The Far Middle episode 129 is dedicated to boxing great Billy Conn, better known as “The Pittsburgh Kid.” Nick delves into Conn’s career which spanned the 1930s and 1940s—a time when boxing rivaled baseball as America’s most popular sport.
Nick highlights Conn’s bouts and relationship with Joe Lewis, in particular their legendary match from June 18, 1941, when Conn attempted to become the first World Light Heavyweight Champion to win the World Heavyweight Championship. For more on Conn, Nick recommends the Sports Illustrated article, “The Boxer and the Blonde.”
The outcome of a boxing match is decided either by knockout or by the judges. “Scoring by judges is often subjective,” says Nick. “But you always have the eye test and objective data to compare to the official decision in both boxing and in life.” From there the episode’s connections begin—linked under the theme of the real-world scoreboard and commonsense eye test, versus the manufactured optics of the elite and expert classes.
Nick highlights several examples revealing how the divide between reality and manufactured optics sits in plain sight for all to see.
The state of America’s cities begins the conversation, a topic regularly addressed by Nick and at length in Precipice. “Our cities are sick, and the decisions urban leadership are making on behalf of urban America is making us sicker,” says Nick, highlighting San Francisco’s new central subway, Pawtucket’s under-construction professional soccer stadium, and Chicago’s structural deficit.
Ultimately, poor decisions from urban leaders and their ensuing costs will result in taxpayers footing the bill.
Next, Nick turns to global energy and climate policy. “The expert judges assured us that if we pour trillions of dollars into the energy transition, carbon use and carbon dioxide emissions would plummet, saving the globe.” However, despite all the unprecedented energy transition spending, carbon emissions tick up with rising energy consumption, but so too does GDP growth, longer life expectancies, and quality of life.
“Based on the scorecard, ask yourself what passes the eye and the smell test,” says Nick. “Are climate change and global warming the biggest threats to the U.S. economy, or do they pale in comparison to things like China, nuclear proliferation, technology running amok, banking failures, and so on. It’s the elite optics versus real-world scoring constant listeners.”
Like Conn and Lewis, the punches continue as Nick examines: the causes resulting in the cost of food and food inflation both domestically and across the globe; attitudes towards the state of America’s economy, and whether things are great (manufactured optics) or do we have a fiscal crisis (reality); experts’ geopolitical missteps on Russia and Ukraine; and, a CIA whistleblower alleging the agency rigged a report on the origins of COVID-19 to clear China’s name.
In closing, Nick wishes a happy birthday to the late Milton Bradley and foreshadows a top-ten list of his favorite board games (and includes a few likely to make the list).