Something old and something new coming in the Super Bowl, as the Patriots and Eagles advance. And this government shutdown is inexplicable, in many ways

The mindset of a Philadelphia Eagles fan, in one text exchange from me to my friend Dave M., a longtime Eagles supporter, when the score of the NFC Championship game Sunday was 31-7, Eagles, in the fourth quarter:

Me: “Nick Foles, oh my goodness!”
Dave: “Don’t jinx it!”

Yes, even up 24 points in a game that was pretty much un-blowable at that point, Eagles fans were still nervous. And I totally get that as a Jets fan.

But happily for the sanity of most of Pennsylvania, the franchise of Chuck Bednarik, Harold Carmichael and Reggie White did not blow it, and so we’ve got one heck of an interesting Super Bowl.

Oh sure, it would’ve been nice to see someone besides New England come out of the AFC, because we all hate them so damn much. But even though Jacksonville’s fantastic road effort fell short, I think this will be a fascinating Super Bowl. Is it Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s last hurrah? Can the ferocious Eagles defense disrupt things? Will Nick Foles remember he’s, um, Nick Foles and come back to Earth?

Should be a really fun game.

Some other thoughts from NFL Championship Sunday…

— I feel really badly for Vikings fans; would’ve been so much fun to see a home team finally host a Super Bowl in its own stadium. And after last week’s miracle win it sure seemed like they were destined to go all the way. But they got totally outplayed, and Case Keenum finally looked like the backup QB he’s been all his life. But they had one hell of a season.

— I can’t believe that was the same Nick Foles on Sunday who could barely complete a pass against the Raiders back in December. This guy looked like Joe Montana Sunday, throwing beautiful deep passes and being so accurate on the short ones. Carson Wentz couldn’t have done it better.

— Even up 20-10 in the fourth quarter, I never thought the Jaguars were going to win Sunday. The Patriots have done it for so long, and so well, that I truly never thought they were in danger. Jacksonville, though, what a hell of a future that team seems to have. So many young, fast guys on defense, a stud running back, and a quarterback, Blake Bortles, who maybe has finally turned the corner and is going to be good.

— I thought this was really sweet: The wife of Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, Julie Johnston Ertz, is a U.S. Women’s National Team player. They played Sunday and apparently she didn’t know the outcome of the football game. She found out right after the final whistle, and this was her fantastic reaction.

**So, I gotta admit, I really and truly didn’t think a party that controls all three branches of the federal government would be stupid enough to actually shut the whole thing down. I mean, when you control everything,

But ya know, you gotta hand it to the Republican Party. Not only do they allow millions of federal workers to be off from work Monday, but they have the gall, the chutzpah, the effrontery to blame the shutdown on the Democrats. And the New York Times, bless their beautiful hearts that I love, actually ran headlines Friday night saying “Senate Democrats block bill to keep government open past midnight” when only 45 Republicans were on board for a short-term resolution?

This is, in reality, the first time EVER that a party that controlled the White House, the Senate and the House had endured a government shutdown. So hey, one more thing that’s never happened before, happening under Trump! Whoo-hoo.

So the government shutdown happened, because chaos is the only thing Trump and the GOP are good at. And people’s livelihoods are at stake, and paychecks will be lost, and hardship will be endured, while Mitch, Paul and Donnie boy sit back and blame everyone but themselves.

Democrats like Schumer and Booker and the rest: Hold firm on DACA. Do NOT capitulate to bullies and tyrants.

The other big news over the weekend was the Women’s March, which saw millions take to the streets from New York to L.A., from Atlanta to Seattle, and points in between.

It was very impressive to once again see a huge turnout, and if you are wondering “Well, what difference does it make if they march?” I say: A big difference. If these women (and there were men marchers too) become more politically active this year because of this march; if they register their neighbors to vote, or work on behalf of a candidate they’d previously never considered, or simply become a more informed citizen of the political process, then the march absolutely has made a difference.

More power to the people!

Advertisements

Good News Friday: NBA star Kyle Lowry donates $1 million to his alma mater. A Baltimore school tries meditation instead of detention, and it’s working. And a beautiful story about a father, a daughter and a driving test

And a Happy Friday to you out there, unless you’re a government employee who’s about to go on an unplanned and unpaid vacation because our Idiot-in-Chief has no clue on what he wants, so Washington D.C. comes to a halt and we have a government shutdown.

First up today, college basketball players get a bad rap these days for not giving a fig about school, and only using the university they attend as a “way station” to the NBA.

But the reality is, nearly every NCAA Division I player won’t make it to the pros, and many of them really do care about their university, and realize how big a role it plays in their lives.

One of those who did make the NBA, but didn’t forget where he came from, is Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry. Lowry made a splash this week in a great way, announcing he’s donating $1 million to Villanova University, where he grew up and learned so much.

Lowry’s story, told beautifully here by The Athletic’s Dana O’Neil, is of a hard-headed, sullen kid who came to college and four years later, left a very different man.

“They always accepted me. They all wanted me to do well,’’ Lowry says. “Yeah, I took advantage of it, but they helped me figure out how to do it.’’

Really great story here.

**Next up today, I found this next story fascinating, and hopeful. We all know teachers and principals have been giving out detentions and suspensions forever, and whether they work or not is always up for debate.

An inner-city elementary school in Baltimore named Robert W. Coleman has been trying something different: Not suspensions, but sending kids to a “Meditation Room,” where they learn to breathe and relax and not stress so much.

It’s part of a partnership with the Holistic Life Foundation, a Baltimore non-profit. Does it work? Well, there have been ZERO suspensions at Coleman this year, so that certainly seems to be a good number.

Read the story here about other ways meditation is helping these students.

**And finally today, a beautiful story from Joe Posnanski, about his daughter, turning 16, and the fear of a driver’s license test. I think we can all relate to the terror of sitting there at the DMV, waiting for your instructor to call your name, and then hoping to hell you can finally pull off a solid parallel park. (2nd-best parallel park of my life happened on my road test; it was a freaking miracle.)

Posnanski is never better than when he’s writing about his family, and this column is just sensational.

Here’s the lede:

She is so scared. I can always tell when she’s scared; she has this look on her face, and it’s not so different from the look she had when she was three years old and we were walking through Times Square, and the crowd was overwhelming her. I reached down then and picked her up and slowly the fear drained from her face. She was happy again. I cannot pick her up now. She stares at the monitor, the one that shows who will be called next. D113. C149. E228.

I look at her card again. It is A102.

It’s a wonderful tale that we all can relate to. Have a great weekend. Oh, and I’m picking the Vikings and Patriots to meet in the Super Bowl.

 

Jimmy Fallon channels James Taylor to mock Trump. New Zealanders get creative to get around drinking laws. And “SNL” brings the funny with Mika/Joe and Bill Murray

The first thing I ever really liked Jimmy Fallon for were his song parodies on his late-night show. He channeled Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen, and he did them so well, that me and millions of others figured, maybe he’s funny in late-night after all, and he shot to the top of the ratings.

Then, he cratered. He stopped being as funny, his skits seemed tired, and he didn’t do nearly as strong with his musical tributes.

I don’t know how long it’s been since Fallon made me laugh out loud like I did watching this, but it’s been a while. However this, as James Taylor doing “Fire and Rain” about the new Trump book, is perfection.

“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen fury.

I’ve seen White House staff who will have to face a jury.

I’ve seen him drink a cup of water with tiny hands,

While he’s lyin’ in bed watching Fox and Friends.”

Enjoy…

**Next up today, I’ve got Australia on the brain this week because the first Grand Slam tournament of 2018, the Australian Open has started (and wow have there been a bunch of upsets, and wow are the American players doing terribly. I think this is karma for last year’s tournament being so amazing.

Anyway, I love Australian people for many reasons, but their creativity when it comes to drinking has always impressed me. Apparently New Zealanders are equally as brilliant at finding ways around drinking laws.

Check this out: In the village of Coromandel, New Zealand, a town ordinance bans liquor over the New Year’s period, which means no alcohol in public places.

But a bunch of friends decided they wanted to find a way to drink. So they spent the early afternoon building a sandcastle in the middle of the Tairua estuary (body of water), a holidaymaker, who asked not to be named, said.

Upon building their sandy fort, members of the group were reported to have said the liquor ban didn’t apply to them as they were “in international waters”.

Once the crew’s creation was complete, they installed a wooden picnic table and chilly bin.

This is my favorite part: Waikato eastern area commander Inspector John Kelly said police weren’t aware of the novel attempt to circumvent the liquor ban.

“That’s creative thinking – if I had known that I probably would have joined them.”

I love Kiwis.

**Finally today, I missed this on “Saturday Night Live” but am so glad I got a chance to see the cold open. With cameos by Bill Murray and Leslie Jones, the fabulous Kate McKinnon gives us Mika and Joe from MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” talking about the new Trump book and flirting, hilariously.

A side note: If McKinnon doesn’t become a huge star, soon, I’ll be shocked. She is absolutely fantastic.

 

An NFL playoff game finish like no other, as the Vikings pull off a miracle. Remembering MLK’s greatest speech on his day. And one guy in Hawaii almost ended the world Saturday

It has become sort of a tradition on Twitter, when something amazing happens in the world of bats and balls and sweaty people, for myself and others to simply Tweet, “Sports, man. Sports.”

Because sometimes there just is no explanation. No rhyme or reason, no cogent analysis of why something completely improbable happened. Just that it did, and it brought such joy and anguish, and I’m going to stop waxing poetic now and just show you this:

The New Orleans Saints led the Minnesota Vikings 24-23 with 10 seconds to go Sunday in Minnesota. The Vikings had blown a 17-point lead and were about to lose, yet again, in excruciating fashion in the playoffs. And then, with the stadium cathedral-quiet, this happened…

Or, viewed another way, from the vantage point of the field at U.S. Bank Stadium, THIS happened (Warning: the crowd noise gets insanely loud a few seconds in, so watch yourself)

The Minnesota Vikings won a remarkable, improbable football game Sunday night, thanks to some really poor defense by the Saints, and some sort of miracle magic from above (Kirby Puckett and Prince cooked up something fierce).

I was driving in the car listening on radio when it happened, both little boys sleeping in the back seat, my wonderful wife indulging me listening to a game in which she knew I cared about neither team, and when the play occurred I think I yelped four octaves above my normal range, and probably swerved into the right lane of the Long Island Expressway.

Crazy, crazy game. Now Minnesota plays Philadelphia, two pretty tortured franchises, each playing a quarterback nobody ever expected to see on the field this year, certainly not in an NFC Championship game. Should be fantastic.

Some other thoughts from a pretty freaking fabulous NFL playoff weekend:

— Jacksonville? Jacksonville! Big congrats to any team that can put up 45 points on the road when Blake Bortles is the quarterback. That was one hell of a win in Steelers-ville, 45-42. Do I give the Jaguars any chance to beat New England next week? Yeah, they have a chance. It would take a pretty major miracle, but may I remind you what happened at the end of the Vikings/Saints game?

— Not pretty, that Eagles win over Atlanta Saturday. But I know a lot of Eagles fans and they don’t care how ugly any win is, nor should they. Their star QB Carson Wentz is out, and Nick Foles played pretty damn well, and the Atlanta Falcons did what the Falcons do in most postseasons with Matt Ryan as their QB, and that’s underwhelm. Atlanta absolutely could’ve and maybe should’ve won that game, but as usual, fell a bit short.

— Hilarious to think of the four remaining starting quarterbacks in the playoffs. Hmmm, let’s see, which one of these is not like the other: Bortles. Keenum. Foles … Tom Brady.

— Every time the Steelers lose in the playoffs I see a lot of screaming from their fans about how bad a coach Mike Tomlin is. And I always say the same thing: Please, let him come coach the Jets. We’ll suffer through these 12-win seasons and constant playoff appearances. SMH.

**Next up, today  is of course Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so I hope you all take a few minutes and listen to this incredible piece of American oratory, from August 28, 1963.

Every time I listen to it, I still get a few chills. What an amazing man.

**And finally today, this ought to leave you feeling warm and fuzzy and hopeful about the future. There was a fairly serious emergency panic in Hawaii on Saturday, due to an accidental emergency missile attack alert being sent out from the state government’s alert system. From The Washington Post, here’s how it happened:

Shortly after 8 a.m. local time Saturday morning, an employee at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency settled in at the start of his shift. Among his duties that day was to initiate an internal test of the emergency missile warning system: essentially, to practice sending an emergency alert to the public without actually sending it to the public.

Around 8:05 a.m., the Hawaii emergency employee initiated the internal test, according to a timeline released by the state. From a drop-down menu on a computer program, he saw two options: “Test missile alert” and “Missile alert.” He was supposed to choose the former; as much of the world now knows, he chose the latter, an initiation of a real-life missile alert.

A drop-down menu? Seriously? Who among us, and I’m completely serious, hasn’t accidentally clicked the wrong thing on a drop down menu?

Hey here’s a tip to all governments, everywhere: Put the “test” button option and the “Missile alert” option on separate buttons. Separate screens, or hell, how about separate computers!

Hugs and kisses,

The World.

Good News Friday: A Florida teacher donates a kidney to a student’s dying mom. Sarah Silverman encounters a rude troll, and changes his life for the better. And dogs snowboarding, because they can.

Happy Friday to you beautiful people out there. Boy oh boy oh boy, if this wasn’t Good News Friday I might just go off on a 1,000-word rant about our Shithole-in-Chief and how he continues, amazingly, to find lower and lower ground to sink to.

But dammit, I’m staying positive today, so no Shithole jokes out of me, though I will link to this Trevor Noah “The Daily Show” clip which made me laugh pretty hard.

Anyway, on with the show… So much good stuff out there this week. Wanted to start with an incredible story from “CBS Sunday Morning” and my man Steve Hartman, whose job I totally want.

Recently Steve introduced us to an amazing elementary school teacher in Florida named Donna Hoagland, who found out the mom of one of her students was suffering from kidney failure. The rest… well, just watch and get the Kleenex ready.

**Next up today, I thought this was actually a pretty great example of one person, reaching out to someone who mindlessly Tweeted hurtful things, and changing a life.

Comedian Sarah Silverman is loved by many, disliked by others, and ignored by some. She’s a comedian and she’s political so I totally get why not everyone loves her. But a few weeks ago Silverman did something extraordinary.

After one of her Tweets, a man named Jeremy Jamrozy replied to her with a disgusting, vulgar four-letter word that starts with C and is normally directed toward women. A See you Next Tuesday, as it’s sometimes called.

There was absolutely no reason for him to say something so derogatory, but 99 percent of us would’ve just ignored or deleted it. But Silverman in recent months has been trying something different, trying to connect with people in a different way, so she wrote Jeremy back, saying: “I believe in you. I read ur timeline & I see what ur doing & your rage is thinly veiled pain,” she tweeted back. “But u know that. I know this feeling. Ps My back F–king sux too,” she added, referring to the back troubles the user mentioned in his Twitter feed. “See what happens when u choose love. I see it in you.”

And that could’ve been that. But it gets so much better. Stunned by Silverman replying, Jamrozy wrote back: “I can’t choose love. A man that resembles Kevin Spacey took that away when I was 8. I can’t find peace if I could find that guy who ripped my body who stripped my innocence I’d kill him. He fucked me up and I’m poor so its hard to get help.”

All of a sudden, a dialogue had started. Soon, Silverman was asking her followers for back specialist recommendations near San Antonio, where Jamrozy lives, and raised several thousand dollars for him.

Jamrozy has five herniated discs in his back, but is getting treatment and is now so grateful for Silverman’s reaching out. And Jamrozy has been overwhelmed with support.

“Thank you to all the support financially, emotionally, and donations. This is more than I could have wished for. Thank you nicos organics I received ur package am excited to try the products out. Thank u everyone. U showed me a lot within a few days. Love u all.”

So much good out there. It just takes one person, reaching out, helping another person.

**Finally today, some things just make everyone smile. Here is a dog, pulling a sled, about to go snowboarding.

Oh, and one more good news thing: The Minnesota Vikings host an NFL playoff game on Sunday. Millie Wall is 99 years old and one of their biggest fans, but she’s never been to a game in person.

The Vikings are changing that. How great is this???

**Sarah Silverman and the troll with the bad back…

 

**Doggie snowboarding video.

“Molly’s Game” a cracklingly good movie with Jessica Chastain in control. A crazy finish in college hoops’ USC-Stanford game. And another judicial blow to ridiculous gerrymandering.

I know very little about poker, other than I used to play it badly in high school and college among my friends. I never understood the poker craze from about 15 years ago, when suddenly it was on TV all the time, nor could I understand in a million years the appeal of people sitting at home watching other people play cards. For hours! And listening to broadcasters analyze it.

Truly, I would’ve rather watched Newt Gingrich sing off-key nursery rhymes to children.

But I do know that poker is a very dramatic card game, and that there have been quite a few really good poker movies made (Rounders, anyone?), so I kind of figured that “Molly’s Game” would be good.

Throw in that Aaron Sorkin, who’s been way better writing movies than TV since “The West Wing” ended, was writing and directing it, and that Jessica Chastain was starring as the true-life heroine who hosted incredibly high-stakes poker games for celebrities before suffering a downfall, and “Molly’s Game” was almost certain to be great.

And it was very, very good. If you’re a Sorkin-phile like me, you’ll love the script, though it’s not quite as good as his writing on “The Social Network” or “Steve Jobs.”

If you’re not familiar with the story, Chastain (who’s in 99 percent of the scenes of this movie, truly she carries the thing) plays Molly Bloom, a former Olympic-level skier who suffers a big crash and sees her athletic dreams evaporate in an instant. She eventually moves to L.A., gets a job as a personal assistant/slave for a Hollywood jerk, then finds happiness and opportunity when he asks her to organize a poker game.

Soon Molly is taking over the weekly game, enticing big rollers and actors to play, and raking in serious cash (in real life, people like Leo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck and Tobey Maguire were regular players).

But of course Molly doesn’t stay on top forever; a combination of Maguire’s dickish-ness (played beautifully by Michael Cera) and, without giving anything away, other sinister factors take her down, with the FBI getting involved.

Chastain is sensational in “Molly’s Game,” I haven’t seen too many of her movies (I think “Zero Dark Thirty” was the first flick I watched her in, she was great in that too), but she lights up the screen here. Kevin Costner is in the movie for about five minutes, total, until a fantastic, long scene at the end, and Idris Elba (shout-out to Stringer Bell!) is great as Molly’s lawyer.

There’s a lot of poker talk in the movie but you don’t really need to understand it all; what is easy to understand is how a beautiful, connected woman who knows how to play to men’s egos and insecurities can rise up to a powerful spot in their lives.

“Molly’s Game,” like most movies, is about 20 minutes too long. But the acting is phenomenal and it’s a compelling story. Plus, the ski footage is pretty amazing, too.

Definitely a film worth seeing.

**Next up today, it’s January and while I’ve been in full college basketball mode since November, I realize not everyone else is. So in my quest to start getting y’all ready for March Madness, check out this crazy finish from the Stanford-USC men’s game on Sunday.

With the score tied at 74 and less than five seconds left, USC’s Jordan McLaughlin made a spectacular drive to the basket and then sank a twisting layup which absolutely should’ve been the game-winning hoop.

Except, Stanford still had two seconds, and Daejon Davis, and well, this happened…

**Finally today, a pretty huge political story broke Tuesday night, and no, it’s not Donald Trump admitting he doesn’t know the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Gerrymandering, that controversial practice states use to draw incredibly unfair and imbalanced district lines, so as to preserve majorities for their party, suffered another big blow. North Carolina, one of the worst gerrymander offenders, had its recent law struck down.

From this story: “A panel of three federal judges in North Carolina ruled on Tuesday that the state’s congressional map was unconstitutionally partisan, and ordered that it be re-drawn before the end of the month.

The court agreed that the map, which was originally drawn in 2011, was drawn to favor Republicans and thus violates the First Amendment, as well as the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and the Election Clause. It’s the second time North Carolina’s congressional maps have been thrown out — in 2016, three federal judges ruled that state’s congressional districts were the result of an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.”

This is outstanding news for those of us who believe in fair elections, and fair representation. Between Wisconsin, North Carolina and Texas, those three states have been sliced and diced to death, all to favor the GOP. Of course I know the Democrats gerrymander, too, but not this blatantly.

2018 is going to be a great year, and this is one terrific start.

 

The Golden Globes is dominated by women, and by Queen Oprah’s amazing speech. And the Saints and Falcons look very dangerous in NFL playoffs

I can positively report that there were, in fact, men present at the Golden Globe awards Sunday night.

I’m not sure why they were there, but they were. I saw Dwayne Johnson and Jason Bateman and I think even a few male award winners. But by all means, this year’s Golden Globes were ALL about the women.

Which is totally fine, and even welcome. With all the Hollywood sexual misconduct we’ve learned about over the past several months, it was great to see women take center stage and, almost as a group, demand better treatment.

It was a very different feel to this year’s Globes (and am I crazy or was there no “death montage?” Isn’t there usually one?), and most of the show was pretty so-so.

But then, Queen Oprah came out and blew the doors off everything that came before, and after. I’d tell you about her speech, but I wouldn’t do it justice. If this was the kickoff to her 2020 Presidential campaign (and quite honestly, I might vote for her if she ran), it was sensational. Please watch this:

As for the rest of the show, a few rambling thoughts from my brain, and as always, fashion commentary and other thoughts helpfully provided by my beautiful wife:

— Seth Meyers as host was fine, though he disappeared the last half of the show. Two great monologue jokes I loved: “For the male nominees tonight will be the first time in three months it won’t be terrifying to hear your name read out loud.” Also I liked when he said “A string of three words that could not have been better designed to infuriate our president:Hollywood Foreign Press.”

— Winners I was super happy about: Rachel Brosnahan and “The Marvelous  Mrs. Maisel” both winning. Aziz Ansari for “Master of None,” maybe the best show I saw in 2017, was a shocking win, I thought. And of course, Sterling K. Brown for “This Is Us” thrilled me. His speech at the Globes wasn’t nearly as great as his awesome Emmys speech last year, but still, pretty great.

— The on-stage speeches all paled next to Queen Oprah’s, but I thought Laura Dern gave a heartfelt one, I loved Frances MacDormand’s fierce pride, and the sheer excitement of Greta Gerwig when “Lady Bird” won was very cool to see.

— Fashion do’s and don’ts: Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry and Sharon Stone all looked amazing. Mariah Carey looked like a Playboy Bunny who wandered off from Hef’s place. And Allison Janney? I love her to death, she can’t win enough awards for me. But that dress was hideous.

— OK, so that weird dude who was called up on stage when James Franco one, the dude who directed the movie that “The Disaster Artist” was based on? His name is Tommy Wiseau but I swear my first thought when I saw him was “Holy crap, Michael Jackson is alive???)

— Finally, while many women spoke beautifully about the importance of the “Time is Up” movement and women’s equality, it was definitely disappointing to see so few men say a word about what’s gone on in Hollywood all these years. No reason only women have to be standing up for women. I’m just sayin.’

**And now for some football talk: We had two bad games and two good games this weekend in the NFL playoffs, which is usually what happens on Wild Card weekend.

— The Saints-Panthers game was stellar on Sunday, I really felt sure Carolina was going to pull it out in the fourth quarter after Saints coach Sean Payton crazily went for it on 4th and 2 from midfield, with a five-point lead and three minutes to go. But New Orleans won a 31-26 thriller and I think the “Aints” have an excellent shot to beat the Vikings next week.

— Atlanta is probably going to beat Philly, too, because the Iggles don’t have a quarterback.  Both the NFC games should be terrific next weekend, but in the AFC? Blech.

Buffalo and Jacksonville did their best to put America to sleep Sunday; you’re going to tell me Blake Bortles is winning a road playoff game in Pittsburgh next week?  I was really pulling for the Bills Sunday but Tyrod Taylor, that was a putrid performance.

And as shocking (not) as the Titans’ comeback over the El Foldo Chiefs was, Marcus Mariota and Co. are going into Foxboro to beat Brady and Belichick? I’ll dunk a basketball in the NBA before that happens. (But that was a great block (above) the QB threw on the game-clinching Titans run).

— Poor Chiefs fans. Every time they make the playoffs and get a home game, they lose. Six straight times, over more than 20 years! It’s an impressive streak. Andy Reid, you are an amazing regular season coach. Come January, you turn into Rich Kotite.

And that’s not a pretty picture.

 

Good News Friday: Buffalo Bills fans bombard Andy Dalton’s charity with kindness. A news anchor gets a marriage proposal live on TV. And “The Post” does a great job on the Pentagon Papers scandal

And a Happy Friday to all of you out there in Internet-land, which can’t be as frigid as it is here in New York. My word was Thursday a horrendous storm day; I usually love snow but this was too much. Happily, it’s over and now it’ll just be 46 below zero today.

Which is a perfect segue to talk about the awesomeness of the people of Buffalo. Yes, Buffalo, the place where even polar bears are like “Can someone turn on a space heater or something?” Buffalo-nians have endured a lot with their sports teams over the years (four straight losses in the Super Bowl by the Bills, the Sabres losing their one Stanley Cup Finals chance on a goal that probably shouldn’t have counted),  and lately they’ve suffered through 17 consecutive non-playoff seasons from the Bills.

But finally last Sunday, thanks to the Bills winning and a remarkable comeback by the Cincinnati Bengals to beat the Baltimore Ravens, the Bills are back in the playoffs.

It truly took a sensational play by Bengals QB Andy Dalton to win the game, and only by the Ravens losing to Cincy did the Bills finally qualify. And of all the ways Bills fans could’ve celebrated their team finally making the playoffs for the first time this century (seriously, 1999 was a LONG time ago), this way the fans responded was the coolest.

Buffalo fans have helped raise more than $400,000, in a week, for Dalton’s preferred charity and the charity favored by Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd, who scored the winning touchdown. Dalton and his wife Jordan’s personal foundation sponsors several community outreach programs, including the Pass It On Fund, which aims to provide medical equipment and financial relief to families with seriously ill or physically challenged children.

And more than $40,000 has been raised for the Western PA Youth Athletic Association, which Boyd played in as a child.

Hilariously, most of the donations have come in $17 increments, since it’s been 17 seasons since the Bills last made the playoffs.

Dalton was overwhelmed by the generosity.

“We are blown away by everybody that’s donating,” he said. “Thank you to all the Bills fans, thank you for anybody that’s just supporting our foundation. Let’s keep it going.”

Very, very cool. How could you not root for the Bills on Sunday against Jacksonville?

**Next up, this kind of thing always, always makes me smile. Evie Allen is a female news anchor at WSIL-TV in Carterville, Ill. She was on the air on New Year’s Day morning when suddenly the weather forecaster started talking about a surprise in the weather and that “ice is coming around the corner.”

Then, out of nowhere comes Evie’s boyfriend Matt, to propose to her live on television. (Please click through, it’s a really sweet, short video)

Such a sweet, sweet genuine moment. Live TV, man, you never know what’s going to happen.

**Finally today, I was 99.9 percent certain I was going to love the new Tom Hanks/Meryl Streep/Steven Spielberg movie “The Post,” because it has those three icons in it, and it’s about a newspaper. In this case, The Washington Post, in 1971, wrestling whether or not to publish The Pentagon Papers, the explosive documents ex-government employee Daniel Ellsberg released to the The New York Times that documented how deep the deception and lies went, over four administrations, to convince the American people that the war in Vietnam was being won.

(And by the way, a fabulous, hilarious touch by Spielberg to have Matthew Rhys, who of course is a Russian spy on “The Americans” play Ellsberg.)

The story follows the Post’s female publisher, Katherine Graham (Streep), and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) wrestling with the legal, political and moral implications of running the Papers.

Both leads are, of course, fabulous, and there are a ton of other great actors you’ll recognize here, including Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, and the fantastic Bob Odenkirk playing the reporter who brings the Post the actual papers.

The drama is presented realistically, as there’s no 100 percent clear right answer, and watching Streep balance friendship and journalistic responsiblility (something 99 percent of publishers never deal with) was fascinating.

“The Post” is too long, probably by about 20-30 minutes, but other than that, it’s fantastic. I believe it comes out nationwide in a few days, I highly recommend it.

Between “Spotlight” and “The Post,” we’re on a roll with great movies about newspapers!

 

Dave Barry’s Year in Review is, as always, a must-read. “The Greatest Showman” was pretty good for what it was. And the New York Knick who crashes bar mitzvahs

Hello and Happy New Year, everyone! I really meant to write a blog post for Monday but the day got away from me, we were doing family things and then I had some champagne on New Year’s Eve and, well, you know. Hope you had a great holiday, and that you saw some of that sensational Georgia-Oklahoma college football game Monday night (the great Tommy Tomlinson, a Georgia fan, penned this great, emotional column).

Lots to get to at the start of 2018, but as always I can’t fully put a bow around 2017 without reading the great Dave Barry’s Year in Review. For those of you somehow unaware of this true genius, Dave Barry is a wildly successful author and humorist who has been a longtime Miami Herald columnist. Honestly, I think he’s one of the five funniest people in America. As always, his 2017 Year in Review contains a ton of laughs, including…

In February, The entertainment highlight of the month comes during the Academy Awards, when PricewaterhouseCoopers (motto: “The Fidget Spinner of Consulting Firms”) comes up with a brilliant gambit to enliven the 14-hour broadcast by handing Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the wrong envelope for Best Picture. Hilarity ensues, and PricewaterhouseCoopers is immediately hired by congressional Republican leadership to develop a strategy for repealing Obamacare.

In April, In aviation news, United Airlines (“The Fidget Spinner of Airlines”) breaks new customer-service ground when it decides that a 69-year-old passenger who has already boarded his flight must be “re-accommodated” via a technique similar to the one the Mexican army used to re-accommodate the Texans at the Alamo, leaving him with a concussion, broken teeth and a broken nose. At first United’s CEO defends the airline’s actions on the grounds that, quote, “We have the collective IQ of a starfish.” But after a firestorm of public outrage he apologizes and promises that in the future United will employ a “more humane” re-accommodation policy based on “respect for our customers and, when needed, tranquilizer darts.”

Dave Barry’s the best. Read his whole, hilarious story here.

**Next up, as I think I mentioned a few weeks ago the wife and I were about to go on a movie-watching binge over the holidays, and I actually got to see three quality flicks in the past week. Not to going to review them all today because you and I don’t have that kind of time, but wanted to start by writing about “The Greatest Showman,” which I knew would be a musical but still had way more music than I was expecting.

Couple good things: 1, Hugh Jackman, who played P.T. Barnum, is a superstar. Guy is really, really good at everything he’s in, and he was really good here. 2, The cinematography and visuals of this movie were spectacular. It was gorgeous to look at, definitely a flick I’m glad I saw on the big screen. 3. Michelle Williams, who plays Barnum’s wife, is terrific with what little material she had to work with. Michelle Williams has turned out to be a sensational actor. Who ever would’ve thought that the “other” chick from “Dawson’s Creek” would be the best actor of all of them?

Couple bad things: 1, Zac Efron, one of the big stars of the movie, is no Al Pacino. He’s fine at singing but at acting? Meh. 2, A lot of the storyline presents Barnum was this wonderful, gregarious, big-hearted guy, giving opportunities to those who society has shunned, like a Bearded Lady and a midget. The reality is so, so, so different (though I was about to get mad at the movie for not including Barnum’s famous “There’s a sucker born every minute” quote until I got home and read he never actually said it.).

Would’ve been nice to see some of Barnum’s darker side. 3, And this bothered my wife way more than me: Barnum has two daughters in the film. The film takes place over a period of at least eight years. His daughters never age in the movie. What, they didn’t want to pay two sets of actors to play his kids? It’s just weird.

Anyway, overall I’d say liked “The Greatest Showman.” It’s not great, but if you like musicals and a feel-good story, check it out.

**Finally today, I’m stunned I missed this story from last December, but I’m glad I stumbled upon it over the weekend. Meet Kyle O’Quinn, a backup forward for the New York Knicks. Like most pro basketball players, he’s tall, he’s African-American, and he never had his own bar mitzvah.

But he’s been to a bunch of them now, because Kyle O’Quinn has been going to a ton of them. What started as an invite to his agent’s daughter’s party has turned into a regular side gig.

Says Mr. O’Quinn: “A lot of times, I go and I stay longer than I’m supposed to because it’s so much fun,” O’Quinn said. “The food’s always good. The only thing that gets a little overwhelming is the kids; sometimes they don’t listen to the structure of the party and it just gets loose.

“And the [parents] kind of leave it like, ‘Kyle, you deal with it.’ And it’s kids saying, ‘Selfie, selfie, selfie, snapchat, what’s your snapchat?’ But once you get that out of the way, it’s fun.”

I bet he does a mean hora dance, you know?

The Best of Good News Friday, 2017 Part 2: The father who interviewed his daughter on her first day of school, for 12 years, makes a beautiful movie. A Utah police officer sings to a blind woman in need of joy. And WWE’s John Cena meets those whose lives he’s changed

And a Happy Friday to you all out there from freezing-cold New York City, where I think the temperature was, and I’m not making this up, minus-211 today. Holy mother of God was it freezing. Anyway, hope wherever you are on this final Friday of 2017, you are warm. And I hope you have a great New Year’s Eve filled with champagne and resolutions you’ll break by MLK Day.

Continuing what I started on Wednesday, wanted to finish off 2017 with Part 2 of the “Best of Good News Friday” posts; I so enjoy doing these each week, but these three particularly brought me a ton of joy this year.

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

My little guy started preschool in September, and the new guy won’t start school for three years. But I’m already imagining how hard it’s going to be when they graduate high school. This video gave me, as the kids say, all the feels, each time I watched it.

**Next up, this was definitely one of my favorite posts of the year: 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.”

Just a beautiful moment, showing we’re all in this together.

**And finally, WWE wrestler John Cena didn’t know when he was called to appear to promote a sponsor of his, Cricket Wireless, that he’d be hearing from, and meeting some of this biggest fans. People whose lives he’d changed, get a chance to say thank you.

Whether you’re a wrestling fan or hate the sport, this video is special. I loved the hug between Cena and the little boy about halfway through; just such a wonderful, emotional moment.

I say once again: It takes so little to make so someone feel better. And as always, remember there is SO much more good than bad in the world. So much more.

See you in 2018.