Monthly Archives: February 2014

Shani Davis and the cruelty of the Olympics. The most creative 10-year-old Norwegian kid ever. And some more Michael Sam fallout, good and bad

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A double whammy of bad sports news Wednesday for yours truly: The Duke-North Carolina game I was so looking forward to got postponed until next Thursday thanks to a horrendous ice storm in the Carolinas (of course it was the right move to cancel the game, people’s safety is way more important than a game), and Derek Jeter announced he’s retiring. Oh well, at least we had Shani Davis’ gold medal to celebrate. Oh, wait…

Imagine you were Shani Davis on Wednesday.

You’re a two-time Olympic gold medalist in speedskating, having won the 1,000 meters the last two times, in 2006 and 2010. For months leading up to Sochi, you’re told that you’re the heavy favorite to make history and become the first U.S. male to win the same event at three straight Olympic Games.

Most of America only cares about you once every four years. You have one shot to achieve glory, one small little race that lasts just over a minute.

You’ve waited four years for this one moment, and it’s the only moment you’ll get for another four years.

And then the moment comes, and you crumble. You not only don’t win gold, but you finish 8th, like you’re some also-ran skater.

It was shocking. It was humbling. And it was oh so cruel.

“I’ll have to live with this race the rest of my life,” Davis said afterward. To state the obvious, that’s the vicious thing about the Olympics: There’s no “next season” like there is in the NBA or the NFL. You don’t get a do-over like in a regular season baseball game.

This was it, one shot, one chance… and then it’s over.

Shani Davis gets another shot at glory, in the 1,500 meters in a few days. Maybe he’ll turn the narrative around, and get showered in the adulation he deserves.

Or maybe, his one moment of failure will be what we remember.

Man, I love the Olympics. But they can be so, so hard on these athletes’ legacies.

**Next up today, I love this story. A 10-year-old Norwegian boy was caught having stolen his parents’ car.

The lad drove the car into a snowbank after driving 10 kilometers, which I think is all kinds of impressive for a 10-year-old.

But the best part is that after police were called thanks to a witness who saw the car go into a snowbank, this is what the kid told the authorities:

“The boy told the snowplow driver that he was a dwarf and that he had forgotten his driver’s license at home,” said Baard Christiansen, a spokesman for the Vest Oppland police district.

I love it. I’m stunned the police didn’t believe him.

Police said no charges would be filed and the case was closed.

“We have talked to them, and I’m pretty sure they’re going to pay very close attention both to their children and to their car keys in the future,” Christiansen said.

You would think. Either way, that kid’s got a hell of a story to tell his friends at school.

**Finally today, the courageous announcement Sunday by Michael Sam, who is poised to become the first openly gay player in the NFL this fall, continues to have fallout and ramifications for so many.

Wednesday we heard some negatives from a place you really hoped we wouldn’t: Sam’s father, who told the New York Times that he still loves his son and wants him to be successful in the NFL, but that he was “old-school” and he is bothered by a gay player in the league. Sam Sr. added the late Hall of Famer Deacon Jones “is turning over in his grave.”

Clearly, this is a man who is struggling to deal with his son’s sexuality, and I think we can understand that. All of a sudden Mr. Sam has been thrown into the national spotlight.

Wednesday we also got this insightful profile into Michael Sam’s very rough childhood, and the extremely passionate defense of Sam from Dale Hansen, a Texas sportscaster and not someone who I previously held in high esteem.

In just over two minutes, he cuts exactly to the crux of the ridiculousness of the argument that NFL players won’t be comfortable with Sam in the locker room.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/12/sports/football/for-nfl-prospect-michael-sam-upbringing-was-bigger-challenge-than-coming-out-as-gay.html?_r=1

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It’s Duke-Carolina day, and I am happy. The Boy Scouts continue to be disgustingly intolerant of gay people. And a tale of true Olympic sportsmanship

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Just a quick self-promotional plug: I’ve been blogging up a storm about the Olympics over at ThriveSports.com, writing about curling (the USA stinks so far), speedskating (we also have stunk at this), and skeleton (competition hasn’t started yet). Also did a feature on Kevin Pearce, a former champion snowboarder who suffered a traumatic brain injury five years ago, and whose life was chronicled in the awesome documentary “The Crash Reel.”

It’s not an exaggeration to say that today is a day I wait for for 10 months every year.
As soon as the college basketball season ends in early April, I start looking forward to the first Duke-UNC game of the year.
It’s funny; I’ve tried over the years explaining why this rivalry means so much to me and millions of others, and I never quite can do it.
I’ve said it’s like the Yankees and Red Sox, if they played eight miles apart. I’ve said it’s like Ohio State-Michigan or Packers-Bears, if both teams were in the Top 20 every year and traded national titles all the time, or had fans who shared the same barbershop and grocery stores all year.

But really, it can’t be explained easily. To me it’s the greatest rivalry in sports, and we only get to enjoy it two, maybe three times per year. So tonight I will put on my Duke paraphernalia, think about all the great games in the past, from the last five decades, including Austin Rivers’ amazing game-winner two years ago in Chapel Hill, and forget about the Olympics for a few hours.

If you’re a huge hoops fan, here’s 60 seconds to get you psyched up:

**Just when you think the Boy Scouts of America are ready to stop their bigoted, homophobic ways, they remind you they’re not quite ready to throw away their past.

After the last few years of progress, when they finally, after legal and PR fights that any sane organization would’ve given up decades ago, allowed gay young men to become Scouts, it seemed like things were turning.

But then I read a story like this, from ABCNews.com:

“Pascal Tessier, a high school senior from Kensington, Md., looked up to his older brother Lucien and followed him on the path in Boy Scouting to attain the highest rank of Eagle.

Last night, just nine months after the Boy Scouts of America lifted its longtime ban on admitting openly gay Scouts, 17-year-old Pascal became the first to receive that coveted award at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase, Md.

But his 21-year-old brother, who is also gay but had to keep his sexuality low key on his path to becoming an Eagle, can no longer participate in Scouting because he is an adult. In a two-tiered policy that began on Jan. 1, the Boy Scouts of America has embraced younger youth who are gay, but not those over 18.”

I mean, seriously??? What a disgraceful organization. If I ever am lucky enough to have a son, you can be damn sure he’ll never be a Scout.

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**Finally, there are so many heartwarming stories at the Olympics, but my favorite are usually the ones involving an athlete suffering a major mishap during an event, only to have a coach or athlete from another country come to their aid.

It happens every time there’s an Olympics, and it happened Tuesday in a ski race. Canadian coach Justin Wadsworth was the do-gooder, and Bruce Arthur, the outstanding columnist from Canada’s National Post newspaper, wrote about it beautifully here.

Michael Sam, poised to be an enormous NFL pioneer. A beautiful essay on being 38. And Jimmy Fallon sings with The Muppets

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To knock the Olympics off the main story of sports pages, TV stations and websites across the country Monday, it would take a major, almost earth-shaking sports moment.

Well, one definitely arrived. Michael Sam, an All-American defensive end from the University of Missouri, announced he was gay. Sam has entered the NFL Draft, and in all likelihood he will be selected.

Which means come September, Michael Sam can become the first active, openly gay male athlete in a major professional team sport (NBA forward Jason Collins, for his trail-blazing, has not played this year since announcing he was gay).

This is huge news, of course, because unlike Collins, Sam is not at the end of his career and easily dismissed as an insignificant player.

This is a kid who prior to Sunday night’s announcement to the New York Times and other media outlets, was expected to be a middle-round draft pick.

I’m thrilled about Sam’s announcement, because it’s long overdue for pro sports to accept an openly gay player.

And after devouring a bunch of stories about Sam, and seeing what a down-to-earth, intelligent young man he is, I have no doubt he has what it takes to be the Jackie Robinson of the gay movement.

Read this interview he did with Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated, and tell me you don’t come away impressed with him. (For a great take on what it will mean for the NFL, I highly recommend this Tommy Tomlinson piece)

Of course there will be haters, and of course there will be moronic fans screaming epithets at Sam next fall. But finally, after we thought it would happen with Jason Collins, a major barrier to acceptance should come tumbling down.

Amen.

**Look, there’s a few guarantees here at Wide World of Stuff headquarters: such as,  if it’s February, I’m going to be writing a long post about the first Duke-North Carolina game of the season (Wednesday night, and I’m very pumped up!).

Also if Jimmy Fallon, who I love, and The Muppets, who I love, do a duet together, well, that’s a guarantee I’m going to post it.

Take it away, Mr. Future Tonight Show host…

**Finally today, I love stumbling upon bloggers I’ve never heard of and finding out how well they capture some of what I’m feeling.

Lindsey Mead is 38, just like me, and she has written a stunning essay on what it feels like to be this age.

Quick excerpt from her fabulous writing:

Thirty-eight is solidly in the middle of my life. Thirty-eight is realizing that there are likely as many years behind me as there are ahead. It is acknowledging that life is no longer a green field, that certain doors are closed, that some choices are irrevocable and that many of the big what-ifs that haunted my childhood have been answered. Thirty-eight is also realizing that despite these answers, there are far, far more new questions.

Thirty-eight is not having any more grandparents. It is hearing about the illness and death of my friends’ parents. It is going to funerals, and also christenings, more often than weddings. Thirty-eight was leaving my injured mother’s side before surgery a couple of years ago to run home to my daughter, who was crying that I wasn’t spending enough time with her. Thirty-eight is the middle place.

I read a few of her other posts and they’re also terrific; please check her out.

The Olympics begin, and I’m loving them. The P&G “Thank You Mom” ads are brilliant. And celebrities read mean tweets: still hilarious

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I’m writing this post after watching the mostly-awesome Beatles 50th anniversary special Sunday night, which was really cool except for the fact that Katy Perry (Katy Perry!) sung “Yesterday.” Not sure if McCartney and Ringo were throwing up while watching that, but I sure was.  I could live 1,000 years and not get the appeal of Katy Perry. But let’s move on…

With all the problems that Russia has had getting ready for these Winter Olympics, the bar in my mind was set pretty low for success.

Like, if none of the venues blew up, the Games were a big hit. So far, so good.

From the Opening Ceremonies Friday night, which had some cool moments (certainly not those hideous Team USA sweaters, but I did feel sorry for the countries that had only one or two athletes in their parade; they looked so lonely!) to the first weekend of action, the Games got off to a great start.

I know there are people out there who don’t care about the Olympics, who just want to stick to their basketball and soccer and football and all that. But I love them, and get excited for them every time they come around.

I mean, where else do you get to see the Russian Police Choir sing Daft Punk? How great was this?

Some quick-hit thoughts from the first few days of action:

— One reason I love the Winter Olympics is because you watch some of these bizarre events and wonder how someone practiced them when they first started out. I mean, take ski jumping: Were these men and women at age 9 skiing off the roofs of their houses? And how many broken bones occur during training for ski jumping, a few hundred?

— Was watching some of the slopestyle snowboarding highlights where American Sage Kostenburg won his first gold, and he was described by the announcers as a “free spirit.” NBC, he’s doing quadruple flips in the air while basically on a skateboard. I think we pretty much figured he’s a free spirit.

— I know we’re all supposed to think ice dancing is a sport, but I’m not really buying it. It’s beautiful and takes a lot of coordination and timing and all that, but isn’t it really just two people skating around? I mean, the two great Americans, Davis and White, are wonderful to watch, but is this really a sport?

— And speaking of things I don’t understand, have you seen the ski-athlon (above)? Tons of competitors on skis, going really slowly but still racing to the finish line. It looks hilarious, like race-walking on skis.

— Curling starts today. And if you don’t think I’m excited, you’re wrong. Already looking forward to watching (and blogging about it for ThriveSports.com) while I eat breakfast Monday morning before work.

— Finally, as an ex-newspaper scribe this is one of those columns I would read and go “Man, that’s a fantastic angle, I wish I’d thought of that.” Steve Politi of the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger decided to watch the Opening Ceremonies Friday night at a gay bar in Sochi (kinda pokes holes in Putin’s stance about there being no gay people in Russia, huh?)

**Next up, these Olympics commercials get to me every two years. Procter and Gamble’s continuing their excellent ads with these “Thank You Mom” spots, and this one has been my favorite so far. Just so awesome…

**And finally, from the slightly less warm and fuzzy department, Jimmy Kimmel did the latest round of one of his great bits last week, allowing celebrities to come on the air and read the meanest Tweets written to them, or about them, lately.

This edition stars George Clooney, Jennifer Garner, and John Goodman, among others. Warning: This is definitely NSFW (not safe for work). But it’s hilarious.

Good News Friday: The Beatles debut in America turns 50. An awesome Canadian response to Russia being anti-gay. And a USA Olympian to root for.

It’s hard to fathom for people of my generation how amazing and transformative a cultural event “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9, 1964 was.

Of course rock and roll existed before that date, but when the Beatles came on television, it was like nothing any Americans had ever seen before.

Elvis made girls scream, sure. But when John, Paul, George and Ringo were around, people lost their ever-loving minds.

Lots of good stuff has been said and written this week about the 50th anniversary of that seminal moment, and I’m very much looking forward to the special on CBS Sunday night about them.

I’ve been a Beatles fan since I was about 13, when a friend of my mother’s bought me their “20 Greatest Hits” cassette, and I played it pretty much non-stop for a while.

I’m nowhere near as obsessive as most fans, but what struck me tonight while I was going through some of their history was just how much music they made in such a short time. They made twelve studio albums from 1962-70, an insane pace that no act today could ever match.

And so many of those albums are filled with classic songs; there really isn’t a bad record in the bunch.

Everybody always wonders what would’ve happened if they’d stayed together. Me, I’m just happy they did so much amazing work while they got along.

**Next up, yet another reason for me to love Canada, as if I didn’t have enough already, what with their universal health care, worship of hockey and curling (Man am I excited to watch curling again at the Olympics!), and wonderful gifting of comedians to us.

Ahead of the Winter Olympics which, oddly, started Thursday before the Opening Ceremonies), the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion has released this hilarious 30-second commercial mocking Russia’s horribly anti-gay laws and beliefs.

And the music is classic, too. Bravo, Canada.

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**Finally today, the Olympics really get going this weekend, which gives me a chance to plug my Olympics writing for Thrive Sports. I’ll be writing daily blogs about skeleton, curling and speedskating.

NBC will of course give us lots of human-interest stories to make us care about Team USA, but I doubt there’s a better story than Emily Scott, a short-track speedskater making her first Olympic appearance.

Joe Posnanski has written a magnificent story about Scott, who’s overcome a lot in life: Her mother was a meth dealer and has been in prison for most of Emily’s life, and Emily’s Olympic dream pretty much ended last year when she ran out of money to train.

But a story about her in USA Today led to a fundraising drive, and strangers from across this great land of ours (689 people, to be exact) pitched in nearly $50,000. And now Emily Scott qualified and is in Sochi, and her heroic father will be there to watch.

Read the whole story here; pretty hard to get through without having a lump in your throat.

Searching for answers in the Woody Allen case. A commercial the NFL doesn’t want you to see. And a powerful ad about learning to read

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So maybe you’ve heard about this whole recent mess regarding Woody Allen and the molestation charges by Dylan Farrow, Mia’s daughter, once again making news 20 years after they were first investigated.

This has all started up again because Dylan Farrow wrote an op-ed piece with Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times on Feb.1, describing in excruciating detail her recollections of Woody Allen taking her into a small, dark room and sexually assaulting her when she was 7 years old.

The charges were investigated by police at the time, and no charges or arrests were made of Allen, but there has always been some controversy about that.

Years later, of course, Allen married Mia’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi, who was about 40 years younger than him, and lost millions of fans and a ton of respect from many for that, shall we say, bizarre life choice.

But these Dylan Farrow allegations re-surfacing have really riled a lot of people up, especially after Woody was given a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes a few weeks ago.

There were denunciations of Allen from so many corners of the Internet this week, and many of them were spot-on. Then there was this full-throated, fairly clear-eyed defense of Allen, contradicting much of Farrow’s story, by Robert Weide in The Daily Beast. (Weide is a longtime admirer of the director and recently made a documentary for PBS about Woody).

But then there was this equally compelling article I read by Natalie Shure in The Atlantic, herself a victim of molestation as a young child, explaining why inconsistencies in 7-year-old Dylan’s story at the time is not unusual, or surprising.

Honestly, after reading so much about this the last few days, I don’t know what I think the “right” side of this is. Of course I sympathize with any sexual assault victim, and it’s twice as heinous when that victim is too young to even attempt to fend for themselves, or speak up. If what Dylan Farrow said really happened, Woody Allen should be locked up and imprisoned forever.

But we also have innocent until proven guilty in this country, and Weide makes some excellent points about Mia Farrow’s “pushing” her daughter toward certain details, among other things. I think this has hung over Allen’s head for 20 years, and if he really did not commit this act, it’s wildly unfair that it has trailed him for two decades.

There doesn’t appear to be any clarity of the truth here, just a whole lot of muddled mess. I’ve thought about this a lot and I truly don’t know what to think.

**Next up today, here’s a pretty powerful ad that would’ve been great to run during the Super Bowl, except you just know the NFL and FOX never would’ve approved it.

The National Congress of American Indians released a two-minute video on its YouTube channel, targeting a team name it says is racist, the Washington Redskins.

Will it have an impact on the debate? Who knows. What I do know is that the longer this issue stays in the public consciousness, the more pressure Dan Snyder and the NFL will feel to change the ‘Skins’ name.

**Finally, once again a commercial from a foreign country blew me away, and makes me wonder how U.S. advertisements don’t seem nearly as good. This is an ad from a liquor company, shown in South Africa, but it has nothing to do with alcohol. It’s about … well, I don’t want to say too much. Just watch it. I found it very moving.

My latest tales of “Life as a Sub.” And the Sochi Olympics are already a nightmare

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So while I was running on the treadmill Tuesday, with the dulcet tones of Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Smashing Pumpkins blaring through my earbuds, I realized that it’s been far too long since I’ve written about life as a substitute teacher.

This is now my second year doing it, and while in some ways it has gotten easier (I know which schools to definitely avoid this year, and have learned through trial and error some classroom management techniques that actually work!), the experiences have gotten no less strange, or interesting.

Some scattered thoughts on my life a New York City substitute, working in middle and high schools:

— It amazes me how, more often than not during a typical day, a kid during one of the morning classes will ask for a pen or pencil. “Where’s yours?” I helpfully ask. “I don’t have one,” comes the grunting reply.

“You didn’t bring something to write with to school today?”
“No.”
And I am then stumped for a reply. My mind is always boggled when the student says that. How do you come to school with a whole backpack full of stuff, and not bring a writing implement? I mean, you can find a pen or pencil on the street on your way into the building!

— Sometimes I have conversations with 8th graders filled with intelligence and curiosity, like last week when a student and I discussed Egypt for a short while.
Then there were the two boys on Monday who spent five minutes arguing over who had actually just farted and smelled up the room. Teenagers are delightful.

— I hate it and love it when kids ask me questions and I just can’t lie to them. After telling some high school students in my class to stop talking and do work already, one of the boys turned to me and said “Man, it’s like teachers were never kids and never talked. Didn’t you ever used to talk to your friends when you had a sub in school?”

I looked at the kid, and then just walked away. I mean, that was better than lying, right?

— I know why the students are so happy when they see me upon entering the classroom; they’re just thrilled their regular teacher isn’t there.
Still, it is a little bit cool to have a job where your “employees” are so excited when they first see you.

— Special education teachers should make $1 million per year. At the minimum. I’ve had to sub for a bunch of special ed (or ICT, as they’re called in NYC schools) classes this year, sometimes by myself for double periods of up to 95 minutes. And I truly, truly have no idea how those teachers do it. It’s not just all the behavior problems and constant interruptions from the students; it’s just that it takes so long to get the class to settle down and actually do work, and that takes twice as long as normal.

Seriously, special ed teachers are saints. There should be statues built to honor them.

— It’s funny being a sub when you’re in the faculty room or teachers lounge; you don’t really feel like part of the conversation, but the other teachers also forget that you’re there and talk frankly, either to you or about you.
And I will say this, having spent my whole career in newspaper newsrooms before becoming a teacher two years ago: I thought newsrooms were filled with sarcastic, bitter people.

But man, we scribes have nothing on teachers. Wow, do they like to complain to each other.

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**Finally today, the Winter Olympics are starting in two days, and I am very excited to watch. I’ll be blogging on ThriveSports.com a few times a day on curling, skeleton and speedskating, among other sports, so please check me out there.

I’m excited to watch the Olympics, and thrilled I’m not there. Do you ever remember an Olympics filled with this many negative stories and problems just a couple of days before they start?

All the news out of Sochi has been bad lately; terrorist concerns, roads and venues not finished, hotels nowhere near done (three of the nine media hotels aren’t finished being built yet. Vladimir, bubeleh, you’ve had SIX YEARS to get ready for these Olympics!) and the ones that are finished are either missing electricity, or hot water, or both.

I was horrified (and entertained) that the photo above is a sign from a media member’s hotel bathroom in Sochi; read more of the “working conditions” media are dealing with here. And here.

At this point it’ll be close to a miracle if these Winter Olympics aren’t a disaster.

A terrific new book about 1927, an amazing year. Seattle even riots politely. And a way-cool flash mob orchestra

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Some years are memorable for one or two major events. Other years, like 1927, had so much stuff in them that they could make up a fantastic book.

In the spring/summer of 1927, here’s a partial list of what happened in America: Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly from New York to Paris on a solo flight, setting off mass hysterica all across the country. Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs, a new record. Floods destroyed much of the South and put millions out of their homes.
The first talking movie, “The Jazz Singer,” was filmed. Sacco and Vanzetti were executed despite most likely being completely innocent. The events that would set in motion the Great Depression took place.

And oh yeah, Al Capone was in his prime.

It was a remarkable year for so many reasons, and Bill Bryson, who has written a slew of best-sellers, has just published a new book about it. “One Summer, America, 1927,” and I finished reading it the other day.

It’s really terrific in every way; fun to read, informative, hilarious at times, scary at others (truly, the scenes of Lindbergh being literally mobbed at every stop of his celebration tour were horrifying; even in today’s celeb culture, I can’t believe anyone ever had it as bad as he did in 1927. Of course, Lindbergh would turn out to be far, far from heroic as he got older).

Bryson explains all the big topics that year, like Ruth and the floods (which led the rise of Herbert Hoover), in wonderful detail. But it’s the smaller stuff that really hooked me, like how RCA and David Sarnoff completely rubbed out television inventor Philo T. Farnsworth’s place in history, and the sordid saga of Henry Ford and why he gets WAY too much credit for being an innovator.

Bryson’s book brings his characters completely to life (who knew Hoover was so joyless before the Depression even hit?), and I flew through the book.

Highly recommend it if you like American history or just want to know what it was like to be alive in 1927. Check it out on Amazon here.

**You may have seen this video Monday; it was making the rounds on a bunch of sites, and I just think it’s really cute.

It’s of a group of wildly happy Seattle Seahawks fans in their home city, who can’t wait to celebrate their team’s Super Bowl victory… but because it’s the rules, they wait until the light changes to green before crossing.

The video is great; the Twitter meme it sparked is even better. Under the hashtag “How Seattle Riots,” came these gems (more of them are here):

— “Americanos after 9PM… With no room!”

— “We are going to party until our Priuses run out of juice.”

— “Taking off all the “contains nuts” and contains gluten” signs off of the appetizers at the Super Bowl party”

— “Parking in a 15 minute Load/Unload only zone for 16 minutes.”

“Deferring a McAfee scan.”

**Finally today, this video is a couple of years old but was just posted on Facebook by a friend of mine, and I thought it was fabulous: In 2012 the city of Sabadell, Spain was celebrating its 130th anniversary, and to help celebrate a local orchestra helped create an amazing musical flash mob in the town square.

Very, very cool.

A forgettable Super Bowl, as Seattle bludgeons Denver. And RIP, Philip Seymour Hoffman, an incredible talent

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Still recovering from that incredible, heart-stopping sporting event this weekend, that was hyped for weeks and was played in the New York area.

No, not the Super Bowl, silly; the Duke-Syracuse college basketball game Saturday night. What an unbelievable game that was, truly one of the five best regular season college hoops games I’ve ever seen. I could easily write 1,000 words on it, but there was that OTHER game this weekend that demands attention that I’m sure more of you are interested in …

Maybe it’s fitting that during a Super Bowl where so many of the commercials harkened back to the 1980s, the game itself was played like so many of the Super Bowls of that decade played out: Blowout, blowout, blowout.

What a miserable, hard-to-watch game if you weren’t a Seattle die-hard. The Denver Broncos failed to show up, and Peyton Manning’s legacy took a hit, and the Seattle Seahawks’ defense played ferociously, and it was never close after the first quarter.

That’s about all that needs to be said about the game itself, so let’s get on to the other, more interesting stuff Sunday night…

— The national anthem was stellar. Renee Fleming brought the goods.
— Bruno Mars was pretty terrific at halftime; I like his music but didn’t know if he could pull off a Super Bowl show. But from the clothes (I want one of those gold jackets) to the dancing, to the seamless transition to the Red Hot Chili Peppers (and man was that an odd pairing), Bruno was terrific.

— By the way, if we’re not allowed to see Janet Jackson’s nipple at the Super Bowl, why must we be subjected to Anthony Kiedis’ nipples?

— The commercials were pretty good, I thought, but definitely my favorite was the Radio Shack ad (below). When you put Alf, Hulk Hogan, Erik Estrada and Cliff Clavin all in the same ad, you’ve got magic!

I thought the Cheerios commercial was super-cute, the Coca-Cola commercial with the singing of “America The Beautiful” ad was beautiful and moving, and the Toyota Highlander commercials starring the always-awesome Muppets were great, too. Also liked the Turbo Tax ad at the beginning of the game.

— And oh yeah, the Budweiser puppy adoption one was fabulous.

— The commercials that stunk? I didn’t think the Tebow ones were that funny; the Bud Light “Ian Rapaport” one was only eh, and the Bruce Willis “hugging” ad was just creepy.

— Can’t believe Bob Dylan actually did a commercial. Never thought I’d see the day.

— One more thought on the game itself: Can’t remember a worse performance by a losing team. The Broncos offense, defense and special teams were all atrocious. How do you come out that flat and uninspired in the biggest game of your life?

— Loved the “Seinfeld” bit at the beginning of halftime; the whole 6-minute clip is much funnier, and can be seen here. “Newman!”

— Finally, really disappointed we didn’t get 20 degrees and snow for the first outdoor Super Bowl. I still think it was crazy to hold the Super Bowl outdoors in a cold-weather climate, but after today’s game went off without any weather issues, you know we’re going to have more.

Great.

**It’s pretty rare that a celebrity death makes my jaw drop and my wife runs into the room after hearing me scream “No!”

But when I heard that Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the greatest actors of the last 20 years, died of a drug overdose at age 46, I couldn’t believe it.

The details of his death are awful: Hoffman was found with a needle in his arm and heroin lying in a bag nearby.

But I don’t want to focus on any of that today; I want to pay tribute to a fantastic actor and a great human being who always, always brought his best. Whether it was his iconic role as Lester Bangs in “Almost Famous,” his brilliance in all of P.T. Anderson’s movies, his spectacular job as a priest in “Doubt” (an underrated classic; see it if you haven’t), or his Oscar-winning portrayal of Truman Capote in “In Cold Blood,” Hoffman always stole every movie he was in.

He had a presence like few others, and I’m deeply saddened we’ll never get to see his acting brilliance again.