62 Comments

This convo hit me square between the eyes. The q&a-in-print format worked more powerfully than if it had been a podcast. Podcasts reward glib; but with this conversation you can tell real thought went into the questions, and even MORE thought into the responses. This is a reminder, btw, of why I'm pretty sure the weekly Bret Stephens/Gail Collins dialogue is the most-read NYT feature these days.

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Matt-turns out it’s time for my annual cancellation of your...hmmm...column? Pay per comment? Words carefully crafted in between casts?

Little bro-the ties that bind only sporadically bind when big bucks are involved so I have to cancel bc my Matt stars aren’t in alignment!

I’ll be back if you’re still here...

Your big sis...Nancy B

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Thanks, Matt. I always slow down and read every word of your Slacks. Sometimes I read sections or phrases over and over. Sometimes I write your words down on actual paper, with an actual Blackfeet Indian Cedar pencil, my treasures. I like to know what you think, so thanks for telling me. And then, oh my gosh, you actually respond to me. So does Walter Kirn, another putter together of words dude. I appreciate you value your readers. Have I recommended Red Breast Irish Whiskey, my brown liquor of choice? I will share when you come to Idaho. This was a great read.

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Great interview.

You hit a chord with me when you mentioned the Dallas Cowboys. I was a senior at Dallas Jesuit when they came to town in 1960 along with the Dallas Texans. The Texans lost out and went to Kansas to become the Chiefs. Eddie Lebaron was the quarterback with Dandy Don Meredith as backup. Lebaron was listed at 5'9" but that was only with his Ron Desantis boots on.

The Cowboys practiced at our lower football field which sounds more glamorous than it should as it rarely saw grass and had never been graced with yard markers or goal posts.

Drew Pearson for sure but also Bob Lily, Rocket Bob Hayes, Hollywood Henderson until he went off the rails, and Walt Garrison, may he rest in peace.

One of my Air Force buddies played blocking back for Walt at OSU and had stories about him you wouldn't see in the newspaper. Dave left the Air Force about the same time as I did and flew for United until his then wife accidentally backed the boat into him while water skiing causing extensive nerve damage and nearly bleeding out. Amazingly he wa able to get back on flying status after a time and I have always wondered what passengers thought when they saw their gimpy captain leaning heavily on his cane as he approached the gate.

My young brother-in-law rodeoed with Walt. Bill was 6'6", weighed 260 pounds and was FAST. He was a football hero at Irving High school and played for a time at East Texas State. Walt was always trying to get him to walk on with the Cowboys but he wouldn't do it. I think he wasn't vicious enough at that time of bounties if you could maim the quarterback.

My dad worked security for the Cowboys after he retired. He enjoyed getting to know all of the Management and the broadcasters (even Howard Cosell) But I think he mostly liked the cheerleader's who would flirt with this handsome old man.

They were an institution in my family, not just a football team.

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Nov 3, 2023Liked by Matt Labash

And this is why I am a fervent subscriber - for the humanness...

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Nov 3, 2023Liked by Matt Labash

I’m just a guy, an 82 year old guy. I like good writing on any subject. I have read your thinking ( normally clear) in your writing (normally good) for about a year now. This last installment is a keeper. Thank you. As for pessimist/optimist, how about pensive keep hope alive skeptic?

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Nov 2, 2023Liked by Matt Labash

The only thing I took from Pirsig was the concept “Gumption Trap.” Been there too many times, but didn’t know what to call it until I picked up a copy of the book at a yard sale.

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Nov 2, 2023Liked by Matt Labash

Went and bought a couple of Jay Nordlinger books based on this. And will probably watch GGR, for the 50th time, but focus on Ricky Roma this go-round.

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Nov 2, 2023Liked by Matt Labash

Been a National Review subscriber for several years but I am often tempted to bail on the publication because, unlike you and your fellow compatriots at the late, great Weekly Standard, what was for decades the foremost magazine of principled conservatism quickly went wobbly on Trump after the Orange Menace moved into his new digs at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Could never understand that. Only clear-eyed writers like Nordlinger, Cooke, Continetti, Lileks and one or two others keep me interested. As usual, another superb installment of Slack Tide, although you forgot to mention Lauren Boebert among the crowded list of passengers on the contemporary GOP’s clown car.

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

The first song my son heard was a home run. I started to hear a small cry during my wife’s Caesarean at the same time a relatively meaningless song we liked was about to start, and after a fast glance at the playlist, I fast-forwarded to the next, Matt Monro’s “Born Free.” The obstetrician and the nurses broke out in laughter as he lifted Teddy up à la Lion King to flippin’ Born Free! As someone who prides himself on his comedic timing, that was absolutely sublime!

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Matt, your fly fishing reading list and mine are almost identical. As a note, when James Babb was still the editor of Gray's he published a piece I wrote about blue grouse hunting. One of few feathers I have in my cap, and one that I don't often mention, because outside sportsman who cares? Regarding this interview, we are separated by a couple decades I believe, I'll be 72 in December, but our worldview could not be more aligned. I really truly wish Nikki Haley was a viable candidate. I know she's not perfect, but compared to the field she shines like a beacon of integrity and sanity!

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That's it! I couldn't put my finger on it! You're a military brat. One of my jobs in the Army was to run an AYA (American Youth Association), a haven for the children of military folks. I even developed an opinion about military brats: they were either the best kids that you'd ever meet or the worst. They had seen or knew too much because of their travels. My problem now is deciding which one that you were.

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It is easy to be a short- and long term pessimistic these days, but there's undoubtedly been a reason for pessimism in almost every generation since the dawn of man, and if you put things in perspective, we're pretty damned lucky to be living where and when we are now.

What does not change is the sickness in the hearts of all men. What makes life better is a good, lifelong friendship like the one you have with Mr. Nordlinger.

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Nov 1, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

Matt...This is no doubt the most clever marketing ploy you've come up with yet.

Dropping the paywall to let potential new Slack Tiders get tired enough of reading about you that they'll sign up in droves to read about the people and things you actually write about instead...

Forget appropriated non-sweatshop merch or anything else. As far as savvy marketing goes, this is pure genius. Journalism's gain was obviously Madison Avenue's loss.

But it's not lost on a longtime Tider that you're kind of a man for all seasons, at least on occasion, and this bit helps point out some of the reasons, I guess. So, good on ya' for it.

When the Tide rolls in the next time, may it bring a wave of newbies to your subscriber rolls. I know your favorite charities will appreciate it.

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“Hardcore atheist”? Like saying, “Hey, that’s a hardcore philodendron you got there.” Or, “Damn, check out that hardcore letter N.” Atheism doesn’t need an intensifier.

Agree with you on Cinema Paradiso. Disagree on Parsig. I think if you re-read Zen now, you would think it was a pile of self-glorifying crap. I read it as a teenager, and even though I was just learning to read-read and was still susceptible to being fooled by the influences of others, I remember thinking, “Wait a minute. This guy sucks.” It was one of the only books I ever actually threw in the garbage.

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Matt, former fly fishing guide and recovering lawyer here. If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and listen to: (1) The Optimist: A Case for the Fly Fishing Life by David Coggins; and (2) The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson. Both are read by author (on Audible at least), and are great listens. Keep up the good work.

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