Monthly Archives: August 2010

The guy who saved Hitler’s life in 1919. And Roger Clemens, in big trouble

Sometimes in this blog I feel I can’t do a story justice. That if I try to describe it too much or paraphrase a little, I’ll completely ruin it.
So I don’t want to say too much about this story that came out last week, about the man, Michael Keogh of Dublin, who saved Adolf Hitler from certain death in 1919.
It’s an unbelievable tale. Check it out and marvel like I did at how history would’ve been changed if not for one man’s act.
Fate is an amazing thing.

**Not really a big surprise, but still interesting to see Roger Clemens get indicted for perjury on Thursday. I hold Clemens in extremely low regard, and you would too if you read my friend Jeff Pearlman’s excellent book “The Rocket Who Fell to Earth” (full disclosure: I helped edit it. But really, it’s outstanding.)

I absolutely believe Clemens took steroids. I absolutely believe he lied to Congress. He’s been lying his whole life, getting by on talent and charm, and I think he figured Congress would be no different. Hell, I remember those hearings a few years ago and several Congressmen practically fawned over the guy. It was disgusting.

Clemens won’t go to jail, I don’t think. But a conviction would certainly be warranted. He’s an arrogant jerk who continues to think, in his own mind, that this is all a big misunderstanding.

And as a Yankee fan, it always killed me to root for this bum.

Lou Gehrig may not have died of Lou Gehrig’s disease. And why I love passion in all forms

This story completely caught me by surprise yesterday, and I’m not sure exactly what it means.

But a team of researchers has discovered a possible link between ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and traumatic brain injury, such as concussions. Gehrig was famous for being a tough guy (his nickname was the “Iron Horse,” after all), and it’s now thought possible that his disorder was brought on by some kind of brain injury.

This is fascinating to me, because up until now ALS has seemed to hit people out of nowhere, for no particular reason. Maybe discoveries like this could lead to prevention of ALS, or at least further awareness of what the causes are. Very interesting stuff.

**On a totally unrelated note, and I am in NO WAY, shape or form implying that Lou Gehrig’s Disease is a laughing matter: Denis Leary used to do a bit about Babe Ruth, looking down from heaven, talking about stuff. One joke went like this: (Go to 1:50 of this video clip). Hilarious. Warning: Language not safe for work; use headphones!

**Went to see an old basketball coach speak last Sunday morning. I didn’t know him very well, but knew about him. He was 72, and he spoke to a small group for about 35 minutes, and I can’t tell you he said anything particularly memorable or life-changing.

But when I walked away, I was smiling. Because for 35 minutes, this guy absolutely exuded passion. He was fired up about the sport of basketball, fired up to be sharing his thoughts with us, and fired up about life. I so admire passion, any kind of passion, in life. So many people just go through the motions, and never get fired up about anything.

Then I hear my brother-in-law talk about food (he’s a chef). Or my best friend Clay talk about science (he’s a scientist). And this basketball coach talking to a roomful of strangers and making you so interested that you’re ready to go shoot some 3-pointers as soon as he’s done.

There’s a morning radio DJ down here in Florida who ends every show by saying: “Live with passion.”

It’s a great way to live.

Thirty-five, with a “Freaks and Geeks” present. And a hilarious book of kids’ letters from camp

Turned 35 on Tuesday. Didn’t sweat this birthday as much as some others. Sure, I felt sad a little that I’m getting older, and that I’m no longer in the coveted advertisers’ 18-34 demographic, and I’m now just as close to 40 as I am to 30 (and as you read this, I’m one day closer!).

My day was made by many things, including so many warm wishes from friends and family (I swear, every birthday turns into a “This is Your Life” it seems; people from different stops along the journey check in, and it’s wonderful), a terrific dinner with my wife, and some great presents.

My favorite gift? A wonderful one from my wife. She knows what a huge fan I was of the late, great television show “Freaks and Geeks.” And so I got the “Freaks and Geeks” ultimate DVD collection, with all 18 episodes on tape, plus director’s commentaries and all kinds of cool other stuff.

If you’ve never seen “Freaks and Geeks,” I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s about high school kids in 1980, and it’s by far the most realistic show about high school I’ve ever seen. So many of the kids on F&G have become stars, like Linda Cardellini (she was on “ER”), Jason Segel (in movies and “How I Met Your Mother”), Seth Rogen (“Knocked Up” and a bunch of other movies”) and James Franco (“Spiderman” and many others.)

The writing is so dead-on perfect, the acting is great, and the realism of the show drips through in every scene.

Highly recommend checking it out on Netflix or whereever you can find it.

**Sometimes you see a new book come out and the idea is so perfect, you’re like “Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before?”

Heard about Diane Falanga’s new book on “CBS Sunday Morning” this week. It’s called “P.S. I Hate it Here: Kids’ Letters from Camp.” She’s gathered hundreds of real letters from people across the country, all telling about the horrible and wonderful adventures at camp.

There are great ones in here, with nuggets like “the rash on my penis (spelled “P-Nus” in the book) has gone away, so I can run now.,” and “Kenny has a new rifle. He let me hold it.”

My favorite letter had this P.S.:”Nick, the riflery teacher from last year, got fired for inhaling crack and camp. He also went to jail.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The end of “Cathy.” And an incredible email makes me smile

I know this doesn’t exactly paint me as the most masculine of boys, but growing up I was always a HUGE fan of the comic strip “Cathy.”
I think my mom or sister got me reading it at first, but once I started it, I was hooked. I thought it was really funny the way Cathy fought with Irving, obsessed about her figure, and all that. I read “Cathy” and I read “Ziggy” and I read the Family Circus, too. (my favorite Ziggy of all time? When Ziggy is in the psychiatrist’s office and the Dr. says: “Ziggy, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is, you’re not paranoid. The bad news is, the whole world really is out to get you.”)

Anyway, Cathy amused me throughout much of my childhood. But now she’s gone, fading off into the ink-stained newspaper in the sky. The creator, Cathy Guisewite, has decided to end the strip after 34 years. It’ll run until October and then poof, it’ll be gone.

I hope Irving and Cathy get hitched in the last strip. That would be awesome.

**In case you haven’t noticed, this blog hasn’t taken the world by storm. I’m so grateful for my loyal readers, though I do wish there were more of you (what blogger doesn’t?)

Moments like one that happened Monday, though, remind me that you just never know who’s out there, and reading your blog.

I wrote about the great Jim Murray, the late sportswriter, for Monday’s blog, on the 12th anniversary of his death.
And what shows up in my inbox and in my comments section around 1 p.m.? An email from Jim Murray’s widow, Linda. She wrote a short note thanking me for writing about him, and sending me a link to a great column on ESPN.com about her work in keeping Jim’s memory alive.

It totally made my day. To think that she saw my little blog, and read my tribute to her husband, was just sensational.

OK, mushiness over. Back to your regularly scheduled mix of snark and humor.

Remembering Jim Murray, the greatest sportswriter who ever lived.

Jim Murray died 12 years ago today.

If you’ve never read a Jim Murray column, I feel sad for you.

Because he was the greatest. The best writer about sports who ever lived, and I won’t accept any argument about that.

He wrote the greatest one-liners ever. Sentences like “Gentlemen, start your coffins,” about the Indy 500.

He said basketball great Elgin Baylor “was as unstoppable as a woman’s tears.” Rickey Henderson had a strike zone “smaller than Hitler’s heart.”

And there were a million more. Murray wrote about sports for the Los Angeles Times for 37 years. He won a Pulitzer, which for a sportswriter is like Gandhi winning an MMA fight.

He wrote with passion, with heart, with understanding, and with wisdom. I regret that I never got to meet him, though a former boss of mine was once in an elevator with him and remembers every single detail, including what floor Murray got off.

He’s as close to a God as we’ve ever had in this profession. I miss his writing all the time, and sometimes, when I’m stuck in a rut, I’ll re-read a few classics from one of my Murray-collection books on the shelf.

And marvel once again at how brilliant he was.

Here are two of my favorite Murray columns ever: First, about the death of his wife, Gerry. And reprinted below, my favorite, about the day he lost his left eye.

R.I.P. Jim Murray. We still miss you.

(Copyright, The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times 1998 all Rights reserved)

OK, bang the drum slowly, professor. Muffle the cymbals and the laugh track. You might say that Old Blue Eye is back. But that’s as funny as this is going to get.

I feel I owe my friends an explanation as to where I’ve been all these weeks. Believe me, I would rather have been in a press box.

I lost an old friend the other day. He was blue-eyed, impish, he cried a lot with me, saw a great many things with me. I don’t know why he left me. Boredom, perhaps.

We read a lot of books together, we did a lot of crossword puzzles together, we saw films together. He had a pretty exciting life. He saw Babe Ruth hit a home run when we were both 12 years old. He saw Willie Mays steal second base, he saw Maury Wills steal his 104th base. He saw Rocky Marciano get up. I thought he led a pretty good life.

One night a long time ago he saw this pretty girl who laughed a lot, played the piano and he couldn’t look away from her. Later he looked on as I married this pretty lady.

He saw her through 34 years. He loved to see her laugh, he loved to see her happy.

You see, the friend I lost was my eye. My good eye. The other eye, the right one, we’ve been carrying for years. We just let him tag along like Don Quixote’s nag. It’s been a long time since he could read the number on a halfback or tell whether a ball was fair or foul or even which fighter was down.

So, one blue eye missing and the other misses a lot.

So my best friend left me, at least temporarily, in a twilight world where it’s always 8 o’clock on a summer night.

He stole away like a thief in the night and he took a lot with him. But not everything. He left a lot of memories. He couldn’t take those with him. He just took the future with him and the present. He couldn’t take the past.

I don’t know why he had to go. I thought we were pals. I thought the things we did together we enjoyed doing together. Sure, we cried together. There were things to cry about.

But it was a long, good relationship, a happy one. It went all the way back to the days when we arranged all the marbles in a circle in the dirt in the lots in Connecticut. We played one-old-cat baseball. We saw curveballs together, trying to hit them or catch them. We looked through a catcher’s mask together. We were partners in every sense of the word.

He recorded the happy moments, the miracle of children, the beauty of a Pacific sunset, snowcapped mountains, faces on Christmas morning. He allowed me to hit fly balls to young sons in uniforms two sizes too large, to see a pretty daughter march in halftime parades. He allowed me to see most of the major sports events of our time. I suppose I should be grateful that he didn’t drift away when I was 12 or 15 or 29 but stuck around over 50 years until we had a vault of memories. Still, I’m only human. I’d like to see again, if possible, Rocky Marciano with his nose bleeding, behind on points and the other guy coming.

I guess I would like to see Reggie Jackson with the count 3-and-2 and the series on the line, guessing fastball. I guess I’d like to see Rod Carew with men on first and second and no place to put him, and the pitcher wishing he were standing in the rain someplace, reluctant to let go of the ball.

I’d like to see Stan Musial crouched around a curveball one more time. I’d like to see Don Drysdale trying to not laugh as a young hitter came up there with both feet in the bucket.

I’d like to see Sandy Koufax just once more facing Willie Mays with a no-hitter on the line. I’d like to see Maury Wills with a big lead against a pitcher with a good move. I’d like to see Roberto Clemente with the ball and a guy trying to go from first to third. I’d like to see Pete Rose sliding into home headfirst.

I’d like once more to see Henry Aaron standing there with that quiet bat, a study in deadliness. I’d like to see Bob Gibson scowling at a hitter as if he had some nerve just to pick up a bat. I’d like to see Elroy Hirsch going out for a long one from Bob Waterfield, Johnny Unitas in high-cuts picking apart a zone defense. I’d like to see Casey Stengel walking to the mound on his gnarled old legs to take a pitcher out, beckoning his gnarled old finger behind his back.

I’d like to see Sugar Ray Robinson or Muhammad Ali giving a recital, a ballet, not a fight. Also, to be sure, I’d like to see a sky full of stars, moonlight on the water, and yes, the tips of a royal flush peeking out as I fan out a poker hand, and yes, a straight two-foot putt.

Come to think of it, I’m lucky. I saw all of those things. I see them yet

Hurley goes into the Hall. And a bumper sticker that cracked me up

**We are experiencing technical difficulties here at WWOS. Not sure what the heck happened to all the stuff that used to be down the right side of the page. Trying to fix it now. Sorry.

One of the greatest coaches and leaders of young men in basketball history was inducted into the Hall of Fame the other night.

Bob Hurley’s praises have been sung by me and by many others over the years; the legendary high school coach at St. Anthony’s (N.J.) has won nearly 1,000 games, but has touched so many more lives. It’s a long overdue honor for a wonderful person and a credit to his sport.

Check out this column by Jack McCallum, the supremely talented Sports Illustrated writer, on Hurley and his legacy. And if you ever get a chance, check out the outstanding book “The Miracle of St. Anthony” by Adrian Wojnarowski. It’s fantatastic.

**I love a good bumper sticker, even ones that offend me or make me angry. I think there’s something so simple, and so American, about believing a statement so strongly that you need to place it on the back of your car and show the world that’s how you feel.

I don’t agree with the sentiment on this one, but this cracked me up for good 10 seconds when I saw it the other day.

Bloomberg gets it on Ground Zero mosque. Evander Holyfield makes me sad. And another idiotic infomercial

A few words about Michael Bloomberg and Evander Holyfield. Because, you know, they have a lot in common.

I’ve watched, with bemusement and befuddlement, this whole brouhaha about whether a mosque should be allowed to go up at Ground Zero.
It amazes me that groups who have nothing in common normally, like the Anti-Defamation League and Sarah Palin supporters (wouldn’t THAT be a fun cocktail party, getting those two groups together?) would both be so strongly opposed to this.
Apparently freedom of religion in this country doesn’t apply if you are Muslim. And apparently because a few hijackers who positively hijacked a religion for their own purposes committed an unspeakable act of terrorism, there’s never allowed to be a mosque there.
I find the arguments against it ridiculous and wholly without merit, which is why I’m so glad NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg has backed the project so strongly. I’ve got my issues with Bloomberg; I think he’s basically done a pretty good job as mayor, but it’s ridiculous that he was allowed to run for a third term, forcing the law on term limits in the city to be changed (with help from City Council.)

Bloomberg has been very clear on this mosque issue; one quote I loved from this story was this one, referring to the victims of 9/11:
“We do not honor their lives by denying the very Constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights — and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.”

Good for Bloomberg for standing up for what he believes in. Religious freedom is too important in this country to let those who don’t like “your religion” to bully the rest of us. The Ground Zero mosque/community center will be built, and let that be a lesson that 9/11’s hijackers didn’t kill all that was good with this country.

**A friend who knows I love stupid infomercials turned me on to this doozy. It might not be the stupidest product ever, but it’s in the photo. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Shake-Weight!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

**Finally, I read Friday that Evander Holyfield is planning to box again. He is 48, his speech is slurred, and a man who was once a shining example of a bright, intelligent fighter is pathetically trying to hold on to a tiny shred of his dignity, by fighting palookas.

I used to love watching Holyfield fight; he was so smooth and classy in the ring. Now, he’s just another washed-up old fighter, who doesn’t know the last round for him was many years ago.

Incredibly sad to see.

I prefer to remember Holyfield like this:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The nipple covers you’ll need at the airport. And George Michael and Kelsey Grammer: Who would’ve thunk it?

I love innovative companies in the world. The companies that see a problem, figure out a way to fix it, and then sell it to us for a low, low price.

Today I’m talking about this story I read about the brilliant people at flyingpasties.com, who have invented nipple covers for women at the airport. See, apparently these new full-body scan X-ray machines can see right through your clothes, and who wants the TSA guy to see your boobs?

So with Flying Pasties, you can cover yourself up and then feel better as your body gets violated by a scanner and a TSA agent making $12 an hour.

IF you think I’m making this up, check out their website.

**There are some celebrity headlines that don’t even faze you anymore.

I saw a couple of them Thursday, and didn’t even bat an eyelash. It amazes me how the same people make the same mistakes, over and over again.

Kelsey Grammer, and his 29-year-old girlfriend (he’s like a full middle-aged man older than her), are expecting a child. I’m sure this relationship of Frasier Crane’s will work out just fine, and the kid will be wonderful, just like his four other children from three previous marriages/relationships.

And George Michael got arrested again. In public. In a bathroom. Seems like we’ve heard this somewhere before …

I don’t really know why these two “items” qualify as news. With these two, it’s just business as usual.

Train-wreck celebrity coverage is a part of our lives, and theirs.

A new player you should root for. A big Alzheimer’s development. And the hilarious Iceland soccer team

I haven’t given you a new athlete to root for in a while; this is someone who I like to highlight not because of their stats or their contract size, but because they’re just good people.

Meet Eric Berry, first-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs. He was an awesome college player at Tennessee, and will probably be an awesome NFL player. But that’s not important right now.

The other day, Berry and the Chiefs were having their usual training camp practice, and the temperature was in triple-digits. After practice in training camp, on many teams, a bunch of players sign autographs for the thousands of fans who came to watch. On this day, only other teammate joined Berry on the line.

Berry signed autographs for a long time. Then two kids, who had already gotten autographs from Berry, asked if they could have his gloves (they’d been told players will sometimes give fans their gloves).

Berry politely said he was sorry, he had already given them to another fan.

So instead, Berry took off his cleats, signed them, and handed them to the two kids.

How great is that? I’m rooting for him for the rest of his career. So many athletes don’t realize this, but it takes so little to make most fans happy, and to be a decent person. Get more details of this story here

Good for Eric Berry, sounds like you’re a real mensch. (That’s Yiddish, look it up.)

**Read a very interesting story in the New York Times Tuesday, that talked about how spinal tap fluid can now be used to predict, with 100 percent accuracy, which patients who are suffering memory are loss will eventually suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

Lot of exciting breakthroughs going on with Alzheimer’s, the story reports, which is fabulous news.

The predictive test raises a question, though: Would you want to know if you had a disease for which there was no cure? I’ve been thinking about that for a while tonight, and I truly don’t know where I come down on that one. I think, if forced to decide, I think I would want to know. I’m the kind of person who likes to hear bad news immediately (especially if it’s a “good news, bad news” choice I’m given, because I always want to end on a positive note), so I think I’d want to know to give myself as much time as possible to deal with the news.

But I don’t know, it’s definitely a tough call.

**Finally, I know, when you think funny, you don’t usually think “Iceland.” But the men at SI.com have turned me onto these hilarious Iceland soccer team goal celebrations. My favorites in this clip are the first one and the third one. Maybe the third one has been done before, but by a whole team, it was hilarious. Enjoy.

Coming late to the party on “Psych.” I tweet, therefore I am. And psyched up for “Hard Knocks.”

Sometimes, like most men, I have to be hit over the head with something before it registers.

For years my wife has told me that I would love the USA show “Psych.” It’s funny, incredibly 80s-reference dominated, and completely lightning-fast with the jokes. If you’ve never seen the show, it stars James Roday as Shawn, a “psychic” detective in Santa Barbara, and Dule Hill (Charlie from “The West Wing”) as his straight man/partner Gus. Corbin Bernsen is in it too, as a police chief.

Mindless entertainment, but awesome. Yet I resisted. Last year they did an amazing and hilarious episode completely based on lines from John Hughes movies, and still I didn’t watch.

Finally this season I’ve gotten into it. And it’s awesome, again. The rapid-fire delivery of the actors totally makes the show, and you spend a few seconds after each joke thinking about what you just laughed at, and miss a joke.

The acting is great, the writers are clearly having a great time and don’t care if you don’t get all of their pop culture references. I once had an editor tell me that once you make a pop-culture reference in a story, you lose 1/3 of the audience. He may have been right, but it’s still funny if pulled off properly.

Anyway, I highly recommend “Psych.” Wednesdays on USA.  80s lovers, I guarantee you’ll laugh.

**Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages: I have an announcement. I’m taking my talents to South Beach (oh wait, sorry, that was LeBron James’ script. How did that get here?).

No, seriously. My announcement is that I’ve finally joined the Twitter-verse. That’s right, tonight I sent my first Tweet. Man, it felt refreshing and a little tingly.

If you’re Twitter-inclined, please consider following me. I’ll post links to my blog, links to other great writing, and basically rant and rave in 140 characters or less (that will be a HUGE challenge for me. I’m not, shall we say, brief in my thoughts).

Find me there at twitter.com/michaeljlewis75. Thanks.

**One of the true highlights of the summer for me comes tonight. My beloved Jets are the subject of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” a totally awesome reality/documentary HBO does every summer inside the training camp of an NFL team.
I’m addicted to it normally anyway, ever since we saw Tony Siragusa and Shannon Sharpe hazing rookies on the Ravens’ “Hard Knocks” a few years ago.
But now, with my team being in the spotlight? Should be awesome. The storylines are so good: Rex Ryan, uncensored. LaDainian Tomlinson and Jason Taylor (still can’t imagine him in green and white, and still hate him), trying to show they’ve got something left. Santonio Holmes, a star on a new team. Bart Scott’s bark. Darrelle Revis’ holdout.

So much good stuff. Can’t wait for the season, and can’t wait for tonight’s first episode.