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Good News Friday: A little boy gets a standing O from his classmates after finishing chemo. Steve Hartman finds relatives he never knew he had. And a little girl writes a letter to the NHL and gets a welcome change

Happy Friday, y’all! Your humble correspondent is a little wiped out after screaming my lungs out at a Rangers-Islanders game Thursday night at the old decrepit barn called Nassau Coliseum. Man that place is NOT an NHL arena but wow does it get nice and loud for rivalry games. And the fact that the Rangers won, 3-2, with a goal in the final minute made it all the more sweet!

Lots of good stuff to get to today in Good News Friday, but let’s start with a story pointed to me by my buddy Matthew L. It is of a 6-year-old boy named John Oliver Zippay, who lives in Newbury, Ohio. He suffers from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and at the end of December the little guy had his last (he hopes) chemo treatment.

As a welcome back to John, his schoolmates at St. Helen’s Catholic School in Newbury lined the halls to welcome him back. Just beautiful.

**Next up, the always-great Steve Hartman of CBS News is used to doing stories on other people’s families, not his own.

But I thought this was terrific; through some DNA testing Hartman found some relatives he never knew he had, and some not so wonderful stuff about a grandpa he never knew.

**And finally today, a pretty cool story of a young girl taking a stand against sexism.

New Yorker Sabrina Scali, 7, is a hockey fan, and has played the game for two years already.

She loves the NHL, and loves the playing cards the league has for sale for each team.

But she noticed something right away about the cards: on the queen cards, there are pictures of girls as hockey cheerleaders.

The queens were cheerleaders, and cheerleaders aren’t in hockey and girls can play hockey too,” Sabrina said.

So Sabrina wrote a letter to the NHL, it reached the marketing department, and presto chango, no more cheerleaders on the cards. The queens now have pictures of a girl holding a hockey stick (truly, this is long overdue, women’s hockey has been growing in America and the world for 30 years now.)

The New York Rangers heard about her efforts and organized a Junior Ranger Girls Hockey clinic for her and her teammates to skate on the Garden ice.

“If people see something that’s wrong in the world, they should stand up and fight for what they believe in,” said dad Mike. “I think it sends a tremendous message.”

Agreed, Dad. Way to go Sabrina!

A smaller Democratic debate entertains but lacks fireworks, and a few words from a Booker supporter as he bows out. An awesome “Family Feud” horrible answer. And Ken Jennings is a “Jeopardy” God

The Democratic presidential debate stages are getting smaller, which makes me happy. But they’re also getting whiter, which does not, and this week brought a second defeat to candidates I support (more on that in a minute).

First some thoughts from a lively, but relatively tame, CNN debate:

— Right from the first question Wolf Blitzer pissed me off. It’s not just him, lots of people ask a variation of it. It was a question directed to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, asking how can Americans trust your judgement when you made a mistake voting for war back in 2003 with Iraq (Biden) and 2001 with Afghanistan (Sanders).

So basically the premise of the question is that, “Hey, you made a mistake once, so how can we ever trust you again?” I’m sorry but that’s freaking ridiculous. Every single person on Earth has made a bad decision or judgement in their life, so no one is to be trusted again?

“Steve, in 1998 you decided to go to that terrible office party instead of seeing Prince live in concert. How can we ever trust you again?”

Such a stupid premise. People make mistakes! Doesn’t mean they can’t learn from them and grow. I just so, so hate this line of questioning.

— Biden was sharp Tuesday night. He’s been getting better and better. It’s like the first few debates were spring training and now he’s rounding into form.

— I thought Elizabeth Warren, now my top choice (more on that in a minute), had another terrific debate, standing up for women candidates, showing savvy and intelligence on foreign policy, and again showing why she’d be an outstanding President. I don’t want to hear any of my wishy-washy fellow Democrats talk crap about “ooohh, she’s too liberal, she won’t get the moderates, yada yada yada.”

Screw the moderates, she’ll get the liberals and progressives to turn out in Obama-like numbers, and that will be enough to get to 270 electoral votes.

— I also loved it when Warren said she and Amy Klobuchar were the only candidates on the stage who’d never lost an election. Women!

— A few words about Cory Booker, my No. 1 choice for President and a man I truly think would have made an excellent nominee, and Commander-in-Chief. Booker suspended his campaign for the nomination this week, and I am not surprised but crestfallen. He is a strong, smart, incredibly-charismatic man who I believe has a terrific heart, and he failed in this nomination because not enougb people felt that way.

I don’t know, truly, why Booker never caught on. Maybe it’s that we’ve already had an African-American President. Maybe he never found a lane between progressive die-hards like Warren and Bernie, and moderates like Klobuchar and Biden. Maybe he should’ve done big-money fundraisers to keep him in the race, I don’t know.

But he was a longshot from Day 1, and it makes me sad that is candidacy is over. I was more stunned that Kamala Harris failed in this quest than Booker did, but it still makes me sad.

Sigh. Elizabeth Warren, you’re getting all my support now. Go get it done.

**Next up today, game-show screwups always bring the funny. Check out how confident and proud of herself this blonde woman is when she gives what she thinks is the best answer to host Gerry Dee’s question on the Canadian version of “Family Feud.”

What’s really scary? What did those other 46 people out of 100 say?

**And finally tonight, let us all bow down to the greatest mind of our generation, Mr. Ken Jennings.

OK, maybe he’s not the greatest mind. But who knows more than this guy? Tuesday night he finished his downright evisceration of two incredibly smart guys on the “Jeopardy” Greatest of All Time Tournament.

In winning three of the four matches against James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter, Jennings just again showed mastery of all subjects, winning the $1 million cash prize and a super cool trophy. It was incredible how good he was, against two “Jeopardy” masters.

The whole tournament was great, as three dudes who got super-wealthy for knowing stuff had fun in the competition.

Hey kids, it’s cool to be smart. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

“Just Mercy” a terrific movie about one man’s fight to save innocent people, starring Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan. “Saved by the Bell” is coming back, whoo-hoo! And a crazy NFL playoff weekend sees K.C. shine, and Baltimore? Not so much.

I’ve been waiting for years to see the movie “Just Mercy.”

Literally. I’ve been a huge admirer of Bryan Stevenson, the attorney and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, for many years. I’ve read his book, my wife and I contribute to the EJI, and I believe fervently in its mission of freeing wrongly-convicted men (mostly African-American), a task that I wish it never had to do.

So when I heard they were making a movie of “Just Mercy,” with Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson and Oscar winner/Katie Holmes boyfriend Jamie Foxx as Walter “Johnny D.” McMillian, the first death row inmate Stevenson ever got exonerated? Sign me up, baby!

We saw it Friday night, and it was really, really good. I won’t say it was four stars amazing, for a couple reasons I’ll enumerate in a minute. But first, the good.

The acting was fantastic. Foxx is in a lot of bad movies so you forget how good he is, but he immediately gives Johnny D humanity, and depth, and his skepticism about Stevenson’s chances of getting him freed after a grossly-unfair trial are certainly warranted. Foxx is amazing in scenes when he talks to a few fellow death-row inmates, Herbert, a Vietnam vet who placed a bomb on a porch that exploded, and Ray, who was wrongfully convicted of murder.

Jordan is outstanding, too, though he is given the best speeches in the movie. He mixes the earnestness and spirit of Stevenson with righteous outrage, as he moves from naivete in the beginning of the movie (“surely these old Southern white law enforcement officers will see their entire case is bullcrap!”) to determination and anger toward the end.

The dialogue is terrific, the supporting actors (like Brie Larson as Stevenson’s associate) are great, and the cinematography is beautiful.

The only flaws for me? One, there were definitely some cliche scenes, like when Stevenson is harassed by white police officers aware of what he’s up to upon leaving the prison. Maybe it’s because we’ve seen these scenes SO often in movies and TV, but they felt a little forced and trite to me.

The other flaw, and again this might just be me because I’m very familiar with the real story, is “Just Mercy” Hollywood-ized way too much. There were SO many scenes of grand, dramatic gestures and events, some of which really happened, many of which didn’t, that I felt like the director was trying TOO hard to ram his message home. Like, the facts and the story were strong enough to carry the message, we didn’t need so many dramatic, staged events.

But those are small quibbles; it’s so important this movie is out there, and that it was done right.

Do you have any idea how many people sitting in prison, waiting to die, didn’t commit their crimes? According to statistics compiled by EJI and The Innocence Project, another wonderful organization that does similar work, for every nine people executed in this country, one innocent person has been exonerated.

Nine to one! Absolutely ridiculous, cruel and inhumane that the death penalty is used at all, but it is certifiably true that innocent people, railroaded by a racially and economically biased justice system, have been killed.

Go see “Just Mercy,” and then support an organization like EJI or another like it. America’s justice system has been broken a long, long time, and the fact that so many prisoners on death row are innocent is proof positive of that.

**Next up today, I know there have been a lot of TV show reboots in recent years, most of them forgettable and a bad idea, but ladies and gentlemen, we have finally hit TV show reboot gold! That’s right, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “Saved by The Bell” is coming back!

And not only that, Mark-Paul Gosselear is returning as Zack Morris, who of course is now the governor of California! (Could happen. Wondering if A.C. Slater is his director of security). Word is that Tiffani Amber-Thiessen may be coming back, too, for the show on the NBC’s streaming Peacock network, and Elizabeth Berkeley (somehow NOT busy filming “Showgirls 2”) and Mario Lopez will also be back.

I am irrationally excited by this. In fact, you might say (wait for it) I’m so excited, I’m so excited.

Take it away, Jessie Spano!

**Finally today, what a strange and exhilarating quartet of NFL playoff games this weekend, with only one of the four going straightforward and just as we expected (the 49ers blowing out an overmatched Vikings squad).

Crazy stuff happened in Baltimore, Kansas City and Green Bay, way too much to fully recount here, but when the dirt and grass has settled, we’ve got two pretty fascinating conference title games next week, with one (Kansas City-Tennessee) nobody predicted, and the other (Green Bay-San Francisco) that a lot of people probably did.

Some quick takeaways from this weekend:

— The Houston Texans were up 24-0 on the road Sunday, completely dominating a playoff game against the inept-looking Chiefs. And then gave up 51 of the next 58 points.

Outscored 51-7!!! That’s nuts. So many things went wrong for the Texans, so fast, including their intelligence-challenged head coach, Bill O’Brien, calling for a fake punt while LEADING 24-7 and at his own 31 yard line in the second quarter.  Spoiler alert: It failed, the Chiefs got a spark, and scored lots of touchdowns thereafter.

There have probably been stupider decisions made in NFL coaching history, but boy that one’s up there. Amazing performance by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, but wow did the Texans gag one up there. Happy for Chiefs fans, who’ve been waiting almost as long as my fellow Jets fans to get to a Super Bowl, and now they’re one game away (last time K.C. played in the Big Game was 1970)

— Baltimore was the best team in the NFL all season, got a home playoff game with a raucous stadium behind them and… pooped the bed Saturday night. Just a miserable offensive performance from likely MVP Lamar Jackson and Co.

Lots of idiots on the electric Twitter machine were saying that clearly he can’t win the big one, was overrated, and other nonsense. Clearly Jackson had a bad game, but the dude is a sensational talent. It may just take him a little longer to win big games.

— I can’t believe a team QB’ed by Ryan Tannehill just won two playoff games on the road. But Derrick Henry is an absolute beast. Titans will have a puncher’s chance next week, their defense is very very good.

— Finally, even down 28-10, I thought Seattle was going to beat Green Bay Sunday. That’s how good Russell Wilson is. And he did get his team very close, but the ‘Hawks defense couldn’t get one final stop at the end (though the refs surely helped the Pack with a dubious first-down call at the end).

Aaron Rodgers was fantastic, the Packers defense held, and they’re going to give S.F. a heck of a battle.

Happy we’ve got four new-ish teams, who haven’t been in the Super Bowl in a while, battling it out. Next Sunday will be lots of fun.

The Daddy Chronicles returns! Starring a kindergartener who loves school, and 2-year-old who is way wilder than his bro was

Happy Friday, y’all! It’s been far too long since I’ve done a Daddy Chronicles, about six months if you don’t count my annual letters to the boys on their birthdays, and of course so much has changed.
For example, one of my sons has turned into a werewolf, which we weren’t expecting, but he’s suddenly outstanding at basketball.

I kid, I kid! No but for real, let’s kick off the first Good News Friday of 2020 with some tales of my adorables, both of whom drive me crazy on a regular basis, although one MUCH more than the other.

OK, let’s start with the little guy. It’s been a running joke with Shelley and I that if Theo had been our first child, we would not have had another.

We got so spoiled with Nate as a toddler, as he rarely ever misbehaved, got his Terrible 2’s over with in about three weeks, and basically was the Golden Child (except he looked nothing like Eddie Murphy.)

So we knew that our second little one would be a challenge. And as lovable as he is… yeah, he’s a typical 2-year-old.

His motor is non-stop. He only stays still when he’s sleeping, and even then he moves around a bit. He eats sorta in stages, taking a few bites here, then going for a ride around the kitchen on one of the riding toys we own (he refused to sit in the high-chair for meals a few months ago and we’ve been unable to change his mind on that one).

And his volume… wow. Not only is he loud at almost all times, but he has no “ramp up” to a high volume. Like, when he wakes up from a nap, or in the morning, or if he’s playing quietly with his toys, there’s no slowly-escalating noise meter with Theo.

He goes from totally silent to “DADDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!”” in no time at all. It’s really quite something. And ear-splitting.

— Among his more fun quirks lately are that he’s hilariously and randomly started singing the “Happy Birthday” song whenever he feels like it, all throughout the day. Now, we did have a few December birthday gatherings in the family, so maybe that’s it. But it kills us that at least four or five times a day he’ll just warble “Happppyyy birrrrthhhday to youuuuu” and sound a little like a breathy Marilyn Monroe singing to John F. Kennedy.

Theo doesn’t know the words to the whole song yet, but his random outbursts of it never fail to crack us up.

— He’s talking up a storm, almost up to full sentences, and some of his recent favorite sayings are “I got it!” when we’re looking for something of his we’ve misplaced, “I did!” when he’s told to take a bite of food or put something away, and “No pease, Daddy, pease!” when his first request for more snacks is denied. It’s the second “pease” that you really  have to resist.”

— Finally, Theo’s other huge difference from his brother, we’ve discovered, is a  love of live theater. Nate was never a fan of shows, wanting to leave early from “Paw Patrol Live” and many other children’s productions, but Theo is totally riveted. Over the holidays he did not move a muscle during an hour-long live “Frosty the Snowman” show, sitting on Shelley’s lap the entire time, and was similarly frozen during a Thomas the Train live show.

It was stunning to watch; I wanted to poke him a few times just to make sure he was still breathing.

— Oh one more thing: Theo throws a screaming tantrum when his brother Nate, whom he worships, closes the bathroom door on him when he has to make a poop. This is outrageous to Theo, that his hero wouldn’t want him around for ANY moment of his life. And we try to explain to Theo that doing a Number 2 is a solo exercise.

**And now to the big guy. Kindergarten has been a joy to Nate; halfway through the year we’re so grateful he has a wonderful teacher who gives each student a hug every morning as they walk in, and has cultivated his love of reading and drawing. His reading, especially, has come so far since September, and it’s been wonderful watching him read books by Mo Willems or Todd Parr that he hasn’t just memorized, but that he’s actually reading by sounding out the letters.

Nate loves doing his homework, too, enthusiastically taking out his pencil box and spiral notebook when it’s time to write some sight words, or another assignment. As he was with preschool, he can’t wait to go to school in the morning.

— We’ve tried some new after-school activities this year, with mostly good results. He loves his robotics class on Mondays, where grownups lead the tykes through LEGO-based projects like mechanical fans, and soccer goals, and a power drill. He’s got such an engineering-oriented brain that I feel I’ll be totally useless when it comes to his science projects.

After much consternation by me I let him enroll in tennis lessons; I say consternation because it is of course my all-time favorite sport and I’m afraid of him playing it before he’s ready, hating it, and then me having to put him up for adoption since I will not have ANY tennis-haters in my family.

But happily, he liked it for a few months, before complaining that playing too much made his arm hurt, and that he wanted to stop. So all in all, a good first tennis experience.

–Having his tonsils and adenoids out in July has had most of the desired results; he sleeps much better now, hardly snores at all, but the promised increase in appetite has not happened. Kid still barely eats anything; I truly don’t know how he has enough energy to get through the day.

— It still freaks me out sometimes when I see Nate doing something I didn’t teach him. Like, last week at a playdate he and a buddy were playing “Rock, paper, scissors,” and I was like “How the hell does he know how to play that, I never taught it to him?”

— But man does he love his little bro. Except for when Theo pounces on him, or hits him, or tackles him, Nate is the biggest fan of his Mini-Me you can imagine.

On the walk into Nate’s sports class most Tuesdays they hold hands in the parking lot like this (below).

If I could freeze-frame that forever…

 

Dave Barry’s hilarious Year in Review is worth your time. Shaq thinks Stevie Wonder isn’t blind. And a beautiful post from Tommy Tomlinson about aging

What’s up people? So much stuff I want to write about tonight but don’t have time for, nor do you have time to read, but quick shout-outs to the incredible first night of the “Jeopardy” Greatest of All Time tournament, man that was sensational to watch, Brad and James and Ken are just amazing. It was like watching Joe Louis vs. Muhammad Ali vs. Mike Tyson going at it, all in their primes. Tremendous stuff that continues tonight.

Also, I know I’m not supposed to laugh at the incredible awfulness of our President starting a war with Iran, but this Tweet he wrote last night made me LOL because it totally sounds like a letter home from summer camp from a kid, to Mom and Dad. “All is well! Timmy got stung by a wasp, I have a sunburn from volleyball, and we’re bombing Iran! Talk to you soon!”

God save us from this madman. OK, on with the show…

I know I’m a little late on this but I refuse to let a year go by without sending you to Dave Barry’s annually hilarious Year in Review column he writes for most of America’s major newspapers.

Barry, as I’ve written many times before, is the funniest writer in America, and this year just check out some of these excerpts:

From February: In sports, the New England Patriots, led by 63-year-old Tom Brady, defeat the Los Angeles Rams, 13-3, in a Super Bowl featuring one touchdown and 14 punts. During the national anthem, TV cameras clearly capture Patriots coach Bill Belichick pouring liquid from a bottle labeled “SEDATIVES” into the Rams’ Gatorade, but the NFL referee crew fails to notice. Asked about this after the game, Commissioner Roger Goodell says, “To be honest, I was watching Netflix.”

In May: Meanwhile as the 2020 U.S. presidential race heats up, several hundred Democratic presidential contenders gather in Miami for the first major debates. The front-runner is Joe Biden, but he suffers a setback when Sen. Kamala Harris, in what is clearly a planned attack, points out that Biden is wearing his pants backward. Biden’s staff hastily releases a statement explaining that the former vice president “thought it was Friday.” Also getting a lot of attention is Marianne Williamson, who qualifies for the debates based on the number of campaign donations she received from other dimensions.

For his part, President Trump launches his 2020 reelection bid with a rally in Orlando attended by 246 million people, as confirmed by Fox News.

In entertainment news, James Holzhauer’s record-breaking victory streak on “Jeopardy!” finally comes to an end when, in the Final Jeopardy round, he is flagged for a face mask violation by an NFL officiating crew.

Really, the whole thing is terrific. Read it all here and laugh.

**Next up today, this is one of those controversies that keeps going round and round the Interwebs and more and more people seem to believe it, because more and more people seem to think it’s true.

But I just can’t.

Shaquille O’Neal, who I love, has joined the world of Stevie Wonder Truthers, i.e., people who think Stevie is faking the whole blindness thing and can actually see.

Shaq Diesel went on “The Tonight Show” Monday night to tell a story that I’d heard before, about running into Stevie in an elevator many years ago.

It’s a quick story, watch it, and tell me if he can possibly be right. I mean, there is NO WAY Stevie Wonder has been lying all these years.

Right???

**And finally today, it’s been awhile since I’ve highlighted the work here of the great Tommy Tomlinson, whose book that came out last year, “The Elephant in the Room,” I can’t praise enough.

Tommy wrote a new blog post this week called “56 Up,” modeled on the style of the famous documentary series from Britain by Michael Apted of following a group of people and updating their lives every seven years. (the last movie was “63 Up.”)

Tomlinson took a look back at his own life upon turning 56, and as always his writing sparkles. A short excerpt, but the whole thing is wonderful:

21 up (January 1985): I’m a junior at the University of Georgia and I’m a mess — drinking too much, blowing off classes, gaining so much weight I’m down to a couple of shirts and a blown-out pair of jeans. I have two salvations. One is my friends. The other is my job at the college newspaper, The Red & Black. I spend most of my waking hours there, learning how to interview reluctant sources and omit needless words. Every day the paper comes out is a high. Back home, my dad is sick and has been for years — he smoked most of his life and the poison has caught him. My mom had quit the seafood plant after getting injured on the job but goes back to work as a waitress because we need the money. She keeps our household together a roll of pennies at a time.

And the kicker, about many of his friends and loved ones dying in recent years:

This is what happens, we know, when you live this many years. Some days the grief is overwhelming. But some days the joy is, too. Just last night we took Alix’s mom out to dinner, and on the walk back to the car, we looked up at the moon. It was a clear night and the air felt fresh in my lungs and the moon was a miracle. How many nights over 56 years have I looked up and seen that light in the dark? How many times have I held my wife’s hand as we walked? So many times I can’t count them all. But I know how many I want. More.

 

The Tom Brady era (maybe) ends, a wild Texans win, and the Saints blow another one at home. The stupid cat infomercial. And at the Golden Globes, Ricky Gervais is still not funny, Kate McKinnon shines, and Tom Hanks rules.

Eras in sports usually don’t end with a bang, but with a whimper.

Speaking as a New York Jets fan, and on behalf of all non-New England Patriots fans in the world, one can only hope that that whimper came for the legendary, and much-loathed in my house, Tom Brady.

I can’t say I was shocked by the Tennessee Titans going to Foxboro and upsetting the Pats, 20-13 Saturday night. I was thrilled, of course, but not stunned. New England, despite being 12-4, just hasn’t been all that good on offense this year, as once again for some mind-boggling reason, the front office and coaches haven’t given Brady anywhere near enough weapons to work with.

Brady and the Pats looked old, and feeble, for most of the game Saturday, as the younger, hungrier Titans chewed up the clock with workhorse running back Derrick Henry (dude just runs angry and is so, so good) and an aggressive defense.

And after the game, moments after Brady threw a feeble pick-six for the final margin of victory, all talk was about whether the Patriots dynasty had ended, whether that was Brady’s last game (he’s a free agent now, and it’s not clear he’ll be back with the Pats), yada yada yada.

As a Patriots hater wishing for this end of their insanely long reign for a long time, I say… not so fast, my friend. I don’t think Brady’s going out like that, I don’t think he’s going to play for the Buccaneers or the Redskins or another team next season, or anything like that.

No way Bill Belichick is ready to move on without his meal ticket. Tom Brady will be back under center next year, with some shiny new toys at wide receiver, and he’ll be torturing me some more.

Bank on it.

Other NFL playoff thoughts from a weekend that had four compelling, close games:

— I think both the Bills AND Texans should’ve been knocked out of the playoffs Saturday, since both coaches and teams made so many stupid plays and decisions. But hey, somebody’s gotta win, and after coming back from a 16-0 deficit, it finally was Houston. Deshaun Watson, this blog’s favorite NFL human, was spectacular in overtime, somehow avoiding two dudes trying to kill him and making a huge completion. I feel bad for Bills fans, I really do, because they haven’t won a playoff game since the year the O.J. Simpson trial ended (1995) and totally could’ve won this one.

— I don’t want to hear any crying or bellyaching from New Orleans Saints fans today. Once again at home, once again a big favorite, just like last year, the Saints blew it, losing 26-20 in overtime to the Minnesota Vikings.

Last year, New Orleans was screwed by a blatant non-call of pass interference by the Rams, and it was a horrible call, but the Saints still had chances to win the game in OT.

Sunday the Saints lost on a Kirk Cousins TD pass to Kyle Rudolph, and there was a possible call of offensive pass-interference that could’ve been made against Rudolph. But it was far from obvious, and the Saints offense played like garbage for most of the game, and hey, Saints defense, you let the Vikings drive 75 yards in nine plays in OT, maybe if you want to win the game, don’t do that?

Great win for the Vikes. But another gag job by a Saints team that’s just way too talented to keep falling short in the playoffs.

— Don’t tell me the NFL cares about protecting quarterbacks, or about its players taking head shots, when Jadaveon Clowney does this to Eagles QB Carson Wentz and no flag is thrown, and Wentz is knocked out of the game.

Ludicrous.

**Next today, it’s been awhile since I’ve mocked a really bad infomercial in this  space, but I saw this one last week while flipping around and yeah, I can’t let it go.

This is a time-wasting device for cats called the Pop N’ Play, and it seems beyond ridiculous. I mean, look, I’m not a cat, and if I were maybe I’d find this amusing. But this thing looks idiotic. Does the cat think the mouse is really in there and the cat’s really going to get it? Doesn’t the cat start to give up after a few minutes, and go back to rolling the toilet paper?

I mean, this just looks really really mean to do to your cat, who you supposedly love.

**And finally today, awards show season officially kicked off Sunday with the Golden Globes, which I always enjoy for their over-the-top ridiculousness. My many quick-hit thoughts on a pretty entertaining show, despite its host.

Ricky Gervais: Mostly unfunny, although his Martin Scorsese joke about him being too small to go on the rides at theme parks was funny.

It’s not that I think it’s wrong he destroyed and savages many Hollywood types, that’s all part of the drill at awards shows. I just don’t think he’s all that amusing; his arrogance and know-it-all attitude just don’t do it for me.

I know some people love him, but I repeat my wish that Amy Poehler and Tina Fey just host every awards show from now on. They are amazing every time.

— “Succession” won for Best TV drama, and I just don’t get it. The wife and I watched most of the first season and hated it. Hated all the characters, hated the plot, and just didn’t find any of that family interesting. But it’s become a phenomenon in some circles and critics now seem to love it.

— Tom Hanks is just the best. Beautiful speech. I will say, though, when doing a lifetime achievement award, you don’t HAVE to show all of the actor’s terrible movies, too. I’m sorry, but “Volunteers?” “Turner and Hooch?” Those were horrendous Tom Hanks movies. I mean, it’s OK, everyone makes some stinkers, but you really don’t need to show them.

— Best-dressed at the Globes: Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston both looked amazing, and wow, Kerry Washington’s outfit (above) was… kind of jaw-dropping. Also, ScarJo is in a beauty class of her own.

“So, cleavage is clearly the theme this year,” my wife/official awards show fashion guru said at one point.
“Ummm, isn’t cleavage always the theme at awards shows?” I innocently asked.

On the boys side, my wife declared Matt Bomer and Pierce Brosnan “always hot.” Can’t argue. And for worst dressed, Gwyneth Paltrow is by far the winner. What the hell was she wearing?

— Beautiful tribute to Ellen DeGeneres by Kate McKinnon, choking up as she discussed Ellen giving her a roadmap to comedy success and thanking her for showing how an LGBTQ person could be seen on TV.

“She risked her entire life & her entire career in order to tell the truth and she suffered greatly for it. Of course, attitudes change, but only because brave people like Ellen jump into the fire … Thank you, Ellen, for giving me a shot at a good life.”

Really, really sweet stuff from the incredibly funny McKinnon.

— And finally, Quentin Tarantino is a weird, weird dude who gave a weird, weird speech. That is all. If he and Gwyneth Paltrow had kids together, that would be one screwed-up child.

Best of Good News Friday, 2019: A housebound, sick child gets tons of visitors thanks to wonderful neighbors. A youth hockey player does the best interview ever. And a teacher’s signs in students’ front lawns are special.

Happy Friday, people of Earth! I was a little busy with the kids Thursday but apparently we’re about to enter into World War III, with Iran. So, you know, if that happens, I appreciate you all reading the blog all these years, and it’s true I really never WILL live to see the Jets win a Super Bowl. So it’s been fun.

But while we’re all still here, I want to finish off my week highlighting my favorite Good News Friday stories of the year we just finished. I so enjoyed reliving these stories, since they all put a smile on my face, I hope you liked it too.

**First today, from August, get the tissues. A lot of them.
Three-year-old Quinn Waters of Weymouth, Mass. has been confined to his house for several months, thanks to a compromised immune system due to treatments for his brain cancer.

Quinn isn’t allowed to go outside at all, having to just stare out the window at all that’s going on around him.

But his friends, family and people in town have teamed up to give Quinn quite a show. This is just so wonderful.

**Next up, yeah I’m a hockey fan and this is the second hockey video I’m posting in the Best of Good News Friday, so sure, I’m biased. But come on, this kid is just the best. The Washington Capitals host a “Mite of the Night” interview during intermission every game, where they interview a small hockey player who played one of those pee-wee contests during the breaks in the game.

And well, 7-year-old Jackson Friedlander seized his moments of fame, and I don’t know about you, but I totally needed to know his tarantula’s diet, so glad he filled us in.

This kid is so freaking awesome.

*Finally today, from September, another terrific story of an educator going above and beyond for their students (hat tip to my sister Deb for this story).

Willonda Caffie is a third-grade teacher in Alabama, and a few weeks ago she did something kinda fantastic. Her student Christopher McCarley earned a grade of 100 on his first reading test of the year, and to show how proud she was, Caffie stopped by the McCarley house and planted a yard sign.

It read “Mrs. Caffie is so proud of me!”

Ashly McCarley, Christopher’s mom, took to social media on August 18 after receiving a surprise visit from her son Christopher’s teacher. The post has since gone viral with over 19,000 likes and nearly 10,000 shares.

According to this story, when the little scholar saw his teacher with the sign, his mother says he ran out of the house and jumped into her arms.

“I feel like Mrs. Caffie gives my son a fire to want to do his very best,” she said.

“Other students have also gotten signs for their accomplishments also! I am not really sure what made his teacher decide to give signs other than trying to reward them in a special way that would also motivate them and others to do their very best,” McCarley told FOX 26.

McCarley says she had many emotions when Mrs. Caffie showed up to her doorstep.

“I was so proud, and I was also overflowing with joy to see how happy my son was, because his teacher made a special trip to our home on a Sunday,” McCarley said.

What a wonderful gesture by an educator who is surely paid far too little, but whose impact is so, so great.

Best of Good News Friday, 2019: An NBA superstar retires, and he gets an awesome commercial sendoff. An “America’s Got Talent” contestant wows like no other. And the amazing Laila Anderson helps the Blues win a Cup.

Happy New Year! I’ve got 2020 vision this morning and I’m not even wearing my glasses (ba-da-bum. Sorry, yeah, I know that was bad.)

I hope you all had a safe and joyous New Year’s Eve; we took the kids to two middle of the day “balloon drop” New Year’s Eve parties for little ones so we were pretty wiped out by 7 p.m. Which means I didn’t even stay up for our annual NYE tradition of being grossed out when Jenny McCarthy sticks her tongue down boyfriend Donnie Wahlberg’s throat in Times Square just after midnight (Dick Clark, we miss you).

Anyway, let’s continue with the Best of Good News Friday, 2019, as we take a last look at some of the stories that made me happiest over the past year.

First up, NBA superstar and three-time world champion Dwyane Wade finished his illustrious career in June, and what a career it was. Besides Wade’s impact on the court, he was a true hero off the court, impacting millions of lives with good works large and small.

Budweiser did maybe the best tribute commercial I’ve ever seen in Wade’s honor, bringing Wade to an empty basketball court and surprising him with people whose lives he touched and changed.

It’s a truly beautiful ad, showing us what one athlete can do with the platform they’re given.

**Next up, I’m not a regular viewer of “America’s Got Talent” but when someone or something on the show goes so viral it’s impossible to ignore, I generally notice.

That happened this past May, when a blind, autistic young man named Kodi Lee came out for his first appearance before the judges and absolutely blew them away.

Walking onstage with his Mom, Kodi calmly sat down and changed his life, wowing judges like Julianne Hough and Gabrielle Union, and even the previously cold-hearted Simon Cowell.

This is an absolutely beautiful moment, that ended up being the catapult to Lee winning the entire “AGT” championship a few months later.

Just sensational. My favorite part of this video is his Mom, Tina, watching with pride from the side of the stage. NO one knows just what she’s gone through raising Kodi, and just seeing her beam at watching this moment, it’s just the best.

**And finally today, maybe my favorite story of the year, from the world of hockey. This, from June, about an 11-year-old sick girl named Laila Anderson…

The St. Louis Blues, the worst team in the NHL in early January, won the first Stanley Cup in franchise history in June, beating the Boston Bruins in Game 7, 4-1.

But that’s not the part of the story I want to feature in Good News Friday. No, I want to talk about an 11-year-old girl, who’s been “adopted” by the team in an absolutely beautiful way.

From a St. Louis Post Dispatch story on Laila: “Laila is a Missouri kid who suffers from a rare disease called HLH, a systemic inflammatory syndrome that can be fatal. Last Halloween, Laila attended a trick-or-treat event with the Blues and Children’s Hospital. She met Colton Parayko, one of her favorite players on her favorite team.

“He was 100-percent committed to her, took her around trick-or-treating,” Heather Anderson, Laila’s Mom, said. “I said, ‘It’s OK,’ and he said, ‘I’ve got her – I’m going to hold her bag, I’m going to hold her drink, I’m going to do everything.’ He’s all in with her – they just have this bond. Ever since then, he’s come to visit her in the hospital. Stayed a ridiculously long time. They actually communicate once or twice a week. He just checks on her. It’s a genuine friendship.”

Through the organization Be The Match, a donor was found — Laila had a bone marrow transplant in January. She’s battled through ensuing chemotherapy. She’s fought and fought … and then had more fights to fight.”

Laila has been an inspiration to the team and its fans the last few months, and in Boston for Game 7 of the Finals, she saw her team win the championship, then get to go on the ice and touch the Cup.

An unbelievable moment for an incredible kid. And oh yeah, the Blues gave her her own Stanley Cup ring, too.

So much good in the world. So much more good than bad.

Best of Good News Friday, 2019: A teacher takes a flight that changes her students’ lives. A 4-year-old gets mic’ed up at hockey practice and it’s hilarious. And a Dad’s letter from the tooth fairy to his daughter is beautiful and heartwarming

Hi everyone, and happy Monday. This week as we ring in 2020, I continue my final week of the year tradition here at WWoS by looking back at my favorite (and basing on comments and reads, some of yours) Good News Friday stories of 2019.

The calendar this year is a little wonky as Wednesday and Friday’s best-of posts will technically be in 2020, but hey, who’s counting?

Hope you enjoy the “replays” of these heartwarming stories as much as I do. 

First up, this story from last January really resonated with me, both because of my love of teachers and because it’s a continual outrage how little they are paid in many parts of America.

A public school teacher working in inner-city Chicago named Kimberly Bermudez (above) flew to Florida to visit her parents over the holidays, and had a life-changing trip on her flight.

Bermudez talked to her seatmate, a stranger, about life and funding in inner-city schools, and how so many of her students struggle just for basic school necessities. And after a few minutes, the man asked to get her information; the company he works for likes to donate items to schools like hers, he explained. Maybe they could work something out.

The kind gesture already made her flight a heartening one. But then things really took a turn. Bermudez felt a tap on her shoulder.

The man sitting behind her apologized for having eavesdropped on her conversation — then handed her a stack of cash.

The bill on top was $100.

One thing has led to another, and other passengers got involved, and the story went viral, and Bermudez’s school has gotten $4,000 in donations from total strangers.

It’s really a beautiful story. So many of these stories make news because of heartwarming generosity, but also because it shines a light on how desperately underfunded most schools are.

**Next up, this might be my favorite video of the year.

in February we met 4-year-old Mason, whose Dad, “Coach Jeremy” decided to put a microphone on his adorable tyke during a recent hockey practice (They live in Canada, 4-year-olds there have been playing hockey for years).

To say Mason is hilarious is an understatement. In this video, he talks about going to eat at “BaDonald’s”, takes a nap during practice, and does too many other hilarious things to list. Just watch, smile, and remember how much fun life was when you were 4.

The video had more than 6 million views in less than a week, and now as I write this in late December it’s been viewed more than 12 million times.

Sometimes, the Internet is a good thing.

**And finally, maybe this stayed with me because it was written by one of my best friends, or because my oldest son is probably going to lose his first tooth in the next year. But I really, really loved this letter, from last March, from my friend Jeff Pearlman to his daughter Casey.

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 is below. 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

Good News Friday: A 15-year-old creates an app to help people with dementia. An 11-year-old speed-crochets for charity. And a UPS driver goes above and beyond to hide a Christmas gift from kids

And a Happy Friday, the last one of 2019! Hope wherever you are you’re not working, as I know that the final week of the year is always the least productive, just about everywhere (except the gift returns department of Amazon, that place is always popping.)

Just a reminder before I start Good News Friday that next week, as per my tradition, my three blog posts will be the Best of Good News Friday 2019, where I pick my favorite (and usually the ones you all have liked the most) GNF stories of the year. Hope you enjoy.

But for today, three new ones to hopefully make you smile. First, this is definitely the first kid crochet story I’ve ever had in this space.

At 5 years old Jonah Larson taught himself to crotchet by watching YouTube videos.

By 11, the Wisconsin kid became known as a “crocheting prodigy,” mastering patterns even experienced grandmothers struggle with.

He has his own crochet business, called Jonah’s Hands, based out of his home in La Crosse, Wisc.

Crocheting has also made him a social media star — but he doesn’t do it for the fame. Jonah has more than 46,000 followers on Instagram, where he sells his goods.

“After a very hard, busy, chaotic day in this busy world with school, it’s just nice to know that I can come home and crochet in my little corner of the house while sitting by the one I love most: my mom,” Jonah tells NPR. (My note: He’s 11, should his day really be that busy and cho

Jonah regularly donates some of his goods and money to the Ethiopian orphanage from which he was adopted as an infant.

“I hope people gain from seeing my work is it makes them happy too,” Jonah says. “When I see my crochet work when it’s done, it blows my mind to know that I, an 11-year-old with a tiny hook and a ball of yarn, made this amazing afghan, scarf, cowl, you name it.”

After an article was published about him in a local paper last month, his story went viral. Jonah now has over 2,500 orders and has temporarily stopped taking new requests.

His next goals: attending a crochet summer camp, attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and then becoming a surgeon.

What a kid! The coordination and imagination it takes to do what he’s doing, at his age, is quite something.

**Next up today, another story of a young person doing something wonderful. A 15-year-old boy named Logan Wells loves his grandmother, Nannie, very much, and four years ago when she was suffering from dementia, he noticed that it was difficult for all of Nannie’s caregivers to be on the same page when it came to medical treatment, what Nannie’s issues were that day, etc.

So Logan created an app called CareZare, which keeps all her caregivers on the same page.

“I learned the coding and my dad helped me create the prototype, and then we contacted a father-son duo to help us with the development,” he said.

Very cool idea, and four years later the app is now in the App Store and everywhere else, helping so many who have the unenviable task of caring for someone with dementia.

 

**Finally today, one last Christmas story before the season is over. A UPS driver in Warwick, N.Y. named Josh Satkin went above and beyond the call of duty in trying to make sure one child got surprised by their gift this Christmas.

Watch the video above as Satkin, seeing that the present was visible through the packaging, tries his best to hide it from prying eyes. He leaned it up against the garage door and then moved two large trash bins in front of it before topping it off with cardboard to conceal the present.

The homeowners, Mike and Megan Delaney, posted the video on social media with a big thank you to the concerned driver. (Side note from me: This is like the fourth or fifth story I’ve read lately where a very good deed was captured on a Ring camera the homeowners had set up. I know they’re used for security purposes and to catch evildoers, but I think it’s awesome that they’re also a way for people to catch others doing nice things.)

When the Delaneys next saw Satkin and thanked him, he told them he didn’t even realize he was being recorded. He just wanted to make sure he didn’t spoil the Christmas surprise.

“It makes it even so much cooler that no one’s watching and he’s doing an act of kindness just because,” Megan said. “It’s amazing that he did that for us.”

Good job, Mr. Satkin.