Monthly Archives: August 2018

An awesome photo exhibit honors Arthur Ashe, 50 years after winning U.S. Open. An awesome video of a girl being told she’s being adopted. And a little girl loves garbagemen, and gets rewarded

And a happy Friday to you out there in Webville, or Internet-land, or wherever you live online. I’m knee deep in U.S. Open goodness so of course Good News Friday this week will have at least one tennis-related note.

And it’s a great one: Among the many U.S. Open anniversaries this year is this one: Fifty years ago this month, an African-American kid from Virginia named Arthur Ashe won his first Grand Slam championship, beating Tom Okker in the men’s singles final in Flushing Meadow.

Ashe was, of course, an amazing man: An athlete, a civil rights activist, and a human rights leader throughout his all-too-brief life, which ended in 1993 at age 49.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Ashe (for whom the main U.S. Open stadium is named), there’ve been lots of tributes around the grounds: Exhibits set up to look at his life, a very cool virtual reality “ride” that lets you experience what it was like to be him, and a new book that shows never-before-seen photos of the legend from the ’68 Open.

The book is by John Zimmerman, a photographer who spent 36 hours behind the scenes with Ashe at that historic tournament, and it shows him on the NYC subway, goofing off with friends, and of course on the court. 

Really, really cool photos here; Sports Illustrated ran a story with some of the photos; check them all out here.

**Next up today, this video went viral and is awesome. A woman named Paige Zezulka and her husband

Paige and Daniel Zezulka, of Athens, Ga., have been the foster family for a little girl named Ivey for several years, but no one was sure if the arrangement would be able to be permanent. Ivey and her brother had bounced around in foster care for a long time, but finally, they’d be finding a real home.

Until recently, when the Zezulkas found out they’d be able to adopt Ivey. How did they decide to tell her? On her birthday, with a note in a box that she opened. The little girl’s face… priceless.

**And finally today, a simple good deed done by a sanitation worker made a little girl very, very happy. From The Good News Network website, comes the tale of a little girl in Ireland who loves garbagemen, and garbage trucks.

She watches them every day they pull up to her house, and her father mentioned to the workers how much his child loves seeing them work, and could they maybe wave to her when they come by.

Well, they did a little bit more than that. Watch the video above; it takes so little to make somone’s day, and be a little nicer. Her squealing about getting presents just makes me so happy.

 

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The boxer who decided after the bell rang to say “no thanks.” A taekwondo team does a jaw-dropping routine. And the newspaper feature that just prints what people had to eat that day.

Boxing is inherently a dangerous sport, of course. But one would think that if you’re crazy enough to sign on to fight a professional match, you’ve thought things through and are prepared to go through with it.

That way, when the bell rings, you go out there and do your best. Well, apparently a last-second change of heart can actually come at the last second, when you’re preparing to slug another man into unconsciousness.

Meet Curtis Harper, who last Saturday night was preparing to fight another fellow named Efe Ajagba.

After the boxers touched gloves and the bell rang, Harper suddenly forgot he left his stove on. Or he remembered he had a dentist appointment. Or he had a bus to Cleveland to catch.

Whatever it was, Harper stepped between the ropes, and simply walked away. Never seen anything like that in my life.

According to this BBC story,journalist Jordan Hardy – who works for Premier Boxing Champions, which was broadcasting the fight – said Harper told her the walkout was because of money.

“He walked out of the ring because he’s not getting paid enough to fight and that he wants respect,” she wrote on social media.

Um, Curtis? Were you unaware of the dollar figure in the contract you signed? Did you think they just forgot a couple zeroes, my man?

Regardless, on behalf of Curtis Harper’s brain cells, I say, thank you, sir.

https://www.si.com/extra-mustard/2018/08/23/korea-taekwondo-demonstration-video

**And now, something from our “Please don’t try this at home” file, I present a team of South Korean taekwondo experts from the Kukkiwon Demonstration Team, from a recent performance.

My feet hurt just watching what these incredible athletes do. My goodness. I wonder how many broken toes and such it took to do this stuff right.

**And finally, any excuse I have to write about cool newspaper features, I will do it. This was just brought to my attention the other day: The Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier has a daily feature where local residents get to write exactly what they ate in a recent day, verbatim.

Literally, that’s it. Here’s what I ate, where I did it, was it good or not good, the whole thing. No frills, no fluff, just a human being and what they ate.

I would absolutely, positively read that every day if I lived in Charleston. Here’s one entry (above), the part about his sister-in-law is my favorite.

Two giants leave the stage: Wrestling with the many things to love and hate about John McCain. And Neil Simon was a playwright God. And the U.S. Open begins!

Messy, non black-and-white lives make for very confusing obituaries when a person dies.

We so easily want to place people into neat categories: Good guy, bad guy. Hero, or villain. Genius, or idiot. Nuance doesn’t play so well in 2018, when everyone must have a take on something immediately.

The life of John McCain, which ended Sunday at 81, does not categorize easily. There is so much that happened to him, or that he made happen, and if you take just that side of it, you can decide for yourself if McCain was a hero, or someone not worthy of admiration.

Me, I think he’s both. Let’s start with the good of John McCain: He was a war hero; he survived 5.5 years of captivity as a prisoner of war, refusing to be let go early because of his famous Navy family and suffering unspeakable horrors. He also had a distinguished career as a Senator, helping write the McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws which have been obliterated over the past 20 years.

In 2000 he should’ve been and could’ve been the Republican presidential nominee, but George W. Bush and Karl Rove did some unspeakable things to McCain in S. Carolina, and so he lost, but he captured the imagination of millions of voters who believed he was a “different” kind of politician.

He ran a poor, mostly civil campaign for President of the United States in 2008, and in the last two years battled brain cancer bravely, and battled (in spots) the evil of Donald Trump.

And now the other side: He was a major figure in the Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s, and possibly should’ve seen jail time. He inflicted Sarah Palin on the world, and you absolutely can draw a straight line from that dim-witted fool being named as a VP nominee in 2008 to the intelligence-deprived Americans who put a failed business exec turned TV star into the damn White House.

McCain, for all his bluster, was much more conservative in his voting record than Democrats pretended he was, and for all his anti-Trump blather, he still voted to pass tax cuts that were horrendous to the middle class, and he still refused to stand up to Trump legislatively and give him more losses that he deserved. There was a lot to like about John McCain, and a lot to dislike about him.

As one of my favorite writers, Bruce Arthur, said on Twitter Sunday, McCain lived “a big, messy, significant life.”

He was many things, to many people. But I do believe his heart was usually in the right place, and he thought what he was doing was right.

I’ll leave you with this, that stuck out at me Sunday: John McCain lost the Republican nomination for President to George W. Bush, and he lost the presidential election to Barack Obama. He has asked both men to deliver the eulogies at his funeral.

**Next up, it’s a holy day in my life today as my annual two week bacchanalia of fun, freelance writing and so much great tennis begins with the start of the U.S. Open.

Qualifying week last week was awesome as usual, but now, the real party starts: 128 men, 128 women, all as of 11 a.m. this morning with an equal shot to win the last major of the year.

I have no idea who will win the women’s title; many are picking Serena Williams but I just can’t see it; she’s still playing her way back into match shape. I could see Sloane Stephens repeating, I could see Angie Kerber taking the title, too. But I’m sure I’ll regret this but I’m going with American Madison Keys to finally make her big breakthrough and take home her first Slam.

On the men’s side, of course my heart says a certain Swiss gentleman will win, but he’s got a tough draw once we get to the second week. I’d love to see Novak Djokovic follow up on his Wimbledon win with a title, but not sure he’s all the way back yet.

So I’m picking Nadal, boring though it is to go with the top seed.

Whoever wins, I guarantee one thing: It’s going to be a fantastic tournament. Couldn’t find a really good preview or hype video for the upcoming Open, so I thought I’d play my favorite Roger Federer shot of all time, from the 2009 semis. Unbelievable.

**Finally today, a few words about the great Neil Simon, the playwright who died Sunday at 91. Maybe, along with Arthur Miller, the greatest American theater writer ever, Simon wrote so many classics, including “The Odd Couple,” “The Goodbye Girl” and “Brighton Beach Memoirs.” He was a television and film writer as well, and he was so, so damn funny.

“The Odd Couple” alone was such a classic it’s been made into movies, TV shows and been imitated forever; the slob who lives with the neat freak is a staple of popular culture.

Simon was the recipient of four Tony Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, the Kennedy Center honors (1995), four Writers Guild of America Awards, an American Comedy Awards Lifetime Achievement honor and, in 1983, he even had a Broadway theater named after him when the Alvin was rechristened the Neil Simon Theatre. (pretty great honor when you’re, you know, still alive.)

What a remarkable life he led.

Good News Friday: Civil rights legend John Lewis and a little boy share a special moment. Beto O’Rourke with the best NFL anthem answer ever. And a 95-year-old helps a 4-year-old learn to jump

And a Happy Friday to all of you out there who are either already complaining about the heat or complaining summer’s over (can’t have it both ways, right?) I am of course euphoric to spend another day at U.S. Open qualifying Friday; truly one of the most dramatic days in sports because as I’ve written before, qualifying for the Open brings with it at least a $50,000 payday, which for players on the lower levels is enormous.

But no tennis in Good News Friday today; lots of other good stuff though. I very rarely have a “theme” to GNF, but it just so happens that two of my three items this week involve very young people and older people, teaming up to make a difference.

First up, I cannot praise civil rights legend, Congressman John Lewis enough, and any worries that his legacy will soon be forgotten by younger people is assuaged by scenes like this.

Meet 10-year-old Tybre Faw, who traveled seven hours from Tennessee to see his hero, Lewis, in Selma, Ala. at the anniversary of the Edmund Pettis Bridge march.

They share a beautiful moment toward the end of this video. Watch, and realize that young people sometimes really do get it.

**Next up, I think I’ve written before about Beto O’Rourke, the surprisingly strong challenger to Satan Ted Cruz in the Texas Senate race. Beto is canvassing all of Texas in a truck, he’s got outstanding political skills, and is a real threat to be the first Texas Senator who’s a Democrat in more than two decades.

If you’re wondering how he’s doing it, just watch this phenomenal, heartfelt answer to a question at a recent public event. The voter wanted to know where Beto stood on the NFL players kneeling during the national anthem issue. And O’Rourke, calmly, rationally gave a fantastic response.

This guy might be President one day.

**Finally today, Steve Hartman from CBS Evening News with another splendid little piece, about a 4-year-old boy too scared to jump off the diving board, and a 95-year-old war veteran who gave him the courage to hit the water, after all.

Just beautiful.

Michael Cohen pleads guilty and implicates his old boss in a felony, and Trump gets one step closer to infamy. A man apologizes to his girlfriend with 300 large posters. And I appear on a podcast that usually hosts famous writers (but now me too!).

I know, I know, those of us on the left are a broken record with the “this time, Donald Trump’s Presidency really is doomed.

But let us, if you will, examine the front page of Wednesday’s New York Times, shall we? Let’s see what the Old Gray Lady has to say.

First up, Trump’s consigliere, his No. 1 attorney and longtime friend, pleaded guilty to eight counts on state fraud charges Tuesday, and at least one of those charges directly implicates the Orange Grifter in a felony.

From the lede to the Times story: Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, made the extraordinary admission in court on Tuesday that Mr. Trump had directed him to arrange payments to two women during the 2016 campaign to keep them from speaking publicly about affairs they said they had with Mr. Trump.

So stop right there. Forget anything else Donald Trump has said, done, Tweeted or screamed in the last three years. Right there, we have the President of the United States helping commit a felony. You’re going to tell me THAT’s not enough for impeachment? When the House of Representatives impeached Bill Clinton for having oral sex in the White House with a woman other than his wife?

Then on the left side of the page, we have the story of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, being convicted of eight counts of bank and tax fraud charges.

Amid all the other news Wednesday, amid Stormy Daniels’ lawyer crowing like a peacock on MSNBC (man, does Michael Avenatti want to be famous, or what?), we are left with the fairly inescapable conclusion that everyone Donald Trump surrounds himself with is a criminal. And lots and lots of them know stuff, and have been talking to Robert Mueller, and I just can’t see how Trump escapes from this jam.

The End of Trump has taken far longer than I expected, and hit a lot more bumps along the way. But I mean, come on… it HAS to be close to the end of his Presidency, especially if the Democrats re-take the Senate and House in November.

It’s just so darn unlucky that everyone Trump trusts turns out to be a criminal, isn’t it?

As usual, the great Charlie Pierce had the best take on Tuesday’s huge news.

**Next up today, I loved this story, because who among us hasn’t done something crazy to apologize to a significant other?

Not sure any of us have gone to this extreme, though: A man in India named Nilesh Khedekar was really, really sorry for what he’d done. So he put up 300 banners all over town reading “Shivde, I am sorry!!” and people in Maharashtra were really not thrilled about Nilesh’s defacement of public property.

No word yet on if Nilesh’s girlfriend forgave him. But man, that’s an awful lot of paint to waste if she still thinks you’re a doofus.

**Finally today, allow me to promote two recent pieces of entertainment I’m proud of and wanting to share.

First, my great friend Jeff Pearlman had me on his excellent “Two Writers Slinging Yang” podcast this week, and while my career achievements pale in comparison to writing greats like Gary Smith and Wright Thompson he’s had on his show, I am the only one who first met Jeff wearing a gold New York Jets pendant and jeans jacket. For real, it was a really fun conversation about my life in journalism, why I left newspapers, and what it’s like to be locked inside a soccer stadium. Check it out here.

Second, it’s U.S. Open time, and that means I’m going to be writing a TON about tennis. My first story is on the pride of Dover, Del. Madison Brengle, and the excruciating pain she lives with every day. I’m amazed after this brutally frank interview and story I wrote how she’s able to play world-class tennis, given her medical condition. Check the story out here.

Thoughts from I-95 on a summer weekend, where I sat in lots and lots of traffic. A duck outsmarts a dog, to stay alive. And smelling your way to a love match? Yeah this is a thing now.

It’s been a few years, I think, since I’ve written a “tales from the road” post, but I spent a total of 13 hours in the car this weekend driving to and from the Baltimore suburbs, and so of course I have lots of thoughts I want to share, chief among them, I never want to spend another minute in my car as long as I live.

But I assume I’ll get over that. The trip was exactly as long as you’d expect a summer road trip down I-95 on a Friday and then returning on a Sunday to take; it was my mistake for thinking that by leaving a little earlier each way, we’d actually have smooth sailing.

Anyway, some mostly-coherent thoughts from my brain as it slows down from the mind-numbing traffic on the Jersey Turnpike, and beyond…

— I have many favorite things of travelling in highway traffic, but my favorite has to be the one guy who thinks he’s a genius, and he’s going to cut from lane to lane to lane to try to go 7 miles per hour, while the rest of us are going 5 mph. Yeah pal, you’re really getting there A LOT faster.

— Not going to name the hotel we stayed in, because it’s new-ish (opened in February) but wow, do they have some work to do. Among other things, I called three times last week to make sure they gave my mother-in-law a handicapped accessible room, near an elevator. This is a basic, regular request hotels get all the time, and never have we had a problem with a hotel honoring the request.

Until now. They put her and my father-in-law in an allegedly handicapped accessible room, about 500 feet from the elevator. Literally, only one other room on the floor was farther from the elevator. Apparently when we inquired, they said that’s where the architects put the handicapped accessible rooms.

I weep for such stupidity. Anyway, we won’t be going back there.

–It used to be just about impossible to eat healthy at a highway rest stop. I have to say that while I’m not exactly saying rest stops have become Whole Foods, they’re much, much better than they used to be. You can actually, you know, get a salad or a decent sandwich and some fruit.

— Spent the better part of three days in Maryland and didn’t see one Orioles hat or jersey. Can’t be easy being an O’s fan these days.

— Finally, a trip highlight that pretty much made the whole adventure worth it: Went out for dinner Friday night at a local spot in Owings Mills to celebrate the annual date of my birth. Tucked away in the back of a medical office plaza, in a spot you’d never find unless you knew it was there, was a gem of a restaurant my aunt recommended. Linwood’s had fabulous appetizers, outstanding seafood entrees, and a couple of desserts (a blueberry tart with vanilla ice cream, and some dark chocolate S’mores) that were outstanding. If you’re ever near Baltimore, highly, highly recommended.

Just don’t drive down from New York on a summer weekend. You’ll never arrive.

**Next up, a very short video starring a duck, a doggie, and proof that animals are often a lot smarter than we think.

Smart duck, indeed.

**And finally today, more proof that people are just giving up when it comes to finding a mate, and doing incredibly silly things.

The Washington Post recently reported on “pheremone parties,” where single people try to find their perfect match by smelling them.

Seriously, this is a thing now. Check this out: You sign up to attend one, and organizers send you a plain white T-shirt that you’re supposed to sleep in for four consecutive nights, to capture your pheremones.

Then you put it into a ziploc bag and bring it to the party. When you arrive, you put a number on your bag, and put it with other bags. Then guests walk around smelling different shirts and writing down which ones smelled the best to them, and then, theoretically, matched them up with the person who liked their scent as much as you liked theirs.

Or something like that. This whole thing is very freaking weird to me. Can’t people just talk to each other in a bar or restaurant anymore, or is that too much trouble?

 

Good News Friday: Remembering the great Aretha Franklin, with a performance I loved. Kids having fun in a game I’ve never seen.

Happy Friday, world, and happy birthday to me! Yessir, your humble blogger turns two score and three years old today, or in other terms, 43. I will spend much of the day today on I-95 heading south for a family gathering, which will give me plenty of time to ponder things, like :

What percent of my life have I spent in traffic, and what could I have done more productively if I had those hours of my life back?

No but seriously, I’m sure my birthday will be great. Life is good.

OK, on with the show.. we start this week’s GNF with a remembrance of Aretha Franklin, who died Thursday at age 76. She lived one hell of a life, and her talent was immense. So many great Aretha performances to choose from to honor her, but oddball that I am, I always liked this one (below) the best. Just look at how incredibly excited and awed Candice Bergen is, sitting next to the Queen of Soul and hearing her belt out one of her signature songs.

Rest in peace, Aretha. And that voice will live forever.

**Next up today, you’re about to watch a game I’m pretty sure you’ve never seen before. A teacher named Eric Branch at an Indianapolis-area elementary school has invented a game called “Hoop Hop Showdown,” and the kids playing it in the video above just about lose their minds playing it.

This video has gone so viral that the local paper, the Indy Star, did a story on it and explained the rules of this awesome game: 

The game starts with hula hoops being placed in a path along the gym floor. The class then divides into two halves, with each half going to a different end of the path. Kids will then hop from hoop-to-hoop until members of each half meet face-to-face. When the players meet, they square off in a game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” until there is a victor. The loser returns to the back of their line and is replaced by the next person in their line. The winner continues along the hula hoop path until another opponent meets them.

If a player makes it all they way to the end of the path and wins one final game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” that person is the winner.

I love this game. Not only do I want to play it, but as many have said on Twitter, if it was on ESPN I would totally watch it.

Anything that gets students THIS excited has my vote of approval.

**Finally today, a nice story of college athletes doing good, to counteract so many of the negative stories we often hear. Two football players at the University of Miami have started a business called Second Spoon, taking extra food from local restaurants and delivering it to people who need it across Miami-Dade County. According to this Miami Herald story, they converted an old FedEx delivery van into a food truck, and recruited friends and UM athletes to help them deliver food that might have otherwise gone to waste.

The truck passes out hundreds of meals to so many hungry, needy people in the South Florida area.

Second Spoon only has one truck out now, but Hasan hopes to add one in Nashville, while at Vanderbilt. They’re also looking to partner with more churches and other businesses. But their end-goal is bigger.

“Hopefully within the next 10 years, we’re rendered obsolete,” he said, “when there’s not enough food waste for us to even exist.”

Way to go, guys. So much food waste becomes just that, waste. But Second Spoon is doing a wonderful service.

My annual tribute to Jim Murray, the best sportswriter who ever lived. And a fabulous “old guy” basketball move schools a youngster

Thursday is August 16th, which always means three things in my life: 1, it’s my father’s birthday (Happy 75th, young man!). 2, My birthday is only a day away (whoo-hoo, I’ve made it to 43! Depressing old man thought of the week: I figured out the other day that I’m now only two years younger than my Dad was at my bar mitzvah. Good God…).

And 3, August 16th means it’s time for my annual tribute to the late, great Jim Murray, only the greatest sportswriter who ever lived. Murray died on Aug. 16, 1998, so my own little tribute to him is to educate readers who aren’t as familiar with his greatness.

Murray was an incredible journalist, columnist, and hell of a fun guy. He partied with Bogie and Brando, knew everyone in L.A. and Hollywood worth knowing, and had the best one-liners of any writer, ever.

Just a few of my favorites:
“Elgin Baylor is as unstoppable as a woman’s tears.”
“Rickey Henderson’s strike zone is smaller than Hitler’s heart.”
On the city of Cincinnati:  “They still haven’t fixed the freeway. It’s Kentucky’s turn to use the cement mixer.”

Murray was the greatest, and his legacy is being kept alive by his late wife Linda Murray Hofmans, a terrific woman who (full disclosure: I’ve emailed with her many times and she’s all sorts of fantastic) has set up a foundation with scholarships in his honor. Johnette Howard of The Athletic wrote this terrific piece on Linda’s struggle to keep her husband’s memory alive

But as always at this time of year, here’s some Jim Murray, to give you some beauty on a Wednesday…

Here are my two favorite columns of his: First, a touching tribute to his first wife Gerry who had just died. Here’s an excerpt:

She never grew old and now, she never will. She wouldn’t have anyway. She had four children, this rogue husband, a loving family and this great wisdom and great heart, but I always saw her as this little girl running across a field with a swimming suit on her arm, on a summer day on the way to the gravel pit for an afternoon of swimming and laughing. Life just bubbled out of Gerry. We cry for ourselves. Wherever she is today, they can’t believe their good luck.

And second, Murray’s elegy for his left eye, which finally gave out on him in 1979, rendering him mostly blind. The last four paragraphs are just perfect, but here’s another excerpt:

I lost an old friend the other day. He was blue-eyed, impish, he cried a lot with me, saw a great many things with me. I don’t know why he left me. Boredom, perhaps.

We read a lot of books together, we did a lot of crossword puzzles together, we saw films together. He had a pretty exciting life. He saw Babe Ruth hit a home run when we were both 12 years old. He saw Willie Mays steal second base, he saw Maury Wills steal his 104th base. He saw Rocky Marciano get up. I thought he led a pretty good life.

 One night a long time ago he saw this pretty girl who laughed a lot, played the piano and he couldn’t look away from her. Later he looked on as I married this pretty lady.

He saw her through 34 years. He loved to see her laugh, he loved to see her happy …  He recorded the happy moments, the miracle of children, the beauty of a Pacific sunset, snow-capped mountains, faces on Christmas morning. He allowed me to hit fly balls to young sons in uniforms two sizes too large, to see a pretty daughter march in halftime parades. He allowed me to see most of the major sports events of our time.

I suppose I should be grateful that he didn’t drift away when I was 12 or 15 or 29 but stuck around over 50 years until we had a vault of memories. 

Read some Jim Murray today. It’ll make you feel better about humanity, and the written word. Man, I miss him.

**Finally today, as I get older I of course appreciate it when older folks school younger people. When it’s on the basketball court, where wisdom and experience sometimes do trump youth and athleticism, it’s even better.

Check out this viral clip and a brilliant one-on-one move from a man named Leroy (Papa Lee) Martens, who’s shot a few thousand free throws, against a kid named Andrew Menard, who wasn’t alive during Monica Lewinsky’s heyday. Superb, veteran fella. Superb.

We threw a party at the new house, and another “grown-up” box is checked off. The best throw of the year in MLB has to be seen to be believed. And a pretty amazing soccer goal by Wayne Rooney.

The idea of “being a grown-up” always used to seem so appealing to me. Getting to eat what you want, whenever you want, never having to go to school again? Yes please! Sign me up every day of the week.

Then you grow up, and being a grown-up isn’t always so great. Jobs. Bills. Relationships that don’t work out. Stress. All that stuff that’s missing from your life as a kid.

And being a grown-up isn’t as cool. Still, there are big moments that feel like big moments for me sometimes, and Sunday came another one.

As I’ve mentioned a few dozen times on here, we bought a big ole’ house a few months back, and moved into it in June. Things have been progressing as you’d expect, at least if you’re a homeowner: It’s awesome having so much space, neighbors are great, our new town is great… and lots of stuff needs to be fixed and it all seems to cost at least $500. But I’m not complaining (much); it’s a big life move to own a house.

Anyway, Sunday felt like another big grown-up moment: Hosting our first big shindig at the new house. It was an anniversary party for my mom and stepdad, 25 years together. We had about 20 people there, and Shelley and I were the hosts, making sure everyone had drinks, making sure the kids weren’t bored, just basically being traffic cops and sociable hosts at the same time.

It felt like something I’d done at 1,000 other people’s houses. So many times in my life I’ve taken advantage of other people’s hospitality and generosity, and I’ve appreciated it. It’s so nice to finally be able to repay others’ kindness, and have them all come to where I live and have a good time.

This felt different. The party was a success (no one got food poisoning and nothing got broken, those are the metrics I’m using.)

It was exhausting. But it felt great.

Just a small moment in a life full of them. This one felt a little bigger.

**Next up today, probably the throw of the year in Major League Baseball. The Oakland A’s, who are apparently very good again, have an outfielder named Ramon Laureano, and besides having a name straight out of a Spanish soap opera, he’s got a howitzer for an arm.

Check out this incredible catch and then even better strike from the outfield Sunday. That’s like a 300-foot throw on the fly!

Crazy good.

**Finally today, I know just a few things about world soccer superstar Wayne Rooney: A, He’s British and really good at soccer, 2, He’s incredibly foul-mouthed, maybe the most vulgar athlete I’ve heard on the field of play, 3, He’s now playing in America.

Now after seeing this play from Sunday’s D.C. United game pop up all over my Twitter feed Sunday night, I can add a fourth thing: He’s really, really fast.

Check out this defensive recovery with United’s goalie out of the net, and then incredible feed for a goal.

I have to admit, the announcer’s cackling laughter about :20 in makes the clip even better.

Good News Friday: A teacher gets a wonderful gift, and more teachers need help. A Muslim woman in Michigan set to make Congressional history. And a woman at Starbucks writes a beautiful note, thankful for a kindness

Happy Friday, world! Hope all is good with you today, a special day in our family since it’s my beautiful bride’s birthday. I won’t tell you how old she is because, you know, I value my life, but needless to say she still, seven years after I met her, is as young at heart as ever.

Lots of good news going on this week, but I want to start with this Alabama teacher who went above and beyond at her job. This educator, whose name has not appeared in the stories about this incident, would spend hours on the bus to get to her teaching job.

A parent who’s children had the teacher for several years learned she had to take the bus for so long decided to something about it. The parent, businesswoman Courtney Adeleye, gave the teacher her own car.

It’s a beautiful story and video, but as many have pointed out, wouldn’t it be nice if teachers got paid enough to afford reasonable transportation?

It’s unconscionable how poorly respected and paid educators are in America. But this video at least shows that many, many parents appreciate the sacrifice and try to make a difference where they can.

**Next up today, it’s so great to see barriers fall and diversity force its way into the way too male, way too white, halls of Congress.

Meet Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan woman who in January will become the first Muslim-American woman to ever serve in Congress. She won the Democratic primary last week and will run unopposed in November in the general election.

She’s 42, the son of a Ford auto worker, and was “at a loss for words” after her victory.

One by one, we’re getting a government that looks more like America. Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham don’t like it, but the Rashida Tlaib’s of the U.S. are the future. And it’s fabulous.

**Finally today, random acts of kindness can go such a long way. Something as simple as buying a cup of coffee for the next person in line at Starbucks can make a huge difference.

Check out this beautiful note a stranger sent to the woman who bought her coffee recently. You never, ever know what someone else is going through.