Impromptus

A good sport, &c.

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams (left) with assistant coach Willie Green during Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Arena in Phoenix, Ariz., July 17, 2021 (Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports)
On surmounting tribalism; the vax wars; J. K. Rowling; Norwegian handballers; writers who understand you; and more

America is beset by tribalism, a poisonous partisanship: red camp, blue camp, and never the twain shall meet. On July 1, President Biden met with Florida governor Ron DeSantis. The governor, as you know, is a Trump-style Republican, and Biden is an old-school Democrat. They discussed the disastrous collapse of a residential building in the Miami area.

Some people on both sides objected to this meeting of red and blue, or blue and red. I both heard this, in my little sector of life, and read it.

Well, if anything can be tribal, sports can, right? Sure. I am a Detroit Tiger, Lion, Piston, and Red Wing, born and bred. And ever shall be. Still, there is such a thing as — the conduct of Monty Williams.

He is the coach of the Phoenix Suns, who lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals earlier this week. Check out this headline: “Suns head coach Monty Williams visited the Bucks’ locker room minutes after losing the title to congratulate them in a stunning display of sportsmanship.” (Article here.)

Williams told the Bucks that he did not want “to take away from” their celebration. No, “I just wanted to come and congratulate you guys, as a man, as a coach. You guys deserved it, and I am thankful for the experience.”

Tyler Lauletta, the author of the article I have linked to, commented as follows:

After a win, sportsmanship is the easiest thing in the world, but real sportsmanship comes when things didn’t go your way.

The Bucks are champions, but Williams set an example for the rest of the NBA on Tuesday night.

Yup. Maybe for the country at large, too.

• Patrick Chovanec, the econ whiz and all-around smart dude, tweeted,

There are obviously some circumstances where requiring proof of vaccination is excessive and intrusive, and others where it makes eminent sense. But no, we can’t have that conversation.

Yup. Pithily and painfully stated.

This report, out of Texarkana, Ark., was highly interesting, I thought.

Free lottery tickets for those who get vaccinated had few takers. Free hunting and fishing licenses didn’t change many minds either. And this being red-state Arkansas, mandatory vaccinations are off the table.

So Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has hit the road, meeting face-to-face with residents to try to overcome vaccine hesitancy — in many cases, hostility — in Arkansas, which has the highest rate of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. but is near the very bottom in dispensing shots.

Hutchinson asked a constituent, “Do you believe COVID is real?” The man answered, “I’m not afraid of it.”

Anyway, the entire article is worth a read. Asa Hutchinson has a very difficult, very sensitive job. It would be interesting to have a memoir from him — an honest one, a detailed one — later on.

• J. K. Rowling is the best-selling author in the history of the world and a woman of great independence — not just financial independence either. She has her own mind, and speaks it. She is left-wing — unabashedly so — but toes no line.

In recent times, she has made politically incorrect statements about aspects of the transgender movement. For this, she has been subject to much abuse — and many death threats.

Nick Cohen, the bold British journalist, tweeted, “I wonder when all the celebrities who have done so well from @jk_rowling’s work will pluck up the courage to condemn the threats she receives daily.”

Yup. The twelfth of never, I would say. And this is very human. Almost certainly, there is a biological basis for it. When a mob targets an individual — there is virtually no one who wants to stick up for the individual.

I once asked Thomas Sowell, “Do people scurry up to you and whisper that they like what you’re doing? Like what you’re writing?” Sowell chuckled and said, “Oh, yes: ‘private support.’ That’s what I call it: ‘private support.’ ‘I’m right behind you, Tom’ — as in waaay behind you.”

Exactly. I have experienced a fair amount of that myself.

• Regular readers may know my rule, or hoped-for rule: No Olympic Games in police states. Hold them wherever you want, but not in a police state. As in Moscow 1980. Or Beijing 2008. Or the upcoming Beijing Games. Not to mention Hitler’s (both summer and winter).

The 2032 Summer Games have just been awarded to Brisbane. Fine with me. But if I could create a rule, it would be: No Olympic Games in a police state.

(Here I have to make an admission: The 1988 Games in Seoul aided the democracy movement in that country, South Korea. I have written on this subject before — nations, the Olympics, and politics — and will refrain from discoursing today . . .)

• Josh Mandel, the Trumper running for Senate in Ohio, tweeted, “Ilhan Omar should be deported not supported.” Jonah Goldberg commented, “He thinks it’s clever because it rhymes.” I thought of Jesse Jackson, the ultimate rhyming politician.

He said one thing that has always stuck with me — that I kind of like. I have quoted it many times. “I’m a tree-shaker, not a jelly-maker.” What does that mean? I think it means, “I’m a big-picture guy — a force that makes things happen — not a detail man.”

I had very little use for Jesse Jackson, politically — and I am being as mild as possible — but I have appreciated that chestnut.

• To cope with life, you need someone who understands you — preferably more than one. As a reader, you want writers who understand you, too (as well as writers who provoke you, challenge you, etc.). Do you have a writer who understands you? I hope you do. I hope you have several.

I have several, and one of them is David French, my old friend and colleague. He is, of course, a bête noire of the Trump Right. He could be no other — same as Mitt Romney, George F. Will, et al.

Recently, Ross Douthat, the New York Times columnist, described David as “the famous conservative critic of conservatism.”

In a column of his own, David wrote,

I chuckled. Mainly at the “famous” part. But then I thought for a moment. Is that what I am? A conservative critic of conservatism? This whole time I thought I was a conservative defender of conservatism against populism and corruption. That’s the concept of the remnant, the “Hey, we’re still here!” band of brothers and sisters who’ve remained faithful to a particular Before Times definition of conservatism that we believe still means something — something good.

Amen.

David continues,

As life has opened up, I’ve gotten back on the road, and I’m connecting again with old friends in the conservative movement. And I’m getting a repeated question: “Are you still with us?” I’m starting to answer with a question of my own. “I remember when we believed the same things. Are you still with me?”

Exactly.

I’m going to tell a story that I think I’ve told in this column before, but what the heck. About a year ago, a friend of mine spoke at an event. An antagonist of mine came up to him. My friend recounted to me the exchange he had with this lady, at length. I will relay the nub of it:

Antagonist: “I hate Jay Nordlinger.”

Friend: “Oh?”

Antagonist: “Yes, I used to love him, but he’s changed so much.”

Friend: “Really? Jay seems to me one of the few who have not changed. He is the same thinker, writer, and person he always was. He has been solid as a rock.”

Antagonist: “Maybe, but when the rest of us changed, he stayed the same. Therefore, he’s the one who changed.”

Friend: “Madam, I cannot argue with that.”

• The terms “Left” and “Right,” and “liberal” and “conservative,” are positively screwy. Listen to Janet Yellen, who told the New York Times, “My own personal view is that tariffs were not put in place on China in a way that was very thoughtful.”

She went on to say, “Tariffs are taxes on consumers. In some cases, it seems to me that we did hurt American consumers, and the type of deal that the prior administration negotiated really didn’t address in many ways the fundamental problems we have with China.”

Yellen is the Democratic secretary of the Treasury. Not very long ago, conservatives talked just that way. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K. (Do you know that line?) (Consult this clip.)

• When people said “Haley,” I always thought of Haley Barbour, the Republican politico who became governor of Mississippi (2004 to 2012). There came a time when “Haley” meant another Republican governor — Nikki Haley of South Carolina. It took me a while to adjust.

Barbour was expected to run for president in 2012 — the year of Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. He begged off, however. In a podcast, he has explained why. Very interesting to hear Barbour. In a nutshell: A Deep South conservative, with a pronounced (and wonderful) accent, was poorly positioned to try to unseat America’s first black president.

Hear Haley Barbour in a clip found here.

• I found this a sickening story: The Norwegian women’s beach-handball team was fined for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms. Apparently, the relevant federation requires bikini bottoms. The male spectator must have eye candy. Defending the team, Norway’s minister for culture and sports tweeted, “What a change of attitude is needed in the macho and conservative international world of sport.”

I’m not sure I’d use the word “conservative” for requiring that these athletes dress so scantily. Would you? As I’ve said, “conservative” and other such words are subjected to the screwiest interpretations.

• Nationalism is newly in vogue, which leads me to highlight a very interesting obit — of Haunani-Kay Trask, whom the New York Times described as a “champion of native rights in Hawaii.”

She said, “We are not American. We will die as Hawaiians. We will never be Americans.”

She said, “I am not soft, I am not sweet, and I do not want any more tourists in Hawaii.”

She said, “I am so proud to be angry. I am so proud to be a Hawaiian.”

And she said, “I am a nationalist. I am asserting my claim to my country.”

A very, very interesting life, and an interesting debate. I’m glad to have Hawaii as our 50th state. But I believe I understand Haunani-Kay Trask.

• My gosh, I would have loved knowing Shirley Fry Irvin. I’m glad to get to know her a little through her obit, written by Frank Litsky, a late sportswriter for the New York Times. (Obits are often written well in advance, as you know.)

There are so many delicious things in this obit, I hardly know where to begin. Let me give you a few tidbits, please.

. . . in 2004, she told the broadcaster and columnist Bud Collins that she had begun traveling alone to tournaments all over the nation when she was 10.

“My parents would put me on a bus in Akron and off I’d go,” she said. “Usually, someone met me at the other end, but I would go to Travelers Aid if there was a problem. It built self-reliance, and it was fun.”

There was a time in America when you could do that. There really was. It was normal. Travelers Aid!

Some more:

When she was 11, she told The New York Times, “I traveled by train to a tournament in Philadelphia, and then, at my father’s suggestion, went on to New York. I took a train to Penn Station and then the subway to Forest Hills, where he had made a reservation for me at the Forest Hills Inn. Then I walked all the way to the New York World’s Fair.”

Amazing to think of, isn’t it?

Okay, her husband:

. . . she married Karl Irvin, an American advertising executive whom she had met when he was working in Australia and served as an umpire for some of her matches there.

“During one match,” she told The Times, “I became furious over several of his calls and asked that he be removed and that he not work any more of my matches. Shortly after that, we were married and had four children within the space of five years.”

Ah, romance!

One more tidbit:

She loved golf, but she was not that good at it, generally shooting higher than 100.

“It’s a little embarrassing,” she said in 2000. “You say, ‘She won the Wimbledon tennis tournament?’ Then you see me playing golf and say, ‘How could she?’”

I would have loved to peg it up with Shirley Fry Irvin. And I thank you for joining me today, ladies and gentlemen. See you soon.

If you’d like to receive Impromptus by e-mail — links to new columns — write to jnordlinger@nationalreview.com.

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