An unbelievably horrible bi-partisan bill shows just the power of the Israel lobby. A sensational “Bohemian Rhapsody” singalong by 65,000 people. And a translator story that made me laugh

It’s pretty rare for my blood to boil on a Sunday night, especially in the summer after yet another terrific weekend spent with friends and family.

But then again, it should be pretty rare for a piece of legislation this stupid, this mind-numbingly awful, to get bipartisan support. And hardly anyone has been paying attention to it.

Let me direct your attention today to a new proposed law called S.720, the Israel Anti- Boycott Act.

This law, sponsored by Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio, would actually impose civil and criminal penalties on American citizens for backing or joining any international boycott of Israel because of its settlement activities.

Let me say that again: You could legally be arrested, and charged with crimes, for supporting any international boycott of Israel. So let’s say I’m sitting here in my apartment in New York City, and I decide to sign a petition, or give a speech, or donate money, to a cause or group abroad that believes Israel should be boycotted.

Now I’ve broken the law. It would be a FELONY!

Get this, too: There are even penalties for simply inquiring about such a boycott. And they’re not messing around. The minimum civil penalty would be $250,000 and the maximum criminal penalty $1 million and 20 years in prison. Up to 20 years in prison for opposing the policies of a foreign government and doing something about it!

Forty-three Senators have already signed on as co-sponsors, including alleged free speech enthusiasts like Democrats Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, and Ron Wyden of Oregon. And on the other side, Mr. Popularity, Ted Cruz is a co-sponsor, as is Marco Rubio.

At first I thought this was something from The Onion. The idea that an American citizen could be arrested, and would be breaking the law, by daring to express support for an Israeli boycott, is absolutely despicable.

Free speech, anyone? First Amendment ring a bell there, Chuckie Schumer? Can you even imagine a law like this passing in our Congress in regards to any other nation in the world? Let’s say a lobbying group representing India, or Germany, or (heaven forbid) our “friends” in Saudi Arabia tried to get a bill like this passed. It would be D.O.A.

But destroying civil liberties is possible thanks to AIPAC, the incredibly-powerful Israel lobbying group in Washington, D.C. AIPAC has so many politicians in its pocket, I’d venture to say they’re the 2nd-most powerful organization in Washington, behind the NRA.

The ACLU has, thankfully, written a strong letter to Congress letting them now exactly what this bill would do, and how dangerous it is.

Read this from The Intercept about it; it’s especially chilling how many co-sponsors have no idea what they’ve signed on for, expressing that they’ll read it right away, and “look into it.”

What AIPAC wants, AIPAC gets.

This bill is an abomination. I know there are so many abominations going on in Congress these days, but don’t let this one slip by you. Call your Senator and your Congressman and tell them we still live in a free society, dammit.

**Next up today, this was so cool. At a punk rock festival in London on July 1, 65,000 fans eagerly awaited for headliner Green Day to show up. While waiting, the organizers played Queen’s classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the crowd.

And 65,000 people then belted it out, perfectly, even humming the guitar solo. So freaking amazing.

**So I don’t know if you will find this as funny as I did, but here goes. With the revelation last week that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump had a secret meeting that was previously undisclosed (shocking! The Trump administration has been so transparent to this point!), and the added fact that only a Russian translator listened in, with no American ears present, made me remember a great old story my Dad re-told me this weekend.

My father was a teacher in the South Bronx in New York City in the 1960s and ’70s, not an easy time nor place to be a public school educator. One day, after months of dealing with a very disruptive and problematic 6th-grade Hispanic boy, and trying unsuccessfully to get his mother to come in for a conference, the school was finally able to get her to show up.

The mom spoke only Spanish, and for the first 2/3 of the meeting with the principal, my Dad, and other administrators, the only other Spanish-speaker in the room was the misbehaving student.

As my father and the others told the mom about all her son’s acting out in class, vandalizing school property, terrible attitude, etc., the mom sat there smiling and grinning, looking at her son admiringly. The faculty was puzzled.

Finally, a Spanish-speaking teacher arrived and suddenly solved the mystery. Instead of translating for his mother what was actually being said, the student said only that the teachers were so proud of her boy, he’s such an excellent student, we couldn’t be happier and more thrilled with him here!

In short order, the Spanish-speaking teacher set the mom straight.

Hey, you gotta give the kid credit for trying!

Good News Friday: A gay rugby player proposes in a very cool way. A 9-year-old girl does Alicia Keys awesome on “America’s Got Talent.” And a police officer give a blind woman a magical moment

First of all, thanks to my friend Jeff Pearlman and his large social media following, Wednesday’s post was by far the most-read ever in my eight years writing this little site. So to any of my new readers, welcome aboard! And please stay, at least for a few days. Although not all of my posts will be about beloved pieces of my childhood fading away, like Sports Illustrated.) I post here three times per week, and Fridays are always dedicated to good news stories.

We start Good News Friday today with a pretty wonderful moment from the world of rugby. I remember a few years ago how courageous it was when the first out gay professional athlete turned out to be a rugby star named Gareth Thomas in 2010, and of course since then we’ve had Michael Sam, Jason Collins, etc.

Anyway, at the recent London Gay Pride parade, a rugby player named Fernando Ferreira of Kings Cross Steelers RFC decided he wanted to propose to his boyfriend. And, well, he got his whole team to help him. Very, very cool.

**Next up today, I don’t watch “America’s Got Talent” but once in a while a performance is so great that I see it all over people’s social media feeds and I check it out.

That was the case with 9=year-old Angelica Hale, who just blew the judges (and everyone in the audience) away with this incredible rendition of Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire.”

How a huge voice like this can come out of such a tiny body is beyond me. But man, does this kid have pipes!

**Finally today, a very small moment that made me smile. Officer Kristian Johnson of Utah’s Logan City Police Department was called to help Shirley Hardman with a microwave that wouldn’t stop beeping after she warmed a muffin. (I can relate, Shirley, a beeping microwave that won’t stop is enough to send me into a silent rage.)  Hardman recently experienced a kitchen fire, and because she is blind, she was nervous about a fire occurring again. She called the operator for help, who connected her with the police. A short time later, Officer Johnson was on his way.

After clearing the microwave’s error code, Johnson asked Hardman if there was anything left he could do for her.

She asked him to sing. He tried to beg off at first, but then did a perfectly-passable “You are My Sunshine.”

“See, you CAN sing!” Shirley exclaimed.

In an interview with Fox13, Johnson said the experience wasn’t just meaningful to Hardman. “It was obvious it meant something to her, and for me it made my day: it made my week,” he said.

Just one nice person helping another nice person. One of the simply joys of life.

Officer Johnson’s no Angelica Hale, but hey, he did his best.

 

 

A post I hate writing: The sad, slow decline of Sports Illustrated. A powerful new ad about texting and driving. And a Red Sox outfielder makes the catch of the year.

Most of the posts I write on here, I think about for a day or two, then write them. If it’s a political rant, sometimes there’s not as much thought that goes into it because I’m mad about something. But rarely do I let a post marinate in my head for weeks at a time like this one.

I’ve really, really not wanted to write about the decline of my favorite magazine of all time, Sports Illustrated. I’ve been in complete denial about it for years, but thanks to a few recent events which I’ll get to in a minute, I have to stop lying to myself.
SI is dying. It was dying slowly, and now it seems to be happening more quickly. And it makes me so, so sad. If you’ll indulge me, a short love story to one of my first-ever loves.

The first issue of Sports Illustrated I ever received was the Dec. 24-31, 1984 Sportsman of the Year issue, with Mary Lou Retton and Edwin Moses on the cover. I turned 9 in 1984, and my grandpa Don, knowing how much I loved sports, got me a gift subscription.

I’ve been a subscriber ever since. For 33 years now. When my grandfather died in 1995, I took over paying for the subscription, and never once have I let it lapse. I grew up worshiping, studying, memorizing SI. I saved every issue for years, can still recite some stories from the 1987 “One Day in Baseball” issue, and a 1996 profile of troubled basketball star Richie Parker by Gary Smith is still the best magazine piece I’ve ever read.

I looked up and tried to pattern myself after so many SI writers; people like Rick Reilly, Smith, Leigh Montville, Steve Rushin, Jack McCallum… these men were my idols. Once I wrote a letter to the editor and it got published; I didn’t stop smiling for days. One day early in my journalism career I submitted a “They Said It” for the Scorecard section, it got published, and I got a check for $75. No payment I’ve ever received has meant more to me.

So, yeah… I was obsessed with Sports Illustrated. My dream, always, was to work there one day, but I never was quite able to summit that personal Everest.
Still, even though I didn’t make it there, I still enjoyed and devoured every issue. It was the Bible for this Jewish kid from New York.

In recent years, though, the magazine has fallen. First, they made tons of layoffs, getting rid of super-talented writers. Then, the quality began to drop; major articles weren’t written by established, seasoned scribes, but by young writers not quite as good. There was, and still is, some tremendous talent at SI; writers like Lee Jenkins and Chris Ballard are as good as any writers SI has ever had.

But the issues are fewer every year, the magazine gets thinner and thinner, and they’re clearly searching for the magic again. I’m writing this post now, finally, because of three things:

This article says that after publishing only 38 issues in 2017, it’s possible there’ll be a reduction to 24 issues in 2018. SI used to publish 52 issues a year.

— Lately the magazine has been getting into bed with a lot of corporate sponsors, doing “branded content” and partnering with sponsors. This led to this week’s cover (above), which was completely done for Gatorade, as SI put Gatorade’s High School Athletes of the Year on the cover.

I absolutely understand it’s an economic reality forced upon Sports Illustrated by other market forces. I do. But this bastion of journalistic integrity, a home of independent journalism for 60 years, now takes money from sponsors, and in return, puts two high school kids on the cover. It makes me sad.

— And finally, most painful of all, the errors in stories, once almost impossible to find, now show up in every issue. Not trying to embarrass anyone, but in the most recent issue, a coach whose last name is “Harwood” is called “Hammond.” Twice.

That never, never used to happen. It’s happening now because SI has far fewer copy-editors and fact checkers looking at what goes into the magazine. There are legendary stories of bleary-eyed young SI reporters having to call football coaches to verify that they drove a 1987 blue Chevy Nova, not a brown one.

Now, not so much.

I know SI will limp along for a few more years, and I still read many of their writers on its website. But seeing SI struggle this much, and change, is like losing a little beloved piece of my life.

I know it’ll never go back to its glory days. But it’s a damn shame what my Bible has become.

**Next up today, every once in a while you see an ad so powerful that it leaves your mouth agape. Almost all of us are guilty of texting while driving, or walking. I try very hard not to do it anymore, but occasionally at a red light, I’m guilty.

Watch this short ad, produced by South Africa’s Western Cape government, all the way until the end, and you’ll think twice before reaching for the phone when behind the wheel.

**And finally today, posting a positive highlight of a Boston Red Sox player goes against everything I believe in, normally, but sometimes, greatness must be acknowledged.

Check out this ridiculous catch by Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr., robbing the Yankees’ Aaron Judge on Sunday. Bradley knew he had it like five steps before making the leap. Pretty amazing.

Still, for my money, this is the greatest catch I’ve ever seen. Ken Griffey Jr., man, was he amazing.

The greatest of all time wins Wimbledon title No. 8. A Jewish kid in Pa. dedicates his bar mitzvah to Jimmy Kimmel, and Jon Stewart’s not happy. And even Fox News is tired of being lied to

Between 2013-2016, you would hear the stories on TV, or read them in newspapers or on the web.

At first they were whispers, as there was still so much respect for the person they were talking about. But then they got louder, and louder, and louder.

What’s wrong with Roger Federer? Why isn’t he winning anymore? Is he too old? Maybe he should just … retire.

Yep, looks like all those experts were right. That four-year-gap between Grand Slam wins for Roger Federer was the end. Guy could barely play anymore, he should’ve just shuffled off to Switzerland’s version of Del Boca Vista, Phase 2 and called it a career.

Not quite. Roger Federer, the greatest athlete I’ve had the privilege of seeing in my 41 years of life, is writing a story in 2017 that’s never been seen before. He’s doing things no 35-almost-36 year old tennis player has ever done, hell, no professional athlete has done at this age and stage of his career.

Let me hit you with a few quick facts on this incredible champion’s run in 2017:

— He’s won 2 of the 3 Grand Slam events. He’s only played two of them.
— He just won Wimbledon for a record eighth time. And did it without dropping a set. That’s insane.
— He’s 25-0, that’s 25 wins and no losses, in the four biggest tournaments he’s played this year.
— He’s got an excellent chance to become No. 1 in the world again, at the end of this year.

It is all so miraculous to watch for those of us who are hard-core Federer fans like me. We saw the struggles of the last few years, the shocking losses to people like Tommy Robredo and Sergei Stakhovsky at majors, and winced. Nobody wanted to see Federer go out like this.

Then, he got hurt twice in 2016, and took the rest of the season off. Nobody, and I mean, nobody, not even Federer, thought he’d win two Slams this year, and play so flawlessly.

His movement, his serve, his backhand… all of it, back or even better than it was 10 years ago, when he dominated his sport like few others ever had. It’s incredible to see, and Sunday, when he beat a clearly-injured Marin Cilic in straight sets, you could tell how much Federer was enjoying this career renaissance.

Oh, I know, he didn’t have to beat Nadal, Murray or Djokovic to win this title, his 19th Slam overall. But that’s not his fault; two of them were injured and the other (Nadal, having a terrific year himself) lost an epic five-setter.

It’s truly a remarkable story, Federer doing this at his age, doing it so well.

And before I move on, a few words about Venus Williams. She’s 37, she’s overcome so many injuries and illness the past few years, and yet she’s still a Top 10 player. She made a fantastic run to the Wimbledon finals before falling short to Garbine Muguruza, but she’s an inspiration. Venus has always been a class act, and I hope she does get one more Slam title before she’s done.

Great Wimbledon. U.S. Open only seven weeks away!

**Next up, this made me laugh really hard. Seems there’s a 13-year-old in Media, Pa. named Will Rubin who is a huge fan of Jimmy Kimmel and his late-night show. Such a huge fan that he invited Kimmel to come to his bar mitzvah. Understandably, Kimmel couldn’t attend, but he did send a video message along, and Will ended up having a “Jimmy Kimmel Live” theme at his celebration of becoming a man.

Well, a certain Jewish comedian named Jon Stewart wasn’t too pleased he was passed over;and he “stormed” Kimmel’s set last Thursday night to argue/appeal to the boy. “Will, wouldn’t you rather idolize a talk-show host who’s also circumcised?”

This is great.

**Finally today, my head hurts trying to keep up with all the lies coming out the White House these days. Honestly, it’s exhausting trying to keep track, between them lying about the Russia meetings, what’s in the health care bill (and as brilliant Tweeter John Fugelsang pointed out Sunday, after learning that there’ll be no health care vote this week “Mitch McConnell has to delay taking healthcare from American taxpayers until after John McCain has surgery, paid for by American taxpayers.”

It is now beyond clear, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Fredo Trump (Don Jr.) and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner lied, repeatedly, about meeting with representative of the Russian government bent on helping Trump win. But still, 35 percent of Americans will support this President no matter what he does or says.

But every once in a while, some sunlight comes in, even to Fox News. Check out Chris Wallace and Shep Smith the other day, talking about this scandal and the incredible number of lies, lies, lies coming out of the White House.

“The deception is mind-boggling,” Smith says, and he’s right.

Good News Friday: 80 people form a human chain to save a family from drowning. A farmer in Iowa builds a Wimbledon Centre Court replica, and it’s awesome. And a moving tribute to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, from Michelle Obama

And a Happy Friday to all of you out there in Internet-land. So much I want to say about L’Affair Trump Jr., but it’s Good News Friday and we’re keeping it positive as always here today.

OK, first up, we’re nearing the end of Wimbledon, with the men’s semis today starring my man Roger Federer, and the women’s final, featuring ageless 37-year-old Venus Williams (what an amazing story she is) coming up on Saturday.

Well, from the great Steve Hartman of “CBS Sunday Morning,” this is a story so far up my alley, I’m kind of amazed I didn’t know about it until now.

You remember “Field of Dreams,” of course, the movie about a man who hears a voice from above telling him to build a baseball diamond in the middle of Iowa cornfields.

Well, this story takes that one step further, and it’s all real. A man named Mark Kuhn heard a tennis match on his grandfather’s old transistor radio as a boy, and the BBC call of Wimbledon had the young child transfixed.

Kuhn’s obsession with the greatest tennis tournament in the world led to him building, in his Iowa cornfield, a replica of Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court back in 2002.z

Seriously, he built it in his cornfield. And children of all ages now come to hit serves and backhands on his exquisitely beautiful court. That’s right, he’s got the All Iowa Lawn Tennis Club, and all you need to play is a love of tennis and a court reservation.

Mark, you’re my hero. And next time I’m anywhere NEAR Iowa, I’m coming over to play a set.

**Next up today, this story went viral this week for very good reason. Approximately 80 beachgoers in Panama City, Fla. noticed Roberta Ursrey and her family in major trouble in the ocean last Sunday, as a very strong rip current prevented nine people from swimming back to safety.

So slowly but surely, more than six dozen strangers began forming a human chain from the sand out to the Ursrey family, and managed to rescue each one of them.

Complete strangers, bonded together in a moment of crisis, became heroic. So, so wonderful.

“It’s so cool to see how we have our own lives and we’re constantly at a fast pace, but when somebody needs help, everybody drops everything and helps,” said Jessica Simmons, who was one of the first people to try to rescue the swimmers. “That was really inspiring to see that we still have that.

“With everything going on in the world, we still have humanity,” she added.

And may we always have that, please.

http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=19974723

**Finally today, this was an incredibly moving and uplifting story from this week’s ESPY Awards. Eunice Kennedy Shriver was one of the greatest Americans of the 20th century. She was JFK’s sister, but more importantly, she was a driving force behind the creation of the Special Olympics, an incredibly vibrant and important organization that has helped millions of special needs boys and girls have one place where they can shine and stand out.

Michelle Obama, who I miss having on the national stage terribly, narrated this fabulous look at Shriver’s life, and accomplishments. This is so worth it, just to hear the boys and girls whose lives have been changed by Special Olympics talk about what it’s meant to them.

What an amazing woman she was.

Sleepaway camps for kids: Are they a cult, or an awesome maturing experience? A new pro wrestling character is genius. And “Curb Your Enthusiasm” back in October, whoo-hoo!

A few weeks ago my wife excitedly came to me with news: Her old sleepaway camp in Monroe, N.Y., was having an alumni reunion. And we should go!

My wife is an enthusiastic, wonderful person, and she has many passions. One of those passions that I learned about VERY early on in our relationship was her worship of sleepaway summer camp, particularly, her sleepaway summer camp, Camp Monroe.

If you’re not from the Northeast, or maybe it’s the whole East Coast, you might not be familiar with the sleepaway camp phenomenon. Basically, instead of the more traditional day camps that I and maybe many of you attended, sleepaway camp is like college for 9-year-olds.

You sleep in bunks with other kids, you do activities, you have freedom from your parents, and most importantly, for four or six or eight weeks every summer, you’re hundreds of miles away from your parents.

Thousands of kids, every year, take leave of their home and happily go to sleepaway camp; I only did one two-week stint at tennis camp and loved it, except six hours of tennis a day were too much for me.

Anyway, growing up I thought this was a totally normal option, sleepaway camp, but when a few friends of mine from other parts of the country have heard about it, they’re horrified.

“You’re sending your kids away for 6 weeks, or 8 weeks, all by themselves, with strangers???”” they would shout. “That’s so mean! Aren’t you going to miss them? What kind of parents would do that?”

Seriously, that’s what they’ve said. And I guess they have a point; it does seem like a radical concept if you’re not familiar with it, and of course some kids go to sleepaway camp and hate it (my sister went once and said “never again.”)

But the vast majority of parents and kids who do it love it. It teaches the kids independence, life skills, shows them again how to make new friends and get along with people, and gives everyone in the family a chance to experience new things. Heck, I know lots of kids who look at school as the 10 months a year thing you have to endure just to get back to the fun of sleepaway camp.

I have very little doubt that when Nate and future Lewis children are old enough, we’ll ask if they want to go have fun in the woods, meet new friends, and learn to make S’Mores.
And if they say yes, then one day they’ll drag their kids to an alumni reunion. And if it’s as fun as ours was on Sunday, their children will be thrilled.

**Next up today, I used to be a big pro wrestling fan as a kid; totally into Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair and Rowdy Roddy Piper and all that (still mad that I left a beautiful, black WWF satin jacket on a bus in 8th grade. Man, I loved that jacket). I don’t follow the “sport” anymore unless something truly genius or strange catches my eye, and this is genius. In a minor-league wrestling promotion in Kentucky, there’s a new “bad guy” character called  The Progressive Liberal, a Democrat who wears Hillary and Bernie Sanders T-shirts, spouts off about backwoods people, and gets fans all riled up. He also says stuff like “I want to help you people get jobs in clean energy!” and “Use some ObamaCare and get a hearing aid, you moron!”

Above is a video of him in action, and here’s an MSNBC report on the guy, named Daniel Edwards. This is perfect; I really hope the WWE scoops him up soon.

At first I was thinking they ought to also have a conservative bad guy, a cartoonishly awful figure saying stupid and crazy things, too, but then I remembered: Sean Hannity already exists, and plays the part so, so well.

**And finally today, I’m a huge (yuge) fan of the HBO show “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” so I was thrilled when it was finally announced this week that Season 9 will begin on October 1, and released this trailer to go with it.

Cannot wait!

The last place in America that insanely still shuts down commerce on Sundays. An Australian TV commentator perfectly nails America’s current role. And this 17-year-old Canadian basketball stud looks awesome

I realize that sometimes I write about things on this blog that many of you already know about but that I’ve just discovered.

But hey, I write about what I see, hear and read in the everyday world, and Sunday I saw something that absolutely left me gobsmacked.

The Lewis trio drove to quasi-upstate New York Sunday to attend an alumni reunion day at my bride’s beloved former sleepaway camp (more on that in Wednesday’s blog, it was such a cool day) in a little town called Monroe.

And on our way there, we drove through Bergen County, N.J., which I heretofore only knew as a pretty wealthy Jersey suburb.

“Oh, we’re in Bergen, you won’t see any stores open at all today, it’s Sunday, Blue Laws” my wife said.

“That’s only for alcohol,” I confidently replied. (I was stymied by Blue Laws a few times when I lived in the South.)

“Um, no, it’s pretty much for everything except food, I think,” she replied, and once again I soon learned that my wife is much smarter than me.

I didn’t believe her, so we looked it up. And actually, I was wrong twice: Alcohol and food are practically the ONLY things you’re allowed to buy in Bergen County on Sundays. I kid you not. Are you aware in the year of our Lord two thousand and seventeen, you can’t buy clothes, a new printer for your computer, or a toaster? Want to purchase a sofa, some cutlery, or an electric fan? Sorry, you’re S.O.L.

But hey, if you want a sandwich, some gasoline or some plumbing supplies, go right ahead. (Seriously, look at this list of what is and isn’t approved and try to explain why something is on one list and not the other.)

I’m not making this up. I wish I were. This is the last place in the U.S. to have “Blue Laws” like this, and I cannot for the life of me fathom why Bergen still does it.

I’ve read lots of explanations on the Internet about it, from lawmakers and residents wanting to preserve Sunday as “a holy day” or a day of rest and quiet, to just stubborn tradition.

And twice in the past 40 years the law has come up for repeal and been voted down by the county’s residents. But I can’t for the life of me understand why this law is on the books. (Here’s a good look at the history of how this happened in Bergen.)

Aren’t business owners getting majorly hurt in the wallet, not being open on a day when most people are off from work and have time and $ to shop? Aren’t residents getting screwed, with so many using the weekend as a time to go shopping with their kids for big-ticket items? Aren’t restaurants mad that fewer people will come in to eat on Sunday because they’re not out running around and doing stuff?

I’m baffled. Truly baffled. If any of my wonderful readers live in Bergen County or can give me a good explanation, I would be thrilled to hear it.

**Next up today, it was yet another depressing, embarrassing, humiliating couple of days for those of us still holding out any hope that our current President isn’t a complete liar and moron. From his ridiculous statements that he and our “real” President Vladimir Putin are going to form a “Cyber Security Unit” together (because who better than Vlad to help with that? While we’re at it, let’s get the Big Bad Wolf to teach us about home construction!) to little Donnie’s amazing admission Sunday that he met with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer who said she had dirt on Hillary Clinton, it just continues to get worse and worse.

But beyond all of the day-to-day stuff about Trump, the bigger picture needs to keep being seen. And last week at the G20 summit, with 19 other world leaders, it was obvious to most foreign media that the U.S. is suddenly no longer a leader. ABC Australia journalist Chris Uhlmann summarizes our new role in the world perfectly, and while it’s depressing to see how fast we’ve fallen in the world’s eyes, it’s instructive to constantly move beyond the daily headlines and see how all of this looks to the rest of the world.

Sad.

**And finally, it’s pretty rare to see jaw-dropping basketball highlights anymore; it seems like we’ve seen it all.

But check out 17-year-old RJ Barrett, absolutely destroying Team USA at the Under-19 World Championships this weekend. Kid scored 38 points, and grabbed 13 rebounds in leading our wonderful northern neighbors to a victory.

Methinks he’ll be in the NBA very, very soon.

A hard-working man gets a generous gift from a stranger, changing his life. John Oliver makes a hilarious “movie” about President Harding. And dogs doing lots of funny stuff

And a Happy Friday to you out there in sweltering Web-land, well, I’m sure it’s sweltering somewhere where ever you are.

Lots of good stuff in Good News Friday this week, but this may be my favorite story of the week. A 20-year-old African-American man named Justin Korva was spotted walking to work in 95-degree Texas heat recently by a guy named Andy Mitchell.

Mitchell offered him a ride, and while driving Korva to work at Taco Casa, Mitchell discovered the young man normally walked three miles to work and home again every day. Korva said he was determined to save up money and someday, he hoped, he would be able to afford a car.

Well, Mitchell was very impressed with Korva’s dedication and posted about him on Facebook. One thing led to another, and, well, just watch this video and go grab a Kleenex.

So, so great. The full details of the story are here.

**Next up today, this is one of the most hilarious segments John Oliver has done in a while. When he and his staff got word the Presidential Wax Museum was shutting down, they of course sprung into action, buying five of them.

But it’s what they planned to do with the wax statue of Warren G. Harding that makes this segment awesome. Starring Anna Kendrick, Campbell Scott, Michael McKeon and others, it’s “Harding.” And it’s fantastic.

**Finally today, my wife found this video on the Facebook page of an organization called The Mind Awakened, and I think it’s pretty hilarious.

Inside the brain of dogs, a few examples showing that maybe, just maybe, they’re not the brightest animals in the kingdom. But they sure are funny.

A sensational story of a Muslim doctor, explaining Islam in rural Minnesota. “Master of None” was superb in Season 2. And Steve Rushin, writing master craftsman, opens the curtain a little

Hope you all had a wonderful Independence Day; the Lewis family sure did. Had a terrific time at a playground in Central Park with our little man, then a picnic lunch under a big ole’ tree in Central Park, followed by dinner and watching fireworks from our window. Macy’s fireworks have been in the same place (over the East River) for the last four years, but somehow the view from our bedroom window was much, much better than in past years. Anyway, it was a great day. Life is awesome.

Two excellent pieces of writing/journalism to share today, sandwiched around a fabulous TV show we just finished watching.

First, from the Washington Post, comes this beautifully reported and told story by Stephanie McCrummen. It’s about a Muslim doctor in Minnesota named Ayaz Virji, who several years ago moved to a small town in the state and was welcomed warmly.

Then, the 2016 election happened, and things changed quite a bit. Now, Virji feels cold shoulders and stares where he goes, and to help combat the anti-Islam feeling that suddenly seems pervasive around him, he’s gone around to three small towns in Minnesota to essentially, explain the truth about Islam.

“Ayaz wasn’t sure (explaining Islam) was his responsibility, but how else would people learn?” she writes.

The story takes several surprising turns, and is absolutely beautifully written by McCrummen. Read this for a look at one small way 2016’s election changed everything.

**Next up, my wife and I just finished binge-ing Season 2 of the sublimely excellent Netflix series “Master of None.” I raved about Season 1 last year, because Aziz Ansari’s look at love, food, New York City, religion and everything else that interests him was so fresh and new.

Season 2, which was released two months ago, is miles better. Ten episodes, of varying length and subject matter, explore so many things that broadcast television wouldn’t touch. There’s an entire episode about Ansari’s character Dev explaining to his family that he’s not a devout Muslim anymore. There’s a fantastic, Woody Allen movie-esque episode of three different slices of life for New York City residents, starring a group of foreign-born cabdrivers, a deaf couple arguing about their sex life, and doormen in a swanky building and the interesting predicaments they’re often put in.

There’s a wonderful season-long romance between Dev and the gorgeous Alessandra Mastronardi, and the penultimate episode of the season will break your heart. The season starts in Italy, moves to New York, and gets sensational performances from guest stars like Angela Bassett and Bobby Cannavale.

Seriously, “Master of None” is expertly written and directed. Maybe the best thing I’ve seen on TV this year. Streaming on Netflix now, I highly, highly recommend it.

**Finally today, my man Jeff Pearlman continues to grind out a weekly Q and A on his blog with fascinating people from all walks of life, and his most recent Quaz is near and dear to my heart.

Steve Rushin was a big inspiration for me as a young sportswriter; his prose in Sports Illustrated each week was truly like none other. Twenty-six years later, I still remember his game story in SI from the 1991 World Series, maybe the best I’ve ever seen, between the Twins and Braves, and memorized the story’s opening (Rushin’s lede: “The truth is inelastic when it comes to the 88th World Series. It is impossible to stretch. It isn’t necessary to appraise the nine days just past from some distant horizon of historical perspective. Let us call this Series what it is, now, while its seven games still ring in our ears: the greatest that was ever played.”)

His wordplay can be dazzling “I ate Frosted Flakes right out of the box, and she was on boxes of Frosted Flakes” and the next cliche Rushin uses will be his first. He’s an original, brilliant writing voice, and may be the first sportswriter to marry a women’s pro basketball legend (Rebecca Lobo).

He opens up with Jeff about his career, how fluky it was that he got to SI in the first place, and where journalism is going. His story about the letter he got from President George W. Bush five years after meeting him is hilarious.

Anyway, the interview is a damn entertaining read, just like all of Rushin’s stories.

 

“The Big Sick” a really warm, funny movie with heart. Remembering the best July 4th fireworks show I saw live. And Wimbledon begins, can Federer win No. 19?

It’s rare that I go to the movies anymore, and even rarer that I go to the cinema in the summer, when nearly every movie is an insipid superhero flick with $200 million special effects budget but a $5 plot. Summer movies are almost always dreadful; the best thing about them is that you’re inside and getting air conditioning for a few hours.

But I’ve been reading and hearing so many positive things about “The Big Sick,” the new romantic comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani (he’s on HBO’s excellent “Silicon Valley”) and Zoe Kazan, that my beautiful wife and I decided to check it out.

It was sensational. Really, really strong flick, maybe the best romantic comedy I’ve seen since I don’t know when. (maybe since I saw “Knocked Up?”)

The plot is simple: Kumail (playing himself) is a Pakistani stand-up comedian in his 20s living in Chicago, totally happy with American culture, but stuck with old-world parents who keep trying to set him up. One night at a comedy club he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan), a blonde and perky grad student who’s studying to be a psychiatrist. The two hit it off immediately, start to have a relationship, and a few months later it falls apart (I won’t spoil the whole plot).

Then right after the breakup, Emily gets very sick and is put into a medically-induced coma, and suddenly we’re in a very different movie. Soon Kumail has to deal with Emily’s parents (the usually hilarious Holly Hunter is great here, and Ray Romano continues to show he can actually act), who know about the breakup and understandably aren’t thrilled he keeps showing up to the hospital every day.

There were a lot of little, funny touches in “The Big Sick,”  that show the writers (Nanjiani and his real-life wife, Emily Gordon) realize the small things are important, including Kumail needing to get ahold of Emily’s parents, but not having their phone number, and of course Emily’s phone is locked.

So he takes Emily’s iPhone and slides her comatose thumb over the home button, unlocking the device, then mouthing “sorry” to her. But hey, how else would he have gotten their digits, right?

The movie also contains what I believe to be the first and only truly funny 9/11 joke, which I won’t spoil here. You may hate yourself for laughing at it, but you will laugh, trust me.

“The Big Sick” has great heart, its hilarious and moving, and credits its audience with having a brain, rare for a summer movie. It’s only playing in certain cities right now, but it’s gotten a 91 percent fresh Rotten Tomatoes score for a reason: It’s terrific. If it’s playing anywhere near you, go see it.

Next up, I’m probably not going to be attending any live fireworks shows this year (our little guy can’t stay up that late and is terrified by loud noises), so I got a little nostalgic and found this on YouTube: In 1986 there was an amazing fireworks show over the Statue of Liberty, to celebrate its 100 year anniversary. My family and I camped out 12 hours earlier to get a good spot. It was pretty magical…

**Finally today, it’s a national holiday for tennis fans like me: Wimbledon is here! The most prestigious and best Grand Slam of the year arrives, and for me it’s two weeks of pure racket bliss. OK, sure, I did have a few moments this weekend remembering the once-in-a-lifetime trip to Wimbledon my wife and I took last year, and had a few small pangs of “Man, that was so incredible, I want to go back!

But that quickly passed. This Wimbledon figures to be utterly predictable on the men’s side, and completely unpredictable on the women’s side. With the men, I have to believe it’ll be either Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal winning the title; Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are in deep slumps, and I can’t see an upstart like Grigor Dimitrov or Alex Zverev breaking through here. Please, please tennis Gods, give us Federer/Nadal final in 2 weeks.
On the women’s side, who the hell knows? Serena Williams is pregnant, Maria Sharapova is hurt, and none of the other top women’s players have any great pedigree on grass.

Jelena Ostapenko won the French Open, Simona Halep is always dangerous, and don’t count out Venus. Should be wild.

Two glorious weeks of Wimbledon. Can’t wait.