Monthly Archives: October 2019

A letter to my son Theo on his 2nd birthday: A year of huge changes, and so many smiles and laughs

Dear Theo,

Hi! It’s Daddy. You know, Daddy: The guy who always tries to wrangle diapers on you while you wriggle away, and the one constantly yelling “Slow down!” as you run anywhere and everywhere in this great big world.

I’m back with another letter to you on your birthday; yesterday on Halloween you turned 2, and Mommy and I are so, so proud of the little boy you’re becoming.

It’s been such a wonderful year watching you grow physically, mentally, and emotionally, from a baby who barely made any sounds (other than crying, you were always good at that) into a toddler who is more and more like a “little person” than before.

So many changes this year for you, Theo, but maybe most of all has been your understanding of the world around you.

We are constantly amazed at how much you understand. Like when I tell you it’s time for us to go somewhere you immediately run and grab your sneakers, then hustle to the front door and grab my sneakers and bring them back to me. (Your first full sentence is “Let’s go, Daddy!”)

You may have been a little late at the talking thing, but wow did you pick up what everyone around you wanted super-early.

You started walking this year, and within what seemed like a few days quickly advanced to running. You are climbing and jumping and looking to get on top of every playground you can. Maybe it’s a younger brother thing, but you are way more adventurous than your older brother Nate was at this age, which scares me into thinking: You’re totally going to make Daddy ride roller-coasters when you get older.

I lovingly tell people that you came equipped with only two speed settings: Zero, and 60. You only stop moving, it seems, for two things: Sleep, and food.

And yeah, let’s talk about you and food, Theo. It’s a love affair that’s gone on for two years, and shows no sign of stopping. You lead with your belly when you run. You eat just about everything, but you really have a special love of meatballs, and hamburgers, and blueberries, and pasta, and pizza… and yeah pretty much everything.

But meat, that’s what you really make disappear from your high chair tray table. You love, love, love you some meat. You demolish whatever we give you like a baby shark chomping on chum.

I hope you never stop enjoying food, although your constant demand for cookies and sweets from the snack drawer can be a little much (you run over to it, grab what you want, then rush over to me pleadingly like, “Hurry up and open the wrapper, please!” Seriously, you could find our snack drawer blindfolded.)

Your talking was slow to arrive, but in the last few months though you’ve really made strides, finally learning how to say your brother Nate’s name (he loves that!), and you call yourself “Eo” because that “Th” is still too hard for you.

You also love saying “balloon” and “more,” and also seeing a school bus makes you scream “BUS!” with delight. (And I’m delighted when you, me and Nate all scream “Kakko!” at random times, saluting the new Rangers player Daddy has a man-crush on.)

This year you also made strides in so many other areas; you learned how to swim a little bit, loving the slide at Goldfish Swim that we go to each week; unlike a lot of other babies, you’ve enjoyed going underwater from the first day I submerged you.

You find so much fun in playing with your toys, especially Magna Tiles, your brother’s old Elmo doll (you want to see what pure joy looks like, just watch you hug Elmo) and any of the “ABC” song toys we have. You love bopping along to the ABC song, happily trying to say letters, with a big smile on your face.

Unfortunately, you’ve gone through a big hitting phase this year, smacking and tackling other kids, not out of anger but usually just enthusiasm. You seem to be mostly over it, thankfully, but it’d be OK if you didn’t pinch our private parts as much as you do 🙂

You’re almost always smiling, Theo, except for when you’ve fallen and hurt yourself while trying to do a “big boy” thing on the playground. You want to be a big boy SO badly, just like your brother.

Let’s see, what else has happened this year… you had your first emergency room visit this summer; that was no fun but everything turned out OK. You continue to love music and Little Gym classes (that’s you swinging to your heart’s content on the high bar in the pic above).

And most importantly, Theo, the love between you and your older brother has grown and grown. Nate can’t spend enough time with you, whether it’s riding your little motorcycles around the kitchen every night, crashing into the kitchen cabinets on them; playing cars in the basement, or just wrestling on the carpet in Nate’s room.

You get so excited when Nate comes in in in the morning to say hi, and you always run into his room excitedly after bath for story time. You two hug each other so much and make Mommy and me so proud at how generous you are with each other.

Oh, you guys fight sometimes, and I know in later years there will be blood from both of you on our nice white walls at times. But right now, both of your hearts are filled with pure love for each other.

I guess I’ll wrap it up here, it’s late and you’re sleeping so peacefully in your crib, as I just went in to check on you.

Theo, Mommy and Daddy are so proud of the little boy you’re becoming, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store over the next year.

We love you so much, and please, slow down a little sometimes.

Love,

Daddy

P.S.: You really need to start saying “Let’s Go Duke!” soon. It’s basketball season.

In honor of Halloween, a scary story that may or may not be true. Two crazy-awesome hockey goals you need to see. And mice driving cars by themselves? Sure, I want to see that

So we’re a day before Halloween and that used to not mean much to me, but I’ve got kids now and one of them happens to have been BORN on October 31, so yeah, I’ve changed my tune a little.

And while I’ve never been into scary stories or horror tales on Halloween, what the hell, I realize most of the rest of you all are, and I read this one Tuesday and it’s nuts.
I have absolutely no idea if Twitter user Grady Hendrix made this whole thing up, or if it really happened. Either way, it’s crazy scary. Read at your own risk 🙂

When I turned 9 I realized I could sneak downstairs after everyone was asleep and eat anything I wanted in the fridge. No one ever noticed! 
I could make a peanut butter, Cheez Whiz, & mayo sandwich, eat leftover pizza, scrape off the icing from birthday cakes – as long as I was careful I could do anything! 
Creeping down was the hardest part. I had to navigate the pitch dark house all the way downstairs in total darkness like a tiny ninja. 
One night in May, ’81 we ordered from Fish & Shrimp House. I waited until everyone was asleep & crept downstairs to eat the leftover sweet n’sour pork. 
It took forever. I finally stepped into the totally dark den & let down my guard. All of a sudden I heard a fork click on the counter. I froze. The microwave clock light showed the outline of a man sitting at our kitchen counter. 
He couldn’t see me, but I saw him: a skinny guy, eating our leftovers, and drinking our milk from the carton. 
I can’t explain how terrifying it is for someone to BE IN YOUR HOUSE. I slooooowly backed away, crept upstairs, and woke up my mom & dad. 
They made way too much noise & took way too long & by the time they got downstairs the kitchen was empty. 
Everyone said I read too many horror comics so they blew off what I said. But no way was I pouring milk on my cereal. 
I started tracking the position of everything in the kitchen. One day the paper napkin holder was on the wrong side of the counter. Another day a mug was in the sink that was NOT there the night before. 
My bedroom door didn’t lock so I kept a steak knife under my pillow. I must’ve stabbed myself in the hand 1000 times checking to make sure it was there. 
Then in August, I was in my room reading when I looked up. There’s an A/C vent over my bed. Behind the vent a pair of eyes were watching me. 
I freaked & raised hell until my parents searched our attic and the crawl space under our house. Nothing. I wasn’t very popular for a few weeks. 
The last week of August our house started to smell. One night, rice fell out of the vent over my bed. Maggots. The A/C people said something had probably crawled into our vents & died. 
Turns out what had crawled into our vents & died was the guy. We lived in an old house with lots of space between the walls & big ducts. He’d been living in them since May. At least. 
He’d put a foam pad beside my bedroom vent so he’d be comfortable while he watched me. The police said he’d made lots of “drawings” but when I asked they pretended they hadn’t said anything. 
No one ever identified him. He was buried as a John Doe. To this day I can’t look inside the vents in houses. 
But sometimes when I’m at someone’s house I’ll smell a little BO coming from their central air conditioning, and I’ll wonder who’s living back there in their ducts. Who’s living in the dark? 

 

**Next up today, it’s hockey season which means my second-favorite sport (besides tennis) is on my TV a lot, and what I don’t get to watch I try to see on the Intertubes.

Tuesday was an awesome hockey day not just because my Rangers finally played like a good team and beat the Lightning, but because I got to see two incredible “lacrosse” goals.

The first was by a Vancouver Canucks prospect named Nils Hoglander, playing in the Swedish hockey league. Hoglander has done this once before, but it’s still incredible. No goalie ever expects to see that.

Amazingly, we then got ANOTHER one of these insanely hard goals Tuesday night, as Carolina Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov did it for maybe the first time in NHL history.

Just fantastic. Hockey is the best.

**Finally today, I love a weird science story and this one is bonkers. Scientists at the University of Richmond (Va.) have taught a group of 17 rats how to drive little plastic cars, in exchange for bits of cereal. (Was it Frosted Flakes? Special K? Cinnamon Toast Crunch? These are details I need!)

According to this story from the BBC, “study lead Dr. Kelly Lambert said the rats felt more relaxed during the task, a finding that could help with the development of non-pharmaceutical treatments for mental illness.

The rats were not required to take a driving test at the end of the study. (whew. That’s good. Because parallel parking is a bitch).

How did the rats learn to drive?

Dr. Lambert and her colleagues built a tiny electric car by attaching a clear plastic jar to an aluminium plate, fitted to a set of wheels.

A copper wire was then threaded horizontally across the jar – the cab of the car – to form three bars, left, right and center.

To drive the car, a rat would sit on the aluminium plate and touch the copper wire. The circuit was then complete, and the animal could select the direction in which they wanted to travel.

After months of training, the rats learned not only how to make the ratmobile move but also how to change direction, researchers wrote in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.”

This is fascinating to me. But also, it’s fun to just watch the tiny rats drive around.

A trip back to the University of Delaware brings joy, memories and sadness. Can anyone at Facebook get Mark Zuckerberg some interview training? And in the NFL, young DeShaun Watson and old Adam Vinatieri make me happy

Memory is a funny thing, especially when it comes to our college years.
No matter how many decades go by, no matter how much of our hair goes gray or falls out, no matter if we get a paunch around our middle, our college joy rarely goes out of us.

And when we get to stick our toes back in a little time capsule and return to visit the place that hosted some of the greatest moments of our lives, well, it’s pretty special.

I had a few bad times during my four years at the University of Delaware. Got sick a lot from drinking too much freshman year, got some bad grades on tests, had some love go unrequited. But overwhelmingly, my memories of that wonderful place are positive, and this past weekend I got to soak in the atmosphere again of a place I love so much.

My wife and sons and I were in Newark on Saturday for the memorial for Bill Fleischman, my beloved mentor, friend and former professor at UD, who passed away in May.

On the third floor of the English Department building, Memorial Hall, about 35 of us sat in a room and talked about a man we loved. I was one of three former students who spoke (not sure what I was gesturing at up there but I use my hands a lot when I speak in public), and the tributes flowed.

I reconnected with people I never get to see, was surprised to see a few of Bill’s former students, and my former student newspaper pals, show up, and most importantly, I got to see Bill’s sensational family again. His wife Barb is truly one of the greats, and I’m proud to have his daughter Jill as a new friend.

It was a sad thing, of course, to talk about my beloved friend in the past tense. I imagine it always will be.

But getting to come back to UD, and sharing it with my wife and my young boys, that was special. We walked around on a cold, rainy October day (those are the only kind of October days in Delaware) and I pointed out this building or that one, and I wistfully remembered that Rainbow Records used to be right over there, and hey, why isn’t Newark Newsstand here anymore?

So much has changed since I graduated in 1997, but what will never change is the feeling I get when I return. That whiff of hope, and feeling young again, and remembering that glorious time in your life.

My kids are too young to understand why Daddy was so happy Saturday. But one day, I’ll try to explain it to them.

And I have no doubt that we’ll all be back. Once a place gets into your bloodstream, you want that IV as much as possible.

See you soon, Newark.

**Next up today, there was nothing particularly remarkable about Mark Zuckerberg’s awful performance in front of Congress last week, testifying about the awful job Facebook has done over the last few years policing lies and hate on their website. The social media behemoth has truly been deplorable in many ways, and every time Zuckerberg gets questioned about its policies, and no matter how well-intentioned changes the company makes are, the founder and CEO always, always comes off horribly.

After watching this clip I began to wonder: Doesn’t Facebook, a billion-dollar entity, have the ability to hire anyone who can work with Zuck on his answers, and his interviews, and just teach him how to come off better? I mean, they have the money, he knows he’s going to get grilled, he’s done terrible interviews like this for years. I mean, wouldn’t you think some image consultants would come in and help, and maybe he’d run a few drills like a pre-debate session or something and figure out how to answer better?

It’s just so, so bad. Someone, please help this man not look like such an ass, all the time.

**And finally, it was another Sunday of very large men smacking into other very large men, as very fast men with the ball ran past them while other very fast men tried to chase down the man with the ball.

Or, as other people call it, the NFL played games. Some quick-hit thoughts on games I didn’t see much of on Sunday, since we were at Legoland Philadelphia and then on the road the rest of the day:

— DeShaun Watson is, I know I’ve said this many times before, just the most fun player in the NFL to watch. Besides being an awesome human being, as has been documented many times, Watson, the Texans’ QB, is just so damn electric. Watching highlights of his remarkable plays in Houston’s win over Oakland on Sunday, it was remarkable how many times Watson extended plays when it looked like he was down and out. What a joy to watch.

I mean, watch this throw! He got kicked in his head and still threw a TD pass.

— Watson’s a young superstar, but the oldest dude in the NFL was a hero Sunday, too. Adam Vinatieri, who’s first helmet was a leather one, nailed a game-winning 51-yard field goal for the Colts Sunday, to beat the Broncos. Vinatieri is 46 years old and still playing in the NFL. He’s had a pretty miserable season, missing four extra points, but nailed a big game-winner and still has a huge leg. God bless him.

— The 49ers look scary good. Like, real scary good.

— Will someone in Tampa put Jameis Winston out of his misery already and bench/release him? He’s not getting any better.

— Hey remember all that Browns playoff and Super Bowl talk back in August? Me either. They’re 2-5 and going nowhere fast, and Baker Mayfield might not be all that great. Then again, my team’s franchise QB, Sam Darnold, doesn’t look all that great right now, either.

— The Bears. Kickers. I mean… what can you do? Another kicker missed a game-winner for them Sunday, and they lost, and their 3-4 and looking pretty mediocre all of a sudden.

— The Eagles looked horrible for weeks, then go up and thrash a really good Bills team. The NFL: No one knows anything.

 

Good News Friday: A woman makes 100 lunches a day for anyone who’s hungry. A little kid hockey star does a hilarious interview at a Caps game. And Shaq pays rent for a year for a paralyzed boy’s family in Atlanta

Happy Friday, my fellow air-breathers! It’s a lovely day here in NYC, a good day for traveling, which is what me and my brood are doing. Headed down to my old alma mater at the University of Delaware, for a memorial service for my mentor, Bill Fleischman, and hope to see some old friends and show my two boys where Daddy spent four glorious years.

Lots of great, heartwarming stuff on this final Friday before Halloween. I start today with a woman named Champale Anderson, a mother of six in North St. Louis, Missouri.

For the last five years, Champale has provided a lunch bag filled with sandwiches and snacks after school to any child who knocks on her door and asks.

“I’m just trying to help the kids that don’t have enough at home or just hungry after school. I been doing this out my own money and i’m just reaching out,” Anderson said on her GoFundMe page.

The donations help her purchase the items that go inside the bags. They range from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, cookies, juice, snacks and “a few surprises for her special babies.”

Just wonderful. Nothing earth-shattering or world-changing, except that yes, she IS changing the world a little bit, one hungry child at a time.

Since Champale’s story got publicized by her local TV station, her GoFundMe page has raised, as of this writing, more than $82,000. That’ll help feed A LOT of children.

I say it all the time: So much more good than bad in the world. So much more. Champale, you are an inspiration.

**Next up today, I have a new hero, and his name is Jackson Friedlander. He’s a little kid who played hockey during intermission of a recent Washington Capitals game, and was named the “Mite of the Night” by the broadcast team. In a truly fabulous interview, Jackson talks about his goals, his favorite Caps player, but most entertainingly, his pet tarantula at the :38 mark.

I love this kid so much.

**Finally today, I’ve long believed that Shaquille O’Neal is one of the “good guys” in sports, someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously and actually uses his fame and fortune to try to help others.

Now comes this story that he’s donated a year’s rent in a new home to an Atlanta woman whose 12-year-old son was paralyzed in August when he was shot at a football game.

According to this story, O’Neal tells WXIA-TV that Isaiah Payton’s family (that’s Isaiah, above) had been living in a one-bedroom apartment that wasn’t accessible for people with disabilities. The rehab center Isaiah was in wouldn’t release him to go home because the apartment he and his family lived in wasn’t handicapped-accessible.

Now they have a home in a good neighborhood. Shaq, in coordination with the Atlanta police department, says he’s helping furnish the home and will pay its rent for the next year.

“I reached out to the family because I wanted to see the son and I said he’s not going to release the sign until she’s able to move on the first floor. So, we found her a house. I’m going to pay her rent for the year and I’m going to give her some furniture and it’s sad because her son is paralyzed from the chest down and no mother should have to go to that,” the ex-L.A. Lakers star told WXIA.

Isaiah was shot through the spine in August after a football scrimmage between two high schools. Sixteen-year-old Damean Spear also was wounded and treated for minor injuries. Isaiah’s mother, Allison Woods, has said relearning how to care for Isaiah meant she had to leave her job, adding financial stress to her emotional turmoil.

Good job, Shaq. A horrible tragedy, but one that someone with the means to help now has.

An all-television post! “Dead to Me” a funny, harrowing, thrilling Netflix show about death. So far the “This is Us” season has been very solid, with the usual anchor character the only flaw. And Gary Gulman’s HBO special is super funny

Dead To Me

It’s been a while since I’ve done a TV post, but darn it we’re finally catching up on a bunch of shows and things we’d been meaning to get to, so I want to tell you all about it.

First, I’d heard lots of good things about “Dead to Me,” the Netflix show starring Christina Applegate (who’ll always be Kelly Bundy to me) and Linda Cardellini (who I’ve loved since “Freaks and Geeks”).

The premise sounds promising: Applegate is Jen, a real estate broker with two kids who is grieving over the recent death of her husband Ted, killed in a hit and run accident late at night, with the killer unknown to all.

Cardellini is Judy, a spacey, happy-seeming person who recently broke off an engagment and who has lots of deep, dark secrets lurking, including a huge one that’s revealed at the end of the first episode, setting the stage for all the action to come.

Judy befriends Jen at a grief support group, and they quickly become  super-close, as major secrets between them don’t seem to get in the way.

The storylines are fantastic, there are at least two or three laugh-out-loud moments each episode (including a GREAT scene with kids singing in a church choir all dressed in track suits), and Cardellini is so, so good as the mostly crazy and psychotic yet kind of endearing Judy.

The show doesn’t make a mockery of death, but it doesn’t take the subject too seriously. As Jen desperately searches for who killed her husband, she learns painful things about who he really was, and Judy is there every step of the way, helping and also, plotting.

Truly, both actresses elevate this show from merely good to great. And while the final scene of the season left me feeling a little cheated, I still can’t wait for Season 2.

“Dead to Me” is as good as you’ve heard. Ten episodes on Netflix, easily binge-able. Thank me later.

**OK so as I’ve written a few times over the years, I mostly love “This is Us,” the NBC show which requires you to have Kleenex near you at all times. It’s written with so much heart, most of the characters are very well-drawn, and more often than not I finish watching an episode satisfied.

So far this season (no spoilers from Tuesday night’s episode, I haven’t seen it yet) it’s been very good. Randall and Beth’s storylines continue to be the best part of the show (and Phylicia Rashad cameos are fantastic), I’m buying the troubles the family is having with the Philadelphia move, and I’m intrigued by Deja’s new relationship with teenage father Malik (although dude, who just blurts out “I have a daughter” to your new love interest’s dad upon first meeting? C’mon, man.)

I’m invested in the Uncle Nicki recovery storyline, and Kevin Pearson continues to be less annoying and needy and narcissistic than he was for the first few seasons; I no longer groan when he comes on the screen. I like the flashbacks to the Pearson kids’ childhoods, especially Randall’s first panic attack and how Kevin helped him. That was very sweet.

But there’s an anchor character who I can’t get past, who just gets worse and worse with every season.

It’s Kate. You know it’s Kate, I know it’s Kate. She’s a terrible character. Forget that every single Kate storyline, until she had baby Jack was about her weight problem. I’ve almost gotten used to the writers pigeonholing her that way.

It’s just that she is SO narcissistic. Everything is about her. A few weeks ago when Toby admitted he’s been working out like crazy and has gotten himself into amazing shape, somehow it was all “poor me” time for Kate, since she had put on weight since having a baby and how awful it is that her husband was able to get into shape.

Kate is an insufferable character, and I really wish the “This is Us” writers would put us out our misery and keep her involvement in the show to a minimum.

But like I said, otherwise “This is Us” has been terrific this season. (Oh yeah, the new neighbor of Toby and Kate’s, the dude who had a stroke and is kind of surly? That’s actually Lassiter, the bumbling cop, from “Psych,” and the actor had a stroke in real life. Completely unrecognizable to me, but my wife spotted him immediately.)

**Finally today, the comedian Gary Gulman has been popping up in my life a lot lately: He was on an episode of “This American Life,” he was featured on another podcast I love “Only a Game,” and one of my favorite sportswriters, Joe Posnanski, wrote a column about him too.

What I’d heard of Gulman I thought was funny, so I decided to check out his new HBO special, called “The Great Depresh.”

And it’s really great. Gulman has lived with depression since he was a kid, and a few years ago it spiraled out of his control, leading him to a black hole of sadness he didn’t think he’d recover from.  Gulman talks about it in raw honesty, even saying in a segment with his mom that Gulman making a kids book in school called “The Lonely Tree” at age 7 should’ve been a sign.

But trust me, “The Great Depresh” is really funny. Gulman does hilarious bits on his life in high school basketball and why it was the perfect sport for him (I embedded a clip of it above), why Millenials are so much better than us Gen X’ers because they’re better hydrated, and a very funny segment on milk-carton kids from the 1980s.

Gulman is a comedian who’s been around a long time but is only becoming moderately famous in the last few years, as he’s recovered from his crippling illness (There’s even a scene in “The Great Depresh” with him and another comic dispelling the myth that great comedy only comes from personal misery).

The special is really, really good. It’s on HBO all month and on Demand.

College newspapers doing amazing work in towns where daily papers have vanished. A hilarious “SNL” skit on a new way for fathers and sons to communicate. And thoughts on Sunday in the NFL: The Niners keep winning, the Chargers keep finding ways to lose, and the Bears look stinky

michigan-daily-panty-raid

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before in this space, but some of the best times in my life, ever, were the three years I spent working on my college newspaper at the University of Delaware.

There was nothing like it: We worked an inordinate number of hours for almost no pay, and had the time of our lives. Writing and editing our own stories, sure, that was great, but the time we spent together was extraordinary.

The stupid inside jokes, the games like who could throw the plastic fish across the office farther (my friend Jimmy was excellent at it, he got great torque), the 3 a.m. runs to 7-11 for chocolate and caffeine (I survived many, many deadline nights on just a 20-ounce Coke and four Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, a wonderful diet).

I destroyed my body each year, getting so run down that i ended up in the infirmary with viral pneumonia my sophomore and junior years. But it was worth it, and the lessons learned and the fun I had, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

We thought we were doing great work, but never, ever once, did we think we were the only newspaper in our area, and that thousands of people were depending on us to tell them what was going on in town.

I’m bringing all this up because of an eye-opening story I read in the New York Times over the weekend, about how the University of Michigan’s student paper is the only newspaper in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Literally, there’s no one else. The Ann Arbor News stopped publishing years ago, and so it’s up to the Michigan Daily and its staff of 300 (that blows me away, that a school paper could have that many journalists) to attend city council meetings, watch over local officials, and write about anything and everything people need to know in a large city like Ann Arbor.

“If we weren’t covering it, no one would know what’s going on,” said Katherina Sourine

The Michigan student reporters are great; I loved this passage:

“In a sign of how seriously The Daily takes its responsibility to fully cover the city, Maya Goldman, 21, was elected editor in chief only after she was able to name the 11 members of the City Council, along with their wards and party affiliations.”

The Michigan paper isn’t alone in being the only voice in its community; it’s really shocking how so many teenage reporters are vital to a city’s residents gaining knowledge of what’s going on.

Just one more side effect of the devastation of local newspapers: Kids are doing a whole lot more serious, important reporting.

**Next up today, this was from last week’s “SNL” but I just saw it a few weeks ago and it was too good not to share. Let’s say you’re a father and son of the current times and have trouble communicating. What to do? “SNL” has the answer, and it’s in one word: Podcasting.

The facial expressions in this are priceless, and so is the script.

**Finally today, my weekly look at what happened on Sunday in the NFL, when once again referees’ decisions made little sense, teams that looked great a week ago looked terrible yesterday, and oh yeah, the Redskins, Bengals, Falcons and Dolphins kept losing (It’s going to be REALLY hard for my Jets, certain losers to the Pats tonight, to get a Top 5 pick this year.)

— The Chicago Bears were supposed to be good. They were great last year, their QB, Mitch Trubisky, should be a seasoned vet now in his third season, and their defense was supposed to be stellar again.

And yet… the Bears are very underwhelming. They got crushed by the Saints Sunday, 36-25 (the game wasn’t that close, the Bears got two late TDs to make it look closer than it was), they’re 3-3, and Trubisky isn’t getting better. Very surprising.

— On the other hand, the Buffalo Bills keep rolling as the NFL’s most surprising (positive) team. They wore those awful, hideous bright red uniforms Sunday, struggled for a bit with the pathetic Dolphins, but won again and are now 5-1. I know lots of Bills fans who are alternately thrilled right now at their team’s success, and terrified at what I’m sure they expect to be a miserable collapse (Jets fans and Bills fans are alike in many ways).

— What’s up with the Chargers? They keep finding new and creative ways to lose; Sunday they were down by three in the final seconds to the Titans, were at the Tennessee 1, and twice couldn’t score, then fumbled on the second attempt, allowing Tennessee to escape with the win. San Diego, another team expected to be really good, is 2-5.

— This didn’t happen Sunday but I wanted to get it in, because it was hilarious: The NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt did a piece on tight ends trying to leap over defenders, and the dangers they face. He did it in the form of a PSA from the 1980s, and as someone who watched MANY of these as a kid, this was perfect.

— How petty is the NFL? Clay Matthews III, a linebacker for the Rams, criticized the awful 2019 refereeing in this Tweet, and he was fined $12,500 for it. Give me a break.

— Must not have been fun for the fans, but it was fun to watch the Redskins-49ers game played in a driving rainstorm. Guys would slide on the field and bounce and go another few yards. Like we did as kids in the park.

— The Arizona Cardinals might be decent; they’ve won three in a row. The Indianapolis Colts are doing just fine without Andrew Luck, winning yet again. And the Ravens look awesome one week, terrible the next, then awesome again on Sunday.
More proof that anyone who thinks they know what’s going to happen in the NFL is an absolute fool.

Good News Friday: A 93-year-old man opens up a cupcake store, just to be happy. The football player who changed his last name to honor his stepdad. And a dog is super happy to see his best friend

Happy Friday, y’all! We all survived another week that, when it comes to politics, is truly Onion-proof, as in: Not even the legendary satirical newpaper The Onion could make up stuff like this. (Seriously, that Trump letter to the Turkish president could’ve been written by a fourth-grader.)

Lots of good stuff to share today as I watch my Yankees bow meekly to the Houston Astros (oy.)

First up, the wonderful Steve Hartman of CBS News brings us the story of 93-year-old New Jersey man Ray Boutwell, who, bored with retirement and seeing the end of his nearing, decided to fulfill a dream and open up a cupcake store.

He makes cupcakes, some of them infused with alcohol, and sells them at his store.

It’s a simple story of a man who has found great joy in doing something he loves, and it had me smiling for a while after watching it.

And oh yeah, cupcakes aren’t his end goal. Watch to the end, I love it.

**Next up, this really moved me. A college football player at Samford University named George Grimwade wanted to honor the man who raised him.

Grimwade was raised by his stepfather, Michael Musto, and last week prior to a game he decided to share some incredible news with him: That he’d changed his last name to match his stepfather’s.

On the back of Grimwade’s jersey, the name “Musto” read, and here’s video of George letting Michael know what he’d done.

Just beautiful. Here’s some more background on this terrific gesture.

**And finally today, just a man, his dog, and a very happy greeting that is unlike we get from anyone else in our lives. (Seriously that leap is fantastic).

Have a nice weekend.

The Democratic debate was a way-too-big, but entertaining show, as Warren faces all the slings and arrows. An MSNBC host takes aim at his network suppressing news. And an NHL team lets kids draw pics for player introductions

Tuesday night brought about the latest Democratic Presidential debate, and as always I watched because I’m a hard-core political junkie, but I was mad right from the start.

There were 12 people in this debate, all at once, on stage. To paraphrase William Miller in Almost Famous, “Twelve!”

Hey CNN, and others who want to host debates of candidates: Six or seven on a stage at once is the most we want! You can’t have a “debate” when candidates get three minutes to talk in the first hour!

You want to have a three-hour debate with 12 candidates? Fine. Put six of them on stage for the first 90 minutes, take a five-minute break, then put the other six on stage for 90 minutes. That would work SO much better.

Just so ridiculous. But alas, they had a dozen candidates on stage, and I gritted my teeth and watched, and I have thoughts.

— Very predictably, since Senator Elizabeth Warren has taken the overall lead in national polls, she was the primary target of the others. Amy Klobouchar and Mayor Pete landed some good shots on her on health care and her economic plan, and Warren definitely stumbled in the first half hour of the debate. Then there was some more piling on of her, and her answers started to get better.

But she’s going to have to get a better answer on why Medicare for All, and eliminating the choice of private insurance, is the right move.

–Bernie Sanders looked pretty good for a guy who had a heart attack last week.

— I mean, not to beat a dead horse, but Kamala Harris thundered a beautiful answer about reproductive rights  and how they’re under attack, and then we didn’t hear from her for another 25 minutes. Amy Klobuchar had a few interesting answers and challenged Warren effectively, but we only got like five total minutes from the Minnesota senator.
Also, Harris asking for Trump to be banned from Twitter was a little silly.

— Cory Booker, who as you know is my No. 1 choice in this race, again had a good night in his limited moments. He brought up child poverty, which was sorely needed, and he talked about the Dems not attacking each other, and was great on women’s rights as well. He does well in all these debates, but doesn’t get a bounce in the polls. I’m not sure why.

— Warren had her best moment when she wondered why only she and Sanders supported a wealth tax, and the rest of the candidates didn’t want to invest in the future generation. Warren is at her best when she’s indignant while not losing her poise.

— I thought Klobuchar had by far her best debate so far, as she was feisty and smart and self-deprecating. I thought Mayor Pete was too smarmy by half, and Castro and O’Rourke were mostly invisible. I have no idea what Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang were doing up there; neither makes much sense to me.

**Next up today, it’s rare to see a TV news commentator take aim at his own network, live on the air of his own show. But we live in extraordinary times. Chris Hayes, an MSNBC prime time host, has been following the stories coming from Ronan Farrow’s explosive new book about his investigation into Harvey Weinstein, and how his then-bosses at NBC News refused to run his story, and basically tried to bury it.

Here’s Hayes the other night on his show, with a heartfelt, excellent defense of journalism, while poking legitimate criticism at his employers. Very, very well done.

**And finally today, this story was adorable to me. The New Jersey Devils hockey team had a Kids Day game on Columbus Day Monday, and in addition to hosting a bunch of tykes, they came up with a genius idea: They had kids draw pictures of Devils players in crayon, and used those photos on the scoreboard when the players were introduced.

Here (above) are some of the drawings, and they’re fantastic. The Zajac one cracks me up; you can see more of their drawings here.

“El Camino,” the “Breaking Bad” movie, was fantastic. A truly satisfying end for Jesse Pinkman. Simone Biles continues to be amazing; we should continue to watch. And the J-E-T-S finally win a game! Super Bowl here we come!

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

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Good News Friday: A homeless L.A. woman with an incredible voice is filmed singing, and now she’s famous. A little boy saying his affirmation on way to school is beautiful. And Rome with a great new program to boost recycling.

Happy Friday to my wonderful readers! Hope you all have had a good week, I’ve watched some exciting playoff baseball (Dodgers fans, I feel your pain), learned all kinds of new words thanks to our almost 2-year-old’s attempt at pronouncing real words, and boy oh boy am I counting down the hours until tonight, when after the kids are asleep my wife and I will watch the long-awaited “Breaking Bad” movie, El Camino, which I completely expect to be awesome.

Look, most times when you try to extend a franchise beyond its original greatness, it fails miserably (“Gilmore Girls” movie, I’m talking to you). But Vince Gilligan is such a brilliant creator and writer of TV, that I have complete faith he made El Camino terrificNeedless to say, you’ll be reading my review on Monday 🙂

OK, on with the show. We start Good News Friday with an incredible tale of a homeless singer in Los Angeles who just made her opera debut.

A 52-year-old woman named Emily Zamourka was living on the streets of Southern California, singing only for herself, when an LAPD officer named Alex Frazier stumbled upon her at a subway station and recorded her performance of an opera called “O mio babbino caro.” on Sept. 26.

He uploaded it to Twitter, it went incredibly viral (is that an oxymoron? Maybe. OK, how about it went “super viral?”), and she suddenly got worldwide attention.

Zamourka, within two weeks, has reportedly been offered a recording contract, and this week she sang on stage for the first time, at a local Los Angeles city ceremony.

Zamourka, who said she used to play her violin on the street before it was stolen, is overwhelmed by the attention, and she had a tearful meeting with Frazier last week.

“I am so grateful, but I also wish that the kindness I am experiencing now I might have felt when no one knew of my singing,” Zamourka, who said she emigrated from Moldova nearly three decades ago and has been homeless in L.A. for around three years, tells USA TODAY.

What a great story. She’s really quite amazing. Just reminds you, once again, that everyone, no matter who they are or what their circumstances are, has something great to offer the world.

It’s sad that it took a police officer happening to be in the right place at the right time to discover Emily. But the world will be enriched and made more beautiful because he did.

**Next up today, I have no idea who this child is,, except that is name is Ayaan, or where he lives, or anything else. But it absolutely put a smile on my face, a small boy walking to school and repeating his daily affirmation about his worth.

So, so sweet.

**Finally today, a major world city is doing something awesome that I would love to see other cities doing.

In Rome, a new program allows riders of their metro (subway) service to redeem plastic bottles for money toward a train ticket.

The way it works is this: for every 30 plastic bottles recycled at one of Rome’s metro stations, riders get one free ride card.

Perfect. Especially in cities like New York, Chicago, London, where there are millions of people who use public transportation every day, this system would be incredibly useful.

I hope it’s copied many times over.