A great profile of The Boss, as Springsteen’s Broadway show hits Netflix. The “Silent Night” game at Taylor is still awesome. And an Army-Navy game promo will give you chills.

There are a ton of great traditions in sports, and there are a ton of great holiday traditions, and sometimes there are a ton of cool sports holiday traditions.

One of the sports holiday traditions i love most is the one I’ve highlighted here before, at Taylor University in Upland, Ind. It’s called their annual “Silent Night” game, and the strange way it works is this: The entire crowd stays silent for the first few minutes of the game, until Taylor scores its 10th point. Then, on cue, hundreds of students, dressed in wild costumes, rush the court and celebrate making as much noise as possible.
Then they retreat to the stands to sing “Silent Night” while linking arms and swaying.
After that, the game continues.

It’s so nutty, so full of joy, and so… different that it’s something I look forward to every year. Above is a story on this year’s game, and here’s a clip of how the celebration looked from inside the gym.

Man, sometimes I miss college.

**Next up today, Bruce Springsteen. He’s a God among us, and the latest proof is his Broadway one-man show, which I never got to see because I only have one kidney and can’t sell it to raise money to buy tickets to see it, which are astronomical.

The Broadway show was videotaped and will be available on Netflix on Dec. 15, and before watching it I urge you to read this sensational profile of the 69-year-old Boss, by Michael Hainey in Esquire.

Just one passage among many great ones here:

And there it is: Bruce, no longer the son of scarcity but rather the father of abundance, reclaiming the kitchen for his family; transforming it from a fortress of darkness and silence into a land of brightness, filled with the sounds of life. Sitting here with me now, talking about his brood, he radiates joy. A father, proud of his children, grateful. I ask him, considering the current environment, what kinds of conversations he and his family are having around the kitchen table; what it means to be a man in society right now.

“My kids . . . we’re lucky. They’re solid citizens.”

But what would you say if you had to give advice to someone raising sons today?

“Be present. Be there. If I have any advice to give, that is it. I mean you have to be fully present in mind, spirit, and body. And you don’t have to do anything. [Laughs] I mean, you get a lotta credit just for showing up. Just by being present, you guide them. My children are transitioning into adulthood. But I’ve found my presence still carries a great deal of weight—on that rare occasion now when someone actually still asks me a question. [Laughs]”

It’s a great, introspective look at a man who keeps living his best life and isn’t afraid to admit to his battles with mental illness and demons that keep him up at night. Fascinating story, really.

**Finally today, the Army-Navy football game was last Saturday, and as usual, the result of the game was hardly as significant as the pride so many feel at honoring the hard work these men and women put in, all in service to our country.
CBS, as always, put together a fantastic, chill bump-inducing promo video before the game, and I just got around to watching it Tuesday. Just spectacular stuff…

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A wild and wacky day in the NFL, capped by an insanely awesome Dolphins-Pats finish. A fan wins a car at a college basketball game, really easily. And an awesome dance tutorial to an 80’s classic

So, last Sunday I had the rare chance to kick back and watch a few hours of NFL football, something I used to do every week but now, not so much.

And the games were… meh. Nothing thrilling.

Then yesterday I was busy all day with a great family party and other stuff, and I saw almost none of the NFL day… and it was thrilling and crazy all over the place.

Ah well, the trade-offs of life. But man were there some incredible games Sunday, including one of the all-time great endings in Miami. If you missed it, the evil New England Patriots led the slightly-less-evil Miami Dolphins (of course you know I’m a Jets fan so I hate them both), 33-28, with seven seconds to go in the game.

The Dolphins were 69 yards from the end zone, so you figured QB Ryan Taneyhill would hoist a Hail Mary, which never works. But Miami instead completed a short pass, and did a few laterals, and Kenyon Drake ended up with the ball, and this amazing happened. Here, watch…

I mean, that’s just nuts! The Pats having Rob Gronkowski, their enormous man-child of a tight end, back to knock down a Hail Mary, then him having to try to make the tackle to save the game, is pretty hilarious. Just a crazy, crazy ending.

— My beloved Jets finally won for the first time in six weeks, scoring on 4th and goal from the 1 with under two minutes left to beat the equally inept Buffalo Bills.
I know I should be a little upset that the Jets hurt their draft position by winning, but hey, it’s fabulous to see our franchise QB Sam Darnold get his first big comeback win. And hey, they’ll still be picking in the Top 5 I’m sure.

— More craziness from Sunday: The Browns (the Browns!) won again, beating a formerly really good Panthers team. The Texans, who’d won nine in a row, lose to at schizophrenic Indy team that looks terrible and great every other week.

— The Giants had a 40-0 lead over the Redskins at one point. I mean, I know Washington was starting Mark Sanchez at QB but still,  40-0! I love that my Giants fan friends are starting to talk themselves into “Hey, look, they’re not so bad, they just had some bad breaks in some tough losses, maybe we should bring Eli back next year…”

— And how do you figure this? Pittsburgh goes to Oakland, with the Raiders having two wins all year, and the Steelers lose. The 49ers beat Denver, when the Broncos have been on a roll. As I always say, anyone who gambles on the NFL, and actually thinks they know what’s going to happen, is a bigger fool than anyone.

— Finally, the Chicago Bears defense looked a whole lot better against the Rams Sunday night than it did a week earlier. Man, those L.A. boys sure didn’t look like they could handle the cold weather too well. Would love to see a Rams-Bears rematch in January.

**Next up today, this is pretty brilliant and twisted and demented and completely 1980s music inspired, so there’s NO WAY I wasn’t gonna love this.

A comedian named Joe Kwaczala has made a video showing the “official” dance steps one is supposed to do when dancing to the classic ’80s tune “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell.

Of course Kwaczala’s commentary is what makes it so damn funny. I had to pause and rewind a few times just to make sure I heard what I thought I heard.

**And finally today, we’ve all seen these contests at basketball games where a fan comes out of the stands and tries to win a great prize by sinking a few shots. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a car won as easily as this. Check out Nicole Kornet at a UCLA game last Friday.

Now, technically Kornet didn’t win a car, because she’s a former UCLA player and therefore ineligible, and she said she was told that beforehand (she was only allowed in the contest because it was her birthday, she said.)

But still, even for a former player, this is pretty amazing…

Good News Friday: A 9-year-old convinces his town to overturn a law banning snowball fights. Paralyzed musicians do a concert using just their brainwaves. And a high school basketball coach in Chicago suffers tragedy, then inspires

Happy Friday, people of the Internet, and thank you for spending a few minutes of your day here in my happy place, my little corner of the Web. Seriously, thanks for stopping by.

Lots of good news to choose from this week, but I have to start with this hilarious/fabulous piece of news from Colorado, where a 9-year-old boy convinced his local town government to allow snowball fights.

Apparently in Severance, Colo., there’s been a law on the books for 100 years that snowball fights are illegal. According to this story on Upworthy.com, “the small town of Severance averages 43 inches of snow per year, but for the past 100 years, throwing snowballs within city limits has been illegal. Packed balls of snow fell under the town’s definition of “missiles,” and a town ordinance prohibited the throwing of stones or missiles at people, animals, buildings, trees, or other property.  (OK seriously a packed snowball is a “missile???” Come on people. I’ve thrown a bunch of snowballs in my life and had just as many pegged at me, and never in a million years could one describe a snowball as “a missile.”)

Nine-year-old Dane Best wanted to have fun with his friends when it snowed, so he asked the town council to change the law.

Best and his classmates wrote letters encouraging officials to overturn the law. Then Best made his case in front of the council using logic and common sense.

“The children of Severance want the opportunity to have a snowball fight like the rest of the world,” he told the lawmakers. “The law was created many years ago. Today’s kids need a reason to play outside.”

Awesome. For his efforts, Best was given the chance to throw the first legal snowball in town.

Way to go, Dane!

**Next up today, this is pretty amazing. Check out this performance put on by paralyzed musicians, using only their brainwaves.

This is how it worked, in a joint effort from Plymouth University’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research and the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in London.

First, researchers put stretchy, cap-like devices that can read brainwaves on the musician’s heads. Then, during the performance, a computer screen presented the four musicians with selections of short different musical phrases. The musicians could choose what phrase they wanted by simply looking at it. The caps then picked up these brainwaves and sent the information to four other, nearby musicians who played the music for them (so, technically, maybe this would be an octet).

This was the result, pretty spectacular.

https://www.upworthy.com/hear-paralyzed-musicians-deliver-a-performance-with-only-their-brainwaves?c=upw1

 

**Finally today, spend a few minutes feeling good about humanity by watching this story about Chicago basketball coach Shawn Harrington, who was accidentally shot and paralyzed a few years ago and instead of allowing that tragedy to change the trajectory of his life for the bad, he has become an inspiring figure to all he comes into contact with.

What a great, great guy, with a fantastic attitude.

Remembering George H.W. Bush, a flawed but decent man who looks so much better in hindsight. Some Adam Sandler for your Hanukkah celebration. And in South Korea, paying money to go to jail for some peace and quiet

Like I’m sure a lot of you have, I’ve spent part of the last few days thinking about the complicated legacy of George H.W. Bush, who lived a hell of a life, all the way to 94, before dying last Friday.

Today is his funeral, and since our current President has declared it a national day of mourning, almost all federal employees have the day off, there’s no U.S. mail service, and even the stock market will be closed, which almost never happens.

As such, seems like a good time to write a little bit about the 41st President. As usual, I have many thoughts about a man who sure does look better in hindsight, but that shouldn’t obscure that he did quite a few good and quite a few bad things in his career.

Couple major points I have been mulling:

— First, the man’s resume was impeccable. To be a military hero, go into the CIA, serve in Congress, then be a Vice-President, and win the White House in 1988 when he trailed by double-digits in the polls in August was a hell of an accomplishment. Then, after losing to Bill Clinton in 1992, served out the rest of his life jumping out of airplanes (even up to age 90) and serving as an elder statesman, developing friendships with Clinton and Barack Obama. You can say lots of things about Bush, but he did not get cheated in life.

— OK, so here are a few things I must praise him for: Helped end the Cold War, without actual bloodshed. Drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Almost always acted decently and humanely in public. Resisted, at least a little bit, the powerful forces of the Religious Right and the loony wing of the Republican party, which wasn’t quite as insane as it is in 2018 but was certainly getting there.

— And a few things that he did that absolutely must be part of his legacy, even as so many this week have tried to make him into a saint: Helped wreck the American economy in the 1980s and early 1990s, leading to a huge recession. Helped craft and signed many discriminatory policies in education and housing that punished poor people and minorities.  Ran a disgusting, racist ad against Michael Dukakis in ’88 that had a big part in Bush’s win. Foisted Clarence Thomas on us. Foisted his own son George W. upon the world, who went on to do great damage to America.

— And oh yeah, might have (OK, probably did) participate or at least know about a massive scandal that involved selling arms to Iran in exchange for the release of the American hostages in 1980. Then as President pardoned anyone who may have connected Bush to the issue.

— Still, in hindsight, isn’t it amazing how far the Republican party has fallen, from Bush to now? George W. and Dick Cheney brought torturing our enemies, and scaring the hell out of Americans to believe that “foreign” almost always meant evil,” to a new, frightening level. And how we have this fraud in the Oval Office, who did nothing to earn the office but promise people everything with the lies a huckster always tells.

— In the end, I don’t think George H. W. Bush was a terrible President, nor a terrible man. He wasn’t our worst Chief Executive, nor was he our best. He lived life to the fullest and took advantage of the breaks given to him at birth, as a wealthy white man, to reach the pinnacle of American achievement.

A couple of tributes/critiques I read this week that I thought were worth sharing. First, the great Charlie Pierce, as usual, punctures the “hero worship” around Bush’s death with this column looking at him evenly.

And I was kind of blown away by this interview on NPR with Joe Bonsall of the country music band Oak Ridge Boys, who talked about their long friendship and special bond with Bush, Even if, like me, you weren’t a fan of Bush, this is a really sweet story and remembrance.

And OK, yeah, if you’re a Gen Xer like me you probably thought of Dana Carvey doing Bush as well this week. Freaking hilarious.

***Next up, as we’re in the middle of Hanukkah I feel religiously required as a Member of the Tribe to watch at least one of Adam Sandler’s famous “The Hanukkah Song” videos.

The Goldie Hawn/Paul Newman line cracks me up the most, every time I see it. And does anyone remember when Yasmine Bleeth was famous enough to be in a song like this (OK she was in Part 2 of it but still).

**Finally today, I heard this bizarre story on “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” and of course it’s so absurd it has to be true. And it is.

Residents of South Korea are so stressed out and exhausted from their daily work and lives that they’re now paying money, voluntarily, to be checked into “jail” for a day or two.

According to this story, “the detention center, called “Prison Inside Me,” opened in the South Korean city of Hongcheon in 2013. Since then, more than 2,000 people have put themselves through the prison-like experience.

“Many of them are tired, overworked office workers or students. Some say the complete isolation of a jail environment can help them break free from day-to-day pressures.

The building looks like a real prison. Inside, individuals are kept alone in small “cells.” There is no bed in the room, so many sleep on the floor on a yoga mat.

These “prisoners” receive only a blue uniform to wear, a tea set, as well as a pen and paper for keeping notes. Prison rules are strongly enforced. Electronic devices, clocks and other personal belongings are banned. Talking among the prisoners is not permitted.”

This is NUTS, am I right? I mean, look, if you want to get away from it all, isn’t there, like, a stream or a meadow or some quiet place somewhere where you can turn off your cellphone and just veg for a bit? I mean, voluntarily going to jail just to de-stress seems pretty extreme.

Then again, I am reminded of a line from one of my all-time favorite movies, Goodfellas, when Karen Hill is worried about her husband Henry’s mob dealings and how it might land him in prison. What about Jeannie’s husband, she asks, who went to prison?

“You know why Jeanie’s husband went to jail? To get away from Jeannie!” he thunders.

So maybe all these South Koreans just need marriage counseling, not prison.

It’s a crazy world we live in.

Happy Hanukkah, y’all! An awesome singing parody of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” takes its place in the Hanukkah pantheon. The Chargers are for real, and other NFL thoughts. And a marriage proposal goes great until the ring falls down the street grate.

Morning my fellow humanoids, and a Happy Hanukkah to all of my fellow Members of the Tribe, who started our annual run of eight crazy nights last night. Go crazy, Hebrews, and imbibe some latkes and jelly donuts, spin that dreidel like it’s going out of style, and cue up your favorite Adam Sandler song we all know and love.

To get in the Hanukkah spirit, check out this pretty hilarious parody of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” by the satire singing group Six13, who every year come up with great stuff.

“I light the candles with people who love me, he lights the candles with his whole family.” So funny.

Enjoy, and please, whatever you do, keep those Menorah candles away from the drapes.

**Next up today, another week, another embarrassing way to lose for my Jets. I really tried very hard not to watch too much of the game today, because they’re 3-8, and I was at my in-laws’ Hanukkah party at their place, and the Jets really aren’t worth my aggravation.

But I kept catching glances of the TV, and my boys were wining 16-0, and 19-6, and it looked like they’d finally break their losing streak. Stupid me; they lost in the final minute, of course, and once again for about the 354th time in my decades as a Jets fan, I found myself muttering “Why do I even bother?”

So pointless to root for this team, it really is.

— So, about that Cleveland Browns playoff push… yeah not so much. The lovable losers got stomped by Houston, which oh by the way has won nine straight games now, and looks to be a real threat in the stacked AFC. Man the AFC playoffs are gonna be fun. Baker Mayfield looked like the rookie he is for the Browns.

— What a huge win for the Chargers, the team everyone in San Diego loves except now they play in Los Angeles. Phillip Rivers and his buds were down 23-7 at halftime, then completely turned the game around and won 33-30 with a game-winning field goal on the final play. (the third try at a game-winning kick, by the way, after the favorite team of the Pearson family was offsides the first two times).
Wow does L.A. have two outstanding football teams this year.  It’s too bad nobody out there seems to care about them. But good for Chargers fans, who’ve suffered a lot.

— Gotta hand it to those New York Giants, who tried desperately to give away a well-earned win over the Bears Sunday. The G-Men had a 10-point lead with 1:30 to play, yet were forced to play overtime after blowing the edge. They won, but it sure didn’t come easy.

— Finally, a couple words about the big off-field NFL story this weekend, that of Chiefs star running back Kareem Hunt getting released from the team Friday after video emerged of him assaulting a woman back in February. While you might want to give the Chiefs a smidge of credit for acting fast once TMZ made the video of the attack public to the world, you’d rescind that you hear the reason Kansas City gave for ridding the franchise of Hunt.

They didn’t cut him because he hit a woman; they cut him because he “wasn’t truthful” with the team about it.
So let that be a lesson to all you talented kids out there! Go on ahead and beat up whoever you want, if you’re good enough, someone will overlook it. You just have to be HONEST when asked about it, then everything will be fine!

Shaking my head.

**Finally today, this was a very cool story: A man proposed to his fiancee Friday night here in New York’s Times Square, and all was going great for a second. She said yes, and it looked to be a night to remember for the rest of their lives.

Except the man made one small error: He accidentally dropped his fiancee’s ring into a sidewalk grate.

The NYPD officers nearby tried to help open the grate when the couple asked for help, but were unsuccessful. However a special ops unit of the force was able to get it open and retrieve the ring, and the mystery couple was reunited with the ring once the NYPD Twitter account publicized that the ring had been found. (Their names haven’t been released).

As much as I want to mock the guy for his clumsiness, I proposed to my wife on a gondola ride in Central Park, and I absolutely positively could’ve gotten so nervous that I might have dropped the ring in the water.

So unnamed dude who got a happy ending? I feel you man.

 

Good News Friday: One town in Ohio sees a big drop in opioid overdose deaths. The little girl who just wanted to hug strangers. And a husband’s beautiful story on living, and caring for a sick spouse

Hey all, always like to provide updates that drastically change how I feel about something I wrote here. So you may remember I wrote recently about this burger place in Portland that a critic named the “best burger in America”, only to see the restaurant have to close down less than a year later.

Well, it turns out there’s more to the story, and Oregon-based Willamette Week has the greater context for why Stanich’s restaurant closed. Check it out.

Happy Friday, y’all! As I contemplate how it could be only Nov. 29 and I’m already sick of Christmas music in stores, I bring you stories of good cheer without any Santas or elves yet.

First up today, what I think is a hugely important development in the destruction of America’s cities thanks to the opioid crisis. There has been so little good news about it over the past decade that when there actually IS some positivity in this fight, it seems important to highlight it.

So I read with interest last week this New York Times story on Dayton, Ohio and how it has seen a significant reduction in overdose deaths from opioids.

As Abby Goodnough reports, there are a lot of causes for the reduction, including expanded Medicaid coverage in the state which means more $$$ for treatment; the fact that Narcan and Naloxone, drugs that help stop deaths after overdoses, are more available, and maybe the most important factor, there’s more help, again thanks to more money, for addicts after treatment has ended.

Now of course there’s more to do, and drug addiction in Ohio hasn’t disappeared. But finally, a combination of factors seems to have started to turn the tide.

Really excellent story here.

 

**Next up today, just a small slice of pure child joy, from an unnamed kid who went viral this week thanks to this Tweet. The little toddler just wanted to be friendly to everyone in her neighborhood supermarket, so she went around waving and hugging (Update: Turns out the kid’s name is Joelle Hicks, she was filmed by her Mom, Caitlin, and it was shot in 2016. But hey, it’s new to me.)

Just look at the pure delight on the face of the last woman the little girl hugs. Sometimes, a hug really is exactly what someone needs.

**Finally today, there are certain stories I come across that I expect to be great, either because of the publication they’re in, or because I’m familiar with the writer and I know he or she writes sensational stories.

But every once in a while a story totally exceeds my expectations, and that’s the happiest I get as a reader. Buried at the bottom of Jon Wertheim’s recent weekly SI.com tennis mailbag (yes I’m a tennis nerd but you knew that already) was a recommendation for this piece, by a writer named Alex Belth, from Men’s Health magazine.

In it, Belth writes movingly and intelligently about his life with Emily, who has severe Crohn’s Disease and has had multiple surgeries to make her symptoms lesson, with little success.

There’s nothing flashy or hugely dramatic in the story, it’s just a real-life slice of life caring for someone who can seem totally healthy one minute, but barely able to get out of bed the next. Here’s a little piece of the story:

Em can’t have children. She’s unable to conceive, and beyond that, doesn’t have the stamina to be a parent—which rules out adoption. It was a potential deal-breaker, and we dated five years before we got married, schlepping to couples therapy looking for answers. In time, she’ll feel better and change her mind, I thought, when actually it was me who had to accept that kids were not in our future.

You wish for love, but when it arrives, you never know how it will look. Kids or not, I love Em because I can be myself with her. She’s devoted, unwavering in her affection, forever cheerleading. I find her Post-its throughout the apartment—in the fridge or the medicine cabinet: “Morning handsome! I love my life with you!” We look at each other with curiosity and amusement because we have such different interests—she’s into neuroscience, sharks’ teeth, and photosynthesis; I’m into cooking, Buster Keaton, and the Yankees. (I used to think that kind of stuff—having the same taste—mattered. It doesn’t.) 
Above all, I was attracted to her fighting spirit. There is something reassuring about being with someone who is not going to freak out in a crisis, and Em is unafraid when things get tough, which they always do. She doesn’t like being sick, of course, but understands the nature of living with sickness. Like fame or good looks, you’d best not make too much of these things. You learn how to deal.

Really beautiful stuff; I highly, highly recommend reading the whole thing. The most powerful thing in the world? The love between two people.

Two stories of America, 2018: Seventh-graders turned away from White House class trip because they weren’t born here. A powerful “60 Minutes” piece on what’s happening at the border. And Colbert hilariously teaches a millennial what a pay phone is

Every once in a while, I find it helpful, although occasionally disturbing, to take a step back from the all the madness of the Donald Trump White House and look at stories individually. Stories that remind us how completely out of whack things are in 2018, and how frightening and disturbing things have become.

So here are two stories that really hit me hard this week, and they’re both kinda, sorta related.

First, “60 Minutes” did a story looking at the disastrous child separation policy the Trump administration tried several months ago at the border, and its effect on a few families.

No matter what else happens in his Presidency, remember the look on the little boy, Immers’ face, and his mother’s face, toward the end of this Scott Pelley piece (at the 7:22 mark). These families, seeking asylum from their countries, saw children ripped from mothers and fathers, with no indication if, or when, they’d ever see them again.

So many infuriating things about this story, from the government saying “tell the ACLU to find” the separated parents, to the completely unpreparedness of the White House to implementing their policy. And the lies, the lies about the numbers of children involved…

Just horrendous.

**The other story that got me all riled up is on a smaller scale, but still infuriating. A 7th-grade class from Henry Hudson Regional School in Highlands, New Jersey, took a trip to Washington, D.C. with the hopes of participating in a guided tour of the White House. However, not all of the students were able to be a part of the tour.

According to a report from the New York Post, three students were barred from the tour and forced to wait outside while the rest of the class went ahead. The three students who were all from foreign countries, two hailing from Sweden and one from Colombia, did not have their passports or any other valid form of identification on their person during the visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The report said that the school prepared the White House for the upcoming visit by sending in a list with the names of all the students and adults expected to take the tour, months in advance. But it seems one tiny detail was overlooked during this process.

Now… OK. The school should’ve made sure each child had the proper ID, no doubt.

But COME ON! These are 7th-grade kids, on a trip to the White House, and you’re going to make them stand outside just because they didn’t have their ID? Are you really worried about what two 12-year-olds from Sweden (hey Donald, they’re from a white country, you LOVE white countries!) and a 12-year-old from Colombia are going to do to the drapes and paintings inside?

Just ridiculous.

https://www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/trump-family-separation-policy-mexican-border-60-minutes-investigation-greater-in-number-than-trump-administration-admits/

**And finally today, a little bit of a palatte-cleanser. I am a Generation X’er who always enjoys segments like this. Stephen Colbert decided to take a millennial out on the street and explain pay phones to them, then asks her to use one.

The results are, of course, hilarious. (My favorite part is how fast the NYC pizza place can make that many pizzas!)

A television post: “This Is Us” is having its best season ever, with Vietnam as a backdrop. “Homecoming” is dark, mysterious and great. And Dylan joins Jimmy Fallon at the circus

Haven’t done a TV post in a while, but wanted to weigh in on two outstanding shows we’re currently watching.

First, when I heard that “This Is Us” was going to be doing a Vietnam storyline this season, with the dual pegs of us learning exactly what happened to Jack Pearson and his deceased brother in the war, and seeing son Kevin Pearson go over to Southeast Asia in the present to find out exactly what his father had been hiding all these years, I was dubious.

I mostly love the show, for it’s sharp writing and acting, but the Kevin character has always struck me as obnoxious, and Kate’s storylines tend to be so self-involved and one-note (her weight problem).

But then I read that Tim O’Brien was brought on as a writer for the Vietnam stuff, and I immediately got excited. For those who don’t know, O’Brien wrote maybe the best book ever about the Vietnam War, “The Things They Carried,” about his experiences as a soldier there. And I know if O’Brien was involved, they’d get the details and tone right.

And they absolutely, totally have. This has been the best season so far of “This Is Us,” and not just because the plot of Jack in the war in real-time has been so fantastic. We see Jack trying valiantly to keep his brother Nicky out of Vietnam in the first place, once his lottery number is drawn, and we get great backstory of how Jack always protected Nicky when they were kids.

But Nicky, on the way to draft-dodging his way to Canada, decides to go to Southeast Asia and of course things don’t go well. The acting and writing in these scenes have been fantastic.

The rest of the show has been very solid too; I’m enjoying seeing Beth struggle for the first time, and the Randall-running-for-Councilman storyline, while giving me some flashback nightmares to “Parenthood” Monica Braverman running for Berkeley mayor ridiculousness, has been interesting on the strength of the awesome actor Sterling Brown.

Even last week’s Thanksgiving episode, which was all over the place in storyline, was touching and emotional giving us glimpses of Miguel’s family and backstory.

“This Is Us” still has some problems, but it’s been incredibly strong this year.

**Next up, Jimmy Fallon does a fantastic Bob Dylan impersonation, but having the real guy on your show is always better. In this sweet, short skit, Dylan joins Fallon at a private performance of the the Big Apple Circus.

Odd but memorable, just like Mr. Dylan himself.

**Finally today, the other show we’re totally digging lately has been hyped by TV critics and friends of ours alike, the new Julia Roberts show on Amazon Prime, “Homecoming.”

It’s basically two different shows, kind of: In the “main” show, we see Roberts as a counselor/therapist in a Dept. of Defense program called Homecoming, which helps soldiers returning from war zones re-adjust and process everything they’ve been through, in a sterile, college dorm-like setting.

In the other show, we see Roberts four years later, as a waitress in her hometown struggling to remember or explain what she did while part of the program.

It’s not an easy show to watch, but it’s damn compelling (we’re about halfway through the 10-episode season) and I’m very curious to see where it goes. Stephan James is fascinating as Heidi Bergman’s (Roberts) patient Walter Cruz, and while he hasn’t gotten to say much, Shea Whigham’s investigator Tom has been very good, too.

Really well-shot, interesting show on Amazon. Very different role for Julia Roberts but she’s fantastic in it.

Good News Friday: My first-ever hosting of Thanksgiving was a success! The best hockey player in the world does something awesome for charity. And a Vietnamese chef in California’s heartwarming story of parental devotion

And a Happy Friday to you out there, sleeping off the L-tryptophan and wondering why you had that third piece of pecan pie (it was worth it). Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, didn’t argue politics at the table, and left the night happy and healthy. (That photo above is a giant balloon of Chase from “Paw Patrol” on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast, and if you don’t think that was BY FAR the favorite thing my 4-year-old saw Thursday, you don’t have a toddler. Man was he excited!)

Every Thanksgiving is special to me, because it’s my favorite holiday of the year. But this year was a little extra-special, because as I mentioned the other day, it was the first-time in my four-decades plus of life that I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner.

My amazing wife and I had 15 relatives over on Thursday, everybody made a dish, we got the turkey from Whole Foods (look, we could’ve tried to make the bird ourselves but for our first-ever hosting gig, we didn’t want to screw it up and send our loved ones home sick), and it was fabulous.

It has always seemed like such a grown-up thing to do, hosting Thanksgiving, and something I’ve always, always wanted to do. But growing up we always went to my aunt’s house, and over the years as an adult I’ve always found myself there, or at another relative, or at my mom and stepdad’s.

But this year, after we bought a house, I was determined to host. There’s something so warm about having people come to where you live and enjoy the holiday (plus for the first time I didn’t have to drive anywhere, which in NYC on Thanksgiving is a nightmare).

It was really a fabulous day, and for me, a dream realized.

**Next up, Connor McDavid is the greatest hockey player in the world, and more people would know who he is if he didn’t play all the way up in Edmonton, if his team was any good, and if hockey wasn’t the niche sport it is here in America.

But McDavid is a really amazing talent, and a great guy as well. Check out this story about him from a recent Edmonton Oilers’ charity night event, as recounted by ex-NHL’er and broadcaster Cam Connor.

At the Edmonton Oilers Gala last week, there was a fishing trip up for auction (in support of the Down Syndrome Society). Connor McDavid immediately bid $50,000 for the trip.

Connor’s bid obviously was the highest. He paid the $50,000 for the bid and promptly gave the trip back to the charity so someone else could bid and enjoy the trip, and the charity could make even more money.”

Very, very cool gesture. And as Cam concluded, “Hockey’s future is in great hands with stars like this.”

**Finally today, my friend Catherine Pearlman has written a tremendously beautiful story for the Today show website on a man she’s gotten to know named Dee Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American chef in California who had his life turned upside down when his son, Berlin, suffered a devastating accident during a surgery when he was only a year old. Berlin suffered a severe brain injury that rendered him quadriplegic with significant cognitive impairment.

Since then, Dee and his wife, Linh have had their whole lives turned upside down caring for Berlin, and this beautifully-told story shows just how far they’ve gone, and how much they have to do, to keep their son alive and healthy.

Catherine clearly spent hours with the family and adores them as much as you will after reading this story. Really inspirational stuff.

Happy Thanksgiving! My annual tribute to the holiday, starring “Cheers” and “The West Wing.” Another horrifying Trump story from the N.Y. Times on his abuse of power. And a soccer ref forgets the coin for the coin toss and improvises hilariously.

It’s Thanksgiving Eve, the night before my favorite holiday of the year, made extra-special in 2018 because for the first time ever we’re hosting the holiday in my home (don’t worry, I’m not cooking the turkey. Good chance our guests will live).

A couple of things I always like to highlight during Thanksgiving week, most especially my favorite TV Thanksgiving episode ever, the iconic “Cheers’ episode which leads to the foodfight at Carla’s house.

This never, ever fails to get me to crack up, and every time I watch it something else triggers me. Tonight it was at 2:23, Frasier’s face when the yams hit him. Just the shock and then indignation.

So, so good.

And then of course, maybe the funniest scene in “The West Wing” history, when President Bartlet calls the Butterball hotline for advice on cooking a turkey. “I think you made the second bacteria up” cracks me up every time.

**Next up today, another in a long, long line of frightening stories coming out about our current President. I don’t know why this one struck me as so, so bad, maybe because I read it a few hours after President Moron tied himself into knots trying to defend Saudi Arabia’s brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi, and Trump’s buddy the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Horrifying, lying and completely without disregard for the life of a journalist.

But not to be outdone by Trump’s disgraceful defense of this murder, comes this New York Times story saying that Trump wanted to order the Justice Department (sorry, “His” Justice Dept.) to investigate James Comey and Hillary Clinton, and was only stopped by White House Counsel Don McGahn, who told him if he did it he could be impeached.

So Trump didn’t order the investigation. But he wanted to. McGahn, oh by the way, no longer works at the White House.

I’m grateful that, like that anonymous op-ed writer said months ago (and hey, how did no one ever figure out who it was?) there are at least a few grownups in the White House to tell this lunatic “no.”

But I fear there are fewer and fewer of them, and after the midterm humiliation, Trump will get more and more vengeful and paranoid and evil. Pray for us all.

**And finally today, I’ve been meaning to write about this story for a week and have kept forgetting, so today I’m finally putting it out there because I think it’s fabulous.

So a soccer referee in England named David McNamara went out to officiate the coin toss before a Women’s Super League match a few weeks ago. Except when he got to midfield, he realized he’d forgotten to bring the coin from the locker room.

So he improvised: He told the two captains to play rock, paper, scissors to determine who got the ball first. They were stunned but of course followed orders, and it should have just been a funny little thing that a referee did, a bit of clever humor.

But no, it’s England and they take their football SO seriously there, so a torrent of criticism of McNamara from BBC Sport ensued, leading to McNamara being suspended for three weeks by the Football Association.

Absolutely ridiculous, considering everyone loves rock, paper, scissors, and the guy was just trying to get the game going.

Happily, hundreds of refs across the world have backed McNamara, and in informal grassroots games have used rock, paper, scissors to start games lately.

The suspension is asinine. Good for other refs calling the FA out on it. And besides, everyone knows you throw rock when you get the chance, your opponent will never throw paper.