The Good Press — Issue #36: Opportunities
Hello and welcome to another edition of The Good Press, a newsletter of observations about life, sports, and/or anything else that comes to mind.
Thanks for reading. I hope you find this issue to be worth your time.
Comments and reader suggestions are always welcome.
It’s always nice when I can find some opportunities to write about sports.
As of last night, NBA basketball is officially back, with my Brooklyn Nets facing the Golden State Warriors, and an all-L.A. battle late last night with the Los Angeles Clippers facing the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. The other 26 teams play their respective opening games tonight, and we are off to the races. The league rushed back with the shortest offseason in history to ensure the ever-popular Christmas Day games would be intact.
The Christmas Day quintuple (!) header is one of the NBA’s great traditions. It’s such a unique opportunity for the league (and its broadcast partners), knowing that the majority of basketball fans are cozying up on the couch. For all those basketball fans, the NBA has mostly succeeded in their endeavor to make us associate Christmas Day with basketball. It’s positively Pavlovian.
I’m not a diehard fan to the point that I’ll be watching every minute of each of the five games on Friday, but the Brooklyn at Boston game at 5:00 PM is certainly circled on my calendar. (Apologies to Celtics fans of The Good Press community; Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett ain’t walking through that door.)
Moving over to football, the NFL is plowing ahead toward the playoffs in a few weeks, and for the first time in over a decade, the New England Patriots will not be participating. The Patriots were eliminated from postseason contention last weekend, the earliest they’ve been eliminated in 20 years.
With the Patriots seemingly mortal for the first time in the Bill Belichick era, it led to a big opportunity for the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and New York Jets to win an AFC East division championship and a guaranteed playoff spot. Buffalo was the one who took advantage, winning the AFC East for the first time since 1995, and Miami has a shot at a wild card playoff berth as well.
The Jets? Well, the Jets are the Jets. In a year that been bizarre and upside-down, the Jets still being embarrassing losers is a warm blanket of familiarity.
This time, the Jets’ unique brand of loserdom has manifested in a pretty unparalleled way: they won a game on Sunday, and it could be catastrophic.
In the NFL, the team with the worst record is awarded the opportunity to select first in the following year’s annual draft of college football stars. Trevor Lawrence of Clemson University is widely regarded as the most promising quarterback prospect to enter pro football in quite some time. The chances of any team trading into the #1 slot in the draft are remote, so it’s likely that the only way to draft Lawrence is to finish with the worst record in the NFL.
These 2020 Jets? They are bad. They lost their first 13 games to start the season, a franchise record. The only solace for Jets fans was the knowledge that an imperfect 0–16 record would guarantee them the worst record in the league, the #1 pick, and the golden opportunity to draft Trevor Lawrence.
In short, the best opportunity the Jets had to become a winner was to lose, and lose, and lose again. Enough to earn the right to draft a potential savior. That is how the NFL incentivizes the right to make the first draft pick, so it’s not a new thing (nor a football-exclusive thing) to try to lose now to win later.
The problem with that “plan” is that the players and coaches are trying to win. Every game is an opportunity for them to prove that they belong in the NFL, whether it’s with the next Jets winning team or with another NFL team. No player, no coach, wants to be 0–16. The Jets players have been playing their hearts out all season long, knowing that they may not get to call Trevor Lawrence a teammate next season if they are scapegoated for all the losses.
The coaching staff, wildly out of their depth, seemed to be canceling out the talents of the good Jets players (squint and you can see one here and there).
The number one pick was the Jets’ to lose. All they had to do was keep losing. Instead, the playoff-contending Los Angeles Rams improbably laid an egg, and they became the team that did the impossible: they lost to the 2020 Jets.
As Danny Heifetz wrote in The Ringer, the Jets’ upset victory put their chances of landing the top pick in serious peril. The Jacksonville Jaguars would have the mathematical tiebreaker over the Jets if both finish at 1–15. It’s possible that it may end up fundamentally changing the future of the NFL:
The Jets Pulled the Upset of the Year. It Could Change the Course of NFL History.
The Jets pulled the upset of the year and will avoid the stain of going 0-16. All it may have cost them is the best…
Sometimes I wonder if the Jets are cursed. The team is so bad at winning that they can’t even lose properly. Opportunities to draft prospects like Lawrence are few and far between; the Jets always seem to be on the wrong side of it.
They weren’t the only football team I root for that blew a big opportunity this week. For the second time in three years, my University at Buffalo Bulls earned a shot at the conference championship, only to squander it with a loss in the championship game to an opponent they’d likely beat 9 times out of 10.
Isn’t it nice to talk some sports, to kvetch about the teams that make us shake our heads? It’s a reminder of the things that used to seem so important back when I was younger. It’s actually what I used to write about back in the day.
Times change, we grow older and wiser, and our perspectives change with it.
In Other Words
It’s good to take advantage of opportunities in life when they come knocking because you never know how fleeting they might be. It’s why we should try to always be prepared to grasp them when the opportunities come our way.
Maybe it’s something trivial, like winning (or losing) a football game. Maybe it’s a career change that changes everything if you’re bold enough to go for it.
If you have the conviction to believe in yourself and bet on your own success, it can be incredibly freeing to follow the roadmap that you see in your mind and create the world you want to live in through hard work and dedication.
One of my favorite examples of this, someone I admire and look up to a lot, is Dan Le Batard, the Miami-based journalist and media personality. Le Batard spent many years as a sportswriter for the Miami Herald before stumbling upon a second career as a sports radio host in the early 2000s. Finding new heights of success in radio, The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz became so popular that ESPN agreed to broadcast the show nationally starting in 2013.
The son of Cuban exiles, Le Batard’s radio show is the epitome of doing things your way. He built his own platform and had the freedom to discuss any topic he wanted to. Most times, sports were only tangentially related to the discussions at hand, and that was the beauty of the ethos of the show.
Worlds collided back in 2018 when Michael Schur (the creative mind behind some of my favorite television programs) spent a week with Le Batard and friends to capture the magic of what made the show such a delight to its fans.
The Brilliant Chaos Behind America's Best Radio Show
Dan Le Batard built a sports-talk empire by talking about sports as little as possible | by Michael Schur, Slate
For my money, Schur’s 2018 Slate piece captured what makes the show special better than anything else I can share. Dan spent his time at ESPN selflessly sharing his platform with countless others, and many have gone on to greater heights after the opportunities to shine were afforded to them.
But the honeymoon was over when ESPN underwent a change in leadership a few years ago, and it was made very clear to fans of the show that the new boss was not as big a fan of Dan and his brand of irreverence as the old boss. Slowly but surely, ESPN seemed to be playing defense against one of their most successful shows, whittling down the time slot of the show, firing one of the producers unexpectedly, and attempting to stifle Dan’s creative freedom.
Now, the show’s relationship with ESPN is over, after the two sides mutually agreed to end their contract early and allow Dan, his co-hosts, and producers the freedom to take their talents elsewhere after the final show, January 4.
In one of the last ESPN shows before the breakup on Monday, Dan implied that they don’t actually have anything lined up yet for their post-ESPN days, but those who have followed Le Batard and friends since the early pre-ESPN days have confidence that ESPN will miss Dan a lot more than he’ll miss them. I don’t know what the future holds for my favorite “marching band to nowhere,” as they’re affectionally called, but I know that Dan’s principles of creative freedom above everything will lead to a lot of success in the future. Knowing their sense of humor, they’re likely ready to hit the ground running on January 5 better than ever, and all the “we don’t know” stuff is just a ruse.
Either way, an army of loyal listeners will follow Dan and co. wherever they land. It’s going to be a heck of an opportunity for whoever they partner with.
One reason I won’t be watching all the Christmas Day NBA games this year is because of some new tutoring opportunities that I’m getting into this week.
Back in August, I wrote about a new beginning I was getting into, working on a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certification. I’ve since completed the coursework portion of the program, and now I’m working on the final practicum to complete the certification. So this week I began life as a tutor.
My first tutoring appointment was last night, and my second one is on Friday. It’s interesting so far, and it’s a lot less stress-inducing to me than traditional classroom teaching, (well, as traditional as online classroom teaching can be). I like the way it feels to have that one-on-one connection with a student who is enthusiastic about getting better. We should all strive to continue to grow.
After many years of being self-conscious about my teaching abilities, these opportunities to tutor students are a great confidence booster for me. Maybe I’ll graduate to a full classroom someday, but I’m working at my own pace. I’ll stick with the tutoring for the next few weeks and take it from there.
I hope you all have a happy and healthy Christmas.
It’ll be different this year, but if anything, it reminds us about appreciating every opportunity we have to spend time with the people we care about.
Soon enough, we’ll be together again. Next holiday season is sure to be merrier, provided that all of our loved ones are safe and sound till then.
Do your part to stop the spread. Stay strong, stay vigilant, and stay inside. Help is on the way, so long as you’re not afraid of a couple of needles. Enjoy yourself this Christmas, make time to call all your loved ones. Leave the tree up longer than usual, too. Why not? This year could use a little extra light.
Till next time,
Previously in The Good Press
The Good Press — Issue #35: Natural
This year has felt anything but natural, but it’s a little less unnatural every day
December 16, 2020
The Good Press — Issue #34: Endurance
This Hanukkah, may we all make like the oil in the Temple and endure
December 9, 2020
The Good Press — Issue #33: Happy
Celebrating the happy moments in life, including a very happy birthday
December 2, 2020