Monday, April 13, 2020

Sportswriter's "Holiday"

Posted By on Mon, Apr 13, 2020 at 8:25 AM

We sportswriters toil in journalism's toy department. We're about the last category of professionals you should ache for during a pandemic (just above professional athletes). That said, we have seen our subject matter essentially erased by the novel coronavirus. It's been a month now since there was a meaningful score to check, performance to measure, or matchup to forecast. The sports tree has indeed fallen in the woods where there's no one to hear it. And the sound has been deafening silence.

We carry on, of course. You have methods for making a day distinctive during the pandemic, and I have mine. I'll share a few ways I've brightened my days in sports "solitary."

• Revisit Memphis sports history. Memphis magazine turns 44 this month, so I've been counting down the 44 greatest local athletes since 1976, one celebrated each day on my Twitter account. The list began with Albert Pujols (heard of him?), and has included Don Parsons (hockey in the Mid-South!), with the likes of Bo Jackson (#33), and new Hall of Famer Isaac Bruce (#20) in the mix. You can learn about number 16 in the countdown Monday and follow along the next two weeks if you want to join the debate over numero uno. (There will be a debate. It's one hell of a list.)
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• Pick up my reading game.
I've revisited some classic fiction (The Color Purple, Of Mice and Men) and enjoyed Mick Wall's voluminous biography of Led Zeppelin (When Giants Walked the Earth). And I've turned to one of the few baseball legends I know nothing about: Oscar Charleston. By every measure a member of the Negro Leagues Rushmore (along with Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Cool Papa Bell), Charleston was called "the greatest player I've seen" by the late Buck O'Neil, a man who saw a lot of great baseball players, both before and after Jackie Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Aside from the smiling faces of my colleagues, I miss nothing like I miss baseball, and author Jeremy Beer has delivered a treasure to fill the hours between vintage games on the MLB Network.

• Watch my table tennis ranking plummet. I've spent the better part of 21 years as a father watching my daughters on soccer fields and softball diamonds. With both of them home more than they've been since elementary school, I'm now watching them close the gap between their ping-pong skills and my ping-pong experience. It's funny what happens to people accustomed to venting competitive energy as a member of a team — or even by watching a team of choice compete on TV — when the outlet is denied. After one dispiriting rally — for me — my sweet Sofia smiled and said, "Nothing but net, Dad." Yes indeed: ping-pong trash talk.

• Find other toys. Peaky Blinders is extraordinary television. Checks so many boxes on the sports-starved testosterone scale: rivalry, ambition, leadership, major upsets, huge victories, and whiskey . . . lots of Irish whiskey. Tommy Shelby is the Mike Trout of 1920s Birmingham, England.

And Led Zeppelin. Lots of the greatest band mankind has produced. I've come to consider "How Many More Times" the theme song of this long, painful battle (and recovery). It's a long song, changes rhythm multiple times, calms down and heats up. But it takes you to the right place(s). Bursting with energy, with life, with a form of determination. I'm likely listening to it as you finish this column. Find your own lockdown tune, and crank it up, loud enough for the neighbors. And I recommend Zeppelin. Robert Plant can safely close six feet more powerfully than any other man to walk the planet.

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