Monthly Archives: October 2013

ESPN’s Jimmy Connors doc is terrific. A gopher video makes me laugh. And the Red Sox win the World Series (again)

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There are few things that sports fans can all agree upon, but one that I’ve found meets almost universal unanimity on is that Jimmy Connors is a pretty big a-hole.

And happily, in the ESPN’s new 30-for-30 documentary, “This Is What They Want,” Connors himself confirms it toward the end, but says “I’m a fun asshole.”

Well, that’s good enough for me. The movie, the latest in a great batch of 30-f0r-30s (really like the ABA St. Louis Spirits one a couple weeks ago), takes a look at maybe the most famous U.S. Open run in history, when 39-year-old Connors shocked the world in 1991 by making the semifinals.

He was washed up and forgotten about prior to the tournament, but the documentary does a fabulous job putting his career in context. And besides the accomplishments and the rivalries (he and John McEnroe are very honest about their dislike for each other in the film), the movie focuses on just what an unlikeable jerk Connors is (and was).

The movie hits its stride in talking about the famous Connors-Aaron Krickstein match at the ’91 Open, and Krickstein is fabulous talking in present day about his epic collapse that day. He and Connors were good friends before the match, but Krickstein says they haven’t talked since. The match cemented the Jimbo legend, but Connors hasn’t once picked up a phone, or said hello at a tournament when Krickstein was still playing, nothing.

Everyone else interviewed in the film, when hearing that, is dumbfounded. But they shouldn’t be: Connors is one of the biggest douchebags in all of sports.

Still, the film is terrific, and I highly recommend it (it’s on again Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPN2).  For all his faults, Connors was a tennis legend, and nobody ever fired up a crowd like he did.

And that ’91 run was something special to see.

**Next up, we don’t feature enough gopher videos on this blog. And today, that changes. Because this promo for the University of Minnesota (the Golden Gophers, of course) made me laugh out loud at its bizarreness.

Somewhere, “Caddyshack” fans are smiling.

**As much as I hate the Boston Red Sox, I have to admit I was excited to see Game 6 of the World Series Wednesday night. First game of this crazy, oddball Series I’ve watched from start to finish, and I don’t think the Fenway Park crowd sat down once in more than three hours.

These people haven’t seen Boston win a World Series at home since 1918, and amazingly, it sounded like real fans were in the park going full-throat, not corporate suits just there to be seen (as we see at a lot of big-time sporting events these days).

Couple thoughts on the Red Sox’ clinching victory:

— David Ortiz. Hall of Famer? I never would’ve thought Big Papi, a slow, non-fielding slugger, would have a shot at the Hall a few years ago. But the guy has now had three amazing postseasons, a hell of a long career, and always seems to come up big in the clutch. And he’s never really been linked to steroids, except for one random allegation a decade ago. I think he’s close to getting in.

— Shane Victorino, who hit the three-run triple to get Boston on the board, just has that Jim Leyritz-y feel to him, that he comes up big when you least expect it.

— Three championships in 9 years for the Red Sox. Never thought I’d see that in my lifetime. Dammit.

— For the sake of the small children in New England, let’s hope this now means the Red Sox players will shave their hideous beards. Then again, it is Halloween, maybe they should keep the scary facial hair for one more day.

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The guy who knit a sweater while running a marathon. Jason Kertson amazes me. And Is the NSA going to make us more enemies than Dick Cheney did?

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I love stories that leave me shaking my head in awe and complete puzzlement, all at the same time.

Like this one. A man named David Babcock recently ran into the Guinness Book of Records, when he finished the Kansas City Marathon in 5:48.27.
While knitting a 12-foot scarf.
Yes, Babcock is a college graphic design professor by day, and a speed knitter in his spare time!

So here are some of my many questions: Is he a knitter who likes to run, or a runner who just happens to find knitting fun? How does he prevent pricking himself with the needle while running around rough terrain? When he finishes a race before finishing his scarves or sweaters, does he keep running so he can finish? Does the person who gets the scarf from Babcock complain that it’s all sweaty?

I could go on. But you get the idea. Knitting and running, who ever thought of it? Reminds me of the old Seinfeld joke about the biathlon. “Let’s combine cross-country skiing, with shooting a gun. That makes sense.”

**Next up today, I have no idea where this came across my radar this week; honestly, I’ve looked in all the usual places I go to but came up empty (maybe I dreamed it or something).

Anyway, it’s not new but still incredibly awesome: A kid named Jason Kertson has perfected the art of playing two guitars at once. It was actually hypnotic for me to watch this guy so zoned in and playing them so perfectly.

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**Finally, I’m really, really getting sick of the NSA, and how we are basically spying on every country, all the time, and every day I wake up to headlines like this one, from NPR: “U.S. did not spy on French, Spanish citizens.”

We had the NSA chief, Keith Alexander, declaring the most recent documents revealed by leaker Edward Snowden were false, that nosireeebob, we did not spy on any French or Spanish citizens.

Just like we didn’t spy on Angela Merkel, and we don’t go through Americans’ telephone calls, and we don’t… you get the picture.

I never thought I’d say this in my lifetime, but with all of this international spying crap going on, the U.S. might be heading to levels of world unpopularity not seen since the reign of W. and Cheney.

Look, I know it’s a dangerous world out there, and we have to do all we can to fight terrorism, yada yada yada. But every day, every week, come more revelations of American intelligence doing things in secret that they really ought to be ashamed of doing.

Can’t wait to see what next week’s headlines will bring: “U.S. put hidden camera on Italian prostitute to spy on Silvio Burlesconi.”

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/10/29/241661110/u-s-did-not-spy-on-french-spanish-citizens-says-spy-chief

The best Halloween costume I’ve seen this year. A writer explains why we won’t work for free. And a few thoughts on the Red Sox beards

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Very few Halloween costumes ever make me laugh out loud, but this one did. If you’re a fan of a particularly awesome 1980s-era sitcom about a bar in Boston, then you’ll agree that this is awesome. Here’s the original, below:

I miss “Cheers.”

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**Next up, I was thrilled to see this in the New York Times (my fellow writer friend Christine G. pointed me to it). For some reason, websites and other places where writing is done think it’s totally fine to ask writers to contribute to their publication for free. And when you won’t do it, they go on to someone else.

As Tim Kreider points out in his great essay, you wouldn’t ask a plumber, or a carpenter, or an accountant, to do some work for you without pay. So why is it OK and even expected for writers to work without compensation?

I’ve been offered jobs where the pay is “exposure,” and sure, sometimes if it’s a big enough site, that’s a good carrot (When CNN.com offered me a shot, of course I didn’t care about pay).

But most of the time writers are reduced to begging for a few dollars from places that can certainly afford it, and it’s completely wrong.

Good for you, Tim Kreider. Slaves of the Internet, unite, indeed!

Mike Napoli**Finally today, I haven’t written much about the World Series between Boston and St. Louis because, frankly, I haven’t been all that interested in it. It’s turning out to be a hell of a series, though, with a couple of wacky endings last Saturday in Game 3 (an obstruction call ending the game?) and Sunday in Game 4 (a pickoff play ending the game?)

Anyway, from a non-sports perspective I have to say that these Red Sox players’ beards are hideous. I mean, I’m no fashion or grooming expert, and I have never grown a beard myself (I always tell myself I will one day, but getting past those first few days of scruffiness always seems to trip me up), but these things the Sox are wearing are hideous, right?

I mean, Dustin Pedroia’s doesn’t look that terrible, but Johnny Gomes has to have rodents living in his, and Mike Napoli’s beard looks like it could be roadkill on the highway, it’s so thick and furry.

I mean, ladies, is this in any way attractive? I grant that some men can pull off the beard look; Kelsey Grammer and Anthony Hopkins and a few others look dapper.

But those Sox beards are just gross.

And yes, you could chalk this up to the prejudices of a bitter Yankees fan.

The Jets fail to show up, Calvin Johnson is a god, and other NFL thoughts. A 91-year-old couple tells the secret of marriage. And racism at Barney’s

calvinjohnsonWell, that was entirely predictable.

All season long the New York Jets have teased us some weeks, pretending to be a decent team, then following that game  up with a miserable performance.

So after last week’s huge win over the Pats, I expected a loss Sunday. However, I didn’t expect a complete meltdown on offense, defense, and special teams. Which is what we got with the miserable 49-9 loss to the Bengals.

Honestly, I have nothing much to say about this game,which  I turned off in the 3rd quarter.
The pass rush was awful, the secondary is a joke, and the Jets’ pass protection was non-existent. They’re 4-4, headed for  7-9 and mediocrity. Fabulous.

More thoughts on a pretty surprising NFL Sunday:

— The ending of that Cowboys-Lions game was nuts. Calvin Johnson with 329 yards receiving? And the Lions marching right down the field in the final minute to score, while Dez Bryant and Tony Romo having a screaming match on the Dallas sideline, was beautiful. That Lions offense is sensational.

— The New York Giants are 2 -6, and have a legit shot to win the NFC East. That’s how bad the division is. The Eagles are horrendous with or without Michael Vick, the Cowboys’ D is awful, and the Skins are mediocre.

— Terrelle Pryor, with a 93-yard TD run? Not bad for a quarterback.

— Finally, there was some buzz in the NFL this week that Brett Favre admitted he’d had memory loss recently. After a 20 year career and getting sacked 500-plus times, it’d be stunning if Favre’s brain wasn’t damaged. I fear he’s headed for a very rough next 20 years.

**I thought this was really sweet: Lee and Morty  Kaufman have been married for decades, and now the two 91-year-olds have become TV stars, thanks to their starring in a new commercial for Swiffer.

It’s adorable, and so are they. Ellen DeGeneres had them on her show recently and they explained to her the secret of a long, happy marriage. So cute…

**Finally today, this has been bugging me for a few days now. It’s been a big story in New York, but maybe not elsewhere, so I wanted to share.

Barney’s is a very fancy men’s clothing store in New York City, with a long reputation for snootiness and not treating its customers fairly.

Last spring a 19-year-old African-American man named Trayon Christian walked into Barney’s and bought a $350 belt from the store. He paid for the belt with his debit card, walked out of the store, and that should’ve been the end of that.

Only after a block of walking Trayon was accosted by the police, who asked how he could afford such a belt. (Now, how in the world could the police have known the man had just bought an expensive belt? Well, clearly Barney’s had alerted police, that’s how.)

They hauled Martin down to the police station, interrogated him some more, called his bank, and eventually released him.

“Why me? I guess because I’m a young black man, and you know, people do a credit card scam so they probably thought that I was one of them,” Christian said. “They probably think that black people don’t have money like that.”

Martin has filed a lawsuit, and not surprisingly, since his case made the news, more former Barneys’ customers have come forward to talk about similar incidents happening to them.

Absolutely disgusting and reprehensible. These people legally paid for their purchases, but because Barney’s thinks all African-Americans who have money to spend in their (ridiculously-overpriced) store must be criminals, they alert the police.

Remember stories like this when you hear politicians say that racism isn’t a problem in America anymore.

An innocent man, finally freed from prison, offers thanks. A marriage made thru a kidney donation. And a walk-on gets a scholarship, awesomely

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I can’t imagine how a man like Anthony Graves must have felt in 2010, after spending 18 years behind bars, for a crime he didn’t commit.

There are so many ways he could’ve reacted after finally being released, and then given $1.45 million by the state of Texas as retribution. (Since it’s a Good News Friday post, I won’t dwell on the fact that Texas and Florida execute the most of its citizens, yet so often get it wrong).

Graves’ innocence was argued loudly for years by Nicole Casarez, a Houston attorney and journalism professor.
To thank Casarez for her help, Graves did something unusual but awesome:

“I wanted to repay Nicole but I knew she’d never accept money from me,” Anthony said. “I thought about giving her an amazing trip somewhere, but I wanted to give her something that would live on.”

So he established a scholarship at the University of Texas Law School in her name.

What a beautiful gift.

**Next up today, I love when coaches do things like this. New Northwestern basketball coach Chris Collins was impressed with the work ethic and attitude of a walk-on player on his team named James Montgomery III.

In two years on the team Montgomery did all the dirty work in practice, never complained, and paid his own way at a very expensive college.

But during a team meeting the other day, Collins called Montgomery up and gave him a full scholarship. But that’s not the best part of the video; the best part is at the end, when Montgomery calls his mom and sister and tells them he got a scholarship.

Their reaction is priceless, and I’m not the only one who thinks so; in just a few days this video has been viewed more than 800,000 times.

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**Finally today, a very unusual love story. Three years ago, a high school senior named Kyle Froelich was in desperate need of a kidney transplant. Friends, relatives, everyone tried to help, but none were a match or followed through.

One day at a car show, he met 22-year-old Chelsea Clair, who had heard about Froelich’s medical issues.

On the first day they met, she said “I’m going to give you a kidney.”

Crazy, right? Well, turns out she was a match, and six months after they met, Clair donated one of her kidneys to Froelich.

After the surgery, as both recovered, they fell in love, and on Oct. 12, Clair and Kyle were married.

Read their sweet story, and watch some video of the wedding, and believe even more in the good in the world.

A withering self-assessment by Mike Tyson. What happened to all that tobacco settlement money 15 years ago? And some cancer patients at Duke hospital have some fun

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Mike Tyson continues to be one of the most fascinating athletes in the whole world, way more interesting than he was in his prime.

Just in the last few months, as he continued to spoof his own image, he told the world of his dangerous and very-recently dealt with addiction to drugs. Now, Tyson has written a searing account for New York magazine (it’s actually an adaptation of his forthcoming biography, which now I really want to read) about his life growing up in Brooklyn, all the time he spent in jail and youth detention facilities, and how boxing saved his life.

It’s honest, it’s painful, and it explains a lot about how Tyson became the monster he was in the ring during the 1980s and early 1990s.

It’s exceedingly rare anyone, let alone a famous athlete, completely exposes themselves like this in print. Andre Agassi did it in his incredible autobiography “Open,” but it’s rare.

I learned a lot about Tyson from reading this. If you have a few minutes, definitely worth your time.

**I’m a little biased about sharing this video, since as you know I’m a huge fan of the Duke men’s basketball team (can’t wait for the season to start). But I think even if you hate all things Coach K and spit at the ground just hearing the name “Laettner” you still might be able to appreciate this video.

Some current Duke players went to the cancer ward of Duke Children’s Health Center and lip-synched the classic Bill Withers song “Lean on Me.”

Good stuff.

**Finally today, I really enjoyed this story on NPR from last week. Remember 15 years ago, when dozens of states settled their major lawsuits against the tobacco companies for, well, poisoning millions of lungs, marketing that poison to children, and then pretty much lying about their product for decades?

Yeah, me too. The tobacco companies had to pony up a whopping $246 million to states over 25 years, and since we’re now well into that period, NPR took a look at where all the money has gone.
As you might expect, some states have used the settlement money for what it was intended for; anti-smoking support groups, PSA’s, and other tobacco-related matters.

But other states… well, let’s just say they’ve taken the money and ran. I think this is an important story that has been overlooked for too long, and I’m glad NPR went and researched this.

Ranting about “Parenthood” and “The Big Bang Theory.” And a beautiful photo exhibit of life with cancer

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Haven’t done a “ranting about television” post in a while, and it just so happens that two of my favorite shows got me riled up this week.

First, “Parenthood.” As I’ve maintained since the beginning of the show’s run five years ago, I love it, and even when I’m mad at some of the choices the writers make with it, I still love it. I think the acting is terrific, it’s got great heart, and the show always makes time for all of the characters to get their own storylines and great moments.

And this year has been great… I love what they’ve done with Zeke and Millie and their struggles with each other, and selling the house. I am enjoying the Amber/Ryan story line (he’ll always be Luke Cafferty from “FNL” to me), even though I know it will end badly for Amber, the best actress on the show, IMO. Even the Joel/Julia stuff with their son has been solid, though it looks like the writers are taking the lazy way out by having the threat of infidelity be a wedge between the couple.

So it’s been terrific… except for the completely ludicrous and stupid “Kristina running for mayor of Berkeley” storyline. So many reasons to hate this: First of all, the woman just survived cancer, and now she’s got the energy and strength to run for mayor with zero political experience? Because that’s good for a cancer patient, running a major campaign.
Then there’s the way the writers are trying to make Adam, her husband, look like the bad guy for putting on the brakes on this. The dude is worried about feeding his family (and baby daughter, who conveniently is absent this year) and that his wife might collapse under the strain, and they paint him as the bad guy?

Then there’s the pathetic double standard in last week’s episode, where Kristina feels bad about taking campaign money from a developer she disagrees with, but is totally fine with getting money from a rapper who’s a felon? Ridiculous.

Like I said, I still love the show. But it seems like every year they have to give us one storyline that completely defies belief (Sarah and Ray Romano’s character having a tryst, Adam and Crosby not selling the Luncheonette for millions).

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**OK, on to “Big Bang Theory,” which for years has been the best thing on broadcast TV. Four perfectly drawn male characters, the females who love them, and so much quirky fun that even in reruns I find myself laughing really hard.

But here’s the problem: Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon, has won all kinds of Emmys and other awards for his fantastic job playing the role. And the writers have completely gotten sucked into his awesomeness, to the point that they make nearly EVERY episode about Sheldon.
Which wouldn’t be that bad, if we saw any change, any growth, any sign of human development from him.
But nope, this season he’s exactly the same as all the other years: Completely oblivious to others’ feelings, totally self-absorbed, and having no clue about how to have a relationship with the awesome Amy Farrah-Fowler (I couldn’t love Mayim Bialik more).

I mean, no human being could really be this static for this long, and their constant focus on Sheldon treating others horribly, and everyone just accepting it just fine, has gotten really stale.
The show has become a lot less funny, and simply stupid at times tis year. There’s so much material they can still mine with Howard, Raj, et al., but by continuing to give us the same tired old Sheldon behavior and stereotypes, they’re really getting close to jumping the shark.

Whew. OK, I feel better now. Thanks for listening.

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**Finally today, a beautiful and heartbreaking photo essay by a man named Angelo Merendino, who took the time and endured the heartache of photographing every stage of his girlfriend’s long battle with cancer.

The pictures are beautiful and terrible, and nearly impossible to forget. The one above is my favorite, but I strongly urge you to take a look at his beautiful images here.

My 20-year high school reunion: Better than expected. “Homeland” thoughts. And a very cool moonwalk video

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Like 90 percent of the people I’ve met in my adult life, I didn’t particularly enjoy high school.
I wasn’t a jock (being on the tennis team doesn’t really qualify), I wasn’t a cheerleader, and I was much closer to being classified as a “nerd” than anything else.

Oh, I had plenty of friends in high school and had lots of good times, but there were also quite a few bullies who picked on me and made my life miserable, and quite a few girls who wouldn’t give a short, bushy-haired, glasses-wearing kid the time of day, and all the typical stuff 90 percent of us go through in high school.

So when the calls went out a decade ago that Commack High School Class of ’93 was having a 10-year reunion, I ignored them. I wasn’t really interested in seeing those people again; the ones who I wanted to keep in touch with, I already was. And I don’t know, I just felt like 10 years was … too soon.

This year was different. Maybe I’m more settled in my life now, maybe 20 years is enough distance that I didn’t care how I appeared to those people.

Anyway, I actively sought out information about our 20th reunion, and was thrilled to find out a classmate named Stacey Taylor (who had always been nice to me) was organizing it.  As it turned out, despite her herculean efforts, we only got about 60 of the 420 graduating seniors from ’93 to attend Saturday night’s party on Long Island.

I was excited and actually a little nervous Saturday before the party. But once inside, I had a fantastic time. It was such a strange vibe, hugging and high-fiving people you hadn’t seen since before the Internet became popular.

It also felt a little like a speed-dating event, because you were thrilled to talk to Person X for 5-10 minutes, find out what’s going on in their life, but after that you wanted to find someone else you hadn’t seen in 20 years, and talk to them. So I had a ton of short conversations.

Many of the attendees had really nice things to say to me, and said some really sweet things to my wife (who, bless her heart, came with me and had a good time), which they didn’t have to do.
A few of my old “bullies” were there, but I mostly ignored them, and they, me.
I talked to quite a few of the pretty girls who I was scared of in 1993, so that was fun (the women in our class aged MUCH better than the men, let me tell you.)

And basically, I learned that it’s OK to embrace a time in your life that wasn’t so wonderful, because all of our experiences and tribulations make us who we are. If I hadn’t gone through what I did in high school, maybe I wouldn’t be who I am today.

I am grateful that I had the chance to go back in time, for one night. I highly recommend it to all of you.

**You might remember the Ohio State marching band doing an awesome tribute to video games last year at halftime of a football game; it’s racked up 15 million YouTube views.

Last weekend the Buckeyes took it to another level, doing this fantastic tribute to Michael Jackson, including, starting at the 4:15 mark, an entire band “moonwalk.”

So, so cool.

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**And finally, “Homeland.” Wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT HERE. SERIOUSLY, YOU WANT TO STOP READING IF YOU DIDN’T SEE SUNDAY’S EPISODE).

OK, everyone still with us? Man, that was some sensational episode, capped off by the audience being clued in that Saul and Carrie have been in cahoots for quite a while, pretending to be enemies as Carrie spiraled downward in the psych ward, apparently angry at all her old CIA friends, feeling abandoned, alone, and totally crazy.
And just when it looks like she’s got nowhere else to turn, and lawyer-man Bennett gives her every reason in the world why she should cooperate with him and his client, the Iranian “banker,” we get the reveal that it’s all been a set-up.

I have to say, I’ve read some online criticisms of the episode and people I normally agree with, like HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall, seem to have hated the plot twist.
I loved it. It gets Carrie and Saul back on the same team and working together, at some point going to Caracas and finding Brody there, we feel better about Saul that he wasn’t totally betraying a lifetime of friendship with Carrie, and we get to see what I think is a realistic look at Carrie, off her meds and suffering, which even with being in on the plot twist, still had to take a huge toll on her.

I also don’t hate the Dana storyline as much as everyone else seems to; she’s a great actress and yeah maybe they spent too much time on her, but I’m still interested in her character (her mother still bores the hell out of me.)

I feel like “Homeland” is back to being great, consistently; three out of four episodes this season have been terrific. Can’t wait till next Sunday night.

The Jets get a big break, and a big win over the Pats, and other NFL thoughts. And the new stupidest new infomercial in the world

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Every New York Jets victory is sweet to fans like me.

But beating Bill Belichick and Tom Brady? Twice as sweet. It feels like two wins, not just one.
Sunday, in another game that cost me some of the few remaining hairs I have left (seriously, Rogaine helps a little but it’s no match against the antics of the Jets on my scalp), my beloved Green and White got down 11 points at halftime, rallied for a big comeback to take the lead, then had to go to overtime and overcome their own awful play-calling (more on that in a minute) and a very, very fortunate penalty on the Pats to win, 30-27.

Whew. Hell of a game, as most Jets-Pats games are.  Some scattered thoughts on the wild one:

— Geno Smith. All we Jets fans ask of him this year is that he show improvement, that he’s better in Week 16 than he was in Week 1. And so far, the kid is really doing it. Sunday was maybe his best all-around performance, taking decision-making, accuracy, and play-making ability (especially with his legs) into account.
He didn’t panic after his one awful decision (an INT returned for a touchdown), and he made some big throws in the second half to give the Jets the lead. Still too early to anoint him “the franchise QB”, but the signs are all encouraging.

— After being told at halftime that it’s not illegal to breathe on Tom Brady, the Jets D was stellar in the second half, sacking the pretty-boy QB four times and harassing him. Even with Gronk back in the lineup (and damn is he a beast to cover), the Jets D was terrific in coverage and in stopping the run.

— Now, the overtime stuff… first of all, I don’t know what the hell got into the Jets offensive coaches at the end of what was a beautiful, run-oriented drive in OT. The Jets got to the Pats’ 40, moving the ball really well, then inexplicably decided to stop trying to gain more yards, running three straight plays into the line and not even trying to make it a manageable field goal try for awesome kicker Nick Folk.
So Folk has to line up for a 56-yard FG try, a wildly difficult kick normally, and he missed. And so it looked like, there went the game.
But the penalty god smiled on the Jets, as the Pats got called for a new foul, as one of their defenders (Chris Jones) pushed a teammate forward to try to help block the kick.
So the Jets got a free 15 yards, and then Folk got a second chance and made the winning kick.
Now of course Pats fans are going to whine about the call being bogus, and wrong, and yada yada yada. Of course I’m biased, but I think any team that won a Super Bowl with big thanks to the “Tuck Rule” gives up the right to ever complain about getting screwed by the refs.

Hell of a win for the Jets. I’m shocked they have four wins before Halloween. Still don’t know if this team has a playoff shot, but damn, they are interesting to watch in 2013.

**Finally today, it’s been a while since I’ve featured a truly moronic infomercial, but I saw this last week and I swore it had to be a parody “SNL” commercial or something.
But nope, this beauty’s real. It’s the Cat’s Meow, and its function is this: To prevent your household feline from scratching up the furniture or causing other mayhem, you put this yellow plastic circle on the floor and press a button, and a miniature-wand starts moving round and round the yellow circle, and apparently the cat will be hypnotically attracted to the wand, and spend hours and hours chasing the thing around a circle.

First of all, I don’t buy it. I know cats ain’t that smart, but this is really going to be entertainment for him/her for hours at a time? Second, isn’t the cat going to tear up the yellow plastic once he can’t catch the wand?
And third, won’t this toy inspire the cat to go hunt around the house for REAL things he can catch, like mice or something?

Good News Friday: The coolest corn maze in the world. A unique and elaborate marriage proposal delights me. And Athletes Among Us: awesome photos

And a happy Friday to you all. Let’s get this edition of GNF up and running with a cool little tale about a corn maze in Illinois.

I freaking love corn mazes, by the way; I think they’re very cool and fun and challenging and because I have no sense of direction whatsoever, sometimes a little scary. (Last year in Massachusetts I was in a corn maze for, I think, 11 hours trying to find the way out. Maybe it was less. And maybe a 5-year-old had to show me the way.)

Anyway, the good folks at “CBS Sunday Morning” had a cool story about maybe the biggest corn maze in the world, on the Richardson farm in Spring Grove, Ill., where 65,000 people every year come to see their incredible designs.

This year’s theme? The Beatles. I’m telling you, this makes me want to get out to Illinois immediately to see John Lennon’s face carved into corn.

**Next up, a beautiful and elaborate marriage proposal I enjoyed immensely.  A woman named Alissa was at work this summer after, one night earlier, complaining to her girlfriend Jeanne that she wasn’t romantic enough.

Well, Jeanne got a busful of people, a little Lumineers music, and some giant flash cards, and gave Alissa a proposal no one who saw it will ever forget. It gets really good about 3 minutes in, but watch the whole thing, it’s all good.

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**And finally, my old friend and awesome photographer Jamie Moncrief pointed this out to me on Facebook, and I think it’s all kinds of cool. A photo project called “Athletes Among Us” convinces pro athletes to do everyday activities in ordinary places, and snaps the reaction of the astonished passers-by.

The photo above is one of my favorites, but you can view a whole bunch more here (the roller derby girls one is also classic) or at the link above.