Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023


Are You Ready for Some Commentary?

Monday Night Football was long associated with the song, Are You Ready for Some Football? This week, MNF broadcast a football moment no one was ready for. During the first quarter of a highly anticipated game between the Bills and Bengals, Buffalo defensive back Damar Hamlin stood up after what looked like a routine tackle, only to wobble and collapse onto the field, leading to a lengthy and deeply concerning medical delay, and ultimately to the game's postponement. Fans left to wonder what was happening during the medical timeout would later learn that Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest, stopped breathing, and had to be given CPR on the field before being taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he remains in critical condition. Seeing NFL players from both teams, hardened by the often brutal injuries encountered in a violent game, huddled in prayer at midfield, many embracing each other in tears, made it clear that what was happening in Paycor Stadium was shockingly unusual. As Kevin Clark explains in The Ringer, "It felt different because it was different."

While the moment on the field was different, much of the reaction was sadly familiar. For the average fan who happened to be watching the game as the scene unfolded, the reaction was sadness and concern—best exemplified by the donations that poured into Damar Hamlin's toy drive for kids for which he had raised about $2500 over the past couple years. That number is now over $4.2 million. In a normal world, the din of this normal human response would have drowned out all else. But we live in a media world, where everyone has to have an immediate, declarative take on everything—and to assign broader meaning to moments that are starkly, and even horrifying, unique.

ESPN was left with the difficult job of covering an unusual scene without much realtime information. As Joe Buck said, "There's just nothing to say." That clear fact didn't stop the cable news channels from going all-in with nonstop coverage of the collapse, complete with the factless analysis to which we've grown exhaustedly accustomed. On social media, the outlying takes (including antivax conspiratorial nonsense) were, as usual, retweeted and debated to the center of our discourse. And then came the think-pieces. Some reminded us that football is a violent and often costly game—which is true, and there's no shortage of moments that add to this conclusion. I'm just not sure a shocking and unprecedented heart attack is one of them (especially since we don't really know any of the details about exactly what happened). A thousand other moments, this season alone, laid bare the game's toll. But right now, we're still not sure what the game's toll had to do with Damar Hamlin's condition. Others reminded us that Damar Hamlin's condition is far more important than football. Is that something about which we really need reminding? I know people have columns to write and shows to fill and the compulsion to Tweet and have an immediate opinion on every occurence is a behavior I've been as guilty of as anyone. (Even now, I'm sharing a take on other people's takes.) But maybe the players on the field had the most appropriate response. They witnessed something terrible that none of them had ever seen before. So they dropped to a knee, locked arms, and hoped for the best.


Thirst Trap

When you clinked your glass on New Year's Eve, there's a chance it was filled with mineral water or some non-alcoholic champagne. It turns out that dry January arrived early for many as we enter a golden age for nonalcoholic beers, wines and spirits. Still, the glass is a lot more than half full for booze. "The [non-alcoholic] market now sees almost $400 million in annual sales. Compared to the roughly $200 billion market for stuff that can get you drunk." Which team are you on? It turns out you don't have to pick one. "82% of people who buy nonalcoholic beers, wine and spirits also buy traditional alcoholic drinks." Maybe we're just really dehydrated.


Token Aback

"And it could all feel like a game; it could all feel unreal. It is unreal. You are trading tokens, they live on computers, many of them didn't exist a year ago, none of them existed 15 years ago, some of them are Dogecoin, and what makes them valuable is just people's shared agreement to ascribe value to them. You do not have to figure out how to interface with the real world, how to perfect security interests in oil cargos or evaluate the earnings quality of a ball-bearings manufacturer. The tokens beep and boop, and the balance in your account goes up." Matt Levine with a postscript to Bloomberg Businessweek's The Crypto Story. How Not to Play the Game. Magic beans, Bahamian penthouses, old-fashioned fraud and other important SBF-inspired insights. (Because the fraud here is so old-fashioned, the FTX story has almost nothing specifically to do with crypto, and yet, it somehow feels like it has everything to do with it.)

+ There will be much bigger economic stories to contend with in 2023. And they won't be pleasant. A recession is coming for most developed nations in 2023, and this is where economists predict the worst.


The Rube Tube

Did you happen to score a new, giant TV over the holidays? If you did, you may have been a little shocked by how many high quality inches of excellence you can get for your money. "Most things, such as food and medical care, are up from 80 to 200 percent since the year 2000; TVs are down 97 percent, more than any other product. Why are TVs so much cheaper now?" Part of the answer is tech. Part of the answer is competition. And part of the answer is something TV manufacturers call post-purchase monetization. While you're watching them, they're watching you. The Atlantic: The Hidden Cost of Cheap TVs.


Extra, Extra

Kevin Can Wait: Over the break, the big DC question was whether Kevin McCarthy could offer enough concessions to earn enough GOP votes to become Speaker of the House. As I'm writing this, that's still a big question. He fell short in the first vote. McCarthy not becoming Speaker sounds pretty good until you realize that Jim Jordan is the guy coming in second. Meanwhile, George Santos who lied his way into office is set to be sworn in. (Something tells me Santos will fit right in.)

+ Gas Backwards: "This is not to say that Alabama is evolving; if notions of progress were distributed evenly among the states, this would be the point in the story where I would be able to report that this series of botched executions had caused Alabama's leaders to consider abandoning the death penalty altogether. Instead, Alabama is choosing a path of technical, rather than moral, innovation." The Atlantic: Alabama Makes Plans to Gas Its Prisoners.

+ Block, Renner, Navratilova: Ken Block, an action sports legend who co-founded DC Shoes and Hoonigan Racing, died on Monday at age 55 after a snowmobile accident. Block's stunt driving was absolutely legendary on YouTube. Actor Jeremy Renner underwent surgery after suffering very serious injuries from a snow plow accident. And Martina Navratilova has been diagnosed with throat and breast cancer.

+ Someone's Looking Forward to the Heat: "People in Chicago, who have very few issues with termites — not zero, but very few — they might start getting the kinds of problems that people further south would have ... And people in Toronto who basically don't have problems with termites at all, they might start getting the sorts of issues that Chicago has." But let's start down under. WaPo: Hungry and on the march as the climate heats up: Termites in Australia.

+ Shop Til You Drop: "Rico Marley was arrested as he emerged from the bathroom at a Publix supermarket in Atlanta. He was wearing body armor and carrying six loaded weapons — four handguns in his jacket pockets, and in a guitar bag, a semiautomatic rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun." In other words, he was just behaving like the average American is invited to behave. Hence, this question posted by the NYT (Gift Article): A Heavily Armed Man Caused Panic at a Supermarket. But Did He Break the Law?


Bottom of the News

"This exhausting trend recently reached its nadir when I spent an entire cross-country flight sobbing because I had left my hat in the back of my rental car. To be fair, it was a good hat, but it was also only a hat. No hat is worth crying about for hours in the emergency exit row. Come on, man, I told myself through my tears. You're being ridiculous. You can solve this problem. You can go get a new hat at Lids when you land. The prospect of having to go to a Lids made me cry even more." Justin Peters in Slate: The Crying Game: I bawled my eyes out every day for nearly three years. So I hatched a radical plan to take back my tear ducts.

+ "That internal camera isn't just for the AI to use. Samsung says you can even livestream the view from inside your oven to social media." Samsung wants streamers to buy its new oven. (Watching your cookies bake in realtime sounds a lot better than most of what's shared on social media.)

+ "Scott Stallings received an invitation to the Masters, and the Georgia resident most likely will be there — as a guest of the PGA Tour player by the same name for whom the coveted invitation was intended."