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The Sleeper Must Awaken

“A person needs new experiences. It jars something deep inside, allowing them to grow. Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.”

-Duke Leto Atreides, Dune
Star Wars: Binary Sunset

I know I’m mixing references here but the key message is that, with incredibly mixed emotions, I must share that I am leaving Third Derivative to pursue my next climatetech [ad]venture.

You may recall my Third Derivative origin story and first progress report. I was brought in to found, launch, and lead a game-changing climatetech startup – the most ambitious (in terms of both speed and scale) accelerator ever attempted. Our founding hypothesis was that our deeply integrated ecosystem approach would bridge key valleys of death in the process of commercializing, deploying, and scaling hard climatetech, attracting the USD $Trillions that need to be invested in the sector.

And . . . we’ve done it. I am incredibly proud of what we’ve built during two [very challenging!] years:

  • a diverse, world class team that performs at the highest level despite the challenges of being forged in the crucible of multiple global crises
  • an unprecedented ecosystem of corporate partners (worth USD $4T+ in market cap), investors (with $7B+ in assets under management), and startups (the largest cohort of climatetech startups in history)
  • $300M+ invested into our 60+ game-changing climatetech startups in the year since we launched our first cohort
  • a financially thriving venture with $Millions ARR (annually recurring revenue) and multiple years of runway
  • the people, systems, processes, and tools in place for scaleup

Although winning at all is crucial in addressing the climate crisis, I also believe that how we win really matters. Through this lens, I am most proud of several key aspects of “the Third Derivative way:”

  • Urgency and Purpose – we launched in the midst of a global pandemic but we didn’t let that deter us. We lived a mantra of “the climate isn’t waiting so neither can we.”
  • Positivity and Hope – we worked to be a shining beacon of optimistic light in a field that can be consumed by darkness and pessimism with each new climate report.
  • Humility and Learning – in a field (venture capital) known for everyone purporting to be the smartest people in the room, we tried to be upfront about all the things we don’t know and we open-sourced / shared our learnings along the way.
  • Gratitude – we began each week sharing all the things for which we were grateful; these meetings mostly turned into lovefests for our teammates and was an incredibly energizing way to kick off each purpose-driven week of ambitious mission fulfillment.
  • JEDI as a feature, not a tradeoff – we put JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) front and center, driving not just our hiring but also our strategy. Much more than just “checking boxes,” this approach was key to our success. This is a presentation I gave last year about our JEDI failures, learnings, and aspirations:

Some good summaries of our model and accomplishments: this recent episode of the Freeing Energy Podcast and this wrap-up / goodbye video log.

All of these not-so-humble-brags belong not to me but to the entire Third Derivative team and it has been one of the great privileges of my career to have been entrusted with its leadership. Of all the mixed emotions I referenced above, the most significant is gratitude to have worked with such wonderful people. The outpouring of love and support I received from my colleagues after announcing this transition has been moving beyond words. I treasure our time together and earnestly hope we will work together again:

Third Derivative’s Leadership Team
Third Derivative’s Diverse, Talented, Motivated, Global Climate Warriors

My gratitude, though, extends far beyond the boundaries of the Third Derivative team. Our “parents,” RMI and New Energy Nexus, were critical to our success through their expertise, networks, and support. As an entrepreneur I always look for an “unfair advantage” in launching a new venture and these awesome NGOs have definitely been that unfair advantage for Third Derivative.

Don’t misunderstand me that Third Derivative has achieved all of our aspirations. There is still a lot to learn and do . . . but it isn’t really a startup anymore. A startup is a temporary organization searching for a scalable, repeatable business model (and impact model, in this case). To paraphrase Yoda, “Searching? Found something, you have!”

Third Derivative has everything it needs to take the next step and my skills as an entrepreneurial builder are less additive at this point. My leadership style is to build an incredible leadership team, trust and empower them, and keep myself out of the critical path. Accordingly, my transition out of the CEO role is going very smoothly.

We have already begun the search for my successor so please send us great candidates! This should be the easiest job in the world, stepping in to lead such a capable, bonded, high-performing team!

Now that Third Derivative is in such a great place, I feel the call to start building the next game-changing climatetech venture. I’m not sure what that will be specifically yet but I have been inundated with opportunities (See previous post about this amazing time for climatetech.) and I haven’t been able to free up any capacity to evaluate them while heads-down building and growing Third Derivative.

As I step back from Third Derivative, I am intending to take some time off to reflect (Stay tuned for blog posts about lessons learned while building Third Derivative.), recharge (Building Third Derivative has been a sprint!), and reconnect with family, friends, and colleagues before bringing my focus to my next venture. This will hopefully be a good time for me to catch up on reading, fitness, and reclaiming some of my e-sports world records too. We’ll see, though; I have a notoriously poor track record when it comes to taking time off! Please help keep me accountable if you notice me diving headlong into a new venture too quickly!

As for Third Derivative, although I will no longer be the CEO, I will always be a founder. I believe deeply in Third Derivative’s mission and especially its team. I will always be cheering for it and even working actively to continue increasing its success, but now in the background – like a Force ghost!

It has been an incredible journey, Third Derivative, and climatetech is a small world so . . . I’ll see you out there!

The Third Derivative Team’s Only Ever In Person Get-Together In 2021

TJHSST 25-Year Reunion

Last month I traveled back to Northern Virginia (“NoVA”) for the 25-year reunion of my Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology (TJHSST) class of 1997. It was an incredible trip down memory lane and a wonderful chance to reconnect with lifelong friends for the first time since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.

I arrived Thursday, a day early, so that I could take care of a few things before the reunion activities became all-consuming. This was my first time back in NoVA in three years, so I had a lot of catching up to do! After checking into the reunion hotel block in Arlington, I had a quick business meeting and then met some Lake Braddock friends for dinner, which was a wonderful experience.

Friday morning I woke up early to go for a run along the Potomac. I needed to compete in a virtual 10k race and I thought running it at sea level after training at elevation would be fun! This was the longest “race” since my surgery so I took it easy and focused more on consistency / completion than on performance. As I ran along the GW Parkway, I had to keep stopping to take pictures, so, even if I had been in better race shape, I wouldn’t have run a great time. I also discovered and explored Roosevelt Island while I was running – was this always here??

After nearly an hour of running in the cool, gray weather (which felt very appropriate for how I remember DC-area autumn), I showered up and took a Lyft to my old neighborhood in Springfield. There I spent an hour and a half doing a literal walk down memory lane. I walked to my old house, the houses of my family and friends, the trails through the woods that we used to take as shortcuts to visit each other, my old bus stops, and everything in between. It was very nostalgic and I was encouraged to see that there was an entirely new generation of families with young kids growing up there – I hope the neighborhood is as good to them as it was to me!

My friend, Nick, who incidentally helps me edit this blog (You can thank him for improved comma placement and removal of broken links!), picked me up and chauffeured me on a driving nostalgia tour. We drove around South Run, Burke, Lake Braddock (where we both attended intermediate school), Keene Mill (where I attended elementary school), and the Springfield Youth Club sports fields. Fortunately no one called the police on a couple of creepy old dudes driving around school parking lots!

Our driving tour culminated with lunch at Springfield Mall, where I spent just about every weekend of my youth. It has been renovated and redeveloped a bit, but its “bones” are still the same and it was easy to remember which favorite stores used to be where. The food court was in a different place and offered different fare, but the experience of eating there with a friend for the first time in 20ish years was sublime.

Nick dropped me off back in Arlington, where I met up with some of the other TJ football captains. We found a park in which to throw the football around and spent an hour just tossing the pigskin, catching up, and telling stories about our glory days. It was a lot of fun and, crucially, no one got injured!

I returned to the hotel where others were starting to arrive. My dear friends, Danielle and Ashley, came by to say hi, which was euphoric. I missed them so much during the five years since the previous reunion and hadn’t had a chance to see them in person due to limiting travel during COVID. These mini-reunions got me very energized for the rest of the weekend!

The first official reunion event was the TJ home football game. I threw on my jersey from senior year and my letter jacket then hopped into a car with Dan (who used to give me rides to school!) and we made our way to the school. Due to Hurricane Ian, the weather wasn’t great (cold and rainy) so only a few of us alumni showed up. Embarrassingly, though, there were more of us than “regular” fans as the stands were empty! No students or band were there (apparently because the SATs were the following morning) and all the parents of players seemed to be in their cars on their phones. Very sad! At least the cheerleaders were out in full force!

After the game, we joined the rest of the class at Bronson Bierhall. We had a private [covered!] outdoor area and a few of my classmates joined in the nostalgia cheese by sporting their TJ apparel of yore. It was a fun, late night reconnecting with dear friends from more than half our lives ago.

Saturday morning was open so Ashley and I drove to nearby Arlington National Cemetary to pay our respects to departed loved ones. The gray drizzle was the perfect backdrop for a somber, reflective visit.

Many of us gathered at the school in the afternoon for a tour. TJ has been extensively remodeled since we were there, so it was great to see the lush new facilities that support new generations of students. The tech labs – ranging from nanomaterials to DNA biotech to satellite launch – really blew me away! Amazingly, I even bumped into some of my former teachers who are still at it!

Saturday evening was the main event, held at Arlington Rooftop Bar & Grill. We had about 150 (including a few +1s) out of our class of 400 show up and it was just so rad! Everyone was looking great and we picked up exactly where we left off five years ago without missing a beat.

At one point, I was asked to say a few words so I grabbed a mic, hopped up on a table, and made a few toasts, something to the effect of:

What’s up, TJ Class of 1997! We don’t have any formal program tonight but, if you’ll indulge me, I’ll make three quick toasts.

First, we have many classmates who couldn’t make it to this reunion. Whether because of COVID, family or work conflicts, or other reasons, they are still a part of this special class, and we miss them – here’s to them!

Second, we have some classmates who can’t be with us because they’ve moved on from this mortal world. Before our 5th reunion we lost Bonnie, before our 10th we lost Dick, and most recently we lost Richard. They were part of the special experience we all had 25 years ago and they will always be with us – here’s to them!

Finally, indeed it was a special experience we all went through together, as demonstrated by so many of us coming from all corners of the world to be here together tonight. When we graduated 25 years ago, we were all full of dreams. Some of us may have achieved those dreams already. Some of us may not yet have achieved those dreams. And some of us may have found ourselves adapting our dreams to the lives we find ourselves living. And that’s all OK. I hope tonight we can leave all that behind, drop the personas, and just be present in the moment. The last few years have been difficult, so tonight let’s get back to rebuilding these lifelong relationships that will carry us through the next 25 years – and beyond. And so, TJ Class of 1997, here’s . . . to us.

I guess I really leaned into the imposter syndrome that tends to hold people back from our reunions but it seemed to be well received. There was an incredible energy all night and people seemed to enjoy the event thoroughly. We repaired to the hotel after the bar closed down and kept the party going until the wee hours of the morning.

Later in the morning we reconvened in the breakfast room and compared notes about hangovers, lost voices, and great memories. Slowly, one-by-one, people began departing for the airport. Ashley, Jeff (one of my best football buddies), and I grabbed brunch nearby and then I too had to head to the airport.

After three full days of nostalgia and personal connection, being alone at the airport felt like a liminal space, as if I were re-emerging from the land of faerie. That time period – and those people – were so crucial to my development into the person I am today. It was wonderful to spend such a dense period in places and with people who mean so much to me – I can’t wait for the next one!

Rice Outstanding Engineering Alum

Today Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering announced that I would be recognized with its Outstanding Engineering Alum award!

Rice Engineering’s 2022 Awardees

What an incredible honor! I am moved beyond measure to be recognized by an organization I love so much and to join such an incredible group of honorees – not to mention heroes of mine who are previous honorees!

This recognition is particularly meaningful because I spent much of my time studying engineering at Rice feeling like I wasn’t good enough. My classmates seemed so smart and so motivated that it was hard ever to feel very successful. However, my Rice engineering education has been crucial to my development as a climatetech leader and entrepreneur – engineering business solutions to address the greatest challenge of our time. It feels wonderful for that to be appreciated.

To pick up where I left off in my previous post about Kennedy’s inspirational Moon Speech, I’ll conclude with a paraphrasing:

“We choose to study engineering at Rice and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”

If you are in Houston Oct. 19, come celebrate with me at the awards dinner!

We Choose To Go To The Moon

Today is the 60th anniversary of President JFK’s famous Moon Speech. 60 years ago he stood in Rice Stadium and inspired a nation to take up the seemingly impossible challenge of putting a person on the Moon by the end of the decade.

This remains my favorite speech of all time and I still get chills – and sometimes tears – when I hear it. JFK blended calls to action (“We choose to go to the moon!”) with basic human motivation (“not because they are easy, but because they are hard”) and even humor (“Why does Rice play Texas?”). As was later said about it, “From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. And it’s not a miracle, we just decided to go.”

We just decided to go. Well, it was much more than that, but that sentiment really does distill down the agency we had and the infinite possibility of our commitment. The speech truly was virtuosic oration and it has played a large role in my life – including my decision to play football in the very stadium where it was given!

I had the privilege today to return to Rice Stadium to celebrate the speech’s anniversary. Speeches were made by leaders of Rice, NASA, the US federal government, and the Houston local government. 6,000+ students from local schools came to join the festivities too!

I’m not ready to announce my next great climatetech adventure yet, but as a tease, my new startup was also participating in the program, exhibiting and demonstrating how we will create a Moonshot-scale climate impact of 2+ gigatons in this decade – not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Big announcement coming soon – stay tuned!

The Death of Queen Elizabeth II

This week saw the passing of HRH Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s longest-reigning monarch. While her legacy is complicated, I would like to share one wholly positive memory of her.

“Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.”

In 1991 I had the great honor of performing for her as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She was in Washington, DC and decided to attend the Folger Library‘s Children’s Shakespeare Festival – where my 6th grade class happened to be performing!

Let me be clear that this had nothing to do with my skills as a Thespian; I was, as is often the case, simply in the right place at the right time. Still, performing the Bard‘s work for the queen of England is an experience that most professional actors would kill for, so I am incredibly grateful for that unique moment.

It’s amazing too that I can still remember my lines from that play 30+ years later. In honor of HRH Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, though, let me share some lines from a different character in the same play:

“Thus I die. Thus, thus, thus.
Now I am dead,
Now I am fled,
My soul is in the sky.
Tongue, lose thy light.
Moon take thy flight.
Now die, die, die, die.”
-Pyramus (Nick Bottom, the weaver)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is my favorite of Shakespeare’s works and I have loved it since before I had this serendipitous honor. Let me conclude with my favorite line from the play, a line that is as true today as it was in the 17th century, when it was written.

“Lord what fools these mortals be!”
-Puck

This mug predates my acting career!

Big Challenges In Climate Tech

Someone recently asked me what were the big challenges in climate tech and what were the areas where I personally hoped to help. Following is a high-level overview that won’t be earth-shattering to anyone already in the field but should be a decent synopsis for outsiders and neophytes. If you’re someone looking for the right on-ramp into climate tech, I hope you will see below that there are lots of possibilities – pick a lane and let’s go!

Challenges

There are many challenges in the way of building the sustainable, prosperous, equitable future and we need to be working on all of them simultaneously. Actually we need to go back in time and start working on all of them decades ago! Physicists haven’t yet solved time travel yet, though, so we’ll have to settle for making very rapid progress in the present. As they say, the best time to start working on these problems is decades ago, the second best time is today, and the worst time is in the future.

Back to the Future

To borrow a bit from fellow Rice alum, John Doerr, in his book Speed & Scale, our efforts need to fall into several categories:

  1. Electrify everything that can be easily electrified: vehicles, of course, but also buildings – especially heating and cooling – and production of some materials. As a bonus, electrification of vehicles and homes dramatically improves the quality of the air that we breathe.
  2. Completely decarbonize electricity so that all of these electrified goods and services are running on green energy. This will take more than just deploying more renewables; it will also take innovations in electricity storage, smart grid optimization, and distributed energy resources. As a bonus, this improves reliability and resilience of our power infrastructure.
  3. Fix food & agriculture, which right now are incredibly inefficient, carbon-intensive global supply chains. We need to transition to more sustainable agricultural practices (eliminate food waste, increase land use efficiency, deploy regenerative techniques, farm vertically in urban areas) while also developing new scalable technologies. I am particularly excited by advances in synthetic biology, such as lab-grown meat.
  4. Protect nature – forests, peat bogs, coastlines, etc. We need to protect and restore these existing carbon sinks and find nonintrusive ways to introduce new ones. This is an extra challenge because climate change tipping points are already working against us – e.g. increased wildfires are depleting our stock of forested trees. Although these are referred to as “natured-based” solutions, technology can be a huge help, for example by using drones to plant seeds and satellite data to monitor and optimize the growth of new forests.
  5. Decarbonize air travel and shipping – these modes of moving people and goods are hard to electrify due to the high density and weight of batteries. Of course battery technology is improving daily and new paradigms for electrified logistics are being developed but, in the meantime, carbon-neutral and carbon-negative fuels such as green hydrogen and ammonia are being explored.
  6. Decarbonize industry – another hard-to-electrify category is heavy industry: the manufacturing of steel, concrete, and many chemicals. The raw materials for these products often have a high carbon footprint and then the manufacturing processes require very high temperatures that are historically hard to achieve with electricity. There are interesting innovations under development that use carbon-negative materials for cement and concrete, green hydrogen for smelting steel, and point source carbon capture to reduce chemical manufacturing emissions.
  7. Scale up carbon removal. Because it will be hard to power some sectors with carbon-free electricity, we will likely find ourselves still contributing a surplus of greenhouse gases (GHGs) for a long time – possibly indefinitely. And even if we achieved zero GHG emissions tomorrow, there is so much accumulated GHG already in our atmosphere that 9 out of 16 predicted climate change tipping points are already active. The clear conclusion is that it won’t be enough for us to slow down or even stop our GHG emissions; we will need to get really good at pulling GHGs out of the atmosphere and possibly the ocean as well if we want to keep anthropogenic global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius. These technologies are in their infancy right now so we need a moonshot-caliber approach to improve their efficacy, efficiency, scalability, and costs as quickly as possible.

Note that nowhere did I suggest austerity measures or people needing to forego things that improve their quality of life. My vision of the sustainable, prosperous, equitable future is one of abundance. Technological innovation is not a panacea but, not only can it help ward off climate change, it can improve the lives of many at the same time. Insomuch as these are challenges, they are also incredible opportunities.

I will add one more challenge/opportunity than must not be ignored: equity. It will take investment of more than USD $100T to address everything I have listed above and the returns will be exponential – the greatest wealth creation opportunity in the history of human civilization. If we do it right, many people and communities – including and especially those most affected by climate change – will participate in that upside. If we do it the way it’s traditionally been done, though, it will concentrate wealth even further in the hands of mostly White, mostly male people who are already rich. Sociofinancial innovation is needed to share climate wealth more equitably.

My Role

As for the big challenges I think I can personally help with, much of my career and expertise (including my patents) have been in smart grid and smart building innovation. There is still a lot of work to do there, but I think we have pretty clear pathways to success in those areas now.

In optimizing my time – the one resource of which I can never raise more – for impact and additionality, I think I add the most value now by focusing on the much harder and ambiguous challenges of decarbonizing industry and carbon removal. These are crucial challenges with incredible opportunities for innovation and we are already behind in addressing them.

To paraphrase JFK at Rice Stadium as he exhorted a nation to achieve the similarly hard and ambiguous challenge of putting a person on the Moon:

We choose to decarbonize industry and scale up carbon removal in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.

Challenge accepted – now LFG!

Saturn V launching to the moon

2022 Winter Olympics Wrap-Up

I could get used to the Olympic Games on an every six months cadence! Another Olympics has come and gone so it is once again time to take a look at who “won” the Games by several different metrics. Per my previous posts, I continue to use a weighted scoring system to tally up Olympic medals by country. This year I once again tracked not just the medal counts but also economic and demographic metrics for each country – you can see my full spreadsheet here.

20 more medals (327 in total) were given at these Olympics games than were given four years ago (307). That continues a strong trend (291 in 2014 and 217 in 2010) of more than 50% growth over a little more than a decade – talk about inflation!

Norway has benefited from the added events and repeated this year as the clear victor in weighted medal score, total medals, and gold medals. They weren’t quite as dominant as they were in 2018, when they also won the most silvers and bronzes, but they were still way ahead of second place. The top performers by weighted medal score were:
117 – Norway
95 – Germany
80  – ROC*
77  – USA
60   – Sweden
60 – Austria
Russia is still banned from Olympic competition and for good reason as they have at least one doping controversy already. If they lose a medal due to that instance, their athletes will slip from third to fourth but they really shouldn’t be counted anyway; Allowing Russia to compete as “Russian Olympic Committee” is a farce of a penalty for their systematic cheating.

Because Norway is so small, it crushed the competition even (especially!) when normalized by population. The top performers by weighted medal score per million citizens were:
21.59 – Norway
10.10 – Slovenia
6.67    – Austria
5.94    – Sweden
5.32    – Switzerland

These countries are mostly pretty affluent, though, so how do things change if we normalize instead by GDP? Not much! The top performers by weighted medal score per $B GDP (PPP) were:
0.31 – Norway
0.24 – Slovenia
0.12 – Austria
0.10 – Sweden
0.07 – Finland

We can mix up the leaderboard a little bit if we normalize by GDP per capita. The top performers by weighted medal score per $1,000 GDP per capita were:
3.19 – China
2.70 – ROC*
1.70 – Norway
1.68 – Germany
1.12 – USA
1.10 – Canada

Many congratulations to Norway, a small country that absolutely crushed much larger and richer countries than itself at this year’s Olympics – well done! Keep up the good (and, as far as we know, clean) work and we’ll hope to give you more competition in four years!

Joe Montana Is The Greatest Quarterback Ever

Another Super Bowl has come and gone. The end of the season always leaves me reflecting on the greatest games, teams, and players of all time. Tom Brady’s recent retirement has many people talking about his legacy as the “Greatest Of All Time,” or GOAT for short.

First off, can we agree that GOAT is a terrible and unflattering term with which to honor someone? I prefer the term “Greatest Ever To Play The Game” or simply the “Greatest Ever.” Second, that designation doesn’t belong to Brady; as I demonstrate below, Joe Montana is the greatest QB ever to play the game.

Joe Montana, #1
  1. Montana Did It Better When It Was Harder – It’s always hard to compare players of different eras and we can always wonder how well Brady would have done at a time when QBs and receivers were beat to hell. Brady benefited from numerous rule changes meant to protect QBs and receivers, increase their passing productivity, and increase scoring. To Brady’s credit, he fully capitalized on those rule changes – but it makes Montana’s accomplishments in a tougher era all the more impressive. It’s hard to imagine Brady, who established a reputation for lobbying refs for penalties, having much success against the punishing NFC defenses of the 1980s.
  2. Montana Did It Better Faster – We can also wonder how much more Montana would have accomplished had he not been so beat to hell / injured and if he hadn’t had a really bizarre QB controversy foist upon him by coaches. With the advantages of the rule changes above, a coach committed to his longevity, and advances in drugs and physical therapy, Brady played for 22 seasons while Montana was limited to only 13. It only took Montana 10 seasons to earn his four Super Bowl rings, though; while it took Brady 14 seasons to earn his first four.
  3. Montana Was Perfect When It Counted – Brady won the most Super Bowls in history – but he is also #3 for Super Bowl losses. Brady made many mistakes on the biggest stage, tossing six interceptions, while Montana was perfect, not throwing a single interception during his 4-for-4 Super Bowl wins. Tom Brady had a cumulative 98 passer rating in his Super Bowl appearances; Joe Montana blew him away with a 128 Super Bowl passer rating. And again, Montana outperforming Brady is even more impressive because he did it during a time when it was even harder to be a passing QB.
  4. Montana Earned All Of His Super Bowl Wins – Brady got away with lots of crazy wins attributed to his kicker (2001, 2003), the opposing team’s ineptitude (2003 out of bounds kickoff, 2004 McNabb 3 INTs, 2014 end zone INT, 2016 offense implosion), etc. while Montana was the deciding factor for all of his wins.
  5. Montana Beat The Best Of The Best – Brady mostly took on forgettable teams and was out dueled by so-so QBs while Montana out dueled NFL MVP QBs and Hall Of Famers in his Super Bowl wins. Let’s look at Brady’s opponent QBs:
    2001: Beat Kurt Warner, an elite QB and HOFer
    2003: Beat Jake Delhomme, a forgettable QB with nearly as many INTs as TDs
    2004: Beat Donovan McNabb, a good QB who never shined on the big stage
    2007: Beaten by Eli Manning, a mediocre QB who outperformed Brady when it counted
    2011: Beaten by Eli Manning, a mediocre QB who once again outperformed Brady when it counted
    2014: Beat Russell Wilson, who didn’t make the Pro Bowl that year
    2016: Beat Matt Ryan, an elite QB that year (but limited by Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s trademark choking in big games)
    2017: Beaten by Nick Foles, a forgettable backup
    2018: Beat Jared Goff, who?
    2020: Beat Patrick Mahomes, probably an elite QB in the making but still too early to tell
    Now let’s look at Montana’s opponent QBs:
    1981: Beat Ken Anderson, NFL MVP that year, 2x NFL passing leader, widely regarded as one of the best NFL players not in the HOF
    1984: Beat Dan Marino, NFL MVP that year, HOFer, NFL 100-year All Time Team, retired as all-time NFL passing leader
    1988: Beat Boomer Esiason, NFL MVP that year
    1989: Beat John Elway, former NFL MVP, HOFer, two Super Bowl rings
    It really isn’t close; Montana stepped into the ring against the best of the best every Super Bowl and beat them every time.
  6. Montana Was a More Dynamic Player – Brady was an immobile pocket passer throwing route trees – more of a game manager for the first part of his career – while Montana was elusive, mobile, and able to stretch plays / improvise.
  7. Montana Was Iconic – Montana is responsible for multiple signature plays (“The Catch“) and drives (“The John Candy Drive“) that have been immortalized whereas the signature big game moments associated with Brady are attached to his opponents (Atlanta’s second-half collapse, New York’s helmet catch, Seattle’s interception in the end zone).
  8. Montana Was A Leader – Montana’s physical attributes weren’t the best of all time – or even of his time – but his leadership was a force multiplier that made everyone on his team – even on defense – better, especially in big moments. Brady, by comparison, was known for having his wife publicly blame and disparage his teammates when he lost.
  9. Montana Did It All Cleanly – Brady will always have an asterisk next to his name due to Spygate, Deflategate, and who knows how many other instances of cheating that were never discovered.
  10. Montana Won At Multiple Levels – While Brady was a good-not-great college QB, Montana led his team to a national championship.
  11. Bonus: Montana Won In The Recording Studio Too – Montana’s off-the-field endeavors met with great success as well. He, Dwight Clark, and other 49ers sang backup on the 1985 Huey Lewis & The News #1 Hit “Hip To Be Square.” Brady’s off-the-field endeavors are more known for pseudoscience, such as “The TB12 Method.”

In general, I think people overemphasize the importance of QBs in American football and underemphasize the importance of other players – especially linemen. If we really wanted to debate the greatest football player of all time, I think it likely wouldn’t be a QB. It might be a running back like Jim Brown or a linebacker like Lawrence Taylor – players that were so dominant that they changed the way the game was played.

If we’re going to focus on QBs, though, it comes down to this: the NFL changed the game to help QBs like Brady be more successful. Montana, on the other hand, was so successful that he changed the game.

Joe Montana is the greatest QB ever to play the game. If you would like to learn more, I recommend watching “Joe Montana: Cool Under Pressure,” a six-part series about his magical career.

Get Back Review

Last week we finished watching the marathon Beatles documentary series, Get Back. It’s really slow and probably not for anyone who isn’t a die hard Beatles Fan. As I am such a fan, though, I really enjoyed it! It pulls back the curtain for an intimate view of how one of the most accomplished bands in the world made an incredibly successful album in just a few weeks – with many surprises [to me] along the way.

My first impression is just how insanely talented the Beatles were – as individuals and as a group. Every one of them was able to play all the instruments and it was inspiring to see them effortlessly change from one to another depending on what was needed. It was also incredible to see just how much the music was in each of them. They really couldn’t sit still and had to be jamming, strumming, playing, singing, etc. at all times. Well, except for Ringo, who seemed to be asleep much of the time but then he would just wake up and rip off perfect drum fills! They were in their mid-20s and absolutely at the top of their game.

Still, it was apparent how, by this point, they were all already heading in different directions. Ringo was doing movies, George was quitting to explore his individual creativity, John was throwing himself into a partnership with Yoko, and Paul was evolving from a bassist to a piano troubadour. The tensions were quite evident, especially with Paul’s “one more take” perfectionism, which was a fantastic note (pun intended) on which to end the film.

Although they each went on to have successful solo careers, their real magic was as a group and, indeed, it was magical to watch them build on each other’s ideas to create songs in which the whole was greater than the sum of their individual contributions. Here the addition of Billy Preston seemed catalytic in unlocking their group dynamic, as if his presence collimated their previously incoherent energy. This effect had been observed previously when Eric Clapton joined the recording of While My Guitar Gently Weeps so it would seem that, by this point, the Beatles needed this sort of kick in the pants to focus. The music was truly in Billy too and it was a joy to watch him riff.

The other major catalyst seems to have been the forcing function of the concert. With their backs against the wall, they really seemed to gel in the days leading up to the rooftop concert (And, by the way, the movie catching the epiphanic moment of Paul considering the rooftop as a venue for the first time was sublime.) such that they only needed one further day of recording to complete the album. What can you say – the Beatles were gamers. It was incredible to watch what began as aimless chaos take form, focus, and substance into an iconic performance and album – all the more so because they built so much momentum that they were back in the studio three months later to record yet another album!

A few other observations:

  • So. Much. Smoking! I don’t think there was a single shot without at least one cigarette or cigar butt. It’s amazing they could still nail their vocal harmonies.
  • The Beatles looked . . . old. They were in their mid-20s with crow’s feet, pasty skin, and bags under their eyes. Their meteoric rise had clearly taken its toll – also see previous note.
  • John seemed high much of the time, with unfocused eyes and zany antics – or maybe that’s just how he was?
  • Yoko was a ghost – always there, never interfering, just kind of hanging around (and occasionally wailing or dancing with John).

They say you don’t want to see how the sausage is made but this labor of love from Peter Jackson and team shows sausage making at its finest. At more than 8 hours in length, there is a high temporal cost to watch Get Back but, to me, it was more than worth it. Let It Be isn’t one of my favorite Beatles albums but the opportunity to be a fly on the wall while arguably the greatest band of all time does its thing is truly priceless.

Getaways in the Mountains

The last two weekends we have escaped to Colorado mountain towns and they have lived up to the hype!

Two weekends ago we visited some dear friends in Beaver Creek. We found Beaver Creek to be a small, secluded town with a real feeling of getting away. The architecture was very Swiss-inspired, which took us back to our time en suisse many years ago. This was a quiet weekend for us, spending time with our friends, watching the Olympics, and hiking and eating our way through charming Beaver Creek.

Last weekend we traveled to Breckenridge, which in many ways was the opposite of Beaver Creek: big, very commercial, and very American-feeling (in contrast to Beaver Creek’s more European feel). This was a more extended vacation for us and we spent the time hiking, biking, and participating in summer mountain activities (gondola rides, roller coasters, alpine slides). I even bumped into a beach volleyball teammate of mine from Houston – what a small world!

Although we are still largely keeping to ourselves during this COVID resurgence, it has felt very liberating to begin exploring our environs. We moved to Boulder more than a year ago and only recently are we starting to access the rest of Colorado. Suffice it to say that Colorado offers a lot of natural beauty; driving to/from is almost as breathtaking as the destinations themselves. Many aspects of this state remind me of my time in Switzerland – which is a very good thing! We are very much looking forward to continuing our adventures here!