An Ohio bill allows students to give scientifically wrong answers if they say it’s because of their religious beliefs. A reminder that LeBron James is still awesome. And thoughts on tonight’s Democratic debate, where once again way too many people will be on stage

OK, I told you the other day I was all fired up and hot and bothered by two stories I read last weekend; one was the ridiculous N.J. lawsuit involving a kid getting injured from a baseball slide and the parents suing the coach, that I wrote about Monday.

Now, let me rant for a few hundred words about an equally-ridiculous story, and this one actually did make it into law.

In the Ohio House of Representatives, which sadly has made it into this column a few times over the years for batshit-crazy legislation, a new law was passed last week.

It’s called the “Student Religious Liberties Act,” and it states that under the law, students can’t be penalized if their work is scientifically wrong as long as the reasoning is because of their religious beliefs.

Let me say that again: Ohio students CANNOT be penalized if their work is wrong, as long as their reason for giving the wrong answer is because of their religion.

HB 164 is real, folks. I’m not making this up. So as an ACLU director in Ohio, Gary Daniels, said in this story: “On the other hand, Daniels said that if a student submitted biology homework saying the earth is 10,000 years old, as some creationists believe, the teacher cannot dock points.

“Under HB 164, the answer is ‘no,’ as this legislation clearly states the instructor ‘shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work,” he said.”

This is insane. Absolutely, positively insane. There is science, pure, unadulterated, proven science, that children learn in schools every day of every school year.

The idea that creationism has crept back into schools in the past few decades is scary enough. But now the idea that students will be able to use religious doctrine to OVERRIDE science on exams is ridiculous and frightening.

Now, the sponsor of the bill, an Ohio Republican named Timothy Ginter, says that’s not how it will work, that a student who doesn’t accept science on evolution would get a lower grade in a biology class about the subject, and that the students have to give answers on exams that’s consistent with what’s taught.

Ginter says this “religious beliefs” part of the law only applies to kids doing book reports or term papers on religious figures like Moses.

Uh-huh. I’m not buying it. Not. At. All. This is one more attempt from the “Fake News” part of our country, the part of our country that wants to have its own opinions and also it’s own facts, to call into question accepted and irrefutable truths, because they don’t square with the Bible or another religious teaching.

Good God almighty, this is ridiculous and asinine.

Teacher: “Tommy you got 5 answers wrong on this science test.”
Tommy: “But I got 3 questions wrong because of my religious beliefs!”
Teacher: “Oh OK then, my bad, you only got 2 wrong. Good job.”

 

**Next up today, LeBron James is in his 17th NBA season and still doing things like this, he’s off to another amazing start and I once again get to laugh and people before the season who were saying he’s too old to be as effective as he used to be.

Watch that dunk I posted above, and tell me that. He’s the greatest basketball player of all time, folks. And he’s not stopping anytime soon.

**Finally today, there’s another group of Democratic Presidential candidates gathered on a stage tonight, with each one getting to speak for 35 seconds or so with no opportunity to really challenge each other.

Or, you know, as they call it, a debate. I don’t want to beat a dead horse by railing about the ridiculousness of having 10 people on stage at one time being antithetical to an actual, you know, DEBATE, so I won’t beat that dead horse.

Instead, since I’ll be watching (9 p.m. on MSNBC), a few things I’m looking for out of tonight’s debate:

— So help me God if they again spend the first 35 minutes arguing about the minutiae of health care, Medicare for All, and why this person’s lying about their plan. There are SO many issues that don’t get talked about in these debates (environmental issues, the rise in hate crimes and hate speech in the U.S., poverty, nuclear issues worldwide, just to name a few) that it kills me to see them ignored for yet another drone-a-thon about health care.

— So it’ll be interesting if Pete Buttigieg, fresh off a new poll showing him with a big lead in Iowa, becomes a target of others’ attacks for the first time. Last debate it was Elizabeth Warren who suddenly got the slings and arrows, and she handled them, only OK. Is 37-year-old boy wonder Mayor Pete prepared to deal with his new status as a serious threat?

— Can my two favorite candidates, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, do anything to finally break the 5 percent polling ceiling they’re both at? I knew going into this campaign that Booker was a longshot, but I really and truly believed Harris had a legit great chance to win. It hasn’t happened for her, and I’m very puzzled as to why.

— Will impeachment be discussed in a meaningful way? Now that the hearings have been underway for a week and we’ve seen in plain sight just how many impeachable offenses the Man-Baby-in-Chief has committed, will the candidates talk specifically about the case?

— Finally, will someone remember to get Bernie Sanders some water on stage? Guy has sounded hoarse and ill in every debate so far. Can a brother get a lozenge?

A high school baseball coach gets sued because a player got hurt sliding into third. A baby and a dog will give you a Monday smile. And the Jets roll, the Ravens look unstoppable, and more NFL thoughts

There are two stories I read over the past three days that got me all hot and bothered.

The second one, I’ll save for Wednesday’s post, because you don’t have the time or energy to read two rants from me today.

So I’m just going to talk about this fantastic, absorbing, and terrifying story I read from NJ.com’s gifted sports columnist, Steve Politi, who brought to light a story I had not heard anything about, and which indeed scared the hell out of me.

The headline of the story jars you right away: “He told a kid to slide. Then he got sued.”

Politi brings us the saga of a high school baseball coach named John Suk, who eight years ago was a 23-year-old leading the junior varsity team at Bound Brook High School in New Jersey. On April 4, 2012, Suk was coaching third base when, with his team leading 6-0, a kid named Jake Mesar hit a line drive into the outfield.

Mesar rounded second, and was headed for third. Suk thought it would be a close play at the base, so he instructed Mesar to slide.

Mesar did as he was told, and suffered a serious ankle injury. Many surgeries and rehabilitation later, Mesar is not able to play sports anymore. Doctors at the time actually feared they might have to amputate his right leg, but that didn’t come to pass.

The injury is unfortunate, absolutely. But what happened three years later is unprecedented: Suk was sued by Mesar’s family for recklessly endangering the livelihood of their son.

That’s right: Because Mesar was seriously injured when Suk instructed his player to slide, the family was suing him.

This is, of course, absolutely ridiculous, and I nearly shook with rage as I read Politi’s story. For four years this case dragged on, the sheer absurdity of it being lost on Mesar’s family.

As Politi so eloquently writes:

I had come to Somerville ready to ridicule, but it doesn’t take long for the gravity of the situation to hit me. If this jury of four men and four women decides Suk was reckless as a third-base coach for making this most routine decision, who else will end up in a courtroom like this someday?

What about the gymnastics coach who tells an athlete to tumble on a mat? Or the swimming coach who instructs a teenager to dive into a pool? Or the thousands upon thousands of parents who volunteer every weekend on soccer pitches and lacrosse fields and Little League diamonds?

If Suk is found liable for an injury that took place because of that slide — and if a seven-figure check is written because of his actions — what will happen to high school sports? Who will sign up for these coaching jobs knowing their reputation and livelihood might be in jeopardy? And how long before school districts drop sports entirely rather than pay skyrocketing insurance premiums?

Who, when you reach a certain age, hasn’t told a kid to dive for a ball and not worried as he or she hit the ground with a thud?

This idea, that because something bad happened during a sports game, someone must be to blame, is so prevalent in our society. John Suk told a kid to slide. And he had to suffer through years of trouble and accusations from a kid he coached’s family.

I don’t want to spoil for you how the lawsuit came out, because I really want you to read Politi’s fantastic piece. But even the idea that this case went all the way to trial, sends a shiver down my spine.

I have two sons. They’ll probably play youth sports in a few years. There’s an excellent chance I’ll coach some of their teams. And the idea that if I’m coaching third or pacing the bench at a basketball game and a kid gets hurt because I encouraged them to slide or dive and I’m going to get SUED for that???

Unbelievable. What a disgrace this lawsuit was.
It’s awful what happened to Jake Mesar. But millions of kids get hurt every day playing sports.

Telling a kid to slide shouldn’t make you end up in a damn courtroom.

Just makes me so mad…

**And now, we interrupt your Monday for a few seconds of a baby and a dog, sliding across an apartment floor, in adorable cuteness.

Carry on.

And now my weekly look at the nuttiness that is the National Football League, where each week up is down, down is up, and hitting someone over the head with their own helmet is frowned upon (more on that in a moment).

— J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets! A two-game winning streak! A destruction of maybe the worst team in the NFL, a week after beating another of the league’s doormats! Four offensive touchdowns in each game! They’re 3-7 baby, Super Bowl here we come…

OK, OK, relax. Beating two crappy teams means nothing. Still, it’s nice as a Jets fan to feel good on back to back Sunday nights, it doesn’t happen often.

— The Baltimore Ravens may be the best team in the NFL right now. Two weeks ago they knocked the New England Patriots from the ranks of the undefeated, and Sunday they demolished a pretty damn good Houston Texans squad, 41-7. Lamar Jackson did more Lamar Jackson things, running and throwing like few QB’s ever have, and the Ravens defense just dominated Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense (oh and they benefited from an atrocious non-call on pass interference; I truly have NO idea what PI is anymore, if this isn’t it.)

— So, I’m not sure how much you followed the Colin Kaepernick/NFL workout circus on Saturday, but for an unbiased, full recap of the ridiculousness of the NFL changing the terms and setting down insane rules for the workout, here’s Howard Bryant, a fine sportswriter, recapping it all.

Kap should be in the NFL. Full stop. End of story.

— Finally, OK, yeah, I have to weigh in on the Myles Garrett awfulness from Thursday night, when the Cleveland Browns star defensive end decided, after being roughed up by Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph, to rip off Rudolph’s helmet and then, shockingly, whack Rudolph over the head with it.

It’s no exaggeration to say Rudolph could’ve suffered serious brain damage. Those helmets are heavy. It’s also inexcusable for Garrett, until now known as a clean player, to lose his temper and do something so dangerous.

It’s also convenient how so many are overlooking the fact that Rudolph, seconds earlier, twisted Garrett’s helmet around and could’ve seriously hurt Garrett, which is likely what triggered the Browns player’s rage.

None of that is to excuse what Garrett did, of course. But it needs to be considered. It was an awful, despicable act, and it’s good Garrett is suspended for the year.

It’s just so Browns to finally beat Pittsburgh, get your season back on track, finally have something to feel good about, and then this happens in the final seconds.

The Browns, they’re always gonna Browns.

Good News Friday: A 6-year-old autistic boy finds joy in an American flag, and a neighbor’s kindness. An adorable video of an adopted toddler talking about when she met her parents. And a 96-year-old veteran plays the national anthem on a harmonica

And a Happy Friday, my peeps. We’re in mid-November, I can taste the cranberry sauce and the stuffing already as Thanksgiving creeps ever closer, and I can’t wait for the next installment of the new hit TV show “Watch Republican Congressmen vehemently deny President Trump did anything wrong, ever!”

Lots of good stuff this week that made me smile, including “Sesame Street” turning 50 years old and releasing a new Dave Grohl/Muppets duet that you need to see, and this hilarious video of a toddler telling his parents what he did on the potty (“I didn’t poop, I peed!” has become a catchphrase around our house this week).

But these three things made me smile the most. First off, it’s a double shot of Steve Hartman on the blog this week, after Monday’s Veteran’s Day story.

This one brings the beautiful tale of 6-year-old Finn Daly, of West Hartford, Conn. Finn has Down’s Syndrome and is autistic, so of course life is extremely challenging for him.

But one thing Finn loves more than anything is watching the American flag, blowing in the breeze. He can watch it for hours, his parents say, and it brings him contentment and joy.

A neighbor noticed, and, well, grab the tissues and watch this story.

Such a simple, kind gesture from one neighbor to another.

**Next up today, check out 96-year-old World War II veteran Pete DuPre playing the national anthem at a Knicks game on Veterans Day, on his harmonica.

Just simple, sweet and beautiful. Wonderful rendition from a man who has lived nearly a century, and still can play a mean harmonica.

**And finally today, from Upworthy.com comes this video of a little girl named Gabby, a toddler in Dallas, Texas, talking to her Mom about how she felt and what she remembers about the day she was adopted.

When she talks about what happened to her heart when she met her new Mom and Dad, well… it’s enough to make any human tear up.

Adoption really is a wonderful, wonderful thing. Just listen to Gabby.

A beautiful “Jeopardy” moment between a contestant and Alex Trebek. A robot-fighting video makes me scared for humans’ future. And HBO invents a product no one actually needs

Alex Trebek has been in our lives for so long.

Longer than the furniture in your house, longer than your kids’ first-grade report cards as they graduate from college, and longer than most of our friendships with people.

The “Jeopardy” host has been around in charge of America’s best game show since 1984. You know how long ago that is? LeBron James was born in 1984, and now he’s one of the oldest players in the NBA. Trebek has been a warm, comforting presence for so long in so many millions of homes, taken for granted like those old slippers and that warm cup of tea at night.

As has been very well documented, Trebek is battling pancreatic cancer, and after initially getting a very good report following his initial treatment, he announced in September he was going to be getting more chemo, and well, that’s obviously not good.

But he’s still on “Jeopardy!” and this week continues the “Tournament of Champions” starring my man James Holzhauer (who advanced to the finals starting Thursday, and so millions have continued watching, since Alex is part of our lives.

Anyway, I bring all this up because of a little, beautiful moment that happened at the end of Monday’s show. A contestant named Dhruv Gaur didn’t know the answer to Final Jeopardy, so wrote a little message in his response that caught Trebek completely by surprise, and made him lose his composure for a moment on the air.

Just a warm, wonderful human moment that I wanted to share.

Man, the power of words.

**Next up, it’s been a while since I’ve written on here about how robots’ advancement completely freaks me out, but my Dad sent me this clip this week and well, yeah, I’m completely freaked out.

This is as realistic a fighting depiction from robots as you’ll ever see; it’s from something called Robo One, and it’s Metallic Fighter vs. Blue Thunder.

Just look at how intricate this is. Our robot overlords are coming, people of Earth. And they’re coming with tiny swords and really cool outfits.

**Finally today, sometimes ideas for new products from otherwise intelligent people and companies just piss me off.

Like HBO. I heard on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me radio show this week about this ridiculous new invention the cable giant has come up with.

It’s called the HBO Box, and it’s designed for people who want privacy in their TV viewing habits, if they don’t live alone.

It’s a cardboard box that you assemble, put on your bed, and presumably watch TV in the kind of privacy that you just can’t get anywhere else.

You know, like IN ANOTHER ROOM. Or by putting up a curtain if you share a room with someone. Or, you know, going out in the hallway, or waiting until your roommate or spouse or whoever is asleep. Or, I dunno, just spitballing here, WATCH IT ON A LAPTOP and no one will be able to see your screen!

I mean, watch this ridiculous, over the top commercial HBO put out for it. This cannot be a real product!

Who is buying this, my fellow Americans? Ostensibly this is marketed for college students, but no college in America is so small that you have to watch ALL of your TV and video in your room, on your bed.

If we want to watch porn, are there really NO other ways to do it, then put ourselves into this ridiculous contraption?

Who is sitting there going, “you know, I really want to watch this X-rated clip on my laptop, but I just have no way to watch it without being seen. So I’m going to climb inside a giant cardboard box, then no one will suspect a thing!”

I’d say this is a terrific April Fool’s joke, but it’s November.

A box to watch TV in. What a time to be alive.

A beautiful tribute to Mister Rogers, by a man who knew him very well. On Veteran’s day, soldiers remember a fallen comrade 50 years later. And in the Battle of awful N.Y. Football teams, my Jets stink less!

There really never is a bad time to think about Fred Rogers, the wonderful human who for decades gave us the TV show so many of us grew up on.

But with a new movie about Mister Rogers Neighborhood scheduled to come out on Nov. 22, it seems appropriate to think about him a little more, and someone who’s been doing a lot of thinking about this legend is Tom Junod.

Long one of my favorite writers in America, Junod has a major interest in the Tom Hanks film about Rogers, because the flick is about the real-life friendship between Rogers and Junod.

The two became friends after Junod profiled Rogers for Esquire, and they stayed close for years after the article ran (Trust me, as a journalist I can tell you, this rarely happens.)

Junod has written a magnificent essay in The Atlantic this month about his relationship with Rogers, what seeing his life on film has meant (Matthew Rhys of “The Americans” TV show plays Junod, and since Rhys is amazing I have no doubt the portrayal is great), and what lessons he still carries with him from his friendship with Rogers.

Here’s an excerpt from the story, but I highly, highly recommend you take a few minutes to read the whole thing. In this time we live in, with our unstable President and his equally-unstable advisers, a few words from Mister Rogers can’t hurt anyone.

Fred Rogers was a children’s-TV host, but he was not Captain Kangaroo or Officer Joe Bolton. He was an ordained Presbyterian minister who was so appalled by what he saw on 1950s television—adults trying to entertain children by throwing pies in each other’s faces—that he joined the medium as a reformer. He considered the space between the television set and the eyes of his audience sacred, and from 1966 to 2000 he taped nearly 1,000 episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, trying to make that space less profane.

And although he made his living speaking to children, his message and example endure because he found a way to speak to all of us—to speak to children as respectfully as he spoke to adults and to speak to adults as simply as he spoke to children. Such fluency was the result not of spontaneous enthusiasm but rather of the rigorous editing he brought to bear on himself and everyone around him. When I first visited the Neighborhood 21 years ago, one of his in-house writers, Hedda Sharapan, told me what had happened when he’d enlisted her to write a manual intended to teach doctors how to talk to children. She worked hard on it, using all her education and experience in the field of child development, but when she handed him her opening, he crossed out what she’d written and replaced it with six words: “You were a child once too.”

And that’s it, really—his message to doctors was his message to politicians, CEOs, celebrities, educators, writers, students, everyone. It was also the basis of his strange superpowers. He wanted us to remember what it was like to be a child so that he could talk to us; he wanted to talk to us so that we could remember what it was like to be a child. And he could talk to anyone, believing that if you remembered what it was like to be a child, you would remember that you were a child of God.

It’s a terrific piece, written with heart and humanity, by a man whose life was made immeasurably better by knowing Fred Rogers.

Next up, today is of course Veteran’s Day, a day we should all stop for a minute or two and appreciate the sacrifices of all those brave men and women who fought for our freedoms in war.

I thought this would be a nice piece to run in honor of the day; it’s a short Steve Hartman CBS News piece from last summer that I really liked but never got around to posting here. It’s about a group of Vietnam War Army vets who lost one of their soldiers 50 years ago, and how they’re honoring their buddy now.

Really nice stuff.

*** Finally today, it’s a happy night for us Jets fans, which is not something you can say this year. In a battle of the two crappy New York football teams, the Jets were the ones who stunk the least on Sunday.

Yessireebob, my green and white bumbling fools beat the blue and white bumbling fools who share the same stadium, also called the Giants, 34-27.

I happily did not watch any of this “thrilling” contest, but followed online and was happy. Sam Darnold didn’t throw an interception (hey, it’s a start), Jamal Adams, our best player (above), had an awesome strip sack/fumble recovery/touchdown, and for once the Jets defense came up big at the end when they needed to.

Two and seven, baby! Playoffs here we come! (Umm, yeah, n0). Still, it feels nice to beat the Giants, whose fans have had a rightfully-earned superiority complex over us Jets fans for the last 40 years.

More NFL musings…

— The 1-7 Atlanta Falcons went on the road and crushed the 7-1 New Orleans Saints, 26-9. Reason No. 4,573 you should never, ever bet money on NFL games. Wow was that a shocker.

— The Tennessee Titans play so many exciting games, and they’re even winning some. Ryan Tannehill! Who knew he could be decent? And the Titans blocked a potential game-tying field goal by Kansas City on the final play of the game Sunday to win, 35-32. The Chiefs are in trouble; they can’t stop ANYBODY on defense.

— Also in trouble: The Rams, who looked awful in losing to Pittsburgh. So much for that high-flying L.A. offense. Also in trouble? The Dolphins’ Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is destroying his team’s plans to tank the season. Miami has won two straight now, after losing seven in a row to start the year. Madness!

— Good for the Browns to finally get another win, and win a close one, over the very-likely-overrated Buffalo Bills.

— I watched the fourth quarter of Panthers-Packers and I am really, really impressed with new Carolina QB Kyle Allen. Kid looks like a 10-year vet and very nearly pulled off the upset.

— Oh, also: Lamar Jackson? He’s good.

— Finally, I don’t care how bad the Jets, Giants, Redskins and Dolphins are, there’s nobody worse than the Bengals. They gave up 49 points Sunday to Baltimore and are destined to go 0-16. Go Bengals go!

Good News Friday: Oklahoma releases hundreds on non-violent inmates in one day, and it’s a welcome breath of change.An 11-year-old’s birthday party was attended by no one. But wait, it had a happy ending. And a Halloween trick or treater does an awesome, generous thing

And a Happy Friday, my fellow humans who can read! It’s getting chilly and darker earlier here in New York, which does not make me happy, but soon I’ll get to wear my heavy Stance NBA player socks which I love so much so that does make me happy.

Lots of good news to get to today, not even including the a-hole governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, losing his election on Tuesday.

First, a wonderful criminal justice development, that I hope will be replicated many times over, took place this week.

In Oklahoma on Monday, more than 450 prison inmates, behind bars for low-level and non-violent charges were released across the state.

According to this NPR story, “it’s believed these commutations mark the most prisoner releases on a single day in the history of the U.S. — the nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Steve Bickley, executive director for the state’s Pardon and Parole Board, oversaw the emotional, “memorable” release.

“When you see people reunited with their family and moms getting to hug their daughters, and parents hugging their children,” he says. “Sometimes there wasn’t a dry eye around.”

Oklahoma has the second-highest incarceration rate of any state in the U.S., and it was a Republican governor, Kevin Stitt, who campaigned on a promise of reducing the prison population in Oklahoma. Stitt has formed a task force to continue criminal justice reform in the state, Bickley says.

To help people who are released transition back into society, the state Department of Corrections held their first-ever transition fairs at 28 facilities. Nonprofits came into the prisons to share information about services they offer including housing, transportation, jobs and more.

The state also brought inmates set for release to the Department of Public Safety to get a driver’s license or state-issued ID.

This is such a huge step. There are many parts of our criminal justice system that need reform, but housing millions of non-violent offenders for years and years due to either draconian sentencing laws, or simple cruelty, or a governor trying to look “tough on crime,” is one big problem.

“I think what is really monumental about what just took place is it was a first step,” he says. “And overwhelmingly, everyone said it was the right step. And I think we can build upon that. And I think it’ll create more momentum for more criminal justice reform in Oklahoma.”

Yes, yes, yes! I hope other states follow Oklahoma’s lead, which is not a sentence I get to write very often.

Fewer prisoners, and more people re-integrated into society and given a chance at leading a good life again, is a GOOD thing.

**Next up today, you may have seen this video go viral the day after Halloween, and I love it.
A boy named Jackson Champagne (seriously, that’s his name) was trick or treating in suburban Maryland when he came upon a house that had left a candy bowl out for kids.

After seeing the candy bowl was empty, he started taking sweets out of his own supply and putting in there.

It was all captured by the homeowners’ NEST camera. Really sweet stuff, Jackson.

**Finally today, I sort of hate that these stories have to exist, because they don’t start out happy, but get there at the end.

An 11-year-old Toronto kid named Kade Foster was having a birthday party last week, complete with that awesome Toronto Maple Leafs cake (above). But sadly as sometimes happens, according to his Dad Jason, none of the invited guests showed up.

So Jason Foster put it out on Twitter that his son is a huge Leafs fan, and maybe some of the stars of the team like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner could send a message to Kade.

Well, Kade got THOUSANDS of messages, from the two Leafs players, from other celebrities like Zach Braff and Dog the Bounty Hunter (no way those two have ever been in the same sentence) and apparently the Leafs are planning a surprise party for Kade in the near future.

From Jason Foster: “We can’t comprehend what has happened today. Kade and the rest of us are just amazed. To EVERYONE who sent Kade a message – thank you from the bottom of our hearts. He is an amazing son and he will never forget this day.”

So much good in the world. So much.

College hoops is back! And I got to watch Duke-Kansas live at MSG. A hilarious play-by-play of a cat running across a football field. And Kate McKinnon kills it as Elizabeth Warren

Daylight Savings Time has destroyed my life this week (seriously, whoever invented it never had young children, my little guy has been up before six every day), but I got through the bleary-eyed days because I knew Tuesday night, my happy time was beginning.

College basketball is back! Yes indeedy, the time of year where future millionaires play other future millionaires while not earning a dime for their efforts for the labor they’re currently putting in.

I was lucky enough to be at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night, covering Duke vs Kansas (my story on the game is here), and of course the atmosphere was awesome. It was a doubleheader, with Kentucky-Michigan State the second game, and man it was weird for Duke to be on the “undercard.”

The atmosphere, with 19,000-plus fans packed into MSG, was great, and while it was unusual for Duke to feel like the road team in New York, the reality is that when three non-Duke fanbases are in the building, the only thing they’re going to agree on is that they hate the Blue Devils.

Couple quick thoughts from the first college basketball game of the year:

— The film of this game will not be going to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Sloppy, ragged but exciting game.

— Duke’s offense is… a work in progress. No Zion, no R.J. Barrett or Jayson Tatum or Marvin Bagley on this year’s team. Lots of potential scorers, but no alpha guy who you know can get you a bucket when you need it. Tuesday night was very ugly at times on offense for the Devils.

— Kansas made 18 first-half turnovers. EIGHTEEN! That’s almost one a minute. Hard to do.

— So this is something I’ve never seen at a sporting event: A few seconds after play resumed following a timeout in the first half, the referees blew their whistle and stopped the game. I had no idea why. Then I saw an official walk to center court and pick up a plastic wiffle ball bat that was lying on the court.

It had apparently been left there accidentally by the promotions folks running a Dizzy Bat race during the previous timeout. Bizarre but scary.

— To be fair, both teams played extremely ragged ball. It looked like the first game of the season, with most of the freshmen on both teams playing way too fast.

Great that Duke got the win, but it’s got a lot of work to do to be a great team.

So happy November’s here and college hoops are back.

**Next up today, sometimes these fantastic videos need very little introduction.
Here, I give you NFL broadcaster Kevin Harlan narrating a black cat that ran across the field during the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants Monday Night football game. Pure brilliance, including how he works in a sponsor plug.

**Finally today, Tuesday was Election Day, and while it was mostly state and local races being contested, there were still some interesting results. In Kentucky, ??? in the governor’s race, and the Virginia legislature had a chance to flip from Red to blue.

Of course, the truly monumental election in this country happens a year from now, and in that vein, I very much enjoyed Kate McKinnon as Elizabeth Warren from “Saturday Night Live” last weekend. McKinnon, as others have stated before, is amazing in her ability to inhabit the characteristics and traits of everyone she plays.

Here, she nails Warren’s mannerisms and speech patterns just perfectly. Kate is a national treasure, can we please give this woman some Emmys please?

My Jets hit a new low this season, and I’m again at a loss for words. An awesome ending in an Ivy League football game. And we’ve found the most obnoxious lawyer in America

You wonder what Jets fans did in a past life to deserve all of this.

— Tweet from @richarddeitsch, 2:33 p.m. Sunday

I try not to let the Jets upset me anymore. I know it’s worthless, useless, and completely counterproductive to my attempt to achieve true joy as a human being.

And really, they don’t upset me much anymore. They are a pathetic joke of a franchise, I know this, you know this, and I tell myself I care much less about their fortunes than I used to.

Sunday I was having a perfectly lovely day with my family. But I stupidly followed the Jets-Dolphins game on my phone, thinking, surely my 1-6 Jets wouldn’t lose to the horrendous, probably trying to lose on purpose 0-7 Dolphins. They couldn’t… they wouldn’t…

Who the hell was I kidding.

In a loss as embarrassing as few others in the last four decades, the Jets got beat by a team trying to lose. The final was 26-18, the Jets franchise QB, Sam Darnold, is looking less and less like a sure thing future star, the offensive line couldn’t block me and three friends, the defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed (thank you Bart Scott), they make the most idiotic mistakes on penalties, their coach is pathetic, and here I go getting all upset again like I was around 3:30 today, while the rest of my family was having a lovely day.

Why can’t I quit this team??? Why, God, why???

OK let’s move on.

— I think I’ve written this in this space a few times before, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are in so many ways the Jets’ opposite. They hire good coaches and they last forever. They build depth at all positions, including quarterback. They are never, ever terrible. Oh, they have seasons where they’re not great, but they’re never truly embarrassing.

This year the Steelers lost their franchise QB, Ben Roethlisberger, early on, and yet they’ve rallied and won three in a row, and are 4-4 in the playoff hunt. As always.
Oh, the curse of being born where I was born.

— I always have the Browns and Lions to make me feel better about being a Jets fan. The Browns fell to 2-6 Sunday, losing to a bad Broncos team, having their two star receivers, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, have to change cleats at halftime because their footwear didn’t meet NFL regulations, and once again seeing their franchise QB, Baker Mayfield, regress.

And the Lions blew a winnable game against the Raiders when they were stopped at the 1 on the final play of the game.
There should be an island somewhere where Jets, Lions and Browns fans can all get together, hug, and have a good cry.

— Russell Wilson is so underrated it’s amazing. How you can be underrated in an NFL that gets so much attention is something I don’t get, but this guy is incredible. Won another thriller Sunday, with his legs and his arm.

— Christian McCaffrey might be the best non-QB in football right now. Three more TD’s again Sunday and he makes it look so easy.

— Oh yeah, the Patriots finally lost. That was nice.

**Next up today, one more football thing from this weekend that was kind of amazing. Dartmouth was trailing Harvard, 6-3 in the final seconds of their game Saturday when this insane play happened. Amazing, Doug Flutie-esque escape by the Dartmouth QB here (Doug Flutie, look him up, young’uns).

**Finally today, we’ve found the most obnoxious lawyer in America not named Rudy Giuliani. His name is Lane Jefferies of the Anastopoulo Law Firm in Charleston, South Carolina, and the reason he has won the award, hands down, is because of his email signature that went viral this week.

Mr. Jefferies is very important, so important, he can’t be bothered by your phone calls and emails with their uninteresting and meandering ways. So he, the Very Important Mr. Jefferies, has very strict rules regarding how you should contact him.

Behold, and see if you can find a bigger horse’s ass, anywhere.

1) Call my cell any day between 4:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. If I am not already on the phone with another opposing counsel, I will answer and spend up to five minutes on the phone with you. At the end of our five-minute talk, I may instruct my staff to schedule a longer meeting with you if you satisfy the criteria set forth in #2 below. Please note that I spend just five minutes on each call, so if I don’t answer when you call, wait a few minutes and try again. My cell is XXX-XXXX. Call only between 4:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. as I spend the rest of my day focused solely on achieving my clients’ goals.

So what are the criteria in No. 2? Glad you asked!

Begin (your email) by providing my office with a specific agenda of items you would like to discuss,” he wrote. “Be sure to identify the tangible outcomes to be achieved as to each item, and persuasively describe how these outcomes, if achieved, would promote the greatest recovery for my client in the least amount of time and for the least expense.”
….

“If your email persuades my staff that using my time to meet with you is legally required or is likely to be a worthy investment from the perspective of my client, then they will schedule a meeting (probably a meeting by phone initially),” the message continued.

….

“On the other hand, if you do not persuade my staff that scheduling a meeting is consistent with my promise to my clients not to try to do 1000 things at once that won’t contribute much, if anything, to the results we are trying to achieve, then no meeting will be scheduled (though you remain free to call any afternoon as described in #1 above),” the message continued. “Fair warning: generalized requests to ‘discuss the case’ or ‘talk about the status’ or the like will be considered conclusive evidence of a request to waste time, and no meeting will be scheduled.”

Jefferies concluded his missive by noting that his staff has “instituted the above procedure in order to accommodate your desire to speak with me by phone in a manner that does not interfere with my ethical obligation to to (sic) devote my time and attention to the pursuit of justice for my clients as quickly and economically as possible.”

I only have one question after this: How is Lane Jefferies not already working in the Trump White House?

A letter to my son Theo on his 2nd birthday: A year of huge changes, and so many smiles and laughs

Dear Theo,

Hi! It’s Daddy. You know, Daddy: The guy who always tries to wrangle diapers on you while you wriggle away, and the one constantly yelling “Slow down!” as you run anywhere and everywhere in this great big world.

I’m back with another letter to you on your birthday; yesterday on Halloween you turned 2, and Mommy and I are so, so proud of the little boy you’re becoming.

It’s been such a wonderful year watching you grow physically, mentally, and emotionally, from a baby who barely made any sounds (other than crying, you were always good at that) into a toddler who is more and more like a “little person” than before.

So many changes this year for you, Theo, but maybe most of all has been your understanding of the world around you.

We are constantly amazed at how much you understand. Like when I tell you it’s time for us to go somewhere you immediately run and grab your sneakers, then hustle to the front door and grab my sneakers and bring them back to me. (Your first full sentence is “Let’s go, Daddy!”)

You may have been a little late at the talking thing, but wow did you pick up what everyone around you wanted super-early.

You started walking this year, and within what seemed like a few days quickly advanced to running. You are climbing and jumping and looking to get on top of every playground you can. Maybe it’s a younger brother thing, but you are way more adventurous than your older brother Nate was at this age, which scares me into thinking: You’re totally going to make Daddy ride roller-coasters when you get older.

I lovingly tell people that you came equipped with only two speed settings: Zero, and 60. You only stop moving, it seems, for two things: Sleep, and food.

And yeah, let’s talk about you and food, Theo. It’s a love affair that’s gone on for two years, and shows no sign of stopping. You lead with your belly when you run. You eat just about everything, but you really have a special love of meatballs, and hamburgers, and blueberries, and pasta, and pizza… and yeah pretty much everything.

But meat, that’s what you really make disappear from your high chair tray table. You love, love, love you some meat. You demolish whatever we give you like a baby shark chomping on chum.

I hope you never stop enjoying food, although your constant demand for cookies and sweets from the snack drawer can be a little much (you run over to it, grab what you want, then rush over to me pleadingly like, “Hurry up and open the wrapper, please!” Seriously, you could find our snack drawer blindfolded.)

Your talking was slow to arrive, but in the last few months though you’ve really made strides, finally learning how to say your brother Nate’s name (he loves that!), and you call yourself “Eo” because that “Th” is still too hard for you.

You also love saying “balloon” and “more,” and also seeing a school bus makes you scream “BUS!” with delight. (And I’m delighted when you, me and Nate all scream “Kakko!” at random times, saluting the new Rangers player Daddy has a man-crush on.)

This year you also made strides in so many other areas; you learned how to swim a little bit, loving the slide at Goldfish Swim that we go to each week; unlike a lot of other babies, you’ve enjoyed going underwater from the first day I submerged you.

You find so much fun in playing with your toys, especially Magna Tiles, your brother’s old Elmo doll (you want to see what pure joy looks like, just watch you hug Elmo) and any of the “ABC” song toys we have. You love bopping along to the ABC song, happily trying to say letters, with a big smile on your face.

Unfortunately, you’ve gone through a big hitting phase this year, smacking and tackling other kids, not out of anger but usually just enthusiasm. You seem to be mostly over it, thankfully, but it’d be OK if you didn’t pinch our private parts as much as you do 🙂

You’re almost always smiling, Theo, except for when you’ve fallen and hurt yourself while trying to do a “big boy” thing on the playground. You want to be a big boy SO badly, just like your brother.

Let’s see, what else has happened this year… you had your first emergency room visit this summer; that was no fun but everything turned out OK. You continue to love music and Little Gym classes (that’s you swinging to your heart’s content on the high bar in the pic above).

And most importantly, Theo, the love between you and your older brother has grown and grown. Nate can’t spend enough time with you, whether it’s riding your little motorcycles around the kitchen every night, crashing into the kitchen cabinets on them; playing cars in the basement, or just wrestling on the carpet in Nate’s room.

You get so excited when Nate comes in in in the morning to say hi, and you always run into his room excitedly after bath for story time. You two hug each other so much and make Mommy and me so proud at how generous you are with each other.

Oh, you guys fight sometimes, and I know in later years there will be blood from both of you on our nice white walls at times. But right now, both of your hearts are filled with pure love for each other.

I guess I’ll wrap it up here, it’s late and you’re sleeping so peacefully in your crib, as I just went in to check on you.

Theo, Mommy and Daddy are so proud of the little boy you’re becoming, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store over the next year.

We love you so much, and please, slow down a little sometimes.

Love,

Daddy

P.S.: You really need to start saying “Let’s Go Duke!” soon. It’s basketball season.

In honor of Halloween, a scary story that may or may not be true. Two crazy-awesome hockey goals you need to see. And mice driving cars by themselves? Sure, I want to see that

So we’re a day before Halloween and that used to not mean much to me, but I’ve got kids now and one of them happens to have been BORN on October 31, so yeah, I’ve changed my tune a little.

And while I’ve never been into scary stories or horror tales on Halloween, what the hell, I realize most of the rest of you all are, and I read this one Tuesday and it’s nuts.
I have absolutely no idea if Twitter user Grady Hendrix made this whole thing up, or if it really happened. Either way, it’s crazy scary. Read at your own risk 🙂

When I turned 9 I realized I could sneak downstairs after everyone was asleep and eat anything I wanted in the fridge. No one ever noticed! 
I could make a peanut butter, Cheez Whiz, & mayo sandwich, eat leftover pizza, scrape off the icing from birthday cakes – as long as I was careful I could do anything! 
Creeping down was the hardest part. I had to navigate the pitch dark house all the way downstairs in total darkness like a tiny ninja. 
One night in May, ’81 we ordered from Fish & Shrimp House. I waited until everyone was asleep & crept downstairs to eat the leftover sweet n’sour pork. 
It took forever. I finally stepped into the totally dark den & let down my guard. All of a sudden I heard a fork click on the counter. I froze. The microwave clock light showed the outline of a man sitting at our kitchen counter. 
He couldn’t see me, but I saw him: a skinny guy, eating our leftovers, and drinking our milk from the carton. 
I can’t explain how terrifying it is for someone to BE IN YOUR HOUSE. I slooooowly backed away, crept upstairs, and woke up my mom & dad. 
They made way too much noise & took way too long & by the time they got downstairs the kitchen was empty. 
Everyone said I read too many horror comics so they blew off what I said. But no way was I pouring milk on my cereal. 
I started tracking the position of everything in the kitchen. One day the paper napkin holder was on the wrong side of the counter. Another day a mug was in the sink that was NOT there the night before. 
My bedroom door didn’t lock so I kept a steak knife under my pillow. I must’ve stabbed myself in the hand 1000 times checking to make sure it was there. 
Then in August, I was in my room reading when I looked up. There’s an A/C vent over my bed. Behind the vent a pair of eyes were watching me. 
I freaked & raised hell until my parents searched our attic and the crawl space under our house. Nothing. I wasn’t very popular for a few weeks. 
The last week of August our house started to smell. One night, rice fell out of the vent over my bed. Maggots. The A/C people said something had probably crawled into our vents & died. 
Turns out what had crawled into our vents & died was the guy. We lived in an old house with lots of space between the walls & big ducts. He’d been living in them since May. At least. 
He’d put a foam pad beside my bedroom vent so he’d be comfortable while he watched me. The police said he’d made lots of “drawings” but when I asked they pretended they hadn’t said anything. 
No one ever identified him. He was buried as a John Doe. To this day I can’t look inside the vents in houses. 
But sometimes when I’m at someone’s house I’ll smell a little BO coming from their central air conditioning, and I’ll wonder who’s living back there in their ducts. Who’s living in the dark? 

 

**Next up today, it’s hockey season which means my second-favorite sport (besides tennis) is on my TV a lot, and what I don’t get to watch I try to see on the Intertubes.

Tuesday was an awesome hockey day not just because my Rangers finally played like a good team and beat the Lightning, but because I got to see two incredible “lacrosse” goals.

The first was by a Vancouver Canucks prospect named Nils Hoglander, playing in the Swedish hockey league. Hoglander has done this once before, but it’s still incredible. No goalie ever expects to see that.

Amazingly, we then got ANOTHER one of these insanely hard goals Tuesday night, as Carolina Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov did it for maybe the first time in NHL history.

Just fantastic. Hockey is the best.

**Finally today, I love a weird science story and this one is bonkers. Scientists at the University of Richmond (Va.) have taught a group of 17 rats how to drive little plastic cars, in exchange for bits of cereal. (Was it Frosted Flakes? Special K? Cinnamon Toast Crunch? These are details I need!)

According to this story from the BBC, “study lead Dr. Kelly Lambert said the rats felt more relaxed during the task, a finding that could help with the development of non-pharmaceutical treatments for mental illness.

The rats were not required to take a driving test at the end of the study. (whew. That’s good. Because parallel parking is a bitch).

How did the rats learn to drive?

Dr. Lambert and her colleagues built a tiny electric car by attaching a clear plastic jar to an aluminium plate, fitted to a set of wheels.

A copper wire was then threaded horizontally across the jar – the cab of the car – to form three bars, left, right and center.

To drive the car, a rat would sit on the aluminium plate and touch the copper wire. The circuit was then complete, and the animal could select the direction in which they wanted to travel.

After months of training, the rats learned not only how to make the ratmobile move but also how to change direction, researchers wrote in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.”

This is fascinating to me. But also, it’s fun to just watch the tiny rats drive around.