Monthly Archives: March 2011

The 400-pound marathon runner. A disgusting pageant disqualification. And my Dukies, survive, barely

A couple of weight-related stories caught my eye this weekend, in between staring at the NCAA Tournament for 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday (ah, heaven).

First, my buddy Clay alerted me to the inspiring story of Kelly Gnieting, a 400-pound man whose dream was to become the heaviest man ever to run in, and finish, the Los Angeles Marathon.
Kneiting’s story, told here by the fantastic L.A. Times writer Kurt Streeter, is that of a man who knows he had let himself go, but still believed he was an athlete. He began training, and for the last two years has thought of little else.
Sunday, a 400-pound man finished the L.A. Marathon in 9 hours, 48 minutes, and 42 seconds.
Me, someone who desperately wants to run and complete a marathon one day, who right now can only run 2.5 miles or so at a time, is inspired by Kelly Gneiting. We are all capable of SO much if we try hard enough.
Bravo, Kelly. I’m proud of you.

**And then there was this story from last week, which isn’t quite as uplifting. A 17-year-old woman named Domonique Rodriguez is suing to get her crown as Miss San Antonio back, a title stripped from her because she was allegedly too heavy and didn’t look good enough in photographs.
If this really was why Rodriguez was stripped of the title, it’s remarkably disgusting behavior by the pageant. And it feeds into every stereotype about why beauty pageants in general are so wrong and unhealthy.
I hope she wins, and that the pageant people have to apologize to her in open court.

**Very, very scary game for me and the other Duke fans Sunday. The Blue Devils built a nice comfy lead in the second half of their NCAA Tournament game against Michigan, and then decided to just… stop… attacking. Duke’s offense was slower than Kelly Gneiting’s running (am I allowed to reference something in my own blog post?), and slowly Michigan caught up, until with three seconds left the Wolverines had a terrifyingly straightforward chance to tie the game and send it into overtime. Fortunately for my heart and for Duke, the shot missed, and the Blue Devils survived.
It was a bizarre last 10 minutes for Duke; the newly-healthy Kyrie Irving and best player Nolan Smith both seemed tentative, like each was waiting for the other to take over. Hope they get their act together by Thursday, because this Arizona team Duke plays next is seriously good.

Also, if you didn’t see this the other night, watch it now. A fantastic locker room celebration video from Butler coach Brad Stevens and his team after beating Pittsburgh in one of the best NCAA Tournament games you’ll see:

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Fallon, as Dylan, does “Charles in Charge.” An incredible Tournament moment. And dating people who look like you

I am starting to become a huge fan of Jimmy Fallon’s music parodies. A few weeks ago I linked to this fabulousness, Fallon, as Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen covering a silly Willow Smith song with such earnestness.

Now Fallon has taken one of my all-time favorite TV theme songs, “Charles in Charge,” and given it the Bob Dylan treatment. Absolutely freaking brilliant. Fallon first, then the original below.

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**Incredible Saturday of NCAA Tournament games, capped by one of the best games I’ve seen in years, Butler’s takedown of No. 1 seed Pittsburgh. And the aftermath gave me one of those moments that reminded me why I love college basketball, and March Madness, so damn much. This is Butler’s wonderboy coach, 34-year-old Brad Stevens, and his players singing the school fight song in the locker room after the game:

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**Finally, here’s something I don’t think I’ve ever once thought: “Hey, I’m looking for a girlfriend. You know what I want? Someone who looks just like me!”
Yet, there’s a group of people out there who think that’s what we want; a partner of the opposite sex who has our similar facial characteristics. A site called matches you up with mates who look kinda like you.
Hey, it’s not my cup of tea, but if you want to see what you’d look like if you were a member of the opposite sex, here’s their site. Go crazy.

A very cool (but scary) video of the Japan tsunami. Kyrie’s back! And the British man abducted by aliens

Sometimes all the words and pictures tell a story. And then you watch a 1-minute clip on YouTube and it becomes so much more vivid.
Saw this on Twitter Friday night; it’s video from a boat taken right before the tsunami that started the incredible mess Japan is in right now.
Truly terrifying video.

**I know most of you don’t give a hoot about college basketball, but Friday was a big day not just because it was the NCAA Tournament’s Day 2 (not a great day of games, frankly; only 2 or 3 really good ones), but for Duke fans it was the long-awaited return of freshman star Kyrie Irving, who’s been hurt for 3 months.

In his honor, I give you the great Mister Mister song and video “Kyrie.” (pronounced differently than the Duke star but hey, who’s counting.) You’re welcome.

(By the way, 1.6 million people have watched that clip. Don’t tell me ’80s music didn’t rule!)

**Some people are just too stupid to live. Others are just really, really confused and gullible. Not sure which category this guy falls into.
Couple weeks ago, the British government released a bunch of documents related to UFO sightings and other alien encounters. In one of the documents, it seems a man in 1998 called police when an entire hour of his life could not be accounted for. He was certain he had been abducted by aliens for 60 minutes, then returned to Earth.
After all, he knew where he was at 9 a.m., then the next thing he knew, it was 10 a.m. and he had no memory of anything! What else could it have been?
Turns out the guy just forgot to set his clock ahead for Daylight Savings Time.

How much fun it must be to get those calls if you’re the police.

The Madness begins. Another criminal calls the police. And literally the happiest man alive

**So in what has to be some kind of record, I live-blogged for 12 consecutive hours Thursday about the NCAA Tournament. Not sure if I should be proud or horrified, but I did it. Had a lot of fun, too. Great first day of games, led by Morehead State (who?) knocking off Louisville. I’ll be blogging again Friday, though probably not for 12 hours, here. So come join me if you get a few minutes starting at 12:15 p.m.

I don’t know what goes through these people’s heads. I really don’t.  But when you’re trying to buy cocaine, and feel you’ve been ripped off, it’s probably not the best idea in the world to call the police and complain.

But my man Antonio Recinos did that. Actually, Antonio did more than that. After he felt he was shorted by a drug dealer on a $40 bag of cocaine, he first tried to call 911.

Then Antonio spotted a patrol car near where he was in East Hartford, Conn., and walked over and explained his dilemma to the officer. Shockingly, the officer didn’t then go with Recinos to approach the dealer, demand he gave Recinos the correct amount of cocaine for his money, and then get back into his patrol car.
He arrested Recinos. Again, who could’ve seen that one coming?

**I love this story. The New York Times commissioned a study to determine who was the happiest person on America. Apparently, based on a variety of factors, like geographic location, ethnicity (Asian American Jews are apparently really happy), and some other stuff, they found that Alvin Wong of Honolulu, Hawaii is the happiest man in our nation.

This is so goofy that I have no doubt it was dreamed up by bored editors in a conference room on a Wednesday afternoon. This is exactly the kind of mindless idea that we journalists come up with, and think is just brilliant.

I’m sure Alvin Wong is happy. I’m sure he’s just a peach to be around. But I’m here to tell you, the happiest man in America is NOT Alvin Wong.
The happiest man in America is the last guy to cash out his stock with Bernie Madoff before Madoff got arrested.

(Go ahead, play The Partridge Family song again. You know you want to. It’ll make you feel happy!)

A terrific story of a wrongly-convicted man going free. A lawsuit that baffles me. And Gus. Oh, Gus…

**For the third year in a row I’m doing a live blog for the first few days of the NCAA Tournament for my newspaper. (I know, it’s stealing money. Shhhhh.) But this year it’ll be 11 percent cooler, because it’s going to be an interactive blog. Sort of like a chatroom, really (remember those?) So if you’re “out sick” watching the tournament (cough cough) or want to stop in for a few minutes at work, please come yell at me, or give me your thoughts on the games, or whatever, by clicking here starting at 12:15 p.m.

Every month or two Esquire magazine reminds of why I automatically re-up when my subscription is about to lapse. It’s home to some extraordinary writing. Like this piece by the very talented Mike Sager, who writes a searingly-great profile of Ray Towler, a man who was wrongly convicted of sexually molesting an 11-year-old girl in 1982, and spent nearly 30 years in prison before DNA evidence finally cleared him.
It burns me to no end that so many innocent people spend so much time in prison, because of our flawed criminal justice system. But it heartens me that Ray Towler, a man who has every right to be bitter at the world, is not. Sager beautifully tells the story of how this man survived life behind bars, and how appreciative he is of life now.
Take 15 minutes and read it, and marvel at the strength of the human spirit. It’s a fantastic article.

**I have no idea what to make of this story. A writer for the Associated Press in Minnesota named Jon Krawczynski was covering a Minnesota Timberwolves game recently, and on Twitter he reported that he heard an NBA referee, Bill Spooner, talking to a complaining Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis about a foul call. As Rambis moaned about the call, Spooner allegedly said that he’d “get it back” for Rambis later. Meaning, he’d give Rambis’ team a foul call later in the game to even things out.

Krawczynski Tweeted what he said he heard. Spooner found out about it, denies that he ever said such a thing to Rambis, and is now suing Krawczynski for defamation, claiming his reputation has been damaged.
My head spins from this. Was it wrong for the writer to write what he heard? I don’t think so. Should the ref be suing? Doesn’t seem so. But then again, a ref’s reputation is a huge part of his career, and especially in the NBA (remember Tim Donaghy?), even the whiff of crookedness (“Hey coach, I’ll make it up to you later.”) can be damaging. So part of me thinks Spooner has a right to be angry.

I have no idea which way I come down on this one. Would love to hear your thoughts.
Think the inventors of Twitter ever thought this would be a problem?

**Finally, since it’s the start of March Madness, two treats for hoops fans. First, some beautiful person has put together every “One Shining Moment” from 1997-2010 on one site. Yes, I’ve already watched them all at least once.

And second, because CBS announcer Gus Johnson might be THE best thing about the NCAA Tournament, I give you the best of Gus: (The Gonzaga-UCLA stuff about 1:15 in is my favorite part. And if anyone can tell me if that’s any kind of an English word Gus yells at 2:21, you’re a better man than me).

The craziest pre-school mom of all time. An extremely awesome fan chant. And God, enough with Japan already

Follow me on Twitter here. I’m becoming slightly addicted to it. OK, more than slightly. There are a ton of smart and funny Tweeters out there. I try to re-tweet as many as I can.

I try not to be outraged by these things. It’s probably not good for me. But come on, look at this story in the New York Post and tell me you’re not pissed off (and a hat tip to my friend Rob Connors for pointing me toward this).
Meet Nicole Imprescia. She’s the mother of a 4-year-old daughter named Lucia. Nicole enrolled her toddler at York Ave. Preschool in Manhattan. Only, after three weeks, Nicole yanked Lucia out of school, and is now SUING the pre-school for not preparing her kid properly for the rigors of elementary school, and (this is my favorite part), for forcing Lucia to spend time with lesser-minded 2-and 3-year-olds.

Excuse me, LESSER-MINDED 2 and 3 YEAR OLDS!!!!
Are you kidding me? What the hell IS a lesser-minded 2 and 3 year-old, first of all. Second, you’re suing a pre-school because your 4-year-old isn’t being intellectually stimulated enough. She’s FOUR! There’s no reason she can’t get all the stimulation she needs in pre-school.
Ugh. I am not at all surprised that this happened in Manhattan, as I’ve heard many horror stories from relatives and friends about the disgusting competitiveness at the elite-tot level. But heavens to Betsy (do people still say that? Maybe I’ll bring it back), this Nicole Imprescia woman needs to be taken outside and explained, calmly, that a kid’s future at Princeton is not ruined by playtime with shapes and colors at age 4.

Grrr. Just makes me so mad.

**My good friend Tony Jones works for the newspaper in Salt Lake City, and he covers Utah State, a very dangerously good team in the NCAA Tournament. He’s told me how amazing the Utah State student section is, and here’s some proof. This is the chant they do with 30 seconds left until gametime. It is beyond awesome, and I so wish I was there with them. What do they believe? Just listen (starts about :08 in.):

**Finally, a quick dashed-off memo to the man upstairs:

Dear God: Please leave Japan alone. Enough already. Hugs and kisses, Everyone else in the world.

I mean, seriously? As if Japan isn’t going through enough #@!!#@# already (is that how you spell that? I’ve always wanted to write that), with the nuclear radiation leakage, and the earthquakes, and the tsunamis, now comes news Wednesday that a fire broke out at one of the devastated reactors.
I mean, this is going beyond tragic, beyond incomprehensible, to something totally different.
What could possibly happen to these people next? Forget I asked. I don’t think anyone wants to find out.

The bullied kid who fought back. My latest brilliant workplace idea. And fun with Legos!

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In my experience, just about everyone in life either was bullied as a kid, or bullied someone else.

I fall into the former category, sadly though not surprisingly when you consider I was really short and wore glasses. For much of junior high and high school, Gino Pena, Joey Laudadio and others in their group of friends decided tormenting me was fun. It never got to a majorly physical level; mostly just pushing me against lockers, shoving my books out of my hands, that sort of thing.
Do I wish I had stood up to them more? Sometimes. But I try not to think about that stuff too much; what’s done is done.
But some of those old feelings got stirred up today when I saw the above video. It’s of a heavy kid named Casey, who finally had enough of being bullied. Watch that, and tell me you don’t feel like what he did was warranted.
The only way to stop a bully, sadly, is sometimes to stand up to them. This kid had had enough. And I doubt anyone at the school will mess with him anymore.

Also, talking about bullying gives me an excuse to link to one of my favorite magazine articles ever. It’s by the fantastic Tom Junod of Esquire, and it’s about the psyche of a bully and his victim. Truly incredible writing.

**So a friend of mine at work and I had this great brainstorm today. My employer at the newspaper has just instituted a new time-card system at work, which is different from any other newspaper I’ve worked at. We’re supposed to clock in and clock out and keep our hours to the minute.
My friend and I got to talking, and somehow we were discussing the inability to fall asleep at night. And then it occurred to me: Most of the time when I can’t fall asleep, I’m thinking about something I did or didn’t do at work that day, and all the things I have to do tomorrow.
So I spend the last 20-30 minutes of my day thinking about work. Shouldn’t that count as being “on the clock?” Shouldn’t I get to write down on my timecard that from 1-1:30 a.m. I “worked,” since I was lying in bed thinking about work?

Maybe it wouldn’t fly with the bosses. But it sure as heck would be accurate.

**I am a total sucker for these LEGO videos that seem to be everywhere these days. In this one, some genius re-enacts great moments in NCAA Tournament history through LEGO. I love it:

I tell you who to pick in your NCAA pool. And the Japan nightmare continues

Brackets, brackets, brackets. That’s all you’ll hear about for the next few days. You want to win some easy money in your office pool, but you just haven’t followed college basketball at all this year. Or you hate college basketball, but you still feel compelled, out of societal pressure, to write down some names of colleges and turn them in.

Well, I follow this stuff very closely, so if you want some free advice, here are some teams you might want to pick in your pools. I’m only giving you a few upset picks here, because anyone can just pick the top seeds.
First, though, I must say how incredibly pleased I am that Duke beat the holy hell out of North Carolina Sunday. Start to finish, pure domination. A beautiful thing.
OK, on to the brackets:
— Big first-round upsets: Oakland over Texas (trust me, Oakland is very, very good); Belmont over Wisconsin; Utah State over Kansas State (not really an upset, both are very good teams); Richmond over Vandy.
— Big 2nd-round upsets: Michigan State over Florida (never bet against Tom Izzo’s team in March, and the Gators were WAY over-seeded), and Washington over Carolina (yes, I hate the Tar Heels, but the Huskies are good and the Heels have a ton of freshman and sophomores who haven’t been through Tourney pressure).

My Final Four, amazingly, doesn’t include Duke. I love my team but I just don’t think they’re going to do it this year. Instead, I’ve got Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, and Arizona. Yes, Arizona.
Good luck in your pools, and if nothing I said comes true, hey, I never said any of it.

**I didn’t think it could get worse over the weekend for Japan, after the earthquake and the tsunami. But incredibly, it did. Two of the country’s nuclear reactors began leaking radioactive waste into the environment, and it could get much, much worse in the next few weeks and months.
First thing I thought of when I heard about this was, Good lord, these people had to suffer through Hiroshima and Nagasaki 66 years ago, and now they could have a similar horror on their hands.
Just awful, devastating news for a country that was already suffering after the quake. If you are in any position to help financially, please give whatever you can to the Red Cross at their website here. And an informative video about the reactors issue is here.

A football player answers all his fan mail, 3 years later. The best TV show endings ever. And an incredible day of college hoops

**Like I’m sure so many of you, I was touched by the news of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I really can’t fathom what an 8.9 earthquake must feel like. The pictures of the devastation are incredible; check them out here. Hoping and praying that those who can make it out of the devastation do so, alive.

Also don’t forget to set your clocks ahead one hour when you go to sleep tonight. Hey, we’re a full-service blog here at Wide World of Stuff.

So it’s official. As of midnight Friday night, the NFL has locked out its players. There may very well be no NFL games this fall. The owners are pissed at the players. The players are pissed at the owners. And most fans, I think, are like me: A pox on both their houses for killing this golden goose. Just shut up, get a deal done, and get football season going in September.
Still, I don’t want to be all doom and gloom-y about football today. Because I just read about one of the good guys in the NFL, Chris Cooley, and something cool he wrote about on his blog.
He went through box after box of his fan mail that had piled up. Like, 1,000 pieces of mail. And he answered each one. He also delivered some hilarious lines while doing so, like “I appreciate the invite to that wedding in July, 2008. I’m sure it was awesome!”

Go read it here if you want to laugh at least four times, out loud.

** My boy Pearlman wrote a nice little post on his blog about the best TV show series finales of all time. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart, because I get so emotionally attached to shows that I do get really sad at the end. I got weepy at the end of “The West Wing,” and the “Family Ties” ending gets me every time.

But for money, hands down, no doubt whatsoever the best ending was to the brilliant HBO show “Six Feet Under.” Six amazing minutes of television. Watch and enjoy.

**Finally, man oh man what an incredible day of college basketball it was Friday. UConn wins its fourth game in four days, in OT over Syracuse. Those damn Tar Heels from UNC rally from from 19 down to win on a buzzer-beater over Miami. Michigan State clinches a bid with a beatdown over Purdue. The Jimmer (Jimmer Fredette) scores 52 points for BYU. San Diego State gets a game-winning shot with 5 seconds left. My Dukies win, but Nolan Smith hurt his toe and who knows if he’ll play anymore this weekend.
What am I forgetting? Oh yeah, Louisville beats Notre Dame in OT.

Best conference tournament day I ever remember. And the NCAA Tournament doesn’t even start for six more days (play-in-games don’t count in my book.)

Rick Scott joins the “I hate teachers” movement. A great “Big Bang”line. And the man who loves Julia Roberts a little too much

While much of America’s political attention has been focused on the nutso Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin (and kudos to you, sir, for finally admitting with your secret little voting cabal the other night that the union-busting you’re doing has bubkes to do with the budget issus of your state), there’s a guy in my neck of the woods who’s equally dangerous.
Governor Rick Scott of Florida, a man who I still can’t believe was actually elected, has just rail-roaded through a bill that will even more tie teacher’s salaries and job security to test scores.
Scott is killing tenure for new teachers, who are always the most at-risk for being laid-off, anyway, and planning to spend billions to create new tests and standards.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.  Gov. Scott, you and so many others don’t get it. You CANNOT educate children by scaring the bejeezus out of their teachers., who work with a sword over their head if Johnny doesn’t do well enough on your standardized test.
You cannot educate children by demanding they learn and recite fact after fact, just to please the fat cats in the statehouse. You cannot spend billions of dollars that the state needs for other pressing problems making up fancy new standardized tests.
I’ve said it once on this blog, I’ve said it a dozen times: Yes, we need better ways to evaluate teachers, and allow principals the power to fire bad ones and promote good ones.
But demanding better test scores at the barrel of a gun is so, so the wrong way to do it.

**I could blog about “The Big Bang Theory” every day, that’s how damn funny it is.
But when a line makes me spit out the food I was eating, because I’m laughing so hard, I feel compelled to share.
From Thursday night’s episode, as Sheldon desperately tried to figure out a magic trick Howard was doing:
Penny: (ditzy blonde on show) “Big deal. Not knowing is part of the fun.”
Sheldon: Not knowing is part of the fun? What’s that, the motto of your community college?”

So good.

**Finally, this gentleman hasn’t learned the fine line between being a fan and being really, really creepy. Me, I’ve always loved Heather Locklear (don’t judge me.) But would I ever tattoo 82 pictures of her all over my body, as my man Miljenko Bukovic, a man from Chile, has with his crush, Julia Roberts? Probably not.
I am fascinated by this. EIGHTY-TWO tattoos? Don’t you think after, like, 46 some of his friends were like “Milo, brother, we loved “Pretty Woman” and “Mystic Pizza”, too, but don’t you think that’s enough with the permanent ink on your body? I mean, have you SEEN this Scarlett Johansson chick? She’s pretty hot, too.”
I’m guessing the only person who encourages Milo to keep going with the Roberts-obsessive behavior is his tattoo artist.
I’m guessing Milo’s tattoo artist has put a new roof on his house, and gotten a flat-screen TV out of all this.

Ah, I love crazy people.