“After years of simmering disenchantment with status quo politics, “2016 was a watershed” for populist parties and movements, says Yascha Mounk, a political theorist at Harvard University. Major democracies have seen movements that challenge democratic norms and institutions score victories at the ballot box amid rising economic anxieties and mass migration. Meanwhile, leaders in Hungary and Russia have modeled an alternative to the liberal democratic order that has predominated since the end of the Cold War, says Mounk, who holds fellowships at the German Marshall Fund and New America Foundation. The trend toward populist politics “is seemingly still accelerating,” he says, as the coming year is set to bring at least three elections in Europe.”
The knuckleball—also known as the knuckler, the fingernail ball, the fingertip ball, the flutterball, the floater, the dancer, the bug, the butterfly ball, the moth, the bubble, the ghostball, the horseshoe, the dry spitter, and, curiously, the spinner—has been around, in one form or another, for nearly as long as professional baseball itself, though for much of that time it has been regarded with suspicion. Spinning is precisely what it does not do. In fact, a lack of spin is about the only identifying characteristic of the pitch. There is no right way to hold a knuckleball when throwing it (seams, no seams; two fingers, three), and no predictable flight pattern once it leaves the hand. “Butterflies aren’t bullets,” the longtime knuckleballer Charlie Hough once said. “You can’t aim ’em—you just let ’em go.” The pitch shakes, shimmies, wobbles, drops—it knuckles, as they say. Which is doubly confusing, because the term “knuckleball” is itself a kind of misnomer, a holdover from the pitch’s largely forgotten infancy.