You're Too Little For Liz Cambage
Also, welcome back to the inimitable St. Vincent, and more
STICK TO SPORTS
A hearty welcome back to the WNBA, which began its 25th season a week ago. Sabrina Ionescu is healthy and cashing in on her otherworldly talent, registering a triple-double in just her fifth career game last week and averaging an 18-7-8 line thus far. DeWanna Bonner and Jonquel Jones have led the Connecticut Sun (more on them in a bit) to a dominant 5-0 start. As a whole, the league is as strong as it’s ever been in terms of sheer talent, star power, marketability and social muscle.
A special welcome back, BTW, to 3-time All-Star Liz Cambage, the Australian superhero who had opted out of the beWubbled 2020 season due to COVID concerns, and who has picked right back up at an elite pace with 14 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in the first week of play. The Aces are especially glad to see Cambage back, as they had been swept out of the WNBA Finals the previous season by the Seattle Storm. Because what Breanna Stewart needed was another ring.
In the Aces’ loss to the Sun on Sunday (what do you expect, the day’s named after them, there’s no Aceday), Sun coach Curt Miller lobbied for a foul call on Cambage by telling the referee something to the effect of, “she’s like 300 pounds.” Quite regrettably, this was within earshot of Cambage, and after the game she took to her IG Stories to light Miller up like a Christmas tree.
To Miller’s credit, he quickly apologized after the game, and without a caveat of “if” Cambage had been offended — decent move, but it’s sort of like letting your neighbors know your insurance is up to date after you drive your Nissan Sentra through their living room wall. He’s now suspended for a game, and as Cambage noted, he’s lucky it’s just that.
Cambage has always had a complicated relationship with the WNBA; as an Australian, she was never as beholden to the W as she was to her national team, especially since the league had her playing in Tulsa. C’mon. Eventually the rigors of international and year-round play led her to a 5-year hiatus from American play before returning to the Dallas Wings in 2018 — a team she would request a trade from after one season.
Cambage, thankfully, seems as comfortable playing for the Aces as with any team in her career. It certainly doesn’t hurt that they’re one of the favorites for WNBA postseason glory this year. And yes, as mentioned, she took 2020 off, a smart move when home base is the comparatively COVID-cautious Australia, but at least this was with the blessing of the Aces’ team doctor. So hopefully she can establish some stability with her American career there, and pick up some hardware while she’s at it. Lord knows she’s good enough.
And despite all the discontentment with the W, lest we think Cambage is just a partisan for her home country, even the Australian Olympic Committee has run afoul of its homegrown gem. Earlier in May, Cambage noticed that an AOC promotional photograph had included several Australian Olympians, but none were Black or indigenous. Cambage even threatened to sit out the Olympics until matters of representation were properly addressed, but hopefully it doesn’t come to that — neither side is better off by doubling down on the conflict that has brought us to this point.
But that’s who she is, and really, why expect anything less from a 6’8”, 235-pound woman of Nigerian and Australian descent? Cambage didn’t invent racism, sexism, “conventional” beauty standards, or any of the other myriad societal factors that affect her job as an international basketball player, an Olympian and a brand unto herself. She’s just more apt to respond to them — and she’s usually not wrong.
Credit where it’s due: the WNBA knows what it has in Cambage, and has no problem sharing its spotlight with her. On the WNBA app (where the League Pass is a ridiculously low $17, yes you should buy it if you can, I certainly did), the opening montage of images features first and foremost this badass shot of Cambage:
Oh, and in case there’s something chaste about how she seems to come off, oh buddy — Cambage is a lingerie model for Rihanna’s Fenty x Savage line. It’s juuuust risqué enough that I’ll let y’all do the googling on your own time, but let’s say it’s very understandable that Cambage would tell the world “I’m proud to be a big bitch” while she’s incinerating an opposing (male) coach for blithely overstating her weight.
All of which is to say, it’s up to you whether or not you respect Cambage — but she respects herself and everything she stands for, and you’d better have a damn good reason not to do the same.
STICK TO RAP ROCK
Missed this from last week, but among non-sex symbols, this crossing of the Brimley/Cocoon Line cuts among the deepest:
“I did it all for the nookie! The nookie! So you can take that cookie! And make sure it has bran! Make sure it has bran!”
STICK TO MUCH BETTER MUSIC
Longtime pals know that my cat Annie Smalls has two namesakes — one quite obvious, and one for Annie Clark, better known in the music world as St. Vincent.
My first exposure to St. Vincent was when she co-headlined local music festival with David Byrne, a true legend, and going into the show I most looked forward to the litany of Talking Heads hits they’d doubtlessly play. And they did.
But I left that show knowing that Annie was a goddamn rock star.
(This is not the same show, and it’s tragically only about 35 minutes, but you’ll see what I saw.)
Byrne and St. Vincent were touring for a shared album called Love This Giant, and it’s on my short list of albums to be stranded on a desert island with. I can’t promise you familiar songs like the Talking Heads’ catalog, but I can promise you remarkable re-listenability.
She’s also had a few extremely strong solo studio albums and tours since then, and her latest album, Daddy’s Home, dropped earlier this month. I don’t say this lightly: it might be her best yet.
If the visuals in the “Down” video weren’t enough of a giveaway, the album is very much a throwback to the pre-digital era, especially as she includes tributes to the likes of Nina Simone, Marilyn Monroe and Candy Darling. It’s still very much a St. Vincent album, to be sure, but instead of sounding like she just came to Earth from a spaceship to melt our brains, it sounds like she came to Earth from a spaceship in the 1970s and she’s been listening and learning ever since. And then the brain-melting commences.
Also, with the heavy thematic content, her expressive, soaring vocals and the twinges of so many retro elements of funk and soul, it’s easy to lull yourself into thinking St. Vincent is “just” a very talented singer/songwriter/producer — until you remember that oh yeah, those are her bombastic guitar riffs and solos too. Much easier to remember when she’s on stage with that guitar, obviously.
Listen to Daddy’s Home. Do it for me, yeah, but more importantly do it for yourself. You’ll know very quickly if it’s your type of jam, and I’m very confident it will be.
STICK TO AFFIRMATIONS
Thanks for joining me today. We’ll always end on a kind word.
Phil Mickelson won the US Open on Sunday. That was pretty cool. He’s a month shy of his 51st birthday, which if you’d watched you may have heard Jim Nantz mention once or twice or a thousand times. About two weeks prior to Lefty’s surprise victory, though, he sent out this tweet:
That he turned around and became the oldest Major winner 11 days later is obviously rad. But even if he hadn’t, even if he had straight-up missed the cut and every cut thereafter, there’s nothing about that message that becomes less true or less instructive for us.
Failure is a natural part of the human experience. Nobody gets everything they want, and what a blessing that is. We learn that some of the best things in life are things we cannot or did not anticipate. We learn that the universe is not only not under our command, but not under anybody else’s either. We learn to put forth our efforts where we can, and to live life on life’s terms. It may sound bleak, but it’s quite liberating.
So let’s make like Phil this week. Let’s work on what we can, hit ‘em straight, and then relax and let the rest go. Sounds like a winning formula to me.