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This isn’t Iowa, but Kate Martin is thriving in the Las Vegas spotlight


Kate Martin wants to make one thing clear: She is a punctual person.

That bus in Dallas that left her in the parking lot after a Las Vegas Aces team meal? “They set me up,” Martin says of her teammates’ recent viral prank on the rookie. “Come on, now. I would never be late.

“Coach (Becky Hammon) said she had to talk to me, and then I was talking to her — of no substance. I was really confused. I thought it was something important, and then they had been planning it the whole time.”

In fairness, everyone on the Aces acknowledges Martin’s discipline. As Hammon says, “She just doesn’t make mistakes.” It’s one of the many reasons Las Vegas — the players, the coaches, the fans — has come to love Martin, as she keeps living the best feel-good story in the WNBA.

One month into the season, Martin is averaging more than 20 minutes per game for the two-time defending champs and is often Hammon’s first sub off the bench, which makes it easy to forget how noteworthy it is that Martin is in this position. She averaged double-digit scoring once in her five years at Iowa, while playing in the national spotlight cast on Caitlin Clark, and she earned all-Big Ten honors in only that final season. Martin was a complementary player in a draft class filled with star power.

Near the end of her college career, she spoke about relishing the final days at Iowa before becoming a “regular old Joe Schmo.” She didn’t even have an agent during the WNBA Draft. She simply asked her Iowa coaches to speak to some pro coaches and, from that intel, inferred that she would be selected in the third round at best. Martin attended the draft to support Clark and didn’t plan on walking if or when she was picked because she hadn’t been invited by the league and her name would presumably be called late in the night.

But Hammon and the Aces were more interested in Martin than she knew. Whenever Hammon and her staff watched Iowa games, she said they came away thinking, “Damn, we love that Kate Martin kid! Oh, she’s so good, she’s so solid.”

Those crossing signals ended up producing one of the highlights of the draft, as the producers asked Martin — who was seated in the audience — to move to the aisle of her row at the end of the first round. She noticed the cameras start to close in when the Aces selected Syracuse’s Dyaisha Fair with the 16th pick. Two picks later, it was Martin’s turn to shake hands with league commissioner Cathy Engelbert and make her way across the Brooklyn Academy of Music stage.

Even being drafted didn’t guarantee that Martin’s WNBA career would still be alive and well. Between 2021 and 2023, only 13 of the 36 second-round picks made their team’s opening-night roster, and a few of those players were cut before the end of the regular season. Martin was joining a Las Vegas squad with a crowded training camp roster competing for only a few spots.

The week of the draft, Martin got an assist in the process of making the roster from her future teammate Kelsey Plum, who extended Martin a last-minute invite to her Dawg Class to help her prepare for training camp. “We had an open spot, and I was like, ‘Kate Martin, for sure. Let’s go,’” Plum said.



Kelsey Plum wants to develop the next generation of ‘dawgs’

Once Martin got to Las Vegas, she steadily edged out the competition with her work ethic — what the Aces call the “try hard factor” — and mind. She hopes to coach after her playing career and demonstrated that aptitude with her ability to pick up terminology and schemes. Hammon recalled one instance when she was installing a new, somewhat complex sideline out-of-bounds play. As her teammates set up the play on the court, Martin noticed from the sideline that they were lined up incorrectly and pointed it out.

“To be able to make those adjustments and speak up, this is an ATO she’s just seen, but she understood conceptually what we were trying to do and then she could put the pieces together,” Hammon said. “So that’s a great sign.”

It was also fortuitous for Martin to land in Las Vegas, a place where she will never need to be a star. The Aces need role players to surround their superstar quartet, and Martin was elite at that assignment in college playing next to Clark. She sets good screens, she moves the ball, she cuts hard to the basket, and she makes open jumpers. Las Vegas will never call a play for Martin, but she knows how to impact games regardless.

Martin credits Iowa coach Lisa Bluder for helping her read the game. Bluder always said she didn’t want to coach robots, and that forced Martin to develop her IQ and learn how to make decisions without set plays. Hammon grants the Aces freedom on the court, which is a natural extension of the Hawkeyes offense.

Martin cried when she learned she made the final roster, but it’s the Aces who would have been in a world of hurt without her through the first quarter of the season. In her first WNBA game, Martin blocked 6-foot-7 Li Yueru from behind and hasn’t looked back since. She’s shooting 37 percent on 3-pointers, a mark that’s better than every team in the league except the Minnesota Lynx. Las Vegas is 0.7 points per 100 possessions better with her on the court than off it.

Hammon has deployed Martin in small-ball lineups as a three or four, then started her at shooting guard against the Los Angeles Sparks, against whom she scored a career-high 13 points and made all three of her 3-pointers.

Her first 3 almost brought the lid off the roof of Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, despite the Aces being the road team. Just as she was with the Hawkeyes, Martin is a fan favorite wherever she goes.

“Honestly, I didn’t expect that,” Martin said. “I never expect anything, really. I had no expectations coming to the league, and I think that’s what’s been so fun is that I got an opportunity, and I made the best team in the world, and then it’s just been a lot of fun since.”

Martin also has a ton of fans within her locker room. In Hammon’s first two seasons as Las Vegas’ coach, she played her four rookies a total of 524 minutes. Martin was already at 183 heading into Thursday’s game, the second most ever afforded among Hammon’s six total rookies. A’ja Wilson loves Martin’s energy and that she is always ready when her name is called; the two-time MVP is continually breathing confidence into Martin, encouraging her to shoot and trying to uplift her whenever possible. Plum calls her “an amazing sponge.” Martin has already drawn comparisons to Alysha Clark as a glue player, and Clark has taken the 2024 draftee under her wing.

The veterans might mess with her — peep the Hello Kitty backpack Martin is required to carry on trips — but she takes it as a sign of love. After all, the day after her teammates tried to ditch her in a restaurant parking lot, it was Martin’s birthday, and arguably the best player in the world got her a cake, ribbon and tiara.

Going into the season, it might not have been evident that Martin would be relied upon to this extent as Las Vegas chases a three-peat. But one thing to know about that Aces rookie — she’s ahead of schedule.

(Photo: Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

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The Bones Episode With The Most Viewers Was The Woman in the Car


On “Bones,” the question was never whether the heroes would eventually catch their killer(s) red-handed, it was how, exactly, Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and FBI Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) would combine their respective powers of brains and heart, Captain Planet-style, to save the day. In “The Woman in the Car,” the duo — still in the platonic stage of their relationship — find themselves investigating a case involving a heavily-burned corpse in an equally-toasted vehicle, the victim’s abducted child, and an estranged spouse who instantly invites suspicion. Without giving the game totally away for those who’ve never watched it, let’s just say it takes both some reasoning on Bones’ behalf and Booth going with his gut (that and his experience in the Special Forces) to foil this grisly criminal scheme.

“The Woman in the Car” was written by Noah Hawley, then but a humble writer, story editor, and producer on the series who had yet to earn his showrunner bonafides with the darkly funny thrills of “Fargo” and the surreal intensity of “Legion.” Meanwhile, “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” and “Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid” director Dwight H. Little called the shots, which explains how we ended up with a fiery kidnapping nightmare that certainly falls on the more horrifying side of the spectrum. “Bones” was a constant balancing act between zany hijinks and grave melodrama, so you needed more intense chapters like this one to counter the sillier installments (like the time Bones and Booth went undercover as horny Canadian circus performers).

As for which episode has been streamed the most? Your guess is as good as mine, but I hope all you Boners (or Boneheads or whatever you prefer to be called) out there have taken the time to fully appreciate Deschanel dorking it up on the dance floor.

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Bobby Valentine, Orel Hershiser, the Mets and a hilarious disguise 25 years ago


At a recent Q&A session, Bobby Valentine fielded a question that discussed his antics during his days as manager of the New York Mets. Valentine was reminded of a time where he wore — and was caught wearing — a fake mustache and sunglasses in the dugout. That happened 25 years ago.

The person who asked the question? A 9-year-old fan.

“His father and mother probably hadn’t even met, yet he wanted to know,” Valentine joked. “I’ve been amazed at the legs of that minute and a half of my life.”

There are a bunch of baseball fans who weren’t alive on June 9, 1999, yet somehow they are familiar with one of Valentine’s most infamous (or famous, depending on the person) moments. He was ejected during the 12th inning of what would be a 14-inning game against the Toronto Blue Jays — but he would return to the Shea Stadium dugout wearing a disguise.

That disguise is now a fun topic for Valentine and Orel Hershiser, who played a key role in the attempt to hide Valentine. And 25 years later, it’s still something that many laugh at — young and old — and something that has helped to make Valentine a fan favorite.

The mustache? Valentine said he found eye black stickers from the training room and put them on upside down under his nose.

“I looked in the mirror, and it looked pretty good,” Valentine said. “And then Orel said, ‘They’ll never know,’ when he saw me. The rest is history.”

The Mets were tied 3-3 with Toronto in the top of the 12th on that June night, and Blue Jays infielder Craig Grebeck was at the plate with outfielder Shannon Stewart on first base. In Stewart’s attempt to steal second, the Mets called a pitchout. Catcher Mike Piazza took the pitch wide from Pat Mahomes and tried to throw out Stewart. Piazza, however, was called for a catcher’s balk for going too far in front of the plate on the throw.

Valentine left the dugout to question umpire Randy Marsh and was ejected. Following the ejection, Valentine thought about ways to get messages from the clubhouse to the dugout. A common practice for a disqualified manager was to watch the game on television and have a “runner” relay messages to the acting manager. Hershiser volunteered to be the runner, Valentine said, but the setup at Shea included running up and down stairs, making Hershiser’s offer to relay timely messages unrealistic.

“Then Hershiser says, ‘Why don’t you come out to the dugout?’” Valentine said. “That’s when he threw me glasses and the hat.”

Hershiser said he’s unsure who came up with the disguise as a solution, but he’s not about arguing the call, so to speak.

“I don’t know what his version (of the story) is,” Hershiser said. “It was like, if you’re going to do that, (you) better cover up as much as possible. If he said I gave him the hat, I believe him.”

Hershiser was tasked with blocking the umpire’s view of Valentine, with Mahomes assisting. Valentine said a camera used to capture players in the dugout “busted” him.

Hershiser, who now works as an analyst for the Los Angeles Dodgers, was familiar with the relay system. It was something he’d seen as a pitcher for the Dodgers when manager Tommy Lasorda was tossed from games.

It’s a funny story now for Valentine, particularly with the Mets ultimately winning that game on a Rey Ordóñez walk-off hit in the 14th. But the ejection wasn’t funny at the time, Valentine said. He was fined $5,000 and suspended two games for the stunt.

“And (Hershiser) never wanted to pay half the fine — and he was making more money than me,” Valentine said with a laugh. “Go figure that out.”

“No one was forcing him to do this,” Hershiser responded. “We were just helping our manager with his idea, or adding to the idea.”

To add, there wasn’t a lot of laughing around the Mets in late May and early June of 1999. General manager Steve Phillips had fired pitching coach Bob Apodaca, hitting coach Tom Robson and bullpen coach Randy Niemann after eight consecutive losses, leaving Valentine with a revamped coaching staff and worrying about his own job security.

The Mets, however, managed to turn things around, winning six of seven after that June 9 win, which actually was a fourth consecutive for the team. The Mets went 17-10 for the month and finished the regular season with a 97-66 record. They beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS before falling to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS.

Twenty-five years later, Valentine said he hasn’t heard much embellishment of the story. But he has heard tales of him having a disguise ready at every stadium, which was not true.

To hear people of all ages — even 9-year-olds — still talk about it means it was indeed a moment.

“I think that it’s all about making people laugh,” Valentine said. “I’m glad the levity helps today, and I guess it helped then, too.”

(Photo: John Conrad Williams, Jr. / Newsday RM via Getty Images)

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The 10 Best Pixar Characters of All Time, Ranked


You can look at Joy in both “Inside Out” and “Inside Out 2” and see the motherly side of Pixar coming out. Where films such as “Finding Nemo” or even “Monsters, Inc.” are essentially about fathers (or father figures) coming to terms with their children growing up and moving beyond them, the “Inside Out” films are more focused on the female psyche. Though the five emotions inside the head of young Riley include male voices (Lewis Black as the fiery Anger, and the shaky Fear being voiced in the first film by Bill Hader and now by Tony Hale), Riley herself is guided by Joy (Amy Poehler), as well as Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and now new emotions like Anxiety (Maya Hawke).

What makes Joy so lovable is less her innate and effervescent positivity, and more about how she handles distressing moments. Near the end of “Inside Out,” before Joy returns to Riley’s Headquarters, she presumes she’s stuck in the Memory Dump forever and has an emotional breakdown brought brilliantly to life both by Poehler and the filmmakers, holding on a long close-up of Joy for 30 seconds (which feels like an eternity in fast-paced mainstream animation). 

[Note: Very light spoilers for “Inside Out 2” ahead.]

And in “Inside Out 2,” Joy and her fellow emotions are cast out by Anxiety in the name of helping Riley become her better self, and Joy has to admit that her constantly upbeat nature can be a drain on others and herself. That Joy is so open about her flaws in such dark moments only makes her more relatable and winning.

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At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Iron Dames bring the power of pink


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What do you want to be when you grow up?

An astronaut chef. A jet pilot. A dancer. A racing driver.

Children’s imaginations run wild, and these dreams can sometimes seem like a distant future, an intangible concept difficult to grasp. But perhaps seeing their dreams featured on one of the most eye-catching liveries in all of international motorsports this year will help these aspirations feel more like reality. Because as the Iron Dames’ 2024 Le Mans project says, “Every Dream Matters.”

Ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the first all-women lineup in endurance racing asked fans on social media “what did you dream of becoming when you were a child.” They later visited an elementary school in Le Mans, France, asking them to draw how they imagined their future, and explained the story of how the Iron Dames are “Women Driven by Dreams.” With the help of AI, the drawings were converted into a livery that symbolizes what the Iron Dames stand for.

Iron Dames

Iron Dames founder Deborah Mayer (in black) with Rahel Frey, Sarah Bovy and Michelle Gatting. (Courtesy of Iron Dames)

“We want to tell the kids that no matter what you are dreaming of becoming, everything in life is possible,” said Michelle Gatting, one of the three women who will pilot the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo2. “As long as you have a dream, a vision in your head of something you want to achieve, it’s already a big thing.”

Who are the ‘Iron Dames’?

Six years ago, former racing driver Deborah Mayer founded the Iron Dames to show that women can be involved in motorsports in any capacity. As Gatting said, “to prove that women can compete on the same level as men in motorsports.”

It’s about empowering women and easing the barriers to entry women face in the male-dominated world of motorsports, promoting inclusivity and investing in helping develop young talent. But it’s also about being competitive and winning, a project to last for years to come rather than a flash-in-the-pan type moment.

Gatting was one of the first Iron Dames, joining in 2019 before it even had a name.

“The project was basically not born yet,” she said. “It was already in the mind of Deborah, that she had a vision about during the project.” Gatting received an email about testing the car, which was a Ferrari at the time. It’s the kind of offer you don’t say no to.

Gatting’s motorsports journey began as a coincidence. The Dane was on a vacation with her family in the south of France when she hopped into a go kart at seven years old. She went from not knowing much about motorsports to making it her life. “When I was very young, I only dreamed about becoming a Formula One driver, and I was probably a bit more naive,” Gatting said. Over time, she saw that it was more than just F1. “I changed my vision, and for me, it was (that) I wanted to become an endurance driver.

“I wanted to race the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”

The Iron Dames’ Lamborghini Huracan got a special design for the 2024 24 Hours of Le Mans. (Courtesy Iron Dames)

Endurance racing is fairly different from the typical racing category, like F1 or IndyCar. Rather than driving over a set distance, endurance racing involves driving as far as possible within a preset time limit. With how strenuous endurance racing is, the World Endurance Championship (WEC) allows teams to split the race into stints, rotating drivers through the cockpit.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the premier race of WEC. Part of the triple crown of motorsports, it’s an 8.5-mile (13.6 km) track where 62 cars and 184 drivers across multiple classes drive for 24 hours.

The Iron Dames gave Gatting that chance in 2019, and now, she’s preparing for her sixth 24 Hours of Le Mans. “The project has changed my life, my career, I always wanted to become professional and make a living out of it. But it’s a very few drivers in the world who get that opportunity.” But making it to the top of endurance racing was no easy feat. Gatting sacrificed her teenage years — and doesn’t regret it — but also endured financial troubles. At one point, she had to sit out a season due to having “no money” and “basically, year after year, begging people and sponsors for money to go racing.”

The other two members of the 2024 Le Mans driver lineup are Sarah Bovy and Rahel Frey, who replaced an injured Doriane Pin.

Frey is another OG member of the Iron Dames, along with Manuela Gostner. Brothers Giacomo and Andrea Piccini, the latter of whom is the team principal for the Iron Lynx (the service provider for the Iron Dames), reached out to Frey given her experience level. She started go karting in 1998 and moved to single seaters several years later — and won a German Formula Three race in 2007.

“They asked me to be part of the project because they were looking for a female racer who already has good experience for endurance racing, who can basically join and guide, lead, a female driver crew,” Frey said.

It was through Gatting and Frey that Bovy, the third member of the Iron Dames’ 24 Hours of Le Mans driver lineup for this year, learned about the project. The Belgian driver heard of the two women and saw the creation of the project via social media.

“At the time, I thought, ‘Oh, another great project that I’m never going to be part of,’” Bovy said. “I would say that my first impression was really like, ‘Oh, I wish I could do that, but it’s too late.’”

Still, Bovy, who got her start at racing through karting at a fair, followed them on Facebook and Instagram. She continued with her career, racing in the 24 Hours of Spa and the maiden season of the all-women W Series in 2019. But in 2021, she saw the team may be short a driver, and she sent them an email to see if she could fill in. Spoiler: the answer was yes.

“It’s important to underline that nothing ever came easy. I think for all the Iron Dames, we worked our, sorry to say, ass off to reach this level,” Gatting said. “And I’m just extremely happy that what we’re doing with this project now, we are making it, let’s say not easier, but we are giving young girls an opportunity to join such a project (at) a very early age. If I had that opportunity when I was eight years old, I don’t want to think about where it could have taken me.

“But we are changing the world of motorsport with this project.”

‘Women Driven by Dreams’

You can’t miss the Iron Dames when they’re on track.

No, it’s not because of they’re women. It’s because of the car’s color. Bovy said originally it started as a black or dark blue base with some pink detailing. “When we started getting some stronger results, when we felt we were ready to expose ourselves a little bit more to the industry, our media team came back to us and say like, ‘Listen, girls, next year, we are inverting the color. The car is going to be pink with black details.’”

But it wasn’t just the bright pink car. It was the race suits and shoes, the team fully embracing what has long been considered a feminine color.

“The point is to say that pink is not a stupid color. Pink is not your weak color,” Bovy said. “Pink is the color we grew up with. We are kids from the 90s, and in the 90s, pretty much everything for girls was pink. So why would we need to hate it or say that it’s a weak color? We just don’t agree with that. We say if you like pink, pink can be a very powerful color.”

Iron Dames

Ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Iron Dames visited an elementary school in Le Mans, France, asking students to draw how they imagined their future. (Courtesy Iron Dames)

If someone asked her to race with pink on her suit before she joined the Iron Dames, Gatting would quickly decline. “I don’t want to show people that I am a woman driving,” she says. But now? “I wear it with pride,” she said, later showing the hot pink nail polish on her fingernails.

But the pink does bring an element of pressure. It is a vibrant pink, one that can’t simply blend in with the pack. Bovy said, “We all looked (at) each other, and we were like, ‘Wow, okay, we need to win races with this car because otherwise we’re going to look ridiculous.’”

In 2022, the Iron Dames finished third with 93 points in WEC, competing in the top class of GT racing, the LMGTE Am. The following season, they took another step forward and finished second with 118 points. Both seasons, the Iron Dames also competed in 24 Hours of Le Mans with the same lineup as this year, finishing seventh in 2022 and fourth in 2023.

As time went on and they continued moving up the ladder, the women grew more comfortable with the car’s color, Bovy equating it to “representing your flags or your country.” It’s a source of pride. After all, they’ve won in the pink and in other colors, as Bovy pointed out. Most recently, they’re race winners in the WEC, making history in the series as the all-women crew that won the LMGTE Am season finale in Bahrain last year.

“We don’t really feel that the color is just defining us anymore,” Bovy said. “We just wanted to give more visibility to the project.”

And it is becoming more visible. Lines form for autograph sessions at the track, and the women are noticing how their merchandise is becoming more prevalent in the paddock, especially among male fans.

“They really just support us and they support the fact that the project, it’s really something to be taken serious,” Gatting said. “But also, people respect us for everything we have done and everything we do. Every time we race, we want to prove that we are not just here to drive around and be a part of the competition.

“We are here for one thing, and that is to win.”

Talking about the impact gives Gatting goosebumps and makes her emotional because of what they’ve achieved over the last several years and how they’ve grown. “We are top professional racing drivers. And we are competing with the best male drivers in the world. And people, they don’t look at us in this strange way anymore.”

And it all started with the determination to chase a dream from their childhoods. After all, that’s who the Iron Dames are — “women driven by dreams.” The Iron Dames are bigger than just these three women. While the project is heavily invested in motorsports with other drivers like Doriane Pin and Marta García, the Iron Dames are also involved in equestrian. The entire project, including those in background roles like marketing, now amount to 45 people.

This weekend, Gatting, Frey and Bovy will all strap in for one of motorsports’ biggest moments of the year, bringing children’s dreams to life on-track with the livery while simultaneously living out their own aspirations.

“What started with the idea of promoting women’s motorsport and trying to have more of us in there is basically now something much bigger than that,” Bovy said. “(It) is empowering women all across the world to stand up and to fight for what kind of dream they want to reach.”

(Lead image: Photos courtesy of Iron Dames; Design: Dan Goldfarb/The Athletic)

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The Boys Season 4 and My Hero Academia Share a Storyline


“My Hero Academia” is sort of anime’s answer to “Sky High,” a show set in a world where 80% of the population has a superpower. The biggest villain Japan has seen is called All For One, whose power allows him to take and redistribute other people’s powers at will. After a huge fight with the country’s number one hero, All Might, All For One’s body was essentially decimated. It was through a young protegé named Tomura Shigaraki that All For One gained a chance at beating death, so he decided to groom Shigaraki to become his successor and heir, with the villain returning to the foreground of the anime and turning it into a must-watch once again. Except, rather than just raise him to be exactly like him, All For One is more nefarious, and instead transferred his power alongside his will into the body of Shigaraki. He then begins to slowly take over the body of his apprentice, with both of them wrestling for control.

Though All For One hasn’t fully taken control of Shigaraki, the young villain is still struggling with his mentor’s mind and ideas co-existing with his own dreams and personality. Our protagonist, Izuku Midoriya, aims to be the next number one hero, the symbol of peace. But now, in the face of the biggest enemy, in the face of unspeakable evil and horror, all he thinks about is trying to save the soul of Shigaraki (despite him being a more than willing participant in all of this) and get him away from All For One.

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The two Pinehursts have not always seen eye to eye


PINEHURST, N.C. — It can trick you, this place. It’s all so charming and whimsical, Mayberry turned golf mecca in the sandhills of North Carolina.

You stroll along the brick walking paths through the village, passing the two-story brick buildings filled with cute shops and quaint pubs. More than a million people travel here each year to this Disney World for idyllic golf-themed getaways.

It can trick you into thinking you stumbled onto a golf oasis. Trick you into forgetting this place is a juggernaut, a resort, a full-on corporation with luxury hotels and cottages and 10 courses designed by renowned golf architects. Yes, it may have started with a pharmacy chain owner offering tuberculosis patients a chance to recover in a haven designed by the same man who designed Central Park. But the reasons a place begins are very rarely the same reasons that keep a destination thriving.

Now, Pinehurst Resort calls itself the cradle of American golf. The USGA announced it as the first of its new “anchor sites,” which will host U.S. Opens every 5-6 years for the next 30 years, beginning this week.

Pinehurst brought back the World Golf Hall of Fame. Its relationship with the town is strong and it’s a bucket-list destination for generations of recreational golfers. It is, for the foreseeable future, a central focal point marrying the casual and professional golf worlds.

But it wasn’t that long ago this place was climbing out of $70 million in debt, that it was at war with the people of this town and embroiled in countless lawsuits focusing on issues ranging from predatory management strategies to members feeling cheated.

And it wasn’t so long ago that a private detective who called himself “the Fat Man” had a poster of Pinehurst’s owner on a chair in front of his desk with a simple mission: “I just want this guy nailed to the wall.”

There’s a mantra Robert H. Dedman Jr. repeats at will: “Always Pinehurst, but always better.”



From the shadow of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, a game-changer emerges

But progress doesn’t always go in a straight line. What began as a company town turned into something else when James W. Tufts hired Donald Ross as golf pro and formed Pinehurst No. 1 before completing his masterpiece — Pinehurst No. 2 — in 1907. Ross finished his fourth Pinehurst course before 1920 and the resort had become a premier golf destination with three inns. The town and the resort were so intertwined that resort employees were paid during the Depression in scrip redeemable only at Tufts-owned businesses. And it started its entry into pro golf circles, hosting the 1936 PGA Championship and 1951 Ryder Cup.

But in 1971, the Tufts family sold Pinehurst to Diamondhead Corporation, a real estate project owned by Malcom McLean that took a place rooted in tradition and lined the courses with condos and attempted to modernize the look of Ross’ design. Sacrilege. The prestige of the resort declined, as did its quality, and it compiled $70 million in debt by the time Diamondhead had to hand Pinehurst over to a consortium of eight banks in 1982.

Spectators are turning out in droves to watch Tiger Woods and the rest of the U.S. Open field at Pinehurst this week. (Andrew Redington / Getty Images)

In came the savior, a moniker that became a point of contention for many.

Robert H. Dedman Sr. was the founder of ClubCorp, a Dallas-based corporation that made a killing buying distressed private golf and country clubs and rebuilding them. They eventually owned more than 200 properties around the world, and Dedman Sr. was a billionaire often named by Golf Digest as one of the most important people in golf. He was a charming, self-made man from Arkansas who successfully branded himself as something between a capitalist and a romantic.

“The first time I stood in front of the clubhouse and looked out on all those ribbons of fairway, I got tears in my eyes,” Dedman Sr. told Sports Illustrated in 1999. “I had always venerated Pinehurst for its place in the history of golf, and when I finally saw it I knew instantly that we would take this fallen angel and make it not as good as it was, but better than it had ever been.”

Always Pinehurst, but always better. But better usually comes with costs. Capitalism is a game of winners and losers, and progress often leaves others behind.

Pinehurst was the crown jewel of ClubCorp’s empire, and Dedman Sr. made good on those dreams by restoring tradition and returning Pinehurst to its rightful place in the sport. In fact, he elevated it.

Fifteen years and $100 million after buying it, the 1999 U.S. Open came to Pinehurst. Dedman Sr. died in 2002, but Dedman Jr. (known as Bob) was running much of the company by the 1990s. It hosted the U.S. Open again in 2005. The Dedmans sold ClubCorp in 2006 but kept Pinehurst as their baby, and after a successful restoration it made history by holding the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens in consecutive weeks in 2014. The men’s tournament went 10 years without returning, but with its new anchor site designation Pinehurst has successfully cemented its place at the forefront of American golf.

That build, though, came with pushback. Starting in 1991 and carrying on through 2000, as much as 55 percent (more than 3,000) of Pinehurst members contributed to legal funds for a lawsuit claiming the club brought in too many outsiders, denied them agreed upon access to tee times and improperly raised membership fees.

In 1990, ClubCorp sold its stake in nearby Pinewild Country Club to Japanese cookie maker Tohato Inc. with a deal for Tohato to pay ClubCorp to manage it. By 1996, Tohato sued ClubCorp because it felt hoodwinked, claiming the latter used Pinewild as inexpensive overflow courses for guests paying to stay next door at Pinehurst Resort. Tohato officials also claimed ClubCorp tried to purposely mismanage the property to force Tohato to want out and sell back to Pinehurst at a fraction of the original cost.

Things turned dramatic when Tohato hired the celebrity private detective William Graham to help with the case. Graham was an eccentric who appeared on “Late Night with David Letterman” and “20/20” and was in talks with studios to produce a movie about his life. Graham pursued ClubCorp so hard they ultimately sued him for libel. And in the meantime Graham caused the Dedmans constant headaches.

In 1997, Graham sent out faxes across the country detailing 33 alleged “civil and criminal violations” against ClubCorp. He was quoted in South Carolina’s The State newspaper calling Dedman Sr. and his company, “a bunch of backstabbing, corkscrewing, double-dealing, lying, cheating, stealing (SOBs).”

All of this ClubCorp of course used in its libel case, which was folded into a seven-figure settlement paid by Tohato to ClubCorp. But those faxes led to major outlets like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times investigating and publishing large pieces painting ClubCorp in an unflattering light. In the two years before the U.S. Open, at least seven of the company’s 70 country clubs were involved in lawsuits against ClubCorp filed by either members homeowners or a co-owner, per the New York Times. (ClubCorp eventually pulled out of its management arrangement at Pinewild, telling members in a letter it had “been placed in a position that makes it impossible to do our job.”)

So when Pinehurst hosted the 1999 U.S. Open — what was supposed to be Dedman Sr.’s crowning achievement — he instead sat with Sports Illustrated for a profile on how such a beloved figure was suddenly disliked by so many around the club.

“Just because we have a great reputation, people think that if they make a few grandiose statements we’ll cave in and pay their blackmail,” Dedman Sr. told SI. “We can’t afford to do that. We have had people go to obnoxious lengths to try to get a settlement. We have zero tolerance for that behavior. Our philosophy, to quote one of our former Presidents, is millions for defense but not one cent for tribute.”

When Pinehurst hosted the 1994 U.S. Senior Open the No. 2 course barely resembled Donald Ross’ original design. It’s been since restored. (Gary Newkirk / Allsport via Getty Images)

But the public relations issues for Pinehurst really took over when the battles started with the townspeople. In 1995, a Pinehurst resident named Edmund Dietrich wrote a letter to The Pilot, the local paper in Southern Pines, saying tips given to resort employees were being withheld. Dietrich was sued for libel, though ClubCorp later dropped it. Then, ClubCorp reportedly threatened local businesses for using Pinehurst in their names, citing trademark infringement. It claimed Pinehurst was only the name of the resort and facilities, and that the town was the “Village of Pinehurst.”

ClubCorp lawyer Stephen Trattner famously said: “I don’t believe there is a Pinehurst, N.C. You may call it that, and the mail may get there that way, (but) you don’t live in Pinehurst. You live in the Village of Pinehurst.”

Dedman Sr. had created an environment in which members and guests were treated like royalty, with staff remembering their favorite cocktails and making sure to use their name at least four times a trip, but the people who lived in the town — a town founded to help people get healthy — felt alienated. Pinehurst Business Guild became the Village of Pinehurst Business Guild. Companies like Pinehurst Interiors had to change their name to Village Design Group, which still stands today.

If Dedman Sr. was the charming personality who could light up a room, Bob Jr. was the hard-nosed, forward-thinking CEO who, his father admitted, was a more organized executive. But if at the time Dedman Jr. was labeled as a bottom line executive pushing for growth, he’s also been the one overseeing its public rehabilitation.



U.S. Open Big Board: After Scottie Scheffler, how does the field stack up at Pinehurst?

Another funny thing about progress is success tends to mend most wounds. Pinehurst has become more and more of a powerhouse in the world of golf, bringing millions and millions of tourism dollars to the area each year. Dedman Jr. founded a local Boys & Girls Club chapter in Pinehurst in 1999 and now receives local hospitality awards. While the mayor back in 1999 was calling his father arrogant and a bully, former Pinehurst mayor Nancy Roy Fiorillo (2011-2019) raved about all the good Dedman Jr. does and how great Pinehurst Resort is for the town.

“Bob Dedman Jr. is Doing All the Good He Can” was the headline of a story in The Pilot last week. Similar pieces have been written by Global Golf Post and PineStraw Magazine. Maybe some of it is from the ClubCorp sale — it’s far easier to be magnanimous proprietors when you’re running one iconic club and not a conglomerate fighting for every little margin.

What’s clear is Pinehurst is now thriving. More than 12 million Americans have traveled to play golf each of the past two years, up about 20 percent over the historical average, according to the National Golf Foundation. Pinehurst attracts a large chunk of that.

Every resort is trying catch up to it, a place that can boast both incredible history with everyone from Bobby Jones to Tiger Woods having played here, mixed with constant innovation and new courses. The restoration of No. 2 by the architect team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw took the already famous course to new heights by removing rough and leaving tough, sandy areas off the fairways. Gil Hanse’s redesign of No. 4 has boosted it in significance. All of the top designers of past and present have contributed to one course or another.

And the resort keeps pushing itself off the course, turning an abandoned steam plant into a brewery and refurbishing the clubhouse with lush new digs for members. They expanded the Deuce Grill, restored one inn and renovated another. All of that on top of the USGA’s new Golf House Pinehurst and the World Golf Hall of Fame, which returned from St. Augustine, Fla.

The Dedmans tried to ensure that it was always about Pinehurst but always making it better, and they’ve continued to push and push to a point it seems unstoppable going forward. And now, the conversation of the week is entirely about the course and how great it will be to watch. Not the issues of the past.

They couldn’t pin the Dedmans to the wall.

(Top photo: Tracy Wilcox / PGA Tour via Getty Images)

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The Boys Showrunner Has An Ending In Mind – But No Idea How They’ll Get There [Exclusive]


You can only hold off on the endgame for so long, and the upcoming fourth season of “The Boys” (which /Film’s Danielle Ryan reviewed here) appears set to take a big step in that direction. While there are all sorts of hanging plot threads and various loose ends to tie up, the central conflict has to do with the final confrontation between Karl Urban’s leader of the eponymous Boys, Billy Butcher, and Antony Starr’s homicidal “supe” Homelander, with poor Hughie (Jack Quaid) caught up in the middle. Last season saw the two foes fight to a draw, essentially, even with Butcher juiced up on the volatile Temp V compound. Of course, that same super serum is now killing him, setting the stakes quite high for season 4 and beyond.

Kripke alluded to at least one last head-to-head battle to come between the pair, however, during his conversation with /Film. When asked whether he has a “master plan” or if he’s adjusting the narrative as he goes, he responded:

“I’d say we’re squarely in the middle. Every season we know that we want Homelander to get a little more disconnected from reality, and we want Butcher to get a little scarier. The show is, at the end of the day, about these two forces charging towards each other, between Butcher and Homelander. I know that them finally smashing into each other, once and for all, will be a big part of whatever end game we come up with. But beyond that, and beyond knowing where I want Hughie, it’s like I know where I want a lot of the characters to end up. That’s what I would say. I actually don’t even necessarily know the climax of the show, as much as I know that 10 pages that happens at the end, when they say six months later, and you see where everyone is. I know where everyone is. Then my job, as whenever we get to it, my job is to just make sure we can back into that.”

Obviously, viewers can look to the original Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson comics to see where the series might end up, but Kripke hasn’t been shy about diverting from the source material before and certainly won’t stop now as we approach the end. Whatever form that ultimately takes and whoever emerges victorious (we wouldn’t necessarily expect a happy ending for either character), fans can rest assured that it’ll be bloody, disturbing, and irreverent until the end.

You can hear our full interview with Kripke on today’s episode of the /Film Daily podcast below:

You can subscribe to /Film Daily on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts, and send your feedback, questions, comments, concerns, and mailbag topics to us at bpearson@slashfilm.com. Please leave your name and general geographic location in case we mention your e-mail on the air.

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Evan Rodrigues’ record-tying Stanley Cup start is no surprise to past, present teammates


SUNRISE, Fla. — Evan Rodrigues smiled wide Monday night when a Toronto columnist asked what he would have said before the Stanley Cup Final had he been told two games in that he’d be outscoring Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman, who combined for 127 regular-season goals.

“It’s pretty cool,” the Florida Panthers forward said, then shifting into wise-veteran mode and showing some humility in not giving the Edmonton Oilers, down 0-2 in the best-of-seven championship series, extra motivation going back home.

“I’m not too worried about the point totals or goals. At the end of the day, we’re looking for wins here and, yeah, that’s all I care about. It’s nice to contribute. It’s nice to contribute to a win.”

The 30-year-old Rodrigues isn’t only outscoring those three talents 3-0 on the goal blotter two games into the Final. He’s outscoring the 13 Oilers forwards who have dressed by the same margin.

An undrafted player out of Boston University playing on his fourth team in five years, Rodrigues’ three goals are tied for the most in NHL history through a player’s first two Cup Final games. On Monday night, in a 4-1 Florida victory during which Rodrigues scored a pair of third-period goals, he became the first player in Panthers history with a multi-goal game in the Final. His three goals in two games this series have matched his total from Florida’s 17 games in the first three rounds.

Rodrigues’ first goal — a snapshot after an Evan Bouchard turnover — came three minutes into the third period, breaking a 1-1 tie. It stood as Rodrigues’ first game-winning goal in 35 career playoff games. His second goal snapped Edmonton’s run of 34 consecutive penalty kills over 12 games.

“So happy for him, proud of him,” said Matthew Tkachuk, whose line Rodrigues joined during the Eastern Conference final series against the New York Rangers. “Playing with him the last few games, he reads the game so well. That’s two games in a row scoring some big goals for us. He’s a super smart player and I’m really happy to see him get rewarded right now.”

Tkachuk believed Rodrigues’s impact in Game 2 went beyond his goals. He played steady hockey, moved his feet well and forechecked. The Panthers had more than 70 percent of the expected goal share with him on the ice at five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Rodrigues signed with the Buffalo Sabres out of college, but his breakout didn’t come until after the Pittsburgh Penguins traded for him. The Penguins dealt with early-season injuries in 2021-22, which led to Rodrigues getting more opportunity. He capitalized, scoring a career-high 19 goals and 43 points. Still, he didn’t land a long-term contract in free agency, so he went to the Colorado Avalanche, then the defending champions, on a one-year, $2 million deal. He continued to prove his worth with the Avalanche, averaging a career high in ice time (17:51 per game) and playing in the Avalanche’s top six.

“He’s super underrated and can do a lot of different things in a lot of situations,” said Vegas Golden Knights forward Jack Eichel, who played with Rodrigues at Boston University and in Buffalo.

“The more opportunity he’s gotten over his career, the better he’s done,” said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar, who credited Rodrigues with being able to play alongside top players. “I think he’s really comfortable in his own skin, knows what his strengths are.”

But a long playoff run eluded Rodrigues before this season. He was on the ice when Artemi Panarin eliminated the Penguins with a Round 1, Game 7 overtime winner in 2022. He was on the ice again the next year as Colorado couldn’t find an equalizer in the dying seconds of its Round 1, Game 7 loss to Seattle.

Rodrigues had never made it out of the first round until joining the Panthers. He was so excited for the Stanley Cup Final to start, he said, that he wished Game 1 could have been a 1 p.m. start.

Florida general manager Bill Zito signed Rodrigues to a four-year, $3 million average annual value contract last summer — the longest, most lucrative contract of the forward’s career. He’s proven to be worth the commitment. After a 39-point regular season — his third year in a row with more than 35 — he’s given the Panthers six goals and 11 points in 19 playoff games.

“He’s a bit of a chameleon,” said Kyle Okposo, who also played with Rodrigues in Buffalo. “If you look at the teams that he’s played on and who he’s played with, it’s not an easy thing to go play with some of the top players in the world.

“He has a unique confidence about him where at times when guys are playing with those top guys, they just want to give him the puck and get out of their way, and Evan is a guy that he makes a lot of plays and he has the confidence to keep it on a stick and make the right play at the right time. And I think that that’s why he’s had so much success everywhere he’s gone.”

Monday night was an example of that. He started on the second line with Sam Bennett and Tkachuk, then was elevated to the top line in the third period with Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart until Barkov got hurt midway through the period.

Coach Paul Maurice has said this postseason that he likes to play Carter Verhaeghe next to Barkov in short spurts of games, but they usually have an expiration date. Maurice saw something during Game 2 that made him elevate Rodrigues.

Rodrigues went on what Maurice called “a world tour of our lineup” throughout the regular season. Early on, the coach had him on Barkov’s line but thought he, understandably, was too deferential to his linemates. Now he’s found his game and can fit in wherever Florida needs.

“It’s something I’ve taken pride in my whole career, being able to play up and down the lineup, power play, penalty kill,” Rodrigues said. “It’s nice to contribute to wins. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who it is. … We’re looking for wins here, and we’re happy with the results.”

When Rodrigues was on the Avalanche in 2022-23, he watched the team raise its 2022 Stanley Cup banner ahead of the season opener. Though Rodrigues wasn’t part of the championship-winning team, he felt chills as tribute videos played and the banner rose into the rafters.

Now, in large part thanks to his early series heroics, he’s two wins away from another banner night — this time one where he’d be fully a part of the celebration.

(Photo: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

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The Boys Season 4 Suggests Butcher Will Avoid His Comics Fate


Ennis’ Butcher is ruthless in his quest to kill Homelander, and after a string of shocking events leads to the laser-eyed supe’s death, Butcher realizes that the void left by Becca’s demise can never be healed. Instead of taking a step back, Butcher plans to do the unimaginable: he decides to detonate a remote strain of Compound V that flows through the veins of every supe, where this explosion would exterminate millions (including innocent civilians) without discrimination. After the boys try to stop him, Butcher turns on his friends, killing everyone in the group except Hughie. During a tense confrontation on the roof between the two, they fall, leading to Butcher being paralyzed and goading Hughie into killing him. Although initially refusing to do so, Hughie stabs Butcher with an iron pipe, bringing the tale of a singularly unwell, grief-stricken man to a grisly end.

While “The Boys” has strayed away from comic book canon in its treatment of characters — such as the show’s handling of Black Noir — it is unlikely that any variation of Butcher’s comic book fate will play out in the series. If anything, season 4 seems to be nudging Butcher towards a different path, where he appears to be leaning towards making decisions that are considerate of the people around him. Yes, Butcher is still dangerous and a wild card who can flip any situation around with his devil-may-care brutality, but for the first time, he is afraid of hurting the people he cares about.

A good example would be when Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) asks Butcher to swipe her files from the CIA database that Hughie (Jack Quaid) has access to. However, he doesn’t do it at the last minute, deciding to not betray his friend.

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