A terrorist is mailing bombs to African-Americans in Austin, anyone hear about it? One of my all-time favorite Florida crime stories. And the longest badminton rally you’ll ever see.

I always reject the premise when people over the years have told me the news media is biased. That they only cover certain stories that highlight certain people or groups, while ignoring others.

I have always said that wasn’t true; that we journalists will cover anything that’s interesting, or with TV news, visually compelling.

Still, I am starting to wonder exactly why these Austin, Texas bombings aren’t getting more attention from the press. If you haven’t been following the story, there have four bomb explosions over the past few weeks, as a suspect has mailed explosive devices that killed or wounded four people.

I mean, I know why the bombings are getting zero attention from the White House; it’s because the suspect isn’t known to be a Muslim and that’s the only kind of terrorism that this President and his government actually acknowledge.

The fact that the bombs have all been mailed, and injured, African-Americans and Latinos so far make it far less serious in the minds of this racist President than if, God forbid, actual white people were hurt by a person with a foreign-sounding name.
But this is a very serious crime, most likely racial in nature, and you’re hearing very little about it, unless you go search for it.

It’s very frightening that this is happening, no one really knows why, and when it will end.

Would be nice if we heard about it a little bit more.

(Update: Since I finished writing this but before I published, it appears the bomber has been caught and cornered by law enforcement, then blew himself up with a bomb in his car)

**And now, an interlude of badminton. A 102-shot rally occurred at the All England Open in Birmingham, England over the weekend starring doubles teams from Japan (Yuki Fukushima and Syaka Hirota, in the gray shirts), and Denmark’s​ Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl (in blue).

So many amazing saves here, my favorite shots were at 38 and 95. What incredible concentration.

I don’t mean the players, I mean me staying focused on the birdie for this whole point.

** And finally today, it’s been a while since I’ve featured a truly bizarre news story from the state I used to call home. Florida, oh Florida, how I miss you so when I read a headline like this:
Golf Cart-Driving Florida Man Tries to Blow Up Neighbor’s Chickens With Home-Made Whiskey Bomb During Dispute Over BB Gun.”

Yeah, like you’re NOT going to click on that story with a headline like that.
It seems a 55-year-old man named Scott Frederick Wegener, of Fort Pierce, crafted a bomb inside a whiskey bottle, then blew it up in his neighbor’s yard after a dispute over the theft of a BB gun.

Wegener, nicknamed “Spider” (well sure) actually offered to pay a friend to crawl under the man’s home to plant an IED.

According to a witness, “Wegener pulled up to (the) house on the golf cart. They began to hang out. Wegener said he was going to kill the chickens in (the) yard. Wegener went to his golf cart and retrieved a Canadian Mist bottle filled with black powder, sand and a green fuse,” according to the affidavit.

Investigators said Wegener lit the fuse and threw the IED into the backyard, where it exploded.

So, so many questions here. Number 1: What did the chickens ever do to Wegener? They couldn’t have stolen his BB gun, chickens certainly prefer more complicated weapons, in my experience.
Question 2: Why use Whiskey bottles, when we all know using Jim Beam rum bottles to blow up your neighbor’s backyard is much more effective.
Question 3: Do you think a golf cart is really a good getaway car? I mean those things only go like 15 miles per hour, right? Maybe ole’ Mr. Wegener should’ve gotten a real car if he wanted to, you know, escape.

Ah, Florida. I love you so.


A No. 16 seed beats a No.1, and four incredible days of NCAA Tournament action have me exhausted but happy. And Fox News, perfectly explained, in one video

There are times as a writer where you don’t know where to start a story because there’s just nothing interesting in your material, and you’re reaching, clawing through your notebook hoping to find something that doesn’t stink.

Then there are times, like when you’ve watched four days of sensational, amazing, exhausting but oh so much fun NCAA Tournament, and you’ve got so much in your brain you could start with, you really don’t know where to start.

A warning: If you don’t care about college basketball or the NCAA Tournament, this blog will be a whole lot of words that won’t interest you. I’ve got a non-NCAA Tournament item at the end if you want to hang in there.

OK, of course I know where we have to start. We have to start with the University of Maryland Baltimore-County, a small school in Catonsville, Md., that scored for my money the biggest non-Olympics upset in sports history Friday night. UMBC, a No. 16 seed, did something no other 16 seed had ever done: It beat a No. 1 seed.

And not just any 1 seed, a dominant 1 seed like Virginia. I have to say, watching the game from my couch Friday night with a new friend, we were sitting there in shock, not just because a 16 was beating a 1 (I always knew it would happen someday, the difference between 16’s and 1’s isn’t as big as it used to be), but HOW it happened. I always figured the titanic upset over a 1 seed would happen with a 40-foot crazy buzzer-beater or something like that.

But this, this was a blowout. The Retrievers destroyed the Cavs, and it wasn’t even close the final five minutes. My buddy Scott turned to me with a minute to go and said “This is crazy! It’s anti-climactic, there’s no drama because UMBC has been so far ahead the last 10 minutes!”

It’s true, the score never got into single digits the last 10 minutes of the game. What a moment, what a wonderful, crazy moment for some scrappy, overlooked players who no one thought could win.

Sure, UMBC wasn’t able to keep it going, losing a close one Sunday night. But man, they have given all of us a memory that will last a lifetime.

— Laughed out loud at this Tweet by @netw3rk after the Retrievers lost Sunday night: “UMBC didn’t get eliminated, they just live at a farm upstate now.”

— So many other great stories in the Tournament so far, but after UMBC’s stunning upset my next favorite thing has been Loyola-Chicago, and their remarkable pair of wins over Miami in the first round and then Tennessee in Round 2.

They’re a veteran team who hasn’t been anywhere near this far in more than 30 years, and suddenly they’ve slayed two Goliaths and they’ve got a 98-year-old team chaplain named Sister Jean Delores Schmidt (above) who is just the most adorable thing ever. When a reporter asked Sister Jean Sunday how it felt to be a national celebrity, she replied “Not to correct you, dear, but international.”

Loyola, a team whose players used to hand out free hot dogs coupons to students to get them to come to games,  is in the Sweet 16 with a great shot to win, and I’m just pissed that next game they’re playing my other favorite story of this tournament…

— Nevada! Two phenomenal comebacks by a No. 7 seed, including coming back from 22 points down to win Sunday over No. 2 seed Cincinnati. Their coach, Eric Musselman, was a tad excited after the game, and I’m so proud that I know a grad, my excellent friend Kristen, and I’m rambling now but it really was a hell of a comeback by them Sunday.

— Oh yeah, Duke, the team I root for. Honestly there was so much other great stuff this weekend that I’m glad my Blue Devils didn’t cause me much stress. Two outstanding wins, pretty easily attained over Iona and Rhode Island, and Trevon Duval played outstanding. He really is the key to Duke going further. Marvin Bagley III was phenomenal, the bench contributed well, but the freshman point guard Duval is the whole key. If he’s playing great, Duke can win the title.

— So Saturday night, last game of the evening, Houston-Michigan. Cougars up by 2, and Devin Davis Jr. of Houston steps up to the foul line with just four seconds left. Davis misses both.

And then this happened…Jordan Poole for the win.

**And then, in a moment of pure class, watch as Michigan star Moritz Wagner notices a despondent Davis standing on the court, in shock at how his team just lost. And Wagner stops and does this. Absolutely, that kid has been raised right.

— A couple of words about the two biggest disappointments this weekend. Virginia, obviously, was humiliated, losing to a 16 seed and getting embarrassed along the way. I have to give much credit to their coach Tony Bennett, who handled everything with class after the game, but wow, this is going to be hard to recover from. He’s built an amazing program in Charlottesville but this is three of the last four years they’ve gone out early in March after having a tremendous regular season.

— And then there was Michigan State, who laid a big egg Sunday against Syracuse. Absolutely no excuse for a team as talented as the Spartans are to lose to the Orange, and miss so many open shots. Lot of things have to go wrong for Michigan State to lose that game, and lots of things did.

–Finally Two absolute trends in this year’s Tournament: 1, Teams shoot way, way, way too many 3-pointers. I mean, I know it’s been getting worse and worse every year, but oh my goodness the number of horrible 3-pointers I saw in the first two rounds. Guys, it’s OK if you take a short jumper or try to drive! I promise, even in Trump’s America, it’s legal to take a 10-footer!

The other big trend seems to be these replay reviews taking longer, and longer, and longer. I swear to God the other night in the, I think it was Gonzaga-Ohio State game (I may be wrong they’re all blending together), there were a couple of five-minute delays while the officials watched 11 replays.

Hey guys, just make a call! I know it’s important to get it right, but I’ve had relationships that lasted less time than these reviews!

Just had to get that off my chest. Thank you. What a fantastic four days of game. Man, I do love this sport.

**And finally today, I promised you something non-NCAA Tournament related at the end. An organization called Now This put together the absolutely perfect explanation, in one short video, of why Fox News is so phony and fraudulent.

Watch as the exact same decision is reached by Presidents Obama and Trump, and how they react. Just genius.

Good News Friday: Roger Federer looks at kids’ paintings of him and it’s adorable. A science teacher in Houston becomes a comedy superstar. And a waitress shows a little compassion, and gets hugely rewarded


And a Happy Friday to you all, a glorious day indeed. Fabulous opening day of the NCAA Tournament, with Loyola-Chicago providing the biggest stunner (love their Harry Potter scarves) and a couple other games (Houston-San Diego State, Rhode Island-Oklahoma) giving us lots of thrills. And today? more of the same. My favorite two days of the sports year.

OK, on with Good News Friday. So Roger Federer, who I worship as you know, always seems to do a fun, cool thing with kids at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. This week at the annual tournament he apparently was asked to “judge” a painting contest where all the tykes were supposed to paint portraits of Federer. Really, really sweet stuff, you can tell how much RF loves kids.

**Next up today, meet Eddie Brown, a science teacher from Houston who used to simply be a 6th-grade teacher. However now, he’s a comedy superstar (in the education circles, at least)

After cracking up his fellow teachers at the Varnet School, he posted a video last year called “What Public School Teachers Really Say” and it went viral.

Now, after making dozens of more videos, he tours the country on a “Teachers Only Comedy Tour” and draws thousands. His routines are hilarious to anyone who’s ever been any kind of teacher, and they give me hope that our criminally underpaid, underappreciated teachers can at least get some laughs from someone who knows what they’re going through.

**Finally today, a very small gesture that went a long way. A waitress named Evoni Williams works at a Waffle House in Texas, and one morning recently she saw a customer named Adrien Charpentier having trouble cutting his breakfast. Charpentier is 78, on oxygen and appeared to be in a lot of pain.

So Williams walked over and began helping him with his knife and fork, cutting his meat for him. Such a simple, kind gesture. A fellow customer named Laura Wolf saw Williams doing this and took a picture, then posting it on social media saying that she was “thankful to have seen this act of kindness and caring at the start of my day while everything in this world seems so negative.”

And that’s where this story could’ve stopped, a nice person doing something nice.

But after the Facebook photo went viral, the local mayor of her town, Lamar, Tex. dedicated March 8, 2018, in her honor.

“This is probably more of a lifestyle of Evoni,” Mayor Bobby Hocking said. “Because she does this from her heart. It just so happens somebody got a picture of this one time of many.”

And then something even more incredible happened: Texas Southern University offered her a $16,000 scholarship along with the aid of a counselor to help her enroll at the university. (She had been saving up for college).

Just a small gesture being rewarded by a larger one. So many good people in the world.


A N.Y. Times story on addiction and suicide in a tiny Indiana town. A guy in L.A. has people look at the moon through his telescope, and it’s awesome. And my always-correct Final 4 picks for March Madness

The genre of story that I’m starting off today’s blog with has, sadly, become almost a cliche: Small-town American city, otherwise unremarkable, has survived for decades on tight-knit community, strong sense of family, and businesses hanging in there through all different kinds of economic conditions, laid completely low by the scourge of drug addiction.

Sometimes it’s painkillers, sometimes it’s heroin (which certainly is a “painkiller” in every sense of the word), sometimes it’s other drugs. But there have been SO many stories written over the past decade of towns filled with good people and good values go completely down the tubes, that I thought there was nothing that could surprise, or impress me, about yet another tale.

Happily, I was wrong. Juliet Macur, a remarkably gifted writer for the New York Times, visited Madison, Ind. last summer while reporting another story.

On a reporting trip in July, I learned this in the unlikeliest of places: at Horst’s Little Bakery Haus, a doughnut shop with just a few tables, not far from the river.

A waitress had overheard me interviewing someone at the bakery earlier, and asked if I was a journalist.

She checked over her shoulder to see if anyone was listening. There was an urgency in her whisper as she said: “I lost my son last month. He hung himself from a tree in our yard and shot himself in the head. I cut him down myself, with my own hands. So many suicides.”

She wiped away tears.

“We need your help,” she said.

From that wonderfully-written beginning, Macur weaves a devastating tale of a football team, the town’s struggles with drugs and suicides, and a coach who’s desperately trying to make a difference. This is a phenomenal, important story that I urge you all to read.

I don’t know what will ever stem the tide of the scourge of drug addiction, and mental health, in this country. I do know we need more school counselors, more trained and better-funded mental health clinics, and a whole lot more compassion and help for those trapped in addiction’s maw.

**Next up today, OK here’s a palette-cleanser from that last story. A Los Angeles filmmaker and astronomy enthusiast named Wylie Overstreet decided to bring his fancy telescope out on the streets of Southern California, and film random strangers’ reactions to looking at the moon.

A really simple idea, but wonderful expressions and thoughts from people. The world really is a freaking beautiful place if we stop to take a look around every once in a while.

**And finally today, as promised, I’ve spent a couple days now breaking down the NCAA Tournament bracket, and my lock-solid, guaranteed to be correct or your money back Final Four picks.

I’ve got Virginia coming out of the South (although De’Andre Hunter’s injury scares me), Gonzaga out of the West (I don’t love top two seeds Xavier or UNC, and there’s something about the Zags having finally broken through last year that takes the pressure off them), Purdue out of the East (I really wanted to be different and not take Villanova, but also I saw Purdue live a few times in the Big Ten Tournament and they’re really, really good) and oh yeah, Duke out of the Midwest (the draw is brutal but if Duke can get past Michigan State, I like their chances.)

So Virginia, Gonzaga, Purdue and Duke. I don’t feel great about those picks but I never do.

Other trends/upsets/teams on a run that I like:

— Nevada is really good, they got some NCAA Tournament experience last year, and their draw is decent. I like them going all the way to the Elite Eight, beating Cincinnati along the way, before losing to Virginia.

— My other big sleepers I like: No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago, a veteran team with terrific guards, going to the Sweet 16, beating Miami and Tennessee to get there. I like Houston, seeded sixth, also to get to the Elite 8, beating Michigan and Providence (the Friars will upset North Carolina), and I like College of Charleston, a 13 seed, to get to the Sweet 16 by beating Auburn and then New Mexico State, who’ll have beaten Clemson.

Got all that? Good. Now go fill out your brackets. And if any of this wrong, no worries, this blog post will disintegrate five minutes after the national title game.



Everybody into the (NCAA Tournament) pool! I give you some quick-hit first thoughts on the bracket. And a new low even for Trump

It’s the most wonderful time … of the year…

And a happy Monday to you all, it’s NCAA Tournament time, and once again I am gripped with excitement at another March Madness. Never gets old for me, no matter how much off-court nonsense and illegality is going on (in case you haven’t heard, the FBI is investigating at least 20-25 major college basketball programs for all kinds of chicanery) and no matter how much the selection committee butchered things (more on that in a minute, they were bad this year but not as bad as it could’ve been)

As always here at Wide World of Stuff, I’ll give you two different posts this week about the Tournament. Today, some initial thoughts about good first-round upsets to pick in your pool, a couple dark-horse Sweet 16 and Final Four teams, and a few hundred words where I vent about mistakes the committee made.

Now, a caveat at the start: Thanks to having a second kid and other life business, I’ve probably paid less attention to college basketball overall than I have in a while. Doesn’t mean my picks will be wrong, but when I do pay a lot of attention I rarely win bracket pools, so maybe this will be the opposite.

OK, first let me rant a bit about who’s in and who’s not. I love Bobby Hurley, he’ll always hold a special place in my heart as a member of the 1990s Duke dynasty. But his Arizona State team lost TEN games in league play, finished 8th in the PAC-12, and got in. USC, second in the PAC-12, and who reached the title game of the conference tournament, left out.

Syracuse, 11th (ELEVENTH!) in the ACC, with no good road wins at all, gets in. Oklahoma, losers of eight of their last 10, in. Middle Tennessee and St. Mary’s, two very strong mid-majors, left out. And Notre Dame, a Top 20 team when healthy (which they are now), also out. Just ridiculous.

I really do understand this is difficult, getting the 68 teams right. But goodness gracious some years the snubs are inexplicable. Like now.

OK, moving on, here are some thoughts on the bracket, and upset picks I like:

I think Kansas and Virginia got the toughest region, but Xavier, also a No. 1 seed, has no cakewalk either. Virginia could have to go through Kentucky or Arizona, and Cincinnati, to get to the Final Four. And Kansas has Duke, Michigan State (how in the hell did they win the Big Ten and get a 3 seed?) and a decent Auburn team in its region. Overall, the strengths of the brackets are pretty even this year.

— Potential awesome matchups ahead: Kentucky vs. Arizona is a second-round game, as is Michigan-Houston (two very very good teams), Wichita State-West Virginia is a terrific one, and Duke-Rhode Island or Duke-Oklahoma (Sooners have no business being in but Trae Young is the real deal).

— OK, upsets that you might want to pick: No. 11 Loyola-Chicago is better than your typical mid-major, they’re in the tournament for the first time in three decades, and they’re playing No. 6 Miami, who is missing their best player Bruce Brown due to injury.

— South Dakota State is a perfect 12-5 upset pick, because Ohio State is playing poorly and the Jackrabbits (love the nickname!) have tournament experience.

— Keep an eye out, too from Providence, a 10 seed winning not one but two games; Stephen F. Austin (veteran team who’s been there playing a slumping No. 3 seed Texas Tech) and Charleston, a 13 seed playing Auburn.

— I have no idea who’ll be in the Final Four yet, I need some to study. But my Dukies don’t have the hardest path, except for Michigan State. Can’t complain too much.

Now go start those brackets, Delores in accounting doesn’t have all day.


**Finally today, I know it’s pretty hard to sink even lower when you’re Donald Trump, but this… encouraging booing of the American media, but discouraging boos of a North Korean dictator.

I mean…

Good News Friday: The entire lunch debt of a school is wiped out. A basketball player gets an awesome surprise from the Mom he hasn’t seen in five years. A baseball player builds an entire hospital in Haiti.

And a Happy Friday to you! It’s mid-March and I’m still in college hoops heaven, out at Barclays Center in Brooklyn covering the ACC Tournament this week (it’s Hanukkah in March for me, basically).

Lots of good news all over the place this week, but let’s start Good News Friday with another wonderful tale of a “lunch-shaming” coming to an end in one particular corner of the world.

I’ve written about this disgusting practice of “lunch-shaming,” before, where students whose parents have unpaid debt to the school are refused lunch in the school cafeteria or have their food thrown away when given to them.

Slowly, more and more schools are stopping this practice, and here’s a unique one: A charity run in the name of the late Philando Castile has erased the debt of every student in 56 Minneapolis-area schools, including the school Castile had worked at.

Castile, you may remember, was killed by police in 2016 at a traffic  stop, and as has been the case in so many of these police killings, the officer was acquitted.

But Castile, who worked as a cafeteria supervisor for J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in Saint Paul, often reached into his own pocket to help kids pay for school lunch, so the charity felt this would be a wonderful way to pay tribute to him.

The charity, called Philando Feeds The Children, gave a check for a little more than $35,000 to the St. Paul School District, making sure every child can eat lunch without a stigma.

“Philando is STILL reaching into his pocket, and helping a kid out. One by one,” the charity announced on the YouCaring.com fund-raising site this week.

Very, very well done.

**Next up today, these kind of stories never fail to touch my heart. At the end of college basketball season schools always hold “Senior Night,” ceremonies,  to honor the departing players and giving them a chance to be celebrated one last time.

Sometimes, these ceremonies are a little more emotional. Check out this one from Florida State, where Braian Angola got an amazing surprise on Senior Night. His mother flew in from Villanueva, Colombia to watch him play his final home game.

Angola had left his native country to go to high school in the U.S., and having his mom at his final game understandably got him very emotional.

**Finally today, a great story of a baseball player doing good. Adam Wainwright, star pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, visited Haiti on a trip a few years ago and like so many who have been there, was shocked and moved by the poverty.

Unlike many others, though, Wainwright decided to do something about it: He helped build a new wing of an orphanage and then, a hospital.

One with 50 doctors, and state-of-the-art medical care and machines, that have made a huge, huge difference.

Just one man, moved to do good, who moved others to help do good. That can often be all it takes.


The amazingness of Red Panda, the greatest halftime entertainer ever. The Florida teacher who moonights as a white supremicist. And Kevin Hart explains trying to rush the stage after Super Bowl

So there are some things in life you take for granted: That your spouse will love you. That the light will eventually turn green when you’re driving and late and it’s red for about 412 minutes. That the person in line ahead of you at the supermarket isn’t actually going to inspect every single piece of produce they’re about to buy, examining it like it’s the JFK assassination film.

And, that everyone in the world knows how awesome Red Panda is. But then you discover, not everyone DOES know how awesome she is, and that’s just so wrong, so I’m going to tell you.

Red Panda, if you don’t know, is the most amazing halftime entertainer you’ve ever seen. Her real name is Rong Niu, she’s an acrobat, and she performs at college basketball and NBA arenas all across America.

I’ve seen her live many times, including last week at the Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square Garden. She is… amazing. Sensational. Wonderful. What she does, with a unicycle, and some bowls, is beyond amazing. She’s a legend in the sports world, and when her unicycle was stolen a few months ago, the basketball world reacted as if someone had cancelled Christmas. (Happily, the Golden State Warriors bought her a new one.  Like I needed one MORE reason to love that franchise.)

I shot video of her last week at MSG but it didn’t come out great or convey her awesomeness. So I’m embedding this video shot in much higher quality, from a performance a few months ago.

She’s amazing. Please watch. Here’s a profile story of her. And spread the word.

**Next up, here’s a story about our times in 2018. A Florida public school teacher has been recording a podcast for several months that is basically a call to white supremacy.

Dayanna Volitich, of Crystal River Middle School, is a 25-year-old social studies teacher. Under a different name, she records a podcast called “Unapologetic,’ saying things like “It isn’t supremacist or hateful to prefer your own people over others,” and expressed many delightful anti-Semitic views. She also bragged on many episodes about how she had infiltrated the school system and is espousing her racist views on her students.

Anyway, this was all a secret until Huffington Post published a story a few days ago naming her as the podcast host, and of course her school district has since fired her.

But here’s the part that kills me: Volitich now claims her podcast is totally satire.

Her statement: “While operating under the Russian pseudonym “Tiana Dalichov” on social media and the Unapologetic Podcast, I employed political satire and exaggeration, mainly to the end of attracting listeners and followers, and generating conversation about the content discussed between myself and my guests. The views “Tiana Dalichov” espouses do not pervade my professional career.”

Some people…

**Finally today, I’m not a big Kevin Hart fan, but I acknowledge the dude is funny. What didn’t seem to be funny, though, was the Philadelphia native trying to rush the podium and stage after the Eagles won the Super Bowl.

What was the deal with that? Hart was on Conan the other  night and explained. It’s pretty damn hilarious. Hint: Alcohol was involved.

A long, boring and entirely predictable Oscars almost saved by the last 10 minutes

All right, it’s late, I’m tired, and I’m annoyed that that was one of the worst Academy Awards telecasts of my lifetime.

Maybe you loved it; not me. It was almost four hours (which I don’t mind) and did have a few good moments, but for the most part I just didn’t get into it.

As you, loyal readers, know, usually I err on the side of good with awards shows; I almost always enjoy them and give them the benefit of the doubt even when others say they were bad.

But Sunday night, yeah, not good. But in the spirit of positivity, let me first point out the few things I liked, before moving on to the bad.

–OK, so the good: Jimmy Kimmel was terrific as host. The monologue was funny (his joke about Oscar being the perfect man because he didn’t have a penis was great), he addressed the #MeToo and #TimesUp stuff very well, and the idea of giving a Jet Ski to the shortest speech was inspired.

I also loved the gag, though it’s been done before I feel, of taking movie stars into a theater and making regular people part of the telecast. That was cool.

— I also loved: Tiffany Haddish and Mya Rudolph, that bit about white people being concerned there were too many minorities and them reassuring all that “we were just backstage, and there were white people everywhere, there are plenty of them!” was fantastic.

— And the final 10 minutes was terrific. Frances McDormand, predictably, gave a kick-ass speech about empowerment and inclusion and demanding Hollywood give women and minorities more seats at the table. And it was brilliant, freaking brilliant, to have Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway again give out Best Picture, after last year’s screw-up heard round the world. That was brilliant.

— Oh, and a few of the long montages were great, especially this one (below) highlighting 90 years of great movies.

–OK, now the bad. And there was a lot. First, outside of Frances McDormand, I didn’t think there were any particularly good or memorable speeches. Second, for a telecast that wants to be so bold, so many of the award winners were predictable. Every year it seems like there’s at least a few upsets (Marisa Tomei, anyone? Can I get a Cuba Gooding, Jr.?) but all of the top categories Sunday felt pre-ordained, since they’d all been won by heavy favorites.

— More bad: I love Allison Janney and am thrilled she won, but this “redemption” of Tonya Harding has gotta stop. This is a bad human being who was part of something really bad being done.

— Also didn’t like Kobe Bryant winning an Oscar because he’s not a good dude, at all, and we still don’t know what he did to that woman in the Colorado hotel room years ago. And that was a very strange “honoring war movies and veterans” montage, it felt very much like “conservatives hate Hollywood and movies so let’s throw them a bone and show how much we like our vets.” It was weird.

— Couple more thoughts: The death montage, with Eddie Vedder singing and Jerry Lewis getting “the hammer?” Excellent.

— Fashion do’s and don’ts (as usual these are mostly from my wife): Loved Gal Godot’s dress. Salma Hayek looked stunning. Armie Hammer is a beautiful man. But Jennifer Lawrence looked “like an Amazon woman” standing next to tiny Jodie Foster.

And Nicole Kidman, who is almost always flawless and stunning, looked like, in the words of my bride, “a bizarro Barbie Doll.”

— “The Greatest Showman” song performance was stellar. So was Mary J. Blige’s song.

— Finally, I really wish “The Big Sick,” probably my favorite movie of 2017, had won. But Kumail Nanjani is pretty damn funny.

Good News Friday: A college basketball player misses on purpose, for a beautiful reason. On 50th anniversary of his show, why Mr. Rogers always fed his fish. And a beautiful essay from a son to his recently-deceased Mama


And a Happy Friday to all of you, and IT’S MARCH, BABY!!!!

Sorry. I get a little excited when March rolls around, because it means college basketball tournament season is here and I get more than a little excited.

March is also one of the times of the year I moonlight in my old job as a sportswriter, and this week I’ve had the good fortune of being at the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament here at Madison Square Garden. (Why is the Big Ten tournament being held here, instead of Indianapolis or Chicago where it normally is? Money, of course. But I don’t care, I get to see great basketball and get paid for it.)

It’s been a great time and it’s given me a great hook for my first good news story of the week, from Chad Leistikow of the Des Moines Register.

The University of Iowa has a player named Josh Bohannon. He’s a sophomore, a really good player, and he’s particularly good at free throws.

Bohannon had made 34 free throws in a row when he stepped to the line late in a game on Feb. 25 against Northwestern. That number was important, because when he got to 34, Bohannon had tied an Iowa school record held by a kid named Chris Street.

Street was a native Iowan and local legend, and on Jan. 16, 1993 Street played with the Hawkeyes against Duke.

Three days later, Street was tragically killed in a car accident.

Bohannon grew up in Iowa, too, knew all about the legend of Chris Street, and since becoming a part of the Iowa team he’s gotten to know Street’s parents, Mike and Patty.

So on Feb. 25, having made 34 consecutive free throws to tie Street’s school record, Bohannon stepped to the foul line with 2 minutes, 15 seconds remaining with Iowa leading, 73-65. He left the shot short, off the front rim, and pointed to the sky.

What a good kid. He’s so kind,” Patty Street said. “That was so special that he thought of Christopher and that record.”

Here’s what Bohannon said after the game.

A beautiful gesture by a kid who didn’t want to see his name ahead of Street’s in the record book. Really, really sweet.


**Next up today, it was recently the 50th anniversary of the start of one of the most beloved television programs in history, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

By all accounts, Fred Rogers was one of the kindest, most humble people who ever lived. He entertained millions of us with his words of wisdom, his gentle being, and his smile (Quick aside: I’ve been thinking about Rogers a lot more the last few months because our 3-year-old’s favorite TV show these days is “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” a direct and approved descendant of the original show.)

To celebrate Mister Rogers’ anniversary, Upworthy.com pointed me to this story about why Mister Rogers always made a point to tell the audience he was feeding his fish. Continue reading

Oscar predictions from a non-expert. The great story of how a 1936 U.S. Olympian told off Adolf Hitler. And a beautiful eulogy from a Parkland parent to their child.

With so much misery around us these days, from school shootings to Donald Trump opening his mouth and, hilariously, declaring he’d have run into the Douglas school shooting “even without a weapon,” I’m really glad March is almost here (whoo-hoo, best month of the year, college basketball tournament season!) and the Academy Awards are this Sunday.

I’m very rarely any good at Oscar pools, I think I’ve won one my entire life (and that was two years ago, thanks to “Spotlight,” one more reason to love that amazing movie.)

But this year I’ve seen some of the nominated flicks, and what the hell, here’s one person’s opinion on Sunday’s results:

Best Picture: It would be thrilling if a horror movie like “Get Out” somehow won, but that’s not likely.  It seems like “The Shape of Water” or “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” will win. I’ll go with “Three Billboards” because it seems very timely given the culture of sexual harassment shaming/outing going on. Haven’t seen it but apparently it’s a beautiful film.

Best Actor:  I’m of the belief that any time Daniel Day-Lewis is nominated for anything, he should win, because he’s the most amazing actor of my lifetime. But everything points to Gary Oldman winning here for “The Darkest Hour.” So I’ll go chalk and say Oldman.

— Best Actress: Would love, love, love to see Saorise Ronan win for “Lady Bird,” because it’s such a great movie, or even Meryl Streep who killed it in “The Post.” I’m going to pick Ronan because upsets happen sometime, and everyone seems to think Frances McDormand is a lock.

Best Director: Again, would love to see Greta Gerwig win because she’s so humble and delightful and she made a terrific movie, but it’ll probably be a dude. Christopher Nolan or Guillermo Del Toro will likely win.

Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, who I worship and adore, seems to be a consensus lock for her portrayal of Tonya Harding’s Mom in “I, Tonya.” I have no problem with that. But I bet Mary J. Blige would give one hell of an acceptance speech if she somehow won.

Best Supporting Actor:  I have no idea or feel on this one. Sam Rockwell was apparently great in his “Three Billboards over Ebbing, Missouri,” but Willem Dafoe has gotten lots of buzz for “The Florida Project” and Richard Jenkins is always sensational. I’ll go with Dafoe.


**Next up today, I’ve written many times about the awesomeness of NPR’s “Only a Game” podcast, but it’s been a while since a story hit me as strongly as one that aired last week (it’s linked above). It’s a story I’d never heard and it knocked my socks off.

When you say “Germany” and “Hitler” and “1936 Olympics,” most people automatically think about Jesse Owens and his winning four gold medals, metaphorically spitting at Hitler’s “master race” beliefs.

But I sure as heck didn’t know that the 1936 Winter Olympics were also held in Germany, and that an American hockey player named Francis Baker stood up to Adolf Hitler, right to his face.

Baker was a goalie from upstate New York, and had studied German at Hamilton College.

A last-minute addition to the Olympic team, Baker was never shy about speaking his mind. At the Opening Ceremonies, Hitler expected every other nation to raise their arms to salute him. But the U.S. contingent did not do that; they had their hands at their sides.

Hitler was furious,  and apparently Der Fuhrer came around to speak to the American team in their locker room, a day before Team USA was to play Germany.

Hitler berated the American team, and declared Germany would certainly beat the U.S.

Well, little Francis Baker, all 5-foot-7 of him, spoke German and decided to retort.

” ‘We will not only beat Germany in hockey tomorrow,’ ” Baker told Hitler, according to Fischler. ” ‘In addition, Die Vereinigten Staaten werden Deutschland immer besiegen: The United States will always defeat Germany.’ And Hitler was infuriated and conducted an orderly retreat.”

Amazing story. Listen to it at this link and learn about the life of an Olympic hero who so few remember, but who certainly deserves to be remembered.

**Finally today, please read this moving eulogy written by Max Schachter, whose son Alex was murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School two weeks ago.

It has beautiful stories in it, about Alex’s joy of being in marching band, the new friends he’d made this year, and the tragedy he and Alex suffered when his mom passed away when Alex was 4.

The last paragraph just hit me hard:

“Two weeks ago, Alex was assigned a poem for a literary fair. He decided to write about roller coasters because Alex loved roller coasters. He wasn’t writing about his life and had no idea that his poem would become his future.

Our elected lawmakers are a big part of the bar of our life’s roller coaster. Don’t just start anew and repeat the failures of Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Act now and hear the cries of our community. No child and no family should ever have to experience this because of someone else’s failure to protect us.”