Culture Feature

Here's What Would Have Happened in Every Major Sport This Season

The beauty of sport lies in its capacity for possibility.

The beauty of sport lies in its capacity for possibility.

Though only rarely is sport meaningfully memorable, there's always the potential that the game you're watching will matter historically. The batter walks to the box, knocking his bat on his cleats with that certain look in his eyes, and it's entirely in the realm of possibility that this is it, the home-run that goes farther than any ever has before.

In a time of frightening what-ifs, we could use the welcome and innocent unknown of sport more than ever. Alas, the seasons have been suspended or cancelled, and we are left with only our imaginations to fill in the blanks. But if our imaginations alone are going to decide the outcomes of such seasons, let's use that imagination to the fullest. Let's assume that every sport was going to have its most wild and historic season of all time. So, here are hyperbolic predictions for nearly all the major sports we won't actually get to see played this year.


National Basketball Association

The NBA never pauses play. Lebron James continues to lead the league in assists, continues to garner MVP-buzz over early-season favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo. With an eighth of the season left to play, however, many are still reluctant to cast their MVP vote for James. After all, Giannis had the highest PER (player-efficiency-rating) of all time. Of all time! Things look pre-decided.

Lebron holds a press conference with nine games left in the season, saying something along the lines of "I'm the best to do it. I'm no doubt the MVP. And I'm going to prove it." And then he proves it. Lebron goes at least 45-10-10 (points-rebounds-assists) every game until the end of the season, and copyrights the phrase Best To Do It, which gets immediately attached to shoe advertisements and Twitter bios alike. He wins MVP in a sudden landslide.


Lebron James goes up for a wind-mill dunk against the Houston Rockets NBA.com


The playoffs are otherwise a wash. Nothing else matters besides the collision course between Lebron, on a warpath, and Giannis, out to prove the doubters wrong. Both Lebron's Los Angeles Lakers and Giannis' Milwaukee Bucks sweep their first two playoff rounds, embarrassing teams by 20, 30, even 40 points. In the Conference Championships, the Lakers drop their first game to the Clippers, only to come back and win four straight. In that last game, however, Anthony Davis of the Lakers takes a hard fall and strains his back. Will he be able to play in the Finals? All anybody knows is that Giannis just went off for 60-21-8 as the Bucks beat the Boston Celtics in six games, setting up a showdown of titans.

Davis isn't coming back. He won't be cleared in time for anything but game seven, if the series even gets that far. And it doesn't look like it will. The Bucks beat the Lakers 122-100, 130-126, and 118-117 in three consecutive games. Lebron just ain't got it. Nobody's ever come back from 3-0. Khris Middleton of the Bucks says something acerbic in a presser, and fans on Twitter start making death threats, claiming he's jinxed the team.

And he's seemed to. The Bucks drop three-in-a-row, all close games, two of which go to overtime. Davis comes back in the Final game, and he helps the Lakers take a 25-point lead by the third quarter. They never let it go. The narrative around Giannis becomes dark: is he a born loser? Will he ever succeed in the NBA ? Can he be the best guy on a Championship team?

Meanwhile, Lebron gets another ring, and another MVP, and another Finals MVP. The line between him and Jordan looks cloudier than ever. Best to do it? Maybe so, after all.

Major League Baseball

The New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers (great fake season for Wisconsin), Cleveland Indians, and San Diego Padres all win 100 games a piece. It's the first time five teams have accomplished such a feat in League history. Meanwhile, the cheating Houston Astros lose six of their nine Opening Day starters to various injuries. Either they were intentionally hit by fastballs, or divine intervention saw fit to take them from the game: torn ACL's, hyperextended knees, groin sprains galore.

Actually, the violence surrounding the Astros becomes one of the League's great storylines. Never before has the entirety of the MLB been so united against a common enemy, and by mid-way through the season, any instance of hitting an Astros player with a pitch is punishable by a full year suspension, as per commissioner Rob Manfred.That stops most people, but not everyone. Astros game viewership skyrockets, highest in the League. Everyone wants to know who's going to get beaned next.

The Yankees break their own record for most consecutive games with a home-run, at the same time as the Dodgers' superstar pair, Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger, become an unprecedentedly efficient duo. The two coastal powerhouses meet in the World Series, which goes to seven games. Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees gives up a home-run in the top of the 9th-inning to put the Dodgers up by two. The Yankees get one more chance, however.


Yankee Stadium in all of its glory. Yankee Stadium - Wikipedia upload.wikimedia.org


The first two batters go down swinging. Yankee Stadium is almost silent as Aaron Judge, the potential last out, comes up to the plate. Boom, he hits a solo home-run to bring the game within one run. Giancarlo Stanton, who only played half the season due to injury, does the same. And then Gary Sanchez etches his own name in Yankees history, hitting a third consecutive solo shot, lifting the Bombers over the Dodgers 6-5. It's their 28th title of all time, and perhaps the most dramatic.

The trio come to be known as the Tri-State Toreadors, and all stay with the Yankees for their next nine seasons, five of which result in championships. T-shirt sales hit unprecedented numbers.


National Hockey League

The abysmal Red Wings of Detroit don't win again for the rest of the season. With 11-games left to play, the 17-54 Red Wings just kind of roll-over and die. After their losing streak climaxes with one of hockey's longest-ever scoring droughts, the performance is deemed so bad by fans that after pouring out of Little Caesar's Arena, the Detroit crowd becomes riotous, flipping cars and breaking glass windows and looting wildly. Mike Duggan, Mayor of Detroit, declares a State of Emergency. The National Guard is called in. The NHL convenes a meeting of the owners. Citing "destructive fan tendency" but really just making good on a tacit promise made years ago to a pair of oil men in Little Rock, the league ignores the Red Wings' unprecedented 22-year-playoff streak in favor of the recency bias. The team is moved out of Michigan altogether. Stripped of city and name, they are re-christened the Arkansas Spartans. Their new logo is fittingly the omega symbol, as they are cursed by the Hockey Gods not to win another title for 75 years, when the NHL is finally splintered and moved off-planet.



All of the Detroit Red Wings' championship banners and retired jerseys hanging from the rafters. Detroit Red Wings Retired Jerseys and Championship Banners… | Flickr live.staticflickr.com


Though still a spot out of the playoffs when the season briefly stopped, the Vancouver Canucks use the short break to recover from their multitude of injuries. Vancouver superstars Elias Petterson and Quinn Hughes combine talents with recently traded-for asset Tyler Toffoli, who spins his injury-replacement role into a full-time starting gig, and the team manages to squeak by into the playoffs. And they keep on squeaking by. They win series after series by late-game goals, by overtime magic, barely overcoming opponents. Yet despite Vancouver's best efforts, the Philadelphia Flyers (Flyers coach Alain Vigneault does incredible work with a young team and, especially, a young defense. Goalie Carter Hart proves himself one of the elite goaltenders in the sport, putting on a clinic night-after-night, helping the team remain nearly unbeatable at home) best them after six hard games in the Stanley Cup Finals. "Shockingly," Philadelphia also goes up in flames. Someone steals the Liberty Bell. Eight people die. A Ticker Tape Parade is still held. Cameras catch the deceased ascending to Valhalla.


The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics

Simone Biles performs a coterie of unseen moves that come to be known as the Simone Sequence. Each one she has created, innovated, and mastered. They're aptly named the Biles, the Biles II, the Biles III, and the Gymnast Formerly Known as the Biles. No other entrant dares attempt even a single one of them. Biles breaks her own record for gold medals won (they make a new category for her, Women's Domination, at her behest), but after the Games have ended, she bafflingly announces that she's hanging up the leotard, opting instead to focus on philanthropy. The Biles Brigade helps bring school supplies and talented teachers to under-served communities. Biles, through smart investments and evergreen accomplishment, becomes the first Olympic Billionaire. In 2036, she runs for Governor of Ohio.


Simone Biles straight flexin' at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. File:Simone Biles na Rio 2016.jpg - Wikimedia Commons upload.wikimedia.org


The Tokyo Olympics elevate Competitive Rock Climbing to the world's stage. Niche climbers and amateurs alike fall in to watch the festivities, to see what was once a hobby become a sensation. There were more of them than even they thought. Led by a resurgent performance from American climber Brooke Raboutou (following in the footsteps of Phelps and Bolt), climbing enters the public imagination. A generation of kids dream of competing in the new events themselves, not least because it looks so fun, and the forthcoming, figurative Mt. Rushmore is in need of faces. Harvard announces the country's first climbing scholarships. Yale, steeped in tradition, defies the wave. Within five years, they're excommunicated from the Ivy League, replaced by Bard College. The number of climbing gyms triple in the United States, and professional climbers become household names. Watching the 2020 Games from her home in Upstate New York, eight-year-old Connie Rodriguez dreams of becoming the youngest Olympic-climbing qualifier ever. Four years later, she does just that, landing the cover of Time Magazine, with an interview titled "World Domination, and Home in time for Supper."


Professional Golf Association

Tiger Woods wins the Masters. Again. It's one of the greatest sports stories of all time, pulling him within two of Jack Nicklaus' all-time majors record. And the specifics of the feat are even more staggering. Tiger's first two rounds are so full of mistakes he nearly misses the cut, but then he plays the two greatest rounds in Masters history, shooting a 62 followed by a 61.


Brooks Koepka answering questions next to his 2018 U.S. Open Trophy. File:Brooks Koepka with the U.S. Open Trophy.jpg - Wikimedia Commons upload.wikimedia.org


Simultaneous to Tiger's comeback, Brooks Koepka, world number three and then-leader, struggles in the final round, feeling Tiger's breath on his neck. After losing in a tense three-hole playoff, Brooks snaps his club on his knee, rips off his shirt, screams something in Latin, approaches and then assaults Tiger Woods on the green, bashing him in the face and arms repeatedly with the broken broad-side of a golf club. Koepka is sentenced to 20 years in Federal Prison for the crime, the televised trial of which draws O.J. Simpson-like press. Tiger is never able to play Golf again, but spins tragedy into accomplishment. He becomes an ambassador for the Sport, a role model for children, and a philanthropist. He sets a new record, delivering the most all-time College Commencement Addresses. The British Open is renamed the Tiger Cup. The PGA logo is changed to a silhouette of Tiger fist-pumping. He goes down as the consensus best athlete of all time. And if that weren't enough, he lives to become the oldest ever American, finally dying from heat stroke during a marathon at the age of 121. He is survived by 27 children mothered by 26 women.


NCAA Basketball Tournament

Baylor wins the women's tournament. Kansas wins the men's.

Cardi B has been making waves for her style, powerful energy, and headline-worthy interview in a recent issue of American Vogue.

See on Instagram

While she did address her relationship with Offset and how she balances being a mom and a star, she also took some time to discuss politics.

"You like a certain artist that do crazy s***," she said. "But this person is in charge of our country. This person is in charge of our well-being. When it comes to my president, I want my president to be, like, extremely holy. That is the person I want to look up to."

Revelist

So what would a holy president look like? "I don't want my president to have any hatred toward a certain type of people," she clarified. "I don't want my president to be arguing with freaking celebrities or caring what people think of him. I want my president to tell me an answer on s*** that really matters. I don't want my president to entertain me. I just don't."

Since 2016, Cardi B. has publicly endorsed Bernie Sanders, even appearing on camera in an endearing interview with the Democratic candidate, who is currently beating Trump in some polls. According to the rapper, she supports Sanders because he is a "humanitarian" who "has the perfect intentions" and "naturally cares about minorities. He actually cares about people getting Medicare because he knows they can't afford it," she said. "I don't feel like he's just saying these things 'cause he want the vote."

Bernie x Cardi B www.youtube.com

Medicare for All, she said, makes sense, especially in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. "It's like, why is this such a successful country and we don't have Medicare for everyone? It's like, how are people gonna work if they're sick? People gonna f*cking be paying forever. And we don't have freaking free schools? That discourages people to want to go to school if you gotta pay for it."

As a mother, she also sees Sanders as an investment in her child's future. "I give my daughter so much love, and I'm setting her up for a future," she said. "I want to tell her that a lot of the s*** that I have done in life—no matter what I did, knowing that I wanted to have kids made me go harder to secure a good future for my kids."

CULTURE

Ariana, Bernie, Trump, A$AP Rocky, and the Kardashians: How Politics Became Pop Culture

Pop culture can be useful when connected to politics if it inspires tangible action—but the two can be like fire and gasoline when combined in the wrong way.

In a world where the Kardashians and A$AP Rocky have been name-dropped during literal impeachment hearings, it's hard not to wonder if we're living in a simulation.

Of course everything about Donald Trump's regime has had a simulacra-like quality about it, as full of glitches as any beta website. The former reality TV star has often been called the "social media president," after all, and his prolific Twitter usage grows more surreal by the hour.

We've entered an era where pop culture, social media, and politics blur into each other, tangling in every aspect of our lives. In fact, as the Kardashian, Jay Leno, and A$AP Rocky name-drops reveal, the ties between figures in pop culture and politicians have never been stronger and more influential, able to influence actual policy and political decisions.

Bernie Sanders and Ariana Grande Unite

At the same time Trump is discussing the Kardashians in one of the most high-profile hearings of all time, one of Trump's most formidable opponents is making his own ties to certain pop culture deities. Yesterday, Bernie Sanders was photographed beaming with Ariana Grande, and Grande took to Instagram to voice her support. "MY GUY. thank you Senator Sanders for coming to my show, making my whole night and for all that you stand for !" She wrote on Twitter. "@headcountorg and i are doing our best to make you proud. we've already registered 20k+ young voters at my shows alone. also i will never smile this hard again promise."

Sanders responded, "I want to thank @ArianaGrande for not only being a wonderful entertainer, but also for being such an outstanding advocate for social justice. We must all be prepared – like Ariana has shown – to fight for everyone who is struggling. It was great to meet her in Atlanta last night."

The senator has shown abnormal acumen in terms of using pop culture to his advantage, which can't entirely be said of his primary challengers. Previously, he's aligned himself with Cardi B, Susan Sarandon, and the Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. While Hillary Clinton garnered the support of thousands of A-list celebrities to no avail and put on a show of performative allyship that wound up looking like loyalty to Hollywood elites, Sanders' choice of allies feels more purposeful and genuine.

Bernie x Cardi B www.youtube.com

Then again, in the eeriest way, the same might be said of Donald Trump. His clear allegiance to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West—both figures who provoke immense ire and loathing among the masses and who, like the worst of car crashes, are incredibly difficult to look away from—aligns well with Trump's general distaste for authority and reason.

We have good reason to question celebrity alliances, as they do seem like excellent marketing for both sides. Celebrities can benefit from appearing more politically engaged through alliances to politicians, and, of course, the latter can reap the adoration of massive fanbases through a few deep connections. In some ways, celebrities and politicians seem united by the sheer amount of money and power they both amass and use to run their platforms.

But there's a long tradition of art blending with political ideology and vice versa. After all, what are politicians and performers, if not master storytellers, capable of rallying hundreds of thousands of people? When has anything been separate from politics?

Political Art vs. Pop Culture Politics

Art has always been political, used as a way of disseminating ideas and ideologies. Pop culture, in particular, is a broad mode of communication between the masses and collective values and ideas. "'Pop-culture' does not belong to just the elites and it is not officially or ideologically acknowledged as the dominant culture any level," writes Ayush Banerjee, "yet its discourse has enormous significance in the formation of public attitudes and values, as well as a profound impact on both domestic and international affairs."

Politics has also always been a theatrical game, and pop culture icons have long endorsed candidates. John F. Kennedy had Frank Sinatra sing "High Hopes" during the 1960s. Nixon famously met Elvis; and then there was Ronald Reagan, who, like Trump, made his way from Hollywood to the Oval Office.

President And King TIME.com

But in a time when silence is widely equated to taking the position of the antagonist, there's never been a time when it's been so imperative for artists to develop political alliances, and vice versa. Similarly, politicians must rely on social media and its language to channel their campaigns, as being out-of-touch with the online world can tank you as quickly as a meme can go viral.

Are celebrity relationships influential and beneficial? "If a celebrity endorsement just benefits a politician looking to boost their profile and prove their cool, then it's a lame effort to manipulate fans with short attention spans," writes John Avlon on CNN. "But if Poliwood draws sustained attention to a real public policy problem, it can serve as a gateway to civic engagement and spur political action."

Overall, the general consensus seems to be that pop culture can be useful when connected to politics if it's linked to tangible action—but the two can be like fire and gasoline when combined in the wrong way. "Politicians are not celebrities; they do not deserve fawning worship," writes Mark E. Anderson. "They are public servants, who can and should be scrutinized, and must be held accountable for their actions."

Arguably, with the rise of #MeToo and cancel culture, celebrities are being held to higher standards than ever before (which isn't saying too much, but still). Perhaps the intermixing of politics and pop culture doesn't mean that the simulation is breaking. Maybe the walls between the worlds are just falling down.

In some cases, this intermixing of pop culture and politics leads to the kind of apocalyptic cognitive dissonance that's plagued the entire Trump impeachment hearing circus. On the other hand, seeing Ariana Grande and Bernie Sanders beam together—both so full of hope for a better world—feels like the beginning of something, and God knows we all need something to get us through the next 18 months.

Rising Star

Algee Smith Talks New Film & New Music

Actor/Singer Algee Smith chats about his new role & new tunes

From his major roles as Ralph Tresvant in BET's "New Edition Movie" series & Larry Reed in the hit box office flick "Detroit," Smith is ready to take his career to another level of success. With his newest music efforts "Flight Delayed," Algee showcases a mature and diverse side of his musical ability. "I wanted to give the fans a special project preluding into my album, and hear their feedback on the sounds I've been working on recently," says Smith on creativity and musical direction. "Flight Delayed" consists of twelve tracks & described to be a "more diverse" and "urban" project.

Algee Smith "Spendin" (From "Flight Delayed")

Fans are currently also anticipating Algee's latest movie roles this Fall 2018 with THE HATE U GIVE and The Bobby Brown Story. Algee will return to BET to reprise his roles as New Edition member Ralph Tresvant in The Bobby Brown Story on Tuesday, September 4th and Wednesday, September 5th.

THE HATE U GIVE is based on the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller by Angie Thomas and stars Amandla Stenberg as Starr Carter and Algee Smith as Khalil. Khalil is the best friend of Starr who witnesses his fatal shots from the hands of a police officer. The movie is scheduled to hit theaters worldwide on Friday, October 19th.

Watch Algee Smith's Facebook Live Interview with Deascent

MUSIC

Lil Uzi Vert's Greatest, Lost Song

"Bag", off '2 Luv is 2 Rage'

What makes a hit song a hit song? Almost by definition, this line of inquiry has no clear, single answer.

But then there's a reverse question. What can make a potential hit song not so?

I've listened to one, specific song—linked at the bottom of this piece—maybe two dozen times in the last week, trying to figure out the answer to this second question.

Admittedly, I'm the wrong person to write an article about Lil Uzi Vert. Every popular opinion had about him is the opposite of my own. I loved him through early 2016, up until 'Lil Uzi Vert vs. the World', his breakout tape. I find "XO Tour Llif3"—his signature single, one of the biggest hits of 2017, a.k.a. the one your mom listens to—almost unbearably irritating. I'd rather bump "Super Saiyan" or "Yamborghini Dream", any day.

So when I come to you and say: listen to this Lil Uzi Vert track (at the end of this article), I think it's the best one he's ever made...I imagine I'm already wrong.

What if I were to tell you about this song...made by a hugely popular artist at perhaps the height of his career, produced by one of hip-hop's hottest beatmakers—Don Cannon—featuring one of the greatest rappers alive—Young Thug. It features an overly repetitive hook (people like those) on top of a supremely chill and bouncy beat. Wouldn't you think that has the trappings of a hit single?

But then I'd tell you the track never got wide release. It was relegated to a throwaway mixtape of 5 B-sides that didn't make the very popular main album cut. Even worse, the song never really got put together. It's unmastered, and not just a little bit. Even the official released version sounds like a rough YouTube rip, in bad need of compression. It features a Moodymann sample already used in Drake's "Passionfruit".

I'd argue this song could've been big, if it hadn't been made not so. Kendrick Lamar's 'Untitled Unmastered' showed that sometimes rejected songs can be just as good as their album counterparts, if given the chance. This song wasn't given that chance. It wasn't hyped, and so it wasn't heard. The DJ tags in the song are loud and frequent, characteristic of lo-fi mixtape releases and hardly the sort of thing that'd position it as a hit single. In the end, there's a single root to the problem: nobody really cared enough.

So all I can say is: listen for yourself. Maybe I'm way off. After all, I have all the wrong opinions of Lil Uzi Vert. But is there no world where a polished version of this track, presented as a single from 'Luv is Rage 2', could've shot to the top charts? We'll never know now.

Here it is: "Bag" by Lil Uzi Vert, off of the '2 Luv is 2 Rage' mixtape. Enjoy...

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Frontpage Popular News

Running down the biggest movie trailers of the last week

Previews from everything from Marvel to awards contenders

Fairfax Media- Getty Images

As theaters gear up for the onset of the summer movie rush, studios are bringing fresh new looks at their biggest projects.

With the sheer number of trailers and teasers put out in the course of a week, it's easy for one or two to slide by. That's why we here at Popdust wanted to give you a quick round up of the biggest trailers that hit the web this past week.

Thor: Ragnarok

So we should probably start with the trailer that came closest to breaking the internet when it debuted on Monday, Thor: Ragnarok. The trailer, which marks the third standalone adventure for Marvel's Norse hero, features several noteworthy elements. We've got Oscar Winner Cate Blanchett in full badass mode crushing Thor's hammer with a single grip, a captured Thor having his luscious locks shaved, and the appearance of a particular big, green pal of Thor's. The first film in the series directed by Taika Waititi seems to be utilizing its new director's track record in comedy to give the film a much lighter, wackier tone than the first two installments. If the film's anywhere near as exciting as the teaser, consider us in.

Atomic Blonde

Keeping in the world of action, this week also saw the second trailer for Charlize Theron's new assassin thriller. Directed by David Leitch from John Wick and the upcoming Deadpool 2, the trailer showcases many of the batshit-crazy stunts and action sequences that made those two other series so success. Featuring James McAvoy and Sofia Boutella in addition to Theron back in full Furiosa-butt kicking mode, the film looks like an exciting thrill ride, though if you're not into violence you may want to sit this one out.

All Eyez on Me

This past week audiences got their first look at the upcoming Tupac Shakur biopic also out this summer. Detailing the life and murder of the famed rapper and actor, the film has clear aspirations to follow the lead of Straight Outta Compton and become a summer hit to this interested in hip hop history. While it has all the trappings of a biopic, from an inspirational origin story to famous faces like Biggie Smalls and Suge Knight making appearances, we'll have to wait until this June to see if it will avoid the clichés in telling Shakur's story.

Detroit

Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow brings her intense directing sensibilities to a new portrait of the 1967 Detroit riot. Focusing on the perspective of a conflicted young cop played by John Boyega, the first trailer offers only a few tense teasers of the film's depiction of the conflict. The film already looks like it could have awards aspirations, especially given the continuing racial tensions and incidents still present in our political landscape. For those looking for a summer film with a bit more substance than superhero or action fare, keep your eyes peeled for Detroit this August.


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