A depressing way to spend an evening, or my night at Rangers-Lightning Game 5. ESPN’s Ernie Johnson story is remarkable. A great Memorial Day tribute from a stranger. And

RangersGame5.Tampa

Well that stunk.

As I write this I have just returned from Madison Square Garden, where 18,000 people walked in to the building around 7:30 p.m. excited, pumped up, and ready to make some noise and support the New  York Rangers.

A little more than three hours later, we walked out quietly, heads in our heads, spilled beer at our feet, muttering about getting pucks to the net.

Man, what a rough night to go to a Rangers game. My boys played just a lifeless-offense-free game against Tampa in Game 5, generating maybe four good scoring chances the whole night, while Tampa, who hardly did anything either, scored on two of theirs.

From my seat in Section 318, it looked like Tampa played exactly the kind of playoff game the Rangers usually play: Block a lot of shots, clog the middle, slow the pace down, and capitalize on the few chances you get.

The crowd got more and more frustrated as the night went on, of course, and the poor kid sitting next to me in the Ryan McDonagh jersey said it was his first-ever live game. I had to tell him that usually the home team scores.

Hockey’s such a nutty game: Rangers score 5 goals in each of the last 2 games, then can’t even get one tonight.

Ugh. I’d feel more depressed about the Rangers’ chances if they hadn’t escaped this kind of situation many times before in the last few years. They must win Game 6, and then come home and win Game 7, which they’ve done plenty the last few years.

But still, how many times can you pull the same rabbit out of a hat? Sunday was a golden opportunity, and they blew it.

Only fun part of my night was coming home and seeing LeBron will his Cavaliers to another win. Man oh man, is it time to start putting that dude on the same level as MJ? Not yet, but he’s getting real, real close.

 

130502-N-MG658-011 ARLINGTON, Va. (May 2, 2013)  An Sailor plays "Taps" during the graveside interment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery for four Sailors killed during the Vietnam War. Lt. Dennis Peterson, from Huntington Park, Calif.; Ensign Donald Frye, from Los Angeles; and Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Technicians 2nd Class William Jackson, from Stockdale, Texas, and Donald McGrane, from Waverly, Iowa, all four assigned to Helicopter Squadron (HS) 2, were killed when their SH-3A Sea King helicopter was shot down July 19, 1967 over Ha Nam Province, North Vietnam. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom/Released)

**Next up today, it is of course Memorial Day, a day we honor all the brave men and women who sacrificed and died protecting our liberty.

I thought this tribute essay, to the men and women who served and are now buried at Arlington National Cemetery, was achingly beautiful. It’s written by Breanna Garren Mueller, and here’s an excerpt (the whole thing can be read here:)

Arlington National Cemetery. I didn’t know any of them. There were thousands. Hundreds of thousands.
John. Robert. Charles. William. Unknown… Not one did I know personally.
I had never seen them. Never met them… 

But as I stood there — silent tears filling eyes that scanned rows and rows of white marble cold upon warm, vibrant grass — it occurred to me that they had known me. All of them. Oh so well. And they knew you too.

They had thought of me often, and they thought of you. From the very first moment they considered the armed forces they thought of me. They knew I would want to walk freely outside, taking deep breaths of freshly clipped grass giving the sweet fragrance of spring, face turned toward the warmth of the sun. They knew I would value leisurely picnics and rides on playground swings; that I would need work opportunities and that my children would need college; and that someone would have to ensure that I was given those chances.

So they enlisted…

**Finally today, ESPN, for all its faults, still does some remarkable broadcast journalism, much of it on their signature shows like “Outside the Lines” and “E: 60.”

There have been a ton of wonderful stories brought to life by ESPN’s storytellers over the years, but this piece from last week might be the best thing the network has ever done.
It’s on TNT sportscaster Ernie Johnson, who while seeming to have it all on the air, has had quite the life off it. The piece is long, but hopefully you have the day off and can watch it. What Johnson has done, for his adopted son, his family, and everyone else in his life, is truly wonderful.

Good News Friday: David Letterman gets sent out in style. Two adopted sisters meet for the first time, in a college class. And the Boy Scouts finally come to their senses about gay leaders

And a Happy Friday to you, wishing you and yours a wonderful Memorial Day weekend; it’ll always be special to me for all the normal reasons, but also Monday is my 2-year wedding anniversary, celebrating the best day of my life, when I made the best decision I ever made: Marrying the most beautiful and sweet girl in the world.

Want to start today’s Good News Friday with the retirement of a TV legend. David Letterman took the mantle from Johnny Carson and became the best, and funniest, late-night TV host ever. I loved Dave for the reasons everyone else loved Dave: He was smart, he was acerbic, he was a great interviewer when he wanted to be, and he was just plain zany. I never stayed up until 12:30 a.m. for his old NBC show because, you know, I was too young and had school the next day.

But seeing some of those classic bits over the years, you saw the genius at work. He took guys like Chris Elliot and Larry “Bud” Melman and made them comedy heroes, while taking everyday folks like Rupert Gee from the deli around the corner from the Ed Sullivan Theater and making them “stars.”

Dave was one of a kind, and I will miss him. His final show Wednesday night was a beautiful tribute, and he seemed at times genuinely overcome with emotion. The final montage, over a live performance by Foo Fighters, was dizzying and wonderful.

So long Dave, we’re going to miss you. I leave you with this: There were a ton of great tributes written about Letterman the past few weeks, but this one, by longtime writer/booker Daniel Kellison on Grantland.com, was by far my favorite. The “insider” stories he tells about some of the most famous Letterman moments (the Drew Barrymore flash, the night Madonna wouldn’t leave) are really entertaining.

sisters.columbia

**Next up today, this story sort of blew my mind: Two sisters, both adopted by separate families when they were babies, met for the first time two years ago. In a classroom at Columbia University,

Katy Olson, 34, and Lizzie Valverde, 35, were adopted and raised by separate families three decades ago — Olson in Florida and Iowa, and Valverde in New Jersey.

According to this story (and the video is great, too), two years ago, they wound up sitting in the same writing class at Columbia. On the first day, as students shared some stories about growing up, they realized their connection.

“It hit me, all the pieces just collided — kind of like a big aha kind of moment,” said Olson, who had been looking for her sister for years. “I was like, ‘Whoa!'”

 Another crazy part is that Valverde never knew she had a biological sister, while Olson did.

And now, Valverde is graduating. What a great story. Can you imagine meeting a sibling for the first time in your 30s? Crazy.

boy-scout

**Finally today, I’ve ripped this organization many times over the years in this space, so when they actually show signs of intelligent life, I feel I must give credit where it’s due.
Even if their actions are long, long, LONG overdue.
Yes kids, the Boy Scouts of America, long completely intolerant of gay scouts and leaders, is finally joining the 20th century. Just a few years after finally allowing openly gay scouts to stay in the organization, now the Boy Scouts president, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said the scouts should end their ban on gay adult leaders.

Gates said that “any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement.”

Well hallelujah and pass the Merit Badges. Better late than never. That this incredibly intolerant organization has been allowed to “get away with” this kind of discrimination for decades is deplorable. The idea that a gay scout leader is somehow deficient in helping lead young boys is offensive on many levels.

Better late than never, Boy Scouts.

My thoughts on an almost-great “Mad Men” finale. The guy who sneezed out a dart in his nose, 44 years later. And a first-year Little League coach writes beautifully of his experience

mad-men-series-finale

I remember watching the very first episode of “Mad Men,” back in 2007, and thinking “Hmmm, this doesn’t look like any TV show I’ve seen before.”

In an era of gloriously good television, basically from when “The Sopranos” started until now,” the best shows have all felt different from anything that came before it. “Breaking Bad” certainly did; so did “The Wire.”

And “Mad Men” was totally that way too; from the look, the dialogue, the period pieces from the 1960s they got exactly right… it really was a hell of a show. even if Pete Campbell drove me nuts just looking at him (I’m trying to think of a TV character I’ve hated more than Pete Campbell.

Which is why I was so disappointed with this final half-season, when I felt like it was mostly running in circles. Still, I had high hopes for the finale, and for the most part, I wasn’t let down.

(SPOILER ALERT. I’M ABOUT TO DISCUSS THE SERIES FINALE. IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED IT YET, SKIP DOWN TO THE PHOTO. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED)

I loved how the series ended Joan’s arc; her standing up for herself with yet another jerk (Richard, I thought you were the one!), and then starting her own production company? Joan’s come such a long way. Loved, loved, loved Peggy and Stan finally getting together; that relationship has been on simmer for years, and it was about damn time they became a couple.

I enjoyed Roger Sterling’s final moments, even felt a little good for Pete, that sonofabitch, seeming happy at the end.

But the way “Mad Men” dealt with Don Draper… ugh. I didn’t like Don Draper since the middle of season 1, when we got to see what a cad he was. The man, for 10 years in show-time, did not change at all. Behavior still awful, toward women, toward his kids, all of it.

And then in the final episode, when it looks like Don is completely broken, mentally, spiritually, and all that, and seems to finally find some catharsis and peace … “Mad Men” just uses his brief moment of Zen as inspiration for another ad campaign. Don Draper returns to McCann and writes the iconic Coca-Cola commercial.

I’ve seen some people interpret the ending differently, but to me, it’s crystal clear: Don can’t change, he is what he is, and his descent into a terrible life spiral these last few episodes has a happy ending for a guy who doesn’t deserve one.

Still, I left “Mad Men” on a happy note. It was a sensational show, one few others have matched.
And hey, at least we got to see Sally Draper survive without major psychological damage!

steveeaston

**So this is one of those stories that instantly raised my “bullshit” detector, for it can’t possibly be true. But apparently it is.

Maybe you heard about this last week; A 51-year-old Englishman named Steve Easton (maybe related to 80s pop diva Sheena Easton?) sneezed out a toy part that had been stuck in his nose for the past 44 years, causing him decades of congested breathing.

Apparently when Easton was 7 the rubber tip of a toy dart had gotten stuck up his nose, and it was beyond the reach of doctors.

Two weeks ago Easton was sitting at home and overcome by a sneezing fit, and one sneeze dislodged the dart.

“I thought, where the hell has this come from?” Easton told The Guardian newspaper.

OK, let me stop right there, because I’m brimming with questions. First of all, the child gets a dart stuck up his nose, and the parents just leave it there when the doctor says he can’t get it? Who does that? My parents would’ve taken me to 11 specialists, all over the East Coast, to get that thing out. (Then again, we’re Jewish, so, you know, we might be a little crazier in parenting than you.)

Second, do they tell young Steve he’s got a dart up his nose, or leave him oblivious? Wouldn’t you think after sneezing and being uncomfortable for all these years, he might’ve said “Hey Mum and Dad, anything ever happen to my  nose when I was a kid?”

Third, what doctors tell parents “Yeah, there’s a toy stuck up you kid’s nose, but we can’t get it out?” I mean, do they teach you that in medical school?

Poor Steve Easton. At least his long national nightmare is over.

BadNewsBears

**Finally today, this blog post by my buddy Pearlman really spoke to me, maybe because I absolutely can see myself in his position a few years from now, prowling the dugouts for my son’s team.

Jeff just finished his first year as a Little League coach, for his 8-year-old son’s team in Southern California, and as you might expect, it was equal parts frustrating and exhilarating.

He writes of the joys, mostly, though, and it’s a really sweet look at coaching young boys, and the bonds he feels with these kids forever.

 

Larry David’s “Fish in the Dark” is funny, but pretty much a “Curb” episode. A wrenching tale from an Amtrak train survivor. And Southwest Airlines does really wrong by a passenger

FISH IN THE DARK - 2015 PRESS ART - Larry David and Ben Shenkman - Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

FISH IN THE DARK – 2015 PRESS ART – Larry David and Ben Shenkman – Photo Credit: Joan Marcus 

So as a fellow Jewish New Yorker myself, it’s not really a big surprise that I’m a huge Larry David fan.

Loved “Seinfeld,” and loved “Curb Your Enthusiasm” even more. So four months ago, when tickets went on sale for David’s new Broadway show, “Fish In the Dark,” I snapped up a few for myself, my Dad and my stepmom (my wife is one of the very few people I know who doesn’t like “Seinfeld.” Oddly enough, my ex-wife disliked it, too. Do I somehow attract anti-Costanzas? A question for another day.)

Because it was such a hot ticket here in N.Y., I didn’t get to actually see the show until Saturday. And it was terrific, no doubt about it. Really funny, with a few “I missed the next line because I was laughing so hard at the last one” moments.

But honestly? It felt like a two-hour episode of “Curb,” with lots of the same Larry ticks and verbal miscues we’ve come to know and love.

The plot of “Fish in the Dark” is this: The dysfunction of the Drexel family is on full display after the patriarch, played by Jerry Adler, dies in an early scene. David’s character, Norman, has a loving but frustrated wife (Rita Wilson), an arrogant lawyer brother (Ben Shenkman, who was terrific), a housekeeper with a family secret she finally spills (Rosie Perez, also great), and a host of other aunts, uncles and relatives.

It’s really well-written, Shenkman and the supporting cast were all great, and I enjoyed myself. But I couldn’t help thinking me and the rest of the audience got tricked into spending over a hundred bucks to see a two-hour “Curb” movie.

seywarddarby.amtrak

**Next up today, an extraordinary piece of writing from a woman named Seyward  Darby, who was a passenger on Amtrak train 188 that crashed and killed eight people last week near Philadelphia.

Darby writes in this Washington Post piece about her lifelong debilitating worry that those she loves are about to die, and how having a near-death experience herself made her see her worries in a whole new light.

Really, this is a sensational, wrenching piece that deserves to be read. Truly great work.

southwestairlines

**Finally today, I have long been a big fan of Southwest Airlines. For the 5-plus years I lived in Daytona Beach, I was on the Orlando-Long Island flight at least 6-7 times per year, and always found Southwest to be on time, with friendly (and often really funny) pilots and flight attendants, and reasonably priced. I recommended Southwest to all.

But after the story I just read about this weekend, man, I don’t know if I can feel good about this company anymore. Did you hear about this?

A Wisconsin woman named Karen Momsen-Evers was onboard a flight about to take off from New Orleans back to Milwaukee on April 3 when she got a text from her husband:

“Karen, please forgive me for what I am about to do, I am going to kill myself…,” Andy Evers’ text read.

Naturally panicked, she immediately tried to call Andy and had her phone slapped out of her hand by a flight attendant, who told her to put the phone away.
When Karen explained what was going on, the flight attendant cited FAA regulations, even as Karen told her the whole story. She said she then begged the flight attendant to have the pilor or someone in the cockpit radio the authorities in Milwaukee, to do something to help Andy Evers.

Even after the flight reached cruising altitude, Evers was prevented from making a call, and a different flight attendant said she couldn’t disturb the pilot with this information.

When Karen landed, she called the police, who then found Andy Evers dead at the family home.

I mean … come ON! The woman gets a text from her husband threatening suicide, and the Southwest personnel can’t even do one thing to help this poor woman?
Just deplorable. Southwest’s statement in response to this is as tone-deaf as it gets: “our hearts go out to the Evers family during this difficult time. Flight attendants are trained to notify the Captain if there is an emergency that poses a hazard to the aircraft or to the passengers onboard. In this situation, the pilots were not notified.”

Just awful. There ought to be some serious discipline handed out to those flight attendants, and as this story gets more and more traction in the media, Southwest should rightfully get more and more scrutiny.

 

Some new thoughts from the stay-at-home Daddy Chronicles, featuring a new cage (I mean playpen) for the little guy. Students honoring teachers in a great video. And a father’s beautiful speech to his daughter’s husband

Nateinplaypen.8mos

And a Happy Friday to you and yours, I’m still on Cloud 11 after the Rangers’ thrilling win Wednesday night; that was not good for my heart, but great for my soul.

Wanted to start today with another installment of the Daddy Chronicles, my occasional series on my life as a stay-at-home Dad. Been a couple months since I wrote one of these, but lots of changes have been going on in his little 8-month-old life…

— First of all, as you can see by the above photo, we’ve boxed the little fella in. Yep, we put him in a cage. A prison. An isolation chamber. Whatever you want to call it. Why? Because I always wanted to hear a baby chant “Attica, Attica!“)

No, we did it because he’s crawling all over the place now, has been for a few weeks, and I can’t literally watch him every single second, and he was starting to crawl near wine bottles (he always went for the good stuff, a sign of intelligence, I believe) and my home computer with its oh-so-appealing wires. So we went on Amazon, bought this colorful barrier, and so far so good. He doesn’t seem to mind being confined, has plenty of toys to keep him busy, and now I can shower or do an interview and not worry so much.
Plus, all those colors do brighten up the apartment.

— Solid foods are a big hit so far; the little guy has enjoyed everything except for winter squash (his look of disgust while eating it sent the grandparents into hysterics) and the new Stage 2 green beans/peas/corn mix, which is odd because he liked each of those things individually.

On the downside… yeah, the smells have gotten exponentially worse coming out of his rear end. Everyone told me this would happen, and still, until it does your nose is never quite prepared. Wow.

— Since he turned six months old I’ve started a couple of structured activities with him; we take swim class once a week and music class once a week. I’m not expecting him to turn into Mozart or Ryan Lochte here, but so far so good. After an initial fear of going underwater (he came up the first time wildly looking around like “What the hell was that, Daddy??”) he seems to really like the pool, and is getting more and more used to it.

Music class is mostly for my benefit so far (getting him out of the apartment for a couple hours), but he’s getting exposure to live instruments being played and loves touching the shiny things in the room. Plus, it’s socializing him a little bit; with no day-care for him he doesn’t get a lot of exposure to other babies, so this helps. Big surprise; he smiles at all the pretty Moms and nannies. My boy is a flirt of the highest order.

— Finally, this hit me the other day: In a few more weeks he’ll have been “on the outside” as long as he was in my wife’s stomach. Blows. My. Mind. Time’s not just flying, it’s going 88 in a DeLorean.

**Next up today, any video that pays tribute to America’s hard-working and seriously under-appreciated teachers is bound to catch my attention. The group Soul Pancake put out this video which is actually two years old, but still perfect: It’s former students paying tribute to the teacher who inspired them.

I love it… amazing what an impact a great teacher can have on a life.

http://www.upworthy.com/they-asked-some-people-on-the-street-to-talk-about-their-favorite-teachers-the-answers-are-perfect?c=upw1&u=cb6160b8f3ce7ca42584510beb833d0f1618179f

**Finally today, this is pretty fantastic, and deserves to go viral. It’s a video of a father doing a rare thing at a wedding: Giving a speech to the groom while they’re up at the altar during the service, not at the reception.

This dad, whose name isn’t on the video, gives his future son-in-law Phillip a little talking-to, in a loving, oh-so-sweet tribute to the woman Philip’s about to marry. It’s about love and Jesus and how much the father loves his daughter… yeah, I cried at the end (and I’m Jewish, that’s how good it is :)

 

 

Game 7 tonight, the best words in sports. Jimmy Fallon and U2 have a surprise concert in the subway station. And a drunk man chases a bear through the woods.

Game 7.
If you’re a sports nut like me, I don’t have to say anymore. I’ll watch a Game 7 of anything; badminton, tiddlywinks, hockey, basketball … it’s right up there among the biggest thrills in sports, watching two teams who’ve battled for two weeks playing one final deciding game.

And tonight, my favorite sports team of all plays in yet another Game 7. Rangers-Capitals, Stanley Cup Playoffs, at MSG. Winner goes on, loser goes home.

It’s so random when you think about the idea of a Game 7; somewhere along the line, many moons ago, somebody in sports decided a best-of-seven format was the best way to decide a playoff series.
Not too short as to allow for flukes (like best-of-3 and best-of-5’s often do), but not interminable like a best of nine or 11. I don’t know if seven just feels like a good number because that’s what we’ve all been conditioned to accept, or if it actually is the perfect length.

Anyway, Game 7. Tonight. Rangers-Capitals. I’ll be pacing, sweating, cursing and shouting for most of three hours (thank God my little baby’s a good sleeper). I saw this awesome graphic Tuesday of a Rangers fan charting his heart rate during Game 6; I’m glad I won’t be doing that, or my wife would call an ambulance during what’s sure to be a nail-biting 3rd period (can you get wifi in an NYC ambulance these days? Asking for a friend.)

For a guy who’s team was less than two minutes from elimination and playing golf for the summer last Friday, I’m quite confident. Henrik Lundqvist is money in 7th games, winning his last five. The Caps have blown a 3-1 series lead four times before, this Rangers team always seems to find a way,  and Alex Ovechkin hasn’t scored since Game 2.

Let’s Go Rangers. I’ll be nervous all day until 7:30. I love it.

Next up, this is another awesome Jimmy Fallon sketch. Several years ago, the talented Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten won a Pulitzer Prize for a story in which he got a world-famous violinist, Joshua Bell, to play inside a D.C. metro station, and showed how absolutely no one paid attention. It was an incredible story (check it out here), basically proving the point that people often miss real beauty in their hustle and bustle to get where they’re going.

The Fallon sketch is similar; he got Bono and the rest of U2 to come to a NYC subway station and play their own world-famous music while in disguise.

It’s hilarious to see people walk right by Bono singing “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and not know it.

DavyCrockett.bearhunt

**Finally, my good friend Will sends me “News of the Weird” stories all the time, and I always enjoy them but often forget to blog about them.
This one, thought, I had to share.

Allow me to just re-copy the headline from this CBS News story from Albany, N.Y.: “Police: Drunk man taken into custody after chasing bear with hatchet.”

I mean come on, is there ANY way you’re not reading the rest of that story?

Apparently in North Adams, Mass., a citizen named Bradley Carpenter, concerned about bears (and really, aren’t we all concerned?) actually went after a bear with a hatchet, but sadly did not catch it.

“We certainly don’t need anyone going all Davy Crockett chasing it through the woods drunk with a dull hatchet,” the police said after the man was apprehended. “We are still trying to figure out what his end game was.”

His end game? Clearly, he was on a bear hunt and he wanted him some bear meat!
What I wouldn’t pay for video of this…

 

Bernie Sanders, not such a liberal darling after all on guns. Tina Fey hilariously strips down on Letterman. And the 5-Hour Energy people, not so charitable

Henrik.CapsGame6

Barely breathed from 9-10 p.m. Sunday night, as my beloved New York Rangers nearly gave me a heart attack but hung on and held off a furious Capitals rally to win Game 6, 4-3, and even their Stanley Cup playoff series at 3.
Amazing. Rangers were down 3-1 in the series, and now they get Game 7 at MSG on Wednesday night.  Henrik Lundqvist is the best money goalie in the world.
Man, hockey playoffs are the best… but not so good for my health.
On with the show…

For the past two weeks, since he announced he was running for President as, so far, the only challenger to Hillary Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been riding a wave of positive publicity in the media, getting liberals like me excited that Mrs. C (shout out to Marion Ross!) will get at least a little test, and becoming more of a national name, a trend that will surely continue for awhile.

But late last week came a story that stopped me short, and lots of other liberals I know, short. Slate.com published a pretty scathing, but accurate, story showing Sanders’ very un-liberal voting record when it comes to guns.

Bernie’s not only pro-gun, he’s extremely pro-gun, vetoing background-check legislation and uttering some very NRA-approved comments after the Sandy Hook shooting. (“If you passed the strongest gun control legislation tomorrow, I don’t think it will have a profound effect on the tragedies we have seen.”)

Bernie doesn’t talk about guns much; he’s much better prepared and strongly on the left when it comes to economic inequality, our reckless foreign wars, and spending cuts.

This gun defense is going to really hurt him, and I’m sure it’s already lost him some votes.

I’m not ready to give up on him yet, because there is no “perfect” candidate. But I very much would like to hear his response to those who rightly see him as a big NRA supporter. I know Vermont is a very pro-gun state, and I know he’s elected to serve the wishes of his constituents. Still, his votes are very much at odds with most Democrats.

Will be interesting to see how he responds.
Meanwhile, is there anyone in the Republican party NOT running for President? So happy we’ll get all these wingnuts together on a debate stage soon…

**Next up, I’ll probably be posting of a lot of these “David Letterman farewell” moments until he signs off on May 20, because so many celebrities want to pay tribute to Dave, who I love.
Some of them will surely be touching and emotional; others, more like this hilarioius Tina Fey stunt.

Seems Tina doesn’t like having to always get dressed up when she does Dave’s show, so she decided to dress down.

**Finally today, my boy Jeff Pearlman is one of my best friends, and he’s done me lots of favors over the years, so when he’s fired up about something and asks me to share his outrage, I do my best to summon it. He wrote this post on his excellent blog last Friday, about the odious “charitable” endeavors of the 5-Hour Energy company, who make a pretty nauseating product (I tried it once and hated the taste).

It seems the company is running these heartwarming commercials saying that with every bottle of their yucky liquid sold, they’re making a donation to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity that helps children of deceased military members receive a 100-percent paid-for college education.

Except, if you look closer (as Jeff did), 5-Hour Energy is only kicking in ONE NICKEL for every can sold.

The ad is emotional manipulation at its finest, and pretty despicable that the company is painting themselves as huge supporters of this foundation.

Read Jeff’s much-better rant here.

 

Good News Friday: A girl gives out banned books, parents call cops on her. Ernie Johnson honors Stuart Scott, beautifully. And a great example of the ripple effect in action.

ShermanAlexie.idaho

And a Happy Friday to my readers! I’m off to Madison Square Garden tonight to see either a funeral or a stay of execution, as the Rangers battle to keep their season alive against the suddenly defensive-minded Washington Capitals. This series has driven me nuts, and I know now how frustrating other teams felt against the John Tortorella Rangers. Only thing giving me hope today is that the Caps are historically famous for blowing 3-1 series leads…

First up today, this is a pretty wonderful and unique story about banning books, and the power of one student standing up to a ridiculous decision by a school district.

As many school boards have done across the nation since it was published, Junior Mountain High School in Meridian, Idaho decided to ban Sherman Alexie’s fantastic young-adult novel, “The Absolutely True Diaries of a Part-Time Indian.” The book, which I read a few years ago in grad school while getting my teaching certification, is fantastic. Smart, funny and honest, it portrays kids as they actually are, not the way adults see them.

Of course, it does have some “adult” material; there’s talk of sex and masturbation and drinking alcohol, and quite frankly I think middle schoolers might be a tad young for the book. But it certainly should be up to teachers and students whether they can handle the material, not some religious zealots who think the book is smut.

Anyway, after Junior Mountain High School banned the book, student Brady Kissel decided to start a petition to have the book reinstated. The kids collected 350 signatures.

Then a local bookstore (God, I love bookstores!), Rediscovered Books started a crowdfunding campaign to buy a book for each of the 350 kids who signed the petition. It worked—the campaign raised $3,400, enough for a book per kid.

Rediscovered Books worked with Kissel to distribute the books on World Book Night, an initiative to turn reluctant young readers onto reading with free, super-readable books. (fantastic idea)

They distributed all but 20 books to kids who came in to claim them, but not before, get this,  parents called the cops to shut down the operation.

Yes, that’s right, parents in Meridian called law enforcement to stop the distribution of free books to the youth of their town.

Are you freaking kidding me? Ridiculous. I love this line from the story:  “Even police seemed to have no idea what they were doing there, and let the book giveaway proceed as planned.”

Not only did it go as planned, but when Alexie’s publisher Hachette got word of the incident, they sent Rediscovered an additional 350 copies on the house. So while the book may still be banned in the school curriculum, it’s available free of cost for any kid who wants to stop into Rediscovered and pick one up.

God bless America. You go, Brady Kissel.

**Next up, a beautiful moment at this week’s Sports Emmy Awards. TNT/CBS broadcaster Ernie Johnson beat out the late Stuart Scott for Sportscaster of the Year Award.
But during his acceptance speech, the classy Johnson called Scott’s daughters up on stage, and watch what happens…

Great job, Ernie.

**And finally today, a really neat video from a Microsoft-sponsored organization called “The Collective Project,” showing how the “ripple effect” of doing good, and being kind, can have a wonderful effect.

I saw this on Upworthy.com and loved it…

A writer rethinks his love of “The Wire” in light of the Baltimore violence. John Oliver brilliantly skewers standardized tests. And funny men are better in bed (now there’s proof!)

TheWire.ZIrin

Frank Deford, who is by nearly-universal agreement one of the 5-6 best sportswriters who ever lived, used to scoff when people would refer to him derisively as just a “sportswriter.”

I am a writer, he would argue, who writes primarily about sports. His point was that he could have written about any subject you choose and he’d do a good job on it; to call him “just a sportswriter” diminishes his talent and implies that’s all he could do.

Dave Zirin makes me think of that old Deford line, because he’s a terrifically talented journalist, who ostensibly writes about sports but really much more than that, about the intersection of sports, culture, race and politics. I’ve highlighted his work before, and he’s often at his best when he steps outside of commenting on games.

I read this piece by Zirin the other day and have thought about it ever since. Like me and millions of others, he’s a huge fan of HBO’s “The Wire”, partly because it did such a tremendous job showing inner-city Baltimore’s real life, and the constant battle between drug dealers, police, and the racial questions that never go away.

But given what’s happened in “real life” Baltimore the past few weeks, Zirin has taken to re-assessing. He now finds himself angry “The Wire” didn’t address more real-life city issues, like young African-Americans trying to change Baltimore’s schools, or in the season set by the docks, why more black union leaders weren’t shown?

I don’t agree with Zirin here; I think it’s unrealistic to expect a TV show to cover all possible angles/areas of a city, and his criticisms of choices the show made are easy to make in light of what’s going on in Baltimore today.

But it’s a really interesting and compelling article, and I highly recommend it.

**Next up, the brilliant John Oliver took his delicate scalpel to the highly-charged issue of standardized testing in schools on this week’s show, and as usual he did a masterful job.

As a part-time teacher I’ve followed this issue closely, and Oliver hits just about all the right notes, and I’m particularly glad he focused heavily on Florida, which was just about ground zero of the whole standardized testing movement, a movement Jeb Bush basically championed more than anyone.

Just watch that young Florida girl in Oliver’s piece, and tell me we’re not doing more harm than good here.

**Finally today, I’ve been told all my life I’m a pretty funny guy, so I’d like to think not everyone has been lying. But where did that get me with women most of my teen years and through much of my 20’s? Nowhere, that’s where.

If only I’d had a research study, some kind of proof, that funny men are great lovers. If only the University at Albany (N.Y.) had come out with this study before now, I could’ve been like Hugh Hefner or Wilt Chamberlain!

What am I babbling about? Researchers at Albany studied undergraduate females and asked them a bunch of questions, and found that “women are more likely to not only prefer sex with a man who makes her laugh, but they’re also more likely to initiate it more often, straight-up want it more often and physically enjoy it more.

“Further, women are more likely to feel both protected by and committed to her man if he knows exactly what sort of joke will have her doubled over with a fit of the giggles.”

Can’t argue with science, right? Funny men rule.

A sportswriting memory, or: The day a team’s fans told the world I stink. And David Letterman, readying for a ride into the sunset

I had the great pleasure on Friday of speaking to a bunch of Long Island 8th graders, at their middle school’s career day (a good friend asked me to do it; she’s a guidance counselor at the school).

I love doing this kind of stuff, because I know how boring most kids find school, I know it breaks up their day and also, because just maybe, once in a while it inspires a kid to become a lawyer or a doctor or, in my case, a journalist.

Anyway, I got to telling the kids about being a writer, and about some of the great and not-so-great experiences I had, and told them the following story which I love to think about every now and then but have never shared here, a story which always makes my Dad smile:

In 2004 I was the beat writer for the Adironack IceHawks minor league hockey team, for the Glens Falls (N.Y.) Post-Star. The IceHawks played in what was the equivalent of AA ball, and in many ways their roster was the typical minor-league team: There were a few on-the-rise legit prospects (one guy I covered, Pierre-Luc LeBlond, actually made the NHL for a while), a few on-the-way-down ex-NHL guys, and then a whole bunch of middle of the road, mediocre players who were just playing for the love of the game, and still had at least some skill left.

Anyway, one thing that made the IceHawks interesting was their fans. Specifically, the fans in Section H of the Glens Falls Civic Center. These two dozen or so guys were the hardcore hockey fans; they knew everything about the team, the opposing players, the referees, everyone. They’d make signs taunting the visiting team, mostly crude signs but nothing too X-rated. Sometimes they were clever, and I knew a few of the guys because the fan base wasn’t exactly huge.

Anyway, one day during a bad losing streak I wrote a column and ripped the IceHawks a new one. I don’t think anything I said was unfair, and really, it wasn’t all that harsh, but this was a small town and the fans weren’t used to hearing a local team get criticized too much.

I didn’t get too much feedback from it the next day, just the typical “you’re the hometown paper, you’re supposed to root for our teams” nonsense you always get a little bit of.

Anyway, I was excited the next day because my father had driven up to Glens Falls for a visit. He’d never seen an IceHawks game, and was excited to come into the press box to “see me work.”

And so before that night’s game we walk up to the press box and look around the arena, and what do I see in Section H?

MikeLewisStinks.IceHawks

I was shocked for a minute. Then started laughing, and laughing, and laughing. I was more flattered than insulted; hey, they took the time to spell my name right!

And during the second period, there was this one, which I may have enjoyed even more…

Michael Pucks

Again: My DAD was at the game! He asked if this was a regular thing. I sadly had to tell him, no, it wasn’t.

And come on, I’m worth more than a few pucks! At least throw in some gloves, a pair of skates, and a few sticks!

I thought the whole thing was hilarious, and a sign I was doing a good job. Why? Because those guys got angry at what I’d written, and if they were that mad that they had to tell 5,000 people in an arena about it (OK, probably only 2,500 there that night), that meant I’d stirred them up. They were mad at me, but it’s way better than if they didn’t read me or ignored me.

And for the record? I gave those Section H guys a big thumbs-up in the next column.

LETTERMAN-slide-KIIK-videoSixteenByNine1050

**Finally today, we’re just three weeks away from the end of the David Letterman era of late-night television; since the early 1980s Dave has entertained millions of us, and with his last show coming up on May 20, the usually press-shy Dave sat down for a fantastic and revealing interview with Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times.

Among the highlights, and I highly recommend checking out the whole story here:

— On retirement: “I’ll miss it desperately. One of two things: There will be reasonable, adult acceptance of transition. Or I will turn to a life of crime.”

— On his strange, different style he brought to late night: “I never knew if the stupider things we did or the more traditional things we did would work. I didn’t know if the stupid stuff would alienate people. And then, when I look back on it now, of course the answer is, you want to do the weird thing.”

— On his rivalry with Jay Leno: “I think people were curious to see what will happen? And we prevailed for a while, and I lost my way a little bit. Quite a little bit. “People just liked watching his show more than they liked watching my show.”