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Issue No. 18

Welcome back to the -30- after we took a one week sabbatical. Frankly, neither one of us was in a mood to put this thing together last week and were sure that no one would miss or care it, either. But we're back now. The value and the importance of this newsletter hasn't changed since last week, of course, but it's time to get back to work.

This week, we've got our first-ever two-person Q&A with Rob Dauster and Troy Machir. It's a lot of fun and in right in time for the start of college basketball season. We've got a batch of stories you should read, and a restaurant for you to check out.

-- Mike

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Obama Reckons With A Trump Presidency
By David Remnick, The New Yorker
Remnick on Obama in the shadows of a Trump election win

Inside The Frozen Zoo That Could Bring Extinct Animals Back To Life
By Zach Baron, GQ

Mankind is destructive, putting so many species near extinction or already there. But what if they could be brought back?

Love, Loss, And The Indians
By Anthony Castrovince,

An incredibly personal and heart-wrenching column about what the Indians’ run meant to a heartbroken father

How Do Kawhi Leonard -- And Steph Curry -- Train Their Brains? Strobe Lights (Yes, Really)
By Tom Haberstroh,

The secret and ingenious way that the NBA’s best are training their eyes and brains.

How Two Trailblazing Psychologists Turned the World of Decision Science Upside Down
By Michael Lewis, Vanity Fair

The author of Moneyball finds that the ideas he credited to the A’s with famous regard had actually been created years earlier by two Israeli psychologists.

We the People Aren’t Sure Who ‘We’ Even Are
By Wesley Morris, New York Times Magazine
What does it mean to be a part of society now and who are people talking about when they talk about "we" the people?

The Charmer
By Chris Koentges, ESPN The Magazine

The story of an autistic pinball wizard and how he sees the world and the pinball field. And how he wants to be the best in the world.

How the Loyal Opposition Will Work in Trump’s America
By Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

A polemic for how liberals, Democrats and non-Trumpian fellows can and should act over the next four years.

The Ugly, Awful, Violent, Big-Dollar World Of Illegally Smuggling Cuban Baseball Players
By Jeff Passan, Yahoo Sports
A look into a Cuban baseball player smuggling ring through court documents.

Latina Hotel Workers Harness Force Of Labor And Of Politics In Las Vegas
By Dan Barry, New York Times

A poignant portrait of a Las Vegas casino worker with growing electoral power and her daily struggles.

The NBA Has Changed, Maybe Phil Jackson Should Too
Michael Rosenberg, Sports Illustrated

A demolishing of Jacksonian thinking, circa 2016.

By Ryan Gallagher and Henrik Moltke, The Intercept
A well-known and prominent NYC building is actually an NSA spy hub.

How The NBA's Biggest Bromance Broke Up
By Tim MacMahon,
Heartbreak and suffering from Chandler Parsons and Mark Cuban.

Here’s How Trump Could Take Down Muslim Civil Rights Groups
By David Noriega, Buzzfeed

A chilling story of how Islamophobic Trump advisors could push the president-elect into curtailing civil liberties for Muslims.

The North Pole Is An Insane 36 Degrees Warmer Than Normal As Winter Descends
By Chris Mooney and Jason Samenow
A frightening and alarming environmental trend continues in the arctic.

Why Did Some White Obama Voters Go for Trump?
By Jamelle Bouie, Slate
An idea of why the same white people that voted for the first black president twice chose to vote for a campaign and candidate steeped in bigotry.

The Holiday Lunch
By Kim France

Kim recounts the audaciousness of the Conde Nast holiday lunch and what it was like to go through it while battling depression.

This week, there's no one specific charity to highlight but a few crucial organizations that need your donation and support in the upcoming months and years as part of the unpredictable political climate that is likely to be unfriendly towards them and the rights they represent.

-- Firstly, go subscribe or buy an online account to a newspaper. Maybe the New York Times, or Washington Post, or the Wall Street Journal, or any organization will be crucial to ensuring a free press.
-- The American Civil Liberties Union, while occasionally a punching bag for jokes from both sides of the aisle, does important work and the legal help they will provide in the next few years is sure to be crucial.
-- With abortion rights and access to healthcare and contraception possibly to be scrutinized and diminished in the next few years, Planned Parenthood provides a crucial resource across the country.
-- The NAACP and its Legal Defense Fund, which works to protect civil rights, voting rights and disarming inequality in the criminal justice system, will be vital if the proposed Attorney General is confirmed.
-- The Anti-Defamation League and the Islamic Society of North America are partnering together on the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council because both groups are now in a perilous place. 
A Q&A with Rob Dauster and Troy Machir

Every week we'll have an interview with a prominent and really f'n good writer. This week, it's with Rob Dauster and Troy Machir. Rob is college basketball writer for NBC Sports. Troy is a senior digital producer for CSN Mid-Atlantic. These two guys didn’t follow anything resembling a traditional road into the sports media, and they have both moved on to full-time jobs in the industry. Here, they discuss breaking into the business and offer insight into how aspiring journalists can forge a path just by starting a blog.

The full interview with Rob and Troy can be read here. For previous Q&As, go here.

Q: Ballin’ Is A Habit, I think, was kind of a fresh way of covering college basketball on the internet. It seemed like college basketball sites had less of a national look and more of a segmented way of considering the sport because of school- or conference-based fandom. What were you trying to do with the site? What did you hope it would do for your careers?

Rob: Honestly? I had no idea what the hell I wanted to do with the site when it first started. I was a terrible writer. I had never really spent much time reading any independent blogs, and I was basically just looking for an outlet to express some thoughts on a subject I felt I knew a lot about. Initially, I would just watch the games, take some notes and then write my thoughts on what happened. It was so, so, so bad. (I’ve gone back and read some of it before, which was painful. I didn’t even know what a lede was.)

And that’s where Troy came in. He really was the brains behind a lot of it. He had all these brilliant ideas for #content: The Morning Dump (where we just linked a bunch of relevant news items or good stories), The Pregame Beat, The All-Hair Team, The All-Name Team, the Twitter Must-Follow List, the #POSTERIZED series. I don’t think we ever really discussed any long-term plan for it. We would just come up with stuff we thought was funny/awesome/unique and post about it.

Troy: Deep down, Rob and I are both smarter than people (and ourselves) give us credit for. OK, maybe “smarter” isn’t the right word. “More aware,” maybe? Something like that. But on the surface, we’re both pretty basic. It didn’t take long, maybe a case of beer or two, to figure out that we were both addicted to college hoops, liked talking about beer, food, rap music, and both wanted to end up working in sports media. That was basically the foundation of it all. Luckily, our visions kinda stayed parallel over the months and years and the rest worked itself out.

And I think everything worked out the way it did for three reasons: 1) We worked our asses off and made it hard for others to keep up. 2) Our talents meshed incredibly well together, him focusing on reporting/analysis while I handled content/management. 3) It was fun for us.

College hoops is fun. Drinking beer and eating nachos is fun. It never felt like work. Real work sucked. That was one of the motivating factors behind it all. We both knew what we wanted to do: We just wanted to say “screw this” and do it. We did.

As for goals? Again, we’re basic. The goal was to get full-time jobs in sports media, preferably hoops. For me, I was focused on enjoying the journey and putting enough into it that the goal couldn’t be anything but success, whatever that success might be.

Q: What do you think of the fact that some of the best and most followed college basketball reporters now are people who came up through the blog route? I’m thinking you guys, Matt Norlander, Jeff Borzello, and I’m sure I’m missing others. I don’t think that trend has been reflected as much in other sports.

Rob: Honestly, I think it says a lot about the quality of the writing that was around on those independent sites. Because of the weird schedule of college hoops, I think most of the coverage online was done by beat reporters and college football writers that would make the switch to college hoops after the bowl games — the Pat Fordes and Dan Wetzels of the world. It created the void for the diehards that were looking for content during the earlier parts of the season, and those blogs filled that void. Then when some of the bigger outlets started hiring college hoops writers, they found themselves in a spot where they could hire someone for the beat or bring in a person that was already on the beat. Luckily for guys like me, they decided on the latter.

Troy: I love it. Guys like Norlander, Borzello, Jeff Eisenberg, Raphielle Johnson, etc. There was a great personal and community pride in all of us working on independent sites, building them from scratch, but all really working together, pushing each other and helping each other out.

We all get it. College hoops is a smaller community compared to NBA, NFL, MLB or CFB Twitter. But it also meant that we each could carve out voices for ourselves. You’d be surprised how much bonding you can do at 1:30am on a Wednesday morning when St. Mary’s is playing Pacific. Also, they’re all good people to be around and converse with. Norlander is a great guy. Same with Eisenberg. Raphielle Johnson might be one of the nicest people I’ve ever interacted with. Borzello, well, I can’t say enough about him. He’s an egomaniac; it’s great. If you need a guy to inject high-school trash talk into your group, he’s the only man for the job. Getting to know some of these people individually was great and not only do I value their opinions, I just enjoyed getting to know them.

Q: You guys were both college athletes. Troy, you were a three-year lacrosse goalie at Elizabethtown College. Rob, you played basketball at Vassar (and “took almost 90% of [your] field-goal attempts from beyond the three-point arc,” according to the internet). How has that influenced your writing world view? Who’s the best athlete amongst the college basketball reporter set? Who do you want if you’re starting a team?

Rob: Playing the sport has probably made me insufferable. I’ve already got enough of an ego, and I already think I’m right about everything, and now I have the ammo that ‘I played and you didn’t!’ Sometimes I need to take a step back and tell myself I’m being kind of an asshole. (Troy would admittedly agree with all of this.)

As far as the other reporters, I would absolutely start a team with C.J. Moore. He probably could’ve played in college. Jeff Borzello would be the last pick. He’s terrible, and I’m not saying that in the hopes that he’ll read this. The best athlete would probably be Bret Strelow or Myron Medcalf. Myron played college football and Bret is, I believe, a distance runner who is in crazy shape and shoots the piss out of it. We have a media pickup game every year at the Final Four and Bret is the dude who is still sprinting up and down the court while everyone else is sucking wind and sweating out last night’s Bud Heavys.

Troy: Journalists are often criticized for being nerds, goobers, dweebs and people who “never had their hand in the dirt.” I was a college athlete for three years (Top-3 all-time in E-Town save% history WHAT APPPPP!). I did the grind. I competed at a high level. I was a D-I recruit. I had to attend every class, every practice, an internship and still try to have a social life. So while I never hit a clutch 3-pointer in the NCAA tournament, I know what locker rooms are like and what is going through an athlete’s mind during a meltdown.

That doesn’t mean I know more than a writer who has never played, it just means i’m immune to criticism from the ignorant trolls and talking heads. The “you never played sports” argument is so dumb. People who study animal behavior were never animals themselves, yet we treat them as experts because they devoted their lives to the work. It’s the same with journalism. Does being a former college athlete give me a bit more clout? I dunno, maybe? If we only took advice from successful pro athletes, Magic Johnson penning long-form articles instead of Wright Thompson. Does anybody actually want that?

I think Raphielle Johnson was probably the best athlete. He was a wide receiver at Arizona or something. Norlander doesn’t look the part, but he can ball a bit. Borzello’s problem is that he’s incredibly short and while certainly a solid athlete at some point, he filled his own head with so much hype that we all know he ain’t THAT GOOD. Like: He’s OK. And that’s fine.  But he’s not as good as he thinks he is. Rob is a great shooter. I don’t know if he is good at any other sports tho. Softball maybe. He’s got two left feet tho. So it’s corner-3 or nothing. As an across the board sportsman, I think I’m the best. Notice that I did not say athlete: I am not fast and am not strong. I’m not quick (anymore). But if you take the college hoops blogosphere and put us through a multi-sport challenge: hoops, soccer, baseball, football, golf, tennis, hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, ping-pong, bowling, I am coming out with the best aggregate score. It is as simple as that. My goal in sports is to be able to show up at any random pickup game and always slide in as an OK-to-pretty good player. I’m 6’s across the board. A lot of these other guys are 8s and 1s.

Here's a few stories from your humble authors:

Stan Van Gundy Reflects Uncomfortably on His Own Words
By Mike Vorkunov, New York Times
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy considers his own biases and the potency of language in the wake of controversy over Phil Jackson's use of the word 'posse'. 
The Donut Pub
203 W 14th St, New York, NY 10011
Yelp: 4 stars

It's been a difficult week-and-a-half and I'm using this space to reflect that. I originally was going to go with a restaurant. But instead let's go back to a familiar topic: Donuts.

I've reviewed a few donut spots already and with good reason. Donuts are little fried globs of happiness in times of hardship. There is no deeper meaning here. They are just fried balls of dough, spruced up with sugar and cream and vibrant color. They are simple and delicious. When it comes to desserts, they are my standby.

Donut Pub makes some of the best in New York City. The restaurant itself isn't much. It's cramped. It's not especially inviting. It's not in some wonderful part of the city. But the donuts are great. You sit down, pay in cash and eat. I found their version of the cronut, which they specifically call a croissant donut, to be wonderful. It's not as sugary or high-voltage as the famed one sold by Dominique Ansel. It's like the demure cousin. And in its understated form you'll end up eating more than one.

So go ahead, grab a donut. Make a pilgrimage to your local donut seller. Whether it's some boutique shop, or old school bakery, or Dunkin Donuts. We all need something sweet in our lives right now.
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Copyright © 2016 Mike Vorkunov, All rights reserved.

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