After last week’s debacle, Hillary and Kaine get their shot. The Rio Olympics are already a disaster. And remembering the biggest moment of Hall of Famer Mike Piazza’s career

clintonkaine_072016getty

There’s always something to be said for going last in a two-person competition. You get to leave the final impression, you can see what the other person did and NOT do that, and maybe most importantly with this week’s Democratic National Convention, the bar for “being better than your opponent” has never been lower.

I mean, is it possible for Hillary Clinton and Co. to make a worse impression, to come off more disorganized, racist, plagiarizing and lying through their teeth than the GOP? I honestly don’t think it’s possible.

Lots of things I’ll be watching for in the next days, some quick-hit thoughts on what should be a pretty good show in Philadelphia:

— Tim Kaine in his national spotlight audition. I didn’t love Hillary’s choice of the Va. Senator as veep; he’s a bland, moderate white guy, when so many more appealing choices were available (Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren, hell even Tom Perez would’ve gotten people more excited). But after a few days of reading up on Kaine’s background (dude’s never lost an election, that has to be encouraging), voting record, etc., I think he’s probably a decent choice. I don’t love that he loves Wall Street and banking deregulation so much, but otherwise he checks most liberal boxes. And he’ll help in Virginia. I’m anxious to see what kind of performer he is under the huge spotlight this week.

— Bernie Sanders speaks Monday night, and boy will he have a lot to say. The DNC email leaks scandal is one thing, and happily, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the maestro of the incredibly tilted Democratic primary this year, has resigned. But I really want to hear how Bernie speaks about his core issues, since he did so much better than anyone thought he would, and what he says about Hillary, after months and months of attacking her.

— Michelle Obama speaks tonight, too; will she make me and millions of others happy by starting with “When I was a young girl growing up in Slovenia…”? That would be so awesome.

— The Big Dog, Bill Clinton, talks Wednesday: Will he talk about Hillary as her husband, or as a future President, and how many great one-liners about Trump will he get off?

— Barack Obama’s speech on Wednesday; he and Hillary have some history together as rivals and then partners, and he, too, is in supreme position to push back on all the lies Trump told last week. I hope he calls out every one of them.

Should be a fascinating four nights.

View of an athlete's room at the Olympic and Paralympic Village for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 23, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBAYASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images ORIG FILE ID: AFP_DI6ZI

**Next up today, rarely has an Olympics looked more like a shitshow than these Rio Games appear to be. So many problems in Brazil right now, from the economy, to the uncertain political leadership, and the nation looks completely unprepared to host an Olympics, who oh by the way, start in 10 days.

I don’t know, you think THIS is a bad sign? Sunday the Australian delegation announced that upon arrival at the Olympic Village, where thousands of athletes will be staying, the place was “uninhabitable.”

The toilets wouldn’t work, there was a rank smell, and all sorts of exposed wiring. Again, this is TEN DAYS before the Olympics.

Man oh man, I know lots of Olympics have looked like they’d be disasters before they started, and everything then ran smooth, but I don’t see how that happens here.

**Finally today, one of the few baseball things I pay attention to each year happened Sunday, the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

I was incredibly fortunate, when I worked in upstate New York for the Glens Falls Post-Star, to get to cover two HOF inductions, and they were awesome, some of the best things I’ve ever covered. Cooperstown is such a special place, the people are incredibly friendly, and Otsego Lake is spectacular.

Anyway, Sunday was this year’s ceremony, with Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. being enshrined. Griffey Jr., was a no-doubt pick, and it’s still incredible to me that he didn’t get 100 percent of the vote (No one ever has.)

Piazza’s a more iffy case, because rumors of steroids (very, very strong rumors) have dogged him for a long time. But as a New Yorker, what I’ll always remember Piazza for, beyond the whole “Roger Clemens throwing the bat at him in the World Series thing, is that he gave me one of the most indelible sports memories I’ll ever have.

On Sept. 21, 2001, the Mets and Atlanta Braves played the first professional sporting event in New York City since 9/11. The whole city had been feeling so awful for 10 days, and sports seemed even less important than usual. Nobody was smiling, for any reason.

In the bottom of the eighth, with the Mets down a run, Piazza pummeled a pitch over the center field wall for a go-ahead home run. Shea Stadium went nuts. I remember going nuts, too, and I’m a Yankees fan. As Piazza rounded the bases, the sound from the crowd just kept growing and growing, and the TV cameras flashed to a bunch of FDNY firefighters in the crowd, and I get goosebumps right now just watching the above video.

An incredible night I’ll never forget. After so much horror, for two minutes, millions of New Yorkers got to feel just a little bit of joy.

So I’ll always be grateful to Mike Piazza for that.

Good News Friday: The NBA shows some courage and pulls All-Star-Game from North Carolina. Michelle Obama’s awesome “Carpool Karaoke”

All-Star Game Basketball

Not going to say one word about last night’s speech by the Republican Presidential nominee. It speaks for itself.

Time for some happy news as we head into a weekend that may hit 100 freaking degrees up and down the East Coast (somewhere, sunscreen company executives are planning new extensions to their homes).

First up, it’s not often a major sports league takes an important stand on an issue knowing it’s going to anger one of its franchises, and some of its fans. But good for the NBA, and commissioner Adam Silver, for doing what they did Thursday.

After North Carolina’s Republican-dominated state legislature and puppet governor, Pat McCrory railroaded the odious anti-gay and lesbian law known as HB2, lots of corporations and sports leagues made threats about boycotting the state of North Carolina. Silver said if the law didn’t get changed or repealed, he might pull the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.

Well the law still stands, but the All-Star Game is going elsewhere. The NBA announced Thursday that it was pulling the game from the state, thereby costing the Hornets, and North Carolina, millions in expected revenue.

“While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2,” the league said in a statement.

Good for them. Let’s see more sports leagues take major events away (why are things still held in Indiana?) and see what kind of impact it has.

You know, if they really wanted to make a stand for equality and gay rights, the NBA ought to put this year’s game in San Francisco.

**Next up today, it’s been obvious for years that Michelle Obama is the coolest FLOTUS since at least Jackie Kennedy, and probably even cooler than her.

While her speech was getting plagiarized by some former model from Slovenia, Michelle was driving around singing Stevie and Beyonce with James Corden on the host’s newest “Carpool Karoake.” Love the singing, but love the chat about 3 a.m. grilled cheese sandwiches, too.

I have no idea what Michelle Obama will do come January. But whatever it is, I know it’ll be great.

**And finally, for the millions of you out there who are dog people, this should put a smile on your face. A second-class petty officer named Christina Baez was away at sea for a year, and one of the things she missed most was her pet pitbull, Layla.

Well, Baez has finally come home, and there were cameras out to record Layla’s slightly excited reaction.

“When you’re away from an animal, and even a child, you’re nervous coming home and afraid that they won’t remember you,” Baez said.

I don’t think that’s a problem. Just beautiful stuff.

The worst kind of grief exploitation, fear-mongering and oh yeah, plagiarism at the RNC. And Jon Stewart makes a triumphant return to late night.

DailyNewscover.Melania

So, so, so many thoughts to share after the first two nights of the KKK rally Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

I mean, just … wow. As awful as I thought it was going to be, it was worse. I swear to God, Ben Carson and Chris Christie on Tuesday were thisclose to saying Hillary Clinton should be dragged to Salem and burned at the stake as a witch.

Full disclosure: Tuesday night I was out at my annual Yankees game trip with my wife and father-in-law, so mostly I only followed it on Twitter (but I saw the Christie/Carson highlights and threw up in my mouth a bit.)

But that’s OK, Monday night I was tuned in, riveted and horrified for the whole three hours-plus spectacle.

— First of all, nothing was more disgusting and distasteful than the politicization of family grief. It was ALL over the stage Monday night, and the worst offender was Pat Smith, whose son tragically died in the Benghazi attack (maybe you’ve heard of it?). She stood up and blamed Hillary Clinton personally for her son’s death. As if the Democratic nominee had a hand in killing him. So we had, from the stage of the national convention of one of the two major political parties in America, accusations that the nominee of the other party was responsible for murder.

Going out on a limb here, but as we’ve said so many times during this campaign, that’s never happened before. It’s absolutely, positively disgusting and immoral, what Ms. Smith said, and as we know I’m far, far from a Hillary Clinton defender.

— What’s almost as amazing as what Smith said is that, while she was saying it, Donald Trump called in to Fox News for a live interview, stepping on his own convention coverage! The man’s pathological need to constantly be on TV is really quite something. I mean seriously, he should be studied in psychology textbooks for decades.

— Scott Baio and Antonio Sabato, Jr. were both tapped to give speeches, and I’ll never be able to watch “Charles in Charge” again without crying.

They were both horrendous (Sabato later said he was absolutely sure Obama is a Muslim, so I’m glad we cleared that up), but I honestly wondered where the hell was Kirk Cameron? He was a MUCH bigger star than Baio in the 1980s, he’s certifiably wing-nut crazy, and they had plenty of time to let him talk.

Mike Seaver got screwed, folks. I blame his sister.

— The plagiarism thing with Melania Trump’s speech became a huge deal Tuesday, and justifiably so. Lifting entire passages from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech is hilarious, and sad, and I honestly have no idea whether Melania wrote the speech and thought no one would notice, a vengeful Trump campaign speechwriter inserted the passage as a mean shot at Melania (my wife’s theory), or this is just incredible negligence.

What I do know is my fellow Blue Hen and Twitter must-follow, Frankie the Goat (I’m guessing that’s not his real name) had the two best Tweets of the night on the controversy.

— Another highlight of Monday: GOP Congressman Steve King saying that white people have been the only group responsible for the progress of Western Civilization.

Said King: “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out: Where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about? Where did any other sub-group of people contribute more to civilization?”

I can’t make this shit up.

— Rudy Giuliani. My goodness, what a trainwreck. New Yorkers of my generation and older may remember that back in the early 1990s, Rudy was actually considered a moderate, almost a real Democrat. Now he’s so far out there I think Pat Buchanan was saying to himself last night “Man, that guy’s nuts.”

**Watched some of Paul Ryan’s speech, calling for civility and decency and coming together. Then saw Chris Christie give one of the most vicious and hateful speeches in convention history, followed by the completely nuts Ben Carson comparing Hillary Clinton to Lucifer. In prime time, on national TV.

I mean… what the fuck has happened to the Republican party?

— Facts have no bearing at this convention. None, whatsoever. Crime is lower than it has been in decades. The economy is humming along, unemployment is below five percent, but if you listened to the first two nights of speeches, you’d think we were on the verge of collapse as a society.

And we’ve got two (count ’em, TWO) more nights to go.

**Finally today, the best thing that happened Monday night wasn’t that Giuliani finally left the stage, or that wingnut GOP Senator Joni Ernst was bumped past 11 p.m. It was the wonderfully welcome return of Jon Stewart to late-night TV.

He was on a sketch with old buddy Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show” live episode after the convention, and it was great. It was only four minutes, but it made me miss Stewart all the more (shouldn’t he be doing some of those HBO shorts we heard about by now?)

The circus comes to Cleveland this week, starring master clown Trump. A baby acts out the entire “Rocky II” training montage, hilariously. And P.K. Subban a Nashville hero already

Penceminiature

Let me start today’s blog with a question: Is there anything that could happen at the Republican National Convention this week in Cleveland that would truly surprise you?

I mean, honestly, what would make your jaw drop? Donald J. Trump announcing that this has all been a ruse, a reality show, and he doesn’t really want to be President? I wouldn’t be stunned.

A group of old-school Republicans from back in the day storming the podium and asking “Seriously? You actually want THIS man representing the party in this election? This clown who doesn’t know shit about anything, insults everyone and everything in his path, and can be trusted as much as three-card-monte player in Times Square?

Or how about a scenario in which new vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence, who was barely mentioned by Donald Trump in the bizarre introductory press conference on Saturday, is tackled by Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich on stage, with each of them saying they deserve to be VP instead, and not leaving until Trump changes his mind?

None of that would stun me. Folks, Scott freaking Baio is speaking this week, and if he gets on stage and says “Hey, Charles is BACK in charge!” and puts his name into nomination, I’d barely bat an eye.

Honestly, I have no idea what’s going to happen. This whole Republican primary season has been one shitshow after another, and the weekend’s “events,” with the vulgar, talking yam (That’s Charlie Pierce’s beautiful name for the Donald) using his intro of Pence on Saturday as a yet another masturbatory exercise in self-love, and Sunday night on “60 Minutes” barely letting Pence get a word in edge-wise (sparking the fantastic Photoshop someone on Twitter did, above).

It is now, and will forever be a stain on our country, that this man was actually nominated by one of our two major parties.  I am still 95 percent confident he will lose, and he might just go up in flames this week.

It’s a disgrace that he has fooled so many millions. But this week should be damn entertaining. Pass the popcorn and the Junior Mints, please…

**Next up today, this made me laugh harder each time I watched it, and I watched it three times in a row.

Two-year-old Charlie Magilavy of Ohio has become obsessed with the awesome training montage near the end of “Rocky II” (for my money, the best montage in ANY Rocky movie ever), so much so that the toddler acts out, along with Rocky, every move of the montage.

I absolutely thought this video was fake, until I read this story about it. My boy is almost 2, and there’s no way he could pull this off (partly because he’s not allowed to watch TV or movies yet).

Bravo, Charlie. Bravo. Now if we could just find a 2-year-old to play Apollo Creed…

**Finally today, I was going to write a few hundred words about the awful killing of three policemen in Baton Rouge, Sunday. But quite honestly, there’s been so much awful news lately that I just didn’t have it in me, not after having a wonderful day with my family.

So happily, I found out that old blog favorite and hockey superstar P.K. Subban had done something cool already in his new home city of Nashville. Subban, just stupidly traded from the Montreal Canadiens, went to legendary bar Tootsie’s in Nashville and belted out an adequate rendition of the classic Johnny Cash song “Folsom Prison Blues.”

This guy is so much damn fun. You know how huge he’d be if he came to my Rangers and entertained in the big city? (Dare to dream.)

Good News Friday: Four major NBA stars vow to speak out against racial violence. A groom’s awesome reaction to his bride walking down the aisle. And the best show on TV FINALLY gets Emmy nominations galore.

It really feels like every day right now, a major tragedy is happening somewhere. If it’s not the police shooting African-Americans for no reason, or a crazed man killing five police officers, or a truck plowing into a crowd in Nice, France on Thursday and killing 77 people, it’s something else.

I can’t remember a year where this many bad things happened (Plus, you know, Donald Trump’s rise).

It’s so easy to get depressed and throw in the towel and say “F it” to the world. But hopefully enough people still see how much good there is out there, and maybe, just maybe, some good can come out of some of these tragedies.

Which leads me to my first Good News Friday stories. For a long time people like me have been waiting for a new generation of superstar athletes to use their enormous platform to try to enact social change (or at least awareness). A few athletes have; LeBron James and Serena Williams among them. But Wednesday night at the usually-meaningless ESPY awards on ESPN, LeBron, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony opened the show with a powerful pledge to become more involved, and to lead the fight against racial injustice.

Will they follow through after these powerful words? I don’t know. But it’s a start, and these four men have enormous followings, and maybe, just maybe, this will be a tipping point for athletes realizing they have the power to do so much good.

**Next up, this video was sent to me by my father a while back but it got lost in the morass that is my inbox, so I finally watched it this week.

And it’s fabulous. It’s a short video of a wedding of Gabriel and Annabelle Deku, and specifically, it shows the incredible emotion Gabriel is overcome with as he watches his beloved walk down the aisle.

The tears flow as he is overcome by the moment; overcome by joy. It’s a beautiful reminder of love.

(And of course after watching that, I had to go back and watch this, still the best wedding entrance video ever.

**And finally today, the Emmy nominations came out Thursday, and for once, I was not angry. Finally, finally, FINALLY, the best show on television, “The Americans” got a bunch of nominations. After being inexplicably shut out for the first three seasons, “The Americans” got a best drama series nod, as well as acting nominations for Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. I was over the moon excited to see a wonderful show finally get rewarded: I know “Game of Thrones” will win best drama but hey, it’s a start.

Also loved that “Fargo,” “Masters of None,” and “American Crime Story: O.J. Simpson” got a bunch of nominations, and “Better Call Saul”‘s amazing Jonathan Banks was tapped as well.

Great, great job by the Emmy voters this year. To leave on a high note, I give you this wonderful commercial up for an Emmy, from the Ad Council, called “Love has No Labels.”

Love is love. Have a great weekend.

 

Bernie and Hillary, a team made not quite in heaven. A bizarre Colbert sketch reminds me of 1980s Letterman show. And the father who took out an ad searching for a wife for his son

Bernie.Hillary

Well, it finally happened. It took all the until mid-July, but the old Jewish guy from Vermont finally endorsed the woman who will be our next President, his former rival.

No one could ever accuse our man Bernie Sanders of being hasty. More than a month after he formally lost the race to be the Democratic presidential nominee, and two months after it was realistically over for him, the man from Vermont officially endorsed Hillary Clinton Tuesday.

But man, it sure as heck didn’t sound much like an endorsement. I’ve seen 9-year-old boys more enthusiastic about eating Brussels sprouts than Bernie was about Hillary.

Most of his speech on Tuesday was about everything he, Bernie, and his followers have accomplished, and what He, Bernie, thinks. He mentioned Hillary a few times and sort of, kind of endorsed her, but mostly he was saying “I’m supporting her because she’s finally come to our side on some issues.”

Look, I’m no Hillary Clinton fan as I’ve said many, many times on here, but Bernie really is seeming like a sore, sore loser at this point. His ego seems a bit out of control. His grudging endorsement of Hillary is just the latest sign that Bernie doesn’t want to get off the stage, at all, and that he’s enjoyed the attention he’s gotten the last year so much that he can’t do without it.

Bernie, I love ya. But sadly this election might actually be close, and it might help if you would, to quote the name of the show starring the man who plays on “SNL,” curb your enthusiasm about how awesome you are, and do your best to actually, enthusiastically support the candidate who won.

**Next up today, this Stephen Colbert zany sketch from last week is the most bizarre thing I’ve seen in a while. It’s very reminiscent to me of the old David Letterman late-night show from NBC in the 1980s, when Dave would do weird stuff just because he knew no one was watching.

This skit has three concurrent challenges going at once, with them each trying to finish their task first: Colbert cooking and eating a Hot Pocket, a world-champion videogame player trying to win Super Mario Bros. 3, and a four-man college track team from Columbia University running a 4×100 meter dash.

With sportscaster Ian Eagle calling the action! Really funny stuff.

**Finally, from the files of “Really Dad, this is how you choose to help me?” files.

Spare a thought today for poor Baron Brooks, a 48-year-old Salt Lake City resident.

We all know our parents embarrass us sometimes, but rarely this publicly. Baron’s dad, Arthur, took out a $900, full page ad in an Idaho newspaper advertising for a wife for his son.

Arthur did this without permission, and he didn’t exactly “sell” his son very well.

The ad is written from Baron’s point of view (which of course makes it sound like he wrote it and paid for it!) and states that he is looking for a wife who fits very specific criteria. Specifically, the ad calls for a woman “between the ages of 34-38,” which is 10 years younger than Baron, and “height and weight proportional,” which is basically like saying “no fat chicks.”

Poor Baron. But amazingly, since this story went viral a few weeks ago, his dad has gotten 12 responses from women who say they want to meet Baron.

If one of them turns out to be his wife, you think ole’ Arthur gets forgiven?

Nah.

Two aging ’80s rockers thrill me one more time. James Corden and Anna Kendrick do the history of a relationship through song. And Andy Murray and Serena, King and Queen of Wimbledon

123112_pat_benatar3_640

It is absolutely not a secret to regular readers of my little blog that I’m completely a child of the 1980s, love nearly all TV, movies and music about the era, and kind of think, at least musically, the ’80s were the best decade of music ever. The Sirius XM 80s on 8 channel is by far the most listened to in the Lewis-mobile, and much of my iPhone is filled with songs from that decade.

So when I tell you the wife and I took in a Pat Benatar/Melissa Etheridge double bill at the Beacon Theatre last week, you shouldn’t be surprised.

Loved, loved, loved the show. They each played for 90 minutes each, and while of course the only people in the crowd were aged 40 and up, and of course neither artist has had a hit since Bill Clinton was President, I was inspired by watching them. Here’s why:

It’s easy to make fun of aging rockers like Benetar and Etheridge, playing their greatest hits to an audience that knows them by heart, even if neither of their voices was as strong as they used to be (Benetar definitely used some pre-recording on the high notes of “We Belong” and “Invincible.”)

But they were inspiring because they were still out doing what they love. Singing the same songs for 20-30 years must get boring and repetitive, but both stars put everything they had into it, even at their age (Pat Benatar is 63! Seems impossible). They now play for 3-5,000 people instead of four times that number. But they still care enough about their audience to put on a great show, and no one left the Beacon feeling cheated.

As I rocked out to “All Fired Up” and “Come to My Window,” Benetar and Etheridge reminded that excellence is always to be appreciated, and that it doesn’t come easy. To be still near their best after so long is one hell of an accomplishment.

**Next up today, speaking of music, my dream girl Anna Kendrick teamed up with the fabulous James Corden for a really cool and funny skit a few weeks ago on his show, that I somehow missed.

It’s sort of a “history of a relationship using only lyrics to love songs,” and it goes from great at the start, rocky in the middle, and great at the end (like so many relationships, right?)

Anna’s voice is fantastic, Corden’s a great performer, and I just really loved this. Especially the frying pan bit.

**Finally today, a few words about the Wimbledon champions of 2016. Serena Williams once again dominated for two weeks, winning a very close final against Angelique Kerber and proving that at worst, Serena is among the top 2-3 players of all time.

Hard to believe this was her first major title since last Wimbledon, when she won her third Slam of the  year and headed into the U.S. Open looking for a calendar Grand Slam.
But she was entirely worthy and by far the best player this year at Wimbledon, and I again must give her kudos (since I have ripped her plenty in the past) for being so gracious and humble-sounding in her post-match interviews and comments. And winning the doubles title with sister Venus was pretty cool, too.

The story of the Williams sisters, as much attention as it has gotten, continues to be underappreciated. Two sisters from Compton growing up and being this dominant, and being good for so long, is amazing.

Also, this Serena point against Christina McHale in the second round was as good a point as you’ll see:

As for the men, well, of course I was very disappointed Roger Federer lost in the semis on Friday, but part of me was glad to see some “new blood” finally break through from the next generation of men’s players. Milos Raonic had a terrific tournament, but Sunday he ran into the guy who was simply better.

Andy Murray, remarkably, seemed to play better Sunday than he has all year, and he’s been to all three major finals. Murray was fantastic in all aspects Sunday, and when he won his 2nd Wimbledon title, he broke down much more emotionally than he did when he broke that long British title drought in 2013.

While I’m not a huge Murray fan (his on-court language and behavior toward his coaches/friends box is deplorable, and he has the worst body language of any top athlete I’ve ever seen), I admire how he’s persevered while clearly being the Ringo Starr of the “Big 4” of men’s tennis. He took advantage of Novak Djokovic’s upset loss and grabbed the crown.

And yes, I did think several times while watching the finals this weekend, “Man, I can’t believe I was actually there during this tournament!”

With Serena going for a record-breaking 23rd Slam title and the Djokovic-Murray rivalry heating up again, this year’s U.S. Open is going to be awesome. Can’t wait.

 

Good News Friday: A rape victim and the football coach she partially blames for it have a wonderful reconciliation. Stephen Colbert tells a beautiful story of how he met his wife. And Vin Scully tells a great story on first seeing Sandy Koufax

brenda.nebraskafootball

Trying to stay to the theme of Good News Friday is tough when we had two consecutive days of police officers shooting and killing unarmed African-American men, and then the unfathomable killings of five police officers in Dallas Thursday night. America is coming apart at the seams, it feesl like…

We start Good News Friday today with an unlikely “good news” angle, but bear with me, it’s good news at the end.

Eighteen years ago, a 24-year-old Oregon woman named Brenda Tracy was gang-raped by four members of the Oregon State football team. As frustratingly happens far too often in these cases, the charges were eventually dropped, and Tracy was left with awful memories and horrors.

One of the horrible memories she’s carried around for years was a quote from then-OSU football coach Mike Riley, who when the charges were dropped told the press that the players “were really good men who just made a bad choice.”

A bad choice. What despicable, disgusting words. Tracy says now that she hated Riley for those words “more than I hated my rapists … I hated him with every cell in my body.”

Bravely, Tracy opened up to reporter John Canzano of The Oregonian newspaper in 2014, and after Canzano reached out to Riley for comment, the coach expressed some remorse. He said he probably should’ve “done something more to send a message” than simply suspending the players for one game.

“Maybe I should have done more.”

Second, the coach asked Canzano if he thought Tracy might come and talk to his team.

“That would be a compelling talk,” Riley said. “A real-life talk. Instead of just talking about rape and sexual assault, actually having someone talk about how things can change for everyone in a moment like that.”

That was 2014. Two years later, Riley, now coaching at Nebraska, finally followed up on his idea. He contacted Tracy a few months ago, and in mid-June, before addressing the team, Tracy and Riley finally met.

“He hugged me,” Tracy said in this remarkable Washington Post story. “Then he allowed me to cry on his shoulder for a few minutes.” Riley listened to Tracy’s story, and he apologized profusely. Then this brave woman stood up in front of the entire Cornhuskers team and described the horrors of her rape, and the aftermath, including telling how much she had hated Riley.

This is exactly how change occurs. Education, first-hand experience, and a man like Riley, raised in the ridiculous macho world of football, growing and evolving and helping show the next generation how to avoid thinking like he did.

It took two decades, but good for Riley, and good for Brenda Tracy, learning to forgive, and taking a horrible nightmare and turning it into something that could, who knows, help other women in the future.

**Next up, on a lighter note, Stephen Colbert told this great story the other night to his studio audience before his talk show. It’s about how Colbert met his wife, and it’s sweet, self-deprecating, and all over the place, like any great story.

I hope Colbert’s show gets better ratings soon; the guy really seems like a mensch.

http://www.popsugar.com/celebrity/Stephen-Colbert-Talks-About-Meeting-His-Wife-July-2016-41888992

**Finally today, a few words from the legendary Vin Scully, who I’ve featured a few times here this year as we prepare for his retirement from the broadcast booth of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a mere 67 years after he began (I hate people who move around and can’t stay in one place like Scully, you know?)

The other night on a Dodgers broadcast Scully told a sweet little tale of the first time he saw legendary pitcher Sandy Koufax. As always, it’s funny and interesting and entertaining.

The man is a true national treasure.

 

Iceland’s soccer team gets an amazing welcome home. A beautiful PSA about patriotism. And the new device that doesn’t let your spouse cheat with Netflix

OK, so I’ve been a little sports-distracted lately with Wimbledon and our trip to London and Kevin Durant (not a fan of his moving to Golden State, I don’t think it’s going to be as easy for them to win the NBA title as everyone thinks because they STILL don’t have a center, but hey, America’s a free country until President Trump gets elected so L’chaim, Kevin!) but I’ve really, really been meaning to write something about this incredible Iceland soccer team phenomenon.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Iceland, a nation of 330,000 people, and heretofore known in the international sports community for … um… yeah, not much, just finished a remarkable run at the Euro 2016 soccer championships.

Never having been on a big stage before, the Iceland team advanced all the way to the quarterfinals, stunning England (England!) before finally losing on Sunday to France, 5-2.

There were many, many awesome things about this Iceland team; their assistant coach was a dentist, 99.8 percent of the country’s TV’s were tuned in to the Iceland-England game (what were those other 0.2 percent watching?), the fact that 10 percent of the nation’s population traveled to France for the tournament, and their sheer wonder and joy at winning.

But my favorite thing was the Viking War Chant that they adopted, and how the players and fans embraced it. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in sports, and when the team returned home thousands of fans greeted the players for a rally.

The video above, from the rally, gave me chills. How freaking cool is that chant? Look at the size of that crowd at the 1:00 mark! Such a wonderful, pure sports moment.

**Next up today, it’s rare that a PSA goes viral, but when this Patriotism video from the group “No Labels”  starring WWE wrestler John Cena showed up all over my social media, I knew it was worth watching.

The messages contained herein ought to give the Donald Trump voting wing of America some pause. They’re not “getting their country back.” It belongs to all of us now, not just white men.

Really beautifully done video.

houseofcards

**And finally today, this is one of those stories that I couldn’t believe it was real, that someone would actually think to invent something like this. But it’s real, and it’s glorious.

So many of us in relationships binge-watch TV shows together, and the temptation to keep watching while your partner is sleeping or at work is enormous (when me and my beloved were in the midst of “Breaking Bad,” it took all the willpower I had not to watch without her).

But “binge-cheating” is apparently a real problem, so a solution has been found!

The U.K. ice cream brand Cornetto aims to combat the issue with “commitment rings,” wearable tech that features near-field communication (NFC) that links the rings to streaming services like Netflix, Amazon or Hulu for six months.

Crazy, right? So here’s how it works: Users register the rings through an app and choose what shows they want to watch together. If the rings are not close to one another, the app will block the series from being watched. Cornetto has advertised the rings with the tag line, “Love should last more than one season.”

I think this is fabulous, though I can’t imagine many people will buy it.

Because let’s face it, love means finding out how awful Frank Underwood is together, not alone.

Thoughts on a glorious 2 days at Wimbledon, where crowds are deathly quiet and the champagne flows

IMG_2087

And a Happy 4th of July to all of you there in Web-land! Hope everyone has a safe and fun holiday (and that means no fireworks for you, Jason Pierre-Paul).

My apologies for not having a post up last Friday; I fully intended to write about my incredible adventures at Wimbledon on that day, but I caught some sort of cold/sinus/virus thingy on the plane home from England and had no energy for a couple of days.

However, thanks to the power of Advil Cold & Sinus and some hot tea, I’m feeling much better and ready to try to put into words the wonderful, strange, and dream-fulfilling trip.

— It’s not often in life that something you build up in your mind for decades ends up being as great as you hoped. But Wimbledon absolutely was. As my friend and SI writer Jon Wertheim has written, nobody ever comes to Wimbledon for the first time and comes home and says “Meh. Wasn’t so great.” From the historic grounds of the All England Club, to the friendly British ushers/fans/security people, to the fabulous tennis we watched, the two days my wife and I spent at Wimbledon last Monday and Tuesday will go down as some of the best of my life.

— OK, so some details. First off, the most immediate and striking difference from Wimbledon to the U.S. Open or any other sporting event I’ve been to in America? The quiet. The absolute, library-like silence in the stands even after a great shot or exciting point. I’m telling you, it’s three or four seconds of polite applause, nobody says anything, then you could hear a pin drop.

No lie, I must have gotten a dozen dirty looks over the course of two days just for saying things like “Way to go, Venus!” or “Great shot, Dennis!” in a normal tone of voice. The British tennis fans simply do not like exhortations.

— On the other hand, the other thing that struck me most about watching Wimbledon live was that on multiple courts, we saw fans drinking and pouring Champagne out of full-sized, glass bottles. Like it was no big deal; I asked someone about it and they told me it’s basically encouraged. “It’s a British thing and a Wimbledon thing,” she said matter-of-factly.

I cannot even imagine any American sporting event allowing glass Champagne bottles to be brought in. So odd.

— The jokes write themselves when it comes to British food, but it actually wasn’t that bad. We are, I think, legally required to eat the strawberries and cream while at Wimbledon, and they were decent. The rest of the food was typical middling British fare, but we had a great dinner at a Lebanese restaurant one night that was very different than what we’re used to.

— Much less seating on the outdoor courts at Wimbledon than at U.S. Open; we stood a lot of the time, even on matches that it would seem few cared about. The upshot of that is that you’re often standing a few feet away from a player’s girlfriend or coach. Makes for great eaves-dropping.

–Two major highlights stood out from the two days: First, we didn’t have Centre Court tickets for Monday but Roger Federer, my all-time tennis idol, was playing on that cathedral of the sport at the end of the day. So even though the way you’re “supposed” to get onto Centre Court if you don’t have tickets is to go to the window and buy “returned” CC tickets after 5 p.m. that day, we did it the unauthorized way: Basically we stood outside a gate and as people walked out, begged them for their tickets if they were leaving. Two nice folks gave my wife and I their seats, and for one glorious set and a half, I got to watch Federer on Centre Court.

Imagine watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel, or the Beatles at Shea Stadium. That’s what it felt like.

IMG_2118

— The second highlight was what happens when you push your luck just a little bit. After the rains came Tuesday around 5, lots of fans left and there were plenty seats close to Centre Court. Our CC tickets were for a pretty high section, but we had made a friend with amazing 2nd row CC seats and I asked if we could try to sneak down there with her. At the gate entrance I of course started schmoozing the nice female security guard, threw every reason I had as to why she should let us sit there for a pretty un-exciting match (Coco Vandeweghe vs. Kateryna Bondarenko), and finally she relented.

So for an hour this was our view (above) for tennis. It was … breathtaking being that close to world-class tennis on the greatest court in the world. I was praying for a three-setter but alas, we only got two.

— Other different vibe from U.S. Open: Way more ushers/security guards here, less seating on outside courts, fewer lines to get into matches on outside courts

— grass court tennis is wild; the ball stays so low, skids and goes very fast, players have to be fast to scoop ball off shoe-tops

— Not Wimbledon but still cool: My favorite new thing I saw in London was in a bathroom near the London Eye tourist wheel thingie: It was a water faucet that also doubled as a hand dryer. The whole hand-cleaning and drying process all in one spot! I get excited by things like this.

— We picked one hell of a week to be across the pond, when it comes to news. I arrived two days after the shocking Brexit vote (and I highly recommend John Oliver’s take on it.) , and then while we were there the English national team lost to Iceland (Iceland!) in soccer.

Honestly, reading the London tabloids I’m not sure which calamity was more painful. Man, the English athletes get killed 100 times worse in the press than American athletes do. U.S. stars have no idea how easy they have it. My favorite story included “The 23 members of the English soccer team, having made complete asses of themselves earlier that night, flew home to Heathrow Airport…”

And they only lost 2-1! Imagine if they’d lost 6-0, I think they might not be allowed back in the country.

Alex Rodriguez and Tiger Woods, you should thank your lucky stars you weren’t born in the U.K.