Monthly Archives: September 2017

Good News Friday: The wristband that soon will be able to text your thoughts. An NFL QB gives his paycheck to women who lost everything. And a senior citizen writes a letter to a neighbor, and changes both their lives.

And a Happy Friday to you all, and may my fellow Members of the Tribe have a great Yom Kippur. I’m going to try to fast but my resolve on not eating or drinking for 24 hours seems to have faded since I’ve started chasing a little boy around. But we’ll see how it goes.

As always, lots of good stuff to get to this week; I honestly thought about making this entire post a tribute to Hugh Hefner, who died at 91 on Thursday, because I truly believe he was an American hero. But nah, just a few words of thanks to Hef, who was responsible for millions of Americans (including, ahem, me) seeing their first naked lady. Hef, you were an icon who always put women on a pedestal. You lived one hell of a good life.

OK, on with the show. We start this week with another athlete who absolutely gets it. Everything I’ve ever seen, heard or read about rookie Houston Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson has told me what a class act he is, and t his story will only add to my respect for him.

Millions of Houstonians, of course, were devastated by Hurricane Harvey last month, with so many losing so much. Three cafeteria workers at the Texans’ stadium, NRG Stadium, were among those whose homes were destroyed.

This week, those workers,  Denisse Benavides, Isabel Sanchez and Maria Rincon, were surprised when Watson came to the cafeteria and donated his first NFL game check (about $29,000) to them to help them rebuild.

Watch the video above. The tears are real, as is the goodness in Watson’s heart. Heard enough horrible stories about the NFL this week? Here’s a positive one. I’m a DeShaun Watson fan no matter what team he plays on.
**Next up, I hope this next story doesn’t scare you, because it actually makes me excited. There’s a company called CTRL Labs that believes very soon, they will have created a wristband that can text for you just by reading what your thoughts are.

According to this article, and as I heard on Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, the startup has created brainwave reading technology that they’re hoping will be mainstream by the year 2020, which isn’t exactly too long to go. Apparently it can pick up signals that your brains send to your fingers, so you won’t need to type to send texts/emails anymore.

According to one of the founders, Dr. Patrick Kaifosh, “We are developing systems to connect your neural output to machines as tightly as it is connected to the muscles that control your speech. I can already play Asteroids on my phone (personal aside: I kicked butt at Asteroids on my old Atari 2600) using only my thoughts, and the technology is already being used to train patients to use a virtual hand before receiving hand transplants from donors.”

This sounds awesome to me. Just as long as there are some safeguards, of course, I think this could make driving a lot safer (because of idiots who text and drive and let go of the wheel) and could help millions.

I’m sure there will be problems with it, but it’s still pretty incredible to me, that we live in this day and age where something like this could happen.

And finally today, it’s been a while since I’ve featured Steve Hartman and his fabulous “On the Road” stories for CBS News, but this one struck me as just beautiful. A woman in Park Hills, Mo. named Marlene Brooks got a strange letter last April, from a neighbor just a few doors away.

“Dear Mrs. ?,
Would you consider to become my friend? I’m 90 years old and live alone, and all my friends have passed away. I am so lonesome and scared. Please,  I pray for someone. Signed, Wanda Mills.”

Brooks was touched by the letter, and went to visit Mills the next day. And five months later, is still visiting her, four times a week, in a nursing home Mills now lives in. The two have become the best of friends, all because one kind woman helped out another person in need, simply by being there. Brooks even started a new pen pal group, Pen Pals for Seniors, to help others who might feel like Mills.

So much good in the world. So much good.

 

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An enormous college hoops scandal shocks all, except college hoops fans. The Puerto Rico devastation up close is awful. And Jimmy Kimmel as an unlikely health care crusader

So much going on in the world right now, I feel like I want to blog four or five times per day (not sure where I’d get the time for that, but hey, that’s how I feel.) I really don’t want to make you read the 4,383rd take on the national anthem/flag controversy, so I won’t. I’ll just point you to this, from the great Bob Costas, and this, from ex-NFLer Shannon Sharpe, and this, from Texas sportscaster Dale Hansen, all of whom say exactly how I feel, and more eloquently.

First up today, you know sometimes when you’re close to something you don’t realize how it looks to people outside that sphere, and that things you completely take for granted as normal, other people see as a criminal enterprise? Of course you do.

That’s kind of how I feel about the bombshell that rocked college basketball Tuesday. It’s pretty rare there’s any college hoops news this time of year, but this was huge: The FBI announced results of a massive investigation that led to indictments for 10 college basketball assistant coaches, sneaker executives, agents, and recruits.

The investigation alleges that coaches took money from sneaker companies, paid players, steered players toward schools that were affiliated with the sneaker companies, then hooked those players up with agents of the sneaker companies’ choosing once they became pros in the NBA.

The evidence is shocking, and enormous. This scandal has the potential to fundamentally change and destroy many major programs, like Louisville, USC and Auburn.

And yet, to me and my fellow diehard college hoops fan friend Tony, our reaction was: Of course this all goes on. You feds are just figuring this out now?

Because one of the compromises we college basketball fans make to ourselves is to ignore the seamy stuff, and just focus on the beautiful product on the court. We have long taken for granted that so much of the sport we love is underhanded: One person paying another person, steering that person to a certain school which happens to have a contract with adidas or Nike or Under Armour, steering the player to a certain agent, with everyone getting kickbacks and bribes along the way.

It’s just that now, and for the next several months, the rest of the world will learn just how sleazy this all is. Not every program will be caught up in this (I may lose it if Duke and Coach K are found to be involved in this garbage), but many many will.

It’s hilarious that some people Tuesday were like “The NCAA didn’t know this was going on?” Of COURSE the NCAA knew this was going on, but they didn’t want to talk about it or investigate it. It’s all just an accepted part of the sport.

It’s going to be ugly. But you know they say disinfectant is the best sunlight, so maybe, just maybe, for a little while things can get a little cleaner. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports has a terrific column explaining all this.

March Madness may look a lot, lot different next year.

**Next up today, on the list of celebrities who’d eventually became health care law crusaders, I’d have put Jimmy Kimmel pretty far down the list a year ago.

But since his newborn son was diagnosed with a heart condition, the late-night host has been sort of thrust into the spotlight, and amazingly, his passion about health care and insurance may have had a small part in sinking the latest horrendous attempt by the GOP-led Senate to repeal ObamaCare.

Since Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said any new health care bill would have to pass “The Jimmy Kimmel test.” Well, the new law fell far short, and for three days last week Kimmel called Cassidy’s bluff and called “bullshit.”

All three monologues were great, but this was the first and I think best one (above).

**And finally, the devastation in Puerto Rico isn’t getting nearly enough attention. While so much of the media talks about anthem protests and private email addresses and that stuff, the people of Puerto Rico (who are Americans, by the way!) are suffering after a devastating storm last week.

There were a ton of great stories and videos if you dig hard enough, but these short video pieces from CBS News correspondent David Begnaud, reporting from the San Juan airport, really hit home for me.

Another Friends of Jaclyn “Angel Walk” makes me so grateful. Federer/Nadal playing doubles together was awesome. And NFL Week 3 was bananas and unpredictable (the Jets even won!)

Sunday was a glorious and sad day, at the same time for me. The day my family and I participate in the Friends of Jaclyn Angel Walk always is.

I’ve written a lot about the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation here, because it is the No.1 charitable cause near and dear to my heart. Pairing up high school and college sports teams with children suffering from pediatric brain tumors and other deadly cancers, FOJ is an incredible beacon of light for thousands of sick children, and for the athletes on teams who adopt them. (All my stories on FOJ’s kids and teams can be found here, if you’re interested.) It is run by wonderful, kind-hearted people who work so hard to make so many lives better.

Every year FOJ holds an “Angel Walk,” to honor those children who have died at some point after being adopted by a team. While thousands of children are thriving and beating cancer, way too many others bravely lost their battle (we’ve lost 144 children overall, since FOJ’s founding. And so every year, teams, athletes, families and others involved in FOJ meet at the Bridge over the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to keep memories alive.

There are speeches given by players and coaches, and by founders Denis and Jaclyn Murphy. We walk across the bridge, bagpipes are played, and at the end of the ceremonies, white doves are released into the sky, as a symbol of those who we lost.

It’s a glorious day because we come together and show our support for so many, for such a good cause. But it’s a sad day because of all we have lost.

My favorite comment every year in a speech came Sunday from a University of Hartford basketball coach named Matt Mihalich, who said “I can’t wait until FOJ becomes obsolete. Because that means there’ll be no more pediatric cancers.”

Amen to that. But while there still is, this beautiful ceremony every year makes me realize how important FOJ’s work is.

**Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have done so many amazing things in their careers; they are two of the 5 or 6 best male players ever, they’ve made more money than small countries take in in a year, and they have absolutely nothing left to prove.

But what they’d never done, not in any real competition, is play doubles together. It’s so unusual to even think about, the two best players of an era teaming up on the same side of the court. Did Borg and McEnroe ever play as a team? Sampras and Agassi? Navratilova and Evert? Nope.

But at a newfangled tennis competition this past weekend called the Laver Cup, Federer and Nadal actually teamed up. The competition is Europe vs. the World, so once again the best rivalry in the sport were oddly on the same team.

And it was … jarring to watch. But so much fun. I knew they were the same height, even with such different body types, but seeing them standing next to each other was great. They made mistakes as a team, seemed to constantly be smiling, and it was just a joy to watch.

Highlights above. Who says tennis season has to end after the U.S. Open?

**After a couple of really drab weeks of NFL football, Sunday was filled with fabulous games, none of which I saw since (see above) I was out all day. But lots to catch up on…

— J-E-T-… wait, what??? They WON? Don’t they realize they’re supposed to tank, go 0-16, and draft No.1? Can’t even do the “losing on purpose” thing right.
No, I’m kidding. I knew they were going to win at least 2-3 games this year, because it’s really really hard to go 0-16. Sunday the Dolphins helpfully decided to roll over and play dead, the Jets defense decided to show up (what, you’re allowed to tackle before the end zone?), and Josh McCown at quarterback actually played pretty damn well. 4-12 here we come, baby!

— The Jets have more wins the Giants. Never thought I’d say that this year. A 61-yard field goal at the buzzer by the Eagles’ rookie kicker, Jake Elliott to win the game?  Crazy.

— Also, Odell Beckham Jr. made ridiculously impressive TD catches for the Giants. Then somehow decided it was a good idea to pantomime a dog peeing in the end zone for one celebration, drawing a flag. So, you know, business as usual for him.

— Go ahead, bet on the NFL: Saints crush Panthers. Bears beat Steelers. Jets dominate Dolphins. Yeah, I’m sure everyone predicted that Sunday morning.

— NFL referees are still horrible. Just thought I’d let you know that. Lions got totally screwed Sunday on that TD at the end of the game, not being called a TD.

— Never underestimate our current President’s ability to make new enemies. During a rambling, mostly incoherent 9o-minute speech in Alabama Friday night, the Orange Grifter managed to piss off both NFL players AND owners, not an easy task. The owners in particular, nearly all of whom are wealthy white men who are Republicans, came out strongly against Trump’s idiotic comments, releasing all kinds of strong statements like this one from Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch.

This is all well and good, these owners making statements condemning Trump. But I guarantee you most of them gave money to the RNC or Trump personally last year; suddenly they are realizing what he is, because he’s attacking football? They didn’t know he was a sexual abusing, racist arrogant a-hole in 2016?
Still, it was good to see some owners standing with their players, and even better to see SO many players either kneeling, or in the Steelers, Titans and Seahawks’ cases, refuse to even come out on the field for the national anthem.

–One more time, for the people who still think, like our President does, that this is about “disrespecting the flag.” It’s not. It’s never been. It’s been about protesting the racial injustices in our society, that see African-Americans and other minorities get the short end of the stick on everything, and white police officers never, ever getting made to pay the price for their deeds. That’s it.d That’s what this is about.

Of course these players love America. They just hate how unequal things are now, not as bad as they’ve ever been of course, but still pretty bad.

Good News Friday: Two great writers, talking about the craft, makes me happy. Foo Fighters and James Corden do an awesome “Carpool Karaoke.” And a 7-year-old girl with a bionic hand amazes MLB.

And a Happy Friday to all of you, and what the hell, Happy Autumn. The weather is still awesome and summer-y here in New York, and I want to wish all of my fellow Members of the Tribe a L’Shana Tova (Happy New Year),

Lots of good stuff to get to this week, but I want to start with the best piece of media content I’ve consumed in a long, long time. It’s no secret to any of my readers that Jeff Pearlman is one of my 3-4 closest friends in the world; dude was in my wedding, he’s as loyal a friend as you could ever hope to have (non-canine division), and I probably talk to him more than anyone else in my life except for immediate family.

One of the many things I admire about Jeff is his complete willingness to adapt, and try new things. He told me he was starting a new podcast where he talked to other writers about the craft, and I was excited but wondered where the dude would find the time, and how open other writers would be about “revealing their secrets” to why they’re so good.

Well, I still don’t know where Jeff finds the time, but the second part? Completely taken care of. The podcast, “Two Writers Slinging Yang,” has been sensational, but the absolute best episode just dropped last week.

Wright Thompson (above) is the modern-day Rick Reilly, Gary Smith, and Jim Murray rolled into one. Dude is under 40 and has written more historically great stories than most people do in a lifetime. Like this piece on Michael Jordan when he turned 50. Or this one about his Dad, and the meaning of The Masters golf tournament. Or his most recent story on the Cleveland Indians’ remarkable 22-game winning streak.

Wright is a good ole’ boy from Mississippi who is a master craftsman, and he spent 45 minutes with Jeff talking about what makes great writing. (One highlight from Wright: “Anyone who tells you there are rules in writing you have to follow? Ignore that person.”

Here in the podcast, Thompson talks about hating almost every story he writes, at first, about what makes a good (and bad) editor, and what keeps him motivated to write.

He and Jeff really dig deep and it’s just fantastic. I could’ve listened to these two for three hours. Take a listen here; whether you care about writing or not, listening to Jeff and Wright’s passion is guaranteed to inspire you.

**Next up, it’s been awhile since I’ve featured James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke,” but this one he did this week with the awesome Foo Fighters is worthy of your time, if only for the story Dave Growl tells about the night he dislocated his ankle and the doctor had to go on stage with him.

Corden is no hard rocker, but this was a really fun episode. Enjoy.

**And finally today, science just blows me away sometimes. Meet 7-year-old girl Hailey Dawson. Hailey was born with a rare congenital condition called Poland Syndrome, which rendered her with just two fingers on her right hand.

But the engineering department at University of Nevada-Las Vegas helped make a special 3D-printed hand for her, allowing her to grip and throw a baseball, among other things.

Hailey is a big baseball fan, and after throwing out the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game in 2015, she made it a goal to one day throw the first pitch at every big league park.

Bleacher Report, a sports website, posted the above video and story about her on Sept. 7, and the response was overwhelming. More than a dozen MLB teams reached out to say she was welcome to come to their park, and oh yeah, she’s now been invited to throw out the first pitch at Game 4 of this year’s World Series.

What an amazing kid. And what an amazing time to be alive.

 

Ultimate low class by a Penn State coach? Here we go again. A weird double field goal kick like you’ve never seen. And the “America’s Got Talent” finale, Darci or Angelica?

You would think, after everything that has gone on at Penn State University over the past 10 years, all the horrible and disgusting revelations coming from the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, with Joe Paterno tied up in it, that a man leading the football program there would try very hard to be above reproach.

To not make waves, to go above and beyond to be classy, conducting the program on the up and up, and trying hard to restore the luster to a college team that had for decades been among the most admired and revered.

I thought Penn State hired a man who would do that a few years ago; a man named James Franklin. He had done a great job at an impossible place to win (Vanderbilt) and seemed like a decent, caring human being.

Not one who did what he did Saturday.

I never write about college football here because it’s not a sport I follow, but this, this forced me to say something, in my mind. So last Saturday Penn State was playing host to Georgia St., a much smaller program with a huge talent gap compared to Penn State.

As expected, the Nittany Lions dominated, leading 56-0 with just a few seconds to play. Georgia St. had finally put together a decent drive, and with :11 lined up to kick a field goal. Would three points matter in the grand scheme of things? Probably not. But the Panthers would be spared the indignity of a shutout, and would at least be able to feel a little better about themselves.

And then, something unbelievable happened: James Franklin called a timeout. To “ice the kicker,” a make-him-nervous technique coaches often use when a game-tying or game-winning kick by the opposition is about to occur. Forget the fact that it hardly ever works, coaches just keep trying it.

Panthers kicker Brandon Wright, after the timeout, missed the kick. And Penn State won 56-0. And so those big, bad Nittany Lions got to shut out a school that didn’t even have a football team until six years ago.

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME???? This was absolutely, 100 percent classless, even for a college football coach, and I’m on record saying college football coaches are the least-classy people in sports I’ve ever covered. It’s FIFTY-SIX to nothing!  You have to pull a bullshit move like that when you’ve kicked their ass up and down the field the whole game?

Franklin was asked about after the game, and again on Tuesday when this became a controversy. Here’s what he said.

“To very clear, I was not icing anyone. I want to be as clear as I possibly can be. We had our fourth-team defense, some threes, mostly fours on the field; we’ve never worked a fourth-team field goal block. I’m on the headset, the [defensive coaching staff] is talking about how those guys won’t be able to line up, I call timeout, we get the second team on the field, and from that point on, we’re going to go block the kick.”

Just atrocious. Who gives a shit if it’s your fourth-team defense out there, it’s FIFTY-SIX to NOTHING! I never, ever, ever agree with blowhard arrogant sports talk radio host Mike Francesa, but for once he absolutely nailed it wit this rant.

Just disgusting and classless by Franklin. Show a little respect for your opponent, huh?

**Next up, a happier little football moment. Texas Lutheran kicker Tyler Hopkins converted a field goal in a way I’ve never seen before. Watch this, and let me know if you’ve ever seen a guy make a FG on their second attempt!

**And finally today, you know I’ve become a little obsessed with this season of “America’s Got Talent,” because of two amazing performers, 12-year-old ventriloquist Darci Lynne, and 10-year-old singer Angelica Hale. They were both on Tuesday night’s live finale, hoping to win the $1M prize. Here’s a link to Hale’s fabulous performance, and below is Lynne, who I think should absolutely win.

A pretty mediocre Emmys broadcast honors honoring “SNL” and “Big Little Lies” and is saved by Sterling K. Brown. And R.I.P., Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, one of wrestling’s greatest villains

Sunday night was the Emmy Awards, my favorite awards show every year because TV is my favorite entertainment medium.

For the first two hours, I thought the show was … OK. The opening sketch was pretty good, especially when Chance the Rapper said “I like Brooklyn 99, in fact I’m addicted, but where’s the cop show where 1 gets convicted,” the awards were spread out, I was thrilled to see such deserving winners like Kate McKinnon and John Oliver get their kudos, and there were a few moments with iconic TV legends (I’ll get to that in a minute) that were nice.

But it was, you know, a pretty typical awards show. Then, Sterling K. Brown won for “This is Us,” and the entire telecast changed.

You don’t understand how amazing Sterling K. Brown’s speech was unless you saw it (Please, watch it here). The man was like cool jazz, riffing and giving shout-outs to Andre Braugher (the last African-American to win Best Actor in Drama Series), thanking everyone in sight, and just being really damn funny, talking about “repping black love” with his co-star and hitting all the right notes. It was two minutes of absolute perfection.

The best part for me, that had me howling? One of his lines was thanking his co-stars on “This is Us” by saying “You are the best white TV family a brother has ever had!”

And I immediately paused the DVR and said to my wife, “Excuse me, Arnold and Willis Drummond, and Webster would like a word, Mr. Brown!” I then wrote that down and said I’m going to use it in my blog.

Then I un-paused, and Brown said “Better than Mr. Drummond, and better than those white folks who raised Webster.”

So damn good! Of course, because awards shows can’t recognize an amazing moment when they see one, and God forbid the show ends a few minutes late, they played Brown off and we didn’t get to hear the rest of his speech. Happily, he finished it backstage when meeting with the media, you can check it out here.

Seriously, truly, one of the best awards show speeches I’ve ever seen. Also, he totally deserved to win for his role as Randall on “This Is Us.” By far the best part of the show.

OK, on with some other highlights, and as always, the fashion barbs are courtesy of my way-more-fashionable better half:

— Stephen Colbert was fine as host, nothing to write home about, had a good line in the monologue about how unlike with the Presidency, in the Emmys, “the winner of the popular vote actually wins.”

— Boy, lot of people on the Internets were pretty pissed off that disgraced former White House press secretary Sean Spicer got to make a cameo in the monologue and tell a good joke. People were really mad, considering Spicer knowingly stood at the podium and lied throughout his tenure, especially in the beginning talking about crowd size at the inauguration.

I can understand people being upset, but it didn’t bother me that much. He’s a celebrity, and this was a TV show, after all. The historical record will show Spicer was nothing but a stooge and an accomplice for the worst President in American history.

— Did Dolly Parton stand on stage with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda (who my wife says “tried way too hard to look young” with that hairdo) and say the word “vibrators?” Yes, yes she did. And refer to her famous breasts twice. Dolly Parton is a national treasure.

— Carol Burnett and Norman Lear, two people who created so much iconic television, appearing on stage together was perfect.

— Also perfect? Mary Tyler Moore getting “the hammer” in the death montage, and turning off the lights of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” newsroom as the ending. That was freaking beautiful.

— Fashion hits and misses from my wife: Shailene Woodley’s hair and dress were terrible, Allison Janney’s dress was terrific, Jason Bateman looks as good as he did 30 years ago (seriously, dude has not aged), and silver definitely seemed to be the dominant color Sunday.

— Happy to see new winners like Donald Glover get some love, and Lena Waithe winning for co-writing a fantastic episode of “Master of None,” then giving a heartfelt acceptance speech, was a definite highlight.

— My annual gripe: “The Americans” got shut out. As did “Better Call Saul,” two absolutely outstanding shows. Sigh.

Some greatness just isn’t recognized until after it’s gone.

**Finally today, I thought this post would be a strictly Emmys one, but when I heard Sunday night that Bobby Heenan had died, well… I had to acknowledge it somehow.

Pro wrestling was a big part of my 1980s childhood, and of course the WWF was all I knew back then. And of all the great heroes and villains back then, from Hulk Hogan, to Andre the Giant, to Rowdy Roddy Piper, nobody entertained me as much as Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.

His real nickname was “The Weasel,” at least that’s what he called him. Heenan very rarely wrestled, he was mostly a manager, and a fantastic talker. He was funny, he was mean, and whether it was him announcing matches with Gorilla Monsoon, appearing in sketches with Gorilla on WWF TV shows (above), or cutting promos and insulting someone, Heenan was the best.

He knew exactly how to play to the crowd, and how to always get the last word.

Heenan died Sunday at age  73. He will be missed, but I thank him for giving me so many laughs (and reasons to shout) when I was a kid.

Good News Friday: The Cleveland Indians win streak is insane and awesome. A competitive creative writing team at a school in Ohio makes me smile. And a dog saving another dog the best video of Hurricane Irma

It takes a lot for casual baseball fans to care about the sport this time of year.

You’ve got pro football, college football and high school football starting. The U.S. Open just ended (you may have read something about that in this space), school is getting going again so parents are busy, and the baseball playoffs are still a month away, which for the casual baseball fan leaves plenty of time to do other stuff before baseball gets “serious.”

But this Cleveland Indians thing… man. I’ve found myself totally caught up in it the last few days. If you’re not aware, one of the most historically awful teams in the sport, the franchise that now has the longest current World Series title drought (a drought that was extended when they lost in extra innings of Game 7 of last year’s World Series, oh by the way), won its 22nd consecutive game Thursday night.

That’s a record in the American League, maybe a MLB record (there’s dispute), and it’s pretty incredible. Baseball stats don’t mean much to me, but check this out:
— Until Thursday night, when the Tribe were actually behind for a bit, they’d only trailed for four innings during the first 21 games of the streak.

— They’ve hit more home runs (41) than their opponents had scored runs.

— This is the longest baseball winning streak in 100 years. One hundred years!

But what really gets me about this streak is this: Look at the crowd, and the players, in the above video. They’re partying and celebrating like they’ve won the World Series. That kind of unbridled joy is rare in any kind of regular-season event, in any sport, and it’s made me smile the last few nights, seeing long-suffering Indians fans celebrate.

I know this incredible streak will be a footnote if the Indians don’t go on to win the World Series. But sometimes it’s good to go a little overboard with your joy, you know?

Plus, as we know, the Indians went on a similar tear in the 1980s, with players like Willie “Mays” Hayes and Jake Taylor. Oh wait, wasn’t that…

**Next up today, we’re staying in the great state of Ohio for a story that warms my inner high school English nerd deep inside me. I had no idea this existed, but thanks to the consistently awesome NPR show “Only a Game,” I do now.

At Gahanna Middle School East outside of Columbus, teacher/coach Jessica Anderson presides over a team dynasty.
No, she doesn’t coach the basketball, soccer or tennis teams. She coaches a team in a “sport” I didn’t even know existed, but am thrilled that it does: Competitive creative writing. The competition is called Power of the Pen, and according to this story it works like this: Competitors are given a prompt and 40 minutes to write a short story. By pen.

Gahanna’s team has won district, regional and state titles, and this story goes inside the team with two of it’s stars, Madi and Jenna.

Of course an obvious question emerges: Is this a “cool” team at the school?

“Not exactly,” Jenna says. “Some people kind of judge, but I don’t really care what people think about me, so, I just like to write.”

I think these kids are awesome. I totally would’ve been in this “sport” when I was younger. So glad that it exists.

http://www.wbur.org/onlyagame/2017/09/08/ohio-power-of-the-pen

**And finally today, let’s head out to the weekend on a dog video. Because who doesn’t love a good dog video (well, cats probably don’t, but my metrics tell me they hardly ever read my blog.)?

Check out this video from Worldwide Weird News’ Twitter feed, of one pooch helping another during the Hurricane Irma floods in Florida.

Man’s best friend, sure. But also doggie’s best friend.

Hurricane Irma’s destruction and the cost of living where you want. A football play that lost 87 yards. And Millenials hating doorbells makes me sad

Like a lot of you I’m sure, I’ve been thinking about hurricanes for the past few weeks, first seeing the awful devastation that hit the Houston area, and then of course last weekend in the entire state of Florida. I don’t want to talk about climate change and weather patterns or any of that today; what I’ve really been pondering the last few days is why we live where we live, and how that sometimes is so important to us that nothing else matters.

Some of us live where we do because that’s where our job took us; some of us live where we do because of family reasons, or health reasons, or because one day we were just tired of moving and decided to stay here. (It’s no secret to my wife that if our family wasn’t here in New York, I’d be perfectly happy living elsewhere; moving around the country most of my adult life has shown me I can be happy in lots of different places.)

But then there are people who just grow so attached to a place, so rooted, that they can’t conceive of ever moving. I’m talking about some of the people in this devastating video (below) that the New York Times shot in the Florida Keys over the past few days. The Keys, as you’ve probably heard, was perhaps the hardest-hit by Irma of any place in Florida. Destruction everywhere, homes destroyed, property severely damaged.

Of course when you live near the water in Florida you know something like this could happen, that storms could upend your life. And yet with so many other places to go, the sense of attachment, of needing to stay in a possibly-dangerous place, is so strong.

Listen to this first man in the video, Kris Mills of Cudjoe Key, Fla. talking about all that he’s lost. After ticking off some items and starting to get emotional, he stops.

“But you know, it’s a part of living here. There’s a price to pay no matter where you live.”

That sentence stopped me cold. Is there really a price to pay no matter where you live? I’m not sure there is. Why would you be so stubborn, and so rooted, in a place where you know there is such danger? Wouldn’t you choose to live somewhere safer?

Listen to Pete Diaz of Key Largo starting at the 1:20 mark of the video. He says “I’ll never leave. Why would I leave?” At the end of the day, this will all be back. Material goods can be replaced. And you keep going.”

I don’t know, I just don’t get this mindset. Like I said, maybe it’s me. Since I started college in 1993, the longest I’d ever lived in one place was five years. Just this year, my sixth being back in New York City, has been the longest I’ve lived somewhere since college.

These people in the Keys, in other tropical places susceptible to hurricanes, love their are so much, that the threat of epic disasters don’t bother them.

It’s amazing to see.

**Next up today, it’s football season now which means there’ll be lots of crazy plays and screw-ups. But even though we’re only in mid-September, I’m going out on a limb and saying this will be the biggest negative play of the year. That’s because starting with this bad snap, the Louisiana Tech offense went backwards 87 yards here. Eighty-seven! What’s most infuriating if I’m a Mississippi St. coach is how many of my players tried to pick the ball up and failed. It’s like the first thing defensive players are told: Fall on the ball! Don’t try to pick it up, just fall on it!

**And finally, a few words about a subject you probably never think about, unless you’re an electrician or a chime salesman: doorbells. It seems that Millennials, in addition to other things they’ve changed in our society (usually for the worse), no longer have any use or need for doorbells.

Nope, they just roll up to their friends’ houses or apartment buildings, text that they’re outside and ready to go, and bam, their friend comes out.

“Doorbells are so sudden. It’s terrifying,” says Tiffany Zhong, a 20-year-old who’s apparently easily frightened.

This story about the death of the doorbell saddens me a little. Apparently people are feeling like its too much effort to ring a doorbell, or they don’t want to scare or frighten their friends by pressing a device that makes a loud sound.

Me? I love doorbells, always have. I enjoyed as a kid going to friends’ houses and hearing the different sounds. One buddy of mine had a grandfather clock-like doorbell, while another one played a lullaby. Then of course there was the ultimate “we’re bored” game, playing “ring and run,” ringing someone you don’t know’s doorbell, running and hiding as they come to the door and are confused, then laughing hysterically (we didn’t have the Internet, people, we often had to make our own fun.)

Plus as a kid,when our doorbell would ring, it was 5-10 seconds of pure excitement.

Who’s at the door? A friend asking if I want to come outside and play street hockey? The UPS guy with a package delivery? A neighbor needing to borrow something? The doorbell ringing was the sign that something was happening, maybe something great, maybe something terrible, but always something to relieve the boredom of life as a kid.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just romanticizing something. But even today I like doorbells, and I’ll be sad if you damn millennials kill them completely.

Ding dong, the witch is not yet dead.

Wrapping up a fabulous and weird U.S. Open, where Stephens and Rafa shone and I peed next to a Hall of Famer. Remembering 9/11 on this day, always. And Week 1 in the NFL, when both NY teams stunk

So much to get to you today, I hope this blog doesn’t go 2,000 words or something. Of course I, like most of you, have loved ones living in Florida in the path of this hellacious Hurricane Irma, and I’ve been worried about them most of the weekend. Thank God so far my friends in Tampa, Miami and Orlando seem to be doing OK. But the videos and photos from the weekend were just awful. The ocean receding in Tampa? Roofs being blown off in Miami? Godspeed to all down there.

Want to write more today about the terror of hurricanes, and about my son’s 3-year-old birthday party Saturday and why it eerily felt like my wedding.

But I’ll get to that Wednesday. Today, I want to start with the U.S. Open, which was wacky, wild and wonderful. So many top players were missing this year (Serena, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka) that you knew some different names would show up in the late rounds. But Sloane Stephens? Kevin Anderson? If you had both of them playing after Labor Day, you were in the distinct minority.

Stephens was once a rising phenom in the tennis world, beating Serena at the Aussie Open three years ago and seemingly destined for the Top 5. And then… not so much. Her dedication to tennis was questioned. Stories about how she just wanted to be famous, and her attitude, were abundant. Then her results suffered, she was injured and didn’t play for nearly a year, from summer 2016 to this summer, and her ranking fell to 957.

And today she is the U.S. Open women’s champion. She was flawless on Saturday in the women’s final, pummeling Madison Keys all over the court, smiling and consoling and acting stunned at the amount of the winner’s check she earned (hey, $3.7 million IS a lot of money.)

I have no idea if this will propel Stephens into being a consistent force at Slams, or if Keys will learn from this experience of being overwhelmed on the big stage after playing so brilliantly in the semis. But I do know that both Stephens and Keys are worthy of praise and admiration today.

— I’ve seen a lot of beautiful displays of sportsmanship after a match is over, because tennis players almost always comport themselves as sportsmen (or women.) But this one, this one I’ll never forget, and will pretty hard to top. Sloane Stephens, the champion, moments after winning a Grand Slam, stands at the net consoling her sobbing good friend, Madison Keys, on the loss. Really sweet moment.

— And on the men’s side, to quote my friend Jon Wertheim, how about on Jan. 1, 2017 I told you Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would combine to win all four Slams this year? You’d have laughed so hard and then recommended a good psychiatrist.
But it happened. Sunday Nadal put on a clinic in the final against Anderson, a 31-year-old South African who’d never gotten this far. As disappointed as I was that Federer and Nadal didn’t finally play in New York this year, in the semis, the Federer fan in me is glad they didn’t. Because Roger was shaky the whole tournament before losing, and Nadal was playing extraordinarily well, I think Rafa would’ve beaten Fed easily.

As it was, Nadal had the easiest road to a Slam, maybe ever, not having to beat even one Top 25 player. But that doesn’t matter; he was on his game and is such a worthy champ.

— So as I’ve mentioned a few times in the past few weeks I was once again fortunate enough to be credentialed as a reporter during the U.S. Open, and it was once again the best gig ever. I wrote 14 stories, for seven different newspapers, covering men’s, women’s and juniors players.
The USTA and tournament organizers make it ridiculously easy for us journalists, giving everything we could want, and you will never ever hear me complain about getting into the U.S. Open for free, receiving a meal per diem that actually goes pretty far, and getting sweet seats on every court (for a few non-marquee matches on Ashe Stadium I actually was sitting ninth row, baseline, where all the fancy people usually sit.

A couple of behind-the-scenes memories from my third straight year covering the Open:

— I peed next to NBA legend David Robinson. Not something that happens every day. I wandered into the closest bathroom near the afore-mentioned sweet Ashe Stadium seats last Tuesday, and a second after I approached the urinal I heard large footsteps, and a very large African-American male peeing to my left. He finished before me (hey, he was a Navy officer, I’m guessing he does everything fast) and as he turned away from the urinal I caught a glimpse of his face. Me and David Robinson, emptying our bladders together. Good times. (No I didn’t ask to shake his hand).

— Definite journalistic highlight was getting to ask Roger Federer a question in his pre-U.S. Open press conference. I really, really don’t get excited about talking to athletes anymore, I’m way too jaded/experienced for that. But this was Roger freaking Federer, maybe my favorite athlete of all time. So it was pretty cool.

— Got to see wheelchair tennis up close for the first time. Truly extraordinary watching what these athletes can do. Except for being allowed two bounces to return the ball, the rules are almost all the same. Watching these players spin and push themselves all around the court was inspiring.

— Finally, when I was 9 years old I watched Boris Becker win Wimbledon at 17 and I went outside my house right after the match and started hitting tennis balls against a brick wall on the side of our house. To say Becker inspired my love of this sport is an understatement.

I saw him several times walking around the Open this year, and spoke to him for 20 seconds about a match we were both watching on a TV monitor. The little kid in me was very excited about that.

**Next up, today is of course September 11, which means we should all stop and take a few minutes to think about the events of that horrible day in 2001. It’s been 16 years now, and it doesn’t seem any more real.

I watch this video (above) and a few others like it every year, and as I type this thousands and thousands of motorcycles are roaring into Manhattan as they do every year for the 9/11 ceremony, and this anniversary will never, ever be forgotten.

Sixteen years. Wow.

**Finally today, because I’ve rambled long enough in this space, I’m going to cover Week 1 of the NFL very very quickly, and briefly. Here goes:

— The Jets stink, as we expected. Fifteen more losses to go, and we get the No. 1 pick in the draft!
— The Giants might stink, which is unexpected.
— The Houston Texans hosting a home game two weeks after the worst storm in the history of the city seems crazy to me. Although this story makes me think maybe it was a necessary distraction for the city.
— Tom Brady lost at home. Always noteworthy and always puts a smile on my face.
— I can’t remember an NFL season where I was less excited for opening day. Lot of possible reasons why, but I was really just not into it.
— There are a lot of shitty, shitty quarterbacks in the NFL. Methinks Colin Kaepernick won’t be unemployed all season.

A letter to my son on his 3rd birthday: School is starting and a little brother is coming

Dear Nate,

Hi! It’s Daddy again. You know, Daddy, the guy who’s always telling you to put your Legos away, is constantly blowing raspberries on your stomach, and occasionally remembers to feed you.

I swear it was just a few weeks ago I was writing this letter to you upon your turning 2. So much has happened since we celebrated your birthday 12 months ago, I almost can’t believe it’s been a year.

Some of the highlights of the dizzying last year: We said goodbye to your crib, and now you sleep in a big-boy bed, although sometimes you like sleeping on your beanbag pillow, or the floor.

You order for yourself at restaurants, and you need no high-chair or booster seat when we go there. You are obsessed with trains, construction equipment, and “Paw Patrol,” which you had no interest in a year ago.

Every day when you wake up you love going to your bedroom window to watch the “digger” and the workers outside putting up a building on 58th Street. When they’re not there, you are genuinely disappointed.

You are still, happily, the same sweet and well-mannered boy you have always been. Mommy and I had heard all about the “Terrible 2’s” and that they turn great little kids into monstrous toddlers, but with you it never happened, except for a few weeks last winter when I think you swapped bodies with another toddler at the playground.

You make Mommy and me so proud when you say “please” and thank you” when asking for more guacamole, or grilled cheese, or peanut butter and jelly. You play nicely with other children on the playground almost all the time, and your sheer enthusiasm for life (every night you ask “where am I going when I wake up?” with such excitement) makes Mommy and me smile.

We’ve had quite a few adventures this year. We went on big airplane trips to California and Florida, got to see the San Diego Zoo and visit with cousins, and you’re now a whiz on your tricycle. Of course your favorite mode of transportation is the subway train, but you’re loving the car more and more now that we’ve turned your seat to face forward.

I can’t believe how fast you’ve learned the alphabet, and the words to your favorite songs, and most excitingly, how you’ve memorized Daddy’s cell phone number, in case you ever get lost (Side note: Maybe you can teach Daddy’s cell number to Mommy? She has trouble remembering it since it’s always been programmed in her phone).

You are almost completely potty-trained now, and you picked it up so easily I’m wondering if you’ve been ready for it for a awhile and Mommy and I should’ve trained you months ago, instead of just this summer.

There are so many little things we love about you, things I wish I could bottle forever: How you like to tease the doormen in our building by calling them by different names; how when we watch “Jeopardy!” at dinner and I yell out the answer, you repeat it and squeal “Nate got it right!” How you look like a big boy when you get a haircut, then I remember you’re still so young when the hand dryer in the public bathrooms scares you so much.

This coming year will bring so many changes, Nate: You start pre-school on Monday, and how you light up when we mention how much fun it’s going to be has been so great to watch. You love books and you love learning, so pre-school will be a blast for you.

We hope you’ll soon start to try new foods, learn to sleep past 7 a.m. again, and make all kinds of new friends.

The biggest change this year, of course, is coming in late October, when your baby brother is born.

Even though Mommy and I have tried to prepare you for this huge adjustment, we know it’s going to be hard for you. You’ve been used to getting all our attention and us responding to all of your needs pretty quickly, and now you’ll have to sometimes wait, because we are busy feeding, changing, burping, or otherwise checking on your little brother (who we still don’t have a name for; I hope by the time you read this 15 years from now we’ll be calling the kid something.)

But we also know you have so much love in your heart, for him, for your friends, for  your grandparents, that you’re going to be an awesome big brother. When you said to Mommy in the clothing store a few weeks ago “We should buy clothes for my brother!” we both just about melted.

I wish for you nothing but wonderful things in the coming year, my beautiful blue-eyed boy. Mommy and I love you so much. Keep smiling, keep laughing, and please please please, keep all your little toy cars in their box so Daddy doesn’t break an ankle stepping on them.

Love,

Daddy