Jimmy Fallon and Miley Cyrus sing in disguise at a NYC subway stop. Aaron Judge is making me watch baseball highlights again. And the man who wants to take down Paul Ryan has a fantastic opening commercial

So there’s a little bit of depression among my die-hard Democratic political friends today, because after spending an insane amount of money trying to win a mostly-unwinnable race in a special election for a Georgia Congressional seat, the Democratic candidate lost. Jon Ossoff is barely 30 years old, and was running in a very wealthy, very white district in a very red state. And he lost by five points in a district Republicans have owned for 25 years.

Still, many of my political peeps are depressed. They see every small GOP win as a validation of the moron-in-chief, and despair that it doesn’t matter at all what he does or says, people are still with him (he’s got a 36 percent approval rating, so it’s not like A LOT of people are with him).

But I’m a realist: No election that happens in 2017 is as important as what will happen in 2018. So if you’re a bummed Democrat this morning, let me give you a reason to get excited. There’s a man in Wisconsin named Randy Bryce, and he’s trying to unseat one of the biggest phonies in American political history, Mr. Paul Ryan.

Bryce, a proud union ironworker, has just come out with an absolutely gobsmackingly-good ad introducing himself to voters. Seriously, watch this and tell me you’re not ready to vote for this guy. THIS is the kind of candidate Democrats need all over the country, to appeal to voters who by 2018 will loathe Trump in record numbers.

Randy Bryce, take it away…

**Next up today, I love it when Jimmy Fallon does this, because I see so many subway singers here in New York City who are great, and never get attention paid to them.

Fallon and Miley Cyrus decided to perform in disguise at the Rockefeller Center subway station in Manhattan recently, to see if anyone would stop and listen. Quite a few did. Very cool, and proof that for all her stupid antics and stunts, Cyrus can really perform and sing.

**Finally today, I’ve said many times here that I barely watch baseball anymore, but there’s a rookie for the New York Yankees who suddenly is making me check baseball highlights in the morning, a guy who is humble, gracious and incredibly skilled at hitting a baseball far, far away from home plate.

Aaron Judge is having a seriously amazing year. He is 6-foot-8, he hits baseballs to the moon, and he seems to be having so much fun doing it. The Yankees were supposed to stink this year, but instead they’re in first place.

Check out this 500-foot blast he hit two weeks ago; I’ve never seen a ball hit that far in new Yankee Stadium.

The kid plays the game with verve and joy, and is so much fun to watch. It’s great to see, and it’s become a part of my daily routine to see what “the Judge” did the night before.

Very cool story developing, as right now Judge is still in the embryonic stage of fame, and he approaches the game and that fame with innocence.

Bret Stephens column:

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/opinion/only-mass-deportation-can-save-america.html?mi_u=68234351&referer=ddd

 

Thinking about fathers and sons and affection on Father’s Day. Lonzo Ball’s hilarious Foot Locker ad pokes fun at himself. And an awesome newspaper lede I wished I’d written

Sunday was Father’s Day here in America, and for the third year in a row I got to experience the wonderful feelings of love from my son, who while at 2 1/2 years old is still not old enough to buy me a present or write me out a card by himself, gives me so much joy every day.

(Sunday, while riding in the car to pick up a few things before going to my Dad and stepmom’s house for the day, we called my stepfather to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. Two or three minutes after I hung up, out of the blue, a little voice from the backseat said, “Daddy?”

“Yes, Nate?”

“Happy Father’s Day to you, too.”

I about melted.

I sometimes find myself thinking about fathers and sons, partially because I’m now both of those people, partially because “Field of Dreams” is my favorite all-time movie (and the movie contains the best father-son moment ever captured on film), and partially because it’s a fascinating topic. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful, loving father who shows constant affection and has always been there for me, but I know millions of others never had that.

At the risk of sounding like a preachy right-wing Republican (I’m rarely in danger of sounding like that), every statistic and study shows that kids with good fathers who show them love and interest fare so much better, academically, socially and in any other way than those that don’t.

Of course there are exceptions, people like LeBron James who grew up without the presence of a biological dad yet still achieve incredible heights. But having a dad there seems to make all the difference in so many cases.

It’s funny, my father and I are always hugging and kissing and telling each other we love you, but I’ve met so many people over the years who barely speak to their parents, and haven’t said “I love you” to them in years.

I’m very lucky that hasn’t been the case for me. Read this great essay I saw Sunday by Andrew Potter, who unabashedly discusses showing huge amounts of affection for his little boy, and realize that all that talk about “macho guys don’t share feelings” is so much nonsense.

Hope you all had a wonderful Father’s Day. I got to spend it with my son and my father, and there’s nothing in the world better than that.

**So since we’re all about Father’s Day on today’s blog post, I thought it would be a good day to run this new Foot Locker commercial that cracked me up. If you’re a basketball or sports fan the last few months you’ve probably heard of LaVar Ball, maybe the loudest, most obnoxious, completely clueless sports parent of all time.
LaVar is pops to three budding basketball superstars, the oldest of whom, Lonzo, finished a fabulous freshman year at UCLA, promptly turned pro, and now will be one of the Top 5 picks of this week’s NBA Draft.

LaVar brings overbearing to a new level, has made so many outlandish statements about Lonzo’s ability that to reprint them here would take hours (a sample: “Lonzo is better than Steph Curry right now”).

But thankfully, it seems like Lonzo is a good kid, with a good sense of humor. So he was willing to spoof his Dad’s ways in this commercial. Very well-done.

**Finally today, as a writer you encounter so many stories with ledes you wish you’d written (yes, that’s how we journalism nerds spell “lead,” because that’s just how we spell it in journalism), and the other day I saw this beauty Tweeted out by Wall Street Journal writer Jason Gay. It’s from the Bangor (Me.) Daily News writer Alex Acquisto, and it’s glorious.

“HOPE, Maine — While jogging on a familiar, overgrown, wooded trail near her home on a recent warm afternoon, Rachel Borch thought to herself, “what a beautiful day.”

Little did she know she was about to be attacked by a rabid raccoon she would end up killing with her bare hands.”

I mean, come on, there’s no way you’re NOT reading the rest of that story, right?  There’s video, too (no, not of her killing the raccoon, though that’d be awesome.)

 

Good News Friday: A choir of homeless people plays Carnegie Hall. A toddler helps his baby brother out of a crib, ingeniously. And a Dad interviews his daughters on first day of school, every day for 12 years.

And a Happy Friday to you, my fellow Earthlings. So much bad news in the world this week, but thankfully there was also plenty of good news to choose from, not the least of which is that ABC is bringing “Battle of the Network Stars” back! The greatest 1970s cheesy TV show ever is returning in two weeks, but very sadly, it will not pit stars of “NCIS” against “Blackish” but rather ridiculously, will have actual 1970s and ’80s TV stars competing against each other. I’m sorry, but I enjoyed seeing Erik Estrada and Charlene Tilton competing in the tug-of-war when they were actually young and fit, not when they’re now getting AARP cards.

Anyway, I’m still excited for it. But we begin today with a beautiful story out of Dallas. Meet the Dallas Street Choir, a music group like few others. It’s members are homeless, but certainly not voiceless. They were founded several years ago by a Texas conductor named Jonathan Palant, after he volunteered at a homeless shelter. The members aren’t always on key, but their message is always positive, and hopeful.

We may be homeless, but we’re not voiceless,” choir member Michael Brown said at a rehearsal Tuesday, “so let’s use our effort to remind people that we still have hope and it will never die.”

The Dallas Street Choir had its biggest stage yet this week; on Wednesday night they performed at Carnegie Hall here in New York. They were joined by other homeless people from the Big Apple, as well as a few world-class musicians. The legendary venue sold out, and Thursday night the choir performed at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Watch this video of choir members explaining their motivations and how much being in the choir has changed them. Just so inspiring.

**Next up today, this cracked me up to no end. Oliver, a creative toddler, wants his baby brother Finn to play with him. Finn is stuck in his crib and can’t climb out to play. So Oliver comes over and within a few seconds, figures out a way to help.

Then Oliver directs Finn on how to “escape.” Man, brothers can get into a lot of trouble together…

**And finally today, if you’re a parent, get the tissues ready now. Trust me.

A Seattle man named Kevin Scruggs has two teenage daughters, and about 12 years ago he had an idea: He interviewed his daughters on the first day of school, every year, and filmed their thoughts. Then, with oldest daughter MacKenzie graduating high school this year, he spliced the video together, and gives us three minutes of tearduct-activating beauty.

Look, my little guy is only starting pre-school this September and this video had my wife and I crying. What a fabulous idea Scruggs had; can’t wait to see the one for his other daughter in a few years.

 

Finding my 11th-grade essay brings back memories. The Popemobile becomes a bachelor party prop. And the robot that acts as a priest? Sounds great!

A personal post to start off today, if you’ll indulge me…

One of the hidden benefits no one tells you about when your parents get divorced when you’re still a kid is that your childhood artifacts and mementos are rarely, if ever, gone.

Fact is, with all of your stuff divided into two dwellings for the rest of your parents’ life, chances are one or the other will give you a call periodically over the next 25 years (as mine have) and tell you something like “Hey, I was going through the attic and found a bunch of your old projects from school, and your 4th grade report card, and a whole lot of other crap. Want it?”

To which I always say “Of course.”

So it was that I got a call like that from my dad last week, and when I saw him a few days later I was enthralled and thrilled to find that yes, I’d passed 4th grade (“Michael is a pleasant person who always tries his best!” Mr. Zimmerman wrote), that I was a runner-up in the 1989 Town of Smithtown tennis tournament (that’s me in all my giant-glasses, huge-Afro glory on the left up there, and yes, I, too wonder looking at that pic how I wasn’t swarmed by girls wanted to date me), and that apparently for a spell in 3rd grade I had much better handwriting than I do now.

But what really struck me as interesting was finding a five-page printout called “My Autobiography,” which from the proceeding details I can tell was written when I was a junior in high school. I’m guessing it was some class exercise designed to get us used to writing college application essays, and in re-reading it I was transported back in time to the spring of 1992. It’s rare that as an adult we get to read a piece of self-analysis from decades ago, so I dove right in.

Full disclosure: I wasn’t the happiest of kids in high school, wasn’t popular, looked gawky and geeky, and so I nodded and winced when I read my opening statement that, despite adults “always telling me that these are the best years of my life, … I just don’t think this is as good as life gets.”

I went for a little bit about my “accomplishments” so far, some nice self-puffery about my modest junior tennis career, my grades (I was a B student) and my other activities. I was glad that my memory is correct in that by then I knew I wanted to be a sportscaster or sportswriter (I wanted to be the next Marv Albert, but alas, it never happened.)

But what really struck me all these years later was what I wrote about my parents’ divorce, which had occurred just two years prior.

“Life has a way of changing you before you’re ready and forcing you to grow up sooner than you want to,” I wrote, “and that’s what this did… “I’m a firm believer in that everything happens for a reason… I believe that the reason for my parents’ divorce was to show me that life isn’t always fantasyland and sugar-coated, and that yes, this could happen to me. As unbelievable as this might seem, I actually believe the divorce benefited me a little, because it showed me what the real world was all about.”

I winced reading that, because I don’t remember thinking that or writing that at all back then. I’m surprised that just two years after it happened, I had moved from denial about my parents splitting up into “this is going to help me in life.” In my memory, I didn’t get anywhere close to “this divorce is a good thing” until well into college. I’m surprised at my cynicism here; my parents had a terrific relationship post-divorce, and still do, and yet here I am at age 16 talking about how this forced me to grow up sooner, and how that’s a good thing.

It really is interesting how in life our memories so often clash with reality. My 11th-grade self sounds a lot healthier, psychologically, than I remember.

**Next up today, this struck me as incredibly cool. With dude-bros everybody looking for a cool or different kind of bachelor party, I think we’ve finally found one that blows away the “Vegas trip” or “strip club” genre. Check this out: The Dublin Wax Museum in Ireland now owns and rents out an old Popemobile made for John Paul II  in 1979. The Museum “pimped” it out by giving it 15 seats, including a papal throne you can sit on (or throw up on, if you’ve already had a few too many pints of Guinness. There’s also a rooftop viewing balcony (“Dudes, check out the view from up here!)

For the low low price of $388, you and your buddies can cruise Dublin and violate every rule the church holds dear.

What a world we live in!

**And finally today, it’s been FAR too long since I’ve written about one of my favorite blog topics: Robots taking over the world. But thanks to the brilliant minds in Germany, robot world domination is one step closer. Please meet the “BlessU-2,” a robot designed to offer blessings, and forgive your sins, with a touchscreen, glowing hands and it speaks five different languages!

Can’t you just see in the future, instead of going to confession 10-year-old altar boys who stole wine just have to punch in a few buttons on a robot and, poof!, salvation?

Sounds good to me. Course, I’m Jewish, so …

With so much oxygen sucked up over Trump, let’s not forget the health care debacle GOP is trying to pull. The most incredible in-game promotion race you’ll ever see at the ballpark. And Nadal and Ostapenko amaze at Roland Garros

The drumbeat is unceasing, hour after hour, day after day. There is so much coverage, in print, on the Internet, on the radio and TV, of the latest stupid thing President Donald Trump has said, or done, or threatened to do, that it overwhelms you.

You spend so much time trying not to laugh when one of his own sons contradicts what the President has said about to James Comey, or when you read that this egomaniac lunatic in the Oval Office actually demanded GOP House members go on TV to defend him after the Comey testimony, or that someone who blasted Obama for always playing golf has spent every weekend of his Presidency on the links.

My point is, the Orange Cheeto-man sucks up so much oxygen, it’s so easy to get lost in his drama, and forget the real, sinister things going on in the Senate right now. Especially when it comes to health care.

As you read this, Mitch McConnell and his merry band are planning to ram through new health care legislation that will cost millions their health insurance, and give huge breaks to corporations. This bill is being crafted in secret, by a handful of men, without any hearings, discussions, budget analysis, or amendments. It is the complete opposite, in every way, of the ObamaCare process, which took more than a year to complete, and was packed with GOP-favored amendments. (Go ahead and disagree, GOP, with this plea from Sen. Claire McCaskill.)

But you’re not hearing nearly as much as you should about this horrendous miscarriage of justice, but everything is Trump, Trump, Trump. It is one of many, many unfortunate results of the 2016 election, that so much nefariousness is going on in the Oval that lots of other deleterious changes are happening while few are paying full attention.

Here’s an ad the Democratic Senate Committee has put out, that ought to shock people into action:

It is a disgrace that a health care bill that will affect so many millions, is only discussed in secret.

For shame.

**And now, maybe the funniest in-game baseball promotion ever. So the Atlanta Braves are terrible once again this season, in their first year in a new stadium, but they’ve got one awesome contest. They’ve come up with this gimmick called “Beat the Freeze,” and it goes like this: “The Freeze” is a former college sprinter from Iowa Wesleyan College, and every game he races a fan. The fan gets a huge head start, then “The Freeze”tries to catch him.

This is what happened Friday night, and it’s one of the greatest athletic feats you’ll ever see. The expression on the fan’s face when he realizes “The Freeze” has caught up to him is freaking priceless. So, so great. Hope it gives you a Monday laugh.

**And finally, the French Open concluded over the weekend with one wholly expected result, and one shocker.

The expected was, of course, the incomparable Rafael Nadal, utterly destroying the competition on his way to a Grand Slam. There’s a lot of numbers I could throw at you about how dominant Rafa was in winning his record 10th (10!) French Open titles, but try this one on for size: In the semifinals Nadal played the No. 6 player in the world and the No. 3 player in the world. In six sets, he lost a total of 13 games. That. Is. Insane. Even for Nadal, who has been winning on clay forever.

As the great Jon Wertheim pointed out, imagine at the start of 2017 someone told you Federer and Nadal would win the first 2 Slams, most of the major events in between, and be the two best players of the year so far. You’d have probably told them to lay off the drugs. But here we are, going into what should be an awesome Wimbledon in a few weeks.

The big shock at Roland Garros was Jelena Ostapenko, a 20-year-old Latvian who was still a teenager when the tournament started. She was ranked 47th in the world coming in, but slugged and shrieked her way to the title. An amazing accomplishment, because you almost never seen players this young win majors anymore (the sport has become too physical for younger players to win seven matches over two weeks).

 

Good News Friday: Elderly Chicago man donates $2 in stock to a great cause. A good Samaritan helps man with seizure. And Usher helps inspire at a camp for kids with diabetes

And a Happy Friday to you all. As I sit here contemplating how much fun it must be to write headlines for the New York Daily News these days (check out today’s front page, very subtle) and wondering what in the hell happened to the Nashville Predators last night (really guys? That’s how you come out in a Game 5 of the freaking Stanley Cup Finals?), I give you a few stories to give you a smile heading into a weekend that finally feels like summer.

First up, I thought this was a very unusual and cool story (hat tip to loyal reader Sanford for sending it my way).

A man in Chicago named Richard Gremel bought $10,000 worth of stock in a local drugstore called Walgreen’s 70 years ago, thinking people would always need medicine and groceries.

That stock’s value grew and grew over the years as Walgreen’s became a national chain, and now it’s worth $2 million. Gremel never married and never had kids, so the 98-year-old decided to donate the stock to a wonderful cause: The Illinois Audubon Society, which has dedicated a 395-acre wildlife sanctuary in Gremel’s name. (That’s part of the land that was purchased with his donation, above).

“He’s an American Hero, he’s my hero and a hero to so many others,” said Tom Clay, former executive director of the Illinois Audubon Society. “He has a twinkle in his eye, and doesn’t miss a thing when talking to him.”

What a very cool man. And at 98, he still seems pretty sharp.

https://apnews.com/ba1e87f61d0546dcbc11d56ac6892a1d? utm_campaign=SocialFlow&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=APCentralRegion

**Next up today, check out this amazing video of a Good Samaritan getting out of his car to help a fellow motorist who was having a seizure in Dixon, Ill.  Randy Tompkins (the good guy) was driving along and saw a car moving out of control. He got out of his vehicle and tried to stop the car since the man having the seizure was unable to. Read the details on Facebook; pretty amazing situation.

**Finally today, I know very little about the hip-hop singer Usher and his music, but my friend Kathy pointed me to this and it sounds like he’s a pretty good dude. Seems Usher was asked to appear at the Ariana Grande benefit concert in Manchester last week, site of last month’s deadly bombing, but he couldn’t attend and perform. He instead had a more important place to be: His son’s first day at a special summer camp for children with diabetes.

“So happy to see that last night’s concert in Manchester proved that love always prevails,” he captioned a photo of the stage. “I would have loved to be there but it was my son’s first day at Camp Kudzu, one of the few summer camps for kids living with diabetes. This was an important day for him and for myself as a proud father.”

Camp Kudzu sounds like a terrific place; it has to absolutely suck to have diabetes as a kid, with all the attendant needles and annoyances. Good for Usher putting fatherhood first.

 

The fugitive who just loved karaoke a little too much. Jerry Seinfeld refuses to hug Ke$ha and it’s hilarious. And a fantastic story about the actors who played the kids in “The Wire.”

Continue reading

“Oslo” a sensational Broadway play about the 1993 Middle East peace deal. John McEnroe sounds off on Margaret Court and homophobia. And a British man’s perfect response to the latest London terror

It seems hard to imagine, a quarter century later, but in 1993 there really seemed to be a chance for lasting peace in the Middle East between Israelis and Palistinians.

Actual, fruitful negotiations took place over the course of many months, secretly brokered by the country of Norway, that produced an actual, binding peace document signed by Israeli prime minister. The result was an incredible photo and an incredible moment in the fall of 1993, when Yassir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin met at the White House and shook hands. I remember feeling incredibly hopeful watching that, as I’m sure millions of others felt the same way.

Of course, the peace didn’t last, but there’s been a fantastic play made about the Oslo accords now kicking butt on Broadway. The wife and I saw “Oslo” Saturday night, and while I know most of you don’t live in NYC and probably won’t see it, it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re ever here, or if it comes to your city.

The play focuses on a Norwegian couple who you’d think would be the last people to make peace in the Middle East, small-time diplomats named Terje Rod-Larsen and his wife, Mona Juul. The two of them, through charm and diplomatic skill, manage to originally get very low-level representatives from Israel, and the PLO finance minister, to just come to Norway to talk, to see what can be done.

The play takes us from that point all the way through a final, intense phone call between Arafat and Israeli foreign minister (and 20th century legend) Shimon Peres, hammering out the final details of an agreement that sadly held for not even a year.

“Oslo” is filled with incredible acting performances, especially by Anthony Azizi as the lead Palestinian negotiator, and the flamboyant Israeli negotiator Uri Savir (Michael Aronov). There’s a ton of dense material to keep track of, but the Norwegians keep the play moving by talking directly to the audience sometimes, and the play is a hell of a lot funnier than I would’ve expected (plenty of jokes are made at the expense of the USA, which everyone on stage blames for a lot of things).

The play is careful not to take sides here, presenting what I thought were equally-weighted arguments from both groups (although in our audience Saturday night several older folks groaned and gasps at some of the dialogue from the Palestinian side; hey, it’s New York City, where most of the world’s old Jews live, I can’t be surprised!)

Even though you know how it turned out, it’s incredibly tense to watch these huge discussions and feel like you’re in the room with them. And the final scenes, even though I know it’s only a play, gave me hope that maybe, maybe one day, the violence and bloodshed will stop.

“Oslo” is up for a whole bunch of Tony Awards; I hope it wins them all. Definitely worth seeing.

**Next up today, I have repeatedly expressed disgust to my tennis fan friends, and in this space, about how bad a broadcaster John McEnroe is. He’s totally unprepared to call matches (seriously he only watches tennis during the Slams), he never, ever shuts up during play, and has an ego the size of the Grand Canyon.

But hey, even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes, and Johnny Mac deserves huge praise for the above video. Last week Australian tennis legend Margaret Court, who won 24 Grand Slam singles titles, continued her decades-long homophobic remarks, declaring that the women’s tennis tour is “full of lesbians,” that same-sex marriage is horrible, that women’s pros lure young players into a lesbian lifestyle.

It’s all absolute crap, and she’s a doddy old woman who’s only being listened to because she’s a tennis legend. I’m proud as a tennis fan to say that just about every top pro has denounced her, but none went as far as McEnroe in the above video for the BBC.

The whole three minutes is blistering and fantastic (warning, NSFW. A few curse words are heard.)

 

**Finally today, another brutal weekend for terror, as London was once again attacked, with murderers striking with trucks and knives and attempting once again to keep the whole free world on edge. It’s incredibly depressing to think about how frequently these attacks are now happening, and I’m not going to harp on the fact that the President of the United States, in one of his many, many moronic Tweets, made fun of the new mayor of London a few hours after this happened.

No, I want to focus on something positive, like the response of London citizens. They kept living their lives this weekend, with one restaurant patron returning to the site of his meal just yards from the attack Friday to pay his bill.

And this response, from a Londoner named Richard Angell, brought me great hope. His words are pitch-perfect here, and express the tone so many New Yorkers like myself felt after 9/11.

Good on you, Richard Angell. All of us freedom-loving people around the world are with you.

 

 

Good News Friday: A Seattle man raises huge $$$ to end “lunch-shaming.” A NYC subway car stages a mock graduation for a graduate who didn’t make it. And the story of Ben Ferencz, an amazing 97-year-old Nuremberg prosecutor

And a Happy Friday to you all. Thursday was one hell of a day; we had our worst President ever basically decide climate change and the future of our planet isn’t important; saving a few thousand coal mining jobs temporarily is (God, he’s just such an ass-wipe).

We had a fantastic mano-a-mano duel in the National Spelling Bee between a 6th-grade girl named Ananya Vinay and an 8th-grade boy named Rohan Rajeev, that went on and on, neither one blinking, until finally Ananya won it and STILL didn’t crack a smile for like 30 seconds. And we had Game 1 of the NBA Finals dream matchup No.3, Golden State vs. Cleveland, which turned into a Warriors rout (no guilt about missing most of that one to watch the Bee.)

Anyway, after an eventful week with lots of tragedy (the Portland heroes getting killed has gotten way too little play; please read this beautiful Nick Kristof column if you get a chance), I really could use some Good News. Hopefully you could too.

First up today, you might remember a few weeks back I ranted about the disgusting practice of “lunch-shaming” in school districts across America, where students whose parents weren’t up to date with lunch money dues were horribly embarrassed in cafeterias, with school employees throwing their lunch away or performing other awful acts to the kids.

Well, thanks to so much attention recently getting paid to this issue, a Seattle man named Jeffery Lew did something extraordinary: He started a fund-raising campaign that paid off the entire lunch debt of the Seattle school district, around $20,000. There’s already $44,000 in the fund, and the district said in a statement that any leftover money would be used to pay off future debt.

Just from hearing that news coverage it kind of broke my heart as a father,” Lew told ABC News. “I can’t imagine having one of my children coming home from school saying, ‘Hey, I was denied lunch because I owed money.’

After the success of the Seattle campaign, Lew started fundraising efforts to erase the Tacoma and Renton school districts lunch debt as well (Tacoma had a $20,000 debt and $21,000 had been raised as of midnight Thursday; Renton’s debt was $18,000 and $10,000 had been raised so far.

Great job, Jeffery Lew. As a father myself I could not imagine the humiliation these children must feel over being “lunch-shamed.” Glad to hear, at least in your part of the world, no child will have to feel that again for a while.

**Next up today, this was a very cool New York City moment. For those of you who don’t live here, we’re in the middle of a very bad stretch of subway and train delays here, lots of problems even on short trips.

Jerich Alcantara, a nursing student at Hunter College, left two hours early for his graduation ceremony this week, knowing he’d be taking the E train to his school.

But thanks to a malfunction that caused the emergency breaks to deploy, Alcantra and his fellow strap-hangers were stuck on the train for hours, and Alcantra missed his ceremony.

Undeterred, though, he and the folks in his car staged a mock ceremony for Alcantra, including a diploma on the Internet, and the Green Day song “Time of Your Life” as musical accompaniment.

I think it ended up so much better than if I was on time,” Alcantara said. “I would have probably fell asleep if I was at commencement.”

The raw video can be seen here; very cool moment.

**And finally, a few years ago I was blown away and inspired by a man “60 Minutes” had profiled named Louie Zamperini, and recently I got the same warm and amazing feeling watching this story about Ben Ferencz. Who? Ferencz is 97 years old and is the last surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials, the famous post-World War II international court event that prosecuted Nazi war criminals.

Ferencz is still amazingly sharp and fit for 97, and he has such an optimistic attitude that I couldn’t help but be inspired by him. I embedded a clip of the show above, but a much clearer version can be found here.

What a tremendous individual.

Remembering a legend of journalism, Frank Deford. A powerful ad reminds Middle East that love, not violence, is the answer. And Dads treat daughters nicer than sons.

It’s not every week that one of your heroes died, one of the men who made you want to dedicate your life to moving people with the written word, and bringing them to anger or great joy just from a few beautifully-crafted paragraphs.

Frank Deford passed away Sunday night at the age of 78, and I only wish I had half the talent of this incredibly gifted writer to tell you about him in as sparkling prose as he wrote.

Deford, if you’re not familiar with him, was a legendary sportswriter, broadcaster and NPR commentator over the past five decades. He penned some of the best articles in Sports Illustrated history, including this classic on Jimmy Connors, and this one on Bobby Knight.

He wrote many best-selling books, including an excruciating one called “Alex, The Life of a Child,” about his 8-year-old daughter Alexandra who died of cystic fibrosis. Deford was a 20-year contributor to HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” program, changing the lives of so many with his heartfelt stories (including one that introduced me to the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, a story that would change my life).

And Deford, for 37 years, gave weekly commentaries on NPR that were eloquent, funny, and always made you think. So many people I’ve met over the years, non-sports fans, knew him only as “that gravel-voiced guy from NPR.”

And oh yeah, in 1990 Deford started the greatest newspaper that ever was, the all-sports “The National,” a wonderful idea that sadly only lasted 18 months but was loved by 15-year-old me, and many others.

For me, Deford was always an idol since I discovered him in SI. His beautiful prose, his ability to truly get inside a subject’s head, was remarkable. Here’s just one example of his great writing, from his famous 1999 piece on Celtics legend Bill Russell.

It was 30 years ago, and the car containing the old retired basketball player and the young sportswriter stopped at a traffic light on the way to the airport in Los Angeles. (Of course, in the nature of things, old players aren’t that much older than young writers.) The old player said, “I’m sorry, I’d like to be your friend.”

The young writer said, “But I thought we were friends.”

“No, I’d like to be your friend, and we can be friendly, but friendship takes a lot of effort if it’s going to work, and we’re going off in different directions in our lives, so, no, we really can’t be friends.”

And that was as close as I ever got to being on Bill Russell’s team.

I mean… that’s just freaking perfect. I could never get close to that but I sure as heck tried.
And here’s the thing: Deford was as great a human being as he was a writer. Kind to everyone, famous or not, gracious and humble and always elegant, there isn’t anyone out there with a negative story about him and how he treated them. But there are thousands of kind remembrances of when Deford wrote back to a college kid who was an aspiring writer, or helped so many families whose lives were devastated by CF like his was.

He was one of a kind, and I miss him already. To paraphrase another legendary writer, Jimmy Cannon talking about boxer Joe Louis: Frank Deford was a credit to his race … the human race.

I urge you to read these two tributes to Frank: First, from Charlie Pierce, on Deford’s humanity in the face of Alex’s death, and second from Joe Posnanski, on why Deford inspired him and so many others.

We lost a great one.

**Next up today, I thought this was a very different and interesting advertisement. It’s a three-minute commercial created by global marketing company Zain to air during Ramadan in the Middle East.

The ad, which has been viewed over 3.5 million times since it was released five days ago, features people of many nationalities trying to convince a suicide bomber not to carry out an attack, with many different kinds of appeals offered.

And the last 30 seconds, such a hopeful message. This was really, really interesting. I would love to see it get some attention here in America, where sadly too many people think all Muslims are terrorists…

**Finally today, I thought this was interesting: A new study by researchers out of Atlanta found that fathers’ brains respond to daughters differently than they do to sons.

The research took a look at whether the different ways fathers treat sons or daughters may be influenced by different brain responses to male or female children. Emory University and University of Arizona researchers took their study out of the laboratory and used a sample with real-life situations, the APA said.

“If the child cries out or asks for Dad, fathers of daughters responded to that more than did fathers of sons,” said lead researcher Jennifer Mascaro of Emory University.

I can’t compare totally because I’m only a father of a son so far, but I can definitely see these results being true. I struggle almost daily with how much to let my son, after falling, get himself up and stop crying on his own, and how much to rush over and make him feel better and act like it was a huge deal that he scraped his knee.

I want my boy to grow up tough and not get upset over every little thing, but I also don’t want to callously let him think I don’t care when he falls. It’s a very fine line, and apparently I’m not the only Dad who feels that way.