Tag Archives: Wright Thompson

Good News Friday: Two great writers, talking about the craft, makes me happy. Foo Fighters and James Corden do an awesome “Carpool Karaoke.” And a 7-year-old girl with a bionic hand amazes MLB.

And a Happy Friday to all of you, and what the hell, Happy Autumn. The weather is still awesome and summer-y here in New York, and I want to wish all of my fellow Members of the Tribe a L’Shana Tova (Happy New Year),

Lots of good stuff to get to this week, but I want to start with the best piece of media content I’ve consumed in a long, long time. It’s no secret to any of my readers that Jeff Pearlman is one of my 3-4 closest friends in the world; dude was in my wedding, he’s as loyal a friend as you could ever hope to have (non-canine division), and I probably talk to him more than anyone else in my life except for immediate family.

One of the many things I admire about Jeff is his complete willingness to adapt, and try new things. He told me he was starting a new podcast where he talked to other writers about the craft, and I was excited but wondered where the dude would find the time, and how open other writers would be about “revealing their secrets” to why they’re so good.

Well, I still don’t know where Jeff finds the time, but the second part? Completely taken care of. The podcast, “Two Writers Slinging Yang,” has been sensational, but the absolute best episode just dropped last week.

Wright Thompson (above) is the modern-day Rick Reilly, Gary Smith, and Jim Murray rolled into one. Dude is under 40 and has written more historically great stories than most people do in a lifetime. Like this piece on Michael Jordan when he turned 50. Or this one about his Dad, and the meaning of The Masters golf tournament. Or his most recent story on the Cleveland Indians’ remarkable 22-game winning streak.

Wright is a good ole’ boy from Mississippi who is a master craftsman, and he spent 45 minutes with Jeff talking about what makes great writing. (One highlight from Wright: “Anyone who tells you there are rules in writing you have to follow? Ignore that person.”

Here in the podcast, Thompson talks about hating almost every story he writes, at first, about what makes a good (and bad) editor, and what keeps him motivated to write.

He and Jeff really dig deep and it’s just fantastic. I could’ve listened to these two for three hours. Take a listen here; whether you care about writing or not, listening to Jeff and Wright’s passion is guaranteed to inspire you.

**Next up, it’s been awhile since I’ve featured James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke,” but this one he did this week with the awesome Foo Fighters is worthy of your time, if only for the story Dave Growl tells about the night he dislocated his ankle and the doctor had to go on stage with him.

Corden is no hard rocker, but this was a really fun episode. Enjoy.

**And finally today, science just blows me away sometimes. Meet 7-year-old girl Hailey Dawson. Hailey was born with a rare congenital condition called Poland Syndrome, which rendered her with just two fingers on her right hand.

But the engineering department at University of Nevada-Las Vegas helped make a special 3D-printed hand for her, allowing her to grip and throw a baseball, among other things.

Hailey is a big baseball fan, and after throwing out the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game in 2015, she made it a goal to one day throw the first pitch at every big league park.

Bleacher Report, a sports website, posted the above video and story about her on Sept. 7, and the response was overwhelming. More than a dozen MLB teams reached out to say she was welcome to come to their park, and oh yeah, she’s now been invited to throw out the first pitch at Game 4 of this year’s World Series.

What an amazing kid. And what an amazing time to be alive.

 

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Good News Friday: So many great stories about the end of the Cubs’ 108-year drought. The 85-year-old man who was a flower girl at his granddaughter’s wedding. And a state senate contender from Calif. makes best political ad of year

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I’m not sure about you, but I’m still kind of exhausted from Wednesday night.

It had to be epic, right? If you’re going to break a 108-year curse, a curse that has survived world wars, the invention of television and air conditioning, and a New York Yankees dynasty that has yielded 27 titles before you got another one, then of course it had to be epic.

You think the Cubs were just going to win a nice, boring, 5-2 Game 7 in Cleveland? Of course not.  It had to drain everyone watching and playing completely, and come down to the very last out with the highest of drama.

Man. That was some freaking baseball game. I don’t know, if you were watching, you could ask for anything more. Huge home runs. Great pitching. Incredible comebacks. A rain delay (because God decided, at 6-6 in the 9th, that neither the Cubs nor Indians were quite ready to win a World Series).

And in the end, a third baseman named Kris Bryant scooping up a slow dribbler, smiling the whole way, and tossing it to first base. And there, the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo squeezing the ball in his mitt, then immediately placing the ball in his back pocket for safekeeping, an incredible example of poise and smarts under pressure (seriously, you know how much that thing is now worth?)

I felt happy for so many people when the Cubs won; this was so different from 2004, when the hated Red Sox broke their curse. I was happy for people like Bill Murray and Jeff Garlin, celebrity Cubbies fans, but also for the millions of average Chicagoans who’ve waited their whole lives to see their team win.

As you’d expect, there were a ton of good stories written about the Cubs’ win Thursday, and the Indians’ heartbreaking defeat (is the sting of this loss eased at all by the Cavs’ winning a few months earlier? I think probably not).

Loved this Tom Verducci piece on SI.com, but the story that blew me away was from Wright Thompson, the immensely gifted writer for ESPN.com. He tracked a few Cubs fans on some emotional journeys in the 24 hours before, during and after the game, and his writing is just emotional and beautiful.

Go, Cubs, Go. Sports, man. Sports.

**Next up today, if you’re as sick and tired of all the horrible, negative, nasty political ads and stories, consider this something completely different this election season.

It’s a hilarious and brilliant commercial from a California state senator named Scott Wiener, starring Jaleel White (“Urkel”) , Joe Montana and MC Hammer, among others.

It also features the Huey Lewis song “Hip to Be Square” and a pair of gay dads. Don’t ask, just watch…

If you’re not smiling at the end of this one… your face might be frozen shut. So clever.

**Finally today, a sweet story about a very unusual flower girl at a wedding. Georgia bride Jennifer Briskin knew she wanted her grandpa, Stanley, to be involved in the ceremony somehow. As a joke, she thought maybe he could be the flower girl.

Then it started to sounds like a great idea. Stanley agreed, and except for the part where he threw flower petals at the guests and not on the ground, it all went swimmingly.

“I really didn’t think she was serious for a while,” Stanley tells PEOPLE. “I did hesitate for a while – who has ever heard of something so ridiculous! But Jen was so excited about it. And I’m glad I did it!”

Really sweet stuff.

Ebola paranoia shows off worst of America. The amazing Peyton Manning, and other NFL thoughts. And Wright Thompson writes beautifully about Mississippi

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Saw this on Twitter Sunday and it made me laugh out loud:

“More Americans have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died from Ebola.”

It was a much-needed laugh, because I’ve become so sick and tired over the past week over “Ebola Paranoia.” Every news channel, every news website, has been stoking the fears and sounding the alarms, and scaring the bejeezus out of as many people as possible, about the Ebola virus and its affect on America.

For God’s sakes, I saw a news crawl on CNN that said “Americans stocking up on Ebola survival gear.”
It makes me sick how politicians just throw out stupid crap like calling our President “President Ebola,” and how he’s to blame for the virus infecting our country, and that the borders need to be closed to keep Ebola out (yes Rand Paul, keep saying stuff like that and you’ve got a fantastic shot at winning the GOP presidential nomination).
A Washington Post photojournalist who’d been to several of the African countries suffering from Ebola was disinvited from a scheduled lecture at Syracuse by the cowardly and pathetic administration there.  And there are a ton more stories like that, and a recent Washington Post poll showing 2/3 of Americans are worried about an Ebola epidemic breaking out.

The anti-immigrant racism, and complete ignoring of medical science, is disgraceful. There are currently THREE known Ebola patients in America, and only one has died. This is not an outbreak in America, this is not an epidemic, and we are not all at risk from a disease that’s really, really hard to catch.

This xenophobia is disgraceful, and America at its worst.

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**So this Peyton Manning fellow, is he any good?
Ever since he first came into the NFL in 1998, when I briefly despised him for not coming out of college a year earlier so my Jets could draft him, I’ve loved Peyton Manning. I love the way the ball comes out of his hand, a spiral so perfect it ought to be in a textbook. I love his confidence, his humility, and how he’s been the hardest worker on any team he’s been.
I care not a whit that he’s won “only” one Super Bowl and lost two others. He’s, in my mind, the greatest quarterback to ever play, and watching him break Brett Favre’s all-time TD record Sunday night was beautiful.

Couple other NFL Sunday thoughts;
— So it’s Week 7 now, and I think a few things have been established: The Falcons stink, last year was not an aberration. The Bears stink, and have locker-room issues. And the Seattle Seahawks ain’t repeating.  Forget the loss of Percy Harvin (more on him in a minute), they just don’t look anywhere near the same on defense.

— Did you see the incredible “fake” punt return the Rams  pulled off for a touchdown in that game? See it above if you haven’t. One of the coolest and most unusual plays I’ve ever seen, anywhere.

— Watched a lot of the Cowboys-Giants game, and what stuck out the most to me about why the ‘Boys are 6-1 is that they’re not beating themselves anymore. Last five years you could always count on Romo or Dez Bryant or a defensive player making a stupid mistake to cost ’em the game. Now, they’re playing smart, disciplined football.

— So much for those new and improved Cleveland Browns, eh? Don’t get too used to that clipboard-holding, Mr. Manziel.

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**Finally today, two incredible and unexpected sports stories have happened this fall, and I don’t know which one is more shocking: The Kansas City Royals are in the World Series (that still doesn’t look right, even seeing it on the screen) and Mississippi, last in just about every vital U.S. ranking, is the center of the college football universe.
Mississippi State is currently ranked No.1, while Ole Miss is No. 3. Both are undefeated, and just for the sheer novelty of it, I’m rooting like hell for both to stay undefeated until they play each other right after Thanksgiving.

Wright Thompson is a Magnolia State native and an outstanding writer for ESPN, and he wrote this beautiful piece the other day on just what it’s like for Mississippians to suddenly have their teams be unbeatable, with a look into the past as well. Thompson is extraordinarily good at details; this is one of his best pieces ever. It’s long, but worth it.

 

Why Australians won’t let kids blow out birthday candles. A great documentary short about an NYC hoops legend. And MJ at 50: A terrific read

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I love Australians. I’ve truly never met a person from there who isn’t fun and awesome and super-cool. (Disclosure: I’ve only really known like 4 Australians, so my sample size is small).

Anyway, I love the Aussies. But I’ve finally found a reason to dislike them: Their ridiculous school health officials.

Two weeks ago the No Fun Police decided to ban kids from blowing out birthday candles at school. Why? They said it’s to prevent the spread of germs.

“Children love to blow out their candles while their friends are singing ‘Happy birthday,’” a document released by Aussie officials said. “To prevent the spread of germs when the child blows out the candles, parents should either provide a separate cupcake, with a candle if they wish, for the birthday child and [either] enough cupcakes for all the other children … [or] a large cake that can be cut and shared.”

Are you freaking kidding me? Yes, there may be some germs spread when a kid blows out the candles. There are also germs spread every time a kid wipes his nose and rubs it on his desk (which happens all the time in elementary schools), and when a kid hits another kid, and when two kids are playing together and one gets dirt all over the other one.

There are germs in the world, people, you can’t avoid them! So let a kid blow out some freaking candles, will you please?

Ugh. The sissy-fication of the world continues.

**There may not be a human being alive who’s seen more New  York City high school basketball than Tom Konchalski.
When I used to work for the basketball magazine SLAM and talk to players from NYC, they spoke of Konchalski in reverential terms; just being mentioned in his regular newsletter meant they were on the radar and on track to get a college scholarship.

Konchalski is a scout, one of the most trusted in the nation, and for reasons I can’t quite fathom, he’s suddenly getting a lot of national publicity. He doesn’t own a cell phone, an answering machine, or use email. He is a dinosaur and yet still is highly trusted and deemed important by every college basketball coach in the country.

ESPN’s Grantland site, which I love, did a four-minute mini-documentary on Konchalski, and it’s terrific. Watch it above, and appreciate one man’s single-minded dedication that has helped thousands of kids attain college scholarships.

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**Finally, there was a ton of publicity last week about Michael Jordan turning 50 years old. Because it’s mid-February and ESPN and others are desperate to fill the supposed void in the calendar (hey folks, ever hear of college hoops and NHL hockey? Talk about them!), the Greatest of All Time’s 50th was a huge event.

I avoided just about all of the Jordan love-fest, but I kept hearing how great ESPN writer extraordinaire Wright Thompson’s profile of MJ was. Turns out it was even better. Thompson got some terrific access to Jordan, and I came away thinking that A, he’s still as competitive as ever, and B, he might be able to score 20 a game right now, just because he would will himself to score.

Read Thompson’s story here; it’s well worth the time.

A writer does the impossible: Makes me care about cricket. And a hometown pitches in to send family to Final 4.

There are many ways to tell if a journalist has moved you with a story.
Here’s one:  If they have me checking the Internet Saturday morning trying to find out who won the Cricket World Cup.
Yeah, I was as shocked as you are. I give not a hoot about cricket, like most Americans. I’ve seen it a few times in passing, and one time in our hotel room in Paris I watched five minutes of highlights of a game on CNN International, and was thoroughly confused.
And yet, Saturday I cared. Because a day earlier I read this truly wonderful story by Wright Thompson of ESPN.com, about India, cricket, and their Michael Jordan-caliber superstar, Sachin Tendulkar.

Billions of people around the globe love this sport, and so I was intrigued to read Thompson, a tremendously-talented young sportswriter,  and his tale of traveling to India. The obsession with cricket in India, and the national team, sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Thompson does a great job weaving what he learned into his tale of Tendulkar, other great players on the team, and how cricket has helped India with its identity crisis as it morphs into a country vastly different from what it once was.
Not coincidentally, the story came out a few days before India was to play Sri Lanka in the World Cup Finals, with India trying to capture its first world title in 28 years.
Miraculously, they did win Saturday. But if you have a few minutes (and it’s Sunday, I know you’re relaxing, people!) read Thompson’s story. It’s sensational.

**Speaking of sensational, the sensational Butler men’s basketball team won again on Saturday, beating VCU in the Final Four, 70-62. Now they get to play UConn, who won a pretty lackluster game over Kentucky, 56-55. It is good vs. evil, since Huskies coach Jim Calhoun has run a lawless program over the years, and is generally considered by most to be a jackass (I’m in that group).
But forget basketball for a minute and read about a community in Connersville, Ind. that did a wonderful thing last week.
Connersville, hometown of Butler star Matt Howard, took up a collection that totaled $10,000 to send Howard’s parents and eight siblings to Houston, so they could be there in person to watch Matt try to win a national title.

I’m a sucker for stories like this, because they reveal so much that is good about people.  And since it’s Indiana, and it’s a small town, well, I have to play this: