for each of the 22 players and their assignments….

Thirteen years later, Ferentz is Iowa’s offensive coordinator. He’s still a coach, and one who never expected to embrace that “miserable, terrible, awful” process that once forced him to question both his chosen profession and, at times, his existence. Instead, he came to view one specific process, from all of New England’s myriad approaches, as the primary element that built the nebulous, mystical aura known as the Patriot Way.

He’s now a padding proponent. Lifetime membership.

It’s not an accident that both JRR Tolkien and Umberto Eco demonstrated near-psychotic attention to detail in the process of creating their great literary works. Tolkien’s philological depths are rightly famous; it’s less well-known how Eco built a virtual monastery so that he could time how long it took to walk from point A to point B in order to ensure that the conversations in The Name of the Rose fit the amount of time that was required for the traversal.

My level of success is orders of magnitude below the two great writers of the 20th century, but one thing I have noticed is that a) I make a habit of writing design drafts as well as keeping lists and spreadsheets, and b) I always have a much better idea of what is going on, and what needs to be done, than nearly everyone else involved in a given project. I’m regularly astonished by how little most people know about what is required of them to simply do their jobs correctly.

So, to up your game, I highly recommend getting in the habit of writing things down and regularly noting what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, who is doing it, and when you should check on them to see if they are going to deliver it on time. Think of it as padding for life.


Avoiding the Obvious

Peter King, like a good little SJW, avoids the obvious observation in contemplating the crash in attendance at home games for the former Washington Redskins:

I sincerely hope Daniel Snyder comes to his senses in 2022 and sells the franchise. It’s over, Dan. Or, rather, Mister Snyder. Beyond the over-protectionism of the NFL in the past year (the morally bankrupt over-protectionism, I might add), there is the simple fact that fans have long since surrendered their loyalty to the team, and won’t be back as long as Snyder is the owner.

Some grist for that mill: WFT won the NFC East last year (albeit with a 6-10 record), made the playoffs and played respectfully in an exciting wild-card home loss to eventual Super Bowl champ Tampa Bay last year, and entered this year picked by some to contend for the division title again. The Jacksonville Jaguars, on the other hand, have lost 75 percent of their games over the past decade, went 1-15 last year, hired a new coach and quarterback last offseason, and watched the promise of yet another expensive rebuild go down the toilet with the unceremonious firing of savior coach Urban Meyer. Entering Week 18, savior QB Trevor Lawrence was the lowest-rated passer, among qualifiers, in the league. The Jags are 4-29 in the last two years, 9 wins fewer than WFT. And yet:

Jacksonville drew 7,217 more fans to home games this season than Washington did.

Only one team in the NFL played to less than 75 percent capacity this year, Washington, which sold 64.3 percent of its seats for eight home games. Those at the last two games, versus Dallas and Philadelphia, are certain more than half the crowd at each game rooted for the visitors. This is the team, and the ownership, that the league office has spent so much time defending in the wake of the sex-harassment scandal that shook the franchise in 2021.

No one cares about the owner. They might hate him, they might think he’s an idiot, and they probably prefer to get rid of him because of the team’s underperformance during his tenure. But they don’t really care about him.

What they do care about is the Redskins. They were – they are – Redskins fans. And WFT is no longer the Redskins. That’s why they don’t buy tickets or attend the games anymore. While the Redskins were once among the top merchandise-selling teams in the league, I’ll bet they are at the very bottom of the 32 teams now.

Brands matter, and the NFL killed the Redskins brand.


Never Trust the Money

The history of American sports would have gone very differently if the players who founded the breakway Players League hadn’t tried to cut corners by bringing in investors, who didn’t even hesitate to sell them out one year later.

“The seeds of the destruction of the Players’ League in 1890 were that the players had to link with capitalists,” Thorn says. “It takes capital in the end. No matter how high your concept and how utopian your scheme—in the end, that takes money.”

And the NL’s shrewd ownership knew this all too well. Spalding, in particular, knew that the NL could not survive another year of competing with the PL; just one season of doing so had been all but financially ruinous. So he saw an opportunity to divide and conquer. At the end of the season, Spalding and other NL executives discreetly approached PL investors for the teams with the weakest financial situations, buying them out and convincing them to flip with a bluff about the financial picture in the NL. Spalding made it seem as if the NL had the resources to fight the PL for as long as it needed to—scaring investors and motivating them to cut panicked deals with the NL. Once a critical mass of investors had defected, there was no hope left for the players, despite their best efforts, and their league was gone.

“It really should have put the National League out of business,” Ross says of the Players’ League. “But it was the investor-owners, the non-playing owners, who sold them out. … The investors who were not ideologically interested in this sort of league, they saw this opportunity to join hands with the National League owners, and I think that was it.”

The NL’s owners had been financially battered by the whole exercise—but they walked out empowered. They decided that it would be as if the Players’ League had never existed in 1890; any player who had been subject to the reserve clause for an NL team in 1889 remained bound to the same team in 1891. The players, jaded by how quickly things had fallen apart, did not fight back in any meaningful capacity. Ward was devastated. He soon received a new contract—from one of the same executives whom he had just fought against—and found himself subject once again to the reserve clause he had worked so hard to topple.

“The players’ fatal mistake—and this was Ward’s fault as much as it was anyone else’s—was that they trusted their financial backers,” Ross wrote in The Great Baseball Revolt. “They believed that capital would act in the interests of labor. But building a league—constructing any industry—amid a political economy in which property does not come for free, is nearly impossible without an enormous initial sum of money, something the players did not have. Unable or unwilling to fight back, the players would not overturn the reserve rule again until 1975,” when the clause was removed in collective bargaining after Curt Flood had challenged it in court in 1969.

The reason the conscious transition to a parallel economy is so vital is because most successful startups are bought out for around $10 million by “investors” and are used to fund the “growth” of the established corporations, which exist as financial predators on a regular diet of usury, startups, government contracts, and legally-protected vertical monopolies.


Boost, Baby, Boost

The NFL is requiring a third shot for all coaches and employees.

The NFL is requiring players, coaches and other team personnel to receive a Covid-19 booster by Dec. 27. In a memo sent to teams on Monday and obtained by The Associated Press, the league said: “Given the increased prevalence of the virus in our communities, our experts have recommended that we implement the CDC’s recommendation.”

Despite the fact that neither vaccines nor boosters prevent the transmission of Covid-19 in the NFL.

Cleveland announced on Wednesday morning that Stefanski has tested positive for COVID-19. According to the Browns’ announcement, Stefanski is not only fully vaccinated, but has also received a booster shot. With 12 players on their COVID-19 lists, the Browns already had a full-blown crisis. Then the team announced on Wednesday morning that head coach Kevin Stefanski had tested positive for the virus.

Now Cleveland’s quarterback has, too. According to multiple reports, Baker Mayfield has tested positive for COVID-19.

On the plus side, at least NFL players haven’t been collapsing on the field with heart attacks, like the FIFA players.