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Napoleonic Wars, Baseball Cheating, And Pandemic Television, With Michael Schur

Gerrit Cole, seen here looking uncomfortable on the mound, if notably less uncomfortable than he seemed when asked whether he cheats.
Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Given his distinguished career and my own personal manias, talking to Michael Schur should have been extremely intimidating for me. Schur has been a big part of many television shows that I both enjoyed and admired for more than a decade; I, during that period, have produced basically nothing that I enjoyed or admired with the exception maybe of this post, and honestly the videos are doing most of the work in that one. Talking to big-time Hollywood guys is not necessarily in my comfort zone, and the pull of The Chris Farley Show vibes and “where do you get your amazing ideas” questions is very real for me. What made it easier, and what ultimately wound up making this episode one of my favorites to do in a while, was twofold. One factor is that Schur is a very funny and pleasant man in conversation. The other is that, due to his public identification as a true-blue Baseball Weirdo and his historic accomplishments in the field of fuming at bad baseball writing, I recognized in him a fellow pervert. Yes, this man has brought hours of joy into our home through the television shows he has created and steered, but I also knew that he was at heart just someone who still has a lot of deeply held opinions about Brian Daubach.

We did not jump straight into the baseball stuff, because there were some less-than-urgent home repair observations to share, but mostly because at some point it would just be malpractice to leap past interesting questions of making television during a pandemic and go straight to the 1999 Red Sox material. So we did talk to Schur a bit about the challenges of making his (delightful) new show Rutherford Falls, which is on Peacock and to which our household has awarded our coveted “good hang” rating after finishing its first, 10-episode season. Once the personal and professional and ethical and epidemiological challenges of creating art during a plague were suitably addressed—and after Schur had blown my mind by pointing out that there was in fact a ton of CGI involved in what my wive and I had just finished enjoying as an endearingly low-key sitcom—we moved on to the other stuff. The infuriating stuff.

To talk about baseball at this moment is to talk about weird homebrew adhesives and soft contact into the shift and the general bad vibes of a sport with both a cheating problem and an admitting mistakes problem. Our conversation about the state of baseball at this uneasy moment, and about the epidemic of sticky-stuff fuckery that has squashed its offense and turned marginal pitchers into GIF-generating spin wizards, was not just about how lousy all that feels and is. All three of us really like baseball, Schur maybe more than any of us, and while we don’t have any obvious workable fixes—although I still maintain that sponsoring some universal MLB-branded sticky goo would at the very least be a great way for RE/MAX to get its logo into the game—it was about as productive and enjoyable as any talk about the game could be, given that it’s June and everything kind of stinks. It’s not easy to talk about, but it’s also not nearly as hard as Gerrit Cole made it look.

And then it was time for the dumb stuff. A Guy remembrance unfolded, as it often does, into a cascade of marginal turn-of-the-millennium baseball talent; the Daubach Issue was addressed, and comprehensively at that. The Funbag pushed the inquiry ever further into the berserk, forcing our minds to question best practices in entering a shower and the powerful question of whether we might have already lived our life’s most embarrassing moment. The consensus was split, there, but I am happy to report that I did not author that moment by asking Michael Schur if Kristen Bell “really is nice, because she seems nice.” It is through these small victories, or at least embarrassments avoided, that we move forward. Here’s to another week of not entirely playing ourselves.

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