As we prepared to record this week’s Distraction on Wednesday, we faced a crucial choice. Later that day, Game 4 of the NBA Finals would be played, and determine whether these NBA Finals would be Respectably Brief or Quite Interesting, Actually. We didn’t know any of that yet—no one saw the game’s instantly iconic defining play coming even a tenth of a second before it happened, for one thing, but we do not get paid to “know things” or “have foresight.” Which brings us to the choice: to talk about an increasingly compelling series that we didn’t yet know was going to continue in that direction, or to talk about the things we can actually speak about with some authority, which unfortunately in this case are all like “off-label uses for a George Foreman Grill” or “treasured memories of downloading janky MP3 versions of Tom Petty’s Wildflowers album onto our work computers, in 2002.” With the help of our guest, beloved legacy blog buddy and new SFGate hire Gabe Fernandez, we endeavored to cover all of it. I probably do not need to tell you which won out.
It was in part because of the timing that our discussion of the dynamic in the NBA Finals quickly turned into a moderately heated conversation on good and bad uniforms of yore and the lost glory days of guys playing basketball in huge shorts. But a big part of it was the inexorable and powerful draw of the dumb shit, which explains why even our modest NBA Finals chat was preceded by a vigorous discussion of Limewire, George W. Bush-era downloading ethics and the secret enforcement agencies governing it, and the experience of checking Staind’s “Break The Cycle” out of a public library. It is a reality of our podcast, and our failing minds, that you quite simply cannot have one without the other.
Addressing the broader Shohei Ohtani moment—I suppose the responsible thing to do here is flag that Drew does a Bill Simmons voice for part of this—and the tonally bizarre way in which baseball’s mostly cool present state is reliably spun into rhetorical crisis turned into first a mutual struggle session and then an excoriation of my own tendency to out-Eeyore the Eeyores on that beat. After touching upon both the sunny vibes and reliably mid televisual experience of the Home Run Derby and a brief appreciation of both Chester Taylor and the Chester Taylor Class of Running Back in general, we got back on our home turf—the fetid and unholy grounds of the Funbag.
Defector accomplice Nick Walden joined us from Chicago for a brisk round of Dead Or Canceled, and then we turned our attention to listener questions about taking a harm reduction approach to eliminating problematic sports, the strange twilight existence of the voicemail and the various antique tics that define the form, and me just full on being wrong—and then being kind of right, and then panicking and bringing up Mark Gubicza—about how sabermetrics got their name. A reader question about best practices in the field of owning people who have just missed a train was honestly too close to my own repeated lived experience for me to answer with my usual good humor. This is the risk in this work. At some point, even if you’re just trying to talk about things as familiar as sports and the everyday ways in which people are jerks to each other, you will find yourself confronting your own tendencies. It’s a lot easier when you don’t have to somehow overcome them.
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