Good News Friday: A potentially incredible Alzheimer’s breakthrough. A WWII vet meets some young fans. And the joy of hearing for the first time

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And a Happy Friday to you all. I’m in a good mood as usual just looking at the photo above, of my smiling, sweet Grandma Marcelle, who died two years ago after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.

In just about every picture I’ve ever seen of my Grandma, she’s smiling. But Alzheimer’s robbed us of enjoying her final years completely, which is partly why I follow exciting breakthroughs in curing this awful disease so closely.

I know we’re a long ways away from a cure, and I know lots of diseases deserve lots of research funding. But Alzheimer’s affects so many, and is so cruel, that it seems it ought to be high on the list of priorities.

This story about a big development in a study at Duke University seems particularly promising.

Researchers at Duke announced that their studies of Alzheimer’s in mice had resulted in a new process they believe contributes to the disease’s development.

According to this story, they observed that in Alzheimer’s, immune cells that normally protect the brain instead begin to consume a vital nutrient called arginine.

By blocking this process with a drug, they were able to prevent the formation of ‘plaques’ in the brain that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, and also halted memory loss in the mice.

While no technique that is tested in an animal can be guaranteed to work the same way in humans, the findings are particularly encouraging because, until now, the exact role of the immune system and arginine in Alzheimer’s was completely unknown.

Sounds like this could be huge. Fingers crossed…

http://www.cbsnews.com/common/video/cbsnews_video.swf

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**Next up, this is a couple weeks old because I’m a little behind on my DVR these days, but it was so touching I wanted to share it. Twin 10-year-old boys Jack and Carter became obsessed recently, as many boys their age do, with the game “Battleship” and with boats and ships in general.

After a visit to see the Yorktown in Charleston, S.C., they learned about a soldier on the ship named Robert Harding, and became so interested in him that they tracked him down via email, and struck up a friendship.

Watch this great CBS Sunday Morning piece on what happens next (above).

**And finally today, these videos always make me smile. I’m not sure when this is from, but two separate Facebook friends posted it this week, so maybe it’s recent.

It’s simply about the joy of hearing, as humans of all ages get cochlear implants and experience the wonder of a sense they never before had.

 

 

A NYC Little League team honors fallen officers. A fantastic tirade by the Cincinnati Reds manager. And a newspaper reporter wins a Pulitzer after leaving the biz

Little League, Buczek

The New York Post, it is pretty much universally acknowledged, is a total rag.
Stories are made up out of whole cloth much of the time, their political slant is just to the right of Pat Buchanan, and even for a tabloid, their stories are often ridiculous and terribly-written.

The only redeeming qualities of the Post, for me at least, are the often-hilarious headlines (“Ka-Bullsye!” remains a favorite, from when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2002) and the constant “get off my lawn” carping of sportswriter Phil Mushnick, who hates everything and everybody that the sports world has turned into.

Still, every once in a while the Post will do a story to show they’re not totally worthless, and usually it comes from the pen of excellent columnist Mike Vaccaro.

I stumbled onto this terrific piece he did last weekend, about a Washington Heights (that’s the Bronx) Little League. It seems back in 1988, after police officer Michael J. Buczek was killed, his family, knowing what a baseball lover he was, decided to start a new youth league in his name.

But this league would be different in one big way: The 300 kids in the league all wear major league team names on the front, like so many leagues do.

But on the back, names of NYPD officers who had been killed in the line of duty would appear, honoring for that season a different brave man or woman who’d been struck down.

“You know the old saying, ‘You don’t play for the name on the back of the jersey, but for the name on the front of the jersey?’ We do it a little different,” said Sgt. John Moynihan, a friend of Buczek. “We really do play for the name on the back of the jersey.”

It’s a wonderful idea, and with the league now in its 27th year, one that has continued.  Read Vaccaro’s piece here for more great insight on the family, and the league.

**Next up, we had an all-time classic angry rant by a sports figure Monday night. Bryan Price, the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, was upset with the media’s doing their job, specifically, reporting a certain player was unavailable to play the night before.

This led Price into an epic, and I mean, epic, profanity-laced rant about how the sportswriters aren’t helping his team (umm, they’re not supposed to) and how he tries so hard to help but he’s going to stop trying and, just listen to it. It’s definitely NSFW (the interesting stuff starts at the 1-minute mark), but fantastic audio.

Price is just one in a long, long line of sports figures who don’t understand that sportswriters aren’t there to help them, and apparently is pissed about it.

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**Finally today, this story had particular resonance to me as an ex-newspaper writer who still feels passionately about the craft. The Pulitzer Prizes were given out Monday, and as usual, some incredible, important work was honored (here’s a look at all the winners, with links to their work).

One of the prizes went to the Torrance (CA) Daily Breeze, a small newspaper that won for a fantastic expose into a corrupt local district (I actually applied for a job at that paper when I first started out and was applying everywhere; I thought it had a cool name and who wouldn’t want to live in SoCal as a young adult? Alas, like hundreds of other papers, they rejected me.)

It’s always great to see tiny papers get rewarded with Pulitzers, so most journalists were happy to see it get recognized.
But then word came out that one of the three reporters who won, Rob Kuznia (middle person in photo), is no longer in journalism.

As he told the L.A. Observer, Kuznia had to leave the Daily Breeze this year because he could no longer afford to live in Southern California on a reporter’s salary. He’s now a publicist at USC.

I have mixed feelings on this; of course it’s wonderful Kuznia won, but when a journalist as talented as he is has to leave the business because the pay is so pitiful (and it’s bad everywhere now in these newspaper days), it’s really sad.

At least Kuznia went out with a bang.

A husband in China goes way above and beyond the call of duty. Stories from the kids who survived Oklahoma City bombing. And a quick rant about flashing highway billboards

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All kinds of weird and wonderful and terrible sports news over the weekend; still trying to process why the Eagles signed Tim Tebow, how the horrendously unworthy of luck Edmonton Oilers managed to win yet another NHL draft lottery and thus get the once-in-a-generation talent Connor McDavid in this year’s draft, and how I’m not at all surprised at the behavior of Islanders fans on Sunday at Nassau Coliseum.

But we begin today’s post with a pretty remarkable act of spousal support from a husband in China.

A 27-year-old soldier in the Chinese army named Yin Yunfeng is stationed in Tibet, and only gets to see his wife, Zhao Mai, about once a year.

Apparently on a recent visit Yin was distressed to see that Zhao was so busy she rarely had time to cook herself dinner.

So Yin decided to solve that problem. He cooked 12 months’ worth of meals for Zhao, so she’d have something to eat every day while he was gone.

According to this story, Yin Yunfeng’s cooking marathon included more than 1,000 dumplings, 150 liters of his wife’s favourite noodle soup and dozens of other hearty meals all individually packaged, which he then stashed in their freezer and the freezers of nearby friends and family.

Explaining his epic effort in a note, Yin Yunfeng wrote: ‘You’re so focused on your work and have so much to read when you get home that I want to make life easier for you.’

Wow. And here I am, feeling all proud of myself for going out to get my wife coffee and an egg sandwich on Saturday mornings.

Yin Yunfeng, you have shamed all the husbands in the world. Damn you! But seriously, that’s incredible.

http://www.npr.org/v2/?i=400167661&m=400285307&t=audio

**Next up today, this is just fabulous story-telling, and devastating yet uplifting to hear.
Sunday was the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, a day I remember as clear as day, as I’m sure you do, too.

National Public Radio marked the occasion by interviewing kids who survived the blast at the Alfred Murrah building, and what they remember, and how they feel about having the most significant moment of their lives happen when they’re barely out of diapers.

Incredible stuff.

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**Finally today, allow me a quick rant about something really stupid and idiotic that occurred to me Sunday night. My wife and 7-month-old son and I were coming back from a fabulous weekend trip to see relatives in Maryland, and I was in a pretty good mood as we rolled off the Jersey Turnpike toward the Lincoln Tunnel because we’d hit remarkably little traffic on the way home.

And as I’m steering, I’m suddenly half-blinded by two enormous, flashing neon-lit billboards in my face as I’m driving toward the tunnel. I mean, huge, flashing billboards that could not be ignored.

And I’m thinking, drivers don’t have enough distractions? Texting, other drivers, the radio, kids in the backseat yelling, etc., that we really need flashing, sun-bright billboards hanging over highways? I mean, this is legal to do this?

Just saying, you want me to recognize your product or brand, don’t blind me heading into a curve.

A 12-year-old does an awesome thing with his March Madness winnings. A restaurant tries to help a dumpster-diver. And Fallon dances with the First Lady again

bracketwinner.12yearold

And a Happy Friday to you all, as spring has finally sprung here in New York.

We start off Good News Friday this week with the awesomeness that is Sam Holtz, a 12-year-old Illinois kid who had the best bracket out of millions of entries in ESPN.com’s NCAA Tournament pool.
But that’s not the most impressive thing about Sam. Last week he found out that because he was under 18, he wasn’t eligible for ESPN.com’s prize of a $20,000 Best Buy gift card and a trip to Maui.

However, Best Buy, knowing a great PR move when they see it, gave the kid a $1,000 gift card anyway.
And Sam, showing what a good boy he is, bought himself an XBox One, then used the rest of his money to buy another and donate it to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Said Sam to the Chicago Tribune: “I decided to donate one of the XBox One systems to Make-A-Wish because of my cousin Alec.” When he was real little, he was in Make-A-Wish, and back then [23 years ago], people granted his wish of going to Disney World. I thought I’d kind of repay them for what they did for my cousin [who survived his illness and is now an adult].”

What a wonderful kid. And he gets to go to Hawaii, too, because Scout.com decided to give him the trip ESPN couldn’t.

**Next up, this is from two weeks ago but I just saw it the other night; as usual when a Jimmy Fallon skit goes viral, it’s fantastic. Jimmy and the First Lady, Michelle Obama, with a sequel to their classic “Evolution of Mom Dancing.” The “Shush and Tush” is pretty great…

Dumpster.FINAL

**And finally today, this once again shows the innate goodness in people. A restaurant owner in Oklahoma named Ashley Jiron noticed one night that the bags of discarded food she was putting in her dumpster were being opened, with food being taken out.

“That really, it hurt me that someone had to do that,” Jiron said.

So she posted the note (above) on the dumpster the next night, offering to give the dumpster-diver a free meal and a much more pleasant dining experience.

“I think we’ve all been in that position where we needed someone’s help and we just needed someone to extend that hand and if I can be that one person to extend that hand to another human being then I will definitely do it,” Jiron said.

Beautiful. Just beautiful. “You are a human being,” such a simple message we all should remember.

A night out celebrating a worthy cause, Friends of Jaclyn. John Oliver defends the IRS, with help from Michael Bolton. And the Stanley Cup playoffs begin!

FOJ.benefit

Last Saturday night my wife and I had the supreme pleasure of attending the annual Friends of Jaclyn Benefit gala for the first time, and it was an experience I won’t forget.

I’ve written about FOJ a few times before on the blog, and wrote a story for the sadly-deceased sports website Thrivesports.com about the organization last year.

If you don’t have time to click through, FOJ was founded 10 years ago by a little girl named Jaclyn Murphy, who had been diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor. During a treatment session, her father Denis pointed out a women’s lacrosse poster hanging on the hospital’s walls and told Jaclyn, a budding player, to use that woman as inspiration.

Turns out that woman was Kelly Amonte, the lacrosse coach at Northwestern, and through a mutual friend Jaclyn started talking to Amonte, and her Northwestern team “adopted” Jaclyn, sending her encouraging letters, making videos and inviting her to games near her New York home.

So moved by the experience, and getting healthier, Jaclyn told her Dad that they need to get other kids with brain tumors adopted by college teams, and 10 years later, there are hundreds of pediatric brain tumor patients matched up with teams all across America (That’s the Penn football team, above, with 4-year-old Vhito, their new teammate).

It’s a wonderful charity filled with warm, generous people, and my wife and I are proud to be supporters.

At the benefit Saturday, we heard moving speeches from coaches whose teams had adopted children, including one whose team unfortunately saw their adoptee pass away.
We heard from parents of kids cruelly afflicted, like Cindy Bachman, whose son Sterling was diagnosed at 18 months, and has now reached 13 years old, helped along in spirit by the Yale lacrosse team.

And we met some of the FOJ kids themselves, beaming from ear to ear while sitting with some of the teams that came to the event (Shout-out to UConn women’s soccer, who literally brought the whole team).

FOJ doesn’t just match kids up with teams and walk away; they send care packages to kids with upcoming MRIs, make phone calls, email, and basically “adopt” each new kid in the program.

Tears were shed throughout the night Saturday; I’m a softie anyway, but this would’ve made the most hardened cynic cry.
It was a wonderful night for a wonderful organization, and if you’re looking to get involved with a charitable cause that’s a little off the beaten path, and doesn’t get the support of the “big guys,” I wholeheartedly endorse checking out Friends of Jaclyn.

I wouldn’t dream of telling people how to spend their money; all I ask is, spend a couple minutes checking out what FOJ does. Thanks.

**Next up today, John Oliver has once again been killing it in Season 2 of his HBO show “Last Week Tonight,” but this Sunday’s episode was maybe the best yet.
Today of course is Tax Day, and Oliver had a segment about the much-loathed Internal Revenue Service. But in a delightful twist, he defends the IRS, and does it with the help of, naturally, talented 1980s balladeer Michael Bolton.

**In the words of the great Jim Mora, playoffs? Playoffs!
The Stanley Cup playoffs begin tonight, by far the most exciting and fun of the four major sports postseasons (I may be biased since I love hockey so much I’m part-Canadian).

For many reasons, I’m more pumped up than usual this year (and that clip above, showing the insane dedication of NHL players to win the Cup, gets me going every time. You can be sure I’ll be throwing some of the awesome Hockey Night in Canada playoff montages on the blog over the next few months).

For one, the Rangers have a great shot to win the Cup, as the top seed in the East (which of course makes me nervous, my team being the favorite). Second, a whole buncha Canadian teams (five) qualified this year, and Canadian teams always make the playoffs more fun, since their fans are so rabid and loud.)

And third, we’ve got lots of fresh blood this year, seven teams who didn’t make it last year are in it this year.

It all starts tonight. For what it’s worth, I’m picking a Tampa Bay vs. Chicago Stanley Cup Final, with the Bolts winning it.

I of course hope I’m wrong, and get to attend a parade in Lower Manhattan in June.

The “Hillary 2016″ coronation begins, and I’m wary. An 11-year-old autistic boy draws a map of the world from memory. And the shocking police lapses that led to Darren Sharper’s rape spree

And so it begins, officially.

The long-expected and long-talked-about beginning of the Hillary Clinton Democratic coronation kicked off Sunday, as the candidate rolled out a sharp new video showing her ready to get to work, talking to Americans about their problems, and showing off her new ideas. She’s fresh, she’s new, she’s humble! (Kate McKinnon is going to have a field day doing “SNL” skits like the one above, by the way).

And I don’t trust her. Not at all.

Let me get this out of the way, first: I will vote for Hillary Clinton for President if she’s the Democratic nominee. I think she’s oodles more qualified than any of the GOP candidates, her ideas are better, and while I think while she’s way too “centrist” a Democrat for liberals like me, she’d be a decent President.

But I don’t trust her. I’ve watched her like all of you have for decades now, and I’ve found her to be slippery, and calculating beyond any and all reason, conveniently forgetful of things when she needs to be, and talking out of both sides of her mouth way too often. (I know, I know, all politicians are like that. But this woman has made a science out of it.)

Her behavior and actions toward Barack Obama, and those of her husband, in the 2008 primaries was deplorable at times, in instances way too numerous to recount. She was a terrible candidate, blowing an enormous early lead and other huge advantages in that race. I think her naked ambition for power, at the cost of any sort of real “beliefs” is not something that should be rewarded.

I am deeply disappointed that every other prominent Democrat seems to be afraid to challenge her on, well, anything, and are basically giving her this nomination without any sort of a fight. (The great Charlie Pierce wrote this terrific Esquire article last fall about the dangers of coronation in politics.)

I dearly wish Martin O’Malley, or Joe Biden, or anyone else would challenge her and make this a real contest in 2016. But she has so skillfully scared off all other contenders with her huge financial advantage and retaining top strategists from the party to work for, that I doubt we’ll see a real challenge. Fresh blood is needed in the Democratic Party; Obama was one transformational figure, but we need more.

The Presidency shouldn’t be handed to anyone this easily.

I know it’s difficult, but I really am going to try to look at “Hillary 2016″ with fresh eyes. I’m anxious to see if she’s learned anything about how to run a campaign since her defeat eight years ago. I want to see if she’s changed, if she actually can be more genuine in her words and actions.

I’m out here, a Democrat hoping for the best. Hoping we get a nominee we can be proud of.

Convince me, Hillary. Convince me you’re the best choice, not just the only one.

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**Next up, this is kind of amazing. An 11-year-old autistic New York boy who has not been identified by name has drawn a map of the world strictly from memory.

The boy, the son of a professor, surprised his parent’s class when he stepped up to the whiteboard and recreated an intricate map, according to a Reddit user, who posted the now-viral picture  (above) five days ago.

The drawing includes islands so small, they appear as no more than dots on the board. The photo has been transmitted around the world.

Pretty incredible. I hope the kid gets identified soon so he can get the recognition he richly deserves. It’s amazing what the human brain can do.

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**Finally today, I read this really important and disturbing story last week from Sports Illustrated, The New Orleans Advocate and investigate journalism non-profit ProPublica about Darren Sharper, the former NFL star who recently pleaded guilty to committing a string of rapes.

The story details the many, many missed clues and lack of information sharing that resulted in Sharper being allowed to continue drugging and sexually assaulting women in multiple states over a period of years.

It’s a story pretty horrifying in its details, showing that Sharper could’ve been, and should’ve been stopped. It’s a long piece but well worth reading. Check it out here. 

 

Good News Friday: An NBA star gives a car to a woman in need. The best Vine ever stars a dog and a White Stripes song. And the Wall Street trader who donates half his salary

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And a Happy Friday to you all! For my fellow Hebrews, hope your Passover has gone well, and for the rest of you, you can now stop staring at matzoh containers in your local supermarket.

We start Good News Friday today with a sweet tale from one of the NBA’s best players this season. Russell Westbrook is kind of amazing, in that he’s almost single-handedly dragging the injury-riddled Oklahoma City Thunder (always loved that term, “injury-riddled.” Sounds way better than “injury-plagued.” But I digress) into the NBA playoffs.

On the court, Westbrook is amazing to watch, sometimes out of control, sometimes awe-inspiring, always intense and scowling and looking like he’s ready to bore a hole through you just with his stare.

But off the court, turns out he’s a hell of a nice kid. Lee Jenkins, the enormously-talented Sports Illustrated writer, wrote this fabulous story in SI about Westbrook last week, and I highly recommend it.

But Westbrook is making GNF this week because of this gesture: He donated the Kia Sorrento car he won for being the MVP of February’s NBA All-Star Game to 19-year-old Kerstin Gonzales, a single mother of two who lives in Oklahoma City.

According to the story, Westbrook surprised Gonzales with the keys Monday, with the help of Sunbeam Family Services, an organization that works with low-income people in central Oklahoma. The star is also paying for her registration and insurance for a year.

Awesome. Good job, Russell. He seems like he really gets it.

**Next up, the Twitter user who posted this said it’s maybe the best Vine ever, and I was dubious until I watched it. And now I’m totally in agreement.

I present to you the most fabulous six seconds of your day: A dog, a guitar, and the song heard round the world, “Seven Nation Army.” (Turn the volume up and enjoy)

**And finally today, Nicholas Kristof is an amazing, fearless journalist who goes to parts of the world no one else wants to, and writes about people who never get any attention.

I’m in the middle of reading his book “A Path Appears” and it’s terrific and inspiring, partly because it brings to light wonderful, charitable people and organizations.

This week in his column in the New York Times Kristof wrote about the unusual Wall Street trader Matt Wage, who took a high-paying job after graduation simply so he could donate half his salary to charity.

A very unusual man, and well worth applauding. Read Kristof’s column on Wage here.

 

“The Americans” gets better and better, as “the reveal” is awesome. “The Golden Girls” in LEGO? Yes, please. And some final thoughts on Coach K and Duke getting another ring

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I have raved and raved about the FX show “The Americans” for a couple of years now on my blog.

It’s for my money the best show on television, bar none. The first season was spectacular, last season was equally as good, and this current season, oh my goodness it’s just amazing.

All season, the show has been building up to what happened in last week’s episode (SPOILER ALERT), with Russian spies living in America Philip and Elizabeth Jennings wondering how to tell their teenage daughter Paige who they really are, and that the KGB wants Paige to start becoming a Russian spy as well.

The best TV shows take you by complete surprise even when you know what’s coming, and that’s what happened here. Paige turning the tables on her parents and demanding to know the truth about who they are was so unexpected, and the moment played so perfectly by all the actors involved, that I was clutching a pillow to my chest the whole time.

The final scene last week, with Paige staring at family friend (and oh yeah, FBI agent and next-door neighbor) Stan while her dad sharpens knives in the background, was perfect and breathtaking. No idea what’s going to happen now, whether Paige will get on board and join “the family business” or be so angry and hurt about who her parents really are that she’ll want no part of this life.

This show is so great and forcing us to see the moral and emotional choices these characters make every day. Man, I cannot recommend “The Americans” more. Tonight on FX at 10, and you can catch up on past seasons on Amazon.com.

GoldenGirls.LEGO

**Next up today, my Canadian e-migo Jonathan (an e-migo, for those not fluent, is a friend you only know through email and social media) pointed me to this the other day and I laughed really hard.

Some brilliant (or disturbed) fan of “The Golden Girls” named Sam Hatmaker designed some incredibly realistic recreations of famous scenes from the show, with Blanche, Dorothy, Sophia and Rose made out of plastic.

If LEGO gets 10,000 people to sign this petition in support of authorizing a “Golden Girls” LEGO set, it will be put into production.

Screw all those political causes you’re afraid to sign on for, this is actually important! Do it for all the good people of St. Olaf, Minnesota, who’ve been defamed by Rose Nylund’s stories for all these years. Do it for Stan, Dorothy’s ex-husband who’s a schmuck but couldn’t help it. And do it most of all for the many scorned loves of Blanche Deveraux, who was just too much woman for all of them.

Seriously, go sign this petition.

CoachK.2015title

**Finally, of course I need to say a few words about Monday night’s fabulous NCAA championship game between Duke and Wisconsin.

It really was a terrific game, even if the officiating was pretty bad both ways (bad for Duke in the first half, bad for the Badgers in the 2nd half, including two calls that definitely went Duke’s way and shouldn’t have).

In talking about the 5th title in the Mike Krzyzewski era, I don’t want to re-hash all the old arguments about why people hate Duke, and why I love ’em (for you newcomers, I fell in love with Duke’s 1986 Final Four team as a 10-year-old and have loved them ever since).

But just a few words about the incredible longevity and consistency in excellence of Coach K, who so many love to hate. He went to his first Final Four 29 years ago. He won his first national title in 1991, and his fifth Monday night. That’s 24 years in between his first and last crowns. No other coach in modern sports history, in any sport, has won titles that far apart with the same team.

Just incredible. He has totally changed how he runs his program over the years, changed styles of play so many times, and changed his attitude on many issues.
But what hasn’t changed is this: He’s if not the greatest, one of the two greatest tacticians in the sport’s history. How he managed his players Monday night through foul trouble was a masterpiece, and his motivational skills are unparalleled.

So hate Duke all you want. But know that Mike Krzyzewski belongs in any conversation with the best ever coaches in any sport.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to find a Duke national championship onesie my kid can wear…

It’s Duke and Wisconsin for all the marbles, as Kentucky weeps. A boxer drops his cell phone while fighting. And the strangest hockey save you’ll ever see

Duke-Wisconsin

One more game. One more game to determine the national champion in Division I men’s college basketball for 2014-15 (if you say that in Brent Musberger’s voice, you get the effect I am going for).

Duke, who you may have heard is the favorite team of this blogger, plays Wisconsin, who will be the favorite team of 99 percent of the rest of America watching tonight.

Should be a fantastic game. Hopefully as good as that Kentucky-Wisconsin game was Saturday night.

The last night of the season is always so bittersweet for diehard college hoop fans like me.

And with Duke back in the title game? I’ll be a nervous wreck all day. My poor 7-month-old will hear chapter and verse about how Justise Winslow needs to slow down Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker, and how Okafor better not let Kaminsky get him in foul trouble and … ah, he’ll never remember any of this, so I don’t think I’ll be doing any lasting psychological damage…

Some quick-hit thoughts from Saturday’s Final Four games:

— Well, well, well, looks like that guy from Lexington, Ky. with the “40-0″ tattoo might need to get some removal work done. Seriously, as a Calipari and UK-hater I so enjoyed seeing them lose, and the most obnoxious fan base in America gets to have their balloon popped a bit (that guy below does look pretty sad).

I gotta say, though, that was an incredible run the Wildcats went on this year, going 38-0. And their kids, for the most part, seem like a classy, good bunch, even if half didn’t shake hands with Wisconsin afterwards.

kentuckyfan

— One of many reasons to love the Badgers: They play such pretty basketball. This isn’t like the old Wisconsin teams from 5 years ago, winning 48-46. These guys really pass and shoot beautifully, San Antonio Spurs-like.

— So great hearing Bill Raftery on the call of the Final Four. An absolutely wonderful man and announcer getting to be on the big stage. I didn’t hear any “Onions!” shouts from him, though.

— As for my boys from Duke? They’re playing their best ball of the year. I’m almost afraid to say it for fear of jinxing them, but they are peaking at the exact right time. I know no one will be pulling for them tonight, but if they win K’s 5th national title, you’ll hear me screaming no matter where you live.

— My 2 predictions for tonight: Duke 68, Wisconsin 66. And that Georgia State coach Ron Hunter falling off his stool will be in “One Shining Moment.”

**Next up, the first of two things in this blog post that I’ve never seen before. Check out this pro boxing match from last week between Marvin Jones and Ramon Luis Nicolas.

Watch what falls onto the canvas right at the start of this clip. It’s Jones’ cell phone, falling out of his pocket.
What in the name of Rocky Marciano would a fighter need a cell phone in the ring for? Could his trainer call him during the round with some instructions? (“Yeah, yeah, his jab is giving me problems, I’m going to try to hit him with a left hook soon, got it. Call you later when the round ends.”)

Maybe he wanted to always be reachable to his wife or girlfriend. Or he figured during a slow clench he could call and order a pizza for after the fight.

And also, how would he answer the phone with those unwieldy gloves on?
I’m brimming with questions.

**Finally today, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this in hockey. At a minor league American Hockey League game over the weekend between Manchester (N.H.) and Hartford, Manchester goalie Patrik Bartosak was preparing to face a shootout shot from Joey Crabb.

Bartosak sat staring at the ice as the whistle blew to start the shootout, totally oblivious to the fact that Crabb was barreling toward him with the puck. Bartosak never looked up nor heard the crowd, even as Crabb was right on top of him, as Crabb shot and the puck basically hit Bartosak in the pads. Only then did the goalie realize the shootout had started.

Seriously, the best accidental save ever.

Tweeted Bartosak afterwards: “I guess I need some hearing aids.”

Good News Friday: A 9-year-old girl wows a Florida school board arguing against standardized tests. A mother’s incredible devotion to her son’s organ donations. And a Rube Goldberg-style Passover video that will wow you

 

And a Happy Friday to you all! Whether you’re celebrating the first night of Passover, Good Friday, or just that it’s Friday in general and the Final Four this weekend, I hope you enjoy the day.

Three cool stories for you on Good News Friday this week. First up, it’s state standardized testing season here in New York state and lots of other places,  which means 99 percent of students in junior high and high school are dreading the next few weeks, racked with anxiety since they’ve had “the importance of these tests” drilled into their heads by teachers since September. (For me, as an occasional substitute, I love testing season; I proctor all day, the kids are basically not allowed to talk, and I get paid for making sure no one cheats. Easy money!)

Anyway, I’m not here to argue about whether standardized tests have become way too important (they have) or if it’s crazy way to evaluate teachers (it is). I’m here to talk about my new hero: 9-year-old Sydney Smoot is sick of standardized tests, and she spoke to the Hernando (Fla.) County School Board two weeks ago to express her displeasure.

Great to see a child stand up for what they feel is right.

Check out the poise, confidence and intelligence oozing out of this kid. I love it…

organdonor

**Next up, I’m a huge proponent of organ donation, long before I found out I was born one kidney short of a set and may need one someday.

To me, organ donation is (pun intended) a no-brainer; long after you die, parts of you live on in people who desperately needed help to survive. One of my favorite stories I ever reported and wrote as a journalist was this piece in 2004, about a former high school athlete who died suddenly, but her organs allowed five others to live.

This story from the Philadelphia Inquirer this week was so touching and wonderful; a boy named Thomas Gray sadly only lived for six days, but his organs accomplished so much after he passed. Thanks to the incredible devotion and doggedness of his mother, Sarah, we’ve learned just how much Thomas’ life has meant to so many others. It’s helped with life-saving research at Harvard, Duke and Penn.

The way I see it,” Sarah Gray said, “our son got into Harvard, Duke, and Penn. He has a job. He is relevant to the world. I only hope my life can be as relevant.”

Read this story, get the Kleenex ready, and sign an organ donor card.

Please.

**Finally today, it is the start of Passover, which means lots of cheesy Jewish male singers making song parodies (I’ve seen a bunch of them, and most of them aren’t too funny) but also incredibly cool videos like this.  Students at the Israel School of Technology made this crazy-awesome Rube Goldberg-like video for Passover.

My brain was a few seconds behind at all times watching this, but it’s very cool.