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Start Spreading the News
Everyone is looking for an edge. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get an unfiltered glimpse into the real strategies of some of the world’s most successful athletes? Well, now you can. To paraphrase Michael Corleone, just this once, they’re gonna let you ask them about their business. ESPN’s Baxter Holmes is finally spreading the word about the NBA’s secret addiction. To get the full story, you need to go back to what seemed like an ordinary night in 2007 when, following a particularly vibrant performance, Kevin Garnett uttered the words that would reverberate through NBA locker rooms, team planes, hotel rooms, and court-side meetings for a generation. “We’re going to need PB&J in here every game now.” Forget protein powders, artisanal ancient grains, bone broth, coconut oil, acai berries, chia seeds, turmeric, kale, or Kombucha. “No matter how you slice it, it’s hard to swallow: The NBA is covered in experts, obsessed with peak performance — and still this pillar of grade-school cafeteria lunches is the staple snack of the league. An exorbitantly wealthy microclique, backed by an army of personal chefs, swears by a sandwich whose standard ingredients boast a street value of roughly 69 cents.”
+ Somewhat related: “The sound of shoes skidding on hardwood can be explained by shoe designers, rubber scientists, mechanical engineers and a biologist.” From the NYT: Why Are Basketball Games So Squeaky?
Driven to Despair
It’s important to separate the anger and despair felt in many American regions from the vehicle through which those feelings of anger and despair were expressed. In other words, you can dislike Trump while still acknowledging the very real, complicated issues affecting huge swaths of the country. As the mortality rate among middle-aged whites has surged, Princeton economists Angus Deaton and Anne Case are trying to identify the various forces behind the trend. Obesity, depression, the opioid crisis, alcohol abuse … all of these are symptoms of a broader problem: “Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high-school-educated working class after its heyday in the early 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline.” From WaPo: New research identifies a sea of despair among white, working-class Americans.
+ “We know what they were dying from. We knew suicides were going up rapidly, and that overdoses mostly from prescription drugs were going up, and that alcoholic liver disease was going up. The deeper questions were why those were happening — there’s obviously some underlying malaise.” The forces driving deaths of despair.
+ While there are plenty of national and even global drivers one can point to, the actual scourge is narrowly targeted. From Vox: Why the white middle class is dying faster, explained in 6 charts.
“John Deere and other manufacturers have made it impossible to perform ‘unauthorized’ repair on farm equipment, which farmers see as an attack on their sovereignty and quite possibly an existential threat to their livelihood if their tractor breaks at an inopportune time.” From Motherboard: Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware.
+ The Verge: A Lithuanian phisher tricked two big US tech companies into wiring him $100 million. (Even the Nigerian email scammer is giving this guy props for going big…)
Return to Sender
“Filipinas no longer need to sit around and wait to be chosen, and they now have much more access to these men’s complex lives before making a choice of their own.” Backchannel’s Meredith Talusan with an interesting look at how technology has flipped (part of) the dating script for rural Filipinas. How the Internet Gave Mail-Order Brides the Power.
According to the UN’s annual survey, Norway is the happiest place on Earth. The data is drawn from the answers to this question: “The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?” (A plurality of Americans denied the existence of the ladder).
+ “While Italy is among the most developed countries, growth has stagnated for decades, almost 40 percent of its youngsters are out of jobs and it’s saddled with one of the world’s highest debt loads relative to the size of its economy. Yet Italians are in way better shape than Americans, Canadians and Brits, who all suffer from higher blood pressure and cholesterol and poorer mental health.” From Bloomberg: Italy’s Struggling Economy Has World’s Healthiest People. (I see this as a win for carbs.)
Following the Party Line
“Welcome to the party line, a group phone call where teens went to meet strangers.” Back in the ’80s, social media was already in full swing. But participants weren’t connecting via computer or mobile device. They were using good old landlines.
“We had somehow created a situation where people liked our pizza less if they knew it was from us. So yeah, that was a problem.” Bloomberg explains how Dominos atoned for its crimes against pizza and built a $9 billion empire.
Bottom of the News
“The jersey was recovered in Mexico by the Houston Police Department with help from the FBI and Mexican authorities.” Tom Brady’s Missing Super Bowl LI Jersey Has Been Found. (Atlanta’s second-half defense is still at large.)
+ There’s so much TV, no one can possibly keep up. Thanks to a nonstop bidding war among Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other players, it is the ideal time to be in the content creation business. So why are Hollywood writers experiencing a wage drop? The Hollywood Reporter on the tricky economics of peak TV.
+ A new question for the courts: Can a GIF be considered a deadly weapon? (If one pronounces it with a soft G, then most definitely…)
+ As political movements take to the streets, it’s a good time to be in the poster board business.
+ Canada bars diplomats from using cardboard Justin Trudeau figures. Hopefully, they can still use their Flat Ronnies.
This is a weekly best-of version of the NextDraft newsletter. For daily updates and to get the NextDraft app, go here. (Original story reprinted with permission from NextDraft.)