1) Maria Sharapova’s failed drug test at the Australian Open has a number of interesting angles. Unlike Lance Armstrong who lied and dissembled for years, she clearly did the right thing by meeting it head on in her Los Angeles press conference. As witnessed by the support Sharapova received from Serena Williams, her main rival over the past few years, her popularity among her peers also came to the fore. Although a couple of sponsors have dropped her, two large ones, Nike and Porsche, have only suspended her, which is still another example of her popularity and the effectiveness of her decision to, as PR people like to say, “get out in front of it.”All that notwithstanding, she still deserves a stiff suspension, for stupidly not paying attention to business if nothing else. The fact that meldonium, the drug she was taking, was added to the banned substance list only at the beginning of this year is irrelevant. The 28-year-old Sharapova has been the highest-earning female athlete in the world for the past decade; earning, it’s been reported, in excess of $30 million per year. She can afford to have the best expert advice available in all aspects of her career. This would include medical and nutritional professionals whose responsibility should encompass carefully monitoring the list of banned substances in the context of anything Sharapova was ingesting. Whether her professionals let her down or she didn’t have them doesn’t matter; she should be suspended. I don’t think the suspension should be career-ending, but unless it’s meaningful a huge loophole will be created and an unmanageable precedent will be set. Another question is why she took this drug for ten years when the manufacturer suggests it should be taken for only a few weeks to counteract specific conditions.
2) George Martin died this week at the age of ninety. No, not George Martin the writer; George Martin the record producer. He was the Beatles’ producer and probably had the most profound effect on popular music than any other individual of his generation. He produced over fifty number one hits, and his recording innovations with the Beatles alone were mind-boggling. He also produced Cilla Black, Gerry & The Pacemakers, America, Jeff Beck, Neil Sedaka, Kenny Rogers, Elton John, and Celine Dion. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Sir George, I did have some conversations with people who worked with him and knew him well and I never heard anything but good things about him, both as a producer and a person.
3) A few days ago Jaromir Jagr passed Gordie Howe on the all-time NHL points list. But he has a long way to go to catch up to Mr. Hockey professionally. Jagr scored a total of 303 points playing 251 pro games in Europe, but Howe scored 508 points in his 419 games in the WHA. There’s not much chance Jagr will score over 200 more points before he eventually hangs up his blades.
4) There are as many reasons being bandied about for Donald Trump’s stunning success in the US primaries as there are pundits expounding them. But there’s one common thread that may result in some welcome changes in the political field. It’s that people are completely fed up with the hypocrisy, lying, evasiveness and hide-bound political correctness of contemporary politicians of all stripes. The old joke that you can tell a politician is lying if his lips are moving is no longer funny. I agree with very little that Trump says, but as a person who spent a lot of his career teaching people how to communicate effectively I love that he’s comfortable speaking off-the-cuff, is not chained to speaking points written by some staffer, answers questions head-on, is not afraid to challenge the media, and doesn’t give a damn about political correctness. (The problem with politicians’ obsession with political correctness is that we have no idea how they really feel or are apt to act. If they were honest in their answers and statements we could make up our own minds about their stands.) I’m not suggesting that politicians should go as far as Trump, but if they realize that people are no longer going to accept their pretensions, deceptions, evasions and subterfuge, that would be a good thing. The sad fact is that there are very few contemporary politicians for whom I have any respect whatsoever.