Stories

Every now and again, Nick Offerman — actor, writer, comedian, woodworker, host and all-around wonderful soul — will call people out of the blue just to thank them. For instance, when he was performing in Australia not too long ago, he suddenly and instinctively dialed Michael Schur — the executive producer of the show “Parks and Recreation”– who hired Nick for his seminal role as Ron Swanson.

“Mike,” he said, “I just wanted to tell you that I’m in Australia performing and it’s all because of you. Thank you.”

Lots of people have stories like that about Nick.

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A couple of weeks ago while cleaning out my office, I came across this small and unmarked white box that looked entirely unfamiliar. As a sportswriter for more than 30 years, I do often come across weird things in this office.

As you can see above, I might find plastic baseball helmets.

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Baseball

The idea is simple. Every single day, we are besieged by businesses, political strategists, marketing gurus and media entities telling us what we are. We are young. We are old. We are Southerners or Northerners or Californians or from flyover country. We are Republicans or Democrats, male or female, straight or gay, working class or middle class or upper class or elites. We are our race, our religion, our height, our weight, our family status, our heritage.

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Over the past several months, as I’ve managed a variety of challenging client matters and Joe has been out counting down the 100 greatest baseball players for The Athletic (a list I have strong disagreements with, by the way), we took a bit of a hiatus from the Passion project. We wanted to rethink some things. We wanted to consider so new angles.

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One of the joys of my life has been reading books to our daughters. They’re too old now, which hurts. There is nothing that fully replaces that experience, nothing that can quite connect us in the same way. And of all the reading experiences through the years — the Dr. Seuss books, the Harry Potters, the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Harry Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, Goodnight Moon, Giraffes Can’t Dance experiences — the best of all was when I read The Princess Bride to our oldest.

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Ted Williams

Wendy Cope is one of those extraordinary people whose talents, so far at least, has not quite crossed the Atlantic Ocean. She’s a major celebrity in England, where a poet can still be a major celebrity. Her first book, “Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis,” sold more than 200,000 copies, an absurd number for a collection of poems. Her poetry is sparse, funny, heartbreaking, and in the spirit of a hero, Emily Dickinson, always more complicated than its effortless flow.

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Puzzles

When you look at the scope of our passions, it’s tempting to say that nothing connects them. What does horseback riding have to do with Sodoku puzzles have to do with cross-stitching have to do with the Fortnite dance have to do with slow-cooking barbecue have to do with collecting bobble head dolls? The American landscape is vast. We are all very different.

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Dollhouses

Ellen McCarthy has written wonderfully about passions in her time at The Washington Post — both literally and figuratively. She wrote about technology, arts, and entertainment before her memorable run as the Post’s wedding reporter. That led to her acclaimed book “The Real Thing: Lessons on Love and Love from a Wedding Reporter’s Notebook.” She is now a part-time features writer for the Post and full-time mother of two young children.

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Kingdom of Bhutan

A few years ago, while on an extended trip to Asia, I made a stop in the Kingdom of Bhutan. I attended an archery exhibition (the shared national passion), visited a small public school, and toured a monastery with a Buddhist Monk who lectured me about serenity and peacefulness as he constantly juggled incoming calls on his new cell phone. I also got a surprise lesson in passion from two Bhutanese twenty-somethings.

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Dr. Ruth Banner

We tend to believe that we live in the great age of celebrity. In truth, the public has always been interested in the talents and foibles of the rich and famous, even in those days before Twitter and Snapchat. Everyone wanted to know the deep dark secrets of Ben Franklin. But, yes, the intensity has been turned up. No matter how superficial and salacious the media coverage, we can’t seem to get enough. We want to get behind the facade, behind the curtain, we must know everything about the insults, the riches, the breakups, the breakdowns and the secrets that celebrities try to hide.

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