Monthly Archives: May 2019

Good News Friday: As the NBA Finals tip off, a beautiful story of a huge Raptors fan, and a city that embraced a foreigner. An amazing “America’s Got Talent” debut from a blind singer. And the National Spelling Bee brings me joy, again

Happy Friday, and happy June to all of you fine folks out there. Thursday night was an epic night in the National Spelling Bee (lots more on that below) but I want to start Good News Friday with an equally stunning story developing in the NBA right now.

But instead of talking about the Raptors’ surprising Game 1 win over the dynasty that is the Golden State Warriors, I want to pass on an off-the-court story I read this week, about an enormous Raptors fan named Nav Bhatia. He’s Indian, he’s been at every home game since 1995, and he owns car dealerships in town.

What’s remarkable about his story is just how welcomed he has been in this multicultural mecca of Toronto, and how he’s given back to his community.

“Other counties might be richer, but they’re not richer in mannerisms, politeness, or looking after each other…” Bhatia said. “And the country south of us has a lot to learn.”

This is really a wonderfully told story by Canadian journalist Muhammad Lila. A warm, welcoming city and a man who just wanted to help others.

Go Raptors.

**Next up today, as millions of people know, “America’s Got Talent” kicked off its new season this week, and while I’m not a regular watcher (though I did get sucked in by the Angelica-Darci battle a few years ago), I have a feeling I’m going to be watching one performer this year very closely.

Watch this amazing debut performance by 22-year-old ???, a blind, autistic singer/piano player who came on stage and blew the doors off the place.

The faces of the audience and judges Simon Cowell, Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough are great, but what gives me all the feels here is the shot of Kodi’s mom, Tina Lee, at 3:35, as she positively beams, watching her son.

Life can not have been easy for Tina, raising a son with such challenges, but seeing him succeed on such an enormous stage, and her pride at watching it, knowing what it took to get him there? Just so incredible.

Enjoy.

**Finally today, Thursday night was one of my favorite annual events that I never miss, the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Televised on ESPN every year and a program guaranteed to create drama and awesomeness, the Bee once again delivered. This was maybe the hardest Bee I’ve ever seen to win, as after 2.5 hours there were STILL eight amazing spellers left. It was an unprecedented result, which I’ll get to in a sec.

So many things I love about the Bee, as I’ve written about before here in this space: How it rewards smart kids, giving them a huge stage; how it shows how poised, smart and prepared they are, and how it spotlights just how freaking difficult spelling is.

This year’s Bee did not disappoint, and it brought me great joy as always. The sentences Dr. Bailly (the rock star pronouncer of the Bee) read seemed nerdier than ever, and the kids actually had a lot of personality this year (Simone Kaplan, my fave because of her spunk and her “Bee” shoes, sadly did not win.)

The Bee went way longer than normal, as the final eight spellers simply refused to miss. Dr. Bailly, after nearly three hours of competition and 18 rounds, finally said there would only be three more rounds, and whoever was left after 20 rounds would be a co-champion. Never in the history of the Bee have more than three spellers been co-champs.

And so in the final three rounds, all eight amazing spellers got their words right, so after 3.5 hours on national TV, the winners were finally crowned: All EIGHT of them! They will forever be known as the Elite 8.

It was so cool seeing them all hold the big trophy, and being so happy for each other.

So great to see smarts, and poise, and intelligence, rewarded on national television. It’s a damn rare thing these days. And it is very, very good news.

I wax a little nostalgic about the death of my favorite childhood radio station, WPLJ 95.5 FM. Remembering the late Bill Buckner’s REAL greatest moment, on “Curb.” What happens when you try to give a police officer a fake name, and it backfires spectacularly.

Every once in a while, a story comes across my radar that makes me nostalgic for a very specific part of my childhood.

Something that, when I hear four letters put together in a row, makes me smile, and think of good times and laughs.

If you were a kid growing up in the New York area in the 1980s and ’90s, one of the major radio stations in your life was WPLJ 95.5.

They played all the rock hits of the era, they had a fantastic and hilarious morning-show team of Scott Shannon and Todd Pettengill, and they were always, always on my radio in my family’s car, and then in my first car, a 1983 Chevy Celebrity that was hideously brown and broke down all the time (I paid $750 for that clunker in 1993 and I totally overpaid).

WPLJ, along with Z-100, were staples of all our lives. My particular favorite part of the channel was the afternoon drive guys, Rocky Allen and his “Rocky Allen Showgram.” Rocky, a gregarious, big-laugh DJ who did great impressions, and his crew got me through many an afternoon and evening working at my video store job in 1993, and they made me laugh with their phone pranks and scams.

A radio station, a truly great one, is a constant companion in your life. Long before satellite radio, and iPhones and iPads, playing any music you wanted at any time, radio stations were our friends, a comfortable place you can turn and know they’ll always be there.

Sigh. I bring all this up today because I’ve just learned that WPLJ 95.5 FM will die in a few days; it’s been sold by Cumulus Media to a Christian-themed group called the Educational Media Foundation (EMF), which will broadcast syndicated programming and music geared to religious listeners.

May 31st, this Friday, will be the final day of the station. And I’ll be the first to admit I don’t listen to PLJ much anymore; since we got satellite radio I hardly listen to FM anymore at all.

But still, it’s a small part of my childhood that’s disappearing, and I’m sure millions of others are feeling a little of the same way this week. Maybe I’ve got you thinking now, reading this, about your favorite childhood radio station.

I’ll probably tune in to WPLJ on Friday, just to think a little bit about good times, and say goodbye to an old friend.

**Next up today, baseball great Bill Buckner died this week, and for many that will bring to mind his famous error for Boston in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, when the Mets made a miracle comeback, followed by Mookie Wilson hitting a slow roller that went through Buckner’s legs at first base, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run in one of the most famous games ever. (I’ll always, always believe that even if Buckner, hobbled by bad ankles at that point, fielded the ball cleanly, no way he beats Mookie to first and gets the third out. Also, Sox fans always blamed Buckner but the game was already tied by that point, Boston’s relievers always deserved much more scorn.)

Anyway, that’s not what I’ll remember about Buckner anymore, not since he showed once and for all he had a sense of humor about his gaffe, on this classic “Curb Your Enthusism” episode. The first clip (above) sets up the second one (below) so beautifully, and hilariously.

Rest in peace, Billy Buck. You never deserved so much hatred.

**And finally today, another entry for the “some criminals are just too stupid” file. Let’s go out to Lincoln, Neb., and check in on Markel Towner, a 26-year-old who had two warrants out for his arrest last week.

Markel was on the scene when police in Lincoln were called to a domestic assault situation, and Markel was on the scene when investigators arrived, and they found Towner seated in a vehicle out front of the house they were called to.

When an officer asked his name he replied, “Deangelo Towns” although a lanyard around his neck read “Markel Towner.”

After a brief struggle, Towner was taken into custody.

Come on, Markel!!! First rule of giving people a fake name HAS to be, “check clothing to see if I’m wearing anything that has my real name on it!”

And also, if you’re giving a fake name, maybe come up with one that doesn’t sound so close to your real one.

Towner was arrested and charged with resisting arrest, obstructing a government operation, false reporting, child neglect and third degree domestic assault.

He also should’ve been charged with stupidity.

 

Good News Friday: A Morehouse College billionaire wipes away student debt for all the grads. A baby falls asleep on top of a guitar his Dad is playing. And a nursing student graduates from the school he started at as a janitor

And a Happy Friday to all my Memorial Day celebrants out there (and who among us doesn’t celebrate Memorial Day? It’s the unofficial start of summer, it’s a day off from school/work, and we get to honor the millions of brave men and women who sacrificed for our freedom).

So much Good News Friday goodness out there this week, including this amazing little performance by Jennifer Hudson of “The Jeffersons” theme song from the live reunion special Wednesday night (I haven’t seen it yet but I’m 1,000 percent sure I’ll love it).

Speaking of music, my voice is still a little hoarse after seeing Pink in concert Wednesday night at MSG; it’s the fourth time my wife and I have seen her and certainly won’t be the last; she put on a typically amazing show. God she’s so freaking good, live, and a great role model for young girls.

Plus, her music is sensational. Go see Pink, live, if you ever have the chance.

OK, on with Good News Friday. This first story went viral everywhere this week so maybe you’ve already seen it, but if not, it totally deserves to be shared and seen.

At the graduation for Morehouse College, a historically black school in Georgia, a billionaire named Robert F. Smith did something astonishing: he said he would pay student loan debt in full for the school’s entire graduating class.

This was, of course, huge news for grads, many of whom were leaving school with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. It was also an enormous surprise for everyone, including the one dude in this video with the best facial reaction to news you’ll see.

Check out the guy on the bottom left at the :40 mark of the video. Fantastic reaction.

Tremendous gesture by Mr. Smith; student debt is a massive problem in America, and obviously a gesture like this doesn’t solve the real issue (would be nice if Congress, led by future President Elizabeth Warren, would enact some kind of legislation to deal the crushing student debt.)

If we could only get more billionaires like Mr. Smith to do things like this… but hey, the kids at Morehouse will take it. Bravo, Robert Smith.

**Next up, sometimes life is as simple as a guitar-playing Dad, a newborn son, and falling asleep.

Saw this on Upworthy.com the other day and it made me smile. I saw a 3-day-old baby up close this week and man, newborns are just so precious.

I predict this kid will grow up to be a musician.

**And finally today, stories like this give me so much hope.  From ABCNews.com:

“Frank Baez was a teenager when he started working as a janitor at New YorkUniversity’s Langone Tisch Hospital, cleaning patient rooms, bathrooms and hallways.

On Monday, Baez, now 29, graduated with a nursing degree from the same institution where he started as a janitor.”

That’s right: Baez, who says he could barely speak English when he started working at the hospital at age 15, now is a full-fledged nurse.

According to the story, Baez eventually left the job to finish his bachelor’s degree at nearby Hunter College, becoming the first person in his family to graduate from college. But Baez said he always knew he wanted to return to where he started: NYU.

“While working [at NYU] with the nurses, I realized I wanted to be one of them,” he said. “I learned how much they advocate for their patients and the passion they have for their job.”

“I was never an A student. I just studied a lot and worked a lot,” he said. “Of course there were times I doubted myself, but then I felt that I wanted to do something more for myself, that I deserved better, that I wanted to continue to move forward and grow and go on with my life.”

“What I did was, I never gave up,” Baez said.

What a terrific young man, and a great role model. (Personal aside: My wife delivered both of our babies at NYU-Langone hospital, and the nurses there were beyond amazing and kind. Can’t say enough good things about them.)

The Irish airline that lets you pay extra not to sit next to someone. The St. Louis Blues, powered by Laura Branigan, make an improbable Cup Final. And the 15-year anniversary of the first legal, gay marriage shows how far we’ve come

You know, I acknowledge I’m not the smartest guy in the world. And I don’t sit in boardrooms all day for corporations, brain-storming ways to make our company or product better.

But sometimes, sometimes I really think I NEED to be in these corporate meetings, to stand up and shout “Really? You really think this is a good idea???”

Today I wish I had shouted that to an Ireland-based airline called Aer Lingus. They’ve just announced a brand-new fare option that will guarantee you that you won’t have to sit next to anyone on your flight.

It’s called “AerSpace,” and it means you’ll be guaranteed an aisle or a window seat in the first row of the aircraft and the middle seat will be left unoccupied. The fare also includes guaranteed cabin space directly overhead.

OK, OK, so far it’s not a terrible idea, lots of people hate to be crowded on flights, they’d like the extra room, they don’t like strangers, etc.

But here’s the truly “genius” part. The AerFare will be four times the price of a regular seat ticket.

FOUR Times! Now check my math here: Let’s say you just buy TWO tickets, for your seat and the one next to you, and then you don’t have to worry about anyone sitting next to you, and it only costs half as much as this AerFare thing.

Wouldn’t that work just as well??? And be a LOT cheaper??

Sigh.

** Next up today, an incredible sports story has developed in the Stanley Cup playoffs the last few weeks, but since hockey doesn’t get nearly the attention as the other three major sports in America, you might not have heard of it.

But the St. Louis Blues, perennial playoff disappointments and for the last few years, not even getting that far, are going to the Stanley Cup Finals. This is the same team that on Jan. 1, 2019, just a few months ago, was the WORST team in the NHL. They had as much chance of getting to the Cup finals as I have of becoming the starting center for the Knicks, but here they are, beating San Jose in Game 6 Tuesday night and ready to take on the Boston Bruins in the Finals.

And how did they get there, you might ask? Give Laura Branigan all the credit.

That’s right, Laura Branigan, boys and girls! The long-deceased 1980s songstress enjoyed a huge hit in 1982 with “Gloria,” and that has, improbably, become the Blues’ rallying cry, their victory song, through the last five months. They play it in the arena after every win at home, and in the locker room, too.

Why? Well, here’s the whole story, but the short version is this: Some Blues players were watching the NFL playoffs at a bar in January and the DJ kept playing “Gloria,” and the players liked it, decided they needed a new victory song in the locker room, and then the Blues won 10 straight games and “Gloria” caught on like wildfire.

What’s even more awesome is that Branigan’s longtime friend and manager, Kathy Golik, has totally gotten in the spirit of it (even as hundreds of people on Twitter have asked her if Branigan could sing the song at a Blues game, unaware she passed in 2004).

It’s a wonderfully organic, weird story, but so many sports stories are. The Blues are an improbable, fabulous story, and oh yeah, “Gloria” is still a kick-ass song. Enjoy.

**And finally today, sometimes it takes an anniversary to remind you of how far we’ve come as a country, when it comes to something so simple that was fought for, so, so hard.

This week brought a reminder that 15 years ago, on May 17, 2004, two women in Massachusetts named Tanya McCloskey and Marcia Kadish got married.

They were the first same-sex couple to be legally married in the United States. Now of course it’s legal in all 50 states, as mandated by the Supreme Court ruling in 2015.

“We felt we were married already,” Kadish told NPR Morning Edition host Rachel Martin. “This was just making it legal.”

The Boston-area couple picked up their marriage license minutes after midnight in Cambridge, Mass., and received a waiver that allowed them to bypass a three-day waiting period to perform the ceremony.

It’s only been 15 years since this happened, but it sure does feel like a lifetime ago. Same-sex marriage is so ingrained in so many of our lives, and seems so normal now, that it’s easy to forget sometimes how incredibly hard the fight for equality was, and how it’s only been a decade and a half that everyone has had the right to marry (and gay people were allowed to be as miserable as the rest of us; I kid, I kid!)

Tragically, McClaskey developed cancer and died in 2016, but she’ll go down in history.

A wonderful, historic anniversary.

Kevin Who? The NBA’s current dynasty proves it never needed Durant. Leslie Jones sets the screen on fire on “SNL” talking about Alabama’s abortion laws. And my 4-year-old and I spend a strange night at the sleep clinic

Hey, remember the Golden State Warriors used to have a tall, lanky, pretty amazing power forward who was maybe the second-best player in the whole NBA?

No. 35, played at University of Texas for a year, and then Oklahoma City? Kevin, something or other?

I ask because it seems like the Warriors don’t miss their superstar much at all, and they don’t even need him as they appear to be cruising to a third straight championship.

The Warriors, who won a title without Durant four years ago and barely lost one a year later, then won the last two with him, have been playing their best ball of the season in the last two weeks without the incredibly talented, yet equally incredibly thin-skinned, Durant.

They finished off the Houston Rockets with Durant on the sidelines with an injured calf, and are now taking apart the Portland Trail Blazers, winning the first three games of the Western Conference Finals.

Hey this just in: The Warriors were amazing before Durant signed with them three years ago. He joined their existing dynasty, as guys like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguadola were already stars who knew how to win.

Are Durant’s two titles meaningless to his legacy, because he was already on a team of stars? Of course not. Guy is still an amazing player, and the two-time Finals MVP.

But it does expose the truth, that the Warriors never needed him, it was he who needed them for validation.

And now he’ll be leaving as a free agent in a few months, off to try to finally lead his own team to glory.

I’m not optimistic about his chances.

**Next up today, you may have heard the news last week that in Alabama and Georgia, truly heinous laws were passed criminalizing abortion in almost all cases. I could go on about this disgusting continuation on the war on women and choice for thousands of angry words, but instead I’ll let Miss Leslie Jones of “Saturday Night Live” say it far better than I could.

“I don’t know if you all heard, but women are the same as humans!”

This is fantastic.

**Finally tonight, how’d you spend Saturday night? I’m pretty sure mine was nothing like yours; me and my 4.5 year old son (he always includes the half when he tells his age to people, so I suppose I should too) were at a pediatric sleep disorder clinic, undergoing his first (and I hope last) pediatric sleep study.

For 11 hours Saturday night/Sunday morning, my little 40-pound bundle of joy looked a hell of lot like the dude in that picture above, with wires, electrodes and stickies all over his little body, as we and his ENT doctor tried to get a handle on his sleeping problems.

Quick background: For most of his life, Nate’s been a poor sleeper; never getting enough rest at night, constantly in different positions in bed trying to breathe better, so often stuffed up in the nose, and still taking car naps even at almost 5, which the pediatrician says is very unusual.

So we went to an ENT, who said his adnoids and tonsils are enormous, and that he may have sleep apnea. Only way to tell is to do a sleep study, and as she explained it to me and I later researched, it sounded like my little man’s worst nightmare.

This is a kid who doesn’t even like putting on nametag stickers or museum stickers, and he was going to have to have wires and tape and a whole bunch of mess hooked up to him and machines, while he sleeps in a strange bed with Daddy lying a few feet away?

I had been dreading Saturday night for weeks, even though I kept billing it to Nate as “a fun Daddy/Nate sleepover party”) and promised him nothing they did would hurt.

I had talked to the sleep clinic people about what would happen if he threw the expected tantrum and refused to wear all this stuff, etc.

I prepared for the worst.

Instead, I got the absolute freaking best. My offspring Nate was so, so calm about the whole thing. Darrell, our sleep tech, was amazing, calmly explaining to Nate what he was doing, making jokes with him, and even letting Nate plug in all the wires to their corresponding color slots on the machine. For 45 minutes Darrell attached stuff to my kid who doesn’t even like wearing art smocks because they feel different, and Nate was completely, unbelievably calm. Seriously, he looked like Robot Johnny 5 in “Short Circuit,” and I heard not one word of complaint.

I was stunned.

The whole night went as well as could possibly be expected; sure Nate woke a few times with all this crap attached to him, and a few times in his sleep he accidentally knocked a wire or two out, sending Darrell back into the room.

But he slept almost nine hours with all the stuff on, and now in two weeks we’ll get the results.

I was so, so proud of my kid.

Good News Friday: My friend Catherine donates a kidney to a total stranger, in an amazingly selfless gesture. The best home run rob of a T-ball smash you’ll see. And a wonderful charity fulfills wishes of homeless kids

Longtime readers of this space, and my close friends and family, know an unusual fact about me: I was born with only one kidney.

Most people get a set, like when buying mittens or socks. For rare special folks like me, only one kidney is available at birth.

I didn’t discover this fact about myself until 2010, which I wrote about in this blog post, when a simple stomach scan revealed that my right kidney was missing it’s normal buddy, lefty.

All of this is to say, since I learned this about myself nine years ago, I’m pretty attuned to kidney news. I am always asking about my kidney at doctor appointments, I encourage people to sign up to be organ donors, and I worry that with only one good one, I might one day need a transplant.

If that day ever comes, I can only hope and pray that there’s someone out there as selfless, warm, and giving as Dr. Catherine Pearlman, who I am so damn lucky to call a friend.

This week, in the best lede to a Good News Friday I can remember, my friend walked into UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles and donated one of her kidneys. To a total stranger she’d never met.

Months ago, Catherine was in a California Starbucks when she saw a flyer with a photo of a man she’d never seen before, and the flyer said he was in need of a kidney donation. His blood type was O+, just like hers.

Ninety-nine percent of people in the world would’ve thought “Hmmm. Poor guy. I hope he gets a kidney,” and moved on with their life.

But she’s in the one percent in the best way possible: She’s empathetic, warm, and so, so selfless (she’s married to Jeff Pearlman, so God knows she’s filled with patience, too 🙂

After getting tested and cleared, this week she went into surgery, and her perfectly healthy kidney was transplanted into Eli Valdez, who she’s never met.

Jeff wrote a heartwarming blog post about the whole saga, and his emotional meeting with Eli’s family. I don’t want to spoil it, because it’s such a good read; please read it here. (Both Catherine and Eli are doing well since the Wednesday surgery).

When I found out Catherine was doing this, I was… in awe. And filled with joy. That there are still so many good people out there, willing to do something so selfless.

I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of a friend of mine. Since I first met her 20 years ago, when Jeff invited me to dinner to meet his new girlfriend, she has been a wonderful source of goodness and light.

So many good people in this world. Some of them may even give you a kidney one day.

“We can’t all be heroes,” the great Will Rogers once said. “Because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.”

I’m on the curb clapping very loudly today, Catherine. You’re a true hero.

**Whew, that was heavy. OK, time for something fun. How about this completely random video of a T-ball game, and a great hit from a batter, only to see an even-greater home run robbing catch by a left fielder?

I have no idea where this is from, but it appears to be Japan, and the fact that there are announcers at a T-ball game is kind of weird, but forget all that; How awesome is this catch???

Future Ichiro, that kid in left field.

**And finally today, a wonderful story I heard about through the Only Good News Network, a great follow on Twitter.

A charity called Alice’s Kids buys small, necessary items for homeless kids whose parents simply are unable to afford them.  Things like noise-cancelling headphones for a girl with sensory disorders, or a trumpet for a talented music student who really needed it.

Alice’s Kids was founded in 2011, and gets these requests from teachers, social workers, and others who work with children less fortunate.

The nonprofit then grants the wish by sending gift cards to the parents so they can purchase the gift themselves.

“We’re not going to solve all the pains of all the children,” Ron Fitzimmons, the co-founder of Alice’s Kids, told The Washington Post. “But we just want to be part of the answer at least.”

What a wonderful idea. Here’s a great Washington Post story about Alice’s Kids, which brought them a huge amount of publicity. And find out more about Alice’s Kids on their website here.

The Bernie Sanders public-access TV show from the ’80s is freaking hilarious. Zion is going to New Orleans after the Draft Lottery, and Knicks fans weep. Bill Nye, Science Guy, finally gets mad, hilariously

There are some people in this world, they change as they get older. Their passions become different, their beliefs and values shift, and maybe even what they look like and sound like are drastically altered, too.

But some of us? Some of us are exactly the same as we always were. You look at that person from 20, 30, 40 years ago, and it’s like they’ve been frozen in time, unmoved or changed by anything.

Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential candidate, is one of those latter people. And if you don’t believe me, watch this hilarious segment from Trevor Noah’s “The Daily Show” last week.

Noah got his hands on some truly golden footage; it’s clips from Sanders’ 1980s public access show he hosted when he was mayor Burlington, Vt.

It is Bernie, in all his Bernie glory, acting incredibly serious, having no idea whatsoever how to talk to children, and in one case, befuddling and confusing a group of students with crazy thoughts about stereotypes.

I laughed really, really hard at this, and I have a feeling you will too.

Bernie Sanders will never, ever change.

**Next up, Tuesday night was the NBA Draft lottery, normally a pretty boring affair but not this year, not when Zion Williamson, the most exciting player to come out of college in decades, was the top prize.

My Knicks fan friends were looking forward to this date for months, desperate for any sign of hope that winning the lottery and getting Zion would provide.

But life is cruel to Knicks fans, as once again they were left disappointed. The New Orleans Pelicans, no one’s idea of a marquee franchise, wound up with the winning combination of lottery balls, and now get the chance to draft Zion.

It’s a fascinating outcome, because the Pelicans’ current best player, Anthony Davis, desperately wants to be traded, as he said last season. Would he want to stay if he knew Zion was coming, giving New Orleans a devastating forward combo? Or would the Pelicans still trade Davis and get back a Top 5 pick in return, teaming Zion with another stud and setting them up for a great future?

Lotta interesting things could happen there. I’m just happy my Duke man Zion won’t end up on the Knicks; only bad things could’ve happened to him then.

**And finally today, the great John Oliver did a segment on climate change on his show this week, and while the whole thing was great, this ending piece is truly classic.

Bill Nye the Science Guy lets loose with some real talk, some real R-rated talk, on what’s going on with the planet. It’s hilarious and oh so true.

You go, Bill Nye.

The annual Friends of Jaclyn Angel Walk moves me, as always. A very cool wedding dance montage will make you smile. And an “Only in Florida” story involves a water animal and yoga pants

One hundred and sixty-five.

It’s a big number in some cases (wow, you own 165 T-shirts?) and not such a big number in others (there were 165 fans at that high school volleyball match).

But for me on Saturday, 165 represented a tragic number. That’s the number of children who’ve died from pediatric brain tumors after they’d been “adopted” by teams across the U.S. after being linked up with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, the non-profit charity I’ve written about here numerous times, and an organization so near and dear to my heart.

Last Saturday was the annual FOJ Angel Walk, held at the Walkway over the Hudson pedestrian bridge in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. It’s one of the highlights of my year, every year, when many members of the FOJ community come together to honor those children who we’ve lost; to celebrate their fight, and their life, by releasing beautiful white doves into the sky, and to continually push for research for a cure.

It was a clear, sunny day for the walk, and my wife, my boys and I had a terrific time. As I’ve said before, one of the reasons I love FOJ so much, besides the amazing, huge-hearted people that run it, is that it’s not one of these billion-dollar monolith charities that feel so distant. As I looked at the names of the “angels” who’d passed far, far too young, I recognized them. In many cases I’d spoken to them, or their parents, or someone close to them.

As we walked across the bridge on a brilliant spring afternoon, a local youth choir sang. Bagpipers played beautiful music. And we all desperately, desperately hoped that by this time next year, that number, 165, would stay exactly the same.

For more on the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, and/or to make a donation, please click here.

**Next up today, it’s been a while since I’ve featured a super-cool wedding dance montage, and this one is one of the best ones I’ve seen. It starts off with “The Lion King,” and gets into some Britney, some Backstreet Boys, and it gets better from there.
I always wonder about these things: How many hours do these dudes rehearse for this? Like, is it a month of practice at one dude’s house after work? Or do they each learn their own part, then they mash it together?

Anyway, I enjoyed this immensely. The little kid on the right killed me.

**And finally today, we journey down to my former home state of Florida, for one of those stories that could only, only happen in the strangest state in our beloved union.

We go down to Punta Gorda, Fla., where a local woman was pulled over during what seemed to be a routine traffic stop.

Deputies pulled over the pickup truck a woman and her male companion were riding in around 3:15 a.m. They saw it drive past a stop sign on Oil Well Road and turn onto Tamiami Trail without stopping, according to an incident report from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.

The 22-year-old man driving told deputies he and the woman were coming from the underpass of Oil Well Road, where they were trying to collect frogs and snakes, the report states.

When the police officers asked the woman if she had anything else on her person the deputies needed to know about, she pulled a foot-long alligator out of her yoga pants and placed it in the truck bed, according to the report.

A FOOT LONG ALLIGATOR!

Ah, Florida. The best part is she was cited for carrying the alligator because it’s not regulated to be carried in the state.

Who doesn’t carry alligators in their yoga pants, right?

Good News Friday: Ruby of “Ruby’s Wishes” inspires others to help, awesomely. Philando Castile’s family eliminates even more lunch debt in his honor. And Kris Bryant/adidas make a girl’s day.

And a Happy Friday to all of you out there, and especially to all you amazing mommas celebrating Mother’s Day on Sunday. Hey, without them, none of us would be here, and I happen to know a whole bunch of amazing Moms, not the least of whom is my own, and my beautiful and amazing wife, mother of my two boys. I hope moms everywhere have a great, relaxing and peaceful day Sunday.

One thing I don’t usually do on Good News Friday posts is follow-ups to previous Good News Friday posts, but this week I happened to come across two “updates” to two of my favorite GNF posts of the past, so I definitely wanted to share them.

First of all, do you remember the amazing story of Ruby Chitsey, an 11-year-old girl whose mom works in nursing homes in Arkansas? Ruby loved to go to work with her Mom, and one day she started asking the elderly residents what they’d want if they could have “three wishes.”

Then, Ruby started granting those wishes, and brought so much joy to the older folks by giving them some simple pleasures in life they were craving.

Well, needless to say, Ruby has inspired many people through that story, and this week Steve Hartman of CBS News, who brought us the original piece, provided this great update.

A woman named Rachel Harder teaches 4th grade in Hutchinson, Kan. And after showing her students Ruby’s story a few months ago, the kids were inspired. According to Rachel’s Tweet, they “decided to use their field trip money to buy supplies for our local children’s emergency shelter. Today I took some kids to Walmart to get the donations for kids in our community. They learned a lot about how to shop on a budget (and how expensive living is)!

Harder further explained that instead of a field trip “they made posters, had a fundraiser at school, and then used the money to buy whatever else the shelter needed! Everything was delivered today!”

So, so great. One ripple of kindness leads to another, then another.

**Next up, another beautiful story of a person paying it forward, in honor of someone else. You may remember the tragic shooting, by police, of Philando Castile, a Minnesota school custodian who was killed three years ago during a traffic stop (unfathomably as in most of these cases, the officer was acquitted).

One cause Castile felt strongly about was “lunch-shaming,” the awful practice I’ve written about on this site numerous times, where schools refuse to serve poor kids lunch because their parents hadn’t paid their money owed.

The Philando Castile Relief Foundation has previously erased students’ debt in schools, and now Philando’s mother, Valerie Castile, has given $8,000 to a Minnesota high school to settle school lunch debts. The donation, given on behalf of the Philando Castile Relief Foundation, alleviated the lunch debt at Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, Minn., for about 100 students.

Philando Castile frequently paid for the lunches of students who owed money or couldn’t afford them. “He understood that the children are the future leaders of this country, and it was his obligation to take care of them best he could, while they were in his company,” Valerie Castile told NPR.

Fabulous job, Mrs. Castile. That’s a wonderful legacy for your son to have: Helping children eat lunch, and preventing them from feeling the shame of poverty.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=678033082652001

**And finally today, a story of a star athlete doing well. A hat tip to loyal blog reader Sanford for pointing me toward this.

Chicago Cubs star Kris Bryant and one of his sponsors, adidas, teamed up to make a little girl’s dreams come true. Marie will never forget this day.

A minor league baseball team channels “Game of Thrones” for an awesome food item. Adam Sandler’s beautiful Chris Farley tribute song on “SNL.” And a beautiful story of a Hispanic immigrant kid making so, so good.

I am one of those people who’ve never seen one episode of “Game of Thrones.”

I know, I know, everyone you know swears by it, they’ve been throwing around words like “Arya” and “Winterfell” and it’s the greatest show ever, how could you not watch it, yada yada yada.

What can I say, it’s not for me. What I CAN appreciate, though, is a great minor-league baseball promotion capitalizing on a pop culture phenomenon, which is why I love the Hartford Yard Goats so much right now (and not just because of their awesome nickname).

Check out their newest menu offering at the ballpark on a special May 11 promotion all about “Game of Thrones.”:

From the Hartford Courant story: “It’s called the “Seven Kingdoms” burger, and it features seven all-beef patties “bloodied” with sriracha ketchup and topped with “dragon bacon” (aka turkey bacon). Four sword-shaped toothpicks holding the patties together represent the four families.

The “Seven Kingdoms” burger, available exclusively at the Dunkin’ Donuts Park that night, will be sold for $28 at the Sheriff Tim’s Patty Wagon concession stand by the park’s main entrance.

I have two completely contradictory thoughts on this: 1, That is one of the more disgusting food items I’ve ever seen in my life.

And 2, I totally would want to try to eat one.

**Next up, I saw this over the weekend but with Monday’s blog being a special one, I wasn’t able to share it with you until today. Adam Sandler made a long-awaited return to “Saturday Night Live” last weekend, and along with cameos by Chris Rock, Kristin Wiig and others, Sandler killed it with some great characters from his past, including “Opera Man.”

But the highlight was definitely this song he performed, “My friend Chris Farley,” about the late great comedian who starred with Sandler on “SNL” and in movies.

Really sweet stuff about a man lost way too soon. (As an aside, how is it that Adam Sandler doesn’t age? Dude is 52! And still looks like he’s 30.)

And, because I know you want to, go ahead and watch this: Swayze. Farley. The “SNL” Chippendales sketch. So damn good.

**Finally today, I want to share this beautiful piece of storytelling from one of my favorite newspaper writers working today, someone whose work I’ve highlighted here a bunch of times over the years, the great Steve Lopez of the L.A. Times.

Lopez spent some time over the past few months with Oswaldo “Ozzie” Vazquez, who was born in America, went back to Mexico with his family as a boy, and then returned a few years ago, and has excelled beyond his own and his hard-working mother’s wildest dreams.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but everything about this kid screams wonderful, future leader of America. Just to give you an example of this kid’s maturity, here’s one quote from the story, on Ozzie’s career goals:

“I want to start off as a computer programmer,” Ozzie said of his career plans, “but my ultimate goal with computer science is to conduct research on artificial intelligence and machine learning for humanistic applications…. Once I retire, I want to be a teacher at my high school and just give back, and try to make kids be more engaged and have fun.”

Really terrific stuff here. Ozzie gives me hope for the future.