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Will Leitch
Writer, New York, NYT, MLB, WaPo, others. Founder, Deadspin. Author of four books, with fifth, “How Lucky,” coming May 2021. https://williamfleitch.substack.com

His success consistently comes from turning down the temperature

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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Remember, back in the Obama days, this old meme?


Praying for an extremely dull new era.

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This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, this day of service, has felt less like a moment of public altruism in honor of a legendary American figure and more like a day to rock silently back and forth in your chair, terrified by what the next 36 hours may or may not bring. You know what Monday felt like? It felt like that scene in Saving Private Ryan, where everyone solemnly listens to records and smokes nervously while they wait for the tanks to roll into the village.

I’ve made that analogy before, but the difference this time, of course: This time everyone’s just praying there aren’t actual tanks. …


It may not work. But at least it sees parents’ pain.

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I’ve often thought, in this pandemic, about other times in my life that an event like this might have happened, and if those times would have been better or worse. College would have been terrible; high school would have been worse. When I was a new parent, having an infant would have kept me occupied; I wasn’t leaving the house much back then anyway. I wonder if the easiest times would have been when the only person I had to worry about was me. Everything’s harder when people are counting on you.

Now, I am a 45-year-old parent of a third grader and a first grader, and I’d argue those are the worst possible grades to be in during a pandemic. Elementary school is about basic foundational aspects of learning, but just as much, it is about developing vital skills of socialization. How do I deal with someone who disagrees with me? How can I learn about someone from a different background? What groups do I gravitate toward on the playground? How do I share? Math and reading and all your core primary curriculum are obviously important, but equally important is understanding what it means to be in a society, to interact with other humans, to, you know, live. My children, who have been virtual other than a brief three-week stretch since last March, have had none of that. They have just been indoors, staring at a screen, missing their friends, wondering why all this is happening, wondering when all of this will be over. …


The ‘Make America Great Again Welcome Celebration’ was a night of one, maybe two stars

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Photo: Noam Galai/WireImage/Getty Images

On Wednesday night, January 20, Tom Hanks will host a virtual inauguration ball after Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. Because of the pandemic, and because there’s a very real possibility there will be an assault on Washington, D.C. by a gang of murderous Trump supporters, the event will mostly be remote and virtual, similar to the Democratic National Convention this summer. Hanks will be joined by Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, Jon Bon Jovi, and Ant Clemons, with more acts expected. …


Waiting and wishing for a quick fix to the pandemic has always been magical thinking, and it’s time to face that truth

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This is a line to get a vaccine that will have run out by the time they reach the end of it.

My parents and my mother-in-law are getting their first vaccine shots this week. We live in Georgia, one of the states that’s doing the worst at rolling out vaccines, and getting them appointments took every ounce of our patience and intestinal fortitude. Securing an appointment to get the vaccine that will help end the worst public health crisis of the last 100 years is more difficult than calling the cable company’s customer service number.

I tell ya: This country’s just firing on all cylinders right now.

The pandemic has been a destabilizing event in every aspect of American life, from finance to employment to health to entertainment to just going to the freaking grocery store, but what is often missed is what it has done most urgently: It has made us desperately worried about the people closest to us, the ones we see every day. Everyone always worries about the people they love; that’s a large part of what loving someone is. But for the first time in my life, I’ve had to confront, fact-to-face, every day, the very real possibility of a person I care about contracting a fatal disease. I do not want to personally get Covid-19, but that’s not what has occupied my mind throughout this pandemic: I’ve been anguished about my family getting it. I can imagine something happening to me. …


When treason finds its way to your home, and your family tree.

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Tuesday morning, a time that already feels like decades ago, a woman named Mary Miller spoke at a “Moms For America Saving the Republic” rally for Donald Trump on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Miller was recently sworn in to the House of Representatives from Illinois and had just announced that she would vote to oppose certification of Joe Biden’s election as President of the United States. (Two days later, in a chamber that had just been ransacked by insurrectionists, she did.) Miller, in her speech, argued that what was most important, the key to her appearance that day, was that her fellow Trump supporters needed to capture the hearts and minds of children. …


And now, finally, the longtime dreams of so many have been realized

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Reverend Raphael Warnock speaks at a canvassing event in Marietta, Georgia. Photo:
Sandy Huffaker /Getty Images

I moved to Athens, Georgia from New York City in 2013 and found myself, much to my own surprise, eager to get involved in local politics. It was hard not to. I’d never lived in a red state before — though I’d certainly grown up in the red area of a blue state—but the possibility of Georgia seemed limitless. There was radically shifting demographics, a growing locus of Black power and influence in Atlanta and its surrounding areas, and an increasing number of media and entertainment professionals, people like me, looking to build our careers outside the traditional hubs of New York and California in a place with great schools, reasonably priced real estate, a diverse and vibrant community and, yeah, lovely weather just about the whole year round. It felt like the Old South—the Georgia of Stone Mountain, of systemic voter suppression, of good ole boys making campaign advertisements featuring pointing shotguns at people—was receding and a new vanguard, a new Georgia, was being ushered in. It was thrilling. …


The election that never, ever ends

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Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images

You know how you felt the Friday after Election Day, when you couldn’t believe this was still going on? That the endless election season had somehow extended well past when we were all supposed to move on with our lives? Now imagine the fevered pitch of the election never relented. That it only escalated in intensity after the election. Then imagine that suddenly your neighborhood, your friends, your schools, your little corner of the world became the focus of the entire planet.

It all comes down to you, you’re constantly told. Only you can save us from this socialist/Klansman/terrorist/racist/Mitch McConnell. It invades your entire life. You cannot walk down the street, or watch a sporting event, or turn on your television without being bombarded with political messaging. And then, when it’s just about to finally be over, the President of the United States calls your Secretary of State and essentially commits treason two days before the election. …


It’ll be all our grandchildren ask us about.

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I always thought my children, when they were adults, would ask me what it was like to live through September 11. I lived in New York City on 9/11, and while I wasn’t downtown when the attacks happened, anyone who was in the city will never forget what that day, and the weeks afterward, was like. It was a pivot event for millions of New Yorkers; I was 24 years old when it happened, and I haven’t been the same since. It was overwhelming, and transformative. I assumed it was the biggest thing I’d ever be a part of.

One of the more disorienting aspects of the pandemic, and 2020, is how it has made all the signature events in our lives seem so much smaller. Challenger explosion? O.J. Simpson trial? Columbine? Bush-Gore 2000? Sure, those felt huge at the time, but have you lived through a once in a century pandemic? All those moments were scarring, but eventually you could turn the corner on them; you processed them and did the best you could to move on with your life. You could put them in their little corner and deal with them when you had to. But there has been no escaping the pandemic. There isn’t a single aspect of human life on this planet that hasn’t been upended in every possible way because of what has happened in 2020. This is the biggest thing any of us have ever lived through. It may very well be the biggest one we ever do. …


There were plenty to choose from.

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This would have been a wretched year even if you spent it with human saints. The pandemic, fires, death, pain, so, so many lawyers … 2020 was going to be a tough sit regardless of your company. But some people made it so much worse than it had to be.

Thus, today, to close out the year, we look at the Worst People of 2020. These are the ones who brought out the worst in us and themselves, the people who made this difficult year even harder. Even through all this, I do believe that most people are, deep down, inherently good. (They just can’t get out of their way sometimes.) But not these people. …

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