Category Archives: Uncategorized

A sportswriting memory, or: The day a team’s fans told the world I stink. And David Letterman, readying for a ride into the sunset

I had the great pleasure on Friday of speaking to a bunch of Long Island 8th graders, at their middle school’s career day (a good friend asked me to do it; she’s a guidance counselor at the school).

I love doing this kind of stuff, because I know how boring most kids find school, I know it breaks up their day and also, because just maybe, once in a while it inspires a kid to become a lawyer or a doctor or, in my case, a journalist.

Anyway, I got to telling the kids about being a writer, and about some of the great and not-so-great experiences I had, and told them the following story which I love to think about every now and then but have never shared here, a story which always makes my Dad smile:

In 2004 I was the beat writer for the Adironack IceHawks minor league hockey team, for the Glens Falls (N.Y.) Post-Star. The IceHawks played in what was the equivalent of AA ball, and in many ways their roster was the typical minor-league team: There were a few on-the-rise legit prospects (one guy I covered, Pierre-Luc LeBlond, actually made the NHL for a while), a few on-the-way-down ex-NHL guys, and then a whole bunch of middle of the road, mediocre players who were just playing for the love of the game, and still had at least some skill left.

Anyway, one thing that made the IceHawks interesting was their fans. Specifically, the fans in Section H of the Glens Falls Civic Center. These two dozen or so guys were the hardcore hockey fans; they knew everything about the team, the opposing players, the referees, everyone. They’d make signs taunting the visiting team, mostly crude signs but nothing too X-rated. Sometimes they were clever, and I knew a few of the guys because the fan base wasn’t exactly huge.

Anyway, one day during a bad losing streak I wrote a column and ripped the IceHawks a new one. I don’t think anything I said was unfair, and really, it wasn’t all that harsh, but this was a small town and the fans weren’t used to hearing a local team get criticized too much.

I didn’t get too much feedback from it the next day, just the typical “you’re the hometown paper, you’re supposed to root for our teams” nonsense you always get a little bit of.

Anyway, I was excited the next day because my father had driven up to Glens Falls for a visit. He’d never seen an IceHawks game, and was excited to come into the press box to “see me work.”

And so before that night’s game we walk up to the press box and look around the arena, and what do I see in Section H?

MikeLewisStinks.IceHawks

I was shocked for a minute. Then started laughing, and laughing, and laughing. I was more flattered than insulted; hey, they took the time to spell my name right!

And during the second period, there was this one, which I may have enjoyed even more…

Michael Pucks

Again: My DAD was at the game! He asked if this was a regular thing. I sadly had to tell him, no, it wasn’t.

And come on, I’m worth more than a few pucks! At least throw in some gloves, a pair of skates, and a few sticks!

I thought the whole thing was hilarious, and a sign I was doing a good job. Why? Because those guys got angry at what I’d written, and if they were that mad that they had to tell 5,000 people in an arena about it (OK, probably only 2,500 there that night), that meant I’d stirred them up. They were mad at me, but it’s way better than if they didn’t read me or ignored me.

And for the record? I gave those Section H guys a big thumbs-up in the next column.

LETTERMAN-slide-KIIK-videoSixteenByNine1050

**Finally today, we’re just three weeks away from the end of the David Letterman era of late-night television; since the early 1980s Dave has entertained millions of us, and with his last show coming up on May 20, the usually press-shy Dave sat down for a fantastic and revealing interview with Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times.

Among the highlights, and I highly recommend checking out the whole story here:

— On retirement: “I’ll miss it desperately. One of two things: There will be reasonable, adult acceptance of transition. Or I will turn to a life of crime.”

— On his strange, different style he brought to late night: “I never knew if the stupider things we did or the more traditional things we did would work. I didn’t know if the stupid stuff would alienate people. And then, when I look back on it now, of course the answer is, you want to do the weird thing.”

— On his rivalry with Jay Leno: “I think people were curious to see what will happen? And we prevailed for a while, and I lost my way a little bit. Quite a little bit. “People just liked watching his show more than they liked watching my show.”

Good News Friday: A father sets a principal straight on priorities. “Goodfellas” turns 25, and has aged oh so well. And an 89-year-old scores a touchdown in a football game.

freedom-trail

And a Happy Friday to all of you out there on the Interwebs. I’m going to spend part of my day in a classroom of middle-schoolers, which isn’t unusual as I sometimes substitute teach, but today it’s different because I’m speaking at a friend’s Career Day fair, talking about my former life as a newspaper journalist. I hope the kids don’t ask “what’s a newspaper?”

Also will spend at least a few minutes smiling gleefully at the idea of a Democratic Presidential debate where old lion Bernie Sanders thunders away at Hillary Clinton from the left. You go, Bernie Sanders.

First up today, this letter has been making the rounds this week, and I think it’s just fabulous.

A Philadelphia man named Michael Rossi took his family to Boston a few weeks ago, so they could explore the history of that great city, and watch him compete in the Boston Marathon.

The kids’ elementary school wasn’t too happy that the Rossi children missed time, and sent a strongly-worded letter home, upbraiding him for the kids’ “unexcused absence” and saying they don’t evaluate family trips, etc. The tone was very scolding and not very friendly, let’s just say.

Well, Mr. Rossi fired back with a beautiful missive, one I wholeheartedly agree with.

My wife and I agree on nearly everything when it comes to parenting, and we both agree that our little son (and any future Lewises (or is it Lewii?) will learn culturally as well as from school as much as possible; if that means taking him out of class on a random Wednesday and going to a museum or Yankee Stadium or a day-trip to Mount Vernon to see cool George Washington stuff, so be it.

Anyway, Rossi’s letter is perfect. Here’s a few excerpts, read the whole thing here:

“While I appreciate your concern for our children’s education, I can promise you they learned as much in the five days we were in Boston as they would in an entire year in school.

Our children had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that can’t be duplicated in a classroom or read in a book.
In the 3 days of school they missed (which consisted of standardized testing that they could take any time) they learned about dedication, commitment, love, perseverance, overcoming adversity, civic pride, patriotism, American history culinary arts and physical education.

They watched their father overcome, injury, bad weather, the death of a loved one and many other obstacles to achieve an important personal goal.

They also experienced first-hand the love and support of thousands of others cheering on people with a common goal.

They also paid tribute to the victims of a senseless act of terrorism and learned that no matter what evil may occur, terrorists can not deter the American spirit.

These are things they won’t ever truly learn in the classroom.

In addition our children walked the Freedom Trail, visited the site of the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre and the graves of several signers of the Declaration of Independence.

These are things they WILL learn in school a year or more from now. So in actuality our children are ahead of the game.”

**Next up, one of my all-time favorite movies, “Goodfellas” turns 25 this year, and the cast celebrated with a showing and reunion at the Tribeca Film Festival the other night.

“Goodfellas,” I will argue until infinity, is the best mob movie ever made, better than “The Godfather” and any other imitators. It showed us the real-life days and nights of these criminals, the script was sparkling, the direction incredible, and the acting, well, the acting was beyond superb.

Martin Scorsese stripped away the glamour and the mythology and made just a perfect motion picture.

I could spend hours quoting lines, and often do with friends. Read this terrific BBC piece about the film’s legacy, and then, of course, I had to embed this scene, a masterpiece of directing:

Now go home and get your shinebox.

**And finally today, a nice smile to take you into the weekend. Bryan Sperry, an 89-year-old former football player at Kansas University, scored a touchdown at a recent alumni game at the school.

My favorite part of this? The “fake” attempts at tackling by his opponents. They totally sold it well!

A few thoughts on Baltimore, and how this cycle will keep repeating. Praying for the great Joni Mitchell, clinging to life. And the invention of the ballgame taco-cannon!

As another American city saw anger, protest and violence erupt this week, I started thinking about the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, more than two decades ago.

Remember how crazy and unfathomable that was? A major U.S. city erupting in violence, the police powerless to stop it, all over the mistreatment of an African-American man by police, who got away with it. Looting, fires starting, violence against ordinary citizens and their businesses.

To my fellow Gen X members, it was like something out of the 1960s, and surely would be remembered as a seminal, one-time kind of event.

Now, a U.S. city gets set aflame and it’s almost commonplace. Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore, Md., and who knows, if that officer in Charleston, S.C. gets acquitted, they’ll bet next.

This is going to keep happening, folks. Whether it’s Baltimore or anywhere else, you can only keep an oppressed class down for so long. You can only enact policies that significantly economically hurt poor people, and people of color, for so long. You can only continue to neglect the inner cities when it comes to affordable housing for so long.

And most importantly, you can only have members of a police force completely and thoroughly abuse and take advantage of their position to injure, or let die, African-Americans who are either under arrest or about to be.

I have absolutely no sympathy for the morons setting fires in Baltimore, and throwing rocks at police (for a bit of dark humor, check out this clip of a Mom who saw her son throwing rocks at cops smack him around on TV). Those are not the people who deserve support and understanding.

It’s the law-abiding citizens trying to live their lives, and simply protest what continues to be, for decades now, the neglect and mistreatment of the underprivileged who live among us, in our towns and cities.

This is going to keep happening, unless there are wholesale changes in our economic and more importantly, criminal justice systems. Our political leaders have the power to stop this, to keep American cities from burning up.

Listen to that clip (above) of a Baltimore city councilman; he’s speaking 100 percent truth. “This can erupt anywhere in socially economically deprived America,” he says.

I’m normally an extremely optimistic guy, but I’m not feeling too confident that Baltimore is the last American city we’ll see in flames.

TacoCannon

**Next up today, a story on a much lighter note. The University of Nebraska-Omaha isn’t a national power in athletics, but they are certainly contributing to the history of fun stuff that happens at sporting events.

How? Well, at their brand-new ice hockey rink set to open this fall, the school has teamed up with a local business to create the world’s first Taco Cannon.

That’s right, we don’t need your stinking T-shirt cannon anymore, we’ve got meat and cheese flying through the air at 50 miles per hour!

Good God. Can you imagine getting hit in the face with one of these things? And the tacos will be wrapped, right? And who would want to eat food that’s shot 100 feet through the air out of a cannon, wouldn’t it lose its flavor as it travels through the mezzanine section?

A taco cannon is a wonderful lawsuit waiting to happen, isn’t it?

**Finally today, news came Tuesday night that the iconic singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell was fighting for her life, unresponsive and in a coma.

The 71-year-old collapsed in her home last month, but was reportedly doing better.
Man, Joni Mitchell was the soundtrack to so many lives. I was very late to the party, only “discovering” her music a few years ago, but I’ve played “The Circle Game” and “Both Sides Now” for my baby son plenty of times already.

She has a passion for music, and a beautiful way of expressing those emotions, as few others could do.

The world still needs her.

 

The President again brings the funny at Correspondents Dinner. A very cool NASA video. And some thoughts on a crazy-fun weekend of playoff hockey

I say it every year, and I’ll keep saying it: The White House Correspondents Dinner is ridiculous. Journalists who cover high-ranking politicians in the U.S. government, going to an event where they kiss up to, schmooze and drink with the people they cover violates so many ethical rules of journalism, I can’t even count that high.

It’s obscene, journalistically, that so many papers and websites and TV stations attend this every year. And Saturday night, while the city of Baltimore was erupting in protest over yet another suspicious death of a black man while in police custory (RIP, Freddie Gray), every single major cable news channel showed the WHCD, and not real, actual news breaking in a major American city. Disgraceful.

It’s also a little bit blood-boiling for me that Barack Obama always honors and toasts journalists at this thing, yet his administration has done more to stifle press freedom, between prosecuting journalists who protect secret sources, to being not nearly as transparent as he promised, than most other Presidents have.

However, it’s also true that it’s the one time of year where Barack Obama gets to show off his comedy chops. And the man has serious comedy chops. (Check out this clip with the awesome Keegan-Michael Key, playing his “anger translator.“)

His speech this  year was as good as ever, highlighted by one-liners such as:

— Those Grey Hairs: “I look so old John Boehner’s already invited Netanyahu to speak at my funeral.”

— Hillary Clinton: The economy’s gotten so bad for some people, Obama said, “I had a friend, just a few weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year, and now she’s living out of a van in Iowa.”

— Joe Biden: Talking about how close he and Vice President Biden have gotten, especially in stressful times, Obama joked that he loves Biden’s back massages. “Those Joe Biden shoulder massages are like magic. You should try one.” [Pause.] “Oh, you have?”

He added, “We’ve gotten so close, in some places in Indiana, they won’t serve us pizza anymore.”

Good stuff.

**Next up today, this is incredibly cool: NASA released a video last year (that I just saw this wekeend, thanks to a friend’s Facebook page) showing what the eruption of the Sarychev volcano looked like when it happened in 2009 (The Sarychev volcano is a Russian archipelago located in the Kuril Islands, out in the Pacific Ocean).

Mesmerizing, isn’t it?

isles-caps

**God bless the Stanley Cup playoffs. Man, I love them. Of course I’m happy this day because my New York Rangers finished off Pittsburgh Friday night, and for the first time in forever, actually have a few days off.

But there was sensational hockey all over the place the last few days, in great contrast to the for some reason more popular NBA, where blowout after blowout reigned in the first round. (Seriously, there’s one competitive series among the 8 first-rounders. ONE!)

A few scattered Stanley Cup playoffs thoughts from the last few days:

— The Islanders and Capitals play Game 7 tonight, and it should be a beaut. If Saturday was the last game at the old dump, aka, Nassau Coliseum, it went with a loud bang, literally. As a Rangers fan, I’m stuck in a very uncomfortable position: Rooting for the Islanders.
I desperately want to see a Rangers-Islanders series, first one in 21 years, but I’m also scared to death that the Isles might win that series. So I should be rooting for the Caps tonight, but that would be no fun. Go Isles (ducking to avoid lightning bolt).

— Move over, San Jose Sharks. The St. Louis Blues have eclipsed you as the biggest chokers in hockey. Man oh man, what a miserable performance, losing in the first round again, on Sunday to Minnesota. How many years have the Blues been favorites, and lost?

— The Chicago Blackhawks, if they get any kind of decent goaltending at all, will win the Cup.

— So great to see Canadian teams like Calgary doing well; they are such a fun team to watch.

— Finally, Ryan Miller almost won a gold medal for the U.S. in 2010. Now in 2015, he gives up a 3-0 lead for Vancouver and 5 goals, total, in an elimination game. Boy has that guy fallen fast.

Good News Friday: A potentially incredible Alzheimer’s breakthrough. A WWII vet meets some young fans. And the joy of hearing for the first time

grandmaphoto3

And a Happy Friday to you all. I’m in a good mood as usual just looking at the photo above, of my smiling, sweet Grandma Marcelle, who died two years ago after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.

In just about every picture I’ve ever seen of my Grandma, she’s smiling. But Alzheimer’s robbed us of enjoying her final years completely, which is partly why I follow exciting breakthroughs in curing this awful disease so closely.

I know we’re a long ways away from a cure, and I know lots of diseases deserve lots of research funding. But Alzheimer’s affects so many, and is so cruel, that it seems it ought to be high on the list of priorities.

This story about a big development in a study at Duke University seems particularly promising.

Researchers at Duke announced that their studies of Alzheimer’s in mice had resulted in a new process they believe contributes to the disease’s development.

According to this story, they observed that in Alzheimer’s, immune cells that normally protect the brain instead begin to consume a vital nutrient called arginine.

By blocking this process with a drug, they were able to prevent the formation of ‘plaques’ in the brain that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, and also halted memory loss in the mice.

While no technique that is tested in an animal can be guaranteed to work the same way in humans, the findings are particularly encouraging because, until now, the exact role of the immune system and arginine in Alzheimer’s was completely unknown.

Sounds like this could be huge. Fingers crossed…

http://www.cbsnews.com/common/video/cbsnews_video.swf

WWII.twinboys

**Next up, this is a couple weeks old because I’m a little behind on my DVR these days, but it was so touching I wanted to share it. Twin 10-year-old boys Jack and Carter became obsessed recently, as many boys their age do, with the game “Battleship” and with boats and ships in general.

After a visit to see the Yorktown in Charleston, S.C., they learned about a soldier on the ship named Robert Harding, and became so interested in him that they tracked him down via email, and struck up a friendship.

Watch this great CBS Sunday Morning piece on what happens next (above).

**And finally today, these videos always make me smile. I’m not sure when this is from, but two separate Facebook friends posted it this week, so maybe it’s recent.

It’s simply about the joy of hearing, as humans of all ages get cochlear implants and experience the wonder of a sense they never before had.

 

 

A NYC Little League team honors fallen officers. A fantastic tirade by the Cincinnati Reds manager. And a newspaper reporter wins a Pulitzer after leaving the biz

Little League, Buczek

The New York Post, it is pretty much universally acknowledged, is a total rag.
Stories are made up out of whole cloth much of the time, their political slant is just to the right of Pat Buchanan, and even for a tabloid, their stories are often ridiculous and terribly-written.

The only redeeming qualities of the Post, for me at least, are the often-hilarious headlines (“Ka-Bullsye!” remains a favorite, from when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2002) and the constant “get off my lawn” carping of sportswriter Phil Mushnick, who hates everything and everybody that the sports world has turned into.

Still, every once in a while the Post will do a story to show they’re not totally worthless, and usually it comes from the pen of excellent columnist Mike Vaccaro.

I stumbled onto this terrific piece he did last weekend, about a Washington Heights (that’s the Bronx) Little League. It seems back in 1988, after police officer Michael J. Buczek was killed, his family, knowing what a baseball lover he was, decided to start a new youth league in his name.

But this league would be different in one big way: The 300 kids in the league all wear major league team names on the front, like so many leagues do.

But on the back, names of NYPD officers who had been killed in the line of duty would appear, honoring for that season a different brave man or woman who’d been struck down.

“You know the old saying, ‘You don’t play for the name on the back of the jersey, but for the name on the front of the jersey?’ We do it a little different,” said Sgt. John Moynihan, a friend of Buczek. “We really do play for the name on the back of the jersey.”

It’s a wonderful idea, and with the league now in its 27th year, one that has continued.  Read Vaccaro’s piece here for more great insight on the family, and the league.

**Next up, we had an all-time classic angry rant by a sports figure Monday night. Bryan Price, the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, was upset with the media’s doing their job, specifically, reporting a certain player was unavailable to play the night before.

This led Price into an epic, and I mean, epic, profanity-laced rant about how the sportswriters aren’t helping his team (umm, they’re not supposed to) and how he tries so hard to help but he’s going to stop trying and, just listen to it. It’s definitely NSFW (the interesting stuff starts at the 1-minute mark), but fantastic audio.

Price is just one in a long, long line of sports figures who don’t understand that sportswriters aren’t there to help them, and apparently is pissed about it.

breeze-winners

**Finally today, this story had particular resonance to me as an ex-newspaper writer who still feels passionately about the craft. The Pulitzer Prizes were given out Monday, and as usual, some incredible, important work was honored (here’s a look at all the winners, with links to their work).

One of the prizes went to the Torrance (CA) Daily Breeze, a small newspaper that won for a fantastic expose into a corrupt local district (I actually applied for a job at that paper when I first started out and was applying everywhere; I thought it had a cool name and who wouldn’t want to live in SoCal as a young adult? Alas, like hundreds of other papers, they rejected me.)

It’s always great to see tiny papers get rewarded with Pulitzers, so most journalists were happy to see it get recognized.
But then word came out that one of the three reporters who won, Rob Kuznia (middle person in photo), is no longer in journalism.

As he told the L.A. Observer, Kuznia had to leave the Daily Breeze this year because he could no longer afford to live in Southern California on a reporter’s salary. He’s now a publicist at USC.

I have mixed feelings on this; of course it’s wonderful Kuznia won, but when a journalist as talented as he is has to leave the business because the pay is so pitiful (and it’s bad everywhere now in these newspaper days), it’s really sad.

At least Kuznia went out with a bang.

A husband in China goes way above and beyond the call of duty. Stories from the kids who survived Oklahoma City bombing. And a quick rant about flashing highway billboards

Chinesehusband.dinners

All kinds of weird and wonderful and terrible sports news over the weekend; still trying to process why the Eagles signed Tim Tebow, how the horrendously unworthy of luck Edmonton Oilers managed to win yet another NHL draft lottery and thus get the once-in-a-generation talent Connor McDavid in this year’s draft, and how I’m not at all surprised at the behavior of Islanders fans on Sunday at Nassau Coliseum.

But we begin today’s post with a pretty remarkable act of spousal support from a husband in China.

A 27-year-old soldier in the Chinese army named Yin Yunfeng is stationed in Tibet, and only gets to see his wife, Zhao Mai, about once a year.

Apparently on a recent visit Yin was distressed to see that Zhao was so busy she rarely had time to cook herself dinner.

So Yin decided to solve that problem. He cooked 12 months’ worth of meals for Zhao, so she’d have something to eat every day while he was gone.

According to this story, Yin Yunfeng’s cooking marathon included more than 1,000 dumplings, 150 liters of his wife’s favourite noodle soup and dozens of other hearty meals all individually packaged, which he then stashed in their freezer and the freezers of nearby friends and family.

Explaining his epic effort in a note, Yin Yunfeng wrote: ‘You’re so focused on your work and have so much to read when you get home that I want to make life easier for you.’

Wow. And here I am, feeling all proud of myself for going out to get my wife coffee and an egg sandwich on Saturday mornings.

Yin Yunfeng, you have shamed all the husbands in the world. Damn you! But seriously, that’s incredible.

http://www.npr.org/v2/?i=400167661&m=400285307&t=audio

**Next up today, this is just fabulous story-telling, and devastating yet uplifting to hear.
Sunday was the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, a day I remember as clear as day, as I’m sure you do, too.

National Public Radio marked the occasion by interviewing kids who survived the blast at the Alfred Murrah building, and what they remember, and how they feel about having the most significant moment of their lives happen when they’re barely out of diapers.

Incredible stuff.

billboard

**Finally today, allow me a quick rant about something really stupid and idiotic that occurred to me Sunday night. My wife and 7-month-old son and I were coming back from a fabulous weekend trip to see relatives in Maryland, and I was in a pretty good mood as we rolled off the Jersey Turnpike toward the Lincoln Tunnel because we’d hit remarkably little traffic on the way home.

And as I’m steering, I’m suddenly half-blinded by two enormous, flashing neon-lit billboards in my face as I’m driving toward the tunnel. I mean, huge, flashing billboards that could not be ignored.

And I’m thinking, drivers don’t have enough distractions? Texting, other drivers, the radio, kids in the backseat yelling, etc., that we really need flashing, sun-bright billboards hanging over highways? I mean, this is legal to do this?

Just saying, you want me to recognize your product or brand, don’t blind me heading into a curve.

A 12-year-old does an awesome thing with his March Madness winnings. A restaurant tries to help a dumpster-diver. And Fallon dances with the First Lady again

bracketwinner.12yearold

And a Happy Friday to you all, as spring has finally sprung here in New York.

We start off Good News Friday this week with the awesomeness that is Sam Holtz, a 12-year-old Illinois kid who had the best bracket out of millions of entries in ESPN.com’s NCAA Tournament pool.
But that’s not the most impressive thing about Sam. Last week he found out that because he was under 18, he wasn’t eligible for ESPN.com’s prize of a $20,000 Best Buy gift card and a trip to Maui.

However, Best Buy, knowing a great PR move when they see it, gave the kid a $1,000 gift card anyway.
And Sam, showing what a good boy he is, bought himself an XBox One, then used the rest of his money to buy another and donate it to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Said Sam to the Chicago Tribune: “I decided to donate one of the XBox One systems to Make-A-Wish because of my cousin Alec.” When he was real little, he was in Make-A-Wish, and back then [23 years ago], people granted his wish of going to Disney World. I thought I’d kind of repay them for what they did for my cousin [who survived his illness and is now an adult].”

What a wonderful kid. And he gets to go to Hawaii, too, because Scout.com decided to give him the trip ESPN couldn’t.

**Next up, this is from two weeks ago but I just saw it the other night; as usual when a Jimmy Fallon skit goes viral, it’s fantastic. Jimmy and the First Lady, Michelle Obama, with a sequel to their classic “Evolution of Mom Dancing.” The “Shush and Tush” is pretty great…

Dumpster.FINAL

**And finally today, this once again shows the innate goodness in people. A restaurant owner in Oklahoma named Ashley Jiron noticed one night that the bags of discarded food she was putting in her dumpster were being opened, with food being taken out.

“That really, it hurt me that someone had to do that,” Jiron said.

So she posted the note (above) on the dumpster the next night, offering to give the dumpster-diver a free meal and a much more pleasant dining experience.

“I think we’ve all been in that position where we needed someone’s help and we just needed someone to extend that hand and if I can be that one person to extend that hand to another human being then I will definitely do it,” Jiron said.

Beautiful. Just beautiful. “You are a human being,” such a simple message we all should remember.

A night out celebrating a worthy cause, Friends of Jaclyn. John Oliver defends the IRS, with help from Michael Bolton. And the Stanley Cup playoffs begin!

FOJ.benefit

Last Saturday night my wife and I had the supreme pleasure of attending the annual Friends of Jaclyn Benefit gala for the first time, and it was an experience I won’t forget.

I’ve written about FOJ a few times before on the blog, and wrote a story for the sadly-deceased sports website Thrivesports.com about the organization last year.

If you don’t have time to click through, FOJ was founded 10 years ago by a little girl named Jaclyn Murphy, who had been diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor. During a treatment session, her father Denis pointed out a women’s lacrosse poster hanging on the hospital’s walls and told Jaclyn, a budding player, to use that woman as inspiration.

Turns out that woman was Kelly Amonte, the lacrosse coach at Northwestern, and through a mutual friend Jaclyn started talking to Amonte, and her Northwestern team “adopted” Jaclyn, sending her encouraging letters, making videos and inviting her to games near her New York home.

So moved by the experience, and getting healthier, Jaclyn told her Dad that they need to get other kids with brain tumors adopted by college teams, and 10 years later, there are hundreds of pediatric brain tumor patients matched up with teams all across America (That’s the Penn football team, above, with 4-year-old Vhito, their new teammate).

It’s a wonderful charity filled with warm, generous people, and my wife and I are proud to be supporters.

At the benefit Saturday, we heard moving speeches from coaches whose teams had adopted children, including one whose team unfortunately saw their adoptee pass away.
We heard from parents of kids cruelly afflicted, like Cindy Bachman, whose son Sterling was diagnosed at 18 months, and has now reached 13 years old, helped along in spirit by the Yale lacrosse team.

And we met some of the FOJ kids themselves, beaming from ear to ear while sitting with some of the teams that came to the event (Shout-out to UConn women’s soccer, who literally brought the whole team).

FOJ doesn’t just match kids up with teams and walk away; they send care packages to kids with upcoming MRIs, make phone calls, email, and basically “adopt” each new kid in the program.

Tears were shed throughout the night Saturday; I’m a softie anyway, but this would’ve made the most hardened cynic cry.
It was a wonderful night for a wonderful organization, and if you’re looking to get involved with a charitable cause that’s a little off the beaten path, and doesn’t get the support of the “big guys,” I wholeheartedly endorse checking out Friends of Jaclyn.

I wouldn’t dream of telling people how to spend their money; all I ask is, spend a couple minutes checking out what FOJ does. Thanks.

**Next up today, John Oliver has once again been killing it in Season 2 of his HBO show “Last Week Tonight,” but this Sunday’s episode was maybe the best yet.
Today of course is Tax Day, and Oliver had a segment about the much-loathed Internal Revenue Service. But in a delightful twist, he defends the IRS, and does it with the help of, naturally, talented 1980s balladeer Michael Bolton.

**In the words of the great Jim Mora, playoffs? Playoffs!
The Stanley Cup playoffs begin tonight, by far the most exciting and fun of the four major sports postseasons (I may be biased since I love hockey so much I’m part-Canadian).

For many reasons, I’m more pumped up than usual this year (and that clip above, showing the insane dedication of NHL players to win the Cup, gets me going every time. You can be sure I’ll be throwing some of the awesome Hockey Night in Canada playoff montages on the blog over the next few months).

For one, the Rangers have a great shot to win the Cup, as the top seed in the East (which of course makes me nervous, my team being the favorite). Second, a whole buncha Canadian teams (five) qualified this year, and Canadian teams always make the playoffs more fun, since their fans are so rabid and loud.)

And third, we’ve got lots of fresh blood this year, seven teams who didn’t make it last year are in it this year.

It all starts tonight. For what it’s worth, I’m picking a Tampa Bay vs. Chicago Stanley Cup Final, with the Bolts winning it.

I of course hope I’m wrong, and get to attend a parade in Lower Manhattan in June.

The “Hillary 2016″ coronation begins, and I’m wary. An 11-year-old autistic boy draws a map of the world from memory. And the shocking police lapses that led to Darren Sharper’s rape spree

And so it begins, officially.

The long-expected and long-talked-about beginning of the Hillary Clinton Democratic coronation kicked off Sunday, as the candidate rolled out a sharp new video showing her ready to get to work, talking to Americans about their problems, and showing off her new ideas. She’s fresh, she’s new, she’s humble! (Kate McKinnon is going to have a field day doing “SNL” skits like the one above, by the way).

And I don’t trust her. Not at all.

Let me get this out of the way, first: I will vote for Hillary Clinton for President if she’s the Democratic nominee. I think she’s oodles more qualified than any of the GOP candidates, her ideas are better, and while I think while she’s way too “centrist” a Democrat for liberals like me, she’d be a decent President.

But I don’t trust her. I’ve watched her like all of you have for decades now, and I’ve found her to be slippery, and calculating beyond any and all reason, conveniently forgetful of things when she needs to be, and talking out of both sides of her mouth way too often. (I know, I know, all politicians are like that. But this woman has made a science out of it.)

Her behavior and actions toward Barack Obama, and those of her husband, in the 2008 primaries was deplorable at times, in instances way too numerous to recount. She was a terrible candidate, blowing an enormous early lead and other huge advantages in that race. I think her naked ambition for power, at the cost of any sort of real “beliefs” is not something that should be rewarded.

I am deeply disappointed that every other prominent Democrat seems to be afraid to challenge her on, well, anything, and are basically giving her this nomination without any sort of a fight. (The great Charlie Pierce wrote this terrific Esquire article last fall about the dangers of coronation in politics.)

I dearly wish Martin O’Malley, or Joe Biden, or anyone else would challenge her and make this a real contest in 2016. But she has so skillfully scared off all other contenders with her huge financial advantage and retaining top strategists from the party to work for, that I doubt we’ll see a real challenge. Fresh blood is needed in the Democratic Party; Obama was one transformational figure, but we need more.

The Presidency shouldn’t be handed to anyone this easily.

I know it’s difficult, but I really am going to try to look at “Hillary 2016″ with fresh eyes. I’m anxious to see if she’s learned anything about how to run a campaign since her defeat eight years ago. I want to see if she’s changed, if she actually can be more genuine in her words and actions.

I’m out here, a Democrat hoping for the best. Hoping we get a nominee we can be proud of.

Convince me, Hillary. Convince me you’re the best choice, not just the only one.

worldmap.autisticboy

**Next up, this is kind of amazing. An 11-year-old autistic New York boy who has not been identified by name has drawn a map of the world strictly from memory.

The boy, the son of a professor, surprised his parent’s class when he stepped up to the whiteboard and recreated an intricate map, according to a Reddit user, who posted the now-viral picture  (above) five days ago.

The drawing includes islands so small, they appear as no more than dots on the board. The photo has been transmitted around the world.

Pretty incredible. I hope the kid gets identified soon so he can get the recognition he richly deserves. It’s amazing what the human brain can do.

darrensharper

**Finally today, I read this really important and disturbing story last week from Sports Illustrated, The New Orleans Advocate and investigate journalism non-profit ProPublica about Darren Sharper, the former NFL star who recently pleaded guilty to committing a string of rapes.

The story details the many, many missed clues and lack of information sharing that resulted in Sharper being allowed to continue drugging and sexually assaulting women in multiple states over a period of years.

It’s a story pretty horrifying in its details, showing that Sharper could’ve been, and should’ve been stopped. It’s a long piece but well worth reading. Check it out here.