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In ‘A League of Their Own,’ Abbi Jacobson Makes the Team

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Abbi Jacobson really can play baseball, she insisted. Just not when the cameras are rolling. “I fully get the yips when someone is watching me,” she told me.

This was on a recent weekday morning, on a shady bench with a view of the ball fields in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Jacobson lives nearby, in an apartment she shares with her fiancée, the “For All Mankind” actress Jodi Balfour. This morning, she hadn’t come to the fields to play, which was good — the diamonds swarmed with little kids. (It was good, too, because while Jacobson can play, I can’t, though she did offer to teach me.) And honestly, she deserved to enjoy her off season.

In “A League of Their Own,” arriving Aug. 12 on Amazon Prime Video, Jacobson stars as Carson Shaw, the catcher for the Rockford Peaches. Carson is an invented character, but the Peaches, a team from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which debuted in 1943, are delightfully real. For five rainy months, on location in Pittsburgh, Jacobson, 38, had to catch, throw, hit and slide into base. Is some of this computer-generated magic? Sure, but not all. Which means that Jacobson played while plenty of people were watching. And she played well.

“She’s really good,” said Will Graham, who created the series with her. “Abbi is constantly self-effacing and self-deprecating but is actually a badass.”

Carson, a talented, anxious woman, becomes the team’s de facto leader. As a creator and executive producer, as well as the series’s star, Jacobson led a team, too, onscreen and off. This is work that she has been doing since her mid 20s, when she and Ilana Glazer created and eventually oversaw the giddy, unladylike comedy “Broad City.” On that show, she became a leader more or less by accident. On “A League of Their Own,” which was inspired by Penny Marshall’s 1992 film, Jacobson led from the get-go and with purpose, infusing the script with her own ideas about what leadership can look like.

“The stories that I want to tell are about how I’m a messy person, and I’m insecure all the time,” she said. “And then what if the most insecure, unsure person is the leader? What if the messy person gets to own herself?”

So is Carson’s story her story?

“Kind of,” she said, squinting against the sun.

Jacobson, who has described herself as an introvert masquerading as an extrovert, is approachable but also watchful, an observer before she is a participant. Even in the midst of animated conversation, she has an attitude that suggests that if you were to leave her alone with a book, or a sketch pad, or maybe her dog, Desi, that would be fine, too.

Her favorite pastime: “I like to go and sit in a very populated area with like a book. Alone,” she said.

On that morning, she wore a white tank top and paint-stained pants, but the stains were pre-applied and deliberate, sloppiness turned into fashion. The bag she carried was Chanel. She didn’t look a lot like a baseball player, but she did look like a woman who had become comfortable in her own skin, who had cleaned up most of her private mess and put the rest of it to professional use.

“She’s a boss,” said the writer and comedian Phoebe Robinson, a friend. “And she knows herself in her core.”

Jacobson grew up in a Philadelphia suburb, the youngest of two children in a Reform Jewish family. She played sports throughout her childhood — softball, basketball, travel soccer — until she gave them up for jam bands and weed.

“That team mentality was very much my childhood,” she said.

After art school, she moved to New York to become a dramatic actress, then veered into comedy through improv classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade. She and Glazer wanted to join a house improv team, but team after team rejected them. So they created “Broad City” instead, which ran first as a web series and then for five seasons on Comedy Central. A “Girls” without the gloss, trailing pot smoke as it went, it followed its protagonists, Abbi and Ilana, as they blazed a zigzag trail through young adulthood. The New Yorker called the show, lovingly, a “bra-mance.”

For Jacobson, the show was both a professional development seminar and a form of therapy. Through writing and playing a version of herself, she emerged more confident, less anxious.

“Having this receipt of her anxiety in the character allowed her to look at it and grow in a different direction,” Glazer said.

In 2017, when “Broad City” had two seasons to go, Graham (“Mozart in the Jungle”) invited Jacobson to dinner. He had recently secured the rights to “A League of Their Own,” a movie he had loved as a child. He thought it could make a great series, with a few changes. The queerness of some characters — rendered in the movie through blink-and-you-miss-it subtext — ought to be more overt this time. In the film, in a scene that lasts just seconds, a Black woman returns a foul ball with force and accuracy, a nod to the league’s segregation. This, too, deserved more attention.

Graham had pursued Jacobson, he said, for her integrity, her smarts, her flustered, nervy optimism. He wanted the experience of making the show to be joyful. And he wanted the stories it told — particularly the queer stories — to convey joy, too. He sensed that Jacobson, who came out in her mid 30s, could deliver.

“She’s so funny, and also so emotionally honest — and so unafraid of being emotionally honest,” Graham said.

As Jacobson finished the final seasons of “Broad City,” development began on the new series. She and Graham threw themselves into research, speaking to the some of the surviving women who had played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League or in the Negro leagues. They also spoke with Marshall, via phone, before her death in 2018. Marshall had focused primarily on the story of one woman: Geena Davis’s Dottie. Graham and Jacobson wanted to try to tell more stories, as many as an eight-episode season allowed.

“The movie is a story about white women getting to play baseball,” Jacobson said. “That’s just not enough.”

Gradually the show took form, morphing from a half-hour comedy to an hourlong dramedy. Then it found its co-stars: D’Arcy Carden as Greta, the team’s glamour girl; Roberta Colindrez as Lupe, the team’s pitcher; Chanté Adams as Max, a Black superstar in search of a team of her own. Rosie O’Donnell, a star of the original movie, signed on for an episode, playing the owner of a gay bar.

The pilot was shot in Los Angeles, which doubled first for Chicago and then for Rockford, Ill. The coronavirus hit soon after, delaying production until last summer. Rising costs pushed the show to relocate to Pittsburgh, which is, as it happens, a rainy city, a problem for a show with so many game-day sequences. But the cast and crew handled it.

“There was kind of a summer camp quality to it,” Graham said.

And Jacobson, as Glazer reminded me, spent many years as a camp counselor. So a lot of that summer camp quality was owed to her. And to the incessant baseball practice she insisted on.

“There was so much baseball practice, truly months of baseball practice,” Carden said. “We were a team more than we were a cast. That was Abbi. Abbi’s an ensemble person.”

Adams first met Jacobson in the audition room. (As a longtime “Broad City” fan, she struggled to keep her cool.) On set, Jacobson immediately impressed her.

“I don’t know how she does it,” Adams said. “But even as a leader and the star of the show, she always makes sure that everyone’s voice is heard and included.” After filming had ended, Adams said, Jacobson kept showing up for her, attending the opening night of her Broadway show.

“It just melted my heart,” she said. “Abbi is the epitome of what it means to be a leader.”

Jacobson doesn’t always feel that way, but she feels it more often than she used to. “Sometimes I can really own that,” she said. “And sometimes I go home, and I’m like, how am I the person? Or what’s happening here?” So she lent that same self-doubt to Carson, a leader who evolves when she acknowledges her vulnerability.

But Carson’s narrative is only one among many in a series that celebrates a range of women’s experience: Black, white and Latina women; straight, queer and questioning women; femme women; butch women; and women in between. Many of the actors are beautiful in the ways that Hollywood prefers. Many aren’t.

Yet the show insists that all of these women deserve love, friendship and fulfillment. In an email, O’Donnell observed that while the movie had focused on one woman’s story, this new version gives nearly every character a rich inner life “in a beautiful and accurate way that brings the characters’ humanity to the forefront.”

Carden has known Jacobson for 15 years, since their early improv days. No one had ever seen her as a romantic lead until Jacobson dropped off a glove and a hand-drawn card (“Adorable and romantic,” Carden said) and invited her to join the team. Carden was proud to take the role and proud, too, to work with Jacobson again.

“She’s changed none at all,” Carden said. “She’s always been Abbi, but the confidence is different.”

Jacobson wears that confidence lightly. Glimmers of uncertainty remain. “I’m never the person that you’re like, She should lead the show,” she told me in Prospect Park.

But clearly she is. When no team would have her, she made her own, and now she has made another one. After an hour and a half, she picked up her purse and her coffee cup and she walked back through the park. Like a boss. Like a coach. Like a leader.



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College football Saturday predictions: TCU vs. Kansas State, plus more picks

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Here are Pigskin Profit’s college football picks for Saturday’s games:

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Ohio (+1.5) over Toledo

Ohio, looking for its first MAC title since 1968, has exceeded expectations all season, going 9-3 — both overall and against the spread — after being picked to finish fourth in its division. The Rockets enter with back-to-back losses as heavy favorites. The fact Toledo lost quarterback Dequan Finn last week in a season-low 14-point effort will be too much to overcome. 

Quarterback Max Duggan #15 of the TCU Horned Frogs
Quarterback Max Duggan #15 of the TCU Horned Frogs
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Running back Deuce Vaughn #22 of the Kansas State Wildcats
Running back Deuce Vaughn #22 of the Kansas State Wildcats
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Kansas State (+2.5) over TCU

A perfect record means TCU deserves to be in the playoff regardless of who wins the Big 12 title, but the Horned Frogs’ penchant for slow starts and late sweats makes them difficult to trust against the streaking Wildcats, who held an 18-point lead over them in a game during which Kansas State’s top two quarterbacks were both injured. After TCU’s 12-0 regular season — including a 9-2-1 record against the spread — Vegas is still begging you to take them. 

TROY (-8.5) over Coastal Carolina

The Post’s deadline means I have to make this pick now, but there is no need for you to pull the trigger until Grayson McCall’s status is revealed. Right now, it looks like the Chanticleers will be without their star quarterback for a third straight game. A meeting with the Sun Belt’s best defense doesn’t bode well for an offense that scored 7 points in a 40-point loss to James Madison last weekend. 

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Fresno State (+3.5) over BOISE STATE

Ignore the Broncos’ 40-20 win on Oct. 8, when the Bulldogs played without future NFL quarterback Jake Haener. Since that loss, Fresno State has won seven straight games, averaging nearly 40 points over the past six games. An overrated Boise State defense has suffered its three losses to the highest-ranked offenses it has faced this season, while the blue field isn’t what it used to be. Boise State has dropped five home games over the past three seasons. 

Georgia (-17.5) over LSU

The Bulldogs have predictably fallen victim to the lulls attached to most repeat efforts, but they have been at their best in their biggest games — most memorably dominating Oregon and Tennessee — and an SEC Championship would hold extra meaning after Georgia lost the crown last year. Coach Brian Kelly may want to print out the bevy of clips praising him after his Tigers’ win over Alabama. In a few weeks, he’ll be staring down his fifth loss of the season. 

LSU head coach Brian Kelly
LSU head coach Brian Kelly
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UCF (+4) over TULANE

The Green Wave own the better story — flipping last year’s 2-10 mark to move one win from their first conference championship since 1998 — and the momentum after ending Cincinnati’s 32-game home win streak last week. The Knights own a head-to-head road win from three weeks ago, the 11th-ranked offense in FBS, and most importantly, a few extra points in their pocket. 

North Carolina (+7.5) over Clemson

The Tigers enter another title game as favorites against an undeserving representative from the Coastal Division, but DJ Uiagalelei’s latest shaky performance (8-for-29 for 99 yards in a playoff-killing loss, which doubled as Clemson’s first home defeat since 2016) — and coach Dabo Swinney’s stupidly stubborn decision to keep the struggling quarterback as his starter, gives the Tar Heels an important edge in sports’ most important position. By rule, one team must be declared the ACC champion. 

Michigan (-17) over Purdue

Don’t be concerned about a letdown after the Wolverines won their first game at Ohio State in 22 years. An even more emotional win over the Buckeyes wasn’t an issue last year in the Big Ten title game — a 42-3 demolition of Iowa — and won’t have an impact against the third unranked Power Five team to play in a conference title game in the past decade. A Big Ten championship is plenty of motivation. 

Best bets: Fresno State, Georgia, Michigan 
This season: 92-97-6 
2014-21 record: 1,030-970-19

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United States vs. Netherlands prediction: World Cup picks, odds

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The United States men’s national team has a golden opportunity on Saturday morning in the World Cup. With the entire country behind them, the Yanks could qualify for the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002. 

Team USA is an underdog against the Netherlands (they’re +375 to win), but the Americans relish the role of being outsiders going up against a very vulnerable favorite. 

As we saw against Wales and Iran, the USMNT can struggle to break down defensive teams. The Yanks are an athletic, creative and quick team, but they’re not all that comfortable in possession. Against Wales and Iran, they dominated possession and struggled to break through enough times to feel comfortable. 

U.S. vs. Netherlands pick: U.S. +375 (PointsBet)

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But against England — easily its best performance of the tournament — the USMNT was able to use its athleticism, team speed and talent to give the Three Lions a lot to think about. England tore through both Iran and Wales, but struggled mightily against the Americans because it couldn’t dominate the midfield. 

Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie have turned into one of the best midfield trios in the tournament. Their ability to make life difficult on opposing midfielders is a huge factor against a Dutch midfield that should be terrific on paper, but has struggled through the first three matches. 

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In fact, outside of Cody Gakpo, you could say that about the entire Netherlands team. Even though they won Group A with two wins and a draw, Clockwork Oranje have been relatively disappointing compared to their pretournament expectations. 

Drawn into a soft group with Qatar, Ecuador and Senegal, the Netherlands posted a +4 goal differential, but its expected goal difference was -0.4 and it was -1.8 before its 2-0 victory against Qatar on Tuesday. In other words, the Netherlands was a bit fortunate to post the results it did. 

Christian Pulisic of United States
Christian Pulisic of United States
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That doesn’t mean that the Dutch can’t grow into this tournament. The history of the World Cup is littered with teams that started slowly and went on to do big things, so there’s no reason to count them out just yet. 

That said, it’s also hard to feel confident about backing them as an odds-on favorite against a team that punches up in competition very well. England is a stronger team than the Netherlands, with a better midfield, and the USMNT gave it fits in a nil-nil draw. 

Winning the battle in the midfield would give the USMNT a serious chance to win this match, and it’s a fair argument to make that the Yanks have the edge in the middle of the field with Adams, Musah and McKennie going up against some combination of Frenkie de Jong, Davy Klaassen, Teun Koopmeiners and Marten de Roon. 

The Netherlands may have advantages in other parts of the pitch, and the U.S. defense has looked a bit vulnerable at times against less talented attacks than the Clockwork Oranje, but the Dutch, aside from Gakpo, just haven’t really looked all that threatening. The Netherlands only created 0.8 expected goals against Senegal and Ecuador. 

Sportsbooks around the country will be a little tepid about how they price the USA, given how much money will come in on the Yanks, but this number is still well worth a bet on a team that profiles extremely well as an underdog. 

U.S. vs. Netherlands pick: U.S.A. +375 (PointsBet)

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Luka Doncic latest superstar the Knicks have to deal with

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At some point, the Knicks are going to have to beat a superstar if they want to reach the postseason, and they will get another chance on Saturday afternoon.

The Mavericks and Luka Doncic, the NBA’s leading scorer, will visit the Garden for a matinee, giving coach Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks another chance against one of the league’s top players. So far, the Knicks have lost to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks (twice), Stephen Curry and the Warriors, Ja Morant and the Grizzlies (twice), Kevin Durant and the Nets, Jayson Tatum and the Celtics and Donovan Mitchell and the Cavaliers.

The closest they have come to knocking off a top-flight star was when they beat Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves. The Knicks did nearly defeat Morant and Antetokounmpo in the past week at the Garden, but lost to the Grizzlies and the Bucks by a combined 10 points.

Doncic, 23, has become one of the premier players in the sport. He is averaging 33.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 8.7 assists while shooting a robust 50.5 percent from the field. He leads the league in player efficiency rating at 32.18 and already has five 40-point games.

Luka Doncic
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He will be a major test for the Knicks’ top perimeter defenders, RJ Barrett and Quentin Grimes. They did a good job on him last year in a season sweep of the Mavericks, holding Doncic to 20-of-48 shooting and an average of 26 points in the two games.


The Knicks will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak at the Garden and hoping to improve upon one of the worst home marks in the Eastern Conference. Only the Hornets, with three, have fewer home wins than the Kncisk, who are 4-6 at the Garden. On the road, the Knicks have been much better, with six wins, second in the Eastern Conference to the Celtics’ seven.

“I just think that we have to bring our same road intensity back home,” Jalen Brunson said. “At home, we’re obviously more comfortable and all that. On the road, it’s just us on the road, it’s us and the hostile environment. I think we just got to bring that same mentality at home and finish games.”

The Knicks have lost their last three games at home, to the Trail Blazers, Grizzlies and Bucks, by a combined 13 points.


Former Knick Kemba Walker, who signed this week with Dallas, isn’t expected to play for the Mavericks until the middle of next week, general manager Nico Harrison said on Dallas radio station KTCK-The Ticket. Walker was traded by the Knicks on draft night to the Pistons to free up salary cap space to sign Brunson, and Detroit later bought him out. … The Knicks’ Ryan Arcidiacono (sprained left ankle) didn’t practice on Friday.


With the Mavericks in town, Thibodeau was asked about the NBA’s ongoing tampering investigation regarding the Knicks’ pursuit and acquisition of Brunson.

“At the appropriate time, I think [president] Leon [Rose] will make a statement. But let everyone do their job,” Thibodeau said. “So, that’s the way we’re approaching it. We feel very good about the way we went about things.”

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