Gimme Schalter is supposed to go out at 10:00 a.m. every Thursday, which will come as a shock to many of you who’ve come to expect it sometime around lunch on Friday. I haven’t stressed (too) much about blowing my own self-imposed deadline—but this Friday, the Friday my younger half-sister got married, I really really blew it.
Between driving to Minneapolis and back, recording and producing the giant 100th episode of Three & Out, attending the wedding and generally prioritizing more pressing tasks, I failed to get an issue out during a week for the first time since Gimme Schalter launched in July. In a way, it’s not a big deal; I haven’t accepted any payment for the work of this newsletter, and I’m going to try to get two out this week to catch up.
But in another way, it’s huge.
As I’ve written about before, the difference between Doing The Thing and Not is often the difference between getting the opportunity and not, taking advantage of the opportunity and not, achieving your goals and not. Though Gimmes Schalter have come in late, half-baked, with YouTube title cards as the headlining art or otherwise suboptimally, they’ve always come in. And that means something. This time, it didn't—and that means something, too.
Weddings, to me, used to feel like doors being opened: two people embarking on a great journey together, with all possible outcomes still ahead. Now that I’m 40, with 17 years of wedded bliss behind me, weddings are a reminder of doors both opened and closed, of choices made and unmade, of Things Done and not-done.
The pandemic made everything weird, with people traveling cross-country to see each other, but some unable to come. My three teenagers, who used to take over every dance floor we brought them to, were too anxious to really cut footloose. I was frequently reminded of how much I’d like to be closer to that side of my family, but also of the reasons why I haven’t been.
I mentally directed the Star Trek episode of the wedding, where all the various alternate-reality versions of people and relationships were thrown together. I envisioned different opened doors closing, closed doors being left open. Career changes, moves—actually doing my homework? Phone calls or text messages sent at the right or wrong times, job offers taken or declined. What different versions of which different people might be sitting in different chairs, making different speeches, present or absent?
In the end I came back to the truth I’ve always known, and never questioned: When my wife and I walked through the double doors of our wedding reception venue to see everyone we love standing and clapping, we walked into the best possible timeline for us.
But whatever choices have been made since now and then, we don’t live in a reality where I made deadline for this issue. And for that, I’m sorry.
Our brave little NFL podcast hit a huge milestone this week: 100 episodes! We’ve been going twice a week, every week, for almost exactly a year—and we made sure the big 1-0-0 was going to be a big one.
Second-year Detroit Lions punter Jack Fox, who made the Pro Bowl in his rookie year, joined us to talk about what it’s like being a Lion in, well, these times: Dan Campbell, the mood in the locker room, and lots more. Pride of Detroit’s Andrew Kato did a great write-up of it, which I really appreciate.
Not only that, former ESPN star Michelle Beadle joined us in the week of her huge return to sports media! We talk her new podcast with The Athletic, “What’d I Miss?” and how things have changed since she left—including the rise of Barstool Sports.
20 years ago, I was trying to get a small business building computers and installing local networks off the ground (partially because the whole college thing hadn’t been going so great). I’d landed an installation deal at the place where my future wife and her older sister worked, and agreed to come in on Black Friday to get all the heavy lifting done.
My future sister-in-law let me in—and when I realized I’d need a couple more network cards than I had, drove me out to Best Buy. Well, Best Buy on Black Friday in 2001 was so parked up as to be impassable, so she drove me to Circuit City instead.
There was a local radio fan, doing a remote hit, promoting a giveaway: A Nintendo GameCube, a copy of Wave Race: Blue Storm (which was criminally underrated), an extra controller and a memory card. Being broke and failing at everything, I’d already decided I was going to miss out on the GC, and possibly that entire generation of video-game consoles. On my way out, the radio guy stopped me—wasn’t I going to enter? They were just about to draw!
We both entered.
He stopped me again—they were just about to draw, didn’t I want to stick around?
No, I had work to do.
My sister-in-law drove me back to her office, and just for fun we tuned it to the appropriate channel. As we pulled in, they did the draw. Something about the way he hesitated after he said, “And the winner is—” convinced me he was about to stumble over my name.
I was right.
We turned around.
Though the GameCube’s legacy wasn’t an amazing one—something Khan digs well into—it gave me plenty of hours of fun-filled play. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years.
This is a fun fluff piece, service journalism, and an interesting commentary on the nature of sports arenas all at once. The New York Islanders have come up with 17 different ways to charge hockey fans $17 for a can of beer—which is an achievement all its own—from a wide-open Heineken draft terrace to a literal speakeasy you’ll need a password to enter and won’t be able to watch the game from.
Wyshynski and his ESPN associates visited, photographed, and reviewed all 17 of them on the opening night of the Isles’ new digs. I’m delighted, I’m horrified, and I’m impressed.
One of my foundational moral principles is living in reality—the world we have, not the one we wish we had. Working to reduce real harms and improve the lives of real people. Fighting for positive change instead of sitting around waiting for perfect change. Leading by example rather than trying to lead by fiat. Finding out the truth and doing what works, rather than insisting the world must be the way that makes me comfortable and then insisting it bend it to my will.
Nikole Hannah-Jones and The 1619 Project have become prime examples of doing all the former things at the expense of all the latter ones. Holding up a mirror to all of U.S. history, not just the parts that feel good to Americans to celebrate. As a result, she may not be the right wing’s Public Enemy No. 1, but she might just be on their Public Enemy Mount Rushmore.
Here’s a great discussion with PBS Throughline about why telling the whole truth matters—for the past and the present.
Okay, okay, book reviews don’t typically go in “Everything Awesome.” But I dug into this one as a recommended comp title for my #TyNoWriPro project (thanks, Lauren!), looooooooooved it, and I frankly ran out of time to do a full review.
As a trope-twisting YA fantasy featuring an atypical male protagonist, elf warrior girl, and voicey prose, it’s got a ton in common with the project I’ve codenamed A&A. It plugs directly into the “funny” and “lovey” nerve centers of my storytelling brain and short-circuits them both. If the idea of messy teens being disaster goofballs in a fantasy setting charms you anywhere near as much as it does me, this one is a must.
As you can guess from the missed Gimme Schalter, I didn’t get very many words down for A&A last week, either.
But, with the feedback I’ve gotten from alpha readers over the last couple of days, the inspiration jolt of IN OTHER LANDS, and the heavily frontloaded work week I’ve got this week (and the holidays on the back), I should be able to at least partially catch up.