Monthly Archives: May 2011

Ramblings on pink whistles, the joy of movies dubbed in Spanish, and great fun during rain delays

Nothing in particular seems worth writing a few hundred words about tonight, so I’m just going to give you a bunch of scattered thoughts from my brain today. No real coherent thread to this post, but those are overrated anyway.

** About every six months or so, as I’m flipping around the dial, I land on the channel that dubs American movies into Spanish. And invariably, I’m transfixed for at least five minutes, and doubled over with laughter soon after. Tonight I got my fix with a few minutes of “Tango and Cash,” specifically, the scene where Stallone and Russell are in prison and about to be tortured by the bad guys.
Spanish dubbing of American movies, especialy crappy ones like “Tango y Dinero” just crack me up.

**From the “Are you freaking kidding me?” Dept.: Last fall, to support the awareness of breast cancer, about 150 referees in the state of Washington wore pink whistles during games one night. It was a nice gesture, done by people in sports all the time to bring awareness to the deadly disease.
But no good deed goes unpunished. Those refs were just banned from working postseason games for the next two years by the referees’ association in Washington, for violating the uniform code.
Seriously, how ridiculous is this?

**One of the great real food joys of my life: An Entenmann’s crumb cake. Haven’t had one in forever, but last week on my way home from a state playoff baseball game I passed an Entenmann’s outlet store, so of course I stopped. Man those crumb cakes are awesome.

**Truly fantastic article by S.L. Price in this week’s Sports Illustrated, on Novak Djokovic. The timing was perfect for SI; Price had been working on this piece for months, obviously, hoping Djokovic would keep playing well to make the story timely. And he did. So it is.
It’s also exquisitely well-written, a story about the pride of Serbia, and a man whose tennis is helping rebuild that war-destroyed nation.

**My good friend Buddy has a 6-year-old son who’s just wild about hockey. The kid loves playing it and watching it, and has only gotten into it in the last year or so.
So because he’s a great Dad, Buddy is trying to learn about the sport he knows nothing about. I’ve quickly become his tutor, since hockey is truly one of my great passions. I think it’s sweet that Buddy cares so much, looking for one more way to relate to his kids.
He’s still confused by the whole “strategy of dumping the puck in” thing, though.

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**Finally, because this is too hilarious not to be shared, the Clemson and Davidson baseball teams had some fun during a rain delay the other day. And so they did all of this. If you only watch one part of this (and the whole thing is great) fast forward to 2:55 to see human curling.

Two more small steps in accepting gays in sports. Mike Tyson, ballroom dancer. And the worst political ad ever

It’s the middle of 2011, and sometimes I can’t believe we’re not there yet.
But we’re not. Still, incredibly, we’re living in a country where not one major American athlete has come out of the closet and admitted he’s gay while playing his sport.
All the progress that has been made in America, and still, this fear and this taboo exists for the gay male pro athlete (and of course there are pro athletes who are gay. Anyone who believes differently is fooling themselves.)

Still, this week brought two encouraging signs of progress. Small steps, maybe, but steps nonetheless.
The president of the Phoenix Suns, and a very well-respected man in basketball circles, Rick Welts, admitted he’s gay in an interview with the New York Times. It’s a remarkable story, about a man forced to hide so much of who he was as he rose through the ranks of the NBA.
And then I saw this story on about former Villanova player Will Sheridan, who has come out and acknowledged that he, too, is gay.
Sheridan said something very beautiful in this story, something I want to share here:
“I’m trying to have a voice, and I want that voice to reach as many people as it can,” he said. “I mean, look at me. I’m black. I’m gay. I’m like a quadruple minority, and I feel like a little piece of me resides in everybody. Maybe there’s a kid out there who doesn’t think he’s OK, and he can look at me and say, ‘OK, he played college basketball. He went overseas. He has a music career and now he’s living his life. Now he’s who he wants to be and he’s happy and confident and comfortable.’ It’s my responsibility to talk about that.”

Amen, Will. Amen. I just wish someone in the pro sports spotlight right now had the same courage.  It would do so much good for so many.

**Because anything that involves Mike Tyson is 12 percent funnier than it would be without Mike (I measured it, 12 percent funnier, guaranteed), I give you this: Mike Tyson and a  pretty woman, ballroom dancing and looking damn good while doing it.

**I would love to have been in the meeting when Congressional candidate Dan Adler’s people told him that this ad was a good idea.

I mean, seriously????  Watch and be astounded; I was.

Governor Ah-nold, revealed again as a dirty boy. And the new ESPN book spills dirt

There were lots of people in 2003, me included, who couldn’t fathom why anyone in California would want Arnold Schwarzenegger to be their governor.
He wasn’t that smart. He had no good ideas. He had a Australia-sized dose of charisma and charm, sure. But the man was repeatedly exposed as a sexist, serial groper of women, and even though California was in awful shape then (though now it’s in worse shape, of course), I couldn’t possibly understand why anyone would vote for him.

Well, eight years later, here’s Arnold. He left California in awful shape, and it turns out the lovely Maria Shriver left him after finding out Arnold cheated on her and has a child with another woman.
What a disgrace. And to think he got to lead one of the biggest states in the union.
The brilliant L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez, a Schwarzenegger skeptic from Day 1, has written this terrific piece about the former governor.
I read it and just shook my head. The leaders we choose aren’t always what we deserve…

**Next week brings the publication of a brand-new book about one of my favorite subjects: ESPN. Like many of you, I’m sure, I used to love the now-enormous media giant. And then slowly, slowly, slowly as it grew so gigantic, little parts of its soul started melting away, piece by piece, until finally last summer, in one of the low points of our civilization, they allowed LeBron James to hijack the network for one giant French kiss to himself.
Anyway, telling the story of the history of ESPN has been attempted before, but never quite to this extent. James Miller and Tom Shales, who wrote the fabulous book “Live from New York” about Saturday Night Live, have written the story of ESPN’s rise. They interviewed 550 people, and apparently there’s a lot of good and bad in there.
The good: Lots of creative, brilliant people worked there, including Keith Olbermann (who gets praised and savaged in this excerpt I highly recommend).
The bad: A culture of sexual harassment was rampant, and egos were out of control, leading to so many bad ideas.
As much as I’ve grown to dislike ESPN, I do love it for one thing: Its explosion led to so many more televised sports events. Which is a good thing for nuts like me.
Check out the book on Amazon here.

A fun night at the improv show. A crazy hockey goal. And the Wes Leonard tragedy, still reverberating

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I had a rare Monday night outing last night. My friend George has been taking improv comedy classes at this studio in Orlando for months, and Monday he invited us all down for his “graduation” show, in front of a live audience (that’s not them, above; just a random pic I found online).
It was an awesome time.
I love watching improv, because you can’t fake it. Either you’ve got the chops for it, and can think on your feet and be smart and funny, or you don’t.
It was fascinating to watch the 12 amateur actor/comedians on stage. Some of them were confident and fearless; within the first 10 minutes I could tell that Dustin and Alex (one of the four girls on stage) were terrific and were probably the stars of their class.
Just as easily, I could tell the two class members who struggled the most, I’m sure; they were nervous and hesitant and never quite sure when to jump in with a funny line.
Some of the skits were hilarious; George brought the house down with a line about the Lucky Charms guy and a rainbow (had to be there.)
Some of them were downright painful; in one sketch each of three actors had to pretend to be one of the other actors’ voices; it sounds impossible and it kinda was.
I’ve always wanted to try improv; I’m pretty quick on my feet, I love the stage (if you know me you’ll not be the least surprised that I volunteered Monday during one of the “audience participation” skits) and I think I’d be good at it.
One day I will try it. And hopefully I’ll be with a group as funny as the one at Orlando’s SAK Comedy Lab on Monday.
Great times with good friends, can’t beat that.

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**This is a pretty sick hockey goal, scored by Mikael Granlund of Finland in the hockey world championships Friday.
The announcer hyperventilates, but check out the replays of this incredible goal. Not sure I’ve ever seen one scored like it in a game.

**Finally, you may remember in early March the tragedy of Wes Leonard, the 17-year-old Michigan high school basketball player who collapsed and died of a heart attack following Fennville High’s final game of the regular season.
Playing with a burden most of us will never know, the team honored their teammate and won three playoff games before its season ended.
ESPN’s terrific “Outside The Lines” TV show took a look at Fennville and how its coping, 2 months later. It’s a beautiful piece told without narration, just the voices of those who’ve lived this tragedy and come out the other side.
Warning: You may need some tissues while watching this one. But it’s worth it.

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An uplifting story of a team and its biggest little fan. The NY Post does it again. And an outrageous false accusation has ripples

Here’s something that I hope puts a smile on your face as you start the week. The Albany (N.Y.) River Rats hockey team, despite having one of the worst nicknames I’ve ever heard, captured the heart of a little boy who was born with a rare, extremely painful disease that causes tumors to grow all over his body.
When the team was sold and moved to Charlotte, N.C., the kid, Zach Bennett, was devastated.
So devastated that the Bennett family took the crazy step of moving to North Carolina to be near the team. And then, well, this happened. Watch this 3-minute story (it’s worth sitting through the ad, I promise!), and become a fan of the Charlotte Checkers hockey team for life:

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**Ah, the New York Post has done it again. I’m sure you heard the story over the weekend that there was some pornography found inside Osama bin Laden’s compound there in Pakistan.

Well, the New York Daily News ran with the headline “Osama Porn Laden.” Which was solid. Good job, News.
But the Post, well, they’re the Post. It’s OK to laugh at this one, as wrong as it is:

**Finally today, a story that outraged me. And I hope it outrages you. Sean Lanigan was a teacher and soccer coach in Fairfax County, Va. He’s a father of three, a beloved teacher and coach who never was in one iota of trouble with the law.
Until a 12-year-old girl who he had reprimanded for bullying decided she would get even. She accused Lanigan of sexually molesting her, and despite an acquittal from a jury in 47 minutes, and the girl later posting on Facebook “it was a joke,” Lanigan’s life has fallen apart.
The school district, unconscionably, refused to give him his job back, or pay his legal fees as they are required to do. Two years later, Lanigan is still fighting this unfair and untrue reputation, unable to work full-time and dealing with mental anguish I can only imagine.
The prosecutor’s office in this case ought to be ashamed, and the lead detective (who never even interviewed the girl!) should be in serious trouble. There was ZERO evidence in this case.
This story is an absolute tragedy. That one 12-year-old girl could destroy a man’s life is criminally unfair. That so many adults can still fail to accept his innocence and give him his life back is unfathomable to me.

A woman hurt by racism graduates, 55 years later. And the high-schooler who challenged Bachmann to a debate

Two stories that made me smile today, while I await a great sports Sunday highlighted by another Novak Djokovic-Rafael Nadal clash, and an NBA Game 7 featuring Memphis and Oklahoma City…

The stains of racism in this country never fully go away. Which is why I love it when I read a story like this, about one individual who was treated terribly by racists a half-century ago, getting the last laugh.

Fifty-five years ago, Burlyce Sherrell Logan began attending the University of North Texas. But because she was an African-American, she was discriminated against. The college president even said he “didn’t want you here, but the state says you can be here.” Logan said she had rocks thrown at her, she was pushed in front of a moving car, and of course, had a cross burned in her lawn.

After two years of this, Logan had had enough. She quit school and got on with her life.
That was 1958.  Six years ago, Logan returned to North Texas, and now earned her Bachelor’s degree.

“I know it’s the same place I used to be, because I recognize the buildings, but it’s really like a different place,” she told The New York Times. “Nobody shoves anybody, nobody stares at you, and even when I was in a wheelchair, nobody seemed to mind. It’s the way the world should always be.”
Such a great story. Good triumphs over evil almost always in this world, you just have to know where to look.

**I love this story so much. A high school sophomore from New Jersey named Amy Myers has challenged reality-challenged U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann to a debate on civics and the U.S. Constitution.
Myers wrote Bachmann leter, which can be read here, basically telling her that Bachmann’s constant distortion and lies are bad for women, and that “the frequent inability you have shown to accurately and factually present even the most basic information about the United States” is a real problem.

There’s no way in a million years Bachmann will accept. We’ll be saluting President Trump before Bachmann would even debate a Democrat, much less a kid who’s smarter than she is.
Still, I applaud you, Amy Myers. Great job. Bachmann truly is a danger to America. And so few people call her out on stuff.

The TV crawl and how it’s changed our lives. The World Beard Contest. And Donald Duck is a dirty, dirty duck (maybe)

This weekend, one of the world’s strangest competitions is being held. That’s right, it’s the World Beard and Moustache championships, where the heavyweights of the hirsute set meet to compare notes and ask each other questions. I’m guessing one of those questions is “Does your wife hector you about cutting the damn thing off already, too?

Seriously, I love these guys. To take this much time and effort into your facial hair, while you know the rest of the world is mocking you, just to try to win this competition, has to be admirable.

**This thought has been pinging around my cranium for a few days. Ever wonder just how much the bottom of the screen crawl/ticker thing has changed our lives? It was an ESPN innovation at first, so they could update fans on sports scores a lot quicker than the previous “:28/:58” every half-hour crawl they used to use. (anyone else remember the great “:28/:58” updates on ESPN? I would sit there waiting with breathless anticipation for the Rangers or Yankees score to come up.)
After 9/11, CNN and all the other news networks started using it, since there was so much news going on in the weeks after the terrorist attack.
Now, the crawl is everywhere, at all times of the day. And while it can be annoying to some (I dislike it once in a while), it’s completely changed how we watch TV.
I find myself reading the crawl on CNN just as often as I watch and listen to the main broadcast. I anxiously check the crawl for sports scores and get mad if I just missed the score I’m looking for. (“What, I’ve got to wait FIVE whole minutes for it come back on again?”).
It’s an innovation that has transformed TV, giving us the news instantly, as soon as we want it.
And I think it’s taken for granted. So I just wanted to say I appreciate the crawl. And I’m glad to be alive in 2011.

(This only tangentially applies, but writing about the crawl and the 28/58 thing got me thinking of one of my favorite Bill Simmons columns ever (back when he was still a writer, which he hardly is anymore). It’s an open letter to 1982 Bill, explaining the future of sports television. I laughed pretty hard at it.

**Finally, Donald Duck got exonerated this week. The lovable mallard apparently was charged with fondling a customer at Epcot Center in Florida last year, while taking a picture with her.
Well, OK, so he didn’t really get exonerated. He settled the case out of court with the woman he allegedly groped.

Donald, Donald, Donald. You know better than that. Touching customers is not nice.
If you’ve got to get handsy with someone, well, I’m sure Cinderella is free on Saturday night.

Chaz Bono on Letterman: a fascinating interview. The nerdiest correction of all time. And Jon Stewart slaps Fox News silly

David Letterman is brilliant, sharp-witted, and quite funny. And I think most people know this.
But what Dave doesn’t get credit for is how, given the right guest and the right subject matter, he can be a hell of an interviewer.
I was reminded of this Wednesday night, when I was utterly transfixed watching Dave interview Chaz Bono, the transgender son of Sonny and Cher (he used to be their daughter, Chastity Bono.)
Maybe it was the mood I was in, or maybe I was just struck by how confident and at ease Bono was; he truly was a fantastic explainer of all things transgender to Dave. Bono seemed self-assured, confident and happy.
But Letterman completely kept things on point, asked interesting questions, and the result was some really compelling television; watch for yourself, above (Part 2 can be found on YouTube, also.)

**I love newspaper corrections, as you may know. I think they’re often incredibly funny and interesting.
This recent one from the New York Times, though, absolutely takes the cake.

“An item in the Extra Bases baseball notebook last Sunday misidentified, in some editions, the origin of the name Orcrist the Goblin Cleaver, which Mets pitcher R. A. Dickey gave one of his bats. Orcrist was not, as Dickey had said, the name of the sword used by Bilbo Baggins in the Misty Mountains in “The Hobbit”; Orcrist was the sword used by the dwarf Thorin Oakenshield in the book. (Bilbo Baggins’s sword was called Sting.)”

I mean … wow. That is one hell of a detailed correction! Do you think, like, the Times was inundated with Lord of the Rings fans complaining about the error? Do you think Dickey was stalked at the ballpark by dress-up hobbits demanding he correct the mistake, and haranguing him?

What a great correction.

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**Finally, Jon Stewart, slapping Fox News silly over their ridiculous, invented controversy about rapper Common being invited to the White House. Stewart at his best here… here’s a link to Part 2 of this piece (where Stewart raps).

A great story written by a dockworker. South Dakota really doesn’t want to let you get an abortion. And Seinfeld’s cool new website

Great writing can be found anywhere. Not only in the New Yorker, or the Washington Post, or in books.
And there are so many great writers among us, who just don’t have a wide audience.
And I get so much joy out of reading something great by someone I’ve never heard of.
Take John Hyduk. He occasionally does some work for Cleveland magazine, but his regular job is on a loading dock, working the night shift and making sure the soda count is right for the bottling distributorship he works for.
He writes simply, in layman’s terms, but shows us a side of life we hardly ever get to see from a first-person perspective.
Start reading this story he wrote for Esquire. I bet it’s unlike anything you’ve read in a long time.

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**Rachel Maddow, who does excellent work, had this eye-opening piece on the incredible restrictions placed on women who want to get abortions in South Dakota.
It’s disgusting that lawmakers are allowed to get away with what is, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, a LEGAL medical procedure.
Just awful.

**Finally, the great Jerry Seinfeld, who I’m proud to say I saw live in concert at Westbury Music Fair on Long Island in the 80s, LONG before he was famous, has created a new website.

It’s filled with all his old bits from every show he’s ever been on. He parcels them out three a time, every day, and it’s fabulous.
Even if I’ve heard almost all of the jokes already. Check it out here.

Mitch Daniels doesn’t care about women’s health. A touching Joe Poz piece. And a very cool time-lapse video

I keep hearing how Mitch Daniels is the secret hope of the Republican Party in the 2012 presidential election. How this plain-spoken fella from Indiana can get along with Democrats and has “good ideas” and knows what he’s talking about.

Yeah, after Tuesday, I say this: Mitch Daniels, you’re an uncaring scumbag like so many of the rest of ’em.
And any woman who votes for him is out of their damn mind.
I say this because Tuesday Gov. Daniels decided, in his infinite wisdom, to sign a state bill that will cut off funds significantly to Planned Parenthood, an organization that helps women (ALL women, not just Democratic-voting ones!).
Daniels has signed it because, of course, of the damn myth that Planned Parenthood mostly just helps women get abortions. Except for the fact that that’s only THREE percent of what PP does.

So let me ask you, Mitch, what you’re so against: That Planned Parenthood helps screen women for cancer? Yeah, we don’t want ANY of that going on in Indiana, do we?
That it helps women who have contracted STDs? Or maybe you’re just against the incredibly nefarious Planned Parenthood employees who counsel women about contraception and family planning?

You know, family planning, what you and your fellow GOP hypocrite schmucks are always talking so much about, that you want the “family” to be together, and that everyone in America should have a nice, stable family.
Well, Planned Parenthood tries for that, too. But nope, you’re too stupid to see that.
And so, even as Planned Parenthood takes Daniels and Indiana to court over this, the state’s PP chapters are about to lose 2/3 of their funding.

So go ahead, women of America, vote for this intolerant, short-sighted idiot. Vote for a man who doesn’t want you to be able to get pre-screened for cancer. Vote for a man who is SO against you having a say in your own reproductive rights that he’ll throw out the baby with the bathwater, and cut off funding to a group that does so much more than deal with abortion.

Mitch Daniels, a man who doesn’t care about women. I think that’ll make a good bumper sticker, don’t you?

And now, for a palette-cleanser …

**I could write about every Joe Posnanski blog he writes, that’s how good they are.
But I realize that you might not worship him as much as I do. So I keep it selective. But I urge you to read this beautiful piece he wrote, his farewell to his adopted hometown of Kansas City after 15 years.
It’s about home, and how a place gets inside of us like we never thought it would, and the sadness that comes when we have to leave that place.

I could identify with some of this; I’ve lived in four different cities since graduating from college, and while I’ve liked each of them a great deal, no place but New York has felt like home yet.
Take a few minutes and read this piece, please. I predict it will touch your heart as it did mine.
And I’ve never even been to Kansas City.

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**Finally, this was sensational, I thought. A visual artist named Dominic Boudreault created this short time-lapse video of different cities. Of course I love the New York one the best…