Plus: Robert Mays rediscovers the joys of baseball and Lindsay Zoladz recalls Radiohead in the file-sharing era.
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In the May 11 newsletter, Robert Mays goes back to Wrigley Field, Lindsay Zoladz recalls chicanery from the file-sharing era, and Danny Chau welcomes back Stephen Curry.
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You Can Go Home Again: Rediscovering the Beauty of Baseball, One Cubs Game at a Time

By Robert Mays

Until last spring, I hadn’t watched an entire Cubs game in seven years, and I don’t mind admitting that. My reasons were varied: horrible teams, my leaving Chicago, and losing my father all played roles, but digging into the details feels defensive. I won’t list my Cubs fan bona fides either, although I will say that one of my more embarrassing professional moments involved Mark Grace and the press box at Fenway Park. The painful truth is that a while ago I stopped caring about baseball, so I stopped caring about the Cubs.

But on April 17 last year, with enthusiasm for Theo Epstein’s grand plan at full tilt, I happened to be home in Chicago and decided it was time to settle in for a full nine innings. It was the ninth game of the Cubs’ season, a 1:20 start at Wrigley Field that happened to be the major league debut for what I understood to be a 23-year-old, baseball-cleaving deity named Kris Bryant. The savior struck out three times and the Cubs lost 5-4, but for the first time, I understood how much joy the next few years at Wrigley were going to bring.

I moved back to the city three months later, and late summer and early fall were filled with bearded kings, onesies, and security nearly mobilizing at LaGuardia when I reacted to Kyle Schwarber robbing a baseball of its structural integrity. Even as a thunder god and the demon possessing Daniel Murphy hammered the Cubs in the NLCS, the thing that Bryant’s arrival had hinted at all those months ago had crystallized: This was a fan base clamoring not only for a winner, but for a team worth loving. And man, does it have one this year.

Historic paces (25-6!) and run differentials (plus-103!) are great, and the wins have been spectacular — an Addison Russell blast capping off a comeback victory in the home opener, Javy Báez swinging out of his shoes to end a long afternoon, Jake Arrieta shrugging after shoving another lineup down the garbage disposal — but for me, the best part of the Cubs’ scorching start has been rediscovering baseball thanks to a team that’s having more fun than anyone in the stands. The best moment of Saturday’s 8-5 win over the fellow World Series–hopeful Nationals — and there were plenty of good moments in that four-game sweep — might have been manager Joe Maddon trying not to laugh as Russell shamefully asked for his bat after tossing it away on ball three. (OK, fine, Russell’s double breaking a 5-5 tie with two out in the seventh was better.)

I watched most of that game with a crowd huddled around a computer in the middle of a party. A few of us thanked the brave soul who’d asked for the laptop: We all wanted to watch and were glad someone made it happen. The five of us talked about Dexter Fowler’s transformation into the Human Torch, Tommy La Stella’s current hitting tear, and pitchers trying to deal with Anthony Rizzo when he stands on home plate. They were conversations born from the rhythm of a baseball season, and it felt good to be having them again.

In a few hours, I’ll be at Wrigley again — for the fourth time this year — feeling that rhythm. I don’t know how many teams could have brought me back here. I’m just glad this one did.

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Bill grabs Joe House to discuss Curry's historic return against the Blazers, Thompson's two-way dominance, KD's alpha dog status, Kanter as the Spurs' kryptonite, and the Thunder-Spurs series.
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Geoff Shackelford and Joe House break down the talented field in Ponte Vedra Beach, Jordan Spieth's focus on growing his brand, and possible improvements for TPC Sawgrass.
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Napster-Bomb Me: A Brief History of Radiohead Fans Downloading Mislabeled MP3s

By Lindsay Zoladz

On Sunday afternoon, when the track listing for Radiohead’s ninth album, A Moon Shaped Pool, was released to the world, plenty of fans felt an odd combination of skepticism, elation, and nostalgia for shitty dial-up internet connections. It was because of the album’s final track, “True Love Waits,” a haunting wisp of a song that the band has been playing live since 1995 and has, in the subsequent decades, become a kind of Holy Grail of Radiohead B-sides. The band was rumored to have recorded a studio version during the OK Computer sessions back in 1997, but that recording has never seen the light of day. That elusive studio version of “True Love Waits” became one of the more sought-after MP3s in the early days of file-sharing — and thus, a very popular misattributed MP3 on notoriously unregulated sites like Napster, Kazaa, and Audiogalaxy. Sometimes these bait-and-switch tactics led to new musical discoveries (as one user on the I Love Music message board noted, “I found Sigur Ros’s ‘Svefn G Englar’ under Radiohead’s ‘True Love Waits’”), but more often than not, misattributed MP3s were a source of frustration and deep disappointment. When I first listened to A Moon Shaped Pool on Sunday night, it was strange to click an MP3 that said “Radiohead: ‘True Love Waits’” and not be treated to the opening strains of, say, Crazy Town’s “Butterfly.”

I’d always just assumed that mislabeled MP3s in the early days of file-sharing were the result of human error or, in a few cases, some enterprising white rapper who thought he would get discovered by uploading his demos to Kazaa under the file name “RARE_UNRELEASED _BEASTIE_BOYS.mp3.” But when I researched the weird world of mislabeled MP3s for a Pitchfork column I wrote a few years ago, I couldn’t believe how much semisophisticated machinery was lurking behind this phenomenon. It turns out that in the late ’90s and early 2000s, there were multiple sites advocating the planting of so-called “Napster bombs” (sometimes also called “cuckoo’s eggs”) on purpose, for vaguely political reasons. One musician–computer programmer set up a website evangelizing the uploading of Napster bombs as a form of “culture jamming” (“where the stream of mass media consciousness is polluted [or enriched, depending on your viewpoint] with creative fraud”). The Fix brothers had a slightly more righteous reason for setting up the Cuckoo’s Egg Project, an online exhortation/tutorial for uploading purposely mislabeled MP3s: Michael Fix’s wife was a musician, and he saw the rampant rise of online piracy as a threat to her and other musicians’ livelihoods.

And so it starts to become clear why “Rare Unreleased Radiohead” MP3s made up such a disproportionate number of cuckoo’s eggs and Napster bombs. For one thing, Radiohead were at the peak of their popularity and creative powers in the P2P era (which coincided with their back-to-back masterpieces, OK Computer and Kid A). And for another … well, at least in theory, the Venn diagram of “Radiohead fan” and “person who spent a lot of time on the computer in 1999” has some significant overlap. And then, of course, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has always been vocal about musicians getting the money that’s owed to them, and his opinions on this matter have become even more vehement and uh, colorful, with time.

In certain ways, Radiohead have had a forward-thinking approach to the digitization of music (for example, their pay-what-you-want release strategy for In Rainbows), but in other ways, they’ve remained defiantly old-fashioned (they teased the release of A Moon Shaped Pool by mailing actual paper leaflets to some of their fans). Last week, the band further shored up publicity for the album by deleting its entire internet presence, which, in its own way, felt like the ultimate act of nostalgia. It was like they were saying, “Remember the days when it was just the music that mattered?!” But the strange early-internet memories they’ve evoked with the release of “True Love Waits” tell a more complicated story about music in the digital age: You can try your best to control its flow, but there’s always going to be someone out there waiting to jam up the machinery.

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Window Maker: It’s Still Steph’s NBA

By Danny Chau

We know the precise moment when Stephen Curry realized he was back. In the midst of a historic extra-session scoring run, he screamed it, on camera, after hitting his fourth 3 with less than two minutes remaining in Game 4 of the Warriors’ second-round playoff series against Portland on Monday. If it wasn’t obvious already, the last few weeks were just a temporary reprieve for the rest of the NBA: When he’s here, this is still Curry’s league.

Even though the Warriors have looked more vulnerable during the postseason than they ever did during the first 82 games, these playoffs have seen crucial windows of opportunity shutting almost as quickly as they’ve appeared. First, the Clippers had found the opening they’d sought all season when Curry went down with his knee injury in the first round. Then their fortunes turned completely sideways when Chris Paul fractured his hand and Blake Griffin reinjured his quad the next day. Before Curry’s rejuvenation, the Thunder-Spurs series felt urgent. It still does, but it’s different now. Suddenly it feels a little more like a fight for no. 2, like it had all year. And for all the record-setting highs the Cavs have set this postseason, they still aren’t quite able to match the magnetism of this Warriors team running at full steam.

Yesterday, before Curry’s MVP ceremony started, a video of his teammates filled the screen. They were asked to pick their favorite Curry highlight of the season. Harrison Barnes chose the rare one-handed jam against the Wizards; Shaun Livingston lauded the entirety of Curry’s 53-point Halloween massacre in New Orleans; Anderson Varejao thought it was definitely the game-winning 37-footer against the Thunder. Good on his teammates for being able to pinpoint specifics, but I don’t know if picking a single highlight gets to the heart of Curry’s greatness.

His highlights blur together, just as he blurs the lines of work and play, of practice and prime time. The tapestry woven by his interconnected crossovers is an ongoing passion project, whether he’s crossing up invisible defenders in front of early-bird fans, or C.J. McCollum late in Game 4. The array of long bombs he’s dropped this season is, in a way, a display of transparency. We may throw our hands up when they go in, but we’ve seen him practice so many times that we know exactly what it took out of him for that to happen. And that’s what’s so scary about the Warriors for fans and opposing teams alike. We know what they are capable of. With Curry on the floor, they’re capable of anything.

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Chris Ryan hosts the show without Andy, but brings in a slew of Ringer staffers to help him break down Game of Thrones, the finale of The Good Wife, and Captain America: Civil War.
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