Senescence: Round 4

A shower of passing thoughts and thunderous ruminations…

With apologies to Rodney, five jobs where you don’t get any respect: 

  1. Epidemiologist 
  2. Eagles football coach
  3. Governor of a largely populated state
  4. New host of Jeopardy
  5. 44th U.S. President

Summer is coming to a close. I won’t miss the heat, the humidity or the mosquitos. I will miss the early dawn sunrises and the late dusk sundowns.

On deeper reflection, I have lived through 70 summers, how many summers do I have left to enjoy?

The French showed more resistance in 1940 to the German invasion of their country than the anti-vaxxers have demonstrated to the invasion of covid in the United States.

Long running TV Talk Show in the 1960’s and 70’s that would not last 13 weeks today: Dick Cavett.(That’s no reflection on Cavett, it’s a reflection of our culture and the limited sophistication and education of today’s audiences).

RIP Markie Post. She was a beautiful distraction on one of my favorite comedies in the 1980s, Night Court.

Celebrity whose death affected me the most? John Lennon

Current Five Overrated Sports People and Events

  1. Pickleball ratings
  2. NBA Draft
  3. Dallas Cowboys
  4. The Process (not Embiid but the tanking by the 76ers)
  5. Sports Talk Shows (worst show is Undisputed with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharp)

While I enjoyed the Gold medal victories of the U.S. Men and Women’s Basketball Teams in the Olympics, I became a fan of the 3 on 3 Women’s Basketball competition (also won by the U.S.)

Two late Summer 2021 Book Recommendations:

  1. The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis
  2. The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, A Temptation and The Longest Night of the Second World War by Malcolm Gladwell

Another 1970 high school classmate passed away recently. My class had 481 students. Based on what I know, approximately 10% of my class has passed away in the 50 years since graduation. Given our stage in life now, it’s possible that 50% of us will die within the next 10 years.

Health, opportunity and time. The older we are, the less certain and smaller window to take advantage of them.

With possible apologies to W.C. Fields, I’d rather be living in Philadelphia than anywhere in Florida.

May Lightning Strike Me: Heresies and Reckless Punditry

With apologies to Franklin Pierce Adams, I paraphrase…

“These are the saddest of possible words

Tucker to Hannity to Ingraham”

80 years ago, a generation fought in jungles, bloody battlefields, and deadly beaches thousands of miles away to defeat their enemies and maintain their freedom. Today, many are declaring their “freedom” by refusing to walk a block or drive a few miles to a drug store and get a vaccination.

About 50% of American adults have refused the Covid 19 vaccination with the insouciance of a condemned man declining a blindfold awaiting execution.

President Biden is suggesting that a $100 cash incentive be used to get people to get the vaccine. Not sure if that would be effective. What may be effective is when an unvaccinated person catches Covid and requires medical treatment, they are subject to a $1000 surcharge that will be used to assist vaccinated patients suffering from long term Covid effects.

We needed Joe Biden just like we needed Gerald Ford after the stench and corruption of their predecessors’ administrations. However I don’t want see an 82 year old man, no matter how decent, running for President in 2024.

One wishes that the expectations and pressures that the public places on the performances and personas of athletes would also apply equally or more to the representatives they voted to office. 

If our Founders could see the current state of the government they created, they would renounce their efforts and become monarchists again.

Give me movies with stories > movies based on special effects

Photo by Nickolett Emmert from Pixels

Doctors act as pilots for our health. Initially doctors help us get off the ground from birth to maturity through pre-natal care and immunizations. In the second phase, they serve to keep us “in the air.” They address any turbulence or bumps we experience while in flight. Finally, as we get ready to “land”, some for our final destination, doctors are expected to ensure a smooth landing.

So the incoming starting QB (Bryce Young) at Alabama is expected to make close to $1 million thanks to the recent Supreme Court ruling on endorsement deals for college athletes. I wonder how incentivized his offensive linemen are as they may not be offered any money for their jerseys or profiles?

After reading The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis, I have doubts about any medical pronouncements made by the CDC. With the possible exception of Dr. Fauci, I have very little confidence in the accuracy of Covid 19 information from anyone. ( I recommend the book!).

The Catholic Church serves as a typewriter, useful to a few but largely irrelevant and obsolete for the many, particularly to those who were once customers.

I wouldn’t object if there was a law banning car and home insurance commercials and marketing. I’d love to say “good-bye” to LiMu, Doug, Flo and The General. The commercials are dumb, not funny nor have any entertainment or informational value. Next to go, gambling site ads…

The best investment I ever made wasn’t a stock, mutual fund or bitcoin. It was a library card.

Greatest U.S. Presidents Survey

C-Span conducted a Presidential Historians Survey 2021. They judged Presidents based on the following criteria: 1. Public Persuasion, 2. Crisis Leadership, 3. Economic Management, 4. Moral Authority, 5. International Relations, 6. Administrative Skills, 7. Relations with Congress, 8. Vision, 9. Pursued Equal Justice for All, and 10. Performance within Context of Times.

My list is a small re-shuffling of the list. I am a huge admirer of FDR who pulled the U.S. from a depression, a world war and initiated a variety of badly needed social programs. My recent readings of books regarding the Truman presidency has moved him up from my previous lists.

Donald Trump is listed in the bottom four of the survey only ahead of James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Franklin Pierce. On my list, he would be our worst President just based on his actions of 1/6/2021.

C-span Presidential HistoriansEric Amateur Historian
1. Abraham Lincoln1. Abraham Lincoln
2. George Washington2. Franklin D. Roosevelt
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt3. George Washington
4. Theodore Roosevelt4. Harry Truman
5. Dwight Eisenhower5. Thomas Jefferson
6. Harry Truman6. Theodore Roosevelt
7. Thomas Jefferson7. John F. Kennedy
8. John F. Kennedy8. Barack Obama
9. Ronald Reagan9. Dwight Eisenhower
10. Barack Obama10. Ronald Reagan

Dinks and Smashes III

Third edition of muses, thoughts and rants on pickleball…

If you measure your worth in recreational Pickleball by wins and losses, you are playing the wrong game at the wrong time.

I created an unscientific, no data included chart of how I view the estimated progress of many (not most) pickleball players in their first year of play. My chart is based on an older player, who plays 3-4 times weekly mostly for exercise and to meet new people and is not interested in tournament competiton. Every player is different and their rate of progress is contingent on the following factors below:

  • Health
  • Age
  • Experience with other racquet sports
  • Athletic Ability
  • Injuries
  • Attitude/Motivation
  • Level of Competition/Play
  • Practice
  • Mentoring/coaching

Chart Summary:

  1. The fastest rate of improvement usually starts when the player first starts learning to play pickleball. Credit beginner classes taught by Denise Donald, Cookie Sey, Lori Flickinger and others for the fast start in providing new players the basics of the game and more important, the encouragement to have fun and relax.
  2. One of the most effective ways to increase your rating from 2.5 to 3.0 besides lowering your unforced error rates is not hitting “out balls.”
  3. A performance plateau tends to occur between levels 3.0 to 3.5. Many of us start to pick up nasty playing habits and our performance tends to stagnate.
  4. Many players achieve level 3.0 within a year. Some achieve it within days. Depends upon the individual’s starting points, experience and talents. My guess is that Roger Federer would be a 5.0 as soon as he picked up a paddle.
  5. Many players are content with just reaching an intermediate level. Again due to age, health and time commitments, a 4.0 rating may be out of reach for many. However I am aware of the 60+ age players who invested the time, practice and dedication to reaching an advanced rating.

I’m amused by this description on Meet-Up describing an Advanced only session.  “Come play on 6 courts with like minded advanced players without worrying about the intermediates or beginners jumping on a court with you.”

For many of us, playing pickleball is a short time travel back to our youth…

Inflation: A Players Rogue 2 that I purchased for $89 in 2020 now retails for $124. It is a very good paddle but that is a 40% increase! Tournament fees, paddles, pickleball shoes, and classes are also experiencing significant rises in pricing. Given the sport’s popularity and growth, there must be a public company or companies that may be investment worthy??

Observation: I rarely see two of the same model paddle hanging on a fence or queue at Meet-ups.

Revised edition: With apologies to my past and future pickle ball partners, here’s what you may expect from playing with me (I have added two more to the original post shown in italics:)

  1. I will continually forget the score and you will have to remind me what the score is.
  2. I will poach at the most inopportune moments and leave you to cover the entire court.
  3. I will chase “out balls” like a dog chasing a flung chew toy
  4. My eyes are not what they used to be so my line calls may need a second review.
  5. I will play with anyone and at any level. Win or lose, I want my partner to have fun and to be willing to play with me again.
  6. I am not good enough to offer advice. My best and only advice to most players is to continue to play, have fun and your game will improve over time.
  7. When I “tag” someone on the opposite team, I will generally apologize and check to ensure they are OK.
  8. My hearing is as reliable as my third shot drop – – so you may have to repeat things to me.
  9. If I forget to bring it up before we play, let’s communicate how we will handle lobs and shots down the middle.
  10. I may sometimes forget your name if it has been awhile since we played. I apologize beforehand. The only two things I definitely remember are my wife’s birthday and our anniversary!

What They Said

Smart commentary and analysis by writers much smarter and more thoughtful than yours truly…

Refusing to wear a mask has become a badge of political identity, a barefaced declaration that you reject liberal values like civic responsibility and belief in science. (Those didn’t used to be liberal values, but that’s what they are in America 2021.)

Unfortunately, identity politics can do a lot of harm when it gets in the way of dealing with real problems. I don’t know how many people will die unnecessarily because the governor of Texas has decided that ignoring the science and ending the mask requirement is a good way to own the libs. But the number won’t be zero.

Unmasked: When Identity Politics Turns Deadly Paul Krugman New York Times

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The Pew Research Center found that the number of nones in the population as a whole increased nine percentage points from 2009 to 2019. The main reasons that nones are unaffiliated are that they question religious teachings, or they don’t like the church’s stance on social issues.

There is a chasm between the vast scope of our needs and what influencers can possibly provide. We’re looking for guidance in the wrong places. Instead of helping us to engage with our most important questions, our screens might be distracting us from them. Maybe we actually need to go to something like church?

Contrary to what you might have seen on Instagram, our purpose is not to optimize our one wild and precious life. It’s time to search for meaning beyond the electric church that keeps us addicted to our phones and alienated from our closest kin.

Influencers Are the New Televangelists Leigh Stein New York Times

***

Evangelicalism in America, however, has come to be defined by its anti-intellectualism. The style of the most popular and influential pastors tend to correlate with shallowness: charisma trumps expertise; scientific authority is often viewed with suspicion. So it is of little surprise that American evangelicals have become vulnerable to demagoguery and misinformation….. In 1994, Mark Noll, a historian who was then a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois, the preëminent evangelical liberal-arts institution, published “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” In the opening sentence of the book’s first chapter, he writes, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is there is not much of an evangelical mind.”

Recently, some pastors and other evangelical leaders have begun to express alarm at how unmoored some members of their congregations have become. More leaders in the American church need to recognize the emergency, but, in order for evangelicals to rescue the life of the mind in their midst, they need to acknowledge that the church is missing a vital aspect of worshipping God: understanding the world He made.

The Wasting of the Evangelical Mind The New Yorker · by Michael Luo · March 4, 2021

***

The Republican Party has become, in form if not in content, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of the late 1970s.

I can already hear the howls about invidious comparisons. I do not mean that modern American Republicans are communists. Rather, I mean that the Republicans have entered their own kind of end-stage Bolshevism, as members of a party that is now exhausted by its failures, cynical about its own ideology, authoritarian by reflex, controlled as a personality cult by a failing old man, and looking for new adventures to rejuvenate its fortunes.

A GOP that once prided itself on its intellectual debates is now ruled by the turgid formulations of what the Soviets would have called their “leading cadres,” including ideological watchdogs such as Tucker Carlson and Mark Levin. Like their Soviet predecessors, a host of dull and dogmatic cable outlets, screechy radio talkers, and poorly written magazines crank out the same kind of fill-in-the-blanks screeds full of delusional accusations, replacing “NATO” and “revanchism” with “antifa” and “radicalism.”

The Republican Party is, for now, more of a danger to the United States than to the world. But like the last Soviet-era holdouts in the Kremlin, its cadres are growing more aggressive and paranoid. They blame spies and provocateurs for the Capitol riot, and they are obsessed with last summer’s protests (indeed, they are fixated on all criminals and rioters other than their own) to a point that now echoes the old Soviet lingo about “antisocial elements” and “hooligans.” They blame their failures at the ballot box not on their own shortcomings, but on fraud and sabotage as the justification for a redoubled crackdown on democracy.

The Republican Party Is Now in Its End Stages The Atlantic · by Tom Nichols · February 25, 2021

Muses on a Cold Winter Morning

My writing efforts resemble my pickleball game performances. Brief flashes of brilliance mixed with plenty of unforced errors and faults.

***

The experience of watching televised college and pro sports during Covid is like viewing a sitcom without a laugh track.

***

Parler: politics = Pornhub: love

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So who stands “in the dock” for the various atrocities and abuses to our democracy and laws committed in the past four years? A number of Trump sycophants, enablers and officials, in a bid to salvage their reputations and careers, finally bailed out from the “Herrenvolk.” Nikki Haley, Bill O’Reilly, Betty DeVos, Elaine Chao, Mitch McConnell, John Kelly, John Bolton, Mike Pence and many other Trump supporters are fleeing from Trump like Melania avoids child refugee camps.

***

Rush Limbaugh’s receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom is as appropriate as the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences awarding Bonzo its Lifetime Achievement Award.

***

Professional sports championships are generally decided off-season and by General Managers and less by players. College championships are generally decided in recruiting, less on the field or court. 

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How Trumpism mimics the coronavirus: (1) Can damage or kill the host (U.S.)  if untreated or unopposed. (2) Moves quickly through the populace through spreader (campaign) events. (3) Spurs denials by naysayers as to its existence and dangers. (4) Adverse after effects continue for many months (years) after initial contagion. (4) Mutates frequently posing additional dangers.  (5) Remedied by inoculation (election results).

***

The biggest editors when many write are psychological, concerns for acceptance and approval plus the fear of speaking one’s mind and upsetting a career and reputation. How freeing to be retired and of advanced age when those editors are not as binding! While I still value the opinions of others, it’s more important that I move ideas and thoughts from my brain to screen, while I can.

***

Tell me how many books and what you you read on a topic  and I can tell you how seriously I value your opinions on that topic.

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As I get older what has tragically declined faster than my physical and mental capabilities has been my decline in trust for most people to simply do the right things, especially when it comes to acting in the best interests of the nation, community or fellow man. 

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Thought Leaders

I find that many of the disagreements that I have with people on politics and current events has to do with our respective sources of information. Many of my Facebook friends rely upon memes (that I consider social media graffiti) Fox News ideologues and political blogs with dubious reporting and analysis when they attempt to muster up an opinion or viewpoint.

I’d like to offer these friends some other alternatives for information. My list includes thought leaders, people with genuine credibility and expertise in their fields. Most have written books (not memes), are articulate and have a track record of achievement. These are people whose opinions and viewpoints I follow. I may not agree with all their opinions but I respect their ideas and arguments.

Politics:

Maureen Dowd

Tom Friedman

Fareed Zakaria

Pete Buttigieg

Tom Nichols

Ian Bremmer

Paul Krugman

Dave Pell

Gary Trudeau

Maggie Haberman

Mike Murphy

Historians

Jill Lepore

Jon Meacham

Doris Kearns Goodman

Kurt Andersen

Michael Beschloss

Religion

Karen Armstrong

Bart Ehrman

Sam Harris

Michelle Boorstein

Comedy/Satire

Chris Rock

Bill Maher

Stephen Colbert

Michelle Wolf

Jimmy Kimmel

Business/Tech

Scott Galloway

Kara Swisher

Malcolm Gladwell

Mark Cuban

Elon Musk

Emily Chang

Daniel Pink

Seth Godin

Economics/Finance

Robert Shiller

Nomi Prins

Andrew Ross Sorkin

Adam Tooze

Naseem Nicholas Taleb

Warren Buffett

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi from Pexels

RIP The “Process” 2013-2020

Some thoughts on the 76ers and what’s next:

The 76ers are a high priced street pick up team. There were so many mistakes on personnel decisions. Not sure why they did not move heaven and earth at the end of last season to keep Jimmy Butler. This season, there was no “go to guy” when you needed a critical basket at the end of a game.

This year’s NBA draft offers little relief. Even with high draft picks, the 76ers have really mucked it up. Remember Michael Carter Williams, Nerlins Noel, Jahil Okafor, Timothy Luwawu-Cabarrot, Landry Shamet and Markelle Fultz (instead of Jayson Tatum)???

The NBA East has four of the best coaches in basketball. Brad Stevens (Celtics), Nick Nurse (Toronto), Erik Spoelstra (Heat) and Mike Budenholzer (Bucks) are far superior coaches than Brett Brown. Good coaching usually manifests itself after halftime and particularly in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. Sounds like the 76ers never bought in to Brown’s substitutions patterns or to his strategies when games were on the line.

Did anyone watch the Clippers-Mavs game that followed the 76ers-Celtics today? Is there anyone who would rather have either Embid or Simmons than Luke Doncic?

I am not interested in any “retreads” to coach the 76ers if they release Brett Brown. So I’m not interested in Jason Kidd, Tyronn Lue, Mark Jackson or Luke Walton. I might be interested in a certain local college coach who has demonstrated the ability to win the big game (twice) and might be looking for a new challenge. It also helps that his players do well in the NBA draft and in competition.

The right of first refusal to the 76ers job if Brett Brown is released is Jay Wright.

Third Shot Jots

Check out recent YouTube video where Ben Johns and Simone Jardin play Dekel Bar and Adam Stone. Great example of how men and women can compete effectively in mixed doubles, as a partnership. Johns and Jardin play to their strengths. Their movement and strategy were like a dance. Sorry for the dated reference, but think of the balance between Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Johns and Jardin beat two top flight pickleball players. Jardin is the best women’s player in pickleball right now.

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I watch a lot of pickleball tournaments and events on social media and YouTube. In all the events I have watched, I don’t recall seeing a player cited for an illegal serve. Maybe the pros and advanced players are that good that they do not violate the rules on serving. But even Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been called on foot faults at times. Seems to me that many of the fast servers in the men’s game come very close to a sidearm motion when they serve.

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One of the hardest disciplines (maybe the hardest) is the ability to not swing at “out” balls. At the advanced and pro levels, players rarely give up free points if a ball is going out. 

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Growing concern about the availability of indoor pickleball when the weather changes in late fall and winter. Given the current health circumstances, I don’t envision government (particularly in NJ)) allowing indoor pickleball facilities to open and if they do, may impose restrictions on how many people can be in the facility.  Facilities may also have to be concerned with any liabilities if COVID 19 infections occur among players. They will also need to be more vigilant about cleaning benches and equipment as well as replacing pickleballs between sessions. Players would need to be more cognizant of social distancing as that becomes a premium when moving from outside to inside to play.

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Just my observation…There is a fine line between offering advice and sounding critical while playing a game, especially when teaming with beginners. I think that beginning players need to hear encouragement first and know what they are doing right. I have seen beginning players inundated with tips and criticisms while they are in the midst of a game. They start to overthink what they are doing and they don’t respond naturally to playing. Better to offer most suggestions to a player after a game, not during it and only when they request help.

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I’d like to see all pickleball games go to 15 points, instead of the customary 11, especially in recreation play…

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The commercialization of pickleball is increasing, as it should, given the popularity of the sport and the discretionary income of many of its players. There is a new paddle from Selkirk (Vanguard) that costs $200. More companies are selling pickleball paddles, clothing and shoes. There are increasing opportunities to promote seminars and training sessions. More towns are building pickleball courts (some at the dismay of tennis players). Hopefully pickleball will receive more media coverage from the sports networks and given the current lack of live sports, this might be the best opportunity to showcase the sport.

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A good friend of mine had the pleasure of watching Frank Anthony Davis at Atkinson Park recently. He was blown away at the level of game FAD displayed but he was also impressed how approachable FAD was to talk with spectators. It seems that way with just about all high level performance men and women pickleball players and that will help promote the sport. I have seen FAD playing singles and doubles on YouTube videos – – very happy that he is representing the South Jersey area.

***

Covid 19 has impacted my participation in pickleball this summer. I don’t play as much and when I play, it is with smaller groups. That being said, I do miss many friends I have played with from DeCou, Hainesport and Marlton over the years. For me, I play pickleball 75% for the social aspect, 25% for the competitive aspect. Hopefully things will turn around in the next few months and life and pickleball can return to normal, or close to it.

Stay safe!!

Eric Vill jpg