Enjoy the best longform journalism. Every Sunday.

Runs in the Family by Sarah Spain for ESPN



The week's best reads, carefully curated by Don Van Natta Jr. and Jacob Feldman. 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

EDITORS’ NOTE: Happy Sunday! Thanks to all of you who e-mailed us opinions on our revamped newsletter design. After reading your feedback, we've made another tweak, adding the publication name alongside the byline. Thoughts?

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Don and Jacob

Don's Favorite

   Runs in the Family
By Sarah Spain for ESPN
 (~25 minutes)


An extraordinary story about an NFL coach’s remarkable journey. By my ESPN colleague, Sarah Spain. I won’t say any more (we are a spoiler-free zone!).

Losers’ Lunch

Jacob's Favorite

   Watch What You Say
By  Jonathan Mahler for The New York Times
 (~20 minutes)


At a historic, competitive Quaker school in the heart of New York City, a math teacher’s Nazism joke tore the community apart. Religion, politics, identity, activism, it’s all up for debate.

Can Good Teaching Be Taught?

   The Bullet in My Arm
By Elaina Plott for The Atlantic
 (~20 minutes)

   The Country’s First Climate Change Casualties?
By Elaina Plott for Pacific Standard
 (~25 minutes)


Two great stories—one an educational first-person piece on Alabama’s relationship with firearms; the other a political allegory about a small island off Virginia, put at risk by climate change and full of ardent Trump supporters—by one great writer.

We’re going to have Elaina on the next Sunday Long Read podcast, so let us know if you’ve got any questions for her after reading these stories. 


   The Imam’s Widow
By Rahima Nasa for ProPublica

 (~15 minutes)

The wife of a Muslim religious leader came to America brimming with uncertainty and hope. A suspected hate crime snuffed out the hope.


   The Big Lie
By Jack Stripling and Megan Zahneis for The Chronicle of Higher Education

 (~20 minutes)

A Colorado State chemistry professor fabricates a job offer, with tenure, from another university to get a raise and win his department’s respect. The deception led to the unraveling of the professor’s career while leaving him with few answers to this essential question: “What am I worth?”


   Naomi Osaka’s Breakthrough Game
By Brook Larmer for The New York Times Magazine 
 (~25 minutes)

The 20-year-old U.S. Open winner, who defeated her hero Serena Williams, is profiled.


   The American Nightmare
By Desiree Stennett and Lisa Rowan for The Penny Hoarder
 (~55 minutes)

Assessing the toll taken by America’s housing meltdown when banks foreclosed on nine million homes, from 2007 to 2010. Millions are still recovering. Everyone uses the same word to describe it: “Nightmare.”


   How Rudy Giuliani Turned Into Trump’s Clown
By Jeffrey Toobin for The New Yorker
 (~35 minutes)

Rudy Giuliani’s combative, bare-knuckles style is perfectly suited to President Trump’s legal and crisis communications needs. Jeffrey Toobin says it’s not at all surprising that Giuliani, the former New York mayor who was a national hero in the aftermath of 9/11, has become “Trump’s clown.”

The Unconstrained Presidency
I Read Every Bob Woodward Book. Here’s How They Stack Up.


   How Viagra Went From a Medical Mistake to a $3-Billion-a-Year Industry
By David Kushner for Esquire
 (~20 minutes)


How “two unlikely dudes” took on pharma nerds, Wall Street sharks and, yes, God—and got America hooked on a little blue pill.

The Super Rich of Silicon Valley Have a Doomsday Escape Plan


   Sperm Count Zero
By Daniel Noah Halpern for GQ
 (~20 minutes)


“Men are doomed. Everybody knows this.” But does everybody know that men have also become increasingly infertile, with predictions that within a generation men may lose the ability to reproduce entirely? What’s causing this mysterious drop in sperm counts—and is it too late to reverse the numbers?

The Nothing Between Your Legs


   Meet the Table Busser Who’s Worked at the Same Wilmette Pancake House for 54 Years
By Christopher Borrelli for the Chicago Tribune
 (~15 minutes)


Othea Loggan started working at Walker Bros. Original Pancake House in Wilmette, Illinois on March 30, 1964. Fifty-four years later, Loggan is still bussing tables, commuting two hours to and from work and making minimum wage. A lyrical, lovely story.


   Was She J.D. Salinger’s Predator or His Prey?
By Joyce Maynard for The New York Times
 (~5 minutes)

Twenty years after writing a widely criticized memoir about her doomed relationship with J.D. Salinger—he was 53, she was 18—Joyce Maynard, now 64, says she expected her phone to ring after the #MeToo movement began last year. “The call never came,” she writes in this heartbreaking essay.


   Gen Z Is Coming to Your Office. Get Ready to Adapt. [$]
By Janet Adamy for The Wall Street Journal
 (~10 minutes)


Member of the recession generation is, unsurprisingly, driven by financial security and far more diverse than their predecessors.

Invasive Reptiles Are Taking Over Florida—and Devouring Its Birds Along the Way


   John Elway Is Looking for Himself
By Robert Klemko for Sports Illustrated
 (~20 minutes)


Why can’t one of the best quarterbacks of all time seem to scout the position?

A football family and a sportswriter, bound by grief


   It Came from the ’70s: Grandma’s Weird Couch
By Lisa Hix for Collectors Weekly
 (~30 minutes)


We fell hard for this ode to mid-20th-century vintage couches, triggered, naturally, by the Grandma’s Couch meme.


   Watch Your Step: Why the 10,000 daily goal is built on bad science
By David Cox for The Guardian
 (~5 minutes)


The mantra that the 10,000-steps-a-day regime is good for you has become an embedded part of our culture. But David Cox makes a short, persuasive argument that the science behind this figure is completely arbitrary with “no health guidance that exists to back it.”


   THE #SundayLR LIST: Ten Things I Never Knew About Las Vegas Until I Ran a High-Roller Suite
By Brandon Presser for Bloomberg
 (~10 minutes)


From the Cosmopolitan hotel and casino’s former premier client relations manager comes 10 secrets about Vegas’ free-spending high-rollers that didn’t, uh, stay in Vegas.


   The mystery of Tucker Carlson
By Lyz Lenz for the Columbia Journalism Review
 (~35 minutes)


A piercing profile of the Fox News television host. Lenz exposes the absurdity of Carlson’s show, and career, by drawing witty parallels to her own life as a journalist. It’s a must-read. 

A decade in, the Texas Tribune pursues the rest of its audience


   Front Row Democracy
By Tatum Dooley for SSENSE
 (~10 minutes)


"A front row seat at a fashion show, like the corner office, is a hierarchical marker. Signalled through design and architecture, its value comes not just from the view it affords, but through appearing to have it."


   THE SUNDAY Q&A: Bezos Unbound: Exclusive interview with the Amazon founder on what he plans to conquer next
By Randall Lane for Forbes
 (~15 minutes)


An interview with the $1 trillion-dollar man. 


By Andy Wright and Sonner Kehrt for Topic
 (~35 minutes)


The oral history of how a scientist found a rainforest on top of a mountain, then led a team of 28 scientists, logistics experts, climbers, and others to a place where humans had not set foot for a century or more.


   Drinking the Kool-Aid
By Aaron Gell for Medium
 (~30 minutes)


A writer attends a secret three-day dance party in the woods of New England with 250 sex-positive, drug-addled young professionals. It's a piece about being a journalist, about middle age, pain, longing, parenthood and cuddle puddles.


   The Divided Legacy of Lyndon B. Johnson
By Doris Kearns Goodwin for The Atlantic
 (~15 minutes)


The final days of LBJ. (An excerpt of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s forthcoming book, Leadership: In Turbulent Times.)

Last Week's Most Read

   A Lifelong Dream Washed Away
By Dave Sheinin for The Washington Post

   How Sia Saved Herself
By Hillel Aron for Rolling Stone

By Spencer Hall for Every Day Should Be Saturday


Lede of the Week

I was shot on a Sunday. It was late and it was hot and I was 21, on my way home from dinner during summer break. I’d rolled the windows down because the breeze felt good.

Quotation of the Week

   The Country’s First Climate Change Casualties?

“It's just hard to cope with the thought that your whole way of life is going to go away.”

-Bob Inglis

The SLR Podcast

   Albert Samaha (iTunes)

“There are two ways I view toughness and the virtue of it.” BuzzFeed News reporter Albert Samaha has a new book out about a young football team in a changing inner city. But clearly it’s about so much more than that, too. As for what he thinks will happen to America’s most popular sport, Samaha says, “Part of the question is what replaces it.” He also discussed what it’s like working at BuzzFeed, shared how he’s learned to grab attention online, and announced the topic of his next book.
[1:00] The Sunday Long Read with Albert Samaha
[1:30] Never Ran, Never Will
[18:00] Albert’s magazine story about the Mo Better Jaguars
[22:00] Jacob’s story on baseball in Liberty City
[23:00] There Are No Children Here
[41:45] Can A School Ban Its Students From Kneeling During The National Anthem?
[56:30] Fatal Errors
[1:05:00] Looking for Right and Wrong In the Philippines

Subscribe today!

The Classic Read
from Jack Shafer

   Beyond Deep Throat: The Hidden Watergate Sources That Helped Topple a President (2014)

By Max Holland for Newsweek

 (~30 minutes)

The subject of anonymous sources always brings us back to the Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein thriller, All the President's Men, and their legendary source, Deep Throat. In this piece, journalist Max Holland peeks into the greater Woodstein archives to unmask the other anonymice who help the Washington Post reporters advance the story, a process that redistributes credit for breaking the story.​

Classic Read curator Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.

The Sunday Pod
from Jody Avirgan

   On The Media: Face The Racist Nation (iTunes)

This is a big month for new podcasts: Kobe Bryant has a kids show; HowStuffWorks seemingly debuts a new series every other day; Slow Burn is back. But this week’s recommendation is for one of my absolute standbys, and a re-run at that. The Guardian reporter Lois Beckett and the OTM staff put together a special last spring (that they just republished) on the roots of American racism. How white America has constructed race through media, religion, and more to preserve their own wealth and power, and why so much of this is so persistent in our culture, politics, and journalism today. This episode is a masterclass, in every sense.

Sunday Pod curator Jody Avirgan is the host of FiveThirtyEight's politics podcast and is heading up the new "30 for 30" podcast documentary series from ESPN.

The Fan Letter
from Jacob Jung

   A love letter to Houston's West Alabama Ice House

"I first visited West Alabama Ice House as a doe-eyed 22-year-old during the welcome week for my two-year stint with Teach for America, and I promptly fell in love. With its inviting picnic tables dotting the front, side, and rear of its sizable lot, “Walabama”—as it’s been dubbed by the regulars—is the place where the Montrose community comes together to socialize."

The Long View
from Justine Gubar

   The Absurdity of America’s Front Lawns
By Radiowest and Doug Fabrizio for The Atlantic


Michael Pollan narrates this examination of a curious American institution: the front lawn. Posted by The Atlantic, this provocative short made me realize I am a total aberration and have led a primarily lawnless life. Watch and you just may change your perception of the suburban ideal.

The Long View curator Justine Gubar is a former Vice President, News Narratives at Fusion and the author of Fanaticus: Mischief and Madness in the Modern Sports Fan. Reach out to Justine at if you have a suggestion for next week's long view.

The Sunday Still
from Patrick Farrell


With the recently released Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick sparking renewed debate, photographer Mark J. Rebilas left the field to pursue a national controversy. Shooting for Reuters, he captured it effectively with this image of a stadium security guard with her hand over her heart as Denver Broncos players Demaryius Thomas, left, and Brandon Marshall sit in silent protest during the national anthem prior to a pre-season game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on Aug. 30. 


Patrick Farrell, the curator of The Sunday Still, is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winner for Breaking News Photography for The Miami Herald, where he has worked since 1987. He is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Media Management at the University of Miami School of Communication.

The Sunday Cover
from Étienne Lajoie

   Be what you can see
By Imogen Russell Williams 

Étienne Lajoie, the curator of The Sunday Cover, is a journalist based in Montreal.

The Sunday Esoterica
from Ryan Rodenberg

   Toward the Creation of a U.S. “Space Force”


In the past few months, President Trump has periodically discussed launching (pun intended) a new stand-alone branch of the military called the “Space Force.” On August 16, the Congressional Research Service (CRS)--the legislative branch's in-house research group--published a memo that flagged some of the issues at play in the potential creation of such a “Space Force.” Among the issues, one of the most thought-provoking is whether the Constitution allows for the establishment of a military branch beyond the confines of Earth. According to the CRS memo: "It may conceivably be argued that congressional authority is limited to 'land and naval forces,' including 'Armies' and 'the Navy' as well as the 'Militia' (i.e., the reserve components), and thus would not extend to a new armed force operating primarily in the realm of space."

Sunday Esoterica curator Ryan Rodenberg works as a professor at Florida State University, where he teaches research methods and sports law.  He writes a lot of academic articles and some mainstream pieces too.

The Sunday Long Play
from Kelly Dearmore

Ben Danaher - Still Feel Lucky (iTunes)


The best songwriters can make the mundane sound miraculous, and they can seemingly do so just from their own sheer force of talent. But when highly-skilled songwriters endure unthinkable tragedy, the results are often nothing short of transcendent. Native Texan and current Nashville resident Ben Danaher fits into the latter grouping.

With the brilliant Still Feel Lucky, Danaher's newly released full-length album, we are taken through a number of trials and emotions. The impactful feelings that have flowed from deaths of both his father, who died from cancer, and his brother, who in 2010 was shot to death in a highly-publicized "Stand your ground" case, are examined here, as is the death of a relationship with an outwardly religious ex, as well as so much more.

It's an odd role we music fans fill when it comes to enjoying what often results from an artist's heartbreak and rock-bottom moments. It's near impossible to not react positively, even enthusiastically, when we hear a combo of notes and melodies that simply ping our ears in just the right way, yet the words that are nestled in those arrangements can be anything but pleasant, even if they provide catharsis for the artist.

Long Play curator Kelly Dearmore is the Music Critic for the Dallas Morning News. Yes, he's heard your son's demo tape, and he thinks it's fantastic. 

The Su♬day Sou♬dtrack
from The Editors 

Paper Aeroplane
By Angus & Julia Stone

The Sunday LimeRick
from Tim Torkildson

Donald Trump"Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost. Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?" 


Isn't it a shame that books are published all the time;
that all their information isn't treated like a crime?
If I were made the President, I'd make those authors scram.
Oh wait, what am I saying? The Chief of State I am!
In that case, have a care, you swine, that publish such malarkey—
My apparatchiks will find you; and they can be quite snarky.

Sunday Limerick writer Tim Torkildson is a retired circus clown who fiddles with rhyme. All his verses can be found at Tim's Clown Alley.

The Sund&y Ampers&nd
from Nick Aster

The Sunday Ampersand is chosen by Nick Aster. Nick most recently served as founder of, a leading publication focused on sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

The Last Laugh
from The Editors


By Ellie Kemper for The New Yorker

 (~5 minutes)

Become a diva and the whole world will laugh with you.

Read Later

Founder, Curator: Don Van Natta Jr.
Producer, Curator: Jacob Feldman
Producer, Curator: Étienne Lajoie
Senior Recycling Editor: Jack Shafer
Senior Long View Editor: Justine Gubar
Senior Photo Editor: Patrick Farrell
Senior Music Editor: Kelly Dearmore
Senior Limerick Editor: Tim Torkildson
Senior Podcast Editor: Jody Avirgan
Senior Editor of Esoterica: Ryan M. Rodenberg

Digital Team: Nation Hahn, Nickolaus Hines, Megan McDonell, Alexa Steinberg
Podcast Team: Peter Bailey-Wells, Cary Barbor, Julian McKenzie, Jonathan Yales
Campus Editor: Peter Warren

Contributing Editors: Bruce Arthur, Shaun Assael, Nick Aster, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, Jonathan Bernstein, Sara Blask, Greg Bishop, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Maria Bustillos, Chris Cillizza, Anna Katherine Clemmons, Rich Cohen, Pam Colloff, Maureen Dowd, Charles Duhigg, Brett Michael Dykes, Geoff Edgers, Hadley Freeman, Lea Goldman, Michael N. Graff, Maggie Haberman, Reyhan Harmanci, Virginia Heffernan, Matthew Hiltzik, Jena Janovy, Bomani Jones, Chris Jones, Peter Kafka, Paul Kix, Mina Kimes, Peter King, Michael Kruse, Tom Lamont, Chris Lehmann, Will Leitch, Glynnis MacNicol, Drew Magary, Erik Malinowski, Jonathan Martin, Betsy Fischer Martin, Ana Menendez, Kevin Merida, Heidi N. Moore, Eric Neel, Joe Nocera, Ashley R. Parker, Anne Helen Petersen, Jo Piazza, Joe Posnanski, S.L. Price, Jennifer Romolini, Julia Rubin, Albert Samaha, Bruce Schoenfeld, Michael Schur, Joe Sexton, Jacqui Shine, Rachel Sklar, Dan Shanoff, Ben Smith, Adam Sternbergh, Matt Sullivan, Wright Thompson, Pablo Torre, Kevin Van Valkenburg, John A. Walsh, Seth Wickersham and Karen Wickre.

Header Image: Jonathan Bartlett

You can read more about our staff, and contact us (we'd love to hear from you!) on our website: Help pick next week's selections by tweeting us your favorite stories with #SundayLR.

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