Episode 37 of my podcast is now posted here (with copious links). The entire episode is devoted to a conversation with my friend Michael Brendan Dougherty, senior correspondent of TheWeek.com and editor-publisher of The Slurve, a subscription-only Internet baseball newsletter.
In Part 1, we begin with an examination of my contention that “sports science” had led to baseball’s continuing chemical crisis. Back in the good old days, demigods like Mickey Mantle thrived on a training diet of steak, scotch and cigarettes, while trainers were content with what they could accomplish with adhesive tape and “greenies.” Professional athletes are now like unto behemoths, but fandom is increasingly correlated with weak, atomized males desperate for virtual communities to replace the real ones that have been stolen from them. It’s no surprise that the Alt Right has taken a dim view of “sportsball” and its works, and the increasing popularity of this meme is a hopeful sign suggesting a society moving from the passive to the active.
In Part 2, I chide Michael for his Conservadad tendency, but he takes it in good humor. “I'm still the sort of conservative who thinks it wrong to knowingly elect people of low and base character to high offices,” he has written. I reply that that ship sailed some time ago, and that, in the immortal words of Hunter S. Thompson, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” Michael is not ignorant of Donald Trump’s appeal. His attack on movement-conservative elitism and his recognition that Trump was the only GOP candidate reaching out to the benighted white working-class engendered typically snide responses from the unspeakable Kevin Williamson and Tom Nichols. He relates how his recent attendance at a wedding resulted in what we might call a reverse Bill Kristol experience. And he is fully cognizant of the pundit bubble in which he resides. Nevertheless, he cannot shake the belief that the Donald is taking us all for a ride. To which I respond that Trump may have been, at the beginning of his campaign, flirting with forces he didn’t understand, but his popularity has soared as his manifest commitment to a recrudescent American nation and people becomes ever stronger.
In Part 3, we commiserate with each other over the demolition of the Catholic Church at the hands of Pope Francis. I express (only half joking) my surprise that the Peronist Pontiff has not yet been bundled into a sack and tossed into the Tiber (the traditional final rest of Roman criminals). To my amazement, Michael responds that senior clerics have examined this radical action but rejected it as too ambitious. A half-century after the conclusion of Vatican II, a wholly new Church is coming into view. Its positive attributes remain obscure, but it is hardly likely to be one, holy, Catholic and apostolic.