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Tag: director’s cut

Lede Time

Over at Grantland’s essential Director’s Cut series, Michael MacCambridge dusts off another gem: John Lardner’s “Down Great Purple Valleys.”

Can’t beat this lede:

Stanley Ketchel was twenty-four years old when he was fatally shot in the back by the common-law husband of the lady who was cooking his breakfast.

That was in 1910. Up to 1907 the world at large had never heard of Ketchel. In the three years between his first fame and his murder, he made an impression on the public mind such as few men before or after him have made. When he died, he was already a folk hero and a legend. At once, his friends, followers, and biographers began to speak of his squalid end, not as a shooting or a killing, but as an assassination — as though Ketchel were Lincoln. The thought is blasphemous, maybe, but not entirely cockeyed. The crude, brawling, low-living, wild-eyed, sentimental, dissipated, almost illiterate hobo, who broke every Commandment at his disposal, had this in common with a handful of presidents, generals, athletes, and soul-savers, as well as with fabled characters like Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed: he was the stuff of myth. He entered mythology at a younger age than most of the others, and he still holds stoutly to his place there.


Shall We Dance?

Kudos to the Grantland’s “Director’s Cut” series for reprinting this gem by the late Paul Hemphill (may he not be soon forgotten).

Here is “How Jacksonville Earned its Credit Card” (from Sport, June 1970):

It must have been the fall of 1962 when I first met Joe Williams. Most newspapermen, at one point or another, succumb to the illusion of public relations — thinking it is the rainbow leading to money and class and peace of mind — and I had just quit writing sports to become the sports publicist at Florida State University. It was football season all of a sudden and I was buried in brochures and 8-by-10 glossies and travel arrangements when Bud Kennedy, the FSU basketball coach, walked in one day and introduced Joe Williams as the new freshman basketball coach. Even then Williams was not the kind to make dazzling impressions. He was quiet and pleasant, tall and hunched over, a man in his late twenties, who grinned out of the side of his mouth and looked up at you, in spite of being 6-foot-4, through bushy black eyebrows. He was, it seems, sort of a part-time coach while doing graduate study or something.7 Florida State was just beginning to flex its muscles in football then, and so Bud Kennedy (who died recently) and assistant coach Hugh Durham (now the head basketball coach at FSU) and, by all means, Joe Williams sort of hovered about like extra men at a picnic softball game.

Joe did have a beautiful young bride named Dale, whom he had met while he was coaching high-school basketball in Jacksonville.8 But she was the only outwardly outstanding thing about Joe Williams, and they lived in what sounded like a fishing-camp cabin in the swamps outside Tallahassee, and I suppose I had his picture taken for the basketball brochure and I suppose the freshman team played out its season. I just don’t know. I went back to newspapering very shortly, and Joe took an assistant coaching job at Furman University, both of us roughly the same age, both of us just looking for a home, and we went separate ways without looking back.9

Jacksonville’s basketball program was, in those days during the early sixties, almost nonexistent. I had seen them play, against teams like Tampa and Valdosta State and Mercer, and it was a twilight zone of dark and airy gyms, small crowds, travel-by-car and intramural offenses. There was a line in the papers about Joe Williams leaving Furman in 1964 to become head basketball coach at Jacksonville University,10 not the most exciting announcement but at least news about an acquaintance. Jacksonville, you could find out if you bought a Jacksonville paper, got progressively worse — from 15-11 to 8-17 in Joe’s first three seasons — and people like me who had known him however vaguely were wondering whatever in the world possessed him to take a job like that.

The Dreaded Double Nickel

I love the “Director’s Cut” reprint series over at Grantland. Today, they’ve got a 1995 New Yorker piece by David Remnick titled “Back in Play.” It’s about Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA:

For my own peace of mind, I talked with two of Jordan’s precursors at the guard position — Bob Cousy and Walt Frazier — and neither had any doubt that Jordan would scrape off the rust in time for the trials of May. Retired ballplayers — especially players of a certain level — are often touchy about the subject of the current crop. They can be grouchy, deliberately uncomprehending, like aging composers whining about the new-fangled twelve-tone stuff. But not where Jordan is concerned. Cousy, who led the Celtics in the fifties and early sixties, and Frazier, who led the Knicks in the late sixties and the seventies, would not begrudge Jordan his eminence.

“Until six or seven years ago, I thought Larry Bird was the best player I had ever seen,” Cousy, who works as a broadcaster for his old team, said. “Now there is no question in anyone’s mind that Jordan is the best. He has no perceptible weaknesses. He is perhaps the most gifted athlete who has ever played this foolish game, and that helps, but there are a lot of great athletes in his league. It’s a matter of will, too. Jordan is always in what I call a ready position, like a jungle animal who is always alert, stalking, searching. It’s like the shortstop getting down and crouching with every pitch. Jordan has that awareness, and that costs you physically. If you do it, you are so exhausted you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Not many athletes do it. To me, he hasn’t lost a thing.”

“Leapers are usually not great shooters, but Michael is the exception,” Frazier said. “If you give him a few inches, he buries the jump shot. When he gets inside, his back is to the basket and he’s shakin’ and bakin’ and you’re dead. When he drives, good night. He’s gone. Now that the league has made hand-checking illegal — you can’t push your man around on defense any longer — it’s conceivable that Michael could score even more. I don’t think he’s even sensed that he has more license now. When he does, he’ll be scoring sixty if he feels like it.”

Bounce, Rock, Skate


The latest installment of Grantland’s “Director’s Cut” series gives Johnette Howard’s first story for The National: “The Making of a Goon,” about hockey enforcer, Joe Kocur:

“See, hockey fighting is different than boxing,” says Kocur, who once visited the training camp of Detroit’s Thomas Hearns — courtesy of Red Wings owner Mike Illitch — to pick up a few tips. “In hockey, fighting is pulling and punching. If you just stand there and hold a guy out and hit him, you won’t faze him. But if you can pull him into you and punch at the same time, that’s when you start hurting people.”

How to hit hard is just one of the lessons an enforcer must learn. There’s also an unwritten and often unspoken code of honor that governs who hits whom, and under what circumstances. Kocur also likes to do research of his own; knowing other fighters’ tendencies helps him avoid surprises. But nothing, Kocur says, supersedes the most basic fighter’s rule: Never, ever lose.

“You’ve got to understand some things about the fighter’s job,” says Demers. “Tough guys in this league are under a tremendous amount of pressure. Unfortunately, many of them are untalented except for fighting, and they’ve gotten here the hard way. And once you’re recognized as a tough guy in this league, you go from having targets to becoming one.

“As long as you’re beating up somebody, the fans are cheering and shouting our name. But the first time you lose one, everyone gets down on you. You have to be fearless. I’ve seen guys lose just once, and pretty soon they just sort of fade away.”

Though coaches and other players all say that Kocur has good all-around hockey talent and that Demers encourages him to use it, Kocur considers himself a fighter first. He believes that preserving his aura of invincibility is essential because “it pays off down the line. Maybe I’ll be going into the corner to get the puck and the guy going with me will think, ‘Uh-oh, it’s Joe Kocur. This guy’s crazy. I won’t give him the elbow in the face. I’ll give him that extra step and poke at the puck instead of trying to take the body.’ And then maybe I can make a play, make a good pass. And maybe we’ll put the puck in the net.”

[Photo Credit: Stefan Alforn]

The Sound of Silence

We’ve linked Gay Talese’s famous Joe Dimaggio profile for Esquire several times in the past but it’s worth mentioning again now that the story is the latest installment of Grantland’s fine “Director’s Cut” series.


Track, Wall…

Good new Director’s Cut over at Grantland. Rafe Bartholomew interviews Don Delillo about “Pafko at the Wall.” And then, they offer up an excerpt.

Check it out.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver