Monthly Archives: August 2012

The U.S. Open ballboy with an amazing story. Fun on waterslides. And a father/son duo save lives in Louisiana

Some Good News Friday tidbits while I still try to comprehend what in the holy hell Clint Eastwood was talking about last night in his speech at the RNC … wow was he totally crazy. If a non-famous person interviewed an imaginary chair, they’d be in the mental hospital immediately.

Remember the other day when I was telling you about the U.S. Open ballboy I saw with the prosthetic leg?

Well, not surprisingly Wayne Coffey of the New York Daily News found Ryan McIntosh, a 23-year-old Afghanistan war veteran who lost his leg in combat and is now re-inventing himself as a Paralympics athlete.

How could you not love the kid after reading this quote?

“Yes, it’s upsetting that I lost my leg, but I try to look it as a door opening, because it’s given me opportunities that I wouldn’t have had,” McIntosh said.

What an inspiring story, and an inspiring kid.

**Next, we have fun with waterslides. Not really a “good news” story, but how could you not smile while watching this?

**Finally, a terrific story out of Louisiana. Of course you know about the awful wind and rain and damage caused by Hurricane Isaac. But as always with tragedies like this, there are scores of heroes who deserve to be honored, for helping out.

Jesse Shaffer and his son, Jesse, saw people stranded in New Orleans by the flooding and helped save 120 people and animals in 12 hours, reaching them by boat.
They worked hour after hour, doing all they could, and made a huge difference in the lives of so many.
Bravo, Shaffer and Shaffer. Watch video of them here.

A cool story of “paying it forward.” Paul Ryan, an ultimate B.S.’er. And the bride who ordered a life-size self-portrait as a wedding cake

We begin today with a story so ridiculous it could only involve a Bridezilla.

My good friend Victoria C. pointed me to this, and I’m so glad she did.
A bride in Dallas named Chidi Ogbuta decided to order a wedding cake for her nuptials.
A life-sized cake that looked exactly like she did.
“Creepy” doesn’t even begin to describe this. How self-absorbed do you have to be to have a LIFE-SIZED wedding cake? Are you not certain that everyone at your wedding knows what you look like? Do you fear that the phrase “Eat Me” will lose its ironic context without a giant cream-filled cake in the middle of the dance floor?

And the most important question of all about this 400-pound, five-foot tall behemoth: Do you need a bodybag and a meat locker to freeze the leftovers?

This woman takes narcissism way, way beyond Paris Hilton or Kanye West. This deserves a whole new word.
I also love the part that says the groom was supposed to get one too, but the designer ran out of time. Ain’t it always the groom who gets screwed?

**Meanwhile, my mind is still reeling from the many, many, many Whopper-sized lies told by Paul Ryan last night as he accepted the GOP’s vice-presidential nomination. Hard to narrow down which of Ryan’s fibs were most egregious; was it the one about the GM plant in Janesville closing down for which he blamed Obama, when it really closed under Bush? Or maybe his excoriating Obama about the $700 million in Medicare reductions, while Ryan’s budget did the exact same thing.

This Ryan guy is quite the character. Handsome, young, and able to lie through his teeth while thousands whooped and hollered. Yep, he’s the new W. all right.

Here’s a handy guide to Ryan’s five biggest mistruths Wednesday.

**Finally, a palatte-cleanser that’ll make you feel better about people, and life. My buddy Pearlman had a heartwarming “Pay it Forward” experience while at a diner in Weldon, N.C. recently, with a total stranger just aching to do good in the world.
It’s a beautiful tale told very well.

12 hours at the U.S. Open make me deliriously happy. And a political video that may move you

I turned 37 two weeks ago.
And yet, every single time I walk through the gates of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY, I turn back the clock 30 years.
I become a 7-year-old again. I want to do everything, see everyone, and run around like a kid set loose in Willy Wonka-ville, for as many hours as they’ll let me stay.

Tuesday, that number of hours was 12. My fiancee, my mother, and stepfather all arrived around 11 a.m. for a sensational day of tennis, the second day of the 2012 Open (God bless her, my wonderful bride-to-be stuck it out with me until 9 p.m. and was a total trooper as I schlepped her around from court to court, only leaving because she had to go home and do some work. Mom and stepdad pooped out around 4 p.m. But hey, they’re no spring chickens anymore. I digress.)

Many, many thoughts on my mind from today as I sit down to write this, including…

— The single best thing about the Open in the early days of the tournament is getting to walk around the outside courts and literally stand five feet from where top pros are competing. You don’t get that in ANY other sport.
At one point Tuesday I was in the first row for a doubles match involving great American comeback story Brian Baker, and a serve ricocheted off a racket and flew right at me.
With the dexterity and timing I rarely showed in the Commack North Little League, I snagged it with my left hand, drawing a few cheers from my fellow spectators. Sadly, as is the rule in tennis, I had to throw the ball back to the ballboy.

— Speaking of ball boys and ball girls, how bizarre is this? During my match tour on Tuesday (I saw parts of 12 matches), I saw not one but two ballpersons who had prosthetic limbs. One male, one female, both who seemed to have no trouble bouncing around and performing all ballperson duties. Never seen a ballperson without two natural legs, and now I saw two in one day. Crazy.

— Another awesome moment: After the aforementioned doubles match featuring Brian Baker, I was on line for the bathroom near the court and saw a white-haired guy with a “Player guest” credential and the last name Baker. Yep, it was Brian Baker’s Dad Stephen, and because I’m me, I chatted him up before we got to the urinals.
He was super nice and thrilled his son was getting the chance to play at the Open again.
Again, I ask you: You think you ever run into Derek Jeter’s dad waiting to pee at Yankee Stadium? This is why the U.S. Open rules.

— Most dramatic singles match we witnessed Tuesday was between two players you’ve never heard of, Fabio Fognini and Edouardo-Roger Vasselin. Again on an outer court, we watched the end of the fifth set, both players fighting for a few thousand dollars a win would provide. It was competition at its finest, and the 75 or so people huddled around the fence watching were enthralled.

— Jack Sock. I’ve mentioned his name a few times on the blog before (he’s on the right, above), and the young American phenom (he’s 19) scored a huge win in doubles Tuesday, as he and partner Steve Johnson beat the No. 1 seeds. This kid is a future star; he won his first singles match Monday and is back in action Thursday.

— Really impressive wins from famous people: Jo-Willie Tsonga, Venus Williams (though that dress was, um, weird) and Andy Roddick. Impressive win from a future star: Sloane Stephens (above in photo). She can really, really play and has a great personality.

Bad losses: Christina McHale, a young American ranked No. 21. Blew a winnable match.

— Finally, cell phones and tennis matches. People, is it really that hard to turn the damn thing to vibrate when you go watch a tennis match? Three times Tuesday a phone went off during a point. Just makes me mad.

But only for a moment. It’s hard to stay mad when you’re a kid in a candy store. God I love the U.S. Open.

**OK, time for something else. This was definitely unusual; a political parody video set to the tunes from “Les Miserables,” about Barack Obama. Weirdly compelling.

Remembering Neil Armstrong, a man who made the impossible, possible. The worst job to have in the NYPD. And the GOP convention sure to entertain

So I’m running through the streets of Manhattan Friday and I see a police officer doing what has to be the worst job in all of the NYPD.
No, it’s not helping with sanitation cleanup, it’s not working the most dangerous areas of Brooklyn or the Bronx, and it’s not standing at Penn Station answering questions from tourists.

No, what I saw was an officer sitting in a tiny 3×3 booth on the sidewalk, bored out of his mind.

Let me set the scene for you non-New Yorkers: All across Manhattan, there are these booths, see. And they say “NYPD” on them, and they’re literally only big enough to hold one person. From what I can tell, there’s no window that opens, there’s no ventilation, and there’s nothing to do in there.

No TV, no radio, nothing (I actually studied one for a few minutes the other day. Hope the officer in side didn’t think I was weird).
And you’re just sitting there, minute after minute, hour after hour, in this tiny booth, where anyone could (theoretically) attack you, and all you can do is sit there and not think about how incredibly claustrophobic you’re feeling.

You couldn’t pay me enough money to be a NYC cop, for other reasons. But to have to sit in one of those deathtrap booths? Man, just torture.

**As I’m sure you heard on Saturday, we lost a man who had the greatest “between the commas” obituary ever, Neil Armstrong.
What I mean by that is after every person dies, in their obit, the thing they’re most famous for is “between the commas” after their name, and before “died at ???.”
“Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin,” died at. ?”  “Ty Cobb, baseball’s all-time leader in hits, died at … ??” You get the idea.

Anyway, when Armstrong died Saturday, every obit began with “Neil Armstrong, the first man to ever set foot on the moon …” and well, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

Of all the Armstrong tributes, and there were many, my favorite memory of him will always be the above headline, that I wrote about in one of my very first blog posts a few years ago. It’s from his hometown paper, the Wapakoneta (Ohio) Daily News, from July 21, 1969.

Not “man steps on moon,” just “Neil steps foot on the moon.” Just some kid from the neighborhood who did something nice.

What an fascinating life he led, basically disappearing from the spotlight after one of the most monumental feats in human history. Proof that not everyone needs the spotlight that great achievement can bestow.

**Finally, I might be the only one in America disappointed that the GOP convention in Tampa has been shortened by a day, due to Hurricane Isaac. See, I’m a masochist; I enjoy listening to wildly out-of-touch, extreme wingnuts tell me why America is going to Hades because we elected some half-white, half-African-American guy four years ago, and unless we force women to all have babies even if they were raped, we’re going nowhere as a country.

Sigh. At least we’ll still have 3 days of Mitt and his zany army of white men telling us all how to live. I can’t wait.

Diana Nyad, a woman who fails but keeps trying. An umpire makes the best call of his life. And something to get you ready for football season

Synchronized blogging note: I spent most of my free time this week reading the new Joe Posnanski biography of Joe Paterno, which has gotten quite a bit of buzz. As you know, there’s no bigger Joe Poz lover than me, so I was eager to read it.

My buddy Jeff Pearlman asked me to write a review of the book for his blog, and since he’s bigger than me and threatened to beat me up if I didn’t (plus he gets more web traffic), I have complied. For my thoughts on what was a terrific and balanced book, click here to read my review on Jeff’s site.

We begin Good News Friday with a story of a woman who failed in a quest this week.
Yes, I know that sounds weird. Let me explain. Maybe you’ve heard about Diana Nyad, a 63-year-old distance swimmer. She’s been famous for decades for doing all kinds of long-distance swims most people wouldn’t ever try.

Last week, for the fourth time in her life, Nyad tried to do something that sounds impossible: She wanted to swim from Cuba to Florida (103 miles) without a shark cage.
Sort of like jumping off a high-wire without a net, but more dangerous because jellyfish and all kinds of hellish weather are waiting for you.

It was the fourth time Nyad tried this swim. She had a team around her monitoring everything, from trying to keep sharks away from her, to weather monitors.
She was trying this swim, at her age, because she has always wanted to do it and because she was pushing the limits of what humans can do.
For the fourth time, Nyad failed. She lasted 41 hours and got about halfway, before the jelly-fish stings and the lightning storms did her in. She wanted to go on, but couldn’t.

Why is this Good News? Because Nyad keeps trying. She still believes in her cause, and I have no doubt she’ll try again.
Dreamers who dream big; to me, that’s always a beautiful thing.

**So this was cool: Jim Joyce, a major league umpire heretofore famous for blowing a perfect game for Detroit pitcher Andres Galarraga in 2010, saved a woman’s life the other day before a game.
Seems a woman named Jayne Powers was having a seizure and was unconscious. Joyce was walking through the Arizona Diamondbacks’ ballpark tunnel and saw her, ran over and administered CPR.

Powers is recovering now. Great job, Jim.

**Football season is almost here. I can feel it, you can feel it, and it’s awesome. I love the end of August because it means the U.S. Open is here (excited to be going to Flushing Meadows twice next week!) and NFL football is too.

This gets me in the mood every time. The great “Friday Night Lights” summarized in five minutes. Gives me chills…

A very cool video from above America. A man rides the world’s smallest bike. And the insanity of making a 5-year-old change his T-shirt at school.

As I’m sure you all know, college football can inflame some pretty serious passions in people across America.
Sadly, that also leads to some very scary, ridiculous behavior. For today’s example of that, let us mosey on down to Oklahoma, for this absolutely ludicrous story pointed out to me by my friend Melissa L.
Seems a 5-year-old boy named Cooper Barton lives in  Oklahoma City, Okla., and he and his parents are big University of Michigan fans.
Well, one day last week Cooper wore a Michigan shirt to Wilson Elementary, and was promptly told he was violating the dress code and had to turn his shirt inside-out.

Why? Because the dress code says that students may only wear clothing representing Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, or another Oklahoma state school.

As Cooper’s mom Shannon said, “They should really worry about academics. It wasn’t offensive. He’s 5.”

Amen, Shannon. I hope head coach Brady Hoke and Michigan hear about this and send little Cooper a boatload of free stuff. (And it seems they have: Good job, Big Blue)

**This is really cool, and I recommend going to full-screen to watch it. It’s a virtual plane ride across America; see how many landmarks you can identify. What a beautiful country we live in (cue the Ray Charles music, please)

**And finally, a man rides the world’s smallest bike, and still puts on a helmet to do it. I have no idea how he’s able to do this…

A TV blog: Why “Weeds” is limping toward the finish line, and I’m giving up on “The Newsroom.” And an interesting study about who gives to charity

Time for one of my occasional TV rants as I wait for the return of the best show currently on TV, “Homeland” on Showtime on Sept. 30. (Seriously folks, this show is worth the price of Showtime alone. It’s fantastic and I keep trying to convert people; my latest conquest is my mother and stepfather, who are halfway through Season 1 and are totally riveted.)

So I’ve been hot and cold on “Weeds” for a few seasons now. The first four seasons of the show were fantastic, dark and hilarious. Then it drifted for two years, getting silly and even more implausible then ever before. Last year the writers brought it back to brilliance, and I had high hopes for the final season, season 8, currently airing.
But man, after a strong first few episodes, “Weeds” has stunk lately. The Jennifer Jason Leigh character, Nancy’s sister, is so unlikeable and stupid you just don’t feel bad when things happen to her. They’ve totally tried to have it both ways with Nancy; after her shooting, she supposedly wants to “change her ways,” and live better and not sell drugs anymore and be a good person.

Only two episodes later, she’s sleeping with a doctor so he’ll buy the pills she’s hawking as a pharmaceutical rep. Totally inconsistent with any human behavior.
Plus, they’ve made Andy an even more aimless fool than before, and Kevin Nealon’s Doug, well, he’s been an awful character for years.

Just frustrating to see “Weeds” go out like this, when it was once so irreverent and brilliant.

And now a few words about “The Newsroom.”

I’ve officially given up. Aaron Sorkin, I don’t know who has inhabited your body and made you write this drivel, where people in your shows do and act and say such incredibly stupid things, and we’re supposed to like them anyway. I know I sound like a broken record, but I’ve never met a woman, anywhere, who would act like your female characters do.

And I dislike Jeff Daniels’ character, Will, more each week. Picking MacKenzie’s ex-boyfriend to write a story about him in last week’s episode was the last straw; he’s just an ass.

I know the season’s not over yet, but I’m done. What an incredible waste of time and talent “The Newsroom” has become. Just sad.

**Finally today, I thought this story I heard on NPR was illuminating. A new study in the Chronicle of Philanthropy found that on the whole, people with lower incomes donate to charity a much bigger share of their income than those in the upper income class.

Households with incomes of $50,000-$75,000 donate on average 7.6 percent of their discretionary income. That’s compared with about four percent for those with incomes of $200,000 or more.
The people who ran the study said that religious giving is a big part of the discrepancy; every gives at church, and all that.

But they also found high-income people who live in economically diverse neighborhoods give more on average than high-income people who live in wealthier neighborhoods.
I’d like to think the reasons for the discrepancy is deeper than that. I don’t think wealthy people are a bunch of greedy bastards who don’t care about the underprivileged; not at all. There are tons of millionaires and billionaires who give generously.

No, I think the disparity may come from this, and this is just my five-cent spitballing opinion:Maybe people with lower incomes know how much a little charity can help, and know the difference a few dollars can make. Maybe they were once in that situation and were helped, and maybe they feel the tug of obligation just a little bit more.

Who knows. Either way, it’s a very interesting story.

Augusta National finally admits women; the new sport of sheep-racing, and an awesome “Inside the Actors Studio” mash-up

This picture has nothing to do with anything, but I snapped it last weekend on the way to the beach and thought it was funny. Too bad there was no address…

Well, well, look who’s finally discovered that women are kinda sorta equal to men.
Augusta National Golf Club, heretofore the most chauvinistic place in the entire United States, has finally after 80 years decided to allow women to become members. Condi Rice and Darla Moore, step up right and join the misogynists.
Break out the champagne and party hats.
Yes, Augusta ignored all the pressure and protests of Martha Burk a few years back, didn’t listen when it bucked its own rules and refused to give a Fortune 500 CEO a membership (IBM has a female leader named Ginni Rometty, and previously all of the Masters’ corporate partners’ CEOs were named members), and basically continued to act like we were still in 1925.

Of course, what Augusta National was doing was legal; they’re a private club and can do what they want. But I always thought it was so small of the pro golf tour to continue to honor this bunch of yahoos who wouldn’t let women in by continuing to hold the prestigious Masters tournament there.

I had to laugh Monday when I read a few columns by people applauding Billy Payne and Augusta for finally doing the right thing.

Please. The last thing in the world these yahoos should get is applause. They’re a disgusting affront to modern men everywhere.

**Sure, the Olympics just ended, but it’s never too soon to start thinking about the next Games. And some people in Scotland have come up with a great new event for 2016:
Sheep racing. Oh come on, like you wouldn’t watch that.
If you click this link you can see some of the sheep “training” for the event that took place on August 11 (go ahead and click, no one’s judging you here). And then of course, the actual event is above (you’ve got to fast forward to 1:40 to see the sheep, but it’s worth it.)

The organizer of the event (which you could wager on, thrillingly), a guy named Thomas McDonald, said he thinks it could become an annual event.
I hope so. My only question is, when the sheep get tired after running, do they count themselves to get to sleep?

**Can’t remember if I’ve expressed my love for “Inside the Actors Studio” on my blog before, but if I haven’t, let me just say I used to worship that show. I loved James Lipton in all his pomposity and how he genuflected before his guests, I loved the honesty of the movie stars (I’ll never forget the touching Jack Lemmon, Steven Spielberg and Jamie Foxx episodes), and the sheer wonder/absurdity of how seriously actors take their craft.

Anyway, the show hasn’t been on much in recent years, but some brilliant Internet person named Jordan Laws made the above video mash-up combining the stars’ answers, and showing just how much they really are like each other.

A few words on outdoor summer eating. A GOP Senate candidate says the dumbest thing. And it’s too early for me to be angry about the Jets, right?

A few words this morning on a subject hardly of Earth-shattering importance, but about a ritual we all take for granted.
Nothing to me says summer like a great meal on an outdoor deck/porch at a laid-back beach-side restaurant.

From the moment you walk out there, with music playing, the small waves making noise a few feet away, beer flowing, flip-flops bouncing off the wooden ground … it all just goes together to make the meal that much better.

It’s hard to explain, but when the air is warm and the cold drinks are flowing, and the smell of fresh fish, corn on the cob (a very underrated side dish!) and burgers permeating from each table, everyone just seems less stressed.
I had two dinners this weekend with family, both on outdoor decks, and both times I left the restaurant wishing I could eat like that all-year round.

Maybe it wouldn’t be so special if we did it year-round. But man, I sure do enjoy it.

**It’s almost fall, in a major election year, so political junkies like me have their radar up for anyone saying anything remotely stupid.
But boy, you certainly didn’t need an antenna to believe that what Missouri GOP U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin said this weekend was just about the most idiotic thing said in 2012.
If you missed it, Akin was talking about why he opposed abortion in all cases, even in rape and incest. And this was his direct quote:

“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Wow. Despite the many, many, many questions I have for Mr. Akin after that quote (first question: how, exactly, does the female body “shut that down” when a man is raping her?), I think we’ll just let it hang there. Listen to him speak it (above), it doesn’t get any better.

Todd Akin, you would hope, is finished as a politician. What a disgusting thing to say.

**I know it’s only preseason. I know I’ve got five months of NFL football ahead of me. But there I was late Saturday night, watching the 1st half of the Jets game, and I was getting angry. Furious, pissed, whatever word I can usually use to describe my mood during autumn Sundays when the green and white are playing.

It doesn’t count, but holy hell did the Jets look awful. Offensive line was horrendous (Why is Wayne Hunter still on this team???). Running game, mostly non-existent. Wide receivers, OK, I know the top three were out injured, but they did nothing.
And the two quarterbacks (which is one too many, of course) both looked awful. Mark Sanchez, it’s year 4, you can’t be making idiotic throws like the one you made Saturday that got run back for a touchdown. And Tim Tebow, well, I can’t really get mad at him for being what he is: A poor NFL quarterback who has no business starting in the league.
It’s been two preseason games, and the Jets have two field goals. Combined.

Way too early for me to get this frustrated, fellas.

Love letters from Yogi Berra, six decades later. The bus traveling America, spreading kindness. And an NFL star helps kids play sports

On the 37th anniversary of the day of my birth (Jesus I’m getting old), three stories of good on Good News Friday…

Yogi Berra is an American legend, a man who is in his 90s but still brings a smile to faces everywhere he goes.
You would think every Yogi story to be told would’ve been told by now (my favorite Yogi-ism is “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”), but this one seems to be new (and a hat tip to loyal blog reader Sanford for pointing this out to me).

A local TV station in New Jersey brings us the story of Yogi’s love letters to his wife Carmine, more than 60 years after they were written. A sweet man with a sweet heart…

**You never know what you’re going to see walking the streets of New York. While ambling around near Central Park the other day, I came across this bus parked on East 79th Street:

Intrigued, I went to the guy’s website, and found a great story. A man named Bob and his trusty canine companion, Bogart, are traveling across America urging each person they meet to commit 1 million acts of kindness in their life. He’s trying to start a kindness revolution, one person at a time, and preaching about an educational platform of being nice as well.

Of course it’s hokey. But I love it. More kindness ambassadors are needed in this world.

**Finally, I rarely say nice things about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their players, because they’re responsible for two of my more excruciating Jets losses in the last 10 years (if you’re a Jets fan, you don’t need me to name them.)

But I’ve got to get a slow clap going for one of their current stars, LaMarr Woodley, for a gesture he just made. Woodley, who played at Michigan and grew up in the state, learned that school budget cuts were going to force students to “pay to play” varsity sports.

So he stepped up and donated $60,000 to school districts in Saginaw (where Woodley’s from), ensuring there’d be enough money to cover the cost of sports.

A beautiful gesture by Woodley.