Monthly Archives: December 2010

A tip of the cap as Coach K passes Dean. And the family fight where someone lost a nipple

I wouldn’t be worth my weight in Trajan Langdon jerseys as a Duke fan if I didn’t mention a momentous occasion that happened Tuesday night, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.
A legend named Mike Krzyzewski won his 880th college basketball game as a head coach. He’s now second all-time, behind the bullying jerk that is Robert Montgomery Knight.
With that win, K passed one of the classiest men ever in sports, Dean Smith. You wouldn’t expect a Duke diehard like me to praise Dean Smith all that much; after all, he led North Carolina for decades, and beat Duke plenty of times.
But true basketball fans know how legendary Smith was, and not just on the court. He was a class act, full of dignity and courage, and deserves every accolade that ever came his way.
I have enormous respect for Dean, which is why it’s so special that K has passed him now. For three decades, Krzyzewski has gone about his job the right way, building a program and not cutting corners. He doesn’t cheat, he doesn’t get put on probation, and his players (with rare exception) act with class on and off the court.

880 wins. Four national championships. Eleven Final Fours. An incredible legacy for K. I, and the millions of other Duke fans out there, are so blessed to have him on our side.
Just for fun, two clips to wrap up this part of the post. First, a funny clip of Krzyzewski being introduced as the new Duke coach in 1980:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And then, because I must poke fun at Carolina, here’s video of current coach Roy Williams falling asleep while watching a recruit’s game:

**Yeah, I don’t care how dysfunctional you think your family is when you saw them over the holidays, these people have you beat. A drunken fight between a woman and her daughter-in-law a couple of weeks ago resulted in the mother in law tearing the nipple off the younger woman’s breast.

Let me say that again. Tearing the nipple off.
The rest of the details of the story are here, and believe me when I tell you it’s fascinating reading. That must’ve been unbelievably painful for the de-nippled (yeah, that’s a word I’m inventing) woman.
I’m wondering what next year’s Thanksgiving will be like for this family. Barrel of laughs, I’m guessing.

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A book I cannot praise enough. A great meal. And Kennedy Center honors a Beatle

Finished an amazing book the other night, one I thought I wrote about when it came out but alas, I had not.
I first learned about Dirk Hayhurst, a minor league baseball pitcher, a couple of years ago when someone sent me a blog post he was writing for his hometown newspaper in Canton, Ohio. It was smart, witty and remarkably level-headed. I remember sending it to a few people I know because I was so stunned that an athlete had so captured his sport, in writing.
Eventually, Hayhurst decided to keep a journal of his experiences for the 2007 season, and the result is the hilarious, poignant and can’t-put-it-down “The Bullpen Gospels.”
It’s a baseball book, but really it’s a life book. There is some incredibly juvenile stuff in here, but that’s what life on a minor league baseball team is sometimes. Some of the book is dark, as Hayhurst, definitely no-longer a big-league prospect, struggles with his failures on the field, his brother’s alcoholism and how it’s affected his family, and whether he should just quit.
The book is also riotously funny, and wise, and the last 20 pages will knock your socks off.
I highly, highly, highly recommend this book. If you want a taste of his writing, this is the blog post from a few years ago that got me so charged up about him.

**Had a truly fantastic meal Tuesday night, in celebration of my mother’s birthday (Happy birthday Mom!). We went to this great Japanese restaurant, with great appetizers, a terrific main course (I had the tilefish with teriyaki sauce and broccoli on the side, de-lish), and Baskin-Robbins birthday cake for dessert (we brought our own, thank you.)
Now, I love food. As much as I love breathing, pretty much. But this was one of those meals where as you’re walking out of the restaurant, you exhale and say to yourself, “Damn, that was a great meal!” You know those kind? I knew you did.

**So I watched a few minutes of the Kennedy Center Honors program on CBS last night. Didn’t get home in time to see the Oprah tribute, but saw the Paul McCartney stuff toward the end. As I watched Gwen Stefani and others “honor” Paul, I wondered how someone like him feels at that moment.
Like, it’s great to be honored and worshipped by millions, but watching people who weren’t even born when you recorded “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude” sing them, while you’re sitting there high atop a luxury suite? Methinks that has to be a little strange. I’m wondering if McCartney and the other brilliant musicians who’ve been honored by the Kennedy Center ever want to just run down there and yell “Hey! Enough! I get that you love me.
Now please, for God’s sakes, we don’t need a reggae version of “Born to Run!” Thank you!”

My yearly trip to MSG makes me happy. A Mallomars thought. And the 5-year-old who will steal my job

It’s Christmas week, which means I’m home in NY, complaining about the damn cold weather, and most importantly, getting to experience one of my true pleasures of life: Taking in a New York Rangers game at my favorite arena in the world, Madison Square Garden.
I used to go to Rangers games all the time; well, not all the time, but a few times a year. But living in God’s Waiting Room, my best chance is usually Christmas week.
Monday night presented more problems than usual for my father and I in trying to get from Long Island to the game, because maybe you heard about it, but there was sort of a big snowstorm. Which meant the never shut down Long Island Rail Road was shut down all day, and we had to drive into the city. Which is rarely fun, but on slightly treacherous roads, even more not fun.
Still, this is my one Rangers game a year, and if the roads were at all passable, we were going, dammit. Roads were actually not that bad, truly. And there was like NO traffic, since not many people were crazy enough to be out driving.
Live hockey excites me like few other things; I’ve said this before but you really can’t say you hate hockey until you’ve seen an NHL game live; it will turn you into a fan, nearly guaranteed.
Monday, my beloved Blueshirts kicked the holy hell out of the Islanders, 7-2. It broke a personal 3-game “me attending a Rangers game” losing streak, was nice.
Some other musings from a very fun night:
–Ah, the class of hockey fans. The stranger behind me, as we were discussing the general suckiness of the Islanders, said “well what do you expect, their owner (Charles Wang) is a chink.”
Nice to know that word is still around in 2010.
— Had to love this: They announced early in the game that since all of us fans braved the weather to make it to the Garden, concessions were 20 percent off, merchandise at the team stores was 40 percent off.
So because I love a good sale, I wandered to the team store nearest our seats after the 2nd period. And it was closed.
Maybe they heard about the 40 percent off thing and decided not to open.
–Another fun utterance from my section, from a different guy sitting behind me: “I want to see blood on the ice! It’s not a Rangers-Islanders game until someone’s head is bleeding!” This guy was also reading Proust between periods.
OK, I made that last part up.
— Let me tell you who are the least germ-phobic people on Earth: Strangers rooting for the same team at a sporting event. I high-fived like seven strangers after each goal, not at all wondering where their hands had been recently. You’re at a game, you high-five strangers. It’s just what you do.

**So when I was a kid I remember that it was a really special occasion when my parents bought us Mallomars. Because they were really expensive (I know I’m going italics-crazy in this post, not sure why), and they were not good for you, and well, you just knew it was a treat to get them. And I loved them, savored each one.
Had Mallomars for the first time in at least 20 years this week. My reaction? Eh. Sorta tasty, but way too marshmallowy and not sweet enough. I hate it when foods from childhood don’t live up to their billing when you’re a grown-up. My man Joe Poz calls these “pixie foods.” I can’t remember why.

**You know, it’s bad enough for us journalists these days that we don’t need 5-year-olds coming in and stealing our jobs, once they’re done finger-painting and taking naps on mats.
But here’s Joey the Junior Reporter, doing a bang-up job in a hockey locker room.

The fun and memories of shoveling snow. A bizarre, cool tradition I just discovered. And the Jets, ugh, the Jets

This is going to sound extremely strange and quite possibly disturbing if you were one of the millions affected by the East Coast blizzard Sunday.
But I shoveled snow for a little while Sunday. And enjoyed it. I’d missed the experience.
Seriously.
I hadn’t shoveled snow in probably a decade. And you wouldn’t think you’d ever miss doing something like that, because it’s cold and windy and hard labor and all that good stuff.
But it brought back memories. Of the times my sister and I would stand there with my father on the family driveway, shoveling and shoveling and wondering exactly why we had to do this, why someone else couldn’t be out there helping my Dad.
Or the time when my best friend Marc Feigelson and I became all excited that our parents had chipped in to buy a snowblower. Marc and I figured we’d go around to all the neighborhood houses, do their driveways for a small fee, and we’d be rolling in the dough.
Except that the winter we bought it, it snowed once, and then not again for like three years.
Many of my childhood memories are inextricably linked to snow, and living down in Florida, I just don’t get to experience it that much.
I know, many of you are probably thinking I’m nuts now, because you or someone you love was stranded by this enormous blizzard, that made the roads treacherous and cancelled a billion flights.
But for a few minutes yesterday afternoon, with my gloves and coat on and the wind whipping into my face as I shoveled off some of my dad and stepmother’s walkway, I actually enjoyed it.
Crazy, I know.

**So I’m reading Sports Illustrated Sunday and writer Phil Taylor clued me into one of the strangest sports traditions I’ve ever heard of. Every year on Dec. 10 at a school called Taylor University in Indiana, they have something called the “Silent Night” basketball game. For the beginning few minutes of the game, the entire crowd is quiet, not making a peep. Then, when the home team scores its 10th point, well, watch this, just until around 40 seconds in:

How cool is  that? The crowd also sings “Silent Night” together at the end of the game. Awesome.

**And then there was the Jets game Sunday. Hey, the offense scored 34 points! (well, really only 27, but who’s counting?) And still, that wasn’t good enough to win.
My beloved boys in green and white made Jay freaking Cutler look like Joe freaking Montana, as the Chicago Bears squeaked by the Jets, 38-34.
Just another awful performance by the Jets defense. So sick and tired of hearing from these players how this defense is solid and top-notch and all that crap. They couldn’t have covered ME on Sunday in Soldier Field, and I’m slow and white.
On the plus side, Mark Sanchez played fantastic except for one really bad decision at the end of the game, and hey, Jacksonville losing put the Jets in the playoffs for sure. So that’s good.
But it’s hard to have any confidence in this team when the defense plays so bad.
Still, they’re 10-5 and going to be playing in January, so what the hell am I doing complaining?

A terrific new Reese Witherspoon movie. Confident about the Jets. And an underrated life moment

Hope everyone out there had a wonderful Christmas, if you celebrate the holiday. If you’re like me and other millions of Jews, you probably spent Christmas this way: Go to the movies, then out to either a Chinese restaurant or a deli. (Hey, it’s what our newest Supreme Court Justice said she does on Christmas).

The movie I saw was fantastic. “How Do You Know,” starring Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Jack Nicholson, and for one brief scene, Cousin Larry from “Perfect Strangers.” (Shocked the hell out of me. I kept waiting for Balki to come walking in with a story about Mepos.)
It was really, really funny, and warm, and sweet. Which I expected, since it was a James L. Brooks movie. He’s the genius who wrote “As Good as it Gets,” “Broadcast News,” and “Terms of Endearment.”
I won’t give away too much of the plot, but Owen Wilson was really good in it, it’s a rare movie where the heroine is a pro softball player (a nice change), and the slow pacing really works to the movie’s advantage. It builds and it builds and despite Nicholson trying to mug his way through every scene he’s in, really pays off in the end.
Just read some reviews and apparently some critics didn’t like it. But I highly recommend it. Plus, Reese Witherspoon is so damn cute.

**Looking forward to the Jets actually beating the Bears today. I think they’re actually going to win, even if it’s snowing and that tends to be bad for the Jets. It’d be nice if my boys could actually clinch a playoff spot before the last week of the season for once.

**Definitely one of the most underrated moments of life: You’re home, flipping around, and suddenly you hit upon something awesome. Happened to me again tonight: IFC is running a “Freaks and Geeks” marathon, with hours and hours of episodes of one of the best shows, ever.
It’s just like, you know, your night was going fine, and then you find a great show or movie, and the night gets .05 percent better.

The guys who robbed the “Free Store.” Another airport thought. And my favorite Christmas song, ever

On this Christmas Eve, I wish all who celebrate the holiday a very Merry Christmas. A little Bowie/Crosby above to get you in the mood. Even if the first few minutes of this video seems a little creepy and odd to me.

**Stupid criminals, you gotta love them.
Two guys in Edmonton decided to rob a store last week. Except the store they chose to rob is called the Free Store. Yep, the free store was burgled.
Where, you know, every single thing in the store is free! So exactly why are you stealing, and how much cash do you really think is in the register?

“For the most part, being a free store, we wouldn’t expect someone to come and rob us because they can come back and get it all free the next day,”  co-owner Brandon Tyson said. “But I guess apparently some people do.”
Read more about these Lex Luthor-like geniuses here. 

**Flew home to New York Thursday, and amazingly two days before Christmas, it was totally uneventful. Reasonably quick security line, smooth flight, except when we landed and the heavy wind sort of made our plane blow from side to side.

As always, airports and airplanes made me think of stuff, such as…
— Do you think the flight attendants, when they go home at night, wake up in a cold sweat sometimes mumbling the safety warnings? I could just see their husband/wife shaking them going “Honey, go back to sleep, everybody’s tray is perfectly upright.”
— And what is the over/under, time-wise, on when you’re allowed to start sighing and grumbling about an incessantly crying baby in the next row? How long do the parents have to try something to make the kid quiet down? Is it 10 minutes? 20 minutes? I just want to know the etiquette here.

**Finally I wrote about my love of this song last year, but it’s so good I feel I must write about it every year. Call it an “anti-Christmas” song, the Bob Rivers Comedy Group singing “The 12 Pains of Christmas.”
The “rigging up the lights” guy kills me every time.

The guy who loves Santa too much. A beautiful story of overcoming obstacles. And fun with lip-synching

I’m not usually one to criticize other people’s hobbies. I have a few of my own that might not fit the usual definition of mainstream. I can watch reruns of 80s TV shows all day long. I have an unhealthy fascination with Barry Manilow. And so on.

But this guy, well, this guy puzzles me.
Jean-Guy Laquerre is, as you probably have guessed by now, Canadian. He likes Santa Claus. Really, really, really likes Santa Claus. So he started collecting Santa stuff. And hasn’t stopped. Mr. Laquerre now owns , at last count, 25,189 pieces of Santa memorabilia.
Twenty-five thousand! People like this fascinate me. What keeps them going, to collect even more? Is there ever an end point? Do you just become obsessed with collecting every little thing ever? Does Mr. Laquerre have, like, one prized item of Santa-rifficness that he’s never gotten, a white whale of the man with the white beard?
I picture him at night, desperately plotting a way to get that hard-to-find Kris Kringle nightlight he once saw in Montreal in 1983.
Laquerre is in the Guinness Book of World Records, not surprisingly.
And man, one day, he could have one hell of a garage sale.

**I love it when a story I stumble upon moves me in my soul. Yes, I’m a sap. But as it’s the holidays and all, these kinds of stories seem to appear more frequently.
Paul Daugherty is a very talented writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer. His daughter Jillian has Down’s Syndrome. She has recently become a very important part of the Northern Kentucky University basketball program.
Read this if you need reminding of how much the human spirit can accomplish when they just believe in themselves.
And have others who believe in them, too.

**Finally, because amused me, two guys singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Trivia: My friend Andrew Lipton once lived with a guy in college who was the son of the lead singer of The Tokens, who sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” And yes, the poor kid was serenaded with “Oh Weem A Wep” his whole life.

The best corrections of the year. And a very strange lawsuit in California

One of my favorite year-end compilations is done by Regrettheerror.com, which does a wonderful job all year of collecting and poking fun at the best newspaper corrections. (check out the top headline in the above photo; who knew those colliders were so aroused?).
The year-end report always cracks me up; maybe I’m a corrections nerd, but I think these are really funny. One thing I noticed this year is the huge number of corrections, embarrassing ones, coming from the British tabloids.
Hey, I guess when you just make shit up all the time, you’re bound to get some of it wrong.
Here’s the whole list, but these are two of my favorites:

1. In our Saturday post about the California Democratic Party’s ad attacking Meg Whitman but masquerading as an “issues ad,” we described the abrupt ending to our conversation with CDP Chairman John Burton. Through his spokesman, Burton on Monday complained that he had been misquoted. Burton says he didn’t say “Fuck you.” His actual words were, “Go fuck yourself.” Calbuzz regrets the error.

2.New York Times: A capsule summary on Friday directing readers to pictures of ugly creatures at nytimes.com/science left the impression that fish and crustaceans are not part of the animal kingdom. Many of them may be ugly, but they are no less animals.

OK, I lied about listing only two of my faves. I love this one, too.

Daily Mail (U.K.):
It was reported today that Kimberley Stewart-Mole is now in a lesbian relationship, having left her husband Mike Hollingsworth. We have been informed and accept Ms. Stewart-Mole is not a lesbian or in a relationship with a woman and apologise for suggesting otherwise.

**This is bizarre, even for California. Meet Preston Hill (above), a 17-year- old wrestler from Clovis, Calif. A terrific grappler, Preston has learned all the moves through the years, including something called a “butt drag.” (get your mind out of the gutter, dear reader. Apparently that’s what it’s really called).
That’s a wrestling move where one wrestler grabs his opponent’s, well, butt, and forcibly throws him to the ground.
Hill did this move on a younger teammate during a practice, and now, incredibly, Hill is being charged with sexual assault. Read all the details of this crazy case here in the N.Y. Times.
I don’t even know what to say to this. Clearly Hill was trying to intimidate his younger teammate, but if this really is a common wrestling move, how can the district attorney bring a criminal complaint?
It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world.

The best story I’ve ever read. And I suffer a tennis insult. And the digital story of the Nativity

Something for everyone today, I tell ya.
People have sometimes asked me what is the best piece of journalism I’ve ever read, or the best magazine article, or some variation of that question.
You’d think it’d be a hard question. But it’s not.
The best story I’ve ever read was in the June 24, 1996 issue of Sports Illustrated, and it was written by Gary Smith. It’s about a 16-year-old high school basketball star named Richie Parker, who was a major Division I recruit until he was accused of helping sexually assault a high school girl.
This story could’ve been written one of 1,000 different cliched ways by Smith, but he chose none of them. It’s not really even a story about Parker, or about sports, as Smith shows; he brings in so many voices, and so many people affected by this case.

This article is so balanced, so fair, so equally representing both sides of the argument (does a kid deserve a second chance after something like this? Or has he forfeited his future on the court?), and so, well, brilliantly written that every time I read it, I come away thinking differently about what should’ve been done.
I thought of Smith’s article the other day because Joe Posnanski referenced it in a blog post he was writing, and after reading the Parker story yet again, I feel compelled to share it.
If you have 20 minutes, please read this today. It’s as good as writing gets.

**So this was kind of insulting. Monday night my sometimes-doubles partner Gary and I got thrashed in a match in our usual adult men’s league. We lost 6-1, 6-2; I played terribly, and the guys who beat us were really good.
The whole match took about an hour, and when we were done, one of the opponents said to Gary “Do you mind if we use the court for a while?”
They then proceeded to play a set of singles.
We’d been such helpless fodder that they didn’t get enough of a workout in the regular match, they had to do some more running.
So yeah, that was kind of humiliating.

**Finally, I thought this was fabulous. Hope it doesn’t offend anyone. Call it the Story of Jesus, if it happened in 2010:

Tremendous win for Jets. Epic collapse by Giants. And JibJab

Well, I’ll be darned.
Just when I was ready to give up on the green and white, the New York Jets came up with a huge (hold on, that’s not big enough. A HUGE) win over the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday.
Just like it has so many times this season, the game’s outcome came down to the final play. Steelers ball, down 5, on the Jets’ 10 yard line. I was pacing so much in my house I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a new groove in the floor.
The last two weeks, the Jets blew it, and I worried that they were going to blow it again.
But they didn’t. They hung on, beating a very, very good Steelers team, 22-17.
Some quickie thoughts on the game:
— Mark Sanchez, that was a terrific game you played. Really smart, really poised, you did almost everything right.
— OK Jason Taylor, with that enormous safety in the fourth quarter that put the Jet up 5, you have officially earned your stripes. You are a Jet now in the fans’ eyes. May have been the biggest defensive play of the season.
– There were a few questionable and strange play-calls, but the much-maligned Brian Schottenheimer, the Jets’ offensive coordinator, did a hell of a job  Sunday.

‘Some other NFL thoughts on a crazy day:
— Incredible collapse by the Giants. I mean, an all-time collapse. They were up 31-10 with 8 minutes left in the game. And lost on the final play, on a punt return for a touchdown. The Giants melted down in all three phases of the game; not sure they can recover from this.
— Michael Vick. Breathtaking. What a fantastic athlete he is. We were talking at the bar Sunday about how he said he wants to be a dog-owner again. And we agreed: He should start with owning a goldfish and see how that goes first. Then maybe he can graduate to a hamster or a gerbil.
— I had no doubt whatsoever that Peyton Manning and Indy were going to find a way
— If you haven’t seen this already, please watch the Patriots’ Dan Connolly, a lineman, rumbling 73 yards on a kickoff return Sunday night. Hilarious.

**The guys at JibJab.com, who have given us so many funny videos over the years (I still love their John Kerry/W video from 2004), have come out with a pretty funny video summarizing 2010.
It stars a dancing Barack Obama and a dancing Joe Biden. Forget all those year-end shows on TV, this is the only 2-minute wrapup of the year you’ll need: