Monthly Archives: September 2015

“The Daily Show” will be just fine with Trevor Noah. An amazing profile of Joe Biden, unfiltered, from 1974. And the catch of the year in major league baseball

I have to admit I felt a little bit like a nervous parent watching a Little Leaguer I loved taking his first at-bat on Monday night, when “The Daily Show” with someone other than Jon Stewart debuted.

I loved the show so much with Stewart, and I really, really hoped that Trevor Noah, the new South African host, would carry on the tradition of biting satire and brilliant, take-no-prisoners coverage of news events.

You can’t judge too much off two shows so far, but what I’ve seen, I’ve really liked. Noah is smart, appealing and quick with a one-liner, and as expected with almost the whole writing team remaining from the Jon Stewart version of the show, the writing was still damn funny.

Any concerns Noah wouldn’t push the envelope were erased, oh, four minutes into Monday’s show, when he said “bullshit” and moments later made a dick joke while talking about Pope Francis.

Noah wisely started the show thanking and paying tribute to Stewart, who gave him his break, and then cracking some great jokes … “once more a job Americans rejected, is now being done by an immigrant.”

Noah’s interviewing skills definitely need work; the “interview” with Kevin Hart Monday was awful, but Tuesday’s was better.

In short, give the kid a try if you’re worried about a “Daily Show” without Stewart not being worth it.

So far, Noah’s definitely got the chops to keep this great show going.

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**Next up, once more the magic of the Internet is affirmed: This 1974 profile of young Senator Joseph R. Biden from The Washingtonian newspaper somehow rocketed around Twitter over the weekend.

It was written by Kitty Kelley, who then was a reputable journalist, but now is known for writing trashy books about the Royal Family and many other celebrities.

The profile is astonishing in so many ways: Biden’s candor about his wife’s recent death and his political aspirations; Kelley’s complete breezy style about serious matters, and the absolute certainty expressed by all that Biden would be president someday.

Check out this passage: “It was awful in the beginning,” says Chazy Dowaliby, a press aide. “A few weeks after Neilia’s (Biden’s wife) death we got a call from Sally Quinn of the Post. She wanted to do a story on the Senator as Washington’s most eligible bachelor. Naturally we said no but it wasn’t easy because she kept calling all the time. She wasn’t the only one. Women’s Wear Daily ca lled morning, noon, and night. And so did every female magazine in the country.

Ah, Sally Quinn, always empathetic.

Just take a look at some of these quotes from Biden, things NO politician would ever say in 2015:

— “Let me show you my favorite picture of her,” he says, holding up a snapshot of Neilia in a bikini. “She had the best body of any woman I ever saw. She looks better than a Playboy bunny, doesn’t she?

— “At first she stayed at home with the kids while I campaigned but that didn’t work out because I’d come back too tired to talk to her. I might satisfy her in bed but I didn’t have much time for anything else. That’s when she started campaigning with me and that’s when I started winning.”

-Biden defines politics as power. “And, whether you like it or not, young lady,” he says, leaning over his desk to shake a finger at me, “us cruddy politicians can take away that First Amendment of yours if we want to.”

There’s a whole lot more of that in the story; really, the whole thing is an incredible read. It explains a lot about Biden’s hubris and his mistakes he’s made while running for President twice before.
Take a few minutes and check out Joe Biden, circa 1974, while we wait for the 2015 version to decide if he’ll run for President, yet again.

**Finally today, I hate the Red Sox but have to admit this is the best catch of the year in baseball: Mookie Betts, a superstar in the making, climbs the fence at Fenway to rob the White Sox of a homer. And also, it was the last out of the game.

Very cool…

My Jets return to Earth, and stink it up. Why a friend’s kid’s bat mitzvah made me feel really old. And the great Stevie Wonder does carpool karoake

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(Maybe it’s just because I live in New York City, but the above Photoshopped pic cracked me up something fierce. This past 72 hours in NYC has been all about the Mets and the pontiff, so combining the two was just hilarious. Well done, Internet people.)

Well that was pretty much what we expected.

If I told you a month ago the Philadelphia Eagles would come into the Meadowlands Sunday and wipe the floor with the Jets, you’d have agreed and not blinked an eye.
And that’s exactly what happened (don’t let the final score of 24-17 fool you, it wasn’t close.) Except it did seem a surprise to many since my beloved Gang Green started 2-0, and the green and white team just up I-95 surprisingly started 0-2.
But you know, Sunday things returned to normal. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw the ball way too much since the Jets fell behind 24-0 before halftime, and when Ryan Fitzpatrick throws a lot, bad things happen, like three INT’s (though two weren’t his fault).

Philly scored a bunch of points off Jets mistakes, like Brandon Marshall trying the dumbest lateral in decades, the Jets tried to rally, but fell short.

Look, I wasn’t getting crazy when the Jets were 2-0. But this was a very winnable game, and they blew it. Sigh. Glad I only watched highlights (see below for explanation).

More quick-hit thoughts on NFL week 3:

— The Oakland Raiders have two wins, the Baltimore Ravens have zero, after three weeks. Raise your hand if you saw that coming. Again, this is why you should NEVER gamble real money on the NFL. Because no one knows anything.

— Jacksonville vs. New England isn’t fair, and will never be fair, really. Like varsity against JV.

–I think the Buffalo Bills might be a playoff team. That defense is scary-good. Then again, Rex is their coach, so who knows…

— I just watched highlights of the games Sunday, and I swear tackling is as bad as it’s ever been. Does every defender have to go for a huge hit on every play?

— I think an Arizona vs. New England Super Bowl would be crazy high-scoring and all kinds of fun. The Cardinals (led by Carson Palmer, below) are just shellacking people right now. And Larry Fitzgerald, who I had on my fantasy team for years, thanks for coming back to life the one year I don’t have you.

— Are we all supposed to cheer Adrian Peterson again now, as so many millions seem to be doing? And we forget about him beating his child with a tree branch? Just checking.

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**Next up, Sunday I had one of those experiences where I really, really felt old. I turned 40 last month, and I rarely feel it. Except for Sunday.

In a fact that’s still kinda unfathomable to me, my wife and I have friends who have a daughter old enough to be bat mitzvah’ed. These are people she went to college with, the same age as us, and somehow they have a 13-year-old kid.

Anyway, the bat mitzvah was Sunday, and I expected it to be a blast, not just because it was at the same synagogue where Shelley and I got married two years ago.

The food was fabulous, just as good as it was at our wedding, only this time I got to enjoy it without having to hug and kiss and greet 200 people.

But it was a party clearly designed for 13-year-olds. The music was unintelligible to me, it was incredibly loud, and there were hordes of hormonal teenagers swarming the place and bumping into everyone. Surprisingly to me, the DJ played all the same bar mitzvah games we played in 1988 (complete with glowing headbands and the classic “Coke and Pepsi” game).

I felt 100 years older than these kids. To them, I was just some old dude who was clearly friends with Sarah’s parents, someone to be ignored or patronized.

We had a good time. I just felt really, really ancient. Thankfully, not too decrepit to enjoy the maple-drizzled sweet potato fries at the cocktail hour (best thing ever).

**Finally today, chalk this one up to Daddy Brain: I had this clip of the legendary Stevie Wonder appearing on James Corden’s fantastic “Carpool Karaoke” segment on his show all ready to roll for Good News Friday last week. Then I forgot about it. (see above post about me getting old).

It’s definitely worth your time, and almost guaranteed to give you a smile on this Monday.

Good News Friday: Remembering the great Yogi Berra, with a smile. The baby who loves books more than any baby, ever. And the best 100-year-old athlete in the world

Yogi

And a Happy Friday to you; it’s been a good week in that I survived my Yom Kippur fast, the Jets are 2-0, and I’m getting a ride in the Popemobile today (OK not really, but wouldn’t that be awesome?)

We don’t usually start Good News Friday celebrating someone’s death, but you know what? Yogi Berra always made me, and millions of others, smile, and that’s what so many people have been doing the last 48 hours since his passing: Smiling at the memory of all that Yogi did, all that he gave us, and all the funny things he said, over the course of his 90 years.

Picking a favorite Yogi quote is like picking the prettiest mountain or the most beautiful flower: There are just too many options.

I’ve always loved “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” and also, “Hey, Yogi, what time is it?”
“You mean now?”

But there are so many others. There are also numerous instances of Yogi’s innate goodness, his charitable works, and how every single tribute to him that’s flowed in has talked about his humility, and his kindness toward others.

Lawrence Peter Berra was a war hero (he had a part in the D-Day invasion), a 10-time World Series-winning catcher, an incredible hitter, a manager who brought two teams to the brink of a World Series title, and a baseball legend, permanently ensconced in the Hall of Fame.

But maybe the best epitaph for him? “He was a truly nice man.”

I’ve read a bunch of wonderful Yogi tribute stories the last few days, but my two favorites are this one from the brilliant Tom Verducci of SI, and Joe Posnanski’s sweet column on NBCSports.com

**Next up, I really think this is a good news video, even though there’s a baby crying in it. Meet Emmett, the adorable little fella who cries every single time his mom finishes reading him a book.

Emmett loves books SO much, he just can’t handle it, emotionally, when they end.
Love it! He’s going to grow up to love books and probably become a librarian.
Wish my kid loved books that much. These days he just tries to eat the pages.

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**Finally today, meet Don Pellmann. He was born before World War I ended, and he’s still competing as an athlete.

He’s 100, and at the recent San Diego Senior Olympics he threw the shotput (or put the shot, as it’s properly said) more than 21 feet.

He also competed in the high jump, winning a gold medal there (3 feet, 1 1/4 inches) and then broke 27 seconds in the 100-meter dash (not to quibble, but can we really call it a “dash” if a 100-year-old is doing it?).

What a tremendous medical marvel.

“I guess I have pretty good genes,” Pellmann said.

Madonna, still weird and wonderful at 57 years old. “Almost Famous” turns 15, and Cameron Crowe celebrates. And a man wakes up from an 11-year coma, stunned to find Federer still rules.

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It was a typical weekday phone call from my wife, one we have 2-3 times a day.

Usually it’s “Did the boy nap well?” or “did you remember to pick up the dry cleaning?”
This was different.
“Wanna go see Madonna at Madison Square Garden?”
It took about four nanoseconds for me to respond “YES!” when she asked that last week, after her great boss said they had been invited by a law firm that represents my wife’s company.
No matter where or how you grew up in the 1980s, Madonna was impossible to avoid. I, of course, loved her: Her music, her fearlessness, her dancing, her total disregard for “rules” and authority, just her … Madonna-ness, if you will, had me entranced.
I lost the love for her a bit in the 1990s, like I’m sure a lot of us did, when she started acting like a total fool on TV (that Letterman appearance was atrocious), making terrible music, and we won’t even talk about her “acting” career, which was an affront to all thespians everywhere.

But you know what? She’s ended up having a lot longer career than any of us could have predicted in the 1980s. She moved to England, took up Pilates, and played a kick-ass set at the Super Bowl a few years ago.

So going to MSG last Wednesday night to see her, I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting.

The show was … weird. And great. Some dispatches from a unique couple of hours:

— Ms. Ciccone was in incredible shape for 57. Incredible shape for 27. She doesn’t dance nearly as fast or as intricately as she used to, but she can still move really well.

— Of course, I couldn’t help noticing that the dancers she was writhing around with on stage were young enough to be her kids. Or (gasp) grandkids. Yikes.

— Definitely the highest percentage of gay people at a concert I’ve ever been to. (As “Seinfeld” would say, not that there’s anything wrong with that.) And I say that having seen both Tori Amos and Indigo Girls.
Amy Schumer, the filthy but funny opening act, said something like “I’ve never been around so much dick that didn’t want me.”

–In case you were wondering, Madonna is still obsessed with sex; it seemed like all of the songs she played off her new album “Rebel Heart” were about sex, S&M, or some other kind of masochistic relationship. Again, she’s Madonna so there are no rules, but seeing a 57-year-old woman have simulated sex on stage is a little bit icky.

— I was wildly surprised to hear my favorite, mostly under-loved Madonna ’80s song performed: “Dress You Up.” We were dancing big-time to that one.

— Lastly, we’d heard that Madonna goes on stage absurdly late for concerts, so we were definitely worried we’d have to miss most of the show if she went on at 11 or something. But happily, she pranced on stage at 9:45 p.m.

Because Madonna, like her fans, can’t stay up as late as she used to.

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**Next up, as I’ve stated on here before, one of my all-time favorite movies is “Almost Famous,” Cameron Crowe’s pitch-perfect ode to early 1970s rock and roll.

The fabulous flick turned 15 this month, and Crowe released some great behind-the-scenes photos to celebrate the occasion.

The one above is great, but all of them are terrific. Check them out here, and below, because we all miss him so, all of the Philip Seymour Hoffman scenes from the movie. My favorite is the one starting at 7:05, when Lester Bangs counsels young William Miller about being uncool.

**Finally today, one last tennis story before I stop writing about my favorite sport for a while. This one is too good not to share.

In 2004, Seville, Spain native Jesus Aparicio was a huge tennis fan, specifically a huge fan of Roger Federer. The 18-year-old Aparicio just watched the Swiss star win three of the four Grand Slam tournaments that year, and was excited to see how much better Federer would get.

On Dec. 12, 2004, while celebrating his 18th birthday, Aparicio was in a serious car accident, and was in a coma for 11 years.

He awoke, miraculously, on Aug. 27, and as he regained the power of speech in coming weeks, he asked whatever happened to Federer.

When his family told Jesus that Federer was still a major force in tennis, ranked No. 2 in the world, he was stunned.

“I thought he had retired. When I knew that at 34 years old, he is still playing and is number two in the world, I thought they were kidding me. I could not believe it,” Aparicio said.

“When I heard that he reached 17 slam titles, I put my hands on my face.“I knew Federer was very good but I never thought he could win all he has won.”

Aparicio’s family is hoping to give him his dream of meeting Federer. Sounds like a fantastic Kickstarter or GoFundMe fundraiser to me. I’d kick in money for sure.

Amazing stuff.

The Emmy Awards were pretty fantastic, with surprise winners and great speeches. A crazy Ole Miss touchdown. And NFL Week 2: Eagles and Giants look awful, Arizona and the Pats soar

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I know I’m usually way off when it comes to consensus opinion on these things.

But I thought that was really a fabulous Emmy Awards Sunday night. New winners, surprise winners, excellence being rewarded most places, only a few major snubs that angered my wife and I (Jonathan Banks, you are SO worthy, and don’t even get me started again about “The Americans,” the best damn show on TV, getting totally shut out), some terrific jokes by Andy Samberg (much to my surprise), and some terrific acceptance speeches.

And though I’ve never been a big fan of his, that Tracy Morgan surprise appearance at the end was beautiful TV.

So much to get to, so little time for you to read my blog. Many quick-hit thoughts:

— Viola Davis, hands down, best speech. First-ever African-American woman to win best actress in a drama, and her acceptance was sweet, and also brutally honest.
“The only thing that separates women of color, from anyone else, is opportunity,” she said, to thunderous applause. From quoting Harriet Tubman to her gratitude at winning, Davis was fantastic.

— The dead people montage, always one of my favorites, was actually not filled with that many famous dead TV people. Good job staying alive, TV folks! Leonard Nimoy pretty much had to be “the hammer” at the end, not many other good candidates.

— While we’re on farewells, I loved the little tribute to shows that finished their run this year,  but what in the hell was the train-wreck “The Newsroom” doing in that montage? Show stunk and was cancelled after three seasons! That deserves a “farewell?” Please.

— I’m not a big Samberg fan, but he was pretty good as host. I liked his Donald Trump joke in the open, and his Bernie Sanders and Kim Davis quips were funny, too.

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— Best-dressed? Thought Julia Louis-Dreyfus looked great, as did Marcia Gay Harden and the always-stunning Kerry Washington. Worst-dressed? The wife and I agree: It was Jamie Alexander (above). She looked like she was wearing a Lite-Brite, we agreed (children of the ’80s will get that joke.)

— Jeffrey Tambor (above) was a long-overdue first-time winner, and his speech was moving and beautiful.

— Wanted to see “Silicon Valley” or “Transparent” win best comedy, but I can’t argue with “Veep.” I only watch it occasionally but it’s brilliant and cruelly funny.

— Jon Hamm! Finally! Look, he wasn’t better than Bryan Cranston all those years Cranston won, but he’s a terrific actor and I’m happy he finally won.

–Was really rooting for “This Week Tonight with John Oliver” to win, but you can’t argue with “The Daily Show” triumphing on its way out the door. Loved Stewart’s quip about not hearing applause for six weeks he’s been off-air.

— Why do people keep giving Rob Lowe and John Stamos new TV shows? Was there some sort of vote among all TV-watchers that I missed?

— Finally, I thought Jimmy Kimmel killed with his bit about making up who the winner was.
Really entertaining show. And it finished in three hours!

**Next up, this has to be one of the craziest touchdowns  you’ll ever see. The fact that evil Nick Saban and Alabama were on the short end of it makes it even more enjoyable. Watch Ole Miss score just the way it was drawn up in practice…

Ole Miss ended up winning, which of course makes this play immediately legendary.

**Finally, thoughts on Week 2 in the NFL, on a rare enjoyable Sunday where I don’t have to agonize over the Jets (that comes tonight, on Monday Night Football, where my boys will likely get stomped at Indy.):

— The Giants. Man oh man, how brutal was that? I said on Twitter Sunday that there have been precious few days of my life where I was happy to be a Jets fan and not a Giants fan (Super Bowl wins in my lifetime: Guys in Blue 4, Guys in Green, 0, so yeah…), but Sunday was one of them.
Again New York was in control of the game, leading 20-10 over the Falcons in the 4th quarter. And once again Tom Coughlin’s team found a way to lose. Eli fumbled. The defense crumbled. And the Giants are 0-2, when even though that’s probably what they deserve to be, very easily could be 2-0.

–Meanwhile, the Cowboys are 2-0 and Tony Romo broke his collarbone and will be out eight weeks, and the Eagles look awful on offense. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2015 NFC East champs, the Washington Redskins!
OK, probably not. But it’s suddenly possible…

— Two best teams in the NFL through two weeks? How about Arizona and New England? Cardinals destroyed the Bears in all phases, and the Patriots beat the tar out of a Rex Ryan-coached team (geez, where have I seen that movie before?)

— Finally, can someone please explain to me what the heck has happened to the Detroit Lions? Weren’t they supposed to be good this year?
Oh yeah. They’re the Lions. Sorry, forget I asked.

Good News Friday: The clock-building boy from Texas is humiliated, then honored. A Montreal hockey player again shows his huge heart. And a Syrian refugee’s photo inspires massive kindness

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A couple of programming notes, loyal readers: First, thanks to a generous almost last-minute invitation, my wife and I found ourselves at a Madonna concert at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night. 1988 me would’ve been so damn excited. 2015 me was pretty excited. It was … an experience. Much more on the show in a blog post next week.

Secondly, I really want to say so much about the second Republican debate, but sadly there was nothing in that three-hour verbal orgasm of bullshit that qualifies as “good news,” except maybe that it’s good news none of those buffoons are President right now. Donald Trump continues to be a frightening joke, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee desperately tried to show who had the biggest cojones on foreign affairs, and Carly Fiorina scored points by standing up to the bully Trump (it’s kind of scary when Chris Christie is only, like, the fourth-biggest bully on a stage).

Needless to say, I’ll have much more to say on these bumbling fools in the future.

OK, on with the show…

My cup runneth over with thoughts and Good News stories today, and I love when that happens. I sometimes forget to publicize my own work on this here blog, so I wanted to be sure and point you to a recent story on my weekly Friends of Jaclyn Experience page. It’s about Cody Kessler, the USC football quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate, who has struck up a beautiful friendship with 9-year-old Joey Rodriguez, a pediatric brain cancer patient. Please check it out here, if only for the awesome photo of Joey looking up at Cody toward the bottom of the page. Priceless expression.

OK, first up this week, I’m sure you’ve all heard the disgraceful story of how 9th grader Ahmed Mohammed in Irving, Texas was treated when the engineering whiz brought in a homemade clock to show his teacher.

He was arrested, detained, and suspended from school because another educator thought the clock was a bomb. Oh, did we mention Ahmed was Muslim? Funny how this kind of persecution only happens to black or brown people in America.

Anyway, of course what happened to him was awful, but was so heartening and wonderful was seeing the outpouring of support for this boy. The White House invited him to visit. MIT offered him a tour of its campus, as has Harvard.

Millions in America have taken to social media to support him, and the police department in Irving have been shamed.

How do you turn a negative into a positive? Just like this. And Ahmed’s quote, about how he thought no one would care about him because he was a Muslim boy, just about breaks your heart.

But clearly, millions of people care. And he’s getting at least somewhat of a happy ending to this story.

**Next up, I’ve written before about the huge kindnesses shown by Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban. On the ice, I’m not much of a fan of the guy (he’s kind of known as a big injury faker), but off the ice he does so many wonderful things for kids in the Montreal community.

He once again showed he’s a terrific, compassionate man this week by donating a whopping $10 million to a children’s hospital.

I so love his quote about this: “I try to think: Are you a hockey player, or someone who plays hockey? I just play hockey. Because one day I won’t be a hockey player anymore, I’ll just be someone who played hockey. So what do I want people to remember me for … Every time you walk into this hospital, you’ll know what I stand for.”

He’s 26 years old. What compassion and grace. Hockey’s lucky to have a representative like him.

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**And finally today, the story of a Syrian refugee named Abdul Haleem al-Kader. A photo of him selling pens in Lebanon (above), while holding his child, went viral all around the world.
He was tracked down, identified, and soon a social media campaign sprung up to help this single father, desperately trying to survive and raise his daughter after fleeing the awfulness in Syria.

The campaign raised $170,000 for al-Kader, a staggering sum. He now wants to help other Syrian refugees with his money.

It’s a great story; read more of al-Kader’s story here.

The Kansas State band gets “accidentally” naughty. Joe Biden on Colbert was beautiful. And an Iranian judge assigns book reports to criminals

You know, I really love college bands. They’re usually really creative and sometimes quite clever, they make college games fun, and they bring a little extra spirit.

When I lived in Daytona Beach I got to hear the Bethune-Cookman marching band a few times; HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) always have kick-ass bands, and Cookman’s was no different.

Anyway, my point is, I love college marching bands. And I also love when they, intentionally or unintentionally, do something hilarious.

Kansas State’s big rival is, of course, Kansas University. Well, for the Wildcats’ opening game two Saturdays ago, the band was performing some sort of tribute to the Starship Enterprise from “Star Wars,” and well, it looked like a giant penis, which went right into the mouth of a Kansas Jayhawk.

You think I’m exaggerating? Check this out…

K-State claims it was only trying to represent the Enterprise, the spaceship from the “Star Trek” shows and movies, doing battle with the University of Kansas Jayhawk.

The university fined the band $5,000, and the band director swears he didn’t mean for it to look like, what it looked like.

Can’t wait to see what they come up with when they play Kansas this year.

**Next up, I’m still catching up on a lot of the media I missed while engorging tennis at the U.S. Open the past two weeks, so I just got a chance to see this phenomenal, emotional interview Joe Biden did with Stephen Colbert on his new show. Really terrific stuff; if there’s one thing Biden definitely is, it’s real. I hope he runs for President, but even if he doesn’t, he’s shown great courage being so openly naked and honest about his emotions after the death of his son, Beau.

Here’s Part I of the interview above, you can watch Part 2 here. The whole thing is fabulous.

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**Finally today, it’s not often you get to use “fun story” and “Iran” in the same sentence, but today’s a day you can. I heard this on “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” and couldn’t possibly believe it was real, but it is:

A judge in Iran has started sentencing criminals to buy and read books and do reports on them, instead of handing down prison terms.

According to this story, Judge Qasem Naqizadeh, who presides over a court in the north-eastern city of Gonbad-e Kavus, is using the alternative sentences to avoid what he calls the “irreversible physical and psychological impact on convicts and their families” that a prison term might bring, state-run IRNA news agency reports. Individuals are told to buy and read five books, then write a summary of them, which is returned to the judge. The books are then donated to the local prison, IRNA says. The punishment is spiritual as well as educational – offenders also have to include a saying from the hadith, a collection of sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad.

I cannot stress enough how fabulous this is. I so wish this could be done by judges in America. You tried to sell a couple kilos of cocaine? Go read this book on Pablo Escobar and have a 10-page report on my desk in two weeks. You robbed a few stores? Go read “Crime and Punishment,” it’s a nice short read, you’ll breeze through it in no time.

I think crime would be drastically reduced if criminals knew they’d be sent back to doing seventh grade homework, don’t you?

I’d bet a fair amount of money that judge’s mom or Dad was an English teacher.

Djokovic, Serena, Federer and a sensational U.S. Open. And NFL Week 1: Jets win, the Giants gag one away, and oh my, Mariota.

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I’m exhausted after one of my favorite sports days of the year, after two of my favorite weeks of the sports year. (And a Happy New Year to my fellow Members of the Tribe. L’shana Tova, one and all).

The first NFL Sunday always collides with the final weekend of the U.S. Open, and this year was no different.

What a sensational, splendid, fantastic Open this was, and I say that after having been there for nearly every day of play.

So much to get to, I almost don’t know where to start.
Yes, I do: Serena and Novak.

Serena Williams did not win the Grand Slam this year. Two days after her loss, I’m still kinda stunned to be writing that.

Her match with unseeded Roberta Vinci Friday was typical of Serena’s amazing year in every way but one: She started out great, faltered, then took control of the third set.

I never, ever thought Vinci was going to win that match. Nothing against her, but come on, Serena’s dream season was going to come up short against a short, aging Italian backboard?

Even at 5-4, 40-love in the final set, triple match point I thought Serena would find a way. But she didn’t, and she was crushed, the fans were crushed, and we got one of the all-time greatest post-match interviews ever. If you haven’t seen it yet, you must watch. Vinci is so charming, excited and self-deprecating that you just want to hug her:

— Now, to the men’s final. What a terrific, dramatic, match that was Sunday night. I wanted in my heart of hearts to believe Roger Federer would find a way to win, and grab his 18th major title. And when he broke Novak Djokovic at the end of the splendid second set (seriously, that game at 4-5 in the set, when Djokovic held after 15 minutes? I could write 15,000 words about that game), I thought: Maybe. It’s possible.

But Novak Djokovic, who for reasons I can’t really fathom always seems to be cast as the villain in these finals, was just too good. His level of tennis over the last two sets was … otherworldly. His consistency, his serving, his remarkable defense; we’ve seen it all before, and it was all on display Sunday night.

He’s a true champion in all ways, and now he has 10 Slam titles, and suddenly, after three this year, and the fact that Nole is only 28, Federer’s mark of 17 doesn’t seem all that far away.

— As for Roger, well, that was a fine two weeks he played, but Sunday he just didn’t play his best consistently enough. His forehand was off most of the night, he couldn’t capitalize on most of his break points (incredible that he had 22 break points!), and he just fell apart at the start of the fourth set, allowing himself to be broken twice.
Still, when he rallied from 5-2 in the fourth to get to 5-4, then had two break points, you believed it was still possible. Federer lost, and as I said last night on Twitter, for a guy who’s the greatest player ever, he sure has had some excruciating losses the last few years.

But he’s still near the top of his game, his play last night would’ve beaten 99.9 percent of other players, and I see no reason he won’t have a few more chances at another Slam.

— Got a huge thrill getting to go to the men’s semis Friday, as my fantastic wife sprung for great seats. Unfortunately, both matches were total routs. Seriously, Djokovic and Federer combined won in less time than it takes to watch “Titanic.”

At one point I yelled out, “Come on Marin (Cilic), I’ve got the babysitter all night, let’s pick it up a little!”

**Finally, a word about the crowd Sunday: Fantastic in almost all ways. Pulling for Federer so hard. But really, pretty wildly unfair to Djokovic. Cheering on his first serve faults, booing when he hit a few winners? Bush league. Unbecoming and not cool. It did create one hell of an environment.

Mariota

**And now, the NFL. Won’t write as long as usual during football Mondays because of all the tennis stuff, but a couple quick thoughts on a wild Week 1:

— Very happy with how my Jets played Sunday. Ryan Fitzpatrick was smart with his throws, the offensive line played great, the defense, after the first quarter, was terrific, and Brandon Marshall is exactly the kind of receiver the Jets have needed since Keyshawn left.

But a few caveats: It was against the Browns, who once again look like Super Bowl contenders. It was against the Browns’ backup QB, a fella named Jonathan Football, who stinks. And it was Week 1; I’ve been fooled before by great Week 1 performances.

Still, a real nice start for the green and white.

— Did you see the end of that Giants-Cowboys game? Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning blew it big-time, throwing the ball on third down up 3, inside the Cowboys’ 5-yard line. They kicked the FG, gave the Cowboys 1:30 to drive down and score a TD and win the game, and that’s what they did. Just a brutal loss.

— Marcus Mariota, four TD’s in the first half of his first game. Not bad, kid. Again, it’s only one game. But wow.

— Finally, nice to see the Redskins and Raiders are in midseason form. Washington fans, I feel your pain. There really is no light at the end of the tunnel there, is there? And even if there were, Dan Snyder would charge you $20 to come into that light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourteen years ago, the world changed. Ellen DeGeneres helps out an awesome educator. And Roger Federer saves an autograph-seeking boy from being crushed

It is Friday, which usually means only good news stories on this site. But it is, of course, also 9/11 today, and I would be pretty heartless to ignore that fact.

It’s been fourteen years since the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked by planes, a fact that doesn’t get any less surreal or scary by the passage of time.

As always, I watched the above video last night to remember and think about 9/11; I couldn’t find the original version, by Jason Powers, to embed, but this one is pretty good as well.

Please take a few minutes today to listen to the roll call of names being read in New York, or think about someone who died that day (like Tyler Ugolyn), or think about a visit to the 9/11 Memorial site the next time you’re here in N.Y.

Fourteen years. Never forget.

**Moving on, two videos that I hope will make you as happy as they made me. Ellen DeGeneres’ show came back on the air for a new season this week, and I very much enjoyed Pink’s performance and interview on Thursday (Pink totally rules, and I will not accept any other opinion.)

Ellen always makes people feel good, and for some reason I must’ve missed this awesome clip from last spring. Sonya Romero, an incredibly dedicated teacher in New Mexico, was on Ellen’s show explaining how much she does for her students, and Ellen and Co. decided to give something back.

This is beautiful, even Ellen cries…

**And finally, I’ll be at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center today, getting a thrill of a lifetime watching the men’s semifinals at the U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium (a fantastic birthday present from my wife).

Happily, Roger Federer, maybe my all-time favorite athlete, will be playing. I love Federer for so many reasons, but certainly for stuff like this.

After his match the other night there was a crush of people trying to get his autograph, and a little boy was getting smushed.

So Fed did this…

Go Fed. Two more wins and Slam No. 18 awaits…

The tennis-playing sisters from Compton give us more thrills. A Barenaked Ladies cover that’s awesome. And a really bad idea at the Auschwitz camp

serenavenus.hug

The story has been told so often, and yet, I feel like it can’t be told enough.

Two young African-American girls, growing up on the dangerous streets of Compton, Calif., rise up to become extraordinary tennis champions, and role models to millions.

They win Grand Slam championships. They play each other for some of them, always feeling awkward and uncomfortable celebrating a victory while the sibling suffers.

And after nearly two decades in the spotlight, Venus and Serena Williams are still here, playing on the world’s biggest stages, still at or near the peak of their sport.

The two put on a fabulous show Tuesday night at the U.S. Open, putting on one of their better matches against each other. Venus raised her game significantly to match Serena’s, and going into the third set, I stared at my TV and honestly thought Venus might, might have a shot to win.

But then much as Roger Federer seems to do, Serena went to 11. She raised her game, showed what an incredible competitor she is, and hung on for the win.

Before we get back to focusing on Serena’s quest for the calendar-year Grand Slam, let’s not lose sight of the amazing career Venus and Serena have both had; Sibling rivalry? They never showed any sense at all of any jealousy (well, that’s not true, Venus did look a little mad when Serena was the first to win a major).

They have been best friends and confidants, and have at times taken turns ruling the sport.

Two little girls, growing up in Compton, Calif., turning out like this.

If it’s not the most improbable sports story of all time, well, it’s in the Top 5.

**Next up today, this is one of those random covers of a classic song that’s probably been out there for a while, but I’d never heard it until recently and I think it’s fabulous.

It’s Barenaked Ladies, a terrific band that’s not as famous as they should be, performing the Phil Collins song “In the Air Tonight” at a small show this past summer.

Just beautiful stuff, a different twist on a great tune.

auschwitz.misters

**And finally, an idea so awful you just have to laugh out loud. At the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp, administrators there wanted to do something to help visitors/tourists cope with the oppressive summer heat in Poland.

So they installed “misters” to spray mist on the visitors. Mist, which is basically water, which of course reminds people of the showers that millions were forced into during the Holocaust before they headed to the gas chamber.

Oy. Pretty bad optics on that one, Auschwitz.

A point in their defense, though, which was raised by a panelist on ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” where I first heard about this: You’re on a tour of Auschwitz. Aren’t you supposed to be thinking about the Holocaust at this point?

Just saying.