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Jerry West, as a player and exec, sustained excellence during a lifetime of emotional struggle

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The night his Los Angeles Lakers, finally, would return to their place of glory atop the NBA, Jerry West would not be in attendance.

“Oh, I won’t be there,” he told me on the phone, referring to what was then called Staples Center.

Wait, what?

The 1999-2000 Lakers, the team West had, at the cost of his nerves and health, put together for this very purpose, winning L.A.’s first hoops title in more than a decade, were a game away from conquering the Indiana Pacers in the finals. They would be coronated on their home floor. It would be the franchise’s first championship since 1988. It would be the culmination of West’s singular quest, having moved heaven and earth and most of the existing roster to get both Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant on the same team, and having swallowed his own pride to bring Phil Jackson in to coach. It would be marvelous.

And it would be done without West’s presence.

This wasn’t new for West. Such moments, now that he no longer could bring his prodigious talents to the court and impact winning games as a player, drove him to severe distraction. During Lakers home games, he would often drive around town instead. Sometimes, he’d check in to Chick Hearn’s mellifluous voice to see how things were going. That night, though, he kept the car stereo silent. He drove up the Ventura Freeway to Santa Barbara, a hundred miles north of the city.

“I told my friend Bobby Freedman only to call me if there was good news,” West wrote in his searing autobiography, “West by West.”

It wasn’t because he didn’t care, of course. It was because he cared so very, very much.

West’s death Wednesday at 86 caused more than one person around the league to choke up.

“It’s a very sad day,” said West’s contemporary and fellow Hall of Famer, Oscar Robertson, on the phone Wednesday afternoon.

West was, for decades, the personification of the sport. Few people’s counsel was more courted, so synonymous was he with the dogged, relentless pursuit of excellence. He was part of a dynasty as a player that couldn’t solve the Celtics, and then built dynasties as an executive that finally did. He was a 14-time All-Star and 12-time All-NBA selection. Two Lakers behemoths were built on his watch as the team’s general manager: the Magic Johnson-led squad that captured five titles in the 1980s, then the O’Neal-Bryant squads that laid down a three-peat between 2000 and 2003.

As Red Auerbach did for the Celtics, 3,000 miles east, West constantly was at the center of teardowns and rebirths of the Lakers. Decade after decade, the Lakers continued to matter in the NBA, riding Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic and James Worthy through the ’80s, just as Boston continued to pile up the banners after the end of the Bill Russell Era, through John Havlicek, Jo Jo White and Dave Cowens in the 1970s, then Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson. The Cs are currently hunting their 18th NBA title in their finals series this year with the Dallas Mavericks; the Lakers, their last title coming in the Orlando Bubble in 2020, are tied with the Celtics at 17.

I ranked Auerbach one and West two on my all-time list of NBA executives in 2017 for NBA.com. Nothing’s changed my mind in the intervening years. They were the ultimate architects, with Auerbach’s intimidating tactics and amazing motivational ability serving as the mechanical rabbit at a dog racing track, as West chased after the Celtics for a generation.

“I secretly liked and admire Red’s brazen ways, and he is one of the coaches I would have loved to compete for,” West wrote. “. … Red was the figure everyone loved to hate, and he didn’t mind it one bit. He didn’t mind being the villain. He would be anything you wanted him to be as long as it helped the Celtics win.”

But West doesn’t take a back seat to anyone when it comes to talent evaluation. He was the best ever. No former superstar as a player was in more gyms in more small towns and in more countries than West was, year after year, trying to find the next great talent. He didn’t get stuck in nostalgia; he still got excited about current players. He raved about Terance Mann when Mann was a little-known second-round pick playing for the Clippers in the Vegas Summer League in 2019.

He kept his own counsel about who, and what, he liked.

“It’s not so much trust,” he told me once. “I just think if you ask 10 people, you’re going to get more than one opinion. If you ask five people, you’re going to get more than one opinion. I’d rather not confuse myself by asking 10 people.”

Like Auerbach, West had eternal swag, the way Dr. J and Pat Riley and only a handful of aging luminaries still do. He was still in high demand after he left the Lakers in 2000, moving on to executive roles with the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors and LA Clippers well into his 80s. It was West’s steadfast refusal to sign off on a proposed trade of Klay Thompson for Kevin Love in 2014 that kept Golden State’s ownership from pulling the trigger, and kept the Splash Brothers from being split up before they went on their franchise-changing championship run.

You still felt his crackling intensity in person, or on the phone. Well into middle age, I’d still get goose bumps when my phone would ring and the caller ID would identify who was on the other line. (He was “TLogo” in my contacts list, for obvious reasons.) He would always answer pleasantly: “David? Jerry West.”

As if it could have been someone else.

He was, given his pedigree, humble and deferential about his own successes. West was venerated for the 60-footer he hit at the end of regulation of Game 3 of the 1970 finals against New York to tie the game and send it into overtime. All West remembered, though, is that the Knicks won 111-108 in OT. He averaged an astounding 46.3 points per game in the Lakers’ Western Division series victory over Baltimore in 1965, which is still the record for highest average in a single postseason series.

He could be caustic and cutting about today’s players, the state of the game, David Stern and anyone else who didn’t measure up to his standards at a given moment. He could be withering about his own team. But if they weren’t winning doing it their way, he had very little patience for them. The portrayal of him in the HBO miniseries “Winning Time” was an ugly caricature of his manic intensity, one that made his friends and colleagues justifiably angry. He wasn’t someone who foamed at the mouth and spent his days trashing the offices at The Forum in some blinding rage. He didn’t big-time people.

And if anyone could have done so without argument, it was him.

But no one wanted to win more than Jerry West, and he spent his whole life proving it.

He won state titles in high school in West Virginia, at East Bank High School – which, every March 24, the day East Bank won the title in 1956, renames itself “West Bank” for a day in his honor. He won at West Virginia University, where he led the Mountaineers to the NCAA national championship game in 1959, which WVU lost by one point to the University of California, 71-70. He won on the celebrated 1960 U.S. Olympic team, a team just as dominant as the Dream Team would be 32 years later. The 1960 team won its eight games in Rome at the Summer Games by an average of 42.4 points per game. West, Robertson, Walt Bellamy, Jerry Lucas and coach Pete Newell all were inducted individually into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as was the 1960 team itself as a unit, in 2010.

“We just melded right away,” Robertson said. “Pete Newell was the coach, and he put our starting five together. And we knew what was at stake, because we were all there to make the Olympic team. Jerry was a nice guy. Matter of fact, I knew him through Adrian Smith (who also played on the 1960 Olympic team). I met him through Adrian. He was there with the U.S. Army team. I’m sure our backgrounds sort of paralleled each other, because of where Jerry came from and I came from, we didn’t have anything except basketball.”

The word tortured is often used to describe West. Indeed. Demons, which took root during a difficult and lonely childhood in his native West Virginia, where his imagination was his best friend and he shot thousands of shots so that he wouldn’t have to return home, ate at him throughout his life. There was little love in the West home, and physical abuse of the children at the hand of their father. Jerry West was driven, in the best and worst sense of that word, to strive, to chase perfection, to be hollowed out by defeat and only briefly salved by victory.

“I am, if I may say so, an enigma (even to myself, especially to myself), and an obsessive, someone whose mind ranges far and wide and returns to the things that, for better or worse, hold me in their thrall,” West wrote in his book.

West played on the first great L.A. team, after its move from Minneapolis, in 1960, alongside fellow future Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor. They made pro basketball on the West Coast, setting a standard of excellence that was held off only by Auerbach, Bill Russell and the Celtics.

Six times during West’s playing career, the Lakers and Celtics met in the championship series. Six times, Boston defeated L.A. The last time, in 1969, West was named the finals MVP, becoming the only player to ever receive the award while on the losing team. The Lakers also played the Knicks in the finals three times between 1970 and 1973. Only in 1972 did West’s team win, giving him one NBA title in nine tries.

“It was great to compete against Jerry,” Robertson said. “Jerry was a tremendous athlete. I don’t know about other guys, but I love playing against great basketball players. Because you have to improve your basketball yourself. You don’t know where you are until you play against great basketball players. And Jerry was, no doubt about it, one of the best of all. I thought Jerry was a great basketball player, great shooter.”

But West could be as stubborn as he was talented.

When the NBA, with great fanfare and not insignificant calling in of decades-long chits, brought its 50 greatest players of all time to All-Star Weekend in Cleveland in 1997, 47 of the 49 living players attended. (Pete Maravich had died in 1988 while playing a pickup game, at age 40; O’Neal was recovering from knee surgery.) West was the only one who didn’t come. At the time, the reason given was that he had just undergone a recent surgery.

The surgery part was true. But that’s not why he didn’t show up. He didn’t show because he was angry with the Orlando Magic, who had accused him of tampering with O’Neal while he was still under contract with the Magic in order to secure Shaq as a free agent.

West was famously blown away by Bryant’s workout for the Lakers before the 1996 draft, and schemed with his close friend, Bryant’s agent, Arn Tellem, to get Bryant to the West Coast. When West was in your corner, you’d never have a fiercer advocate.

There was the famous story, that Lakers executive Mitch Kupchak re-told many years later, of how the Lakers took Vlade Divac in the 1989 draft, with West the single, lone voice opting for the Serbian center over the objections of everyone else in the front office.

“We all picked the other guy,” Kupchak said. “I think it was (Missouri center) Gary Leonard. We all agree. Then (West) leans down into the mic, which was hooked up to New York so that we can announce our choice. Our guy up there was Hampton Mears. And Jerry says, ‘Hampton’ – he’s looking at us when he says this – he says, ‘Hampton, the Lakers take Divac.’ The three of us were like, ‘Why are we even here?’ And he says, ‘He’s just too damned talented to pass on.’ And he walked out of the room.”

As ever, the Logo was alone, with his thoughts, his doggedness and imagination, once again, having served him well.


Required reading

• What was Jerry West really like? On the phone with him, the NBA universe opened up
Reactions to Jerry West’s death pour in: ‘A basketball genius’
NBA75: West was ‘Mr. Clutch’ and forever will be brutally honest about himself

(Photo of Jerry West and Oscar Robertson: Vernon Biever / NBAE via Getty Images)



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HOTD Season 2: Who Plays Cregan Stark?

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Spoilers for “Fire & Blood” to follow.

“Duty is sacrifice,” Cregan states in the episode, acknowledging the price to be paid for being honorable in such a ruthless, unpredictable world. Cregan takes Jace to The Wall, making him understand that the 700-foot tall barrier wasn’t built to keep out invaders or beasts but to keep death at bay. As guardians against the cold and the dark, the Night’s Watch have a duty to protect their people from the unforgivable winter, along with the fallout of war that does not directly concern them. Jace convinces Cregan that this war will affect the North without question, and after they receive a raven bearing news of Lucerys’ death, Cregan promises 2,000 of his men to Rhaenyra’s cause. Meanwhile, Lady Arryn also pledges her support in exchange for a dragon to guard The Vale.

“Fire & Blood” details that Cregan maintained his position as the head of House Stark through the reigns of four kings: Viserys I, Aegon II, Aegon III, and Daeron I. Cregan played a crucial role during the Dance of the Dragons, aiding Rhaenyra’s cause and fighting several battles against Aegon II’s forces while facilitating the coronation of Aegon III, Rhaenyra and Daemon’s firstborn. He also served as Aegon’s Hand during a brief period known as The Hour of the Wolf. Although Cregan is prone to hostilities in the name of war, he is known to be a formidable swordsman and military commander who reigned over House Stark with an iron will.

The Cregan we meet in “House of the Dragon” might be considerably young. However, he already seems hardened by the trials of inhabiting Winterfell and fortifying the cause of the Night’s Watch (which he perceives as an honor, as opposed to a sentence).



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The best view of this U.S. Open? It starts at the beginning

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PINEHURST, N.C. — It was still early when Justin Thomas woke up the ghost.

A little after 8 a.m., he walked along the pine straw lining the right side of the third hole at Pinehurst No. 2. The two-time major champion considered his options. Having bogeyed the second hole he was already feeling the heat on a day growing warmer by the minute. Now an errant tee shot on the third left an awkward angle into the green.

With that, Thomas drew back his club and hit a shot that can only be described as … relatable. Something between a dead pull and a violent hook. Perhaps a knot of wire grass near the lie was to blame. Perhaps it was simply a terrible shot. Either way, it was so bad, and so left, that it crossed the entire fairway and entered the native area left of the third green.

It was a spot few visited during Thursday’s opening round of the U.S. Open. The third hole measures under 400 yards. Perhaps the course’s friendliest par 4. A wedge into the green will do — at least for these guys. But Thomas ended up near a temporary fence wrapped in a thick green canvas, the dividing line between the course and the houses lining it. Appropriately, not far from where Thomas’ ball ended up, the fence includes a single opening.

Two swinging doors are held together by a padlock, but allow for access from either side.

There, on the other side of that fence, is Donald Ross’ house.

The Scotsman first moved to Pinehurst in 1900. He was hired to serve as a golf pro and teaching instructor for the area’s two nine-hole horses — courses he ultimately decided to combine into one 18-hole track. Then set out to build a second course in 1907. He shaped the land as he’d learned back home, where golf’s first architects wandered the planes looking for where the sheep created mounds to block the northern wind. That’s where they built their bunkers.

The course Ross crafted in Pinehurst became his muse. So much so he wanted to look after her. So he and his second wife, Florence, built their home behind the third green in 1925. They disagreed on the style during construction. Thus, today, 76 years after Ross’ 1948 passing, if you walk along Midland Road, you’ll see what looks like a Scottish Cottage, while if you walk along back near the third green, you see what looks like a Southern colonial. Every good marriage has a middle ground.


Donald Ross built a home along Pinehurst No. 2, the most famous course in his legendary history as a golf architect. (Brendan Quinn / The Athletic)

The romantics here say Ross used to sit out back and smoke cigars, watching players come through the third and fifth holes. He’d note how they approached the two turtleback greens, then plot against them. Some claim Ross would wander out to the course at night, checking the contours of that third green and looking after things.

“Ross continued to improve No. 2 long after he finished it,” says Dan Maples, whose father, Frank, came to be a sort of adopted son by Ross, and handled construction and course maintenance for umpteen Ross courses, including No. 2. “It became an extension of himself.”

All these years later, the U.S. Open is being played at Pinehurst for the fourth time. So to understand what both Ross and God intended, where else would you watch it other than Ross’ back lawn?

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McIlroy, Cantlay shoot first-round 65 at U.S. Open

Just ask Sam Bennett. The 24-year-old posed with high hands watching his approach into the third. A good one. Settling upon what looked like a flat piece of the green, the shot left Bennett with a 15-20 foot birdie try. But then a wiggle. The ball seemed to consider its options. Then a lean to the left. The crowd moaned. Picking up speed, the ball rolled off the green, through the fringe and somehow settled onto the cut of rough atop the bunker, inches from dropping into the sand for a straightforward bunker shot. Out in the fairway, Bennett doubled over. He then arrived on the green to find an uneasy stance, a tricky chip, and a bogey.

The third could be a postcard for all of Ross’ greens at Pinehurst. It tempts. It teases. It accepts. It rejects. It is crowned, but can hold approach shots and allow scoring. It is short and accessible, but so difficult to get up and down.

Thursday’s pin placement was on the left side of a right-to-left slope. Looking up at it from the fairway, the top of the green cuts a horizon line that turns the backside of the green into a great unknown. Players are well aware of what’s back there, but can be nevertheless unnerved. That’s precisely what Ross was going for.

In the back, the green careens downhill toward a sandy footpath and, if you cross that, all the way to the fifth green. Some are now more aware of this than others.

Dustin Johnson rolled his eyes upon finding his ball sitting in the middle of that dusty path. Then he made bogey on his way to a 4-over 74.

Jason Day tried a traditional bunker shot from the path, but found a compressed patch of sand and thinned a shot back over the green. His up-and-down from 82 feet probably was one of the better bogey saves you’ll see this week.

Poor Cameron Davis found his ball behind the third green and asked a USGA rules official if he might receive relief from the path, as if it were a cart path. Confused by the question, the official responded, only, “No.” Accepting the answer, Davis pulled out a sand wedge, blasted a shot and watched his ball roll to the crest of the green and come to a standstill. Then he watched it roll 50 feet back to him. Davis saved bogey, but finished with a 77.


Scottie Scheffler plays a shot out of the greenside bunker on No. 3. (Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)

The third hole wasn’t all spin-outs and evil eyes. Nineteen players birdied it. Every player inside the top eight at days’ end left with par, except two. Bryson DeChambeau and Akshay Bhatia made birdie.

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The two Pinehursts have not always seen eye to eye

That is, in many ways, the point. Ross aimed to create courses that could test the best, fairly. Good shots are rewarded. Bad shots are not. Chance is always in play. Add it up and you get a war of attrition. Who can keep aiming at the middle of greens? Who can take their medicine when necessary? Who can keep giving themselves opportunities?

Following an opening 3-under 67, DeChambeau exhaled and said: “From a mental exhaustion perspective, this was probably the most difficult that I’ve had in a long, long, long time. I can’t remember the last time I mentally exerted myself that hard to focus on hitting fatter parts of the green instead of going for flags.”

As for Thomas, his bogey on the third was an early reveal of what was to come. He sure as hell got a scare and finished his morning with a 7-over 77, returning to the driving range afterward to figure out what went wrong.

Ross, you see, is no ghost. He is very alive.

(Top photo of Justin Thomas: Alex Slitz / Getty Images)



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TRON’s Innovative Computer Animation Still Required Graph Paper, Math, And A Prayer

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Back in the early 1980s, rendering CGI models in a computer was a much longer and more arduous process and, as one can see from “Tron,” produced relatively rudimentary visuals. The CGI images were constructed of clear polygons, and each object had to be rendered from multiple angles for every single frame of film. Then, once a visual was rendered, a camera had to photograph the computer screen (!), clicking each fully rendered image, laying them out one frame at a time. In many ways, this was carried out very much the same way one might make traditional cel animation. Instead of photographing a hand-painted image, however, it was the in-computer rendering. 

When animating one frame at a time, however, one needed to be very, very meticulous about how those images needed to be laid out. Bill Kroyer was the head of computer animation on “Tron,” and he said the animation process involved a lot of geometry. Animators had to calculate out the actual 3D space before drawing out where a lightcycle might be in it, and nail the angles exactly. “We had to figure out how to position and render objects 24 times to make one second of perceived movement on the screen,” Kroyer said.

Once the animators calculated the angles and drew out the CGI images on paper, computer engineers would then come in an input all the calculations into their computer. A single image would presumably appear, and a camera could photograph it. A full sequence wouldn’t emerge until all the images were photographed and strung together, printed on a 35mm filmstrip, and projected. Only then would the filmmakers see how it looked.



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MLB Player Poll 2024: Worst organizations, the most overrated peer, best vibes guy and more

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In last year’s edition of The Athletic’s annual MLB Player Poll, almost 60 percent of the players we spoke to predicted Shohei Ohtani would be playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2024. None of them likely could have imagined the record-shattering contract (and deferrals) that went alongside that move, but they definitely have thoughts about it now.

This spring, over the course of two and half months, we interviewed more than 100 players — almost evenly split between the American and National Leagues — across 18 teams and granted them anonymity to get their unfiltered takes on some of the biggest and most controversial storylines in baseball. In addition to their thoughts on Los Angeles’ prolific offseason spending spree, we learned who they think is the most overrated player and the things former players say that irk them the most.

This is not exactly a scientific poll — not every player we spoke to answered every question, and we have listed the number of responses for transparency — but it provides an interesting look into the minds of those currently playing and shaping the game.

Let’s see what they had to say.

Note: Some player quotes have been lightly edited for length and clarity.


1. Who is the best player in baseball?

It appears, once again, that Ohtani is inevitable. Even for many who see him up close regularly, the luster has yet to wear off.

Forty-six percent of our voting pool named the two-time MVP as their pick for the best player in the sport. Several more players even acknowledged that Ohtani was the real answer, but they elected to provide a different response for fear of being too predictable.

Said one player: “Such a stupid answer. So vanilla. But … he is.”

Ronald Acuña Jr., who suffered an ACL tear in May and is out for the season, was the players’ second pick with over a quarter of the vote. Ohtani’s fellow Dodger Mookie Betts, along with the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, came in third with 8.8 percent each. Mike Trout rounded out the group with 3.9 percent.

Other players receiving votes were the Phillies’ Bryce Harper and Zack Wheeler, the Orioles’ Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman, the Guardians’ José Ramirez, and the Rangers’ Corey Seager.

In their own words

More on Ohtani:

“There’s no comparison. Everybody has a comp, he’s got no comp.”

“Shohei Ruth or Babe Ohtani — no question.”

On Acuña:

“It’s tough not to go with Ohtani, but Acuña is pretty close. I saw BP the other day, I was impressed. And playing against (him) for the past five years. But it’s tough. (With Ohtani) you’ve got two guys in one.”

“I think he’s the best player in baseball right now.”

On Betts:

“He’s awesome to watch. He can do it all.”

On Trout: 

“From everything he’s done over the past decade. It’s honestly incredible. You always pull for him. He’s just the true American kid, just goes out there and plays baseball, and it’s fun to watch every time.”


2. Who is the most overrated player in baseball?

Unsurprisingly, players were not as keen to respond to this question, and those who did were less aligned on their answers. At the top was Marlins center fielder Chisholm, who took home 20 percent of the vote. Though most respondents did not elaborate on their reasoning, one player did question how the former All-Star ended up on the cover of last year’s “MLB The Show” video game.

This year’s runner-up was Angels infielder Rendon, with 10.2 percent of the total. Long-time readers of The Athletic might be surprised to see his name here, as he was voted the most underrated player in baseball by his peers in our player poll back in 2019. Said one player at the time: “He makes every single play. I think he’s a superstar.” A lot can change in five years.

Carlos Correa (6.7 percent), Tim Anderson and Jack Flaherty (5 percent) were next, while Pete Alonso, Cody Bellinger, Alex Bregman, Elly De La Cruz, Manny Machado and Blake Snell (3.3 percent) rounded out our leaderboard.

Other players receiving votes were Yordan Alvarez, Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Jeimer Candelario, Emmanuel Clase, Gerrit Cole, Rafael Devers, Adolis García, Alek Manoah, Carlos Rodón, Julio Rodríguez, Juan Soto, Giancarlo Stanton, Spencer Strider, Marcus Stroman, Alex Verdugo, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Christian Yelich.

Several players we asked said they would hesitate to call anyone at the pro level overrated. “I just feel like this game is too hard,” said one AL pitcher. “I don’t want to be talking bad about someone else’s game.”

One notable data point is Bryce Harper, who received just one vote despite making up almost half the votes for this category back in 2018 and 62 percent of the responses in 2019. Said one player who was informed of this fact: “It’s not Bryce anymore.”

In their own words

On Rodríguez:

“I think he’s a great player, but just rated so high. Throwing him around with Trout and Acuña and those guys — maybe eventually, but right now, I don’t know how you can say that.”

On Soto:

“Could be a spite pick, to be honest. I feel like all he does is walk and hit singles, and doesn’t hit for power like he’s portrayed. Also not a good fielder.”


3. Putting aside their stats and going solely on vibes, who do you most want on your team?

(Must be someone the player is not friends with/doesn’t know well)

Earlier this year, we asked our readers to submit questions they’d like to see included in this survey. This one comes courtesy of Michael S., and the players were quite game to answer. They provided a variety of names and reasons, ranging from “I’m a big fan” to “That guy just seems cool.”

Betts, known for his smile on the field and leadership skills in the clubhouse, was the overall top pick. “He’s a really good player and he’s figured out how to get the most out of himself,” according to an NL outfielder.

Not far behind was Betts’ teammate Ohtani (6.3 percent), who stood a chance of being crowned the best player and the player with the best vibes before several respondents chose someone else to avoid doubling up. One player, who eventually voted for a different NL candidate, had to give himself a pep talk beforehand: “I’m not going to say Shohei. I’m not doing it.”

Acuña, Harper, Judge and Kyle Schwarber tied for third place (4.2 percent). Trout, Marcus Semien, Lance Lynn, and Willy Adames all had 3.1 percent of the vote, followed by Jose Altuve, Orlando Arcia, Gerrit Cole, Kiké Hernández, Francisco Lindor and Garrett Stubbs (2.1 percent).

In their own words

On Cole: “Never met him, but I’ve been a big fan of him for a long time.”

On Freddie Freeman: “He’s clutch, and he’s consistent, day in and day out.”

On Tyler Glasnow: “Great vibes, great energy. Brings his personality with him.”

On Liam Hendriks: “His energy on the mound is contagious.”

On Ryan Pressly: “(He) is my favorite pitcher to watch. He’s electric and kind of gets overlooked, how good he is.”

On Gleyber Torres: “I think (he) is pretty vibey.”


4.  Evaluate this statement: Anthony Rendon was right — the season is too long.

Though he may be an imperfect messenger, Rendon’s comments earlier this year on the length of the MLB season resonated with many and sparked vigorous conversations both online and off.

“There’s too many dang games — 162 games and 185 days or whatever it is,” Rendon told the Jack Vita podcast in January. “Man, no. We gotta shorten this bad boy up.”

The logistics and odds of that happening aside, it is an interesting question. Is the modern MLB season too long?

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Would MLB ever really shorten its season? Here’s what it might take — and could mean

Almost one-third of those polled agreed with Rendon. Some respondents offered that 140-150 games would be ideal, while a few even suggested 120 would be a better target. Several admitted that they thought the season was too long but acknowledged it would be too difficult to change for historical and record-keeping purposes and ultimately voted “no.”

However, the overwhelming view of those we polled was that the schedule is fine as is. “I think (the season) feels long, but I also think it’s fair for everyone,” said an AL pitcher. ”It’s part of the grind. It’s part of what makes it so hard.”

And for at least one anonymous baseball diehard, the question didn’t even compute.

“Is the season too long? It’s not long enough.”

In their own words

Those who voted Yes:

“It’s a grind and a half. But I think there’s worse things that we could be doing.”

“Yes, but that’s the easy way out. We get paid a lot of money.”

“There’s no reason we can’t reformat it to make it 120-125 games with more off days and recovery. The game is made for us to get hurt … But it would ruin records, and the world likes records.”

“There’s a lot of layers to that. I don’t think it’s as easy as yes or no. But I would say that he’s right.”

“I think maybe we could use like 15 fewer games and start camp later. Spring training is too long.”

“He’s right. I think cut out like 10 games. That’s all. Nothing crazy. I think September gets a little washy at the end.”

Those who voted No:

“It’s long, but I don’t see a problem with it. It’s not like football where they get their asses beat.”

“The length of the season is what kind of separates the big boys from the one-timers. That’s what makes like a Gerrit Cole special, 32 starts every year.”

“I’ve never been a position player, so I can’t comment on how they feel after an entire season, but 32+ starts is perfect.”

“F— that. I get paid more.”

“We’ve been doing this for 150 years. Anyone who complains is soft.”

“I don’t mind the 162 part, but I think the schedule could be spread out even longer.”

Read more: Is MLB’s 162-game season too long? Players are split on whether changes are needed


5. Which team would you sign with if contracts, state taxes and rosters were not a factor?

This was another reader-sourced question, courtesy of Josh N., who wanted to know where players would most like to sign, all things being equal.

The responses skewed toward players’ residential preferences, with many citing that they’d like to play for the team closest to where they live in the offseason or where they grew up. It’s also no surprise that teams in moderate climates or those with significant history scored high on the list. Some players even wanted to join a team for the stadium they play in. (Said one Texas voter: “Their new ballpark is really nice.”)

But one major franchise stood above the rest: The Atlanta Braves, who captured 12.7 percent of the vote.

In their own words

On the Braves:

“Just because I was a Braves fan growing up.”

“I would sign with the Braves, knowing what I know. If I didn’t know, I would probably try and play one year for the Red Sox or the Yankees. Just to do it. Just to experience that. Probably the Red Sox.”

“I love that stadium.”

On the Padres:

“San Diego is a beautiful place to play.”

On the Red Sox:

“(Fenway Park) is basically a museum.”

Read more: Why MLB players would most want to sign with Atlanta if money, rosters were not a factor


6. What organizations have bad reputations among players? (Multiple answers allowed)

Thanks to reader Carson C. for this one. We invited players to offer more than one response to this question, so the above graph represents the number of times a team was mentioned. Of the 79 players who responded, 40 named the beleaguered Oakland Athletics as a team with a bad rep, the highest response overall. They were followed, in order, by the White Sox, Angels, Rockies, Mets, Pirates, Marlins, Rays, Padres, Yankees, Nationals and Royals.

The Orioles, Red Sox, Guardians, Tigers, Astros, Giants, Mariners and Cardinals were all mentioned once.

The reasons players listed were varied, but mostly involved an organization’s lack of spending or player development.

One NL player declined to name a specific team but was blunt in his general assessment: “Any place that is not trying to win consistently. So, a fourth of the league.”

In their own words

On the Athletics:

“I mean, have you seen what they’re doing to the city of Oakland and their fans?”

“It doesn’t seem like they want to win.”

“I’ve heard Oakland is pretty rough. Sacramento for three years? I’ve been to that ballpark before. They can’t find something better?”

On the White Sox:

“I’ve never heard a good thing.”

“Unlike some other bad teams, they have more potential to be good.”

“It sounds like no one wants to be there day in and day out …  like it’s a grind just to show up to the ballpark. I couldn’t imagine.”

“It’s not good over there. You can tell by how often there’s turnover that it usually means something’s going on. Players leaving the organization and automatically doing better (with their new team).”

“Poor communication.”

On the Rays:

“When it comes time to pay players, they usually trade them.”

“They get rid of you once you get expensive — or close to it.”

“They’re not player-friendly.”

On the Angels:

“(I’ve heard that they) treat their minor-leaguers like crap.”

“The organization is just run pretty poorly and pretty cheap.”

“General dysfunction.”

“Been there, done that, and I have never heard a good thing about them.”

On the Pirates:

“Because I’ve known so many guys who’ve gone through there … (it seems like) everybody there is just kind of trying to figure it out.”

“They actually have money and just won’t spend it on players.”

“I don’t know what’s going on over there.”

On the Rockies:

“I think it’s better now, but when I was there, it was horses—t.”

“(Heard from another player that) it’s like going back to the Stone Age.”

On the Yankees:

“No one wants to play for them. A bunch of rules.”


7.  What is the most irritating criticism of the current game coming from former players?

We let players answer this question however they saw fit, and they gave us a variety of wide-ranging responses. Eight-two responses, in fact. Most touched on one of three topics they were most tired of hearing about from former players.

In their own words

Celebrations

“We’re having too much fun.”

“I think everybody gets tired of hearing it, just let them celebrate and have fun.”

“The bat flips.”

“Complaining about pimping home runs.”

Overlooking the current game’s degree of difficulty

“You have to understand that players today are so damn good. … The length of the lineups and the length of pitching staffs has changed, even in the last seven, eight years.”

“The lack of respect for difference in pitching quality.”

“I feel like they’re too far removed to understand how hard this game is.”

“Just throw strikes — their strike zone was three times the size.”

“‘Too many strikeouts’ — they had three guys in the league who threw 95, and now the first guy in from the bullpen throws 100.”

“That it’s the same game. I don’t think that’s true. I think, unfortunately for us, the talent is just way better across the board. There’s not an at-bat you have off or where you’re like, ‘Finally, this guy.’ It’s always a new arm that’s just nasty — splitters, sweepers. They’re reinventing the wheel. Everyone’s throwing 97-plus now. It’s the same game but played at a much higher level.”

Toughness (or lack thereof)

“I think a lot of them say some guys don’t run hard. I think guys are a little bit better at managing their bodies (now).”

“You hear older players say that the game is a little softer. … I just think the game has changed. … They also say pitchers only care about velocity and stuff, but I don’t think that’s true. I think pitchers still are pitchers down to their core. The main focus is to get outs. We’ve just found different ways to go about (it).”

“That we complain too much. ‘Back in my day’ or ‘If we had all this stuff…’”

Read more: MLB players hear the criticism from former pros. Here’s which comments irritate them the most


8. Should MLB shut down midseason so players can participate in the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles?

In their own words

Those who said Yes:

“It depends on how serious every country would take it. If the Dominican fields a good roster and Venezuela, that would be pretty cool.”

“It is the Olympics. You have only so many times (to participate).”

“I think it would be a blast.”

“If the players aren’t affected with pay. I’m all about representing your country; if we can somehow still get a full season, then I’m on board with it.”

“If there’s a way they could get rid of the All-Star Game that year, that would be pretty cool. It’s a unique opportunity, and now that baseball is back in (the 2028 Olympics), I feel like guys would want to do it.”

“I know the logistics would be a pain in the butt. It would be doable and you’d have the best players representing their countries when they’re in the best shape to perform.”

“It’d be really cool. The Olympics are my favorite thing to watch. I really like the idea of doing that. Soccer does that, and hockey, too. I don’t think it’s realistic because how long are you going to shut the season down? That’s a lot of owners losing money.”

“You hear stories about the World Baseball Classic and guys with 10-plus years, one of the best players to ever set foot on planet Earth, Mike Trout, saying he had the most fun he’s ever had playing in the WBC. I think there’s something to that when you play for your country and it says USA across your chest or Japan or whatever it is. It gives the fans just a little bit more enthusiasm.”

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How the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics could include MLB stars

 Those who said No:

“I’d love to play in the Olympics, but I don’t know what that would look like. I come back from three days off, and my timing is shot.”

“The WBC is better anyway.”

“Injuries would go through the roof.”

“To be honest, we (the U.S.) would be too good, and we’d destroy and win everything.”

“No one would care unless you paid them a ton of money.”

“I think being an Olympian and being on a 40-man roster gave me an opportunity to play at a high level while I was still in the minor leagues. …  it gives other kids and older vets an opportunity to get their name back on the map and potentially find a job.”

“I think it would be awesome, but I don’t think there’s a good way to do it.”

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Phillies’ Harper hopes to play at 2028 Olympics


9. Have analytics helped your career, hurt your career, or made no difference to your career?

In their own words

Those who said Helped:

“It definitely helped. All data is useful, any information. There’s value everywhere; you’ve got to look anywhere you can.”

“I think it has helped, but it depends on what analytics we are talking about. Player development or in-game situations? Player development, for sure, 100 percent. With all the technology we have, player development is huge. It’s helped me the most. But it’s hard to say with the in-game decisions.”

“It allowed the world to know I’m good at defense.”

“Analytics is the only reason I got signed again. I wasn’t passing the eye test.”

“Analytics are a big part of (my) team, and I feel like they help more than the public knows. Analytics get a bad rep, but why wouldn’t you want more information to help better inform your decisions?”

“It’s helped everyone so it’s made the game very hard. Everyone’s better, so even though maybe I’m better, everyone around me is better. It makes it harder, in a sense.”

Those who said Hurt:

“I’m not a power guy. I like to put it in play and analytics say you need to hit for power.”

“The less I know, the better. I think when you don’t look into that too much, you can truly use your instincts better because you can be aware of your body instead of looking for something to give you an answer. And finding the answer within yourself, I think, is the most important thing. There have been times where it’s it’s kind of screwed me because I’ve been looking for a number instead of just feeling it.”

Those who said Both:

“Analytics hurt my career by overthinking it but helped it by learning the game and how it’s going. You had to like analytics to learn how to adapt.”

“It’s probably done both. I think it can help you, but it can also create a ceiling for you.”


10. Have you ever seen or heard of a player being put on the injured list when they weren’t injured enough to merit it?

This topic became a major talking point in February, when former Mets GM Billy Eppler was suspended through this year’s World Series for improper use of the injured list, including the “deliberate fabrication of injuries,” according to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.

It’s a difficult practice to police and there’s plenty of gray area, but just how often are the rules being bent? We polled players to see if they’ve ever heard of or seen anyone placed on the “phantom IL” who was not, in their eyes, injured enough to require it. Almost two-thirds of those we asked answered in the affirmative.

In their own words

Those who said Yes:

“All the time. … ‘We’re either going to option you to Triple A because we need a fresh arm or we’ll put you on the IL and get you big-league time.’ That’s real.”

“I don’t know how the league can make a rule that combats that though. Trainers have notes that cover everything. You can go on the IL for fatigue.”

“LOL. Just a few times.”

“I’ve seen it a lot. I came from a system that did it all the time.”

[While nodding his head, widening his eyes] “No.”

“Oh yeah, 100 percent.”

Those who said No:

“(I’ve seen it) in the minors, that’s all I’m going to say”

“No one has ever been like, ‘I’m completely fine,’ and they put them on the IL.”

“I’ve had my suspicions, but I don’t know.”


11. Was the Dodgers’ offseason spending good for the game?

In their own words

Those who said Yes:

“It’s good for baseball, and any team could have done it.”

“I think it’s good for baseball, but only if it results in wins. Like the Los Angeles Rams a couple years ago going all-in to win a Super Bowl.”

“The numbers are outrageous, but I bet the Dodgers are already halfway through making that back in what (Ohtani) is for the game. I think it’s cool with him and Yamamoto.”

“I think that $700 million should apply toward some kind of luxury tax, I’m not sure if it applies on the backend. Granted, Ohtani is a unicorn, and you have to pull all types of strings to accommodate that kind of contract, but that was the first thing I thought about. Overall, I think it was good for the game and eye-opening to other teams, the loopholes you can find to make a great team.”

“Good for players and good for the game if the right team does it. The game needs the Dodgers, the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Braves, now the Astros. But when you have that, it really makes those matchups interesting. And then if every team has a $300 million player, but it doesn’t really make a difference — like Mike Trout on the Angels. You’d rather see Mike Trout on the Phillies if you’re a baseball fan. So is everybody complaining and saying, ‘They’re just buying their championship’? Not really. Because we’ve proven that the Rays can win, the Yankees can lose.”

“It should be a mark for all owners.”

“Of course. I loved it. They got the best team money could buy.”

“It makes the Dodgers must-see TV and everyone plays the Dodgers, so that’s good for everybody.”

“Yes, absolutely great for the game. People like box office-type stuff. When the game was at its best, big-market teams were spending a lot of money. In basketball, the Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors were crushing, they were getting more views. Fans don’t like to admit it, but they do like super teams.”

“It makes them a really hard team to beat now. All the money out there, some more guys get motivated to win and play better. It’s good for the market.”

“That’s what makes baseball beautiful. Those guys spend $1 billion and will still get swept in the first round.”

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The Dodgers’ billion-dollar spree: secrets, rumors and Brad Paisley’s Pappy Van Winkle

Those who said No:

“I want to say good … but not good.”

“I don’t think it was. I just think other teams should be able to spend like that. I feel like the Dodgers are always the team that can get all the best players in the world.”

“We’ll have a documentary about that in the next few years. But the deferred money, (that) I don’t agree with. I think they should have to pay right now while he’s playing. I just think it’s a loophole. It’s not even their money, (president of baseball operations Andrew) Friedman’s money or the owner’s right now.”


12. Are you in favor of or opposed to MLB adopting the salary cap and floor system used in other major sports leagues?

Once you send these questions out into the wild, you never quite know what players will do with them. We originally intended for this question to serve as a simple yes-or-no: Are you opposed or in favor of a salary cap and floor system? We quickly learned that this question is just not that simple — as demonstrated by the CBA negotiations back in 2021-22 — and those we spoke to had considered it from many different angles, so we’ll let them elaborate.

In their own words

Those who are opposed:

“I think the no cap is what makes baseball unique.”

“It could result in some teams just having to spend money on guys who aren’t worth it.”

“Players-wise, I want (them) to get as much as they can. You don’t play the game forever, so you try to make as much and do as good of a job as you can while you do it.”

“There kind of already is a floor with the league minimum. Even if you pay 26 guys the minimum, that’s the floor.”

“It wouldn’t be nearly as beneficial as it sounds. And there are a lot of players who act like we should — going back to the Dodgers question — help the bottom 70 percent of good major-league players. Right now, the advantage is to the 1 percent of players getting those huge contracts, which is great, but you also have guys signing minor-league deals (not long after) making an All-Star team.”

“If they move the floor, is that going to compensate for the ceiling? The answer is no. … The money that the Yankees spend over the tax will be more than just the three teams that have to move up to the floor. It’s just not going to make sense for us.”

“Nobody’s telling the other teams they can’t spend more money.”

Those in favor of a floor but not a cap:

“Yeah of course, there are definitely organizations that have great rosters that don’t rake in nine figures, so for those players on teams like that, they should be able to make more money.”

“I think there should be a floor but no ceiling. I do think there is probably a third of the league that doesn’t even try to put out a good product. But if you made teams be at a certain point, I think the spending drives each other to match.”

“I’m certainly in support of a floor system. … (the lack of) cap — it’s unique to baseball. I think teams need to be competitive, and of course you’re never going to have a situation where a small-market team like the Royals is competing financially the same way the Yankees are. But I think the adversity is what makes a small-market World Series that much more meaningful. So for me, that’s why I don’t like the cap. I don’t really think it has to do with spending necessarily. It just creates a more diverse environment.”

Those in favor:

“I’m in favor of it; if you can raise team spending, and of course, you have to have a cap, I’m for it. I think it will help the mid-level players.”

“(It would help) even the playing field, though you still have to play the games. But some of these rosters are outrageous.”

“I would say in favor because there are definitely teams that don’t compete. So a floor would probably be more beneficial than the ceiling would hurt.”

(Top illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; Photo of Shohei Ohtani: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images; Carlos Correa: Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images; Mookie Betts: Gene Wang / Getty Images)



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James Gunn Says There Are Two Different Groots In Guardians Of The Galaxy

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For many, of course, this is not new. Gunn once said in a now-deleted Tweet from 2018 that Baby Groot, as he appeared in “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” was not a resurrected Groot, but should be viewed as Groot’s son. The issue was likely confused because both characters had the same name, were played by the same actor, still only spoke one line of dialogue (“I am Groot”), and had pretty much the same personality. Baby Groot was a new character, but not in any way that one might notice. 

On the “Vol. 3” commentary, Gunn reiterated: 

“Here we see Groot reconstituting himself. He’s growing back throughout the movie. Groot, of course, is now Young-Adult Groot. Sometimes we call him ‘Swole Groot.’ He is Baby Groot, uh, in a youthful adult state. And I think we start to see here really that this Groot is not the same Groot from the first movie. Many people believe that the first Groot was just reborn in this new shape. Um, that is not the case. This is a totally different Groot than the first Groot.”

Totally different. 

Gunn then implied that he had written a complicated backstory for Groot, and had solid storytelling reasons for replacing Groot with an exact duplicate. In Marvel comics, Groot first appeared in 1960, although the version from Gunn’s film was extrapolated from a 2006 reinvention of the character.



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How Lucas Oil Stadium turned into a swimming pool for the U.S. Olympic Trials

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Three years ago, Shana Ferguson stood on the pool deck in Omaha, Neb., at the U.S. Olympic Trials, thrilled to be staring out at the crowd of more than 12,000 swimming fans. But she dared to dream bigger.

Like, a lot bigger.

“What would this look like in a football stadium?” Ferguson wondered aloud.

Three years later, after countless meetings regarding electrical engineering, plumbing and drainage, wonderment has finally given way to reality. Ferguson, USA Swimming’s chief commercial officer, and her team of vendors are just days away from kicking off the most important swimming meet on American soil this quadrennial in front of what they expect to be the largest crowd ever to attend a swim meet.

The upcoming U.S. Olympic Trials are set to run from June 15-23 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, making it the first time the Olympic qualifying meet will be held in a football stadium. Event organizers hope to see a crowd close to 30,000 for the first night of finals, which would shatter the previous world record.

It will be a spectacle — to put it mildly.

“This is the first time this has ever been attempted in the world,” said Mark Dodd, the president of Dodd Technologies, which essentially served as USA Swimming’s general contractor for the event. “There will be a lot of people who are going to come to this and take a look at what we built. We’re going to be the model.”

Added Ferguson: “We need to make sure to give these athletes an amazing experience that will be, for many of them, the pinnacle of their careers. We have a responsibility to make this a really wickedly cool environment for them.”

It all started, unsurprisingly, with the pool itself, which was built over the past three weeks, with construction beginning on May 12 and wrapping up this week. Nearly two million gallons of water were brought in from the nearby White River; it will then be held in tanks that allow it to be constantly circulated, cleaned and chlorinated before it filters in and out of the three pools that have been built.

“When you watch this on television, it will look like an in-ground pool, like the pool is on floor level,” Ferguson said. “But we’re putting an above-ground pool on the cement and building a deck around it. The pool with the decking will actually end up striking the first 10 rows of seats.”

Elevating the pool deck and fans’ perceived ground level creates enough depth for the three required pools. One is the 50-meter-long, three-meter-deep competition pool — the standard depth for elite swimming — where all eyes will be trained for the nine nights; the other two are warmup pools, which will be separated from the competition pool by a curtain at the 50-yard line.

Myrtha Pools, a company that specializes in constructing and dismantling large-scale temporary pools, built the competition pool and two warmup pools. Spear Corp. in nearby Roachdale, Ind., has handled all of the plumbing, pumps and filtration. Dodd’s team is specifically in charge of the decking, the scoreboard, the signage and all other accoutrements that make the event work.

“Really, our biggest challenge was trying to figure out what is traditionally a close-up spectator sport in a small natatorium and scaling it so that it works in a space of this size,” Dodd said.

In short, USA Swimming is trying to keep up with its surging demand. This event continues to grow — and outgrow its venues — seemingly every Olympic cycle. The last time trials were in Indianapolis, in 2000, the event was held at the 4,700-seat Indiana University Natatorium. Trials then went outdoors to Long Beach, Calif., for 2004, and then moved to a basketball arena in downtown Omaha, Neb., from 2008 through 2021. (Myrtha Pools also built the pool in Long Beach and the four pools in Omaha.) In 2016, nearly 200,000 fans attended 15 sold-out sessions. The venue could hold about 13,000 for swimming events.

Lucas Oil Stadium


The main pool is shown under construction at Lucas Oil Stadium, with temporary seating to the left and the warmup pool structure beyond that. (Photo courtesy of USA Swimming)

Lucas Oil Stadium can seat way more than that. Its swimming configuration allows for a capacity of around 30,000 with regular stadium seats facing the competition pool as well as some 20 rows of movable seats that will be in front of the midfield curtain to create a fully enclosed oval of fans. Organizers have planned theme nights (including celebrations for Father’s Day and Juneteenth, which fall during the event). They are also partnering with the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and WNBA’s Fever to help draw new fans who may not already know much about swimming.

While there will certainly be seats far from the water’s surface, Dodd said the sight lines for more than 25,000 spectators seats are quite good.

“I don’t necessarily know that it’ll be weird or strange, but it’ll be different,” said University of Virginia coach Todd DeSorbo, who will serve as the head U.S. women’s team coach in Paris. “The more people, the better. And I think the kids will feed off the energy of the crowd.”

Those night sessions — where fans will see top-two finishers punch their tickets to Paris — will be memorable, event organizers say. There will be a 50-foot-tall video board behind athletes as they are announced and walk onto the pool deck ahead of each final. Ferguson compared it to player introductions for “Monday Night Football”; Dodd said it will be a level of lighting and production similar to WWE. There will also be a center-hung scoreboard (similar to basketball arenas) because the scoring and timing need to be centered over the pool, not where video boards are located in football stadiums along the perimeter.

Perhaps the best benefit of the football stadium is the warmup pool setup. In Omaha, the warmup pools were located at the convention center due to space constraints inside the arena. In Indianapolis, they’ll be a curtain away from the competition pool.

“The thing I’m most looking forward to is actually having space,” said University of Texas head coach Bob Bowman, who famously coached Michael Phelps throughout his career and will again take a crop of Olympic hopefuls to trials. “In Omaha, it got so crowded that I just stopped going into the main pool and watching the races because I couldn’t get over there quick enough to help people warm up and warm down. So, I would just watch it on the big screen in the warmup pool.

“This is going to be great for participants.”

In what Ferguson calls the back-of-house athlete experience, there will be quiet areas, massages, therapy dogs, nutritional assistance, mental health experts and even a video game room.

“So much of this is nerves and hopes and dreams,” Ferguson said. “We’ve got to ensure even in a big stadium that we are still giving the athletes and coaches a feeling of intimacy, where they can have quiet and solitude and focus so that it isn’t just big lights and Hollywood and excitement.”

In short, this is not just sticking a pool in a football stadium and figuring out where and how to drain the water. It’s a new use of a venue that has to serve myriad purposes for multiple stakeholders at the same time.

And in a week, it will be put to the ultimate test — just like the best of the best American swimmers will be.

Lucas Oil Stadium rendering


An artist’s rendering of the finished product, complete with fans. Lucas Oil Stadium will be the first football stadium to host swimming’s U.S. Olympic Trials. (Courtesy of USA Swimming)

(Top illustration: Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic; photos: Courtesy of USA Swimming, Michael Allio / Icon Sportswire via Getty)



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Star Trek’s DeForest Kelley Refused To Film A Requiem For Methuselah Scene

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The final scene of “Requiem for Methuselah” sees Kirk, back on board the Enterprise, sulking in his quarters. He was deeply in love with Reyna, and mourns that her love for him was what destroyed her brain. McCoy and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) visit Kirk to tell him that the disease has been cured. McCoy takes the opportunity to explain love to the emotionless Spock, bitter that his Vulcan co-worker has deliberately chosen to eschew the glories — and the pains — of love: 

“Considering his opponent’s longevity, truly an eternal triangle. You wouldn’t understand that would you, Spock? You see, I feel sorrier for you than I do for him. Because you’ll never know the things that love can drive a man to. The ecstasies, the miseries. The broken rules, the desperate chances. The glorious failures and the glorious victories. All of these things you’ll never know, simply because the word ‘love’ isn’t written into your book.” 

That speech was originally much longer. Bixby envisioned a scene where Kelley would give an extended monologue about the glories of love and Spock’s emotional ignorance. But as he recalls, Kelley took one look at the script and turned it all down: 

“Some of my dialogue near the end between Spock and McCoy where McCoy is really coming down on Spock and saying, ‘You poor schmuck. You have no emotions. You can’t live. You’ll never know what love is like. That hope doesn’t exist for you,’ etc. I pulled out all the stops and wrote about 15 pages of dialogue that De Kelley absolutely refused to utter.” 

Kelley thought it was way too poetic, and Bixby agreed; it was inspired by T.S. Eliot. The scene was cut.



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Adolf Hitler, Jesse Owens and Berlin’s Olympiastadion: the complicated history of Euro 2024 final venue

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Follow live coverage of Spain vs Croatia, Italy vs Albania & Hungary vs Switzerland at Euro 2024 today

The showpiece final of this summer’s European Championship, likely to attract a worldwide television audience in excess of 300 million people, will be played on July 14 at the Olympiastadion in Berlina stadium originally built and funded on the orders of Europe’s most notorious dictator, Adolf Hitler.

Eighty-eight years have passed since the 1936 summer Olympic Games were also staged there, three years after Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party, became the country’s chancellor and ruler.

These days, it’s a 74,000-seat stadium with a sleek, modern roof, but the setting stands as a testament to a blood-soaked history.

Over the next month, three group games, starting with Spain against Croatia on Saturday, will be played there, as well as a round of 16 match, a quarter-final and then the final itself. The hundreds of thousands of football supporters who descend on the Olympiastadion will be confronted by many of the features that distinguished this venue as a Nazi shrine almost a century ago.

Since 1945, Germany has grappled with its history in a thoughtful way.

Being Germany, there is a word for it: vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, which translates to mean ‘working from the past.’

Hitler’s bunker in Berlin was filled in with concrete to avoid it becoming a commemoration site, and the Spandau prison, where his deputy Rudolf Hess committed suicide, was destroyed. German children are taught in schools about Nazi atrocities and those training to become police officers are taught the history of the Holocaust and taken to the sites of former concentration camps to understand the gravity. The vast Holocaust memorial is located at the heart of a reunified Berlin.

The Olympiastadion, however, is a listed building, preserved since 1966, albeit its history is vividly detailed by tour guides and via a small museum.

Considered solely as an architectural feat, the stadium is intimidating and magisterial. Situated on the western outskirts of Germany’s capital, at the tip of the Grunewald forest, the five rings of the Olympic emblem remain strung between arresting twin stone towers. These are two of six towers once plotted around the stadium, each representing what the Nazis considered to be “great German tribes” who would unite under National Socialism; these were the Bavarians, Franconians, Swabians, Frisians, Saxons and Prussians, and a plaque outside the arena says they were supposed to embody “the virtues of a glorious past, which had been lost in the modern age” and preserve the “blutserbe” (blood heritage) of a Nordic master race.

With its oval shape, austere colonnades and soaring terraces, the stadium was designed as a stark statement of German might at a time of rising global tensions in the 1930s. Partially below ground level, it was intentionally constructed to evoke comparisons with the Colosseum in Rome.

To wander around the stadium, as The Athletic did earlier this year, is to witness many of the hallmarks familiar to Olympia, the infamous Leni Riefenstahl propaganda film ordered by the Nazi high command, about those 1936 Olympics.


Construction of the stadium before the 1936 Olympics (Bettmann/Getty Images)

On a cold, wintery, grey day, the eeriness is all-consuming; swathes of vast space and haunting relics. The colonnades remain intact, so too the Olympic cauldron, located just inside the Marathon Gate, with that cold, ageless, durable design that is in keeping with the architecture of the Third Reich.

The Nazi swastikas have long since been torn down, but nothing quite prepares you for the chilling moment an Olympiastadion tour guide points to a balcony and explains that you are metres away from where Hitler once took pride of place, receiving ‘Heil’ salutes from crowds and athletes alike.

Dotted around the stadium are bronze statues, venerating the perceived power and splendour of the Aryan race. Its own website explains that construction companies were ordered to hire only “complying, non-union workers of German citizenship and Aryan race” to build this edifice of Nazism, meaning Jews in particular were not to be involved.

The Olympiastadion, therefore, will always be a museum in itself but over time, events have shaped a profound and complicated history.

At those 1936 Games, for example, Jesse Owens, an African-American athlete, won four gold medals in front of Hitler, producing arguably the most iconic Olympic performance of all time. In the aftermath of the Second World War, when Germany was divided into West and East, much of the wider Olympic Park was occupied by British forces between 1945 and 1994, using the grounds at times for polo events, and sometimes for parades to honour the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II.

This summer’s European Championship will not be its first major international football tournament, having hosted five matches during the 1974 World Cup, and six, including the final, of the 2006 World Cup, a match which is most famous for French superstar Zinedine Zidane headbutting Italian opponent Marco Materazzi.


Zidane headbutted Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final (John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images)

In 2015, it hosted the Champions League final, where Lionel Messi’s Barcelona defeated Juventus, while the stadium has also been the home venue of current 2. Bundesliga (the German second division) side Hertha Berlin since 1965 and staged the German Cup final every year since 1985.

American football’s NFL also played a pre-season game here every year between 1990 and 1994, and Usain Bolt delivered the most extraordinary track-and-field athletics feat since Owens, when, at the World Championship in 2009, he recorded two world records — 9.58 seconds in the 100m and 19.19 in the 200m. Both records endure to this day.

The venue is now a destination for major music stars too; having hosted The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner and Madonna since 1990.

The Olympiastadion will mean many things to many people, sometimes at the same time.


Martin Glass is a director at GMP Berlin, and one of the architects behind the renovations of the stadium, including the roof, at the turn of the 20th century.

In his office, he tells The Athletic: “The stadium is very deeply rooted in the common consciousness and biography of most Berliners. The history started way back in 1912. There was another stadium there before the Olympiastadion, built with the idea of hosting the Olympic Games in 1916, which didn’t take place due to the First World War.

“When the National Socialists took power, they thought that it’s not appropriate to just renovate a stadium from the Emperor’s time, they wanted to represent the so-called Third Reich in what they thought would be an appropriate way. So they decided to do a new stadium and the 1936 Olympics was very much a propaganda event to sell the National Socialist regime with a friendly face to the global public.”

Jules Boykoff teaches political science at Pacific University in the U.S. state of Oregon. He is the author of six books on the Games, most recently publishing What Are The Olympics For? earlier this year ahead of the 2024 edition in Paris, France.

He says: “Stadiums are not just organised piles of brick and mortar — they can express national identity and exude cultural values. In the case of Berlin, they can proffer political agendas.

“When I think about 1936, the stadium was absolutely crucial to the messaging. At first, Hitler wasn’t very keen on the prospect of hosting an Olympics. If you’ve read Mein Kampf — I actually did, cover to cover, and it is not a pleasant experience — he doesn’t really mention sports, outside of boxing. He really wasn’t into the Olympics but he was convinced by his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, that it was a not-to-be-missed opportunity.

“The architecture of the stadium very much fits into that opportunistic mode that Hitler ultimately shifted into. It’s got that neoclassical kind of design, massive amounts of reinforced concrete, a limestone that they used at first on the facade, all those pillars.

“When you look at the photographs of the 1936 Olympics, what’s so striking is the ubiquity of the Nazi swastika. It was flying over the stadium. It was draped all around Berlin, often right next to the Olympic flag — the iconic five rings. So there’s no question that the 1936 Olympics were fully entangled in propaganda for Hitler. They even invented the Olympics torch relay to help spread the word of Aryan supremacy.”


Hitler during the opening ceremony of the 1936 Olympics (Mrs E. E. Williams/Keystone/Getty Images)

Hitler’s initial scepticism of the Olympics was based upon his aversion to the founding principles of the competition, with the ideals of internationalism and inclusivity countering his world-view. The Nazi newspaper Volkischer Beobachter said that allowing Black athletes to compete “is a disgrace and a degradation of the Olympic idea without parallel”.

At first, Hitler described the Olympic movement as a conspiracy of Jews and Freemasons. Yet Goebbels, aware this would be the first televised Olympics, sensed an opportunity. Albert Speer, a Hitler confidant and an architect, came up with the idea to clad the stadium in limestone, symbolising the permanence of a Thousand Year Reich. The Nazis then cast their preferred Aryan race as the natural heirs to the Ancient Greeks, even beginning the Olympic torch’s journey with Germany in the village of Hellendorf, whose name derived from the Greek name for Greece — Hellas.

By 1936, the Nazi vilification of Germany’s Jewish population was long since underway — most notably via the introduction of the Nuremberg Laws the previous year, which stripped Jews of full citizenship and their political rights — as well as attacks on Jewish businesses, their exclusion from public employment and the denial of access to hospitals.

Yet during the Games that summer, the Nazis engaged in what would now be described as “sportswashing” (the use of sport as a means to deflect from significant human rights abuses) and sought to charm the world with a full-throttled display of Olympic pageantry. In podcast The Rest Is History, historian Dominic Sandbrook tells how the Nazis kept a Jewish fencer, Helene Mayer, on the German team “and used her as evidence that they were much kinder and cuddlier than their foreign critics allowed”.


The Jewish fencer Mayer, centre, won silver for Germany at the 1936 Games (Schirner Sportfoto-Archiv/picture alliance via Getty Images)

He added: “They banned the publication of Der Sturmer (during the Olympics) — the Nazi newspapers were kept off the streets of Berlin. They do all this manicuring of the regime. Banned authors reappear.

“There are some really fascinating books written about the 1936 Games, talking about all the American and British visitors who arrived and were completely taken in. They pitched up and they said Nazis aren’t as bad as they appear and how the nightlife and the nightclubs were great.

“(But) Just outside the city, people are already political prisoners and they are building the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Germany had just remilitarised the Rhineland. So Hitler’s intentions are clear. There’s no doubt about the nature of the regime.”

Arthur J Daley, a sportswriter for The New York Times, had covered discussions about a possible boycott in the lead-up to the 1936 Games, due to antisemitism, but described the Olympics at the end of the calendar year 1936 as “perfect in setting, brilliant in presentation and unparalleled in performance”, saying they stood apart in history as “the greatest sports event of all time”. He added: “The mere presence of Herr Hitler was enough to give any Reich athlete inspirational wings to do things he never had even dreamed of doing before.”

The Nazis spared no expense in impressing visitors. The athletes’ Olympic Village had living rooms, restaurants, theatres and separate rooms with television screenings. A Finnish sauna was installed, an artificial lake created, and they even borrowed birds from Berlin Zoo.

Athletes representing Germany won more medals than any other nation in 1936 but the sporting story of those Games, and to this day the most powerful achievement in the stadium, belonged to Owens, who won four gold medals — the 100m and 200m, long jump and, with his American team-mates, the 4 x 100m relay. The common story is that Hitler was so appalled that he declined to shake the hand of Owens, and our tour guide at the stadium quips that “Hitler would rather have chopped his arm off than shake hands with a Black man”.


Jesse Owens won four golds at the 1936 Olympics (Getty Images)

Yet several historical accounts say that Hitler had stopped shaking hands with all the Games’ champions after the first day, after being asked by the International Olympic Committee to shake hands with everybody, rather than only German winners, or to shake hands with nobody at all. U.S. journalist Daley, present on the day Owens won the 100m, reported that Hitler did not congratulate any of the Black American winners that day but did find time for German hammer throwers.

At certain times, the crowd even chanted Owens’ name. His daughter Beverley told a documentary, The 1936 Nazi Olympic Games, how surprised her father had been to arrive in Germany and discover equal treatment, even if it was performative by the Nazis.

She said: “When they first arrived, they wanted to know where their rooms were, because they thought that they were going to be placed in a different place than the white (members of the American) team. That’s a heck of a thing, when at home it was not like that. And they all ate together. It wasn’t the white boys here, the Black boys there. It was a team, because they were the U.S. Olympic team and that’s what they functioned as.”

Hitler, however, was particularly displeased when Owens defeated Germany’s Luz Long in a dramatic long jump. Beverley Owens added: “Hitler lost face, because he felt that his Olympic team was going to just trounce all over everyone. And that’s why he left the stadium.”

Boykoff says: “It was fascinating to me in researching Owens that everyday Berliners were fascinated by him and wanted to be around him. The Nazis sent a security force to surveil Owens everywhere he went, in order to make sure there was no untoward interaction between Aryan Germans and this African-American man from the United States.

“They were surveilling every German who was getting anywhere close to Owens. The Nazis and those running the Olympics intercepted numerous letters that were intended for not only Jesse Owens, but other athletes too, from people who were trying to raise their awareness about the Nazi atrocities that were already underway against Jewish folks and Roma people and others.”


The United States and Italy men’s 4x100m relay teams after winning gold and silver respectively (Ullstein bild via Getty Images)

David Goldblatt, who has written a history of the Olympics entitled The Games, explains the challenges Owens encountered back in the United States, where he had already experienced segregation at Ohio State University, where he was not permitted to live on campus.

Goldblatt recounted on the History Extra Podcast how the events were received in the U.S.: “Owens is celebrated wildly in the Black press in the United States because the press is very segregated in those days. And in the north of the United States, it is considered a great sporting achievement. But there is not a single picture of him in a newspaper published in the South. It’s being completely ignored. It is only really in the post-World War Two era and during that war, when the United States needs to fashion its anti-fascist credentials, that this story takes on such a massive place in the historical record.

“Owens’ athletic achievement is not a myth. And there is no doubt we know from the private papers of Goebbels, for example, that they were deeply rankled by this. They referred to Owens as one of America’s ‘coloured auxiliaries’. If you’ve got a racial hierarchy of the world, it’s going to disturb that profoundly. But in international terms, in either highlighting Jim Crow laws in the United States, or the plight of African-American athletes in U.S. sports culture, or understanding it as a defeat for the racist ideology of the Nazis, that is all manufactured much later down the line.”

Reporting on Owens’ success, Daley, writing in The New York Times, noted: “German nationalism and the prejudice that seems to go with it revealed themselves somewhat disagreeably.”

Boykoff adds: “He (Owens) returns to the United States and he is disappointed by the reception he got from President (Franklin D) Roosevelt at that time. And he says publicly a number of things against Roosevelt. He represented the United States, and he represented them about as well as he possibly could have. And then he comes home and he’s still living in a heavily racist society where he’s seeing discrimination and being discriminated against on a regular basis.”


Today, a street in close proximity to the Olympiastadion is named after Owens, there is the small museum in the Olympic Park and full English-language tours are provided that detail the brutal reality of Germany’s history.

In the aftermath of those 1936 Olympics, the stadium — called “Reichssportfeld” (Reich Sports Field) by the Nazis — acted as a ground for sports training for the paramilitary, and a venue for sports activities for the Hitler Youth. A thick concrete ceiling had been built into the stadium tunnel to provide bunkers ahead of the Second World War, while weapons were also produced, and an administration building served as an ammunition depot. It even became a headquarters for Nazi Germany’s national radio network in the final months of the war.


The columns of the Olympiastadion (Ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Curiously, no bombs landed on the stadium during the Allied bombings of Germany. Our tour guide theorises that bomber pilots may have used it as a landmark to find their bearings, knowing that the actual city of Berlin was 15km (just under 10 miles) to the east.

Following the Second World War, this potential shrine to Nazi Germany presented a challenge. Its infrastructure was so vast and useful that it never seemed probable that it would be destroyed on ethical grounds alone. The Russian Red Army briefly formed a garrison there and after the Soviet withdrawal, the British moved in for several decades. The Olympic Park’s swimming pool was opened to the public and the stadium itself, if not the park, returned to the Berlin senate by 1949, who changed the name to Olympiastadion.

The stadium’s website details how the British set about de-Nazifying various elements of it, reducing the height of Hitler’s honorary stand, removing swastikas and narrowing the size of the balcony that had once been his viewing point. In 1966, it was designated as a listed building, meaning its status is preserved.

As time passed, the stadium began to take on new meanings.

Architect Glass says: “It still had this 1936 National Socialist Olympic image. But on the other hand, they built a youth hostel right into the stadium, after the war, so in the 1950s until the 1970s, it was very common for Western Germans to do a class trip, with their history teacher, to Berlin. And that would have been one of the spaces where we spent the night, overlooking the field. Then there were Berlin events like a police show — where the police showed off to the public what they can do on motorbikes. When we did an exhibition in 2000 about the history of the place, we had so many amazing and weird photos of crazy stuff happening.

“Then it became the home to (club team) Hertha Berlin. So it plays a very important role in many people’s personal lives as having gone to their first football match with their parents. For most Berliners, it’s not so much a National Socialist heritage leftover but it’s actually something that was integrated into their personal biography one way or another.

“There was this famous concert by The Rolling Stones at Waldbuhne in 1965, an amphitheatre in the (Olympic) Park, and you can ask any (local) 75-year-old and everybody claims to have been there.”


The Olympiastadion is home to Hertha Berlin (Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

As Germany’s international rehabilitation gathered pace, most significantly with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the reunification of Germany the following year, Berlin made a bid to host international sporting competitions once more, most notably a failed Olympics bid for 2000, which Sydney in Australia won.

By 1998, the Germans had their eyes on the 2006 World Cup, which was secured. Otto Hoehne, president of the Berlin Soccer Association, spoke in favour of building a new stadium in Berlin, with modern hospitality boxes and all the luxuries of recently constructed stadia. The Wall Street Journal quoted him as saying: “The Roman Colosseum is nice, but you wouldn’t want to play games in it.”

In 1994, England called off a game against Germany that was supposed to take place there on April 20, which happened to be Hitler’s birthday, for fear it would attract neo-Nazis. The Professional Footballers’ Association — the players’ trade union in England — had raised concerns, while the German football headquarters had windows smashed in by activists opposed to the game taking place, who also sprayed slogans reading, ‘No match on April 20’.

Glass says: “There was not a serious discussion to demolish the Olympiastadion. It was rather, ‘Shall we use it, or shall we build a new one?’ We were pretty aware that we were entering, let’s say, shaky ground in terms of the history of the building. And in parallel, while we were building the stadium or rebuilding the stadium, we were putting a lot of pressure on the German Bundestag (parliament), together with the German Historic Museum and the Berlin Senate, to build a small museum or exhibition that deals with the political history of the whole space.”

The stadium was renovated and its roof added in time for that 2006 World Cup, at a cost of €242million (£204m/$260m at current exchange rates), and the venue was granted five-star status by both FIFA, football’s world governing body, and UEFA, its European equivalent.

Our tour guide, while showing visitors around the dressing rooms, points out that one FIFA requirement is “every changing room needs this device”, while holding an adjustable hairdryer. He smiles: “Very important for professional football players.”

Since then, we have seen Zidane’s headbutt in the final of the 2006 World Cup, and Bolt’s record-breaking feats in the 2009 World Championships — which also happened to be the same competition in which South Africa’s Caster Semenya, then only 18 years old, won the women’s 800m race, which subsequently became one of the defining talking points of the sport over the following decade due to a gender controversy.

Back to football, and Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund memorably beat Bayern Munich in the German Cup final here in 2012, while Messi and Luis Suarez, then of Barcelona, defeated Paul Pogba and Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus three years later.

The past is forever etched into history, but over the coming month, a new tapestry will be woven into Europe’s most contentious sporting venue.

(Top photos: Getty Images; design: John Bradford)
(1936 | 2024 Illustration: ullstein bild via Getty Images, Inaki Esnaola/Getty Images)
(Additional Photos:ullstein bild via Getty Images)



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Futurama’s Co-Creator Doesn’t Understand The Show’s Sci-FIi

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It’s worth noting that the “Futurama” writers’ room is chock-full of scientists, mathematicians, and holders of advanced degrees. Groening’s co-creator, David X. Cohen, liked to brag that the writers’ room contained a PhD in chemistry, a master’s in philosophy, a master’s in computer science, a master’s in math, and a PhD in applied math. David X. Cohen himself has a master’s degree in theoretical computer science from Berkeley. When it came to the sciences, the “Futurama” writers were very, very careful to make sure certain details were correct. 

Naturally, such a nerdy imprimatur attracted nerdy viewers, keen to see certain scientific principles expressed in dialogue, and miffed when certain high-tech sci-fi concepts proved to be inconsistent. When asked if “Futurama” got analytical letters, Groening said: 

“Very analytical. Some are very appreciative, some annoyed at the inconsistencies — because there is inconsistency. How do you get around the universe that’s so huge? Originally we planned to have the spaceship powered by the MW drive, which is ‘magic wand.’ All science fiction has that magic wand where you can travel through galaxies very quickly. And, instead David had a friend who had a theory that you could slow down the speed of light and therefore make things faster.” 

/Film previously wrote about how Cohen and his physicist friend David Schiminovich “covered” faster-than-light travel. It’s impossible for a craft to travel faster than light, so Cohen and Schiminovich said that in the future, the speed of light will somehow be made even faster, allowing starships to travel over 670 million mph without traveling through time. It’s an absurd conceit that covers a real scientific principle. That was enough of a “magic wand” for Groening.



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