Monthly Archives: May 2011

Ohio State throws out a liar. A fabulous front page. And the ultimate beauty pageant irony

Reminder to my fellow tennis fans: Follow my daily French Open blog here. And follow me on Twitter here.

How long does it take a liar and a cheat to get himself fired?
Quite a long time, if you’re a very successful college football coach. It takes months and months of revelations and lies, cover-ups and pleas of ignorance, until finally, finally, finally, the evidence becomes overwhelming.
The scandal becomes too great, and even your die-hard supporters in the administration abandon you.

Yep, Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel finally resigned on Monday, a good six months after revelations of his cheating ways started surfacing. It looked even after Tressel was found to have lied to the NCAA, and to his school, and to everyone else, that he’d get to keep his job.
But then Sports Illustrated released the details of its investigation Monday, with new sordid allegations about players driving cars that weren’t theirs, sordid stories of players selling memorabilia for tattoos and weed, and other fun stuff.

And so Tressel, even though he wins 11 games a year and contends for a national title at one of the most football-obsessed schools in America, had to go. I’m quite frankly surprised he was forced out; I thought at Ohio State you could basically get away with everything but murder if you beat the boys from Ann Arbor every year.

Good riddance to Tressel, and the corrupt Ohio St. program. Of course there are plenty of other cheaters yet to be caught, but it is nice to know that every once in a great while in life, there are consequences to actions.

**There were a lot of great Memorial Day tributes in newspapers across America Monday; it’s one of the things newspapers still do so well, the heart-tugging story about brave soldiers who died too young.
But I thought this front page from the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger was just beautiful.

**Finally, I love this story. Laurel Gordon is a senior at Elma High School in Elma, Wash. For the past two years Laurel has been Grays Harbor County’s  Dairy Ambassador (a darn cool title for a beauty pageant-type deal) and is now a contestant for the state dairy ambassador title in next month’s competition.

Which would be quite an honor. Only one thing: Laurel is lactose-intolerant.
Yep, the high priestess of dairy in Elms, Wash. can’t stomach the stuff! Someone please contact the Dept. of Irony and tell them we have an emergency.

As a fellow lactose-intolerant person (I have no patience for lactose, nor does my stomach), I feel your pain, Laurel. Glad to know you can still sing the praises of dairy!

A reason to like Barry Bonds (seriously). Amy Poehler wows ’em at Harvard. And a tribute on Memorial Day

It’s a holiday Monday and you’re thinking: Give me a reason to like Barry Bonds.
Sure, he’s a total ass, and a surly jerk, and he lied about using steroids to break the most hallowed record in all of sports (Hank Aaron’s 755 career home runs) and he kicks dogs and knocks down old ladies who are crossing the street.

But besides all that, he’s a big lovable fella, right?

Well, it’s taken about 25 years since he first got famous, but Barry Bonds has finally done something worth praising. Remember the story a few months ago of the San Francisco Giants fan named Bryan Stow who was savagely beaten into a coma by two L.A. Dodgers fans in the parking lot?
Well, Mr. Barry Bonds has offered to pay the college tuition of Stow’s two young children.
A wonderful gesture by Bonds, and one he should be applauded for.
Even if it feels strange for us to cheer the man.

**The very funny Amy Poehler was the commencement speaker at Harvard last week. Just about all of her speech here is really, really funny. Poehler seems like one of those celebrities who doesn’t take themselves too seriously, and realizes how odd it is that she’s speaking to the finest minds of this generation.

Her advice is fantastic. Enjoy:

**Finally, for Memorial Day, something I never get tired of seeing: A wonderful video of soldiers returning home and surprising their loved ones.

To all men and women who have served, I salute you.

A beautiful ode to writers, by a good one. A weatherman fail. And an NFL rookie takes girl to the prom

It’s always hard for me to explain to people why I love and admire great writers so much.
Maybe it’s that because I’m in the same profession, I know how hard it is to do what they do (kinda like how singers idolized Sinatra, or tennis players see the brilliance of Federer).
Or maybe they just make me feel better about what I do, because if I’m in the same profession as these guys, there must be some nobility in it somewhere.

I’m rambling here. But a terrific writer named Kevin Van Valkenburg has penned this beautiful essay on Chris Jones’s great blog, about a night he and some fellow writers spent at the legendary NYC bar, Elaine’s, and the fear and thrill he felt at being there.

It really says a lot of things that I feel but aren’t always able to express. Please give it a read; it’s well worth five minutes of your time.

**Here’s a local weatherman not realizing he’s on the air, and making a total ass of himself. For some reason this really made me laugh:

**And now, a heartwarming story about an NFL rookie.

J.T. Thomas was just drafted by the Chicago Bears. He befriended a 14-year-old girl named Joslyn Levell. Levell, who lives in Morgantown, W.Va. (where Thomas went to college) has spina bifida and is confined to a wheelchair most of the time, so you can imagine the pain and suffering her life is filled with.

But last week, she got to experience a joyful almost all teens experience: She went to her prom. With a Chicago Bear.

Read this story and believe in the positive effect that one person can have on the world.

In praise of 25 years at the Church of Oprah. A quick Lebron thought. And Darth Vader entertains senior citizens

“The Oprah Winfrey Show” ended Wednesday. Maybe you heard something about it.
If you’re already sick of the hype about the ending of a television talk show, you might want to skip this post.
But I just wanted to say a few words about maybe the most powerful, influential woman in America.
It’s easy to mock the “cult” of Oprah; the millions of people who hang on her every word, do exactly what she tells them to do, etc.
But I won’t do that. Because let’s take a look at what Oprah has been telling people to do for the last quarter-century:
Believe in yourself. Take control of your life. Don’t allow people to mistreat you. Don’t mistreat others. Strive for greatness. Live your dreams. Help other people achieve theirs.
Make yourself a better person. Make the world better.
Through 25 years, through all the shows she did, that was pretty much her mantra.
And is it so bad, then, if a person like that has millions and millions of followers?
I didn’t watch Oprah every day. But I watched her show plenty; sometimes with a family member, sometimes with my wife, sometimes just by myself.
Usually, you learned something from Oprah and her guests. You learned about courage, about wisdom, about overcoming obstacles. Or you just learned in a small way, how to make your life better.
Oprah Winfrey was at tremendous force of good in the lives of so many others. And beyond all the other hype and criticism you may find of her, that’s as good a legacy as anyone could ever hope for.

**Watched the 4th quarter of the Bulls-Heat NBA playoff game Thursday night. Damn, LeBron James is good. Much as I hate the 180-degree turn in his attitude since before “The Decision,” he reminded me again Thursday night why I loved him so much in the first place.
A phenomenal 4th quarter performance. Just cold-blooded, cutting the heart out of the Bulls.
All that said, go Dallas in the Finals!

**And now, for something completely different. Found this clip on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, which I love for many reasons, but one of which is, he always seems to post random clips of joy. And I LOVE random clips of joy.
So here is a man, dressed as Darth Vader, entertaining people at a senior citizens center in New York.

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A quick rant about the supermarket. A great Randy Savage piece. And Bobby Bonilla, still killing the Mets, 20 years later

Reminder to my fellow tennis fans: Follow my daily French Open blog here.

OK, go with me here for a minute.
Let’s say you own a store. You put a sign out front that says your hours are from 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
But around 7:30 p.m. every night, parts of your store just close. This area is off-limits to customers who come late, and then that area, and pretty soon, you’ve got 3 or 4 departments who are not open for the full-time that you say you’re open.
Crazy, right?

This is what drives me nuts about supermarkets. Last weekend I went shopping around 8 p.m. after getting off work. Deli counter? Already closed. Then I go to the fish counter to try to get dinner. Nope, fish counter was closed, too.

Why do we accept this, as customers? Shouldn’t every part of the store be open, if any part of the store is open? But no, we just accept that that’s the way it is and move on.
Makes me mad. I wanted flounder that night, dammit.

**My man Pearlman has written a terrific story on the minor league baseball career of the recently-deceased wrestler Randy “Macho Man” Savage. It’s the little details in the reporting that I love so much;  here it’s stuff like the name of the road Savage’s hotel was on in Florida, and the anecdote about pitching with his other arm.
It’s really one of the best things Jeff has written in a long time.

**If you grew up in New York in the early 1990s like I did, it’s impossible to overstate how unpopular Bobby Bonilla was with Mets fans.
Signed to a huge contract after a solid career with the Pirates, Bonilla was hideous with the Mets, not producing on the field, and being a jerk to fans and the media. I believe he once challenged a sportswriter to a fight, but hey, we sportswriters are a pretty mean lot.

Anyway, I’m sure Mets fans haven’t thought about “Bobby Bo,” except in their nightmares, for a decade. But they’re thinking about him now. It was revealed by the New York Post last week that thanks to some deferred money in his bought-out contract from 1999, Bonilla’s about to start getting some big checks.
The Mets were eager to dump Bonilla back then, so he agreed to a buyout with deferred money, and it’s now come due. The Mets, already bleeding cash, will pay Bonilla $1.2 million a year for the next 25 years.

Ah, the Mets. Gotta love it.

The devastating Joplin tornado and global warming. And Katy Perry demands you not drive and speak to her

I can’t stop looking at these photos from the Joplin, Mo. tornado.
As bad the pictures from Tuscaloosa, Ala. were a few weeks ago, it seems like these were worse.
Hearing the stories, on CNN and elsewhere like this NY Times account, is heartbreaking. This tornado will go down as one of the worst in history, experts are saying.
Besides feeling awful for the victims, all this tornado coverage got me thinking about global warming.
Seems to me tornadoes used to be isolated to just a few small parts of the country. Kansas, Oklahoma, and maybe 1-2 other states.
We never had tornadoes in Alabama. Not often in Missouri, either. And the powerful force of these babies is almost unprecedented.
So I got to wondering if global warming might be to blame. You know, if it exists (all those Republicans seem to deny it, and hey, when are THEY ever wrong?)
This article here says global warming could be one factor in the rash of big tornadoes, but it’s not the main reason.
And global warming will only get worse, as our leaders continue to debate whether it even exists.
Hoping and praying the people of Joplin get through this disaster in one piece.

**I never have had particularly strong feelings about the singer Katy Perry. Saw a story on her on the news once, she seemed like a nice-enough person, a few of her songs seem decent, yada yada yada.

But thanks to The Smoking Gun, I have learned what a narcissistic, obnoxious prig she (and her handlers) are.
TSG has acquired Katy Perry’s concert “rider,” which if you don’t know, is the incredibly detailed list of requirements and demands that rock stars’ management give to concert promoters and arena managers. Basically, it’s a list of conditions and things that, if you want to get the star to play your arena, you have to adhere to.
Among all the other demands for certain foods and furniture Miss Perry must have at her disposal, was this page with Perry’s requirements for her driver.
The driver must not look at Miss Perry. He/She must not engage her in any conversation, he must not talk on his cell phone at all, and for God’s sake, the driver must have FOUR bottles of water in the car at all times!

This kind of stuff makes me nuts. Now listen, I know she’s not the only rock star who acts like this, or has her handlers act like this for them. But it still makes me crazy.

There’s probably 5,000 words in me on the subject of how ridiculous it is that we glorify rock stars (and all celebrities, really) so they think they’re entitled to make such insane demands on people, and demean them so.
But for now, let me just issue this one request: Chaueffeurs of the world, if you’re ever driving Katy Perry around your town, I dare you to say hello to her!

Lance, Lance, Lance: Impossible to defend Armstrong now. Epic NBA collapse. And Kyle gets Buckets, 2.0

Note: For you tennis fans,  I’m once again doing a daily French Open blog for my newspaper. Check it out here. And follow me on Twitter here.

I’ll admit it. I was a Lance Armstrong believer.
Maybe I’m naive. Through all of the whispered accusations from discredited sources, to the French media hounding him for well over a decade, I thought the 7-time Tour de France winner was basically clean.

No positive drug tests in all these years had me thinking he was a miracle, a cancer survivor who worked so hard to reach the top of his profession, and he did it cleanly.
He was an inspiration to so many people, not just cancer survivors, and I’d say he was maybe the most admired athlete in America.
And I just didn’t believe he was a cheat.
But after watching “60 Minutes” Sunday night, well … I give in. I give up. Given what Tyler Hamilton and other former U.S. Cycling teammates have to say, and what they’ve allegedly said to a grand jury,  I can’t possibly defend Armstrong anymore.
The evidence has gotten overwhelming. Former teammates are testifying to grand juries about testosterone injections and EPO drops and all kinds of filthy, dirty practices they engaged in with Armstrong.
The scariest allegation for me was Hamilton’s claim that Armstrong and his protectors basically had a positive drug test he produced in 2001 disappeared, so it would never come out.

And so now, we wait. We wait for Lance Armstrong to finally stop the lies and obfuscations, and do what Marion Jones and Mark McGwire and so many others finally did: they stopped ducking and ignoring and admit what they’ve done.
This admission by Armstrong, when it comes (and it will come eventually) will crush millions. Here was a guy who positively, absolutely represented all that was good about athletes, and how much can be overcome with talent and dedication.
And it looks like he was just as dirty as so many others.
It’s sad, really. Even sadder if Armstrong continues to lie to all of us, the people who believed he was worthy of admiration.
Watch the “60 Minutes” video and tell me how you can come to any other conclusion: Lance Armstrong is a fraud.
LiveStrong? More like CheatStrong.

**A few minutes ago I just finished watching the Oklahoma City-Dallas NBA playoff game.
And I’m having a hard time believing what I just saw. The Thunder were in total control the entire game, and led by 15 with about five minutes to go.
Then, like Donald Trump’s presidential hopes, it all fell apart. Dallas started scoring, Dirk Nowitzki, who is reaching a new level this playoff season, hit some crazy shots, and soon the game was in overtime and the Thunder were stunned and lost the game.
It was shocking and once again reminded me why sports are SO much better than “reality” TV and scripted shows: Because you never know what’s going to happen.
Looks like we’re headed to a Dallas-Miami NBA Finals. Which would put most of America in the unfamiliar position of rooting for Mark Cuban.

**Finally, a few months ago I linked to a crazy-cool Kyle Singler trick-shot video. Well, he’s back with another. Kyle Gets Buckets, 2.0. The shot from the top of Duke Chapel is just nuts.

A moving film about the Freedom Riders. And Paul Simon makes a fan’s dream come true

Fifty years ago, a revolution was ignited with a simple idea.
Take courageous African-Americans and a few white folks, send them into the Deep South on Greyhound buses, and see if integration could occur while the riders did their damnedest to practice non-violence.
What happened changed American history for the better. These riders were beaten, bloodied and forced to endure disgusting racism across several states.
But they did it, and those buses were part of the great rolling movement that in the 1960s, changed the world.
PBS debuted a movie last week about the Freedom Riders, as part of its “An American Experience” series, and I watched it Friday night.
It was fabulous. Deeply moving. And eye-opening.  As much as I thought I knew about the Freedom Rides, just from history class and my own reading, I learned a lot more.
Such as:
— The Kennedy administration was a lot less supportive than I’d thought, and truly only got involved once the violence escalated.
— The Freedom Riders’ idea on the second and third rides, to get arrested and refuse to be bailed out so as to fill up Mississippi’s Parchman prison, was genius.
— How strongly did Southern governors feel about segregation? Alabama governor John Patterson actually refused to take phone calls from President Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy during the crisis.

It’s really a sensational movie, and it doesn’t sanitize anything. You see all the ugliness, including a bus-burning in Alabama. The courage of volunteers like John Lewis, Diane Fisk, and Pauline Knight-Ofusu inspires me.
The volunteers knew it could be a very dangerous exercise; one woman says that “we had all signed our wills and testament” before agreeing to ride.
These men and women were true American heroes, and their story is beautifully told in this movie. I highly recommend checking it out.
You can watch the entire movie online here, or check our local PBS listings; it’s airing at different times throughout this month.

Man, I wish I had been alive back then.

**Finally, a big smile for your Monday, brought to my attention by the incomparable Roger Ebert’s blog. Paul Simon was playing a concert in Toronto a few weeks ago, and as he introduced the song “Duncan,” a fan shouted out that she learned to play guitar to that song.
Simon replied: “Come up here and play it on my guitar.”

And so Rayna Ford of Newfoundland got the thrill of her life. Just look at how happy she is playing this song. It takes so little for celebrities to make dreams come true.

John Lithgow dramatically reads Newt Gingrich. And Oprah, making another dream come true.

John Lithgow is one of those actors who I forget about for years, then see him do something funny, and I’m like “Of course! I love John Lithgow! Why haven’t I thought about him more?”

The acting legend was at it again last week; this was from the Stephen Colbert show last week. It’s Lithgow, doing a dramatic reading of a Newt Gingrich press release. Brilliant:

**So you may have heard that Oprah Winfrey is wrapping up her show in a few days.  I’ll probably have more to say about Oprah in a few days after I watch her final shows (no, I don’t watch Oprah usually, but I’m a sucker for series finales and stuff like that); she’s a complex woman who has done so much good for so many, and spreads her wealth around in a very good way.
Yes, her followers are a little cult-like, and yes, Oprah gets way too preachy sometimes, but she still does so much more good than bad.
As her show has wound down, she seems to be making even more grand gestures than usual. I was moved by this video I came across Saturday; it’s Oprah and her “favorite guest,” a woman named Terarai Grant, who rose from being a poorly-educated, abused woman in Zimbabwe to get her Masters degree and become a successful businesswoman (see Oprah’s original story about Grant here).
The other day, on one of her final shows, Oprah made this incredible gesture to help Grant. It moved me; hope you like it as well.

The Macho Man is dead: R.I.P, Randy Savage. And stuff to read during the Rapture

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 A sad day Friday for those of us who grew up in the 1980s loving the “sport” of professional wrestling.
Randy “Macho Man” Savage, as fine a talker as ever entered the squared circle, suffered a heart attack while driving in Florida Friday, and died at age 58.
Can’t say enough good things about Randy Savage, the wrestler. The guy oozed charisma. He was insane, certainly. But he was so good at harnessing his manic energy, and getting you excited, too.
Savage’s match with Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania III was one of the greatest matches of all time. And the fact that Macho gave the world the lovely Miss Elizabeth, well, that’s clearly a feather in his cap.

Savage was one of a kind, with his crazy robes, his awesome entrance to the ring (“Pomp and Circumstance” was clearly written for a guy who wore feathered robes), and his athletic ability.
Rest in peace, Randy Poffo. Your flying elbow off the top rope will never be forgotten.
And now, a classic Macho Man moment; when he turned on Hulk Hogan and the “Mega-Powers” broke up:

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**Well, if you’re reading this, the world has not ended Saturday, as so many have predicted (I guess if you’re reading this Sat. morning, the Rapture could still happen. It just hasn’t happened yet.)

Couple of funny things I read Friday about this ludicrous idea that the world was about to end. First, from, a quick Q and A from the point of view of a college professor, answering students questions about what to do if the world ends.

Second, my man Pearlman has written a few things, stuff he wants to get off his chest before the world ends. Speak truth, Mr. Pearlman, and you shall be set free!
Hope to see you all on Sunday. If we make it.