Bernie and Hillary spar once again in terrific Dem Debate. Nancy Reagan’s indelible impact on Gen X’ers like me, in one TV clip. And remembering the great Bud Collins, as fine a man tennis has seen

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That was one heck of a newsy weekend, on a lot of fronts, in my world. Two very famous people died (more on them below), my Duke basketball boys lost to North Carolina Saturday night (not crushing because Duke is so undermanned but still, I hate losing to the Heels), Ted Cruz looks like the only person who might be able to stop Donald Trump, and Peyton Manning is going to announce his retirement today (and maybe Maria Sharapova too?)

No way to cover all that in one blog post, so let’s start with with a crucially important Democratic debate from Flint, Mich. Sunday night.

First of all, I don’t know what kind of “presidential debate” this was. Nobody made reference to their penis size, nobody called each other liars, and I don’t think in the whole two hours anyone obsessively bragged about their poll numbers. Weren’t Hillary and Bernie watching the GOP Debate last week, to see how it’s done? Geez, all we got Sunday night was a couple hours on substantive issues, policy, and real answers. Madness!

— In all seriousness, what a damn breath of fresh air this Dem debate was. Actual policy discussion, no ridiculous braggadoccio, and very few insults.  Tweeted NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof: “Listening to tonight’s debate  and the audience, it appears the Democrats and Republicans are competing to lead different countries.”

And said Yahoo!’s Matt Bai: “Watching these GOP and Dem debates isn’t like watching 2 different parties. It’s like watching 2 different political systems entirely.”

— Personally I thought it was another even debate. Hillary was outstanding on the schools question, her “blind spot” when it comes to race, and on guns. Bernie was terrific as always in pushing her about her Wall Street ties, his forcefulness about income inequality, and his fantastic line about mental health (“Either President Clinton or President Sanders is going to invest a lot of money in mental health, and when you watch these Republican debates you know why.”)

— But as a huge Bernie backer, I must admit that an “even” debate doesn’t help. He needs, in boxing parlance, some 10-8 rounds here. He had a strong weekend, winning Kansas and Nebraska and Maine caucuses, but he needs a yuge state win. He needs Michigan, or Florida, or Ohio on March 15 to really turn the tide here.

— I thought Bernie was fantastic and moving, in embracing his Jewishness really for the first time in front of a national audience. But I also think it’s completely ridiculous that in 2016, candidates still get asked about God and religion in their life, when it’s completely irrelevant and immaterial to them doing the job of President.

— Final thought: Bernie has to be careful with his hectoring and his temper and his “Excuse me, don’t interrupt me” like he did a few times tonight. Comes off looking bad.

**Next up today, Sunday brought news of the death of Nancy Reagan, who symbolized so much to so many. For a lot of people, she was a symbol of style of grace, the first lady of the 1980s and the strength behind her husband, Ronald Reagan.

For others, she was a cold, shrewish woman who consulted an astrologer on major decisions and helped her President husband do some terrible things for non-rich white people in that decade.

But for me, and my fellow Generation X’ers? Nancy Reagan will always be associated with three words: “Just Say No.” Her preaching on the drug issue to children was by far what we will remember her for, nevermind that her husband was doing absolutely nothing to help poor and inner-city people get off drugs, or give them economic opportunities besides selling on the corner.

Yep, for us and Nancy, it’ll always be about this “Diff’rent Strokes” episode…

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**Finally today, the tributes have been pouring in since word came down Friday that the great Bud Collins, a wonderful sportswriter and sportscaster of my favorite sport, tennis, had died.

Everyone in tennis has a Bud Collins story, or at least, they do if they’re lucky. As good a sportswriter and broadcaster as he was, he was an even better person. There was no one he didn’t have time for, whether you were from Sports Illustrated or a two-bit weekly with a circulation of 12.

Me? I got a Christmas e-card from Bud and his wife twice, and felt honored. I had interviewed the legend a few times by phone that year for a few freelance stories I wrote for Tennis Week magazine, and thoroughly enjoyed both conversations.

You couldn’t not enjoy talking to Bud; I saw in one of the tributes to him a comparison to Dick Vitale, in that both were so passionate about their sport that you couldn’t help feeling energized.

I’m sure I got the card because I had first emailed Bud through his wife, Anita, who took care of him in all ways, and that thousands of other people got the same card.

Still, I was excited. I felt, somehow, part of the big, beautiful world of Bud Collins. He made everyone feel that way, and he will be sorely missed.

I hope he’s got a great seat for this year’s French Open up there in heaven.

Here’s the best Bud tribute I’ve read, by the great S.L. Price on SI.com.

 

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