296. DEAR ███████

** All potentially incriminating emotional intelligence has been redacted by the Central Nervous System to preserve the safety and security of the status quo and the emopolitik. We appreciate your understanding. **  

transmission incoming

Dear ████████,

Hey. It’s me.

You’re going to ███████ ████ this letter ██ ███████, I’m sure, but you can’t honestly ████ ████, not ████ ████, not the part of you that I ███████ just as it ███████ ███. I know ██████ also ████ the chemistrickery, the bubbling ripple ████ █████ the ███████. Wild.

███████ once taught me that the worst thing you can do is ████ ████ ███████, so I will hide behind that and pretend like I’m ███not ██████ ██ ████ ██ ████.

I’m 95 percent certain ██████ wrapped ██ ████ ███████, perhaps inextricably, and that actually makes sense because ████ ███ ██. At least, ████ ██ ███ ████ I ████ ████ broken ground on with a golden ceremonial shovel.

Everyone says, “████, you ████ ███ ███ ██ can’t ████.” And that’s not true! At least, I don’t think it is. Maybe there is a █████, lasting and immature ████ ██ ██ that █████ ██ ███ and ████ a kiss to taste like ███████████ ██ ██. █ █████ ███ needed that flavor in most ██████ of my ████.

I’d ████ ███ if you were ██████, I’d ████ ███ even if you were ██████ ██ ███████, and I’d ████ ███ came right up to me, stared at me with those ██████████ eyes and said, “█████ ████ ████.”

███ I’m here, █████ in ████, ███████ if there is a slice ██ ████ ████, however thin, ███ ██. Won’t you? Can you? I understand ██ ████ a sense of maturity, duty and obligation, ██████ ████ ███ fearless gamble for adventure ██ █████ ███ baldly appealing.

Just know this: █ █████ ████ ██████ ███ ██ ████ ███ and that’s not gonna change.

████, █████

end transmission

279. Two lines that made me put my book down

“He had short-cropped hair and a jawline lean and sharp enough to cur cake. He wore a gray suit with, unlike other board members, no pocket hankie. He had an economy of style and, like a gifted athlete, an economy of movement, as if he were conserving his energy for a meaningful explosion.”

That’s Michael Lewis describing a 1980s hatchet man inside Salomon Brothers in Liar’s Poker.

What I love about this is there’s nothing flashy or particularly clever. Sometimes good writing is in the unassuming details and the workmanlike job of getting from big idea to the next. Shouldn’t need more than a simple paragraph to say everything necessary about something.

“Now Alan found himself in the odd position of having to defend a woman who had tunneled through him so many times and so recklessly that he felt lucky to appear, from a distance, whole.”

That’s Dave Eggers describing a mid-fifties divorced man reflecting on his ex-wife in A Hologram For The King.

Perfect arrangement of words.

267. NFL Things That Have Worn Me Out Before Week 3

NFL Things That Have Worn Me Out Before Week 3  

Russell Wilson pretending he’s in on the joke

Rob Gronkowski pretending he’s not in on the joke

Jerry Jones pretending he’s okay with starting Brandon Weeden

JJ Watt, in general

Gold 50-yard lines

The “Who’s Better: Mariota or Winston?” debate

Eli Manning’s donkey face

Being nervous every time Peyton gets hit

Missed extra points

Andrew Luck costing me fantasy games

Manziel fever

The premature Drew-Brees-in-New-Orleans eulogies

The continuing saga of Matt Jones, the bane of my existence

But most of all…

DraftKings & FanDuel commercials

266. The Two Reporters

There are two reporters; let’s call them Wilson and Smith. Each is doing a story on a noted public figure, who we’ll call Jameson. Wilson covers Jameson regionally as an extension of his beat, meaning he has a solid rapport with him and talks to him often enough that the two are on a first-name basis.

Smith is a feature reporter, deployed by his national media company to trail Jameson for a week or two and gather enough information for a comprehensive magazine piece.

One afternoon on the job, the two reporters find themselves in a public hallway alone with the Jameson. Each senses the opportunity, but Wilson gets to him first.

In the course of answering Wilson’s questions, Jameson recounts a humorous, telling anecdote about pancakes that is tailor-made for the news. In fact, Wilson is so engrossed in his pancake conversation he doesn’t even notice Smith, who also hears the anecdote while he waits for his chance to ask Jameson his own question.

Wilson wraps up his interview with Jameson and leaves. The next day he files his beat report, using the pancake story extensively and framing Jameson within its fluffy, buttery details. Wilson’s report enjoys a brief turn as the story du jour on Sports Twitter, primarily because of The Pancake Story. The public is fascinated with Jameson, and Wilson’s reporting rides the zeitgeist.

A week later, Smith’s piece hits the web. It’s long, thoroughly researched and delicately written — vintage Smith — and about two thirds of the way down, Smith includes a graf that offhandedly mentions The Pancake Story.

Now, it can be reasonably assumed that Smith never read Wilson’s original piece. Wilson, after all, writes many more pieces for a smaller market of readers. But Wilson reads Smith’s piece — after all, it’s a long, national feature on a topic he himself covers — and when he gets to the bit about the pancakes, however, he becomes furious.

Smith stole my thunder, Wilson thinks. He must have been skulking around during my one-on-one interview with Jameson… Maybe even eavesdropping on the interview! Fueled by a sense of professional justice, Wilson brings the issue forcefully — damningly even, in Wilson’s own eyes — to his followers.

Now out in the ether, Smith strongly and publicly rebukes the accusation. Jameson made those comments in a public hallway, Smith reasons, and what was he supposed to do, put away his notebook? Ask for permission? Plug his ears?

Predictably, no one wins the Twitter spat, but it does have one useful outcome — it informs me of enough details so I can ask you, the reader, this:

Is either reporter in the right? And if so, whom?

265. Memory phenomena

“We’re world-beaters, you and I. Kingmakers. And even if we get old, we’ll never die. And that’s because we’re also survivors.”

“You’re not making any sense.”

“Really? Damn.”


“Wait, really?? I thought I was on to something there.”

It’s interesting to me how sports ages quicker than other pop culture media. Take any given year — 1985, for the sake of this exercise.

The Chicago Bears steamroll the league en route to the Super Bowl.

Back To The Future comes out.

The Boys Of Summer by Don Henley burns up the charts.

Chicago winning the Super Bowl seems, in my head at least, to have taken place wayyyy before the other two even though their all contemporaries. I think there are a couple reasons behind this memory illusion.

Sports is so transitory, and the turnover for teams is so high. The ’89 Bears, for instance, went 6-10 and were virtually unrecognizable as the team that shuffled into history in ’85.

Our consumption of sports is so tied to our experience viewing it, and radio and movies have remained static over the last thirty years. You still hear a song on the radio the same way, with roughly the same audio fidelity. High-definition TV has obliterated the way we watch sports, though. Have you tried watching a game on ESPN Classic that took place even in, like, 2005? It’s almost impossible; we’ve become so spoiled by HD that the graininess feel like it happened far further in the past.

While I was writing that, I realized there are some exceptions. The Lakers dominated the NBA during the same period I’m talking about, and the iconography of them and that era of the NBA has helped them feel fresh and relevant even now. Who seems older, Richard Dent or James Worthy? They’re both 54, but Worthy seems much younger to me.

I’m sure there’s some name for this psychological effect.

Which reminds me… I wonder what the name is for the phenomena of kids misapplying levels of importance to new-found knowledge.

Once, when I was a kid and riding in the car with my mom, she told me to be quiet — there was an Ace Of Base song on the radio she wanted to listen to. So my little brain formulated the idea that my mom really, really likes Ace Of Base because it had a very small sample size of experiences to stack against it.

In retrospect, she probably just wanted me to quiet down and the radio was a good excuse to do so. My mom does not like Ace Of Base. In fact, I’ve told her this story, and unsurprisingly, she doesn’t remember it at all.

But I do. I always will. Because a kid’s brain is just a weird collection of disjointed experiences until they get old enough to straighten them out into a proper tapestry. Weird.


264. And now, an appreciation

But the world doesn’t make perfect girls; only perfect looking girls, the kind who dance in oversized martini glasses on New Year’s Eve and let you build them a porch with your own bare hands, a place she can read Susan Orlean and remark quietly that no, she doesn’t need a sweater, thank you, but maybe we could cancel the weekend’s trip to the city and just stay there, right there.

“Let’s take a time machine back and go club with Françoise Hardy.”

“Eh, I bet it was smelly and stunk of cigarette smoke in the clubs she went to. … But I’d be down to listen to her in an apartment with a view of gay Paris.”

263. Pyrrhic

Did you guys know you’re all gonna die?  

Did you guys know your mind and body will imperceptibly (and then suddenly quite perceptibly) slow, fail, wither, cease? One day you’ll be here, the next day you won’t. Your family, too. Your pets, parents, and children. Everyone you’ve ever met or will meet. Everyone you’ve ever loved, feared, betrayed, scolded, admired, belittled and appreciated — they’re all gonna die too.

Did you guys know there’s a patch of garbage in the Pacific Ocean the size of Texas? Plastics and sludge are systematically choking the life out of an ecosystem thanks to our general waste mismanagement. They recently found a shark — one of the few not slaughtered for Japanese shark fin soup — carved up inside because of undigested polyethylene.

Did you guys know that Hemingway once begged his wife, with tears in his eyes, to not take him to his electroshock therapy appointment? Or that Tesla died penniless, insane and in love with a pigeon?

Did you guys know that Tony Romo had the best QBR in the league before breaking his collarbone today? That the very hopes for the Cowboys’ season — one so tinged with promise and toughness and talent — likely fractured right along with Antonio Ramiro Romo’s left clavicle on the dirt-brown grass at Lincoln Financial?

Did you guys know that I take sports too seriously?

262. Two points about supporting your peers

V wrote something both raw and polished today, something real and brave and something that inspired me a bit to get back after the exercise of plumbing what’s inside you for emotional and creative gains.  This is what he wrote:  

Memories are funny.

You have some that lurk under the surface of your subconscious and rear up when you least expect them to. I’ve had one rattling around my head for the past
few hours now, disorienting in its clarity. It’s not a happy one, and the person it involves hurt me more than anyone before or since.

It was winter, a few days after New Year’s. Snow was on the ground. It was the perfect setting for an ending.

She was wearing a baby blue parka, one too big for her; it sagged around her shoulders, nearly swallowed her dark hair and pale skin.

Neither of us knew what to say as we stood on the porch. She broke the silence: “I’ll see you around.” It’s almost laughable how cavalier the whole thing was. Like friends parting ways after lunch, not two people whose lives were diverging after half a decade.

There was no anger, no bitterness. Just resignation. She walked away, down the path toward her car. I didn’t know what to do. I watched her until she receded from my view. For some reason, I told myself that this was a moment to catalogue.

When she left, I took one last look at the apartment, and then I drove away. And then I drank heavily for the rest of the winter.

And then I forgot about her. At least I thought I did.

Her statement wasn’t true. I haven’t seen her since then, and I most likely will never see her again.

But I still remember it, even years later, after other girls have come and gone.

Memories are funny.

He’s a good writer, of course, but there are two things I want to point out here above the obvious cop-out of not writing something myself for this blog entry.

Young writers, especially the ultra-competitive journalist kind that wash out to this country’s coasts and gauge their success in retweets and likes, don’t encourage and promote each other’s professional and creative victories enough.

V is my friend, and I’m biased because I have vast libraries of evidence that he is an authentic and contemplative fella, and he meant what he wrote.

But this is a small industry, really, and it’s full of adroit, hard-working guys and girls that would appreciate any acknowledgement of respect. Norman Mailer confessed to a crippling sense of professional jealousy in relation to his peers, and while it’s easy to wallow in the sludge of envy, we owe it to ourselves and our peers to rise above that, and not just superficially. Honestly. Genuinely.

A win for them is a win for us. Creators over haters.

The other point is that it’s just damn good writing. I know the story behind his words, but if I didn’t, I would now because what he says is much more than the words he wrote. It’s specific and universal, and who among us hasn’t felt their heart rust in the winter of a dead love?

We’ve all had a baby blue parka, sagging around the shoulders, walk out of our lives.

253. Michigan State 31, Oregon 28

Somewhere on the top shelf of my mind sat the staunch, unquestioned certainty that Oregon would beat Michigan State on Saturday.

Underdogs for the first time since 2011? Who cares! On the road against an early playoff contender? Easy af. Second-ever start for a QB with a broken finger? Had I even known that finger was broken, my response would’ve been the same — Doesn’t matter.

And then before I even realized it, that certainty evaporated, and I was stumbling out of Spartan Stadium with three Oregon friends and a cute Michigan girl named K inexplicably charmed by our out-of-towner optimism and demand for relentless fun.

K didn’t understand what this loss meant for us; how close it was, literally just inches from our fingertips, how foreign this soured emptiness felt after years of winning precisely these kinds of games. She could sympathize but not empathize. She could look inside the aquarium of our despair but never estimate the depth.

S, B, and I each experienced a moment of profound solitary sorrow. S screamed his voice gone as the clock hit zero — primal and drunk and generally frightening to the Midwestern sensibility that enveloped us. B, nursing a busted nose from a fall in the bleachers, generally appeared on the verge of tears. On the other side of the turnstiles, he listlessly pinballed off the stadium’s facade. I made a beeline for a big aspen tree with roots that gnarled up through the ground, and I laid flat on my back, inert.

“Marcus would’ve made that throw. Marcus would’ve made that throw. Marcus would’ve made that throw.”

College football has revealed novel, personal emotions I didn’t know existed within humanity’s spectrum.

I’m genuinely not sure we would have been able to pull ourselves together to leave the stadium if not for K. She teaches four-year-olds. She was well-equipped to deal with us.

But then, as we collectively pushed tomorrow’s looming fallout out of mind — The polls, oh god, the polls! — and crowded together toward the grounds’ exit, two things happened.

First, we made a group of Spartans fans promise us they would destroy Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. (“We sure will try,” one man said.) Second, the Michigan State marching band materialized directly in front of us, and the drumline started to rub-a-thump the Spartans’ fight song.

The three of us fell to pieces all over again.

223. Ringz

I’ve been playing fantasy football for more than ten years. 2004 was my first season, actually. I drafted Daunte Culpepper and called my team Daunte’s Inferno. That was the first and last year I unironically used a player’s name pun as a team name.  

Last year, I won my important league — the one I run with all of my Montana high school friends — for the first time. I celebrated by blowing $25 on this bad boy:

This month in "cheap, irrational purchases"… #precious

A photo posted by Matt Walks (@mattwalks) on

Last year I defended my title. Back to back. The ring I’ve got coming for me from China right now… Man. It’s real “sillver.” It’s got my name engraved on the side. It’s absurd. I can’t wear it out. People will think it’s a state championship ring for football or something, and even that’s sad. Imagine if anyone gets close enough to see that it’s a *fantasy football* ring. Ooh, doggie.

But I’m okay with that.

My Montana league helps me stay in touch with some of my best friends. It gives me a reason to call my Dad every week.a It’s genuinely my chief source of joy (and, yes, sorrow) behind the Cowboys every autumn. The ring is cheap and dumb, but it’s me.