Monthly Archives: March 2019

A new edition of the Daddy Chronicles, with thoughts on what makes a person like a certain song, a toddler who stands uncomfortably close to teachers, and a budding train engineer

And a Happy Friday my fellow denizens of Earth! A decent night of Sweet 16 games last night, highlighted by that insane Tennessee-Purdue game, won by the Boilermakers in OT.

It’s been a few months since I’ve done a Daddy Chronicles, so with so much going on with my boys I wanted to get it all down before things changed again, if that makes sense.

Anyway, hope you enjoy reading these half as much as I enjoy writing them. Time to dip into the waters of a pre-K boy with way too much to say, and a toddler who wants to say so much but can’t quite do it yet…

–OK so this has been on my mind for a while, and it fascinates me, and I’ve spent hours, literally, thinking about it. So Nate has gotten more and more into music over the past few months, and so like a good Dad I’ve tried to expose him to all kinds of music that I like.

And without fail, no matter what song he’s never heard comes on the radio or I play from my phone, within five seconds he’s decided if he likes it or not.

Literally, five seconds. With “New Sensation” by INXS, he liked it within four seconds. With “Wish you Were Here” from Pink Floyd, loved it in five seconds. But with “Hotel California,” I got a scream from the back seat of “I don’t like it!” within a few beats. Same with “Raspberry Beret” by Prince: Not for him.

And it got me to thinking: How does he know that fast that he likes it or not? Is there something in the guitar chord, or the sound of the lead singer, or the way the drums hit his little ears? I mean, as an adult, if I’m confronted with an unfamiliar tune, I’ll give it a minute or two, hear the lyrics, and all that.

But with Nate, it’s instantaneous. And scientifically, I really am curious as to how that works. Any of my readers who happen to be pediatricians or experts in music, please fill me in.

Because I REALLY want my boy to like “Hotel California,” dammit.

— So a couple more Nate things the last few months. First, my boy has become a little John D. Rockefeller, or more accurately, Frank Lloyd Wright or something, because Nate is obsessed with building and re-building his train set. He knows exactly what he wants to do, makes it perfect, then takes it apart and makes it differently.

It’s a whole new world for me, learning about switches, and supports, and curves, and all this train lingo that my son suddenly knows by heart. And also, I’ve learned that it’s possible to “play with trains wrong,” because several times in the past month he’s told me I’m doing it incorrectly.

Thank God I have him to teach me.

But seriously, the kid seems really good at the mechanical brain stuff, which is 100 percent genetically, from my wife.

— The other change in Nate has been his love of Uno. You remember Uno, right? The card game with the multiple colors, sorta like Crazy Eights? I’ve played it more in the past month than in the previous 40 years of my life. He wants to play morning, noon and night. And so we have. He promised us we’d “take a break” from Uno a few weeks ago.

That lasted one day.

— As for our newest model, Lewis child 2.0, Theo is growing every day, mostly in his belly since the little pischer never stops eating. If you don’t have food in front of him immediately at all times during meals, he takes it as a personal affront and wails to a degree I’m not sure any opera star can reach.

But that’s mostly normal, I think. What creeps me out a little (though other people think it’s adorable) is how at every one of our classes we take together he now stands insanely close to the teacher.

Whether it’s at music class, at story time at the library (above) or in his little gym class, my second son wanders up to the grown-up in charge, gets about two feet away from them, and just… stares. Not upset, not asking for a hug from them, just kinda, you know, staring at them as they do their thing.

This goes on for 10, 15 minutes at a time sometimes. I’m guessing he just finds grownups other than his parents endlessly fascinating. And the teachers don’t seem to mind, thankfully.

I hope he doesn’t grow up to be a “close talker” like Judge Reinhold’s character in “Seinfeld.”

— Also new for Theo: Frantically waving goodbye to people, often long after they’ve actually left the room; saying “Dada” and maybe “Papa” (his Papa Steve is SURE he’s been saying this for months, and now he might actually be right); and finally, Theo has become a big fan of taking all the books off his shelves, then trying to rearrange them, quite unsuccessfully.

Hey, it’s an acquired skill. He’s also become fond of “knee-hugs,” where he runs to people he likes (fortunately I’m one of them) and throws his arms around their knees, since that’s as high as he could reach.

“Knee-hugs” are now my favorite thing, ever. Being a Dad is just the best!

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Thoughts on the Mueller Report: After 2 years, let’s see what’s IN it. The NHL’s Hurricanes continue to wow with unique celebrations. And the guy who tried to kill a cockroach by throwing a gun at it.

It’s finally here. After two years, 37 indictments, 199 charges and more breathless speculation than any government document since, well, maybe ever, last weekend the Mueller Report was finally turned in, and for the last few days we’ve been waiting for Attorney General William Barr to release it.

I have a very sinking feeling we’re going to be waiting a long time. And that’s a disgrace.

All we’ve heard for years from our current Buffoon-in-Chief was how awful and horrible this Mueller probe was, and what a bunch of crooked Democrats were running it, and it’s awful, disgraceful, disgusting, no collusion, no obstruction, nothing of any sort.

And now, now that Mueller’s report allegedly says that there as no Russian collusion by or on behalf of Trump, but there may have been obstruction of justice, Trump and his stoolies don’t want the report to be made public?

Bullshit. First of all, and this should be obvious: All we know so far about what’s in the report comes from Barr, who was just installed last month and is on record being a very big Trump loyalist and harsh critic of the Mueller probe. I trust him as far as I can throw him.

Second of all, even what little has come out about the report seems colored by Barr’s bias. It is HE that says there was not enough evidence to charge Trump on obstruction of justice; that’s not at all necessarily what Mueller found.

And finally, hey Trumpers: If this report is such a slam-dunk win for your wonderful President, why wouldn’t you want everyone to see it? Wouldn’t you want the whole country, the whole world, to read every word of it, if it truly says that your man is innocent, and this whole thing was a bunch of malarkey?

What have you got to hide?

There is so, so much more to be learned about this report that has consumed American politics for two years, and it’s a travesty if we don’t get to see the whole thing. Every Senator and Congressman ought to be demanding the full report be released; just a small summary of findings by an AG who was confirmed just a few weeks ago is not anywhere near sufficient.

Release the whole report. Let’s see the damn thing, we’ve waited long enough for it.

–So it’s late March and hockey season is winding down and while my Rangers are far, far removed from the upcoming playoffs, there’s one team I’m absolutely hoping reaches the postseason: The Carolina Hurricanes, owners of the most creative, awesome and fun victory celebrations in all of sports.

For this entire season, when the Hurricanes win at home, they’ve punctuated the victory with totally-different, off-the-wall celebrations. They’ve played Quidditch, they’ve pretended to compete in the old Nintendo game “Duck Hunt,” and have had so much fun doing other celebrations that old fuddy-duddies in hockey hate them, which of course means they’re doing something right. Here are a couple of their recent celebrations: Above, the team playing “Duck, Duck, Goose”, and below, a March Madness-themed game.

I love these so much. Here’s a story ranking their 20 best cellys, with videos linking to them.

** And finally today, some bizarre stories just leap out at me and demand to be put in the blog, so I can share it with you fine people. This, my friends, is one of those stories.

Meet the unnamed 50-year-old Michigan man in this story. So the fella, who is in a wheelchair, sees a cockroach in his house and wants to kill it. Like most of us, he’s freaked out and wants to kill it as soon as possible (When I lived in Florida, I killed dozens of cockroaches in my apartment, because they’re everywhere. It’s rarely fun to have them as roommates).

Unlike most of us, though, this fella decides to throw a gun at the cockroach to try to kill it. Well, more accurately, he said he threw a shoe at the roach, and there was a gun inside the shoe (Why someone would be hiding a firearm in their shoe, is a question I really would like to explore further. But that’s for another blog post).

When the man threw the shoe at the roach, the gun went off and shot the man in the foot.

He’s apparently recovering from his wounds. My sides, though, may never recover from laughing upon hearing this story.

Somebody please get this man a can of RAID, pronto!

Some people really are just too stupid for words.

After four days of Madness, my Dukies are (barely) alive, and other thoughts from a chalk Tourney so far (not a bad thing). And Barbra Streisand, what the hell are you saying now?

Maybe you had a relaxing Sunday night in your corner of the world. Maybe you had a nice family dinner, drank some Pinot Grigio, watched a little TV, and went to sleep in a calm state of mind.

If you did that, yeah, you’re not a Duke fanatic like me. My goodness, I’m typing this sentence a full four hours after the Blue Devils got incredibly lucky and escaped with a 77-76 win over Central Florida in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday night, and my heart rate is still not back to normal (I’ll be OK.)

In a thrilling, frustrating, fingernail-biting, wearing-a-groove-in-the-carpet-with-my-pacing kind of game, Duke played poorly on defense, erratically on offense, but thanks to the amazing talents of Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett (pictured above in the sports photo of the year, taken by Getty Images photographer Kevin C. Cox Friday night), and some horrible officiating on both sides, the Blue Devils survived.

They survived because, in the final seconds, UCF had two game-winning shots just miss, including a final tip-in by Aubrey Dawkins that rolled around the rim for at least 35 seconds (or so it seemed), and so Duke lived to see another day.

Honestly? They were lucky. Me and every other Duke fan can admit that. UCF outplayed them, Cam Reddish didn’t shoot nearly enough (he’s the most confounding Duke player since… I can’t remember the last guy with this much talent who disappears), and Coach K’s refusal to play his bench as usual cost the Blue Devils.

But, hey, they won. As did almost all the other heavyweight programs, which is where I begin my NCAA thoughts today…

— Cinderella? Anyone seen Cinderella? So most years we get at least two or three surprise teams in the Sweet 16s, teams that no one in the world predicted would win two games. Most years we definitely get one.

But this year, Cinderella’s invitation must’ve gotten lost in the email, because the Sweet 16 has zero upstarts. Now, as disappointing as it was that we had so few titanic upsets these first four days, the flip side is we’ve got some amazing games on tap for Thursday and Friday.

Florida State-Gonzaga. LSU-Michigan State. Duke-Va. Tech. Purdue-Tennessee. Texas Tech-Michigan. Auburn-UNC. So many big-time matchups means we’ll get a lot of great games.

So yeah, no Loyola-Chicago, or George Mason, or VCU this year in the Sweet 16. But so many terrific games lie ahead.

— OK, so we didn’t get a 16 seed upsetting a 1 seed like we did last year, but three of the four 16’s sure as hell scared the bejeezus out of top seeds. North Dakota State trailed Duke by only four at the half, Iona led UNC most of the first half, and Virginia, who of course was shocked by 16th seed UMBC last year, was down double-digits in the first half to Gardner-Webb before rallying to win easily.

I tell everyone this: The difference between the best teams in the best conferences, and the best teams in the smaller leagues, really isn’t that great when it comes to just one game, for 40 minutes. Anybody can beat anybody.

— Very surprisingly we didn’t have any true, game-winning buzzer beaters in the first two rounds; the NCAA Tournament is almost always good for a few. The closest we got was LSU’s Tremont Waters hitting a driving layup with 1.2 seconds left to lift the Tigers past Maryland.

But that’s OK, if we didn’t get any crazy buzzer-beaters in the Tournament, we got this insane shot from the NBA Sunday night, as the Charlotte Hornets’ Jeremy Lamb heaved in a half-court game-winner. Obscenely great shot.

— Best game of the first four days? Besides the Duke-UCF game Sunday night that nearly gave me a heart attack? For me it was Wofford-Seton Hall, just a terrific first-round game that saw the Terriers come out on top. Great shooting, great defense, the crowd was into it. It’s what the Tournament was all about.

— I really really really wanted Wofford to beat Kentucky Saturday, and amazingly the tiny school from South Carolina almost did. But star Fletcher Magee missed every 3-pointer he took (he’s the all-time career leader in Division I) and the Terriers fell just short. Great game, though.

— I hate it when what I know about a school “in real life” stops me from cheering for them in the Tournament. Example: Liberty University scored a wonderful upset Friday night, beating No. 5 seed Mississippi State. Liberty has a terrific young team, a good coach, and … then I remembered they represent a school founded and run by Jerry Falwell and his son, a pair of gentlemen who have spent their lives being bigoted, homophobic and outright hostile to anyone who doesn’t believe what they do.

So yeah, I couldn’t feel too good about the Liberty upset. Happy they lost Sunday.

— Most impressive teams so far? Purdue just destroyed Villanova. Gonzaga hasn’t broken a sweat, either. And I’d say Florida State is playing sensational as well right now.

— Last thought: Something has GOT to be done about all these replay reviews at the end of games. I wrote term papers in college that took less time to finish. Look, it’s one call, just make it please, referees!

**Finally today, a few words about what Miss Barbra Streisand had to say over the weekend. Now, like 90 percent of New Yorkers who are Jewish, I love Babs, always have, she’s got the voice of an angel, yada yada yada.

But even for someone I love (although few have ever loved themselves as much as she does), there is absolutely no defending the comments published over the weekend that she made about Michael Jackson, and the sexual molestation allegations against him.

Commenting to a British newspaper about the “Leaving Neverland” documentary about two of MJ’s accusers, Babs said this:

The two children involved “were thrilled to be there” and that what allegedly happened to them “didn’t kill them.”
“Michael’s sexual needs were his sexual needs.”
“His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has,” Streisand told The Times. “You can say ‘molested,’ but those children, as you heard say [grown-up Robson and Safechuck], they were thrilled to be there. They both married and they both have children, so it didn’t kill them.”

Barbra… are you freaking kidding me??? It didn’t kill them, so it was all OK??? His sexual needs were his sexual needs??? Does that excuse a rapist’s sexual needs, or anyone else who commits a sex crime?

This is reprehensible. She better walk this back, fast. Really horrible comments.

Good News Friday: A Muslim man, a hopeful sign, and hugs galore. A beautiful friendship between a Friends of Jaclyn adoptee and a softball star makes “SportsCenter.” And another beautiful soldier/son reunion.

Happy Friday, world! As you read this I’m either watching an NCAA Tournament game, talking about it with one of my friends, or reading about the NCAA Tournament games played Thursday.

As usual it was a fun day of games Thursday, with no titanic upsets but lots of close calls, including No. 2 seed Michigan State barely escaping No. 15 Bradley, and No. 3 LSU getting scared by those smart kids at Yale.

What happens when there are no big upsets on the first day? Usually it means there’ll be a few on Day 2.

But enough about hoops at the moment, let’s get on to Good News Friday. Three terrific videos to share today.

First, the tragedy in New Zealand was discussed by me on Wednesday, but I want to focus on a much more positive story that came out of this. Well, not even necessarily as a response to the anti-Muslim attack, but just a general message of peace.

This started a few years ago, when a man named Arian Kashef decided to try an experiment, involving hugs and understanding.  He holds a sign that says “I’m a Muslim, not a terrorist. Would you hug me?”

It’s always worthwhile to see, just for the reactions of those he encounters.

Love, not hate.

 

**Next up today, as you know I can’t get enough of these “surprise military return home” videos, and this one is pretty special.

 

This week in Lebanon, Tenn., Army Staff Sgt. Rob Cesternino was due to return after a year away in the Middle East.

But he came home a few days early, unbeknownst to his 9-year-old son, Luca.
Rob showed up at Luca’s taekwondo class and started sparring with him, with Luca wearing a blindfold.
Within a few seconds Rob gives himself away, and Luca has an incredible reaction.

I love these videos; this is one of my new favorites.

**And finally today, I’ve written numerous times of my love and support for the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, an amazing non-profit I’m proud to be a part of. Well, every once in a while our little organization gets some national pub, and I am thrilled to highlight it.

Check out this ESPN “SportsCenter” piece on star Florida State softball player Meghan King, her inspiration in cancer-battler Hayden Stone, and their fabulous friendship.  So sweet…

How a “normal country” deals with an outbreak of gun violence. Matthew Rhys and Michael Sheen have a new comedy series and I’m SO there for it. I reveal my Final 4 picks, and it’s quite possible my head will explode in a few weeks.

One of my all-time favorite headlines from the satirical newspaper “The Onion” was this one, after a mass shooting in 2014:

“No Way to Prevent This,’ says only nation where this regularly happens.”

It would be even more hilarious if wasn’t so sad, because the words themselves clearly lend themselves to mockery. If it only happens in one country, how can it possibly be impossible to prevent?

I thought about that headline this week, obviously, because of the steps New Zealand has taken since the horrible massacre inside a Muslim house of worship last week.

Just a couple of quick facts on what New Zealand has done and said since the mosque attack:

— New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that no one in the country should utter the gunman’s name, lest he receive the publicity he’s seeking. She said she will never, ever say his name.

— The parliament of New Zealand has said they will immediately look to strengthen existing gun laws, and pass new, tougher ones. “Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms that I believe will have made our community safer,” Ms. Ardern said.

— Trade Me, New Zealand’s biggest online marketplace, has removed semiautomatic rifles from its site in response to customer concerns.

It’s been one week, and these are just a few of the changes and responses New Zealand is making.

Nothing we could possibly do, so many pro-gun leaders in Washington say. Nothing we can do about mass shootings, even when they happen to FIRST GRADERS in a schoolhouse in Connecticut in 2012.

Just look at New Zealand. They’re offering a whole hell of a lot more than “thoughts and prayers.”

**Next up today, I have the perfect little small bite of comedy for you today. Matthew Rhys will always be beloved by me because of his amazing turn as Philip Jennings in one of my all-time favorite shows, “The Americans.” And Michael Sheen is also a fantastic movie and TV actor. They’re both British, both ridiculously handsome (so I’m told by women in my life), and apparently fabulous friends.

They both just did an episode of the Apple TV web series, “Carpool Karaoke, The Series” which of course is a takeoff on James Corden’s fabulous segment he does on his late show on CBS. Anyway, apparently this has been a thing for a while, this Apple TV web series (I found it on my iPhone in like 30 seconds, and just this one clip (above) of Rhys and Sheen make me desperately want to watch this.

I love these guys. Singing 80’s tunes in a British accent while tooling around London? Sign me up.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – January 31: De’Andre Hunter #12 of the Virginia Cavaliers shoots in the second half during a game against the Louisville Cardinals at John Paul Jones Arena on January 31, 2018 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Virginia defeated Louisville 74-64. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

**And finally today, I  know you’re all waiting with baited breath for my Final Four picks; as always I had a very tough time deciding who I thought would make it. As much as I hate to pick “chalk” and high seeds, I couldn’t talk myself into a surprise Final Four team this year, someone like George Mason in 2006, VCU in 2011, or Loyola-Chicago last season.

So I went with Duke, Virginia (De’Andre Hunter, above is the real deal, and no way the Hoos are going to be beaten in the 1-16 game again this year), Kentucky, and Texas Tech, who as a 3 seed qualifies as sort of an upset. I love that Tech team, they play tremendous defense, have a great scorer in Jarrett Culver, and a terrific coach in Chris Beard. Then I have Duke beating Virginia in an all-ACC title game.

I will point out one more thing: A lot of the brackets I’ve been seeing and reading have a Duke-Kentucky national championship game, or a Duke-UNC title game. It’s entirely likely that if either one of those games comes to be, your humble blogger will see his head explode. First, I hate Kentucky almost as much as UK fans hate Duke, and the thought of Satan Calipari winning a national title over the Blue Devils is enough to make me vomit for a week.

Then, the idea of a Duke-UNC first-ever meeting in the NCAA Tournament, being a national title game? Again, my head might combust. To see the best rivalry in all of sports have a national title game in it, with the winner having almost-lifetime bragging rights? I’m not sure my heart can handle it, especially if the wrong shade of blue ended up winning.

Let the games begin!

 

The Madness is here! My annual quick-hit guide to help you win our NCAA Tournament pool. And a man gets small revenge on a litterbug, hilariously.

Say it with me now: It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Well, it is for me, anyway. Outside of the U.S. Open in late August this is as excited as I get about a sporting event. Yes, it’s time for March Madness, baby! Sixty-eight teams had their name called on CBS between 6-6:30 p.m., and now we all get to pretend we know what we’re talking about so Ted from human resources will call our names in a few weeks and tell us we’ve won the office pool.

As I try to do every year, I will try to guide and help you, dear reader, with your office pool or ESPN pool or CBS Sports pool or whatever pool you’re into, since, while I don’t watch nearly as much college basketball as I used to, I still watch a lot and read a lot about it. (And I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about my beloved Duke Blue Devils, their insanely non-human star Zion Williamson, as we go along here.)

So without further ado, some quick-hit thoughts on the bracket, which I have to say, is pretty damn good. Usually me and other college hoops fans spend an hour or so on Selection Sunday evening complaining about this team’s seed, how come so and so got left out, and other mistakes. But they did a really, really good job this year.

OK, onward to some first-round upsets you should pick, some dark horses who may go far, and some great matchups I hope happen. As always in this Monday column, I’m not sure I’m ready to pick a Final Four yet, I need at least 24-48 hours to study the bracket some more.

–OK, first off, all the No. 1 seeds are outstanding, and three of the four got very tough brackets, I think. The easiest region is the Midwest, where North Carolina has a cakewalk to the Elite 8, where they’ll play Kentucky, giving me yet another game where I wish both teams could lose, mutually assured destruction and all that. But the other three regions are incredibly difficult.

— First-round upsets I really like: Belmont as an 11 seed will beat Temple and then take out Maryland, a very young team. I really like No. 13 UC-Irvine over a Kansas State team that might be missing its best player (go Anteaters), and I might be crazy enough to pick Yale over LSU, because LSU’s coach Will Wade is suspended right now, Yale is very very good, and I’m scared to death LSU might beat Duke.

I definitely like New Mexico State, who’s won 30 games and is crazy-experienced, to beat Auburn.
One more upset I like but I’m not sure I can bring myself to pick yet: No. 12 Liberty over Mississippi State. Not because I don’t think it’ll happen, but I’m not sure if I can ever possibly pick Jerry Falwell’s school to win something. I hate him so much.

— A team you absolutely, positively should root against? No. 15 seed Bradley. Why? Just read this. Disgusting and disgraceful.

— Lower-seeded sleepers who could make a run: The afore-mentioned Lobos of New Mexico State, who will beat Auburn and then Kansas to get to the Sweet 16; No. 6 seeded Buffalo, who will take out either St. John’s or Arizona State, then possibly beat Texas Tech (I know, I’m wavering on that one, because I love Buffalo’s team but Tech is really, really good).
I like Wofford, too, as a 10 seed, but beating Kentucky in the second round is going to be very, very tough.

— First-round games that’ll be super fun to watch:

1.Marquette-Murray State should be terrific, with two amazing guards in Markus Howard (Marquette) going up against Ja Morant of Murray State. (Thursday, 4:30 p.m. EST, on TBS)

2. Wofford-Seton Hall will be all kinds of fun; the Pirates from Jersey are playing extremely well right now. (Thursday, 9:40 p.m. EST, CBS,
3. Utah State-Washington will be fascinating; the Aggies from Utah State are an outstanding, veteran team and the Huskies have slumped at the end of the season after being regular-season champions of a putrid PAC-12 conference. (Friday, 6:50 p.m. TNT)

— Best games we hopefully will see in the Tournament: Duke-Michigan State in the Elite 8 (if anyone got screwed in the seedings, it’s the Spartans, who could’ve made a strong case for a No. 1 seed) would be epic. Kentucky-UNC, as I mentioned earlier, would be a classic. Virginia-Tennessee in the Elite 8 would be tremendous, I have no idea who’d win that one.
Gonzaga-Florida State would be a rematch of last year when FSU drubbed the Zags; both teams are better this season.

–OK fine, best guess at a Final Four, if you made me choose right now: Duke in the East (duh), Michigan, maybe? in the West, Tennessee in the South, and the Tar Heels of North Carolina in the Midwest. But I don’t feel good about those at all.

Happy bracketing, y’all!

**Finally today, this gave me a good laugh Sunday. Not sure what city this is (looks like Asia based on the store writing) and some people on the Internet are saying it’s fake or staged, but I’m choosing to believe it’s real.
Because people who litter and throw shit out their window deserve to have what happened to this driver, happen to them.

Outstanding stuff.

Good News Friday: An 11-year-old girl in Arkansas does amazing things for seniors. A boy saves money for a long time to buy his best friend an electric wheelchair. And a beautiful note from the “tooth fairy” upon her retirement

And a Happy Friday to all you super-good folks out there! It’s a wonderful day; we’re two days away from Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament; I spent nine hours on Thursday at Madison Square Garden, covering and watching the Big East Tournament and had a blast, as I always do when I’m paid to watch college hoops.

So much goodness to share this week, and I’m not even including the news that “broke” on Thursday that revealed Rosario Dawson is dating the next President of the United States (Cory Booker); the actress would certainly be among the coolest First Ladies ever.

But we start this week with an 11-year-old girl in Arkansas, who made my day, week and year when I watched this piece. Steve Hartman of “CBS Sunday Morning” brought us the story of Ruby Chitsey, or Harrison, Ark.
Ruby’s mom is a nurse who travels around the area to several nursing homes, and she often brought Ruby around.

One day Ruby started asking the patients a simple question: “If you could have any three things, what would you want?”

Ruby found most of the adults wanted only simple things. So in a beautiful act of kindness, she started giving them to her new friends.

Watch this three-minute piece and beam with joy, at the innocence and giant heart of this little girl. So sweet.

**Next up today, another extraordinary young person, also in Arkansas, doing something nice for someone else.

Brandon Qualls and Tanner Wilson both go to Caddo Hills High School in Norman, Ark. Brandon is confined to a wheelchair, and for years he’s tooled around the halls in a hand-pushing model, understandably getting tired as the day went along.

His friend Brandon decided to make life a little bit easier.  Wilson spent two years at his part-time job at a mechanic shop to save up enough money to buy Qualls a motorized wheelchair, which can often cost hundreds of dollars.

I wanted to do him a favor,” Wilson said. “I just felt like I needed to do it and I wanted to do it… Brandon, he’s just always been there for me.”

What a terrific kid.

Tooth fairy icon. Vector flat illustration, Thin line art design

**And finally today, a sweet little letter from my good friend Jeff Pearlman. A few years ago, when his daughter Casey turned 11, she lost a tooth. And, well, Jeff and his wife Catherine were understandably bummed when Casey told them she knew the Tooth Fairy, who the Pearlmans called “Sunna,” didn’t exist.

So Jeff wrote casey a beautiful letter from Sunna, which reads this this. Just spectacular, warm stuff.

My dearest love, Princess Casey …

I love you. I love your teeth. I’ve loved being your tooth fairy for the last nine years. I’ve seen you blossom from a little girl to a young woman, and it makes my heart glow with pride.

But I think it’s time …

There comes a point when girls stop believing in me. This always breaks my heart, because it signifies the conclusion of something precious and sweet. I’ve now fluttered into your room more than 20 times. I know exactly how you sleep (soundly, always facing the same side) and how to take your tooth without waking you from a deep, beautiful slumber. The decorations and paint colors have changed through the years, but—in many ways—you have not. You remain sweet and passionate and dreamy. I’d never before been the tooth fairy to a girl who hangs socks and weird objects from her wall. You’re special. You think differently.

I understand why you no longer believe there’s a tooth fairy. You’re older, you’re wiser, you’re harder to dazzle. But, dear Casey, let me say this: Whether I’m a magical fairy who flies into your room or merely a loving parent shoving stuff beneath your pillow, I’m still Sunna. I represent wonderment and magic and—most of all—goodness.

Please, Casey, as you age, don’t stop believing in those things. Be enraptured by the beautiful. Find magic in the magical. And always look for the goodness in people. It’s there, even if sometimes it takes a while to find.

I have loved being your tooth fairy. Please, never forget me.

I will never forget you.

Love always,

Sunna

 

Thoughts, many thoughts, on this Felicity Huffman/college bribery scandal. A Maryland basketball player proposes on Senior Night. And finally, an answer to the age-old toilet paper question: over the top or under?

OK, OK, I’ll admit, my first reaction to this bizarre, huge story that broke Tuesday about the arrests of 50 people involved in a bribery and cheating scandal to help kids of celebrities and wealthy businesspeople was this:

“No, not Aunt Becky! Not Jesse’s girlfriend from “Full House!” How could she?”

But yes, it was true, Lori Loughlin, the actress from that iconic (and truly awful, if we’re honest) show from the 1980s and 90s, was one of the many, many people arrested and charged in this investigation. (Famous “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman was also arrested).

So many thoughts, so many thoughts on this weird and disturbing story. I’ll try to make a few quick points here:

— First of all, as someone who got into college without the benefit of wealthy parents or celebrity connections, it appalls me that so many famous and/or wealthy people tried to game the system by bribing university officials, having professional test-takers take exams for their spawn, and even have testing company employees change answers on SAT/ACT tests.
Kids of celebrities, or kids of business tycoons, ALREADY have so many life advantages, and in the case of celebrities, often have colleges who would love to admit them just for publicity sake of having a famous Mom and Dad on campus. The idea that they would go to these extremes to get their already-privileged kids into Yale and USC and wherever repulses me.

— Also? It really doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to where you go to college. You can become a brilliant success story from anywhere, as the democratization of educational choices has drastically improved odds for most people. But that said, it’s even more infuriating that college, because of cost or inherent societal/class disadvantages, is still out of reach for so many.

— Best Tweet I saw on this matter was this one, from @kalebhorton, regarding William H. Macy, Felicity Huffman’s husband, being involved in the scandal:

“Pretty crazy that William H Macy has a good shot of getting arrested for something every single William H Macy character would get arrested for.”

— Another part of this story that’s not getting a lot of play is the bribery involving parents to college coaches, often using phony athletic accomplishments. A girl ranked No. 207 in California in tennis as a kid was billed as a “Top 50” USTA junior.

“According to this story, officials say that parents looking to get their sweeties into esteemed institutions paid bribes to Singer, who then paid coaches at the given universities. Those coaches allegedly then informed the schools that the students were on their list of recruits, thereby gaining them entrance to the school. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the schools were unaware of the ruse.”
Umm, college coaches, have you heard of this thing called the Internet? Anybody who’s so good at a certain sport as these “officials” allege would have some kind of trail of their goodness on the Web.

— I hope the book gets thrown at ringmaster Singer and everyone involved. Again, wealthy and celebrity kids already have SO many advantages. So disappointing that they were getting even more of a leg up.

 

**Next up today, I have no love for the sports teams at the University of Maryland (a rival of my beloved Duke), but I have to admit this was a super cool move pulled off by men’s basketball player Ivan Bender on Senior Night.

If you’re not familiar with Senior Night in college basketball, it’s awesome. Each senior player gets introduced before (or sometimes after) the final home game of the season. Their parents or girlfriends are with them, they get a big ovation from the crowd, and it’s a whole nice little thing.

Well, this year Bender decided to make Senior Night even more memorable than usual. As his longtime girlfriend, Andrea Knezevic, walked on the court with him, Bender got down on one knee and popped the eternal question men wonder: “Why does it take so long for ladies in the bathroom?”

No seriously, he asked her to marry him, and she said yes. My favorite part of this awesome clip is how excited the Terrapin Turtle mascot is in the background. Very very cool.

I hope they get married at midcourt during a game.

**And finally today, we have resolution on an issue that has roiled friendships, ruined romantic relationships, and torn families apart. No, I’m not talking about if a hot dog is a sandwich (It most certainly is NOT, and I will fight to the death anyone who says differently).

No,  I speak, of course, about the all-important issue of the correct placement of the toilet paper roll: Have the 2-ply tissue roll over the top, or curl underneath?

In my opinion the only correct answer here is over the top: It’s easier to unfurl and rip off that way, takes less effort, and just is nicer to look at.

But not everyone agrees with me, so the debate has gone on for ever. But finally, we may have an actual “right” answer. An Australian magazine named Choice has uncovered a remarkable patent for the original toilet paper roll invention, from 1891.
And the patent, from September 15, 1891, contains a detailed graph showing the paper going up and over the roll, not under.

So there you go. Debate solved. We now can go on to studying other important world issues, like why you drive on the parkway and park on the driveway.

 

An Arkansas state legislator forcefully, and awesomely, pushes back on “stand your ground” laws being racially discriminatory. Bryce Harper’s first impression as a Phillie makes me smile with nostalgia. And a Kansas couple eats at the same restaurant, every night, for 15 years.

There are so many things to keep track of in the news these days, it’s important to remember just how many important issues get short shrift because the current President sucks up SO much oxygen.

Everything in the news is Trump, Trump, Trump, or it’s Trump-related, and there are only so many things the average American citizen, no matter how informed, can keep track of at all times.

So I admit, shamefully, that I’ve lost track of where things are in the gun control debate in America, partly because there really IS no debate, the gun lobby wins, every time. Even when something moderately promising happens, like the House of Representatives a few weeks ago passing a law requiring universal background checks, I don’t even get that excited because I know there is zero chance of the Senate taking any action whatsoever on it.

Anyway, it’s nice to be jolted out of complacency about this issue, and that’s why myself and so many others were thrilled by this awesome diatribe by Arkansas state legislator Stephanie Flowers. Flowers was quite upset when a “stand your ground” law was being discussed in the state’s Judiciary Committee, and GOP legislators tried to limit debate time on it. The bill being discussed would have, of course, loosened laws and made it easier for gun owners who shoot people to avoid jail time.

So Flowers, clearly tired of being told to hurry up, decided to vociferiously explain why “stand your ground” laws most certainly result in more African-Americans and people of color being killed, and she does this in a way that makes her impossible to ignore.

This is a woman tired of seeing her constituents killed by guns, and fed up. Good for you, Stephanie Flowers. We should never, ever lose sight of how disgusting, and so much more preventable, gun violence is in America.

**Next up today, I have no particular love or hatred of baseball star Bryce Harper, who just signed the biggest contract in the history of the sport, a $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. I like Harper, think he’s cocky and a little overrated, but no strong feelings, really.

But he did something last week that made me smile widely. In his first spring training at-bat as a Phillie, Harper’s walk-up song was, wait for it, the theme song from “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” which of course begins its second verse with “West Philadelphia, born and raised.”

Classic. Very cool, Bryce. Then again, now that I think about it, the song is about a guy who is from Philly but moves to California and gets a much better life. Sorry Bryce, you signed a 13-year deal, you ain’t living out the song.

**And finally today, I love these quirky little stories from towns all over America. A delightful story in the Wichita Eagle on Thursday tells the story of local couple Ron and Diana Watson, who for the past 15 years have eaten at the same restaurant six nights of every week.

Yep, the Watsons have their own special table at Texas Roadhouse, and their picture is up on the restaurant’s walls. According to the story,  “She orders the “Roadkill” — a chopped steak topped with sauteed onions and mushrooms, plus a house salad with Ranch dressing, no tomatoes, and a baked potato, no salt.

He orders barbecue chicken breast — or if he’s feeling a little crazy, the pork chop, well done — plus mashed potatoes with brown gravy and an iceberg lettuce salad with Italian dressing. Though recently, he’s discovered sweet potatoes. Turns out, he likes them.”

There are more quirks to this story: The Watsons say their nightly dinner at the restaurant is the only meal they eat each day, and they reckon they spend $22 on the meal each time they go, and take advantage of early bird specials on Sundays-Wednesdays.

“They’re kind of like our unofficial mascots,” manager Ron Hauber said. “Everybody talks to them.”

This may sound crazy to you and me, but it suits the Watsons just fine. They’re comfortable there, and the staff considers them part of the decor.

What a strange and wonderful world we live in.

 

 

Good News Friday: A cure for AIDS may have been found, and it’s miraculous. Tom Jones and Jennifer Hudson make music magic together. And Elton John teams up with the man playing him in an upcoming biopic

Happy Friday, my dear readers. Wow there was a lot of bad celebrity news this week, from Alex Trebek, the beloved “Jeopardy” host, announcing he has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, to baseball legend Tom Seaver telling the world he’s suffering from dementia and will no longer appear in public, to the Kardashians still being famous for some reason (OK, that last one was a joke, as are they.)

But it’s Friday and we’re here for all the Good News this week, and before I get to two amazing musical performances that made me smile, a major health breakthrough this week on a disease that terrified so many of us for so long: HIV/AIDS.

If you missed the news, for just the second time since the global epidemic began, a patient appears to have been cured of infection with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.

According to this N.Y. Times story, “the news comes nearly 12 years to the day after the first patient known to be cured, a feat that researchers have long tried, and failed, to duplicate. The surprise success now confirms that a cure for H.I.V. infection is possible, if difficult, researchers said.

The investigators are to publish their report on Tuesday in the journal Nature and to present some of the details at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle.

Publicly, the scientists are describing the case as a long-term remission. In interviews, most experts are calling it a cure, with the caveat that it is hard to know how to define the word when there are only two known instances.”

I know, I know, it’s only been two patients, and “cured” is a dangerous word for any disease. The cure involved a bone-marrow transplant, which is dangerous sometimes, and expensive, always.

But still… think about where we were with AIDS just 30 years ago, in 1989. There was so much hysteria, and paranoia, about how one acquired AIDS, and what happens if you got it, and how it was pretty much a death sentence for everyone.
And then slowly, treatment drugs got better and better, we learned more about the disease and the paranoia and intolerance and hatred toward those who were diagnosed with it began to fade.

And now, just a few decades later, maybe, there’s a cure. Science gives me hope for the future, in so many areas.

**Next up today, the first of two musical collaborations that made me beam with joy this week. First, from the U.K. version of “The Voice,” two amazing voices teamed up to sing “It’s a Man’s World.” The great Tom Jones, age 78, and Jennifer Hudson, age 37, with a couple of minutes of just pure beauty.

He’s 78 and still sounds that good!

**And finally, you may have heard that there’s a movie in the works about the legendary Elton John, and the actor playing him, Taron Egerton, has gone all-in in trying to be like Sir Elton.

Including sounding like him. Check out this clip of Elton and Taron singing “Tiny Dancer,” and be amazed like I was at how much the actor sounds like Elton.
Yeah I am totally seeing this movie.