Early Spring Muses

The most impressive NCAA college basketball player this year is a woman, Paige Bueckers who plays for Connecticut. Only a freshman, she seems to be a better all around game than Diana Taurasi, who I had considered the best women’s college basketball player that I have seen.

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With the announcement of the resignation of Roy Williams at North Carolina, the five best college basketball coaches in my lifetime:

  1. John Wooden
  2. Mike Krzyzewski
  3. Dean Smith
  4. Roy Williams
  5. Jay Wright (this choice may be a bit premature but I wanted a Big 5 coach on my list)

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I would not need to sit on a jury for an hour, a day, a month, two months or however long the trial of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd takes. I had the correct verdict figured out in nine minutes and 29 seconds.

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Many years ago I bought and read a book by Lawrence Shames and Peter Barton titled Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived. This book reflects the thoughts, actions and philosophies of Barton, a successful businessman who was dying from cancer in his early 50s. Barton began his book,  “There’s not one thing I regret or wish I could redo. There’s not one thing I wished I done, and didn’t. I’m contented and fulfilled.

Barton died at age 51.

Here are some sections of the book I have underlined as constant reference as I get older…

The stories of our lives have a due date, like books at the library.

A problem that can be fixed by money… is not a problem.

If I have anything at all to teach about life, it probably comes down to these two simple but far-reaching notions: 

Recognizing the difference between a dumb risk and a smart one, and 

Understanding when you need to change direction, and having the guts to do it.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t have a bad day for the rest of my life. If someone was wasting my time, i’d excuse myself and walk away. If a situation bothered me or refused to get resolved, I’d shrug and move on. I’d squander no energy on petty annoyances, poison no minutes with useless regret.

I would only work for someone I thought was wildly smart.

Duration, for him (Barton), is no longer quite the same as it is for most of us; he sees time not in terms of days or hours but in episodes of energy, bursts of attention.

There’s just one final thing I want to say. Probably it’s how everyone wants to be remembered. But that’s OK. I’ve said from the start that I make no claim of being special; I’m just one more person dying, revisiting his life. I think my father would’ve said the same thing, in the same words, If he had had the time. It’s simply this: I really tried. I did my best.”

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Coincidently I have just finished a book by William R. Irvine titled the Stoic Challenge: A Philosopher’s Guide to Becoming Tougher, Calmer and More Resilient. I reommend the book. Barton epitomizes the stoic philosophy that Irvine promotes. Barton comments on his acceptance of his diagnosis and prognosis, “My frame of mind was something I could still control,. Doing so would be a sort of victory I was not accustomed to valuing – – a totally inward, private victory – – but a legitimate accomplishment nevertheless. I resolved to control my own discomfort, to rise above them if I possibly could. In doing so, I came to understand the deep truth that, while pain may be unavoidable, suffering is largely optional.

Recommended Reading

The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself and Win by Maria Konnikova (With help, a plan and a lot of preparation, a woman writer learns to play professional poker and beats the pros. Excellent psychological insights on mastering poker and life.True story!)

Three Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty by Jeff Pearlman (I really enjoy Pearlman’s sports books and this one is really good with a lot of interesting inside stories. You don’t have to be a Lakers fan to enjoy this book about a dysfunctional group of players and egos who manage to win world titles.)

Gods at Play: An Eyewitness Account of Great Moments in American Sports by Tom Callahan (Reporter’s memoir of covering great athletes like Muhammed Ali, Pete Rose, Oscar Robertson, Roberto Clemente, Arthur Ashe and others. His story about Bob Cousy and how Cousy took care of his sick wife was very moving.)

The Presidents vs. the Press: The Endless Battle Between the White House and the Media by Harold Holzer ( a very long book with interesting anecdotes of Presidents vs. the Press going back to Washington; chapter on Trump is very interesting):

Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic Rise and Spectacular Fall of Adam Neuman and WeWork by Reeves Wiedeman (business book that reads like a novel)

Epitaph by Maria Doris Russell (Historical novel about Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Tombstone. Great read!)

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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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My Predictions for 2021 (12% Chance of Being 100% Right)

Everyone makes predictions though most people don’t document or publish them. People make predictions as to if and when it will rain, when the mail will arrive, whether the driver with the right turn signal on will actually make a right turn etc. One bases their lifestyle on spending based on their prediction of how the economy will do and the security of their job.

Many of my predictions are contingent on our progress or lack of regarding the Covid pandemic. Most “experts” are predicting that things will normalize by late Spring or early Summer. They are counting on most people getting the vaccine and a herd immunity taking place. I am not that confident given how so called experts whether they are doctors, scientists, Fox News hosts, U.S. Presidents and epidemiologists have not been very accurate in their projections and timetables so far.

I’ve polished my crystal ball and here are my 2021 predictions: 

photo by Gantas Vaičiulėnas
  1. The vaccination rollout will be slower than projected and many (maybe most) adults will not get the vaccination. In addition, I think we are in for more unpleasant surprises and strains with the virus. I think that the rate of infections and deaths will drastically decrease by the beginning of summer 2021 but that another 600,000-700,000 American lives will be lost by the end of 2021 bringing the Covid death total in the United States to over 1 million.
  2. Next huge medical challenge is addressing patients experiencing long term effects from Covid infection affecting their quality of life. 
  3. People will still be reluctant to travel. Cruise line industries will resume voyages in fits and starts beginning mid summer 2021. Hotels and tourist destinations may regain 50-60% of anticipated traffic in summer 2021.
  4. Republicans will win Senate seats in Georgia even if they have to contest it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Another two years of legislative gridlock guaranteed!
  5. The stock market has factored in a full or almost full recovery from Covid. Expect some bumps along the way! What if the vaccine does not deliver the expected immunity or the number of adults getting the vaccination falls below 50%? Will people who got the vaccine go into stores, restaurants or other public places with those who refuse to get vaccinated? Hoping for a 5-7% increase in the S&P by year’s end but will not be surprised if it dives by those percentages.
  6. Expect some unusual drama or disturbances around January 20, Joe Biden’s inauguration.
  7. Contingent if Joe Biden is sworn in, expect that his three main priorities are organizing the fight against Covid relying heavily on Dr. Fauci and scientists; rebuilding alliances with our friends in Canada, France, Mexico and Germany; and providing additional aid and stimulus to small businesses and individuals suffering from the pandemic.
  8. No tax increases for anyone this year.
  9. A plethora of books, documentaries, articles and speeches will begin about the Trump presidency. Many Trump appointees, spokespeople and supporters will try to distance themselves from Trump to save their own reputations, careers and credibility. Their efforts at redemption will largely fail.
  10. Kansas City Chiefs will win Super Bowl again.
  11. Gonzaga is the best NCAA Men’s basketball team as I write. However they won’t win the NCAA title. Expect an “underdog” with 7-8 losses to come in and surprise.
  12. Expect limited seatings (30-50% capacity) for sporting and other entertainment events starting in Spring 2021.
  13. Eagles won’t trade Carson Wentz. Wentz will start for the Eagles in the 2021-22 season.
  14. Expect a fourth or fifth place seed for the 76ers in the NBA Eastern Division playoffs. If Kevin Durant stays healthy, it will be the Nets vs. The Lakers in the Finals.
  15. Crystal ball looks to a good playoff run by the Flyers; a dismal season for the Phillies.
  16. There will be more credible sightings and documentation of UFOs.
  17. Pickleball will continue to rise in popularity as more 30-40 year olds play. The drop serve rule will be permanent as it creates more drama (and aces) around the serve and return. 
  18. Pickleball singles will increase in popularity and singles matches will be showcased on telecasts and streaming services. Tyson McGuffin vs. Ben Johns is to pickleball singles what Borg-McEnroe was to tennis. South Jersey player Frank Anthony Davis is very competitive.
  19. The effects of quarantining schools and students due to Covid will be felt for decades. How many careers for scientists, entrepreneurs and researchers were lost due to the interruptions in education?

Menckenians

Listed below are my “Menckenians,” my observations and aphorisms about politics, sports and life in general… It is a homage to H.L. Mencken who was a renowned columnist, writer and critic of politics, religion, culture and business from 1920 to 1950. His observations from almost a century ago can be applied today. He was that era’s Hunter Thompson, irreverent, caustic and cynical.

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If John Paul II can be canonized  a saint and Rush Limbaugh can be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, then Pete Rose can be inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame.

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If a huge asteroid was hours away from devastating earth, Amazon would still be delivering orders, conspiracy theorists would be posting anti-science Facebook and social media posts, the S&P would rise 5% and Congress would be deadlocked in funding a military operation that would destroy the asteroid.

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If all our problems and issues could be tidied up and resolved just like all those at the end of a Hallmark movie.

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To document the decline in American “exceptionalism”, compare the behavior, sacrifice, leadership and patriotism of American citizens in 1942, after Pearl Harbor with our national leadership and citizenry today during covid.

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Are all Facebook friends, “friends?”

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I would not tell a religious person that there is no god with the same consideration that I would not tell a young child there is no Santa Claus.

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Alex Trebek worked almost to the moment of his death as host of Jeopardy because he valued education. Donald Trump has played golf, thrown Christmas parties and wasted money on ridiculous court challenges as thousand of Americans die from covid daily. Two men, only one worth the praise and support he is receiving.

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Does one become an author when one drafts and publishes a book or essay or until someone reads it? (If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound if no one is around?)

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Sin? Does it exist anymore?

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For Eagle fans excited about Jalen Hurts replacing Carson Wentz, I have the following words for you, A.J. Feely, Bobby Hoying, Mike Boryla, Koy Detmer..

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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.

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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

 

 

Clearing Mental Cache II

My Top 12 SNL skits:

  1. Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump
  2. Celebrity Jeopardy with Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek, Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery, Norm McDonald as Burt Reynolds
  3. Mr. Robinson’s neighborhood with Eddie Murphy
  4. Close Encounters/Paranormal skits with Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong
  5. Tina Fey as Sarah Palin
  6. Word Association (1975) with Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase
  7. Meet your Second Wife with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler
  8. Taran Killam as Jebediah Atkinson (cultural and political critic)
  9. Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin Point/counterpoint (“Jane, you ignorant slut”)
  10. More Cowbell (Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken
  11. Toonces the Cat with Steve Martin and Victoria Jackson
  12. The Continental (Christopher Walken)

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I would not be shocked if the winner of the next Presidential election is not determined by voters but by the military.

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Why does the re-opening of MLB, NBA and NHL along with the proposed start of NFL football seem like the start of an extended exhibition season for all sports? Does Las Vegas have an over/under of how many games each sport will have before they are forced to close down?

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Donald Trump may not have airports, government buildings or ships named after him as he leaves office but there will be wings of libraries stocked with shelves of books written about him and his presidency. Forget books written by those who worked with Trump or are historians, teachers and news analysts. The most incisive and reveling book will come from his third and recently divorced wife, Melania.

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Pornography is now better regulated on the internet than political propaganda and is often less obscene. (So I hear)

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What is more dangerous? Not wearing a mask in a crowded bar or being an attractive female working at Fox News?

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Capitalism-an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. Can someone explain to me how we are a capitalist economy when the Federal Reserve is propping up the stock market with zero interest rates, while billionaires, large corporations and certain “churches” are receiving financial handouts even though many do not need the money?

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There has already been a lot of discussion about Trump’s presidency relative to his standing with that of his predecessors. Trump, himself feels a kinship to Abraham Lincoln. I decided to take a historical scenario and based on how Trump has handled current crises and project how he would have handled a crisis in the past. I am comparing how FDR actually handled events in WWII to how Trump may have handled them. (Depending on your point of view, you may think my comparison an amusing parody or you may think, “Yeah, you got it right.”)

FDR vs Trump

 

“No” to Fall College and High School Sports

I miss watching sports. I miss watching the competition between teams and among individuals. I miss players displaying their talents, drive and athleticism. I miss the energy of a rabid crowd cheering for their team. With all that said, I don’t want to watch sports played under the current pandemic circumstances, especially high school and college sports. I think that athletic directors and university presidents are delusional to think that games could be played given the spread of infections, particularly in the southern and southwestern sections of this country where college football is fanatical.

I understand that the cancellation of fall sports at many colleges and universities could mean the termination of all sports at those schools. Again I appreciate the economic and psychological fallout of canceled sports. But subjecting the possible infection of the coronavirus to a college athlete is not unlike sending Christians to face lions and tigers in an ancient Roman arena. The outcomes are not likely to be favorable.

In this country, we are anxious for a return to normalcy—-a return to the routines and lifestyles we enjoyed before the spread of the pandemic. Some people practice this by refusing to wear masks thus prolonging the consequences of the pandemic. As a country, we are also experiencing political, economic and social agendas that may not reflect good judgment, good science and common sense. I err to the side of caution.

As an aside, I am not sure that re-opening the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball is a good idea either but those players are pros and are getting paid and have the ability to opt out.

Clearing My Mental Cache

Items that may amuse, entertain, inform and inflame you…

Pickleball challenge

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The experience of finding an open court to play pickleball in the next few weeks may be similar to trying to find a dinner reservation on Mother’s Day. One might expect long lines, unexpected delays and the need to acquire a lot of patience.

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Just a thought: For pickleball to become more mainstream and garner national attention,  it needs a “bad boy” like Nick Kyrgios or John McEnroe to compete against Tyson McGuffin, Ben Johns etc. of the pickleball elite.

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While I agree that Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time, I don’t think he would beat Lebron James in a one on one game if both were in their primes.

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Book recommendation: Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby. An excellent compliment to the recent ESPN documentary The Last Dance.

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As an aside, I am old enough to remember seeing him play and I choose Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns as the greatest football player of my lifetime.

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I would not miss baseball if they did not play in 2020. I would miss college and pro football as well as pro basketball if they did not play in 2020. I am also under the opinion that the NBA should not bother resuming the 2019-2020 season’s games. Wait till November and start the new season.

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Old Paradigm (before coronavirus) “Hi neighbor, can I borrow a cup of sugar?

New Paradigm: “Hi neighbor, (through mask) can I borrow a roll of toilet paper?”

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Five Biggest Lies of the Pandemic

  1. “We all in this together.” (slogan used by just about every company in their ads since March.)
  2. “I don’t take responsibility at all.” (Donald Trump-3/13/20)
  3. The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA…(Donald Trump 2-24-20)
  4. It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” Donald Trump 2-28-20)
  5. The virus is not going to sink the American economy,”. “What is or could sink the American economy is the socialism coming from our friends on the other side of the aisle. That’s the biggest fear that I have today.” (Larry Kudlow Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 28)

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Just an observation but I wish Congress and the President exhibited the same energy, resources and urgency for small businesses and employees that the Federal Reserve did in supporting Wall Street, large corporations, CEOs and wealthy stockholders.

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Fox News just published their poll of suburban women. 33% of those women polled had a favorable view of President Trump; 66% had an unfavorable view. What is more surprising? (A) Fox News posted the results of their anti Trump poll? Or. (B) There are still 33% of suburban women with a favorable view of Trump?

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Though children are not able to attend schools in person, they are receiving a far greater and more impactful education in human nature, mortality, sacrifice and compassion.