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Jane McManus: Not A Game

Apr 7, 2020

This Saturday, as the toll of coronavirus deaths in the United States approached 10,000, President Trump called together a meeting of sports league commissioners.

Book cover for "Nice Try," photo of Josh Gondelman, album cover for "Dancing on a Weeknight"
Center photo by Mindy Tucker

High Mud Comedy Festival Presents Josh Gondelman in a night of stand-up comedy at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts tomorrow night at 8 p.m.

Josh Gondelman is a stand-up and writer who has earned two Peabody Awards, three Emmys, and two WGA Awards for his work on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” He is currently a writer/producer for “Desus & Mero” on Showtime - which was just renewed for a second season. 

He has a reputation for being a true mensch and among the nicest guys in comedy and his new book “Nice Try” is available from Harper Perennial and his most recent stand-up album “Dancing on a Weeknight” was released in April of this year.

 

He joined us to talk about stand-up, working for and with great people, Twitter pep-talks, and #agoodgame.

Keith Strudler: Trying Out For Quarterback

Nov 20, 2019

Perhaps the most valuable and challenging position to fill in all of professional team sports is the NFL quarterback.  It’s central to literally every offensive play, and the position requires an ample mix of brawn, precision, and athletic intellect. NFL quarterbacks make more high-pressure decisions in a single drive then most employees make in a month. And pretty much any of those decisions, if made incorrectly, can be catastrophic, at least as much as anything in sports can be defined as such.

The Green Bay Packers the only fan-owned team in any of North America’s major pro sports leagues and Green Bay is the smallest city with a big-time franchise.

The Packers are, in other words, unlikely candidates to be pro football's preeminent team. And yet nobody in the NFL has won more championships.

March Beech's new book "The People's Team: An Illustrated History of the Green Bay Packers" commemorates the team's 100 year anniversary.

Beech spent eighteen years at Sports Illustrated before becoming a senior editor at the Players’ Tribune in 2016. A West Point graduate, he was introduced to the special relationship between the Packers and their fans after moving to Milwaukee in the mid-1980s.

Keith Strudler: The Disappearing Quarterback

Sep 18, 2019

You can almost look at starting quarterbacks in the NFL like you look at the weather in Florida. If you don’t like it, just wait 15 minutes, because it’s going to change. That’s nearly the pattern for quite a few NFL teams right now, where the head coach might need to buy a program to find out who’s behind center next week. In most cases, this is because of a slate of early season injuries. Take the New York Jets, who are playing some of the worst professional football north of Miami. In Monday night’s game, their second string quarterback Trevor Siemian left the game with ligament damage in his ankle, pushing third string QB Luke Falk into the game. Mind you, most football fans couldn’t tell the difference between Luke Falk and Luke Skywalker, the former of which did not have the benefit of the force in route to a 23-3 loss to an average Cleveland Browns squad. Falk will remain the Jets starter until their original QB1 Sam Darnold recovers from mono, which Jets fans would assert could only happen to the Jets.

Keith Strudler: Walking Away While You Can (Walk)

Aug 28, 2019

The biggest story of this NFL pre-season isn’t about any athlete that playing right now. In fact, it’s not even about someone who will play during the season. It’s about Andrew Luck, the 29-year-old now former quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, who announced his sudden and unexpected retirement Saturday evening in something of a makeshift press conference.

Keith Strudler: The GOAT

Feb 6, 2019

Calling any athlete the greatest of all time, or GOAT as it’s called, puts you in a bit of a corner. The single greatest leaves no margin for error and also calls into question things like recency effect and personal bias. It’s much safer, and probably more accurate, to call an athlete one of the best ever, or even to build some guiderails, like top 10 of all time.

  The New England Patriots have become a dynasty, though it didn’t begin that way. Love them or hate them, Pats have captured this country’s attention like no other franchise. From two award-winning authors, this is the first complete story of a legendary team and its five championship trophies.

In "The Pats: An Illustrated History of the New England Patriots", Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson tell the history in full and in colorful detail, along with essays by Richard Johnson, Upton Bell, Leigh Montville, Howard Bryant, Ron Borges, Lesley Visser, and George Plimpton.

Richard Johnson is the author of "New England Patriots: Yesterday and Today." He is also the curator of the Sports Museum of New England. A native of Worcester, he currently lives in Braintree.

Ian O'Connor is the senior writer at ESPN and Nationally acclaimed sports columnist. His latest book is, "Belichick: The Making Of The Greatest Football Coach Of All Time ". Belichick is perhaps the most fascinating figure in the NFL. As head coach of the New England Patriots he has lead the team to five Super Bowl championships.

Keith Strudler: Fighting For Justice

Oct 25, 2018

There is nothing particularly novel or unusual about a story of NFL athletes arguing and fighting on the field or off. It’s an aggressive game where very strong people are pitted against each other and have blunt tools of force to get their way. So we’d expect athletes to fight over an important play or a playoff game or maybe during training camp when people are trying to earn a roster spot. I might even expect some arguments to stem from the personal – people who played for rival universities, or maybe guys who trash talk too much. But what I’d expect less of in the NFL is the fight that happened last weekend between Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid and Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles. The scuffle started in pre-game and lasted both through the match and the post-game, where Reid referred to Jenkins as a “sell-out.” Which, for the record, had absolutely nothing to do with the game itself.

Keith Strudler: Get Your Hands Off My Quarterback

Sep 26, 2018

You can make a pretty compelling argument that football quarterback is the most challenging position in any team sport. I’m sure soccer goalies and starting pitchers may disagree, but it’s hard to imagine any role that requires a greater mix of analysis, athleticism, grooming and composure than QB. The quarterback is central to pretty much every offensive play in football, which can fall apart through either a bad decision or bad execution. And it’s pretty rare to have someone who excels at both. There’s not a lot of Tom Bradys or Russell Wilsons out there. Which is why they’re such critical commodities in the NFL exchange, as evidenced by where they get drafted and how much they get paid.

Long before American politics and entertainment merged in the form of the Trump White House, Mark Leibovich chronicled the uneasy relationship between elected officials, media figures and lobbyists in This Town. Now, he is back with a new book about America’s other leading religion: football. Leibovich, a Patriots fan, had uncommon access to the league’s owners, commissioner and players over the past few seasons, as the NFL confronted concussions, social protest, and team relocation. His new book is Big Game: The NFL In Dangerous times.

Keith Strudler: The Biggest Play In The Big Game

Feb 7, 2018

Perhaps the most important play of Sunday’s Super Bowl came in the second quarter, when Patriots wide receiver Brendan Cooks was knocked to the ground by Philly defensive back Malcolm Jenkins after 23-yard completion. The hit looked brutal from the comfort of my living room, if for no other reason than Cooks didn’t see it coming. He laid on the field for several moments, and, after being attended to, did leave on his own two feet. Slowly. And he never returned.

Keith Strudler: The Last Play

Jan 17, 2018

Calling Sunday’s last second touchdown pass by the Minnesota Vikings over New Orleans the greatest game winning score in NFL playoff history would bother a) Pittsburgh Steelers fans who assume the 1972 Immaculate Reception holds that title in perpetuity, and b) New Orleans Saints fans who might suffer flashbacks every time someone shows that highlight. But whether it was the actual greatest of all time or simply part of Mt. Rushmore, make no mistake that Minnesota’s unlikely walk-off touchdown will leave a mark.

Composite Image by Dave Lucas

Six months after the city’s minor league hockey team departed, arena football is returning to Albany for the first time since 2009. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas was at Tuesday’s announcement at the Times Union's Hearst Media Center.

Jen Welter
Jen Welter

Despite her 5-foot-2, 130-pound frame, Jen Welter always excelled in athletics, from tennis to rugby to women’s football.  Welter credits her determination for helping her crack one of American’s most stubborn glass ceilings. In 2015, she became the first female coach in the National Football League, working with the Arizona Cardinals’ linebackers in the preseason. But as Welter writes in her new memoir "Play Big," it took years of adversity in life and sports before Welter found herself on the sidelines. Now, she hopes her story can inspire others.

Keith Strudler: The Cheap Seats

Sep 13, 2017

If you live in Los Angeles and didn’t get a chance to see a live NFL football game last weekend, that is on you. That’s because there were at least 30,000 vacant seats at the Los Angeles Rams home opener on Sunday, where they dismantled the Indianapolis Colts 49-6 in the debut of 31-year-old wunderkind head coach Sean McVay, who’s seems like he should still be doing an internship with the front office. The crowd was estimated at 61,000, which feels just a little like the White House’s estimated attendance at the Presidential inauguration, minus the self-righteous indignation. The Rams currently play in the cavernous Los Angeles Coliseum, the building best known for housing the 1984 Olympics, a space that comfortably holds over 90,000, although the term comfort should be used with great discretion in reference to that facility.

Mark McGuire of The Daily Gazette and Keith Strudler of Montclair State University join Vox Pop to discuss sports including the NFL, MLB and more. WAMC's Ray Graf hosts.

Keith Strudler: Both Sides

Aug 16, 2017

The other side. That phrase, or a variant thereof, has gotten an unusual amount of play in the past several days. We’ve been told, by the President, no less, to look at both sides when assessing blame. Most every mediator or manager wants to hear both sides before making a decision. No matter your posture or position, it seems there’s always the other side to consider, even if it sometimes seems intuitively one-sided. Like the world is round. Or ice cream is delicious.

Keith Strudler: The Politics Of Hair

Jul 19, 2017

If you’re like me, you spent a good amount of your late youth arguing with your parents about your hair. For me, it was one of a select few moments of protest, since I wasn’t really cool or sophisticated enough to break any real rules. But, I did like to challenge the barber shop to make my hair look more like something from the Muppet Show than GQ. Eventually, in college, I invested in my own pair of hair clippers and lived by the mantra that it will always grow back. I also seemed to think that having cool hair would make my band more popular, or at least more popular than if people simply focused exclusively on what they were hearing. Such led me down the exhaustive road of an extensive hair gel collection, fabric hair bands, and once even an experiment with orange hair dye – which I immediately regretted.

Keith Strudler: The Downside Of Being Happy

May 24, 2017

NFL athletes, you can now celebrate. I mean literally, you’re allowed to celebrate now. The NFL has just changed the rules that have shackled players for too long, rules that have made scoring a touchdown feel too much like touring a cemetery. Prior to this momentous rules change, players who scored a touchdown could not have choreographed, excessive, or prolonged celebrations. They also couldn’t spike or spin the ball, fall to the ground, or use any props – the ball or otherwise.

Keith Strudler: Just Move Baby!

Mar 29, 2017

The definition of the word “raider” is someone who takes something by force. Or, someone who plunders or pillages. But that definition, the Raiders is the perfect name for the football team the city of Las Vegas forcefully took from Oakland, where the team has spent the vast majority of its 57 years. The soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders will move to Sin City no earlier than 2018, and perhaps as late as 2020, when the city completes its new domed stadium. Which means they’ll be something of a lame duck in the Bay Area for the next year or two. Talk about awkward. It’s like firing someone right before you start a cross-country drive together.

NRG Stadium, Houston
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Today we are talking the big game, the Super Bowl that is. The New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons are facing off in the 51st edition of the NFL Championship Game Sunday in Houston, Texas.

Keith Strudler: Super Bowl Sadness

Feb 1, 2017

So in the grand scheme of American holidays, Super Bowl Sunday reigns supreme. With all deference to Thanksgiving and Halloween and even the 4th of July, nothing unifies this country in a singular activity like the Super Bowl. That activity being eating ourselves into a coma while watching a bunch of highly paid grown men wrestle for a pigskin. On Super Bowl Sunday, nearly half of this country does exactly the same thing at exactly the same time, invoking ritual and history, surrounded by friends and family. Compare that Labor Day. It’s not like we all go boating, or all picnic. Even on Christmas, it’s not like half of America goes to church as the same time. Besides, that’s not American holiday, but a religious one – although not if our current government has anything to do with it.

Keith Strudler: Leaving Paradise

Jan 18, 2017

A lot of people have a list of cities. A list of places they’d really love to live, if cost or work wasn’t an issue. For example, a lot of people might pick San Francisco, or Savannah. I’ve got Austin and Vancouver on my list, in case you’re wondering. But if you’re looking for a city that almost everyone wants to live in, look no further than San Diego. It’s sunny and warm all the time, the beach is perfect, and everyone is fit. It’s like living on the set of a Corona commercial.

Keith Strudler: Doctor’s Orders

Nov 23, 2016

My nine-year-old son is scared to death of shots. I probably shouldn’t say that on the air, since I’m sure it’s going to be used against me in family counseling someday, but it’s true. Now he get this naturally, since I freak out at the sight of needles as well. I’ve almost cancelled vacations because I had to get a vaccination first. So I understand why we have to convince our oldest son that it’s better to get a flu shot than the flu, even if I don’t always believe that myself.

Every sports fan recalls with amazing accuracy a pivotal winning moment involving a favorite team or player - yet lost are the stories on the other side of these history-making moments, the athletes who experienced not transcendent glory but crushing disappointment: the cornerback who missed the tackle on the big touchdown; the relief pitcher who lost the series; the world-record holding Olympian who fell on the ice.

In Losing Isn’t Everything, sportscaster Curt Menefee (joined by bestselling writer Michael Arkush) examines a range of signature "disappointments" from the wide world of sports, interviewing the subject at the heart of each loss and uncovering what it means—months, years, or decades later—to be associated with failure. 

Keith Strudler -The NFL’s Problem With Numbers

Jul 27, 2016

As is often said, numbers never lie. People, on the other hand, are quite adept in the art. Particularly when it comes to numbers. It’s like Mark Twain popularized, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

Keith Strudler: Tom Brady And The Supreme Court

Jul 20, 2016

I hung out with a lawyer friend of mine yesterday, and I’ve come to the very obvious conclusion that we live in a litigious society. I mean, you can literally take anything or anyone to court. Some of these cases get pretty serious, and some of them less so. But just because you don’t have a case doesn’t mean you can’t try. And, if you’re crafty enough and get the right lawyer, you might just win. Or settle, since apparently hardly anything actually goes to court anymore.

Chances are if you’re a dedicated WAMC listener, Frank Deford is a part of your morning routine. The legendary sportswriter has delivered more than 1,600 commentaries for Morning Edition over the past 36 years. His wry and incisive observations remain a refreshing antidote in an age of shouty sports talk defined by hot takes.

An Emmy and Peabody winner, Deford has written 18 books and serves as senior contributing writer at Sports Illustrated, where he first appeared in 1962. He’s also a correspondent for Real Sports on HBO.

This Saturday, Deford will sign copies of his new book I’d Know That Voice Anywhere: My Favorite NPR Commentaries at Sweetpea in Stone Ridge, New York.

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