Maybe too good to be true, but it looks like Bibi may be done in Israel. Kodi Lee wows “America’s Got Talent” finals. And a woman in England marries a tree (seriously)

It’s not even Rosh Hashanah, and the New York Jets are down to their third-string quarterback this season, and are a 22-point underdog to the Patriots this weekend.
Just wanted to share my misery with you all. Now on with the show…

I don’t want to celebrate prematurely, since so many of us are frightened of doing that after past election shockers (see, Clinton, Hillary, 2016), but I was feeling very upbeat Tuesday night upon reading headlines declaring that finally, ding dong, the witch of Israel might be (politically) dead.

After 13 years over two decades in power, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu maybe, possibly, likely, finally lost an election as Prime Minister.

And speaking as a Jew, as an American, and a citizen of the world, this is freaking fantastic news.

As the election results trickled in Tuesday night, all the exit poll data showed that Bibi and his far-right, ultra-orthodox ruling party had failed to secure a majority of votes, and that Benny Gantz, a moderate who opposed Netanyahu in the election, would emerge slightly ahead and get the first chance to form a coalition government.

If this is true… it’s wonderful. For so long, Netanyahu has bullied, lied and bribed his way to power and then to keep it, and his unbelievable arrogance and refusal to even consider the rights of Palestinians in a peace process he never had any interest in joining, has been disgraceful.

His coming to Congress at the behest of Republican leader John Boehner in 2015, to then browbeat America and President Obama was particularly odious, and his constant, consistent lies and half-truths about Palestinians, his disgusting behavior toward America, and most recently, his slavish devotion and love of Donald Trump has been a stain on the world.

Oh yeah, he’s also under indictment for bribery and corruption.

Bibi has been close to political death before, and has always escaped. So like I said, I’m not celebrating yet. But as an American Jew who simply cannot support the far-right, constant war-mongering man who leads the homeland of my people, this could be a wonderful, wonderful change in leadership.

My fingers will be crossed.

**Next up today, I blogged a while back about the incredible singer Kodi Lee on “America’s Got Talent,” a blind man who has tremendous vocal range and an inspiring backstory.

Well, Tuesday night was the “AGT” finals and Lee once again put on one hell of a show. Check out his performance. What a talented young man.

**And finally today, this story kind of made me wonder exactly what makes some people tick. Because I have no Earthly idea.

So there’s this 34-year-old woman in England named Kate Cunningham, and about 10 days ago she legally married a tree.

That’s right, a tree. The ceremony took place in Rimrose Valley Park, and Cunningham invited her family and friends to come see the ceremony, after which Cunningham said she was legally changing her last name to “Elder,” after the species of tree she married (well, sure.)

Cunningham’s goal with this “marriage” was to draw attention to the destruction of green spaces in her local park, see. So she figured by getting hitched to an inanimate object, she’d get lots and lots of attention.

From this story in the Daily Mail: Miss Cunningham said that she was inspired by female activists from Mexico who held similar ceremonies to bring attention to illegal logging and land clearing, and that she hoped to draw attention to the campaign to save Rimrose Valley Park.

The former primary school behaviour support assistant said her family and boyfriend were supportive of her decision.

She said: ‘My boyfriend is very supportive of my decision. He’s even helped make props for the ceremony.

‘My oldest son was initially embarrassed when I told him I was going to do it, but he decided to come to the ceremony. It means a lot to him to be there.”

Sigh. You just KNOW her son is going to be talking about this in therapy some day.

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James Corden with a heartfelt takedown of “fat-shaming.” A hilarious obit from the family of a prankster. And NFL Week 2: Any healthy QB’s left? And boy do the Giants stink

It’s pretty rare when one late-night TV show host goes after another publicly on their own show. But James Corden, who I love, went after Bill Maher, who I used to love and now I just feel sorry for, last week on Corden’s show, and I applaud him for it greatly.

Maher, who was once a smart, edgy thinker who was very funny, did a stupid, thoughtless monologue at the end of his “Real Time with Bill Maher” HBO show last week about “Fat shaming,” and how it needs to come back, and be amped up. Fat people, Maher argued, need a kick in their rear to lose weight, and the rest of us should be constantly reminding them of it.

“Fat shaming doesn’t need to end, it needs to make a comeback,” Maher said. “Some amount of shame is good.”

James Corden, who like millions of us has struggled with his weight for his whole life, rightfully, and smartly, whacks back at Maher’s idiotic takes. Watch this heartfelt, so well-done seven minutes by Corden. I admire him using his platform for his, and shame on Maher (you said some shame is good, right Bill?) for once again showing the world has passed him by.

Bravo, James.

**Next up today, it’s rare you’ll ever read an obit as funny as the one a Connecticut man named Joe Heller had written about him, by his three daughters.

Heller, a master prankster and the life of any party he went to, died at age 82 on Sept. 8, and the obit is hilarious.

This is the lede to the great obit:

“When the doctors confronted his daughters with the news last week that “your father is a very sick man,” in unison they replied, “you have no idea.”

It talks about how as a kid he named his pet dog “Fart,” so his mother would have to yell that word out every time she was looking for the pup. It mentions how he embarrassed his family constantly and in many ways.

The obituary listed achievements such as being a “consummate napper” and a regular browser of collectibles at the local dump.

There wasn’t a road, restaurant or friend’s house in Essex that he didn’t fall asleep on or in,” Ms. Heller wrote, adding that her father “left his family with a house full of crap, 300 pounds of birdseed and dead houseplants that they have no idea what to do with.”

The whole thing is fabulous, a sweet, warm tribute to a Dad they loved dearly.

Who is now taking the ultimate nap.

— First off, what in the world did the New Orleans Saints do in a past life to piss off the referee Gods? We all remember last year’s debacle of a missed pass-interference call in the NFC championship game, that may have cost them a Super Bowl chance. And then Sunday, they scored an apparent touchdown on defense that was called back because of an “inadvertent whistle.” The NFL refereeing continues to be so, so bad.

— Quarterback down! Quarterback down! Actually, quite a few quarterbacks down on Sunday, not counting my future star Sam Darnold of the Jets, who this week came down with mono, so clearly those makeout sessions with the offensive line in the locker room had some deletory effects.

Drew Brees, hurt and maybe out for a while. Ben Roethlisberger, hurt and maybe out for a while. Carson Wentz of the Eagles, who finished his game Sunday night, might be hurt.
Rough sport, this football thing.

— My ex-father-in law, who lived near Buffalo for a long time, used to taunt me on the rare occasions the Bills were doing well, saying “You know Michael, the Bills are the only true New York team,” since of course the Jets and Giants have played their games in New Jersey for decades.

Well, after the first two weeks of the NFL season, the Bills are certainly the best New York team. Because they just got done beating both of the “other” New York teams, finishing off with a stomping of the Giants Sunday.
I don’t know if the 2-0 Bills are for real yet, because both the Jets and Giants are horrible this year, but I know Buffalo might have a good young QB and some playmakers on offense, and an aggressive defense. Let’s see how they do against some better competition.

— Football in Florida is putrid this season. The Jaguars stink. The Bucs are pretty woeful, too. And the Dolphins… wow, if they don’t go 0-16, something very surprising has happened.

— Pray for me tonight. The Jets are down to their backup quarterback, have a bunch of other injuries, and are playing a Browns team that got embarrassed last week and needs a win badly. This could get uglier than the shower scene in “Psycho.” (look it up, young’uns.)

A letter to my son on his 5th birthday: A year of big changes, a big surgery, and my pride grows deeper

Dear Nate,

Hi! It’s Daddy again. You know, Daddy, the guy who gives you way too many snacks way too close to dinner, is always losing to you in board games and on your Hot Wheels track, and has so much fun with you, every day.

Another year in your incredible life has passed, and just the other day you turned 5. FIVE! I can’t believe it, you’re half a decade old. Halfway to double digits! (Trust me, when you get there it’ll feel like a HUGE milestone).

There have been so many changes in your life in the past year, and so many things I want to get down here in this space, as I do every year, to try to “time capsule” every year of your life, so one day you can look back and say “Oh, that’s what I was like when I was 4!”

Since your last birthday you’ve gone to a new preschool called Gan Shalom, and had so much fun and made so many new friends there. You were blessed with two outstanding teachers who gave you the building blocks you needed for your next challenge: Kindergarten.

You’ve only been there a week but you already love it. Your teacher, Mrs. Michaelides, seems great, and getting a crown on your birthday last week and having the whole class sing to you sure got the year off to a good start (good thing you’ve mostly overcome your fear of loud noises, otherwise that might have scared you!)

You also got to go to your first full-day day camp this year, riding a bus and playing sports with your friends and getting to love your counselors! Your swimming got so much better and you only lost about three hats and four T-shirts, so all in all, you know, a good summer 🙂

Another major change this year was having your tonsils and adenoids removed in July. That was a big deal for you, having to go under anesthesia and have surgery, and Mommy and Daddy were so proud of how brave you were (except for those 30 seconds before surgery when you screamed so loud you could’ve woken the dead).

You handled the surgery like a champ, Nate, getting to eat lots of ice cream and cold stuff afterwards. Even us waking you up every three hours during the night for the first 10 days, to give you medicine, didn’t bother you too much.
Now, you’re sleeping better (no more snoring, hooray), and not nearly as stuffy as you used to be. We’re still waiting for you to eat more food, and have bigger portions, but hey, we can’t have everything.

You’ve undergone so many changes this year, but so many things have, happily, stayed the same. Your love for trains, and the creative way you build your tracks and play with them, still blows my mind. You can spend an hour down in the basement and then emerge with a wonderful creation, and it’s times like this that I know you got your mechanical/building side of your brain from your mother (as we always say in our house, who fixes the boys’ toys? “Mommy.”)

Your love for “Paw Patrol” and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” shows no signs of slowing, and lately you’ve really gotten into tennis, which makes Daddy so happy (but I’m still afraid to force it on you, since I love it so much I don’t want you to feel like you HAVE to love tennis!)

We are so proud of you, Nate, for so many reasons: You’re a wonderful listener, you have such an inquisitive mind (when we got our new car you were so excited to figure out the various machinations of where everyone could sit, now that we have 3 rows!), and you have a kind heart that’s always sharing and being friendly to others.

Finally, we’re so proud of the big brother you continue to be to Theo. You love playing with him at all times; riding around the kitchen on your toy bicycles, rough-housing in your room, or always giving him a kiss goodnight and a “Hi, buddy!” greeting when you see him first thing in the morning.

You and Theo have so much fun together, and I hope it never changes.

Happy, happy birthday, sweet Nate. Five years in, you’re still one of the two best things Mommy and Daddy ever did.

Love,
Daddy

P.S. Oh yeah, one more thing: Listen to me when I tell you not to root for the Jets, ever. You’ll thank me when you get older.

Remembering 9/11: Somehow it’s been 18 years since it happened. The Democratic Prez candidates make a great ad about gun violenec in schools. And a beautiful gesture from the newspaper in Pittsburgh.

Eighteen. It’s a number that has a huge relevance in life for many peoples, including those of my tribe, in Judaism. Turning 18 signifies so much in our cultural life in America: The ability to vote, the ability do many things as an adult for the first time (play the Lottery was always a big one for me), and most people really feel like a grown-up at 18.

The number 18 has been in my mind this week because today is September 11, of course, and it’s now been, unfathomably, 18 years since two airplanes struck the World Trade Center on a beautiful Tuesday morning in New York City.

Which means that a child born on 9/11/01 is starting college this year, having lived their entire life in a post-9/11 world.

Mind-boggling to me. Because when I close my eyes I can still see all the images from that day, the confusion, the panic, the sheer “what the $*#*@*$ is going on?” on the faces of all my fellow New Yorkers.

Never in a million years would I have thought, 18 years later, we’d still be fighting in Afghanistan, still have American soldiers dying in a war that started nearly two decades ago.

All we can do is not let the passage of time dim our memories of the heroes, and tragic figures, of that day.

And today, take a few minutes to think about the sacrifice so many have made, trying to protect our freedoms since that horrible day.

**Next up today, it’s been rare to see the Democratic Presidential candidates all appear in the same ad, and with the next Presidential debate Thursday night (one I’m eagerly anticipating, and hoping for great performances from Kamala Harris and Cory Booker), I thought it was very timely that this ad was released this week.

Featuring most of the top contenders, and dealing with the very real but ignored by our Congress issue of gun violence, it’s powerful, and it’s fantastic.

**Finally today, I would normally save this for Good News Friday, but since this week is a different, special GNF I do every year at this time, I wanted to make sure I ran this now.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize in April for its outstanding coverage of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in 2018. With the prize comes an award of $15,000, and at first the journalists at the paper weren’t sure what to do with it, or how to divide it up.

So they came up with a fantastic, heartwarming solution: They donated it to the synagogue that had suffered so much, to help rebuild it.

The newspaper’s executive editor, Keith Burris, in presenting the  check to the temple, said these words at the ceremony on Aug. 29:

“Rabbi Myers, when the unthinkable happened at Tree of Life, it was our job to tell the story.

And to tell the backstory.

We did our duty.

It was our honor to do it.

Nothing about doing our duty makes us noble or exceptional.

But the DUTY ITSELF was and is noble.

Now we share with you another duty: TO REMEMBER.

And to assure that Pittsburgh, the United States, and all the world, REMEMBERS.

We feel bound to you and your congregations – by memory and duty.

And we offer you, in humility, our service – as scribes and witnesses.

We wish Tree of Life to have this gift – the newspaper’s cash award for the Pulitzer Prize for spot news – as a sign of this bond and this service. We give it as a modest contribution toward the repair and rebuilding of the congregation’s physical plant.

Really wonderful gesture that I’m certain will be remembered long after the people who won the Pulitzer are gone.

An amazing U.S. Open finals weekend, as Bianca and Rafa (and Daniil) put on an amazing show. And NFL Week 1 thoughts: The Jets are the Jets, the Browns are the Browns, and the Dolphins are godwawful

So, the tennis over the weekend, not so bad, eh?

What. A. Weekend. As always the Sunday after Labor Day is one of my favorite sports days of the year, because we’ve got the men’s final of the U.S. Open, and Week 1 of the National Football League season.

This is always one of my longest blog posts of the year and if you hate football and tennis, well, the next 1,000 or so words aren’t going to thrill you.

Man oh man, what a fantastic, fantastic weekend of tennis from the men’s and women’s finals. First a few thoughts on the epic men’s final Sunday, when a 23-year-old Russian kid who a year ago few had heard of, came oh so close to scoring one of the greatest comebacks and upset wins in the sport’s history.

Daniil Medvedev, the 6-foot-6 elastic man who just kept on coming for two weeks at the Open, got down two sets and a break Sunday to one of the five greatest men’s players ever, Rafael Nadal.

And somehow found a way to battle all the way to a fifth set, to fall behind 5-2 in that fifth set, and then come within one measly point of squaring the set at 5, as 24,000 New Yorkers at Arthur Ashe Stadium screamed their bloody heads off.

Nadal, because he’s a beast, and a machine, and maybe the best fighter the sport has ever seen, did not fully crumble, as he staved off defeat in the fifth set and won his 19th Slam title, and fourth U.S. Open.

(Deep breath). Yes, I know concede after many, many years of denial, that the kid from Spain will pass Roger Federer’s Slam haul of 20. And I also think Novak Djokovic, with 16, will eventually pass both of them.

All credit to Nadal, though, for an amazing tournament. He didn’t have to play the other two of the big Three, but he stood toe to toe with all challengers, and against a very worthy foe Sunday, had just enough nerve, stamina and shotmaking to win.

What a glorious time to be a tennis fan.

— A few words on Medvedev: He had a rocky two weeks with the Open fans, after snatching a towel angrily from a ball boy in Week 1, and subtly giving the chair umpire the finger as well. But the kid grew up a lot at this Open, before our very eyes. His incredible effort Sunday, coupled with his very gracious post-match comments and press conference, show me he very well could be a huge star in this sport. And that would be a good thing.

— On the women’s side, a brand-new star was born, and one nobody saw coming a year ago.
Do you realize that 19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu lost in U.S. Open qualifying last year? And that she just won seven matches splendidly, showing poise, confidence and sensational talent all the way through?

I could not be more impressed with this kid, both in the couple of times I was in press conferences with her, from her post-match humility and aw-shucks “Is this really happening?” attitude, and her larger-than-large game.

The first Canadian Grand Slam singles champion ever, Andreescu is here to stay. She was absolutely fearless for two weeks and seven matches, and even though she wobbled a bit at the end against Serena, letting a 5-1 lead get back to 5-5, she steadied and got the job done.

What a performance.

— Now about Serena: This is four times now in the past 18 months she’s reached a Slam final, and four times she’s gotten beaten soundly. This is not a matter of coming close to Grand Slam title No. 24 and losing, say, 6-4 in the third. This is playing very well for six rounds, then getting smacked in the final. I don’t know if it’s mental at this point, or physically she gets worn down, or what. But she is simply not the same player in finals as she is the rest of the tournament. And I’m not sure she’ll ever win another Slam.

I must say, though, that she was exceedingly, brutally honest in her post-match press conference, and very gracious on-court to Andreescu after the loss. Serena has come very, very far in the humility and grace departments when she loses.

Tennis, man. It’s just the best.

**OK, a few quick words now on Week 1 of the NFL season, when everyone overreacts to results and assumes either their team is going to the Super Bowl, or will never win another game:

— I didn’t expect THIS type of Jets loss Sunday, but no Jets loss ever really surprises me anymore. Their offense stunk, their kicker who had never kicked at MetLife Stadium before Sunday missed a field goal and an extra point, and the defense collapsed in the 4th quarter, and they lost to Buffalo, 17-16.
Sam Darnold, our franchise QB, was bad, so was the O-line, and at least Le’Veon Bell looked like the real deal. Just a brutal, brutal loss. Many more to come.

–So much for those Super Bowl-bound Browns, eh? After six months of hype about how good Cleveland was going to be, it’s a new era, etc., the Brownies went out and lost by 30, at home, to Tennessee. Poor Browns fans, they’re just never going to get a winning team, are they.

— Still, the Browns didn’t have the worst Week 1 showing. That goes to the Dolphins, who gave up 42 points IN THE FIRST HALF. The Ravens ended up hanging 59 on ’em, and as a Jets fan I’m thrilled. Wow is that franchise a mess right now.

— The Cardinals and Lions, two of the worst franchises historically in the NFL, played to a tie, which led to this amazing Detroit Free Press tweet:

— Finally, Antonio Brown is the biggest drama queen/idiot the NFL has seen in quite some time, it’s a disgrace the way he behaved to get himself released from the Raiders, and now he’s a Patriot and he’ll probably act like a choirboy. I hate sports sometimes.

Good News Friday: Two sisters read bedtime stories to kids on the Internet. A new ESPN commercial really moves me. And Marvin Gaye, stripped down vocals, is amazing to hear

 

And a Happy Friday, the first weekend of September is here, I’m wearing pants during the day for the first time in months as there’s a little chill in the air here in New York (don’t worry, I wasn’t walking around in my underwear all summer, I just meant I’m not wearing shorts today. Now that we’ve cleared that up…).

School has started for all of us now, so I wanted to start Good News Friday with a great educational idea I read about this week on Upworthy.com. From a recent story:

“Every week, 13-year-old Zaria Willard and her 8-year-old sister Hailey visit their local library to pick out a selection of books to read on social media. The girls then take turns recording their Facebook Live readings every night of the work week.

The Delaware girls have been sharing their daily bedtime stories on their Zaria x Hailey Facebook page since March—and they have already garnered over 10,000 fans.”

“We are already reading each night, but we thought it may be beneficial for children who don’t get this luxury,” wrote the sisters. “Parents sometimes work late or are too tired for stories [so] we are not only helping children, we are giving parents a nice break after a long day of work.

“We presented the idea to my mom and she agreed it would be great. She personally doesn’t want us to be on social media but we all agreed being on it in a positive way would help light the world.”

Very, very cool idea. So many parents working long hours don’t get a chance to read to their kids, so every little bit helps. Here’s the link again, check them out.

**Next up today, I admit I’m very much a sucker for inspirational sports commercials, but this new one from ESPN, called “There’s No Place Like Sports,” gave me ALL the feels.

I’ve seen it quite a few times since the U.S. Open started, and it gets me every time.
Just beautiful.

**And finally, speaking of beautiful and exquisite things, here’s a little something to take you into the weekend. I saw this on Twitter yesterday and it was, of course, fantastic. The late, great, Marvin Gaye, singing “Heard it Through the Grapevine” without the music and backing vocals.

Not since Whitney Houston’s stripped-down singing have i heard something so incredible, vocally.

Back to school thoughts, kindergarten is here! My favorite back to school video ever. And personalized license plate that all parents can appreciate.

 

I know in many parts of America school has been in session for several weeks now, but here in the Northeast, Labor Day weekend ending has always meant one thing:

School starts! Or, as I used to say as a kid, “Ugh, school is starting ALREADY???”

Yep, it’s that time again, the annual rite of passage for youngsters to put away their summer clothes and sand toys, strap on that backpack, and race off to catch the bus before it leaves.

This year in our house, the start of the new school year has bigger and more special meaning than ever before, because our oldest starts kindergarten this year.

That’s right, the kid who was just born, like, a month ago is turning five next week, and so tomorrow he gets on a big-boy bus and goes to big-boy school, and Daddy will probably big-boy cry at such an occasion (more on this 5-year-old coming in my letter to him, next Friday).

Yes, today will be an emotional day for me much more than him, but for kindergarteners and their parents everywhere, it’s a pretty big day.

A wonderful rite of passage, a necessary one, but also one that definitely for me is like a line of demarcation: One part of childhood is definitely over. Now we’re in a new stage, and it’s a little scary.

I hope all 5-year-olds and soon to be 5-year-olds like my son Nate have a wonderful first day, and a great first year.

And please, if there are any 5-year-olds reading this (and I’m huge in that demographic): When you get on the bus, do your parents a favor and look back and wave, will ya? We still want to believe you’ll always be little, and will always wave to us.

Sniff, sniff.

**OK, so this whole first day of school thing had me thinking of one of my all-time favorite videos I’ve ever posted on here, from 2017. 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.

This is just… sensational.  And moving.

**Finally today, a very funny example of a parent trying everything to communicate to their kids the importance of emptying their bladder before a road trip.

In New Hampshire, there was some controversy recently when a woman named Wendy Auger got a letter telling her her personalized license plate had to be recalled.

This is what it said:

It’s a long story, but there was a court case a few years ago that changed the rules for what could be referred to on personalized plates, and bodily functions was deemed to be against the rules.

I think it’s hilarious, as I think most people would. What parent hasn’t told their kid to go to the bathroom before leaving on a long trip, then 20 minutes later, miles from a rest stop or exit, a little voice from the back of the car whines “I gotta go potty!”

And happily, Wendy found an ally in New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu, who has talked to the DMV on her behalf, and she’ll be allowed to keep her plate.

Good job, gov. And please, pee before you go.

Many thoughts from a fabulous first week at the U.S. Open. And Bernie Sanders vs. punching bag makes me laugh

Whew. I am happily exhausted today, after seven glorious days spent walking the grounds, and writing up a storm, at the U.S. Open.

So much has gone on, so much still to come, as I’ve been swept up in Coco-mania, severely disappointed a man I didn’t even know, and watched as much tennis as I could.

Many thoughts from my exhilarated brain, and man am I super-fortunate I get to come to this thing every year:

— So I have to start with Coco Gauff, the 15-year-old phenom/human excitement machine who won two? matches this week in thrilling fashion, and was the talk of the first week.

I’ve been covering her since two days before the tournament for the Palm Beach Post, and it’s been… quite something. Talking to her parents, her coaches, etc., they’re all kind of riding the wave of something they can’t believe is happening this quickly.

It’s really wonderful catching a “new thing” when it hits tennis: Everyone is so humble and gracious when they’ve never had this much attention before, and from all my interactions with Coco and her family, they seem like genuinely nice, grounded people.
You hope they always stay that way. What a tremendous kid Coco is, and a player with so much potential. Her length, her athleticism, how quickly she reads her opponents’ shots… she’s going to be some kind of superstar player.

But let’s all take a deep breath and remember: She’s only 15. She was born three years AFTER 9/11.

— And oh yeah, this happened after her match with Naomi Osaka. Such incredible sportsmanship, humanity, and class from Osaka. Just beautiful:

— So this was funny: I’m covering the Coco Gauff-Timea Babos second-round thriller Thursday night and, during a changeover, a guy walks past me from a few rows in front of me.

All of a sudden he stops dead in his tracks when he sees my credential.

“Ohmygod are you Michael Lewis the “Moneyball” guy?” he shrieked.

“No, sorry, just a fellow writer with the same name.”

His face dropped, he took a sip of his alcoholic beverage, and started walking away.
Sorry dude. I have to say, getting confused with the other ML happens all the time on social media, but rarely in real life.

— Besides Coco, there were a ton of other surprising success stories from American players this week, including two out-of-nowhere: Taylor Townsend, a former teen phenom who has struggled with inconsistency and injuries  the last several years, made the fourth round after having to qualify and win three matches just to get into the Open, and Kristie Ahn, a “journeyman” player who’d never won two matches at a Slam, getting to the fourth round, thrilling everyone except her own parents (read this as to why they’re mad).

— Random celebrity sightings this week, non-tennis edition: Walked right past NBA legend Kobe Bryant on Friday (he was there promoting a book or something), and Wednesday I was in the midst of Ben Stiller for about 10 seconds.
Nothing tops the two tennis legends I was lucky enough to briefly talk to, though: Rod Laver and Billie Jean King. She is, without a doubt, the greatest, and one of my all-time heroes.

— So this was one of my favorite moments of the first week: Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 5 seed, acted like an ass on Friday night, snatching a towel angrily from a ballboy and covertly giving the middle finger to the chair umpire, who only saw it on the JumboTron replay after the fact.

Anyway, the crowd booed Medvedev something fierce the rest of the match, and after he won, he said this.

What an awesome WWE villain he’d be!

— Finally on the tennis, noticed this week that are like, zero, American chair umpires. Every single one has some kind of foreign accent.
It’s not a problem, of course, tennis’ diversity is fantastic. Just odd that our country doesn’t seem to produce tennis chair umpires.

**And finally today, a moment of Zen, as they used to say on “The Daily Show.” Here’s presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, attempting to hit a boxing punching bag.

Uhhh, stick to politics Bern-man.

Good News Friday: A heartwarming story about NHL star Sidney Crosby. A 3-year-old boy who’s housebound gets thrilling surprises every day. And a 4th-grader with a new device to help parents and babies

And a Happy Friday to you all out there! Hope you’re having half as much fun, at least, as I’ve been having this week, at the wonderful circus known as the U.S. Open. Have been writing a ton of stories (here’s one on Coco Gauff’s great first-round win on Tuesday, and one on Reilly Opelka’s upset win over Fabio Fognini on Monday, and one on Caty McNally’s first-round win)and watching more tennis than any one person should be allowed.

Sleep? Who needs sleep?

Lots of good stuff to share on this Good News Friday, and I want to start with a good story about an athlete who on the playing surface, I really hate: Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby. On the ice, he’s one of the top 5 players in National Hockey League, with skill and strength unmatched. He’s also a big whiner and crybaby who exaggerates injuries to the nth degree.

But off the ice, the dude just gets it. Always doing classy stuff. This little story about Crosby visiting a veteran’s hospital with the Stanley Cup, and what he did for a patient there, is just really beautiful.

I wanna hate you, Crosby! Stop being so nice!

**Next up today, get the tissues. A lot of them.
Three-year-old Quinn Waters of Weymouth, Mass. has been confined to his house for several months, thanks to a compromised immune system due to treatments for his brain cancer.

Quinn isn’t allowed to go outside at all, having to just stare out the window at all that’s going on around him.

But his friends, family and people in town have teamed up to give Quinn quite a show. This is just so wonderful.

**And finally today, one of the great tragedies of life is a parent forgetting an infant is in the backseat of the car, leaving the vehicle for a few hours on a very hot day, and the child dying in the backseat.

It is an awful, awful, awful accident that happens far too often.(51 kids in the U.S. died from this in 2018).

To possibly help this problem, fourth-grader Sophie Rapson came up with this idea for a school project: It’s a stretchy cord-like device that attaches to a car seat and a steering wheel, connecting parent and baby, literally.

Genius. Genius!

50 scenes of Christopher Walken dancing will make you smile. George Clooney tries to rid the world of “dumbasses.” And a writer goes looking for the baseball umpire of his youth, trying to forget some awful behavior

Who doesn’t love Christopher Walken?

I mean, this is technically a rhetorical question. But if there is actually someone out there in the whole wide world who doesn’t love the actor that’s been in four hundred movies, I would like to meet them.

Anyway, Walken is an acting legend, and you never walk away from seeing him and thinking he didn’t give his all.

So given that, and how much fun he always seems to have in movies, I thought this clip was great. Someone on the Interwebs decided to cut a montage of 50 Christopher Walken dance scenes, and it’s fabulous.

Enjoy.

**Next up today, George Clooney is many things, including a terrific humanitarian, supporting many causes that are important in the world.

He’s even good at Public Service Announcements (PSA’s), trying to help his fellow man. Here, in service of climate change awareness, is George Clooney, trying to rid the world of… dumbasses.

Pretty damn funny.

**And finally today, I thought this was an excellently done column, by a man who clearly had regrets for a few moments of childhood idiocy.

Steve Politi, an outstanding journalist for the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger, was in a big Little League game when he was 12, and strode to the plate with runners on base and the game on the line.

A minute later, after things didn’t go his way, he flipped off the home plate umpire with a “double bird.”

Thirty-five years later, Politi went looking for that umpire to apologize, and explain.

An excerpt:
The umpire tried to explain this to me when I arrived at home plate and met my cruel fate. It didn’t matter. The Gantner’s manager tried to offer words of encouragement, that next time he walked me, “we’ll have to throw the ball in the dirt!” That didn’t help, either. Next time? Is this going to be a THING, Gantner’s?!

The disappointment boiled over into rage. I can still see the back of the ump walking away as the middle digit on both of my hands rose and pointed in his direction. I’m sure there were gasps. I don’t remember that. I do remember the voice of my best friend’s mom breaking the silence.

“Steven! Noooooooooo!”

Really, really beautiful writing here.