Mahome Field Advantage
Football, Putin, and the Escaped Vacuum.
Over the decades, football has had The Play (I was there for that one), The Catch, and The Comeback. And now, football has had the Game and the Weekend. All four NFL playoff games we're decided on the last play. On Friday, I explained why the 49ers (who did not score an offensive or defensive touchdown in their win) would upset the Packers. The 49ers were one of three road underdogs to win their games on last second field goals. But all of that was a mere warmup for perhaps the greatest NFL playoff game, and certainly the craziest couple minutes, in league history. Home field advantage may be dead, but Mahome Field advantage is alive and well. In a quarterback throwdown for the ages, the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes and the Bills' Josh Allen led their teams to 31 points ... after the two minute warning, including Mahomes' game-tying, sanity-defying, 13-second drive at the end of regulation, after which he led the Chiefs to an overtime, sudden death (an understatement in upstate New York) win. The NFL overtime rules are crazy. The Bills and Josh Allen never even got the ball. But it's too late now. We had our shot. If the Bills Chiefs game had gone into infinite overtime, we could have avoided politics, markets, international strife, and Covid, and just watched Mahomes and Allen play forever. Instead, it's Monday. But let's escape a little longer courtesy of Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback: Four Classics, All With Walk-Off Endings, Deliver The Best NFL Playoffs Weekend Ever.
+ "If you can brook the behavior of the billionaires in the suites and the suits in the league office, the players and coaches on the field will redeem and obscure it all. They will leave you emitting noises you did not know you could make. They will spur you to send text messages composed only of exclamation points. They will make you forget how long you’ve been grabbing your own hair. They will give you a feeling you remember forever." Adam Kilgore in WaPo (Gift Article): The NFL’s best weekend ever shows us why we can’t look away. (I always worry about the damage caused by blows to head on the field. This weekend, I was also worried about the ones involving my palm slapping against my forehead in disbelief.)
+ From smart Jeopardy! host and likely regular season MVP to vaccine-denialist playoff loser: The Fall of Aaron Rodgers.
+ The weekend was so crazy, there was even a great tackle involving a fan. Yet, with all the twists and turns, the most shocking thing from the NFL weekend was that when his flesh was punctured, Tom Brady actually bled human blood.
+ And finally, from a joyous sports exhibition to a troubling and dangerous one. Australian Open officials forced fans to remove t-shirts that asked, "Where's Peng Shuai?" Over and over, we're seeing commercial interests side with authoritarianism. In the words of Martina Navratilova: "That’s just pathetic."
2. The Weakness Stakes
Tensions are rising over Russia's threat to Ukraine. NATO has outlined a deterrence plan, America is considering a military deployment, and the US and UK have withdrawn family members of embassy personnel. According to Fiona Hill in the NYT (Gift Article) Putin Has the U.S. Right Where He Wants It. "In the 1990s, the United States and NATO forced Russia to withdraw the remnants of the Soviet military from their bases in Eastern Europe, Germany and the Baltic States. Mr. Putin wants the United States to suffer in a similar way. From Russia’s perspective, America’s domestic travails after four years of President Donald Trump’s disastrous presidency, as well as the rifts he created with U.S. allies and then America’s precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan, signal weakness. If Russia presses hard enough, Mr. Putin hopes he can strike a new security deal with NATO and Europe to avoid an open-ended conflict, and then it will be America’s turn to leave, taking its troops and missiles with it."
3. Homeless Bound
"Having slept in the alleyways, underpasses and sidewalks of Los Angeles throughout much of his adult life, Maya longed for a place to call home. A chameleon by nature, Maya assumed he would transition quickly, just as he had adapted to the Navy, prison and living in a tent. He’d have his own keys, his own coffee maker. Safety. Ease. He didn’t think the hardest part was yet to come." California spends a ton of money trying to solve the homeless problem, but success remains elusive. Following a homeless vet through the system might offer some clues as to why. One man’s lonely journey through California’s plan to end homelessness.
4. Cobaltic State
Here's something you may not have seen coming. The green revolution is leading to more mining. "As the global market for lithium-ion batteries has grown—and the price of cobalt along with it—so has commercial interest in the belt. At least six mining companies have applied for permits from the U.S. Forest Service to operate in the region. Most of these companies are in the early stages of exploration; one has started to build a mine. In Idaho, as in much of the world, the clean-energy revolution is reshaping the geography of resource extraction." The Atlantic: Idaho Is Sitting on One of the Most Important Elements on Earth.
5. Extra, Extra
Action Packed Court: "The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it will hear Students for Fair Admissions v. President & Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, two cases that present an existential threat to affirmative action in university admissions."
+ Gingrichter Scale: Outrage as Newt Gingrich says Capitol attack investigators could be jailed. Liz Cheney: "A former speaker of the House is threatening jail time for members of Congress who are investigating the violent attack on our Capitol and our constitution. This is what it looks like when the rule of law unravels." Bingo.
+ Maritime's Up: "A cruise ship that was supposed to dock in Miami has instead sailed to the Bahamas, after a U.S. judge granted an order to seize the vessel as part of a lawsuit over $4 million in unpaid fuel." (Ever think the universe it trying to send you a message not to take a f--ckin' cruise?)
+ Put Some Index on It: "Percentage of Republicans and Democrats, respectively, who got a flu shot in the 2019–20 flu season: 53, 56 ... Who say they have gotten or are very likely to get a flu shot this season : 44, 68." Politics is everything. There's much more interesting data in this month's Harper's Index (which 40% of Americans say is not an index at all and that the data comes from a source other than Harper's...)
6. Bottom of the News
"Yakei confounded what primatologists expected among Japanese macaques. Last April, she beat up her own mother to claim the top spot among the females of her troop. While most females would be content there, Yakei continued to fight. According to reserve workers, Yakei assaulted three high-ranking males, then came after Nanchu, who had led the troop for five years. At the age of 31, Nanchu is elderly for a Japanese macaque and was ultimately no match for the young and determined Yakei." NYT (Gift Article): Love Triangle Challenges Reign of Japan’s Monkey Queen. (If monkeys had Facebook, Yakei's brood would be all smiles and look like a happy well-adjusted family.)
+ Robot vacuum cleaner escapes from Cambridge Travelodge. (In the business, we call this a clean getaway.)
+ This could be the most impressive u-turn ever.