Good News Friday: An incredible, free “Teacher Store” is a great idea. Teachers break out into song to welcome kids back. And the Buffalo Bills co-owner triumphs after adversity.

TeacherStore

And a Happy Friday to you all! The summer’s winding down, the U.S. Open is about to heat up (at least for me it is), and that means it’s (sadly) back to school time for kids across America. (I know it’s Good News Friday, but I have to pause for a moment to acknowledge the deaths of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, two journalists killed for absolutely no good reason on Wednesday. Please keep their families in your thoughts and prayers. And I wonder for the 4,323rd time, when any politician will have the cojones to take on the gun lobby.)

Two teacher-related Good News Friday stories for you this week. The first is a fairly remarkable idea called the Teacher Project. As you may or may not know, teachers spend hundreds of dollars of their own money each year buying supplies for their class, money that comes out of their own pocket, a pocket that’s lined with usually puny salaries from their job.

But an organization called Project Teacher does something fabulous: It has created a store in the Wichita, Kan. area where teachers can come in, choose what they need for their classroom, and leave without paying a nickel.

The program, created by Terry Johnson, whose wife is a teacher, relies on corporate donations, hand-me-downs, and local fundraisers

Teachers in the Wichita area can make an appointment to come in and get exactly what they need for their classrooms – no guesswork or one-size-fits-all donation lists – all courtesy of corporate donations, hand me downs, and local fundraisers.

School supplies, Terry says, are so individually tailored by school, grade, and teacher, that it makes the most sense to put resources directly in the hands of educators.

“Every little bit helps, but the teachers know exactly what the classroom needs,” he said.

This is a fabulous idea, one that many teachers I know would love to come to their town. Read more about the Project Teacher here.

**Next up, this was pretty entertaining. A West Des Moines school district employee meeting was “interrupted” by singing teachers the other day, performing a song called “One Day More” from Les Miz.

Really funny. But don’t quit your day jobs, OK?

KimPegula.Bills

**Finally today, I’ve had the Pegula family of Buffalo on my mind all week, for two reasons: One, I’ve watched promising American women’s tennis player Jessica Pegula win a couple of matches at the U.S. Open qualifying tournament (she plays today for a chance to reach next week’s main draw).

And a few days earlier I read this story about Jessica’s Mom, Kim Pegula, who happens to own the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres with her husband, Terry.

Kim Pegula’s story is inspiring; she was literally left on a street corner by her birth parents in South Korea as a toddler, then adopted by a New York family. How she has overcame that terrible beginning to make herself into a major force in rejuvenating Buffalo is in this great story by Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper.

Terrific feature on a smart woman. I’d love to root for her, but she owns the Bills, a rival of my Jets (also, I can’t wait till she gets as frustrated at Rex Ryan’s inept coaching as we did for five years.)

A 16-year-old and a 44-year-old played tennis against each other at the Open Tuesday, and I got to watch. Daniel LaRusso the true villain of “The Karate Kid?” And a reporter accidentally makes a 4-year-old cry

CiciBellis.Qualies.Date-Krumm

It’s that most wonderful time of year for me, late August, which means the U.S. Open is here, and the next three weeks will be nothing but bliss (Yeah there will be more tennis than usual in this space the next few weeks.)

I’m going as a fan and as a journalist this week to the qualifying tournament, the best bargain in sports (free). My guy Reilly Opelka, the 6-foot-10, 17-year-old phenom I’ve written about here before, is trying to qualify for the men’s draw, and in two weeks will be a favorite to win the boys junior event as well.

I cannot express in words how much I love the Open, for reasons just like this one: Tuesday I saw a 16-year-old play 2.5 hours of scintillating tennis against a 44-year-old.

Seriously. Cici Bellis (above) just turned 16, and Kimiko Date-Krumm is about to be 45. There are TWENTY-EIGHT years between them (or as a wag on Twitter pointed out, a whole Maria Sharapova between them).

I had fun thinking of the huge generational gap between them during the match: Date-Krumm was three years into her first career retirement when Bellis was born. Nixon was President when Date-Krumm was born; Bill Clinton when Cici hatched.

And on and on (Believe me, I bored the people sitting next to me with more trivia, you’re the lucky ones.) Anyway, it was the kind of match you only see in tennis, with an age gap like that (and I’m certain that’s a record for biggest gap between opponents).

Date-Krumm started out fast, winning the first set before, oh, 200 fans. Bellis, who made a big splash by winning a round at last year’s Open, dominated the second set. The third set was tight, there was a truly horrible call by the chair umpire at a crucial point at 4-all, and Bellis won.

It was great. And wonderful to see a player at the start of her career face a player at the end, and for a couple of hours, they were pretty much equal.

God I love tennis. God I love the U.S. Open.

**Next up today, this is bloody brillant and hilarious. A man named J. Matthew Turner has given us a fantastic “alternate reality” version of “The Karate Kid,” arguing in a compelling (and superbly funny) way that Johnny and the Cobra Kai aren’t the real villains of the movie, that it’s actually punk, sociopath Daniel who deserves our boos.

If you love this movie as much as I do, you’ll be side-splittingly laughing at least 3-4 times (especially the Halloween party scene analysis).

**Finally today, you know I love reporters, so I feel badly when they accidentally screw up. Then I laugh about it like everyone else.

This poor woman from KTLA in Los Angeles was interviewing Andrew, a 4-year-old, on his first day of pre-K classes. Andrew was doing great until the reporter, Courtney Friel, asked about missing his mom.

And then, the waterworks started.

Nice job, lady. Why don’t you tell Andrew the truth about Santa and the Easter Bunny while you’re at it.

No worries, Andrew’s Mom, a real hero, gave him a hug off-camera a few seconds later.

My first weekend at the Jersey Shore: Sun, fun and no Snooki to be found anywhere. And Usain Bolt, still the fastest, most amazing man

jerseyshore

Greetings from the land of “The Situation,” where we most certainly did not have a situation this weekend.

Yours truly is wrapping up a wonderful weekend getaway with the family to the Jersey Shore, a place I’ve never truly spent time as an adult (I’ve been to nearby Atlantic City plenty, but those were just for gambling and hotel stays.)

We’re heading back to the city Monday morning after a great family reunion; a patriarch on my wife’s side of the family had a 95th birthday celebration on Saturday, so dozens of cousins and friends gathered to salute him (Ninety-five is amazing to me. Do you realize Warren G. Harding was President when this man was born? I can’t fathom that.) My son got to meet a whole bunch of family members he’s never met, so that was a big thrill.

We had a great time in Chris Christie-ville, and am a little sad to leave. Some thoughts/ruminations from my brain on a weekend in Joisey…

— We spent a lot of time on the beach, of course, and our relative’s house was pretty close to an entrance onto a small strip of sand where we sunbathed Saturday and Sunday.
And one thing I learned is universal: I don’t care how rich or poor you are, what race or creed you are, whether you’re old or young, big or small: Everyone has to endure the 50-100 yards of schlepping beach stuff from the pavement to their favorite spot on the sand.
The look on the faces of all who did it was the same: “Why am I lugging all this crap to the beach? Do I really need all this crap? And are we almost there?

It was reassuring to see that some things in America are still equal for everyone.

— Atlantic City ain’t what it used to be. Or maybe I’m just too old to see its appeal. Probably both. When I was a kid, Atlantic City was an incredibly exciting idea: Driving a few hours meant you were glamorous, dazzlingly bright neighborhood filled with fancy casinos, sparkly showgirls and a boardwalk that teemed with taffy and all kinds of fun.

Now, thanks to so many other states legalizing gambling, and the economy tanking, there are only a handful of casinos left in Atlantic City, and the whole place just felt, when we went to play blackjack Sunday night, like a party everyone had left, only some people didn’t know the party was over yet.

— Did you know you can still smoke in all Atlantic City casinos? Seriously. In 2015. In a completely indoor venue with little air circulation.

We were in one Sunday night and it was like being transported back in time 30 years. Ridiculous.

— Final gambling note: When you push on 20 in blackjack, it really feels like a loss, doesn’t it?

— My kid loves the ocean. Who knew? We took the 11-month-old down to the water for his first-ever experience, expecting that the freezing cold H20 on his toes would make him miserable. Only, he squealed and squealed with delight for 10 good minutes, smiling and giggling as the tiny waves crashed into his little legs.

It’s amazing how you never know how he’ll react to something new. I smell a future surfer in the family.

— Hotel breakfasts have gotten so much better since I was a kid. We had a couple this weekend that were so beyond restaurant quality it was stunning. I remember as a little boy getting stuck with, like, stale English muffins and maybe a crummy croissant.

— Finally, this made me sad. The hotel we’re staying in had a sign at the front desk advertising free access to local newspaper’s websites when you check in. Instead of, you know, actual newspapers in the lobby.

Ah, print papers, oh how I’ll miss you when you’re gone.

**Finally today, just in case you’d forgotten how incredible Usain Bolt is, he was kind enough to show the world again on Sunday at the World Championships.

It’s exceedingly rare for a sprinter to last as long as Bolt has, and stay on top; he first won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games; here we are seven years later, and he’s still the fastest man alive.

This is a hell of a race from American Justin Gatlin, but he fell one-hundredth of a second short; in 9.79 Bolt held onto his crown.

Sensational stuff. So help us all if he’s ever found to have been doping all these years.

Good News Friday: LeBron makes an awesome promise to kids: free college. A beautiful story about a man released from prison, giving thanks. And one town’s novel approach to drug addicts is working

LeBron.collegefree

And a Happy Friday to you all; I’m headed down to the Jersey Shore for only, like, the second time in my life this weekend. If I run into any of those morons like “The Situation” or Snooki, you’ll hear about it in Monday’s blog post…

We start today with a LeBron James story, who once again has proved that he’s genuinely concerned about kids, and is genuinely a good dude.

LeBron announced this week that he will fully sponsor more than 1,000 scholarships for kids currently in his “I Promise” program, based in Akron.

He and the University of Akron are offering the chance of a college education to kids in the LeBron James Family Foundation, which helps kids from the 3rd to the 7th grade. He said if the students meet academic requirements, tuition is on him.

“As a kid growing up in the inner city and as an African American kid, you don’t really think past high school because it’s not possible or your family can’t support you,” LeBron said. “For us to be able to do something like this … it means so much.”

This is exactly what it means to give back. He’s basically giving away the equivalent of $40 million worth of tuition.

Bravo, LeBron. He truly “gets it.”

 **Next up, I love this program and think it’s a great model for America. In Gloucester, Mass., the police dept. tried a different approach to drug users. They decided two months ago to stop arresting drug users who approached officers seeking help.

Instead, the town announced it would refer the addicts to treatment, and the city would front the costs.

According to this article on Upworthy.com, the police chief,  Leonard Campanello, faced strong resistance.

“I had a lot of skepticism,” Chief Campanello said. “I didn’t know if we were going to get one person or a thousand people.

“But we had to try something different.”

After two months, the program has placed 116 people placed in treatment, with no arresets.

“We’ve had 116 people placed in treatment,” Campanello explained. “No criminal charges. All placed on the same day.”

The city bargained the cost of life-saving detox drugs from local pharmacies, and so far Campanello estimates the program has cost less than $5,000 so far.

“We’ve built partnerships with treatment centers, health plans, health providers, other law enforcement, and certain the public, which has overwhelmingly supported this approach,” he told Upworthy.

Brilliant. Imagine: Getting drug offenders treatment, and allowing them to be a part of society again once they get better, instead of just throwing them in jail.

There’s absolutely no reason this can’t work elsewhere; good on Gloucester for finally looking for altnerative solutions to the moronic War on Drugs so many are still fighting.

NYT.Norris

**Finally today, a beautiful story from Alan Schwarz in last Saturday’s New York Times really moved me. It’s about a man named Rudolph Norris, who after 22 years in prison on a drug offense, was granted clemency by President Obama in the spring.

Released in late July, the story talks about Norris’ transformation in prison, his incredible gratitude at being released, and most importantly, his overwhelming desire to give back to his community that he damaged with his drug dealing many decades ago.

I love this quote: “I’m trying to get gainfully employed in a hurry, so I can be able to provide and get my own place. I have the freedom to do what I want to do as long as I do it right.”

And this one: “I’ll take the lowest honest job out there — I just want to get started. “Society doesn’t owe me anything. I owe society for dealing drugs.”

There are SO many Rudolph Norris’ out there, wasting away in prison thanks to idiotic sentencing laws. I hope Obama uses his last 18 months in office to issue clemenc to thousands more. It would be about the best parting gift he could leave the country.

A visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum is a powerful experience. John Oliver hilariously starts own church. And my annual tribute to the late great Jim Murray

911Museum.Faces

In New York City, the reminders of 9/11 are never too far from your mind. The new Freedom Tower is hard to miss, and going into Lower Manhattan for any reason always makes me think of what happened there now almost 14 years ago.

Sunday, with my best friend in town from Georgia, we decided to visit the brand-new 9/11 Memorial Museum. I knew it would be painful, but I also knew it was another necessary step to remember that day.

The place is, in a word, powerful. And dazzling. And beautifully specific. And emotional (OK, it took me more than one word to describe it.) We spent about four hours there and saw almost everything, but easily could’ve spent more time.
There are artifacts of that awful day, of course; a piece of the wall of one of the towers that fell; a fire truck that was used by one of the ladder companies racing to rescue the thousands trapped inside the World Trade Center.

There was also an enormous room called a “historical exhibition” of 9/11/01, that takes you through the leadup/history of 9/11, a minute by minute account with witness audio and video, including some chilling voicemail recordings left by those who didn’t survive, and a thorough examination of the aftermath and the War on Terror that George W. Bush led us into.

What struck me the most, though, was the room full of faces. Nearly 3,000 people died that day, and the Museum was able to find pictures of just about all of them. You walk through the room and see the photos piled high, one on top of each other, and it just takes your breath away.

I could say lots more about the museum, about why it took so long to open, and about how all the memories of that day came flooding back just a few minutes into our visit.

But I’ll just say this: If you’re in New York, it’s an amazing place to see. And as an American, I think it’s a very, very important one.

**Next up, I haven’t blogged about John Oliver in a while, but his show continues to be the best thing on TV this summer. This clip, from Sunday’s show, is about the continued skullduggery of TV preachers, and how they basically steal money from people.

Watch Oliver’s “investigation” and marvel at how easy it is to set up your own church. The clip is long but hilarious all the way through (And just for fun, call the number at the end, we did and it was great.)

JimMurraytribute

**Finally today, I’m a few days late with this but I still feel it’s important. Every year on or about August 16, the anniversary of his death, I salute in this space the work of the legendary Jim Murray, the greatest sportswriter who ever lived. I still read his old columns sometime, for inspiration, or for a laugh, and the all-time best email I got as a result of writing Wide World of Stuff was from his widow thanking me for remembering him.

And so once again, on the 17th anniversary of his passing (is it possible it’s been that long?), a little bit of Murray greatness.

Here are my two favorite columns of his: First, a touching tribute to his first wife Gerry who had just died. Here’s an excerpt:

She never grew old and now, she never will. She wouldn’t have anyway. She had four children, this rogue husband, a loving family and this great wisdom and great heart, but I always saw her as this little girl running across a field with a swimming suit on her arm, on a summer day on the way to the gravel pit for an afternoon of swimming and laughing. Life just bubbled out of Gerry. We cry for ourselves. Wherever she is today, they can’t believe their good luck.

And second, Murray’s elegy for his left eye, which finally gave out on him in 1979, rendering him mostly blind. The last four paragraphs are just perfect, but here’s another excerpt:

I lost an old friend the other day. He was blue-eyed, impish, he cried a lot with me, saw a great many things with me. I don’t know why he left me. Boredom, perhaps.

We read a lot of books together, we did a lot of crossword puzzles together, we saw films together. He had a pretty exciting life. He saw Babe Ruth hit a home run when we were both 12 years old. He saw Willie Mays steal second base, he saw Maury Wills steal his 104th base. He saw Rocky Marciano get up. I thought he led a pretty good life.

 One night a long time ago he saw this pretty girl who laughed a lot, played the piano and he couldn’t look away from her. Later he looked on as I married this pretty lady.

He saw her through 34 years. He loved to see her laugh, he loved to see her happy …  He recorded the happy moments, the miracle of children, the beauty of a Pacific sunset, snowcapped mountains, faces on Christmas morning. He allowed me to hit fly balls to young sons in uniforms two sizes too large, to see a pretty daughter march in halftime parades. He allowed me to see most of the major sports events of our time. I suppose I should be grateful that he didn’t drift away when I was 12 or 15 or 29 but stuck around over 50 years until we had a vault of memories. 

God, I miss that guy.

So this is me turning 40? I’m very happy with that. And the worst pro tennis shot you’ll see all year

MichaelandNate

On August 17, 2005, I turned 30. I wrote a fun little column that day for the newspaper I was working for at the time about the milestone.

I complained about my hairline (that hasn’t changed), I excitedly mentioned I was about to get married (yeah, that one didn’t work out too well, but I got it right the second time), and I talked about being slightly depressed at the big 3-0.
This is the last paragraph of that column:

Besides, I thought to myself earlier, when I’m 40, I’ll be dying to go back to the days I was in my thirties.

Perspective is a beautiful thing.

I went and looked up that article Sunday night, just for fun, to remind myself what 30-year-old me used to think.

Turns out I was dead wrong. I turn 40 today, and I don’t want to go back to my early thirties at all.

I am living an incredibly charmed and blessed life these days. I have found the perfect soulmate, a woman who complements and compliments me, who truly loves and understands me and makes me incredibly happy.

I’ve got that little fella in the photo above; at 30, I couldn’t change a diaper, put together a sippy cup, or figure out how to avoid stepping on 17 baby toys all on the way from the bathroom to the kitchen.
I now know how to do those things. And my life is immeasurably better for it, and for helping bring that boy into the world 11 months ago.

michael40.peterluger.cropped

I have wonderful friends, some I’ve had for all four decades of my life, some newer ones who’ve become so cherished. I have an amazing family, most of whom helped me celebrate the big 4-0 over the weekend at Peter Luger’s steakhouse in Brooklyn (even my best friend Clay, a devout vegetarian, couldn’t resist the famous steak there.)

I do fulfilling work as a stay-at-home father, seeing every small change in my little guy and cherishing every moment we have together (OK, not every moment. The ones where he’s screaming and his lower lip is quivering and I have no Earthly idea what to try next? Those moments aren’t scrapbook material.)

I have plenty of freelance work to keep me busy, I enjoy my occasional substitute teaching gig, and since my last birthday I’ve found incredibly rewarding volunteer writing opportunities with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, filled with sensational people bursting with good hearts. I’ve learned more about courage this past year, talking to parents and kids dealing with brain tumors, than I ever learned covering pro athletes.

My life is as good as it’s ever been, and I’m not interested in going back to being 30, or even 20.

Thirty was better than 20, and 40 is better than 30.

Can’t wait to see what 50 will bring.

**Finally today, it’s late August, the U.S. Open is two weeks away (I can barely contain my excitement), so here’s a little bizarre tennis shot for you. Kei Nishikori is one of the top five players in the world, but even he once in a while hits a shot that your average weekend hacker could do better.

Seriously, this is pretty hideous at the :16 mark.

An Iowa barber gives free haircuts to kids who read to him. Key and Peele give teachers their props. And strangers paint a man’s house in a beautiful gesture

Iowabarber

And a Happy Friday to you all, I’m happy for lots of reasons today, and even the fact that my 40th birthday is mere days away (Monday) isn’t enough to get me down today (I’m sure I’ll be depressed about it on Sunday, so Monday’s post may be gloomy and self-pitying :)

First up today, this wonderful program from an Iowa barber and the school district in Dubuque: Children who read books to the barber receive a free haircut.
It’s part of a back-to-school community event, called the Back to School Bash, and barber Courtney Holmes helped dozens of children look their best, for free, while working on their reading skills.

Caitlin Daniels, grade-level reading coordinator with the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, also helped struggling readers in the barber chair.

“It’s great. All the kids, they want to have a good haircut to go back to school,” Daniels said. “They’re paying through reading.”

Very cool idea. It takes the pressure off reading for kids who struggle by making it an achievement situation, and making it fun, while looking their best for school.

And to think, all I heard in the barber’s chair as a kid were slightly dirty jokes told by the old guy my father took me to.

Great going, Dubuque. Hope more cities do this to promote reading.

**Next up today, this was on Key and Peele a few weeks ago but I just saw it the other day. It’s another “SportsCenter” parody, but this time showing what the world would be like if teachers were treated like athletes, and given the respect they so richly deserve.

Hilarious, but also a great idea for our society. (the “her father was just a humble pro football player living paycheck to paycheck” line killed me.)

strangershouse

**Finally today, random acts of kindess are the best acts of kindness. Check this out: A  75-year-old man living in Pendleton, Oregon named Leonard Bullock sits on his porch all day, minding his own business.

His house looks to be in disrepair, but he never bothered anyone or said a cross word.
Last month, neighbor Josh Cyganik was going to go talk to Bulloock when he overheard a couple of teenagers scream out “Look at this crappy house. They just need to burn it down!”

As Cyganik glanced over, he saw Bullock with his head down.

Most people would’ve just just moved on about their day. But Cyganik couldn’t do that. He called a friend of his who runs a lumber and paint store, and the friend agreed to help fix up the house.

Then Cyganik posted a call for help working on the house on Facebook, and got 6,000 shares.
With a little bit of faith, Cyganik knocked on Bullock’s door the next day and asked him if he would like his house repainted.
“He was just flabbergasted,” Cyganik said. “He was excited and he said he would love that!”

The following Saturday, Cyganik and his five coworkers headed over to work on Bullock’s house, unsure how many people would join them. At least 95 people showed up, and the results are above.

I’m so glad those stupid kids said what they did. Look at the goodwill it brought to an old man who now has a beautiful house to sit in.

There’s so much good in the world. Don’t let anyone ever tell you different.

 

The “Black Lives Matter” protest of Bernie Sanders was utterly ridiculous. The Jets suffer such a Jets-like injury. And Columbia House records, R.I.P.

OK, time for a rant.

Bernie Sanders is running for the Democratic nomination for President. He has had a long and distinguished career as an extremely liberal man, fighting injustice, arguing long and hard, in words and deeds, for civil rights for all, and by any metric you can possibly imagine, would be the President of the United States most devoted to making the lives of minorities in this country better. I am proud to support him.

#BlackLivesMatter is an organization founded two years ago. It is mostly populated by young, fired-up African-Americans who are fighting to change how minorities are treated in America, especially by law enforcement. I am in complete agreement with nearly all of the goals of #BlackLivesMatter.

And so is Bernie Sanders. Which is why I find what happened last week at a Sanders rally in Seattle so infuriating, and just plain idiotic. As you can see above, several #BlackLivesMatter protesters stormed the stage as Sanders was about to address thousands at a rally. They screamed, they ignored reasonable requests, and basically made a complete ass of themselves, railing against a candidate who would do more for their cause than anybody.

I mean really, Black Lives Matter folks? You pick  Bernie Sanders to protest? The only true liberal in this race? What exactly do you hope to accomplish by protesting Bernie Sanders? What position more in tune with your values could he possibly adopt?

There wasn’t a Ted Cruz, Rick Perry or Mike Huckabee rally somewhere you could attend? Because really, any of those buffoons, or Jeb Bush, or Donald Trump or Marco Rubio, are really going to do A LOT more for race relations in this country than Sanders. Yep, Presidents Bush or Trump really give two shits about anyone of color, they’re really going to strive for equality in America.

Give me a freaking break. What a disgraceful display.
So I was mad about this for a day or two, and I was calming down a bit, rationalizing the Sanders incident as perhaps just the work of a few overzealous protesters in Seattle.

Then tonight my mother alerted me that Chris Hayes on MSNBC was going to have a segment about the incident, and I watched Alicia Garza, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, on his show. (Her nonsense starts at around the 3:30 mark, but at the 7-minute mark is her most ridiculous statement of all.)

And I got pissed off all over again. This woman made absolutely zero sense. She’s talking about making sure “our message is heard” and completely ignoring the fact that Sanders is on their side on all of it, and talking about “forcing Sanders to have a better platform,” and bitching about Sanders not actually saying the words “Black Lives Matter” at a previous event, and that shows he’s not really on their side.

What a crock of shit. Protest is a wonderful tradition in this country. But when you protest against the only people in government who are on your side, you just look like classless idiots.

Rant over.

ColumbiaHouserecords.

 

**OK, on to something happier. Like another piece of my childhood going away. Remember those incredible Columbia House promotions in the mail and in magazines in the 1980s, where you could get like 12 cassettes for one penny if you would just sign up for the record club, and buy 8 tapes over the next three years?

Only they sent you these annoying postcards every month, and you had to send it back saying you didn’t want it, otherwise you’d end up with a Jackson Browne or Linda Ronstandt tape you didn’t really want?

Of course you remember them. I loved getting all those initial tapes for free. It was awesome. I didn’t love being required to buy 8 tapes over the next year.

Anyway, I hadn’t thought about Columbia House in 20 years, until Tuesday, when I saw this story about the parent company of the Columbia House music and DVD club filing for bankruptcy.

And I thought, of course they ran out of money! You can’t give your product away for free for that long and stay solvent.

Poor, poor Columbia House. I will always think of you and your postcards fondly.

Geno.jaw

**And finally, as a lifelong Jets fan, I bring this story to you without an ounce of surprise:

Starting quarterback Geno Smith will miss 6-10 weeks with a broken jaw. He was sucker-punched by teammate IK Enamkapaili, who apparently was mad that Geno hadn’t paid him $600 he owed him.

So Geno Smith, who stinks anyway but was getting one last chance, will now miss half the season. Because he owed a hot-tempered teammate $600.

I think lifelong Jets fan, and incredibly gifted writer Tom Junod, said it best:

“The incident, however extraordinary, will be viewed as business as usual by Jets fans…” A sentence the New York Times has ready for any Jets story.”

Yep.

A day in Central Park reminds me why I ♥ New York. Maybe the first home run ever hit backwards. And I finally watch the bizarre Kurt Cobain documentary

 

centralpark_huffpost

You live in New York City, and sometimes you complain.

OK, a lot of times you complain.
The subway’s too crowded. There’s way too much traffic, thanks to the near-constant street construction (hey guys working on 58th Street and 1st right near my apartment, how many freaking years does it take to re-pave a 20-foot area? Asking for a friend). Prices are insane. The noise can be ear-splitting. Yada yada yada.

But man, when New York City is great, it makes up for so much of that. When you have a perfect Manhattan afternoon like we had Saturday, I fall in love with this place all over again.

My wife, baby son and I went to Central Park for the day, and it was just perfect. Sun shining, low humidity, and lots of green space to spread out our blanket under a tree.

There were sunbathers out, and parents like us with small children. Ice cream stands every 100 feet. Music emanating from the Central Park Summer Stage series. I got up and walked around at one point and within a 20-foot radius, saw five guys playing hackey sack in a circle. A bunch of kids playing soccer. A lone saxophonist trying to hustle up a few bucks. An improv theater group performing in front of at least 100 people gathered tightly in a circle, with laugher roaring. A little kid trying to stuff a ginormous hot dog in his mouth, while his dad looked on in amusement.

It was exactly what you hope a summer afternoon in New York would be like. The variety of people, sounds, smells and sights make it such a glorious place sometimes, because the tableau that’s created is like any other I’ve ever seen.

It wasn’t the greatest day ever, just a small slice of heaven.

And just a small reminder of why I heart New York.

**Next up today,  this is the strangest home run I’ve ever seen. A softball player in Montreal named Renaud Lefort, playing for Les 4 Chevaliers, hit a twisting, backwards home run in a game last week.

If he tried that 1,000 times, he’d never be able to do it again. Very cool…

KurtCobain

**And finally today, the much-acclaimed new Kurt Cobain documentary, “Montage of Heck” has sat unwatched on our DVR for a few months, simply because we didn’t have the 2.5 hours straight required to view it.

As proud Gen X members, my wife and I were fascinated to see the treatment, with the full cooperation of his family, of one of the most iconic and tragic figures our childhood. And it got a ton of positive press and three Emmy nomintations.

But the movie was, well, kind of a mess. There was lots of good stuff in there, showing us Cobain’s awful childhood, where his terrible behavior got him passed off from one relative to the next. And the scenes with Courtney Love and others talking about Cobain’s musical genius, and his tortured relationship with heroin, were gripping. This was one tortured, deeply unhappy man.

But the rest of the film was just so all over the place. Director Brett Morgen, who did the fantastic ESPN 30 for 30 on the day of the O.J. chase, made a lot of poor decisions with the movie, foremost of which trying to use incredibly quick cuts and bizarre animation to bring to life Cobain’s journals and diaries.

There was no chronology or structure to the movie that we could tell, and so many important themes (what led Cobain to heroin in the first place, how his music influenced so many) were pretty much left to the side.

It’s a shame, too, because Cobain’s life and brief but meteoric career are fascinating. Would love to see a better movie on him than this.

Good News Friday: Four guys get childbirth labor pain simulated on them. Bud Collins gets a very cool tennis honor. And an oldie but goodie: Young love and a first kiss

Of all the good news we could celebrate today, I think the fact that none of those 10 stooges on stage at the GOP Presidential Debate last night are actually President, you know, now, and hopefully never will be in the future. Man oh man, what a shitstorm that thing was, and I only watched half of it.

OK, on to the real good news of the week:

First up, I thought this was fascinating, and it’s good news because in just a few minutes it finally and truly showed men what women go through when pushing the human they’ve been growing for nine months, out of their body.

These gentlemen called “The Try Guys” do interesting stunts all the time, but this was definitely the bravest and coolest: They literally asked doctors to simulate what it would feel like to give birth. And the results are shockingly painful.
Sign me up! (Not really). Seriously though, all credit to these dudes for trying this.

See women, men DO feel your pain sometimes.

BudCollins

**Next up today, one of my all-time idols just got awarded a very cool honor. Bud Collins, the incredibly talented sportswriter/sportscaster who’s covered tennis since the sport was invented, practically, is not in great health these days, and sadly it’s been years since he’s been seen on a tennis broadcast.

But in honor of his decades of brilliance, and kindness toward others (seriously, he’s like the nicest man ever, and I say that from a few brief but awesome personal encounters), the U.S. Tennis Association has decided to name the media center at the U.S. Open after Bud.

Very cool. Every journalist who steps foot in that room (as I will be lucky enough to do again in a few weeks) owes a debt of gratitude to one of the trailblazers of the profession.

Even better news is Bud’s Twitter feed says the 86-year-old is recovering

**Finally today, I’ll be honest: I could’ve spent some more time searching and searching for a third GNF item. But I’m tired and it’s late and I love this video so much that I just like sharing it once in a while; I think I’ve run it twice before, but it makes me smile every time I see it: Bowie and Elliott, two little kids, and a first kiss: The look on Elliott’s face at the 53-second mark is the greatest thing ever.