When Shakespeare eulogized Julius Caesar, he wrote: “His life was gentle; and the elements; So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up; And say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN!”
That passage came to me when I learned this week of the death of Northwest climbing legend Fred Beckey. He was, for all of us who came of age in the mountains, a titan who walked among us and a teacher whose guidebooks were the blueprint of countless adventures. As The Mountaineers pointed out in his obituary, Beckey is unofficially recognized as the all-time world-record holder for the number of first ascents credited to one person. I particularly enjoyed Joel Connelly’s account of his life and this weekend I will revisit Tim Egan’s moving biography of him that appears as a chapter in The Good Rain.
As a self-professed foodie and someone who has always seen food as both a way to connect with people on a personal level and an important-but-oft-neglected way to express and transmit our most sacred values, I enjoyed this little New York Times bit about food’s essential role in our human experience:
“More often than not, food offers a powerful, surprising and sometimes uplifting path through difficult news events. This was clear when I traveled to Puerto Rico recently to figure out how one chef fed more people there than any aid organization or government agency did.”
And finally, a new federal report by the Trump administration’s EPA on President Obama’s signature climate policy, the Clean Power Plan, found that it would save even more lives every year than the Obama administration said it would. This is not stopping them from scrapping it, of course, but we can at least be hopeful that it will not bring back coal, no matter what the federal government does to try and prop up the failing industry.
The following item might be of interest only to sports fans, and maybe only older ones, at that.
So I will start with the lede: the Dodgers were beaten by the Sports Illustrated (SI) cover jinx.
For those scratching their heads, I offer Wikipedia, which describes the jinx as “an urban legend that states that individuals or teams who appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated magazine will subsequently be jinxed (experience bad luck).” Now, if this were a Sightline project, we would look at all the SI covers, and rate the success of the individuals and teams after they appeared on the cover. But Sightline has much more important priorities than that, and anyway, Wikipedia reports on some notable athletes who beat the jinx. But fans remember the outliers, and subsequent anecdotal evidence only reinforces the legend.
Again, according to Wikipedia, the first notable incidence of the jinx was first recorded in 1954. But the jinx was cemented in my mind in 1957, when a University of Oklahoma football player appeared on the SI cover, along with his teammates, and the headline “Why Oklahoma is Unbeatable.” I grew up in New Jersey, but my Mom’s family came from Oklahoma, and the team’s 47-game unbeaten streak was a source of Okie Pride. The very next issue of Sports Illustrated [on print page 18] included a quote from the Daily Oklahoman newspaper, (Oklahoma City), “Russia’s two sputniks collided in mid-air. The sun set in the east. Hitler was discovered alive in Washington, DC. And, almost equally incredibly, Oklahoma University lost a football game.” They lost the game after the cover to Notre Dame, ending their streak. I remember seeing the game on TV, although I do not remember my age [think I saw it from my crib].
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So it was with interest that I noted an SI cover in August this year featuring two Los Angeles Dodgers celebrating a recent win, with the headline Best Team Ever? At the time, the Dodgers were winning more than 70 percent of their games, an achievement that ranked them among the most successful teams in baseball history. Then they raced through the National League playoffs, winning their first series 3 games to none, and the League championship 4 games to one.
But alas, they lost the World Series (still so called due to US chutzpah) in the final game, four games to three, to the Houston Astros. What is more, the Dodgers played four games on their own home field, but only won half of them. So, the Sports Illustrated cover jinx can be blamed for one more downfall, and the urban legend seems likely to continue.
Now, back to Sightline’s main concern, sustainability. In the category, “Climate Change is Here Now,” the first game of the Series this year was played in Los Angeles, in the early evening of October 24, with the temperature at 103 degrees F. This was reported as a record for “any postseason game.” In the meantime, the Washington Post reported that property damage claims from October wildfires in California exceed $3 billion for the month.
On a more positive note, this was the first World Series championship for the Houston Astros in their team history. As a comparison, the first (and only) World Series that the Brooklyn Dodgers won (they moved to Los Angeles in 1957) was 1955, against the New York Yankees. This was also the only World Series that Jackie Robinson would win. Robinson broke the “color line” in baseball, in 1947 becoming the first African-American to play professional baseball since the 1880s, when team owners segregated the Major Leagues. In 1955, Jackie Robinson was near the end of his baseball career, and he struggled at bat in the Series. All the same, he was still gutsy enough to steal home in the first game, and one of the iconic images for old sports fans is his steal, and Yankees catcher Yogi Berra arguing that he should have been called out.
John Abbotts is a former Sightline research consultant who occasionally submits material for Weekend Reading and other topics.