Category Archives: Uncategorized

A weekend in Philly and a return to my alma mater was wonderful. And quickie thoughts on a huge sports weekend

UD.alumni
Lots of people romanticize their college years, mythologizing them beyond all actual truth because their memories (often drug-affected) get worse over the years, or because in college, everything seems possible.

I’m one of those people who had an incredibly wonderful college experience; as I’ve written about on here before, attending the University of Delaware (above) was the best decision I made in my life, professionally and personally.

It was the launching pad for so many wonderful things, and the best part of it was The Review, the completely student-run newspaper where I spent the better part of three years learning, screwing up, getting better, having an insane amount of fun and losing an insane amount of sleep while learning to be a journalist.

So when word got out a few months back that the paper was in financial trouble, many of us alumni, who used The Review as a springboard to fantastic and successful journalism careers, started raising money, spreading the word, and doing what we could.

Saturday night there was a fundraising dinner for newspaper alumni at UD, and I was thrilled to be there. We didn’t get as many old scribes as I would’ve hoped, but the atmosphere was terrific, and it was great seeing how many care. In talking to the current editors, it turns out that the fundraising has made a difference, and the paper is in better financial shape than it had been (Truth be told, all independent college papers seem to be struggling; ad dollars are down, and kids just don’t read their school paper anymore.)

It was great to be back. UD will always hold a place in my heart.

Some other thoughts from a fun weekend, where the family and I stayed in Philadelphia and I drove down to UD on Saturday:

— The cheesesteaks in Philly are all people talk about and rightfully so, I had two this weekend and they’re awesome. But for my money, the best gastronomical delight in the city are the hand-rolled cannolis from Termini Bros., three of which came home with us in the car (I won’t tell you how many made it all the way back to NYC). I mean, they are sinfully good.

LegoSawaya141008_0628Screamw

— Went to the Franklin Institute Saturday morning; what a wonderful museum. Saw a fabulous exhibit by Nathan Sawaya, a guy who builds incredible sculptures painting re-creations (like the one above of Edward Munch’s “The Scream” using only LEGO. Blew my mind. Check it out if you’re in Philly the next few months.

— Stayed in a lovely Center City hotel in Philly, except for the 12:15 a.m. Saturday night fire alarm going off, followed by five consecutive obscenely loud announcements telling us an emergency had been reported, please stand by, followed five minutes later by five more obscenely loud announcements piped into our room as well, telling us the fire dept. said all was clear, we can relax.

Shockingly, all that woke our 9-month-old.

americanpharoah.belmont

**Finally today, there was so much great stuff in sports this past weekend that I could write several hundred words about each one. But neither you nor I have time for all that, so some quick-hit thoughts on a sports-gasm that lasted for two days:

— Gotta start, of course since it’s my passion, with the tennis. Serena Williams continues to show why she’s now, at worst, one of the two or three best players of all time. As much as I dislike Serena for her histrionics and poor sportsmanship, she continues to blow away all criticism by continuing to win, so deep into her career. I think she’s erasing all argument about the G.O.A.T. debate, and after winning a few more Slam titles and passing Steffi Graf’s record of 22, she’ll be acknowledged No. 1 of all time.

And of course, on the men’s side at the French Open, Stan Wawrinka shocked the hell out of everyone, including himself, with an incredible win Sunday over Novak Djokovic. Everyone, including me, thought that after Nole beat Rafa Nadal in the quarterfinals, he’d find a way to win the one Slam crown that has eluded him. But Wawrinka and that postcard-perfect one-handed backhand were just too good.

I love Djokovic and felt terrible for him, still not able to win the one title that he doesn’t have. He’ll get one one day, but he’ll never have a better chance than this.

— So American Pharoah shut up all those people who said there’d never be another Triple Crown winner, huh? Tremendous horse. Happy the drought is finally over after 37 years. Amazing that after all those horses before him had failed, American Pharoah simply led wire-to-wire and made winning the Belmont look so easy.

— These first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals have been wild. Blackhawks definitely seem like the better team to me, but Tampa’s offense is explosive. And the goalie musical-chairs thing Tampa pulled in the 3rd period of Game 2? Bizarre.

— LeBron James. What more can you say about this man? Single-handedly carrying the Cavaliers on his back, and got zero help from his teammates down the stretch in Game 2, saw the referees do their damnedest to help Golden State win the game, and still the Cavs pulled it out. What a fantastic first two games of the NBA Finals, though honestly, that was the worst-officiated fourth quarter of an NBA game I’ve seen, maybe ever.

I don’t care if the Cavs win this series or not. LBJ has, in my mind and that of many others I’ve read in the past week, reached that rarefied air inhabited only by Michael Jordan.

I’m not saying LeBron’s better. I’m saying he’s Jordan’s equal. And I never in a million years thought I’d write that sentence in my lifetime.

Good News Friday: 2 St. Louis Rams live as homeless men for a day. A great ad about parent and child seeing roles reverse. And my man Reilly Opelka, tearing it up at the French Open

Happy Friday! I’m on my way to Delaware this weekend so I’m a happy fella; always love going back to the site of my college years. Attending a fundraiser to try to help save my old college newspaper; should be good times with old friends.

First up today, I thought this was a gesture above and beyond what athletes normally do.  St. Louis Rams players Chris Long and William Hayes drove through poverty-stricken St. Louis neighborhoods all the time, and one day Hayes suggested the two of them really get to see the homeless problem in the city up close.

So with a security guard in tow, Hayes and Long spend 24 hours on the street, living the homeless life. ESPN did an outstanding feature on the pair, following them for the day.

Fantastic piece, and great to see two athletes actually trying to see how the less-fortunate spend their days.

**Next up today, maybe it’s because I sometimes feed my baby son using the “airplane” technique that this commercial, from the AARP, moved me so much.

It’s a wonderful, wordless tale of a daughter and her father, and how the roles reverse many years later. I just thought it was so sweet.

opelka.autographs

**Finally today, so there’s a kid playing the French Open juniors who I have a personal connection to, and he’s been tearing it up this week.

Longtime readers may remember the post I wrote two years ago about Reilly Opelka, a kid from Palm Coast, Fla., who I first wrote about when he was 11 and I was a sportswriter in Daytona Beach (about 20 minutes from Palm Coast). While I was able to win some points off him at age 11, Reilly grew up to be a 6-foot-10 phenom who has been a highly ranked junior player for the past couple of years, and turned professional in April.

Well, despite turning pro the 17-year-old is still eligible to play the Juniors events at the Grand Slams, and despite only winning one match at a junior Slam event prior to this week, he roared to the quarterfinals this week before losing on Thursday, beating the No.1-ranked junior player in the world along the way. I talked to him Thursday and wrote a story for FlaglerLive.com, an excellent news website based in his hometown.

Very happy for Reilly and his family, who are class acts all the way. Keep an eye out for his name on the pro circuit; this kid’s going places.

The match of the year in tennis arrives at French Open today. The Onion fools another official, hilariously. Woman throws out old computer worth $200,000

Djokovic.French

It’s rare that you say  “finally, the match I’ve been waiting for all year is here!” on the Wednesday of the second week of a tennis Grand Slam tournament.

But that’s what we’re saying today, as Rafael Nadal plays Novak Djokovic in the match of the year.

The French Open is in the homestretch, and of course I’ve been following it closely as all tennis diehards have been.

Every year there are upsets at Roland Garros (I am sad about Federer losing on Tuesday) , hand-wringing over the lack of U.S. men’s success (though rising star Jack Sock had a fantastic tournament, getting to the fourth round and even taking a set off Rafa on Monday), and generally, we’re left with a lefty from Mallorca, Spain named Nadal holding the trophy aloft while taking a bite out of it for photos.

Nadal.French

But 2015 has been a strange year. Nadal has lost plenty of times already, including on clay, which is home to him. Djokovic has soared while Nadal has dipped, as the Serb has dominated practically every tournament he’s played, coming into the French as the unquestioned No. 1 player.

The only thing Djokovic hasn’t won in his brilliant career is the French Open, because Nadal has always blocked him.

A couple of months ago you figured they’d meet in the French Open final this year as they have several times before. But then Rafa started losing and suddenly he was seeded a preposterous No. 6 before the tournament, befitting his current ranking but a little ridiculous considering he’s won Roland Garros nine times! (Cue Mr. Rooney from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” please. Nine times.)

And so because Nadal’s ranking has fallen so low, he stood a chance of being drawn into the same quarter of the French Open draw as Djokovic. He was, and now they’re playing in the quarterfinals today, which seems crazy considering this is really the final.

The two best players in the sport, going head-to-head, with legacies on the line? Should be epic. I can’t wait. Give me Djokovic in five sets, but I wouldn’t put money on it.

**Next up, I love stories like this: A couple of weeks ago in California a recent widow dropped off a bunch of boxes that she’d cleaned out from her house after her husband died. She figured it was a bunch of his old electronics junk and wanted to get rid of it, so she brought it to a recycling company.

Two weeks later the company, Clean Bay Area, went through the boxes and found a vintage Apple I computer. There are only 200 or so left in the world of these babies, the first-generation of computers put together by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ron Wayne in 1976.

According to this story, the recycling firm sold the Apple I this month for $200,000 to a private collection, Vice President Victor Gichun said. And now, because company policy is to split proceeds 50-50 with the donor, he’s looking for the mystery woman who refused to get a receipt or leave her name.

So there’s a woman walking around Northern California, entitled to a $100,000 windfall and she doesn’t even know it.

Hopefully the publicity being generated will reach the woman.
And now every single man in America who loves garage sales on Saturday mornings can say to their wives, “See! This is why I go to these things, I could find something that’d make us rich!”

**Finally today, there was huge soccer news on Tuesday when FIFA president Sepp Blatter, maybe the most corrupt person in sports (and that’s saying something), finally saw the writing on the wall and resigned, creating an opportunity to have a less-awful organization running soccer in the future.

But you can read about that plenty of other places, I want to talk about something more fun. Like once again The Onion getting mistaken for a real newspaper.

An ex-FIFA crook, Jack Warner, went on a rant against the U.S. Justice Dept., and America in general the other day, saying that all the recent charges against FIFA were trumped-up, not legit, etc.

And what did he use in his defense of this argument? A headline from The Onion. Yep, he uses a fake article from the wonderful satirical newspaper that contains this paragraph:

AT PRESS TIME, THE U.S. NATIONAL TEAM WAS LEADING DEFENDING CHAMPIONS GERMANY IN THE WORLD CUP’S OPENING MATCH AFTER BEING AWARDED 12 PENALTIES IN THE GAME’S FIRST THREE MINUTES

Too funny.

I’ve found my 2016 Presidential candidate: Martin O’Malley. The boyfriend who swatted the bridal bouquet away from his girlfriend. And spare a thought for Joe Biden, who’s suffered another great tragedy.

omalley-SUB-master675-v2

I know a few weeks ago I wrote a post about Bernie Sanders, and how I was thrilled he was in the 2016 Presidential race on the Democratic side, and how I really felt he would at least force Hillary Clinton to the left, at least a little bit.

But as much as I like Sanders (his love of guns aside), I don’t think he could actually topple the Clinton machine. His age (73) and some of his views are sadly a little too far left for most voters, even in the Democratic Party.

The guy I was really waiting for, the guy who I really think has a shot (albeit a small one) to beat Hillary and one who truly represents the kind of progressive politics I fervently believe in, officially jumped into the race on Saturday.

If you know Martin O’Malley’s name at all, you know he was the very successful mayor of Baltimore from 1999-2007, and then Governor of Maryland from 2007-2014.

He is truly, truly, much more liberal politically than Hillary Clinton, and he accomplished huge things in Baltimore and in Maryland. Cut the city’s highest-in-the-nation murder rate, put hundreds of millions into the city’s schools, raised wages for city and state workers, helped pass strict gun control laws and paved the way for marriage equality, and lots more things than I can list here.

The platform he started explaining at Saturday’s announcement hits all the progressive high notes: breaking up the big banks, prosecuting those responsible for the massive financial fraud

He is, as this Vox.com article perfectly states, the candidate for people who desperately wanted Elizabeth Warren to run and after she chose not to, want someone to support who believes what she believes.

I’ve been following O’Malley (who was the model for Tommy Carcetti in “The Wire,” by the way) since an amazing Esquire profile came out about him in 2002 (sadly it’s not online). He’s not perfect; he’s been getting criticized lately after the Freddie Gray incident brought Baltimore’s history of police misconduct into a national spotlight light, misconduct that was going on long, long before O’Malley came on the scene.

O’Malley’s ideas are better than Hillary’s, and he’s a fresh, dynamic leader who I’d love to see President. Look, I know he’s a longshot to beat her, an extreme longshot.
But if you’re at all interested in an alternative, a real, plausibly electable alternative to Hillary Clinton, you ought to check O’Malley out.

**Next up today, I thought this was hilarious and sad. Last month at a wedding in South Africa, a British man and his girlfriend were sitting quite close to where the bride was throwing the bridal bouquet.

But Daniel Bickerdike wanted absolutely no part of this ritual, whereupon he’d be tapped to soon marry his girlfriend, Angie Schultz. And so he sprung into action, hilariously.

The look on her face is just priceless.

**And finally today, you probably heard about yet another tragedy for Vice-President Joe Biden. Forty years ago he lost his wife and 13-month-old daughter in a horrible car accident, and now 46-year-old Beau Biden, his son, has died of brain cancer.

Beau, a budding politician who was formerly the Attorney General of Delaware and a military veteran, was battling brain cancer.

It is unspeakably awful to have your children pre-decease you, and for a man like Biden, who’d already been through so much, well, your heart goes out to him.

Here’s an excellent Washington Post story in which a 2012 speech by Joe Biden, discussing what loss feels like, is embedded. And above is Beau Biden’s beautiful intro to his father at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Really worth listening to…

 

 

Good News Friday: 2 of the abducted Cleveland women get to “graduate” high school. The National Spelling Bee delivers, once again. And the couple who got married in a hospice room, for a great reason

cleveland.graduation

**So apparently there’s some sort of big hockey playoff game tonight? Gonna be a looonnggg wait until 8:15 p.m. Let’s Go Rangers. Let the Game 7 streak continue, and bring on the Stanley Cup Finals…

And a Happy Friday to all of you out on the InterWebs. Going to be a great weekend, I hope, here’s a few stories to get you in a good mood.

First, we all remember the horror story out of Cleveland two years ago, when three women were found alive, living as prisoners in a house after being abducted by a madman and held for 10 years against their will.

Well, those women are slowly putting their lives back together, but there are so many moments and life experienced they missed during all those years.

One of those life moments that the women missed was high school graduation. But last week, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus got to walk as honorary graduates of John Marshall High, where they would’ve graduated if they hadn’t been abducted.

John Marshall principal Tiffany Jones introduced them. “Neither one of these young ladies were allowed the opportunity to complete their high school journey,” she said. “Although their journey may have been interrupted, it’s never too late to finish the race.”

A wonderful message, and a wonderful moment for two women who deserve nothing but happiness for the rest of their lives, after the misery they endured. Here’s a great video of the women graduating.

spellingbee.cochamps

**Next up, I know I wax poetic about the National Spelling Bee every year in this space, about how hilarious it is that ESPN goes to such great lengths to try to make these kids seem “cool” with the vignettes, about how the pressure, the drama, the excitement gets me every time. The Spelling Bee, as I’ve said before, never fails to deliver the goods.

But even for me, a devoted Spelling Bee fan, Thursday night’s telecast was sensational. There were some good early moments, an entertaining kid who sadly got eliminated early in the finals (Dev, we hardly knew ye, but we enjoyed you), and then when we got to the championship round, it became incredible.

For more than a half hour, Vanya Shivashankar of Kansas and Gokul Venkatachalam of Missouri went mano-a-mano, each knocking down these impossible words like they were nothing. They didn’t even come close to using the full two minutes allotted, they just spelled every word like they’d seen it before (which they probably had).

It was Ali-Frazier, Bird vs. Magic kind of stuff, but for smart kids. As I said to my family watching with me Thursday night (they think I’m nuts for being so into it, of course), the Bee is awesome because for one night, really smart kids, not athletes or entertainers, get a little glory on national TV.

I truly think Vanya and Gokul could’ve spelled 1,000 more words correctly, but finally they were declared co-champions.

Both had been to the finals before but hadn’t won, but amazingly, Vanya’s sister won in 2009, so their Dad was pretty proud (how fantastic is this shirt he wore?)

It was wonderful, riveting stuff. Good for Vanya and Gokul, they both seem like humble, terrific kids too.

**Finally today, this is one of those Good News Friday stories that I run occasionally that make some readers go “How is this ‘good news’?” And I’ll admit, part of this isn’t. But part of it is really great.

Jeff Trussell was preparing to marry his fiancee Jennifer in 2013, but as wonderful as that was, he was also dealing with his mother, Deneen Fendig, dying of breast cancer.

As Deneen’s condition worsened and she entered into a hospice care facility, and Jeff and Jennifer made a decision: They would move the wedding up and hold it in Deneen’s hospice room, so she could see her son on his happiest day, before she died.

They bought wedding clothes from a mall, and their friends decorated the hospice room with wedding flowers, candles, and all the usual stuff.

Deneen died 11 days after the wedding. But thanks to the wonderful gesture by her son, she got to experience a life moment she definitely didn’t want to miss.

Check out this wonderful video Jeff shot.

 

“Pitch Perfect 2″ almost as awesome as the first one. An amazing hockey goal that you never see. And the bus driver who told a kid she was going to hell.

pitchperfect2770

Game 6: Rangers 7, Lightning 3. Five 3rd period goals. Yeah, we all saw that coming. Game 7, Friday night, at MSG. I may not sleep till then …

For our 2nd wedding anniversary on Monday, my wife and I did what all couples do on their anniversary:
Dropped the baby off at the grandparents on Long Island, went to a Jewish deli for some delicious meats, and then watched the sequel to an awesome movie about college a capella singers.

Yep, it’s no longer a dirty little secret: I loved “Pitch Perfect,” the original.

I didn’t love it nearly as much as my wife, because it’s become maybe her favorite movie ever, one we’ve seen at least 10-15 times. But I loved it a lot, because it had Anna Kendrick singing and dancing (she’s a major celebrity crush of mine, ever since “Up in the Air”), it had Rebel Wilson being hilarious, it was funny, it had a ton of ’80s music, and it was just so damn fun. I loved Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins as the a capella competition broadcasters the best (“The Menstrual Cycles, John”), and was thrilled to hear Banks was directing this one.

So how was the sequel? Pretty darn good. Not as good as the original, but few sequels are. This one had a pretty silly storyline (thanks to a wardrobe malfunction by “Fat Amy,” the Barden Bellas are banned from defending their national title, and threatened with being disbanded unless they win the World Championship), but the movie worked on a lot of levels.

First, Kendrick continues to be awesome, in real life (did you see her sing-off with James Corden on his new CBS show?) and in movies. Wilson is a brilliant physical comedian, and she has the best scene in the movie, which involves a canoe and a Pat Benetar song.

The Bellas’ rivals, a German supergroup called Das Sound Machine (below) are over the top goofy and cartoonish villains, but it works because the writing is so sharp. Seriously, there were a bunch of one-liners so funny that half the theater laughed out loud.

DasSoundMachine.1

The big new addition to the cast, Hailee Steinfeld from “True Grit,” didn’t do much for me, but she does seem to have a good voice. The Riff-Off this time is beyond bizarre, so bizarre that I don’t want to describe it in case you have plans to see the flick.

And the ending, well, the ending you can see coming from a mile away. And yet we still left the theater happy.

Is “Pitch Perfect 2″ an all-time classic? No. But it’s great fun if you like singing, dancing, and comedy.

It’s already made a ton of money at the box office, so you can be sure there’ll be a “Pitch Perfect 3.”

Which is fine by me.

**Next up today, it’s not often you see a hockey goal from an angle like this. Monday night, the Chicago Blackhawks staged an improbable rally from two goals down with two minutes left, thanks to Jonathan Toews, who’s basically the Derek Jeter of the NHL. Captain Clutch’s first goal was a rocket shot from in front, no shame in that getting by the goalie.

But the second goal? Insane angle. Check it out, starting about :30 in.

**Finally today, here’s a feel-good story for you (read that in sarcasm font): A bus driver in Missouri was fired last week after an 11-year-old girl reported that the driver told her she was gay and would burn in hell.

Yep, 11-year-old Maurissa Rushing said that she was playing a game on the bus with a friend of hers that saw the girls touching each others arms a few times.

Apparently this was unacceptable to the bus driver, who has not been named, because after dropping off the other students, she allegedly told Maurissa and her friends that they were gay and “gonna burn in hell real bad,” Maurissa told a Kansas City TV station. “I didn’t expect it to happen.”

The driver has been fired, and the family is considering a lawsuit.

Used to be you had to be worried about being bullied by other kids on the school bus. Now, I guess it’s the drivers who are the real bullies. What an awful thing to say to a little kid.

 

 

A depressing way to spend an evening, or my night at Rangers-Lightning Game 5. ESPN’s Ernie Johnson story is remarkable. And a beautiful Memorial Day tribute from a stranger.

RangersGame5.Tampa

Well that stunk.

As I write this I have just returned from Madison Square Garden, where 18,000 people walked in to the building around 7:30 p.m. excited, pumped up, and ready to make some noise and support the New  York Rangers.

A little more than three hours later, we walked out quietly, heads in our heads, spilled beer at our feet, muttering about getting pucks to the net.

Man, what a rough night to go to a Rangers game. My boys played just a lifeless-offense-free game against Tampa in Game 5, generating maybe four good scoring chances the whole night, while Tampa, who hardly did anything either, scored on two of theirs.

From my seat in Section 318, it looked like Tampa played exactly the kind of playoff game the Rangers usually play: Block a lot of shots, clog the middle, slow the pace down, and capitalize on the few chances you get.

The crowd got more and more frustrated as the night went on, of course, and the poor kid sitting next to me in the Ryan McDonagh jersey said it was his first-ever live game. I had to tell him that usually the home team scores.

Hockey’s such a nutty game: Rangers score 5 goals in each of the last 2 games, then can’t even get one tonight.

Ugh. I’d feel more depressed about the Rangers’ chances if they hadn’t escaped this kind of situation many times before in the last few years. They must win Game 6, and then come home and win Game 7, which they’ve done plenty the last few years.

But still, how many times can you pull the same rabbit out of a hat? Sunday was a golden opportunity, and they blew it.

Only fun part of my night was coming home and seeing LeBron will his Cavaliers to another win. Man oh man, is it time to start putting that dude on the same level as MJ? Not yet, but he’s getting real, real close.

130502-N-MG658-011 ARLINGTON, Va. (May 2, 2013)  An Sailor plays

**Next up today, it is of course Memorial Day, a day we honor all the brave men and women who sacrificed and died protecting our liberty.

I thought this tribute essay, to the men and women who served and are now buried at Arlington National Cemetery, was achingly beautiful. It’s written by Breanna Garren Mueller, and here’s an excerpt (the whole thing can be read here:)

Arlington National Cemetery. I didn’t know any of them. There were thousands. Hundreds of thousands.
John. Robert. Charles. William. Unknown… Not one did I know personally.
I had never seen them. Never met them… 

But as I stood there — silent tears filling eyes that scanned rows and rows of white marble cold upon warm, vibrant grass — it occurred to me that they had known me. All of them. Oh so well. And they knew you too.

They had thought of me often, and they thought of you. From the very first moment they considered the armed forces they thought of me. They knew I would want to walk freely outside, taking deep breaths of freshly clipped grass giving the sweet fragrance of spring, face turned toward the warmth of the sun. They knew I would value leisurely picnics and rides on playground swings; that I would need work opportunities and that my children would need college; and that someone would have to ensure that I was given those chances.

So they enlisted…

**Finally today, ESPN, for all its faults, still does some remarkable broadcast journalism, much of it on their signature shows like “Outside the Lines” and “E: 60.”

There have been a ton of wonderful stories brought to life by ESPN’s storytellers over the years, but this piece from last week might be the best thing the network has ever done.
It’s on TNT sportscaster Ernie Johnson, who while seeming to have it all on the air, has had quite the life off it. The piece is long, but hopefully you have the day off and can watch it. What Johnson has done, for his adopted son, his family, and everyone else in his life, is truly wonderful.

Good News Friday: David Letterman gets sent out in style. Two adopted sisters meet for the first time, in a college class. And the Boy Scouts finally come to their senses about gay leaders

And a Happy Friday to you, wishing you and yours a wonderful Memorial Day weekend; it’ll always be special to me for all the normal reasons, but also Monday is my 2-year wedding anniversary, celebrating the best day of my life, when I made the best decision I ever made: Marrying the most beautiful and sweet girl in the world.

Want to start today’s Good News Friday with the retirement of a TV legend. David Letterman took the mantle from Johnny Carson and became the best, and funniest, late-night TV host ever. I loved Dave for the reasons everyone else loved Dave: He was smart, he was acerbic, he was a great interviewer when he wanted to be, and he was just plain zany. I never stayed up until 12:30 a.m. for his old NBC show because, you know, I was too young and had school the next day.

But seeing some of those classic bits over the years, you saw the genius at work. He took guys like Chris Elliot and Larry “Bud” Melman and made them comedy heroes, while taking everyday folks like Rupert Gee from the deli around the corner from the Ed Sullivan Theater and making them “stars.”

Dave was one of a kind, and I will miss him. His final show Wednesday night was a beautiful tribute, and he seemed at times genuinely overcome with emotion. The final montage, over a live performance by Foo Fighters, was dizzying and wonderful.

So long Dave, we’re going to miss you. I leave you with this: There were a ton of great tributes written about Letterman the past few weeks, but this one, by longtime writer/booker Daniel Kellison on Grantland.com, was by far my favorite. The “insider” stories he tells about some of the most famous Letterman moments (the Drew Barrymore flash, the night Madonna wouldn’t leave) are really entertaining.

sisters.columbia

**Next up today, this story sort of blew my mind: Two sisters, both adopted by separate families when they were babies, met for the first time two years ago. In a classroom at Columbia University,

Katy Olson, 34, and Lizzie Valverde, 35, were adopted and raised by separate families three decades ago — Olson in Florida and Iowa, and Valverde in New Jersey.

According to this story (and the video is great, too), two years ago, they wound up sitting in the same writing class at Columbia. On the first day, as students shared some stories about growing up, they realized their connection.

“It hit me, all the pieces just collided — kind of like a big aha kind of moment,” said Olson, who had been looking for her sister for years. “I was like, ‘Whoa!'”

 Another crazy part is that Valverde never knew she had a biological sister, while Olson did.

And now, Valverde is graduating. What a great story. Can you imagine meeting a sibling for the first time in your 30s? Crazy.

boy-scout

**Finally today, I’ve ripped this organization many times over the years in this space, so when they actually show signs of intelligent life, I feel I must give credit where it’s due.
Even if their actions are long, long, LONG overdue.
Yes kids, the Boy Scouts of America, long completely intolerant of gay scouts and leaders, is finally joining the 20th century. Just a few years after finally allowing openly gay scouts to stay in the organization, now the Boy Scouts president, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said the scouts should end their ban on gay adult leaders.

Gates said that “any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement.”

Well hallelujah and pass the Merit Badges. Better late than never. That this incredibly intolerant organization has been allowed to “get away with” this kind of discrimination for decades is deplorable. The idea that a gay scout leader is somehow deficient in helping lead young boys is offensive on many levels.

Better late than never, Boy Scouts.

My thoughts on an almost-great “Mad Men” finale. The guy who sneezed out a dart in his nose, 44 years later. And a first-year Little League coach writes beautifully of his experience

mad-men-series-finale

I remember watching the very first episode of “Mad Men,” back in 2007, and thinking “Hmmm, this doesn’t look like any TV show I’ve seen before.”

In an era of gloriously good television, basically from when “The Sopranos” started until now,” the best shows have all felt different from anything that came before it. “Breaking Bad” certainly did; so did “The Wire.”

And “Mad Men” was totally that way too; from the look, the dialogue, the period pieces from the 1960s they got exactly right… it really was a hell of a show. even if Pete Campbell drove me nuts just looking at him (I’m trying to think of a TV character I’ve hated more than Pete Campbell.

Which is why I was so disappointed with this final half-season, when I felt like it was mostly running in circles. Still, I had high hopes for the finale, and for the most part, I wasn’t let down.

(SPOILER ALERT. I’M ABOUT TO DISCUSS THE SERIES FINALE. IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED IT YET, SKIP DOWN TO THE PHOTO. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED)

I loved how the series ended Joan’s arc; her standing up for herself with yet another jerk (Richard, I thought you were the one!), and then starting her own production company? Joan’s come such a long way. Loved, loved, loved Peggy and Stan finally getting together; that relationship has been on simmer for years, and it was about damn time they became a couple.

I enjoyed Roger Sterling’s final moments, even felt a little good for Pete, that sonofabitch, seeming happy at the end.

But the way “Mad Men” dealt with Don Draper… ugh. I didn’t like Don Draper since the middle of season 1, when we got to see what a cad he was. The man, for 10 years in show-time, did not change at all. Behavior still awful, toward women, toward his kids, all of it.

And then in the final episode, when it looks like Don is completely broken, mentally, spiritually, and all that, and seems to finally find some catharsis and peace … “Mad Men” just uses his brief moment of Zen as inspiration for another ad campaign. Don Draper returns to McCann and writes the iconic Coca-Cola commercial.

I’ve seen some people interpret the ending differently, but to me, it’s crystal clear: Don can’t change, he is what he is, and his descent into a terrible life spiral these last few episodes has a happy ending for a guy who doesn’t deserve one.

Still, I left “Mad Men” on a happy note. It was a sensational show, one few others have matched.
And hey, at least we got to see Sally Draper survive without major psychological damage!

steveeaston

**So this is one of those stories that instantly raised my “bullshit” detector, for it can’t possibly be true. But apparently it is.

Maybe you heard about this last week; A 51-year-old Englishman named Steve Easton (maybe related to 80s pop diva Sheena Easton?) sneezed out a toy part that had been stuck in his nose for the past 44 years, causing him decades of congested breathing.

Apparently when Easton was 7 the rubber tip of a toy dart had gotten stuck up his nose, and it was beyond the reach of doctors.

Two weeks ago Easton was sitting at home and overcome by a sneezing fit, and one sneeze dislodged the dart.

“I thought, where the hell has this come from?” Easton told The Guardian newspaper.

OK, let me stop right there, because I’m brimming with questions. First of all, the child gets a dart stuck up his nose, and the parents just leave it there when the doctor says he can’t get it? Who does that? My parents would’ve taken me to 11 specialists, all over the East Coast, to get that thing out. (Then again, we’re Jewish, so, you know, we might be a little crazier in parenting than you.)

Second, do they tell young Steve he’s got a dart up his nose, or leave him oblivious? Wouldn’t you think after sneezing and being uncomfortable for all these years, he might’ve said “Hey Mum and Dad, anything ever happen to my  nose when I was a kid?”

Third, what doctors tell parents “Yeah, there’s a toy stuck up you kid’s nose, but we can’t get it out?” I mean, do they teach you that in medical school?

Poor Steve Easton. At least his long national nightmare is over.

BadNewsBears

**Finally today, this blog post by my buddy Pearlman really spoke to me, maybe because I absolutely can see myself in his position a few years from now, prowling the dugouts for my son’s team.

Jeff just finished his first year as a Little League coach, for his 8-year-old son’s team in Southern California, and as you might expect, it was equal parts frustrating and exhilarating.

He writes of the joys, mostly, though, and it’s a really sweet look at coaching young boys, and the bonds he feels with these kids forever.

 

Larry David’s “Fish in the Dark” is funny, but pretty much a “Curb” episode. A wrenching tale from an Amtrak train survivor. And Southwest Airlines does really wrong by a passenger

FISH IN THE DARK - 2015 PRESS ART - Larry David and Ben Shenkman - Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

FISH IN THE DARK – 2015 PRESS ART – Larry David and Ben Shenkman – Photo Credit: Joan Marcus 

So as a fellow Jewish New Yorker myself, it’s not really a big surprise that I’m a huge Larry David fan.

Loved “Seinfeld,” and loved “Curb Your Enthusiasm” even more. So four months ago, when tickets went on sale for David’s new Broadway show, “Fish In the Dark,” I snapped up a few for myself, my Dad and my stepmom (my wife is one of the very few people I know who doesn’t like “Seinfeld.” Oddly enough, my ex-wife disliked it, too. Do I somehow attract anti-Costanzas? A question for another day.)

Because it was such a hot ticket here in N.Y., I didn’t get to actually see the show until Saturday. And it was terrific, no doubt about it. Really funny, with a few “I missed the next line because I was laughing so hard at the last one” moments.

But honestly? It felt like a two-hour episode of “Curb,” with lots of the same Larry ticks and verbal miscues we’ve come to know and love.

The plot of “Fish in the Dark” is this: The dysfunction of the Drexel family is on full display after the patriarch, played by Jerry Adler, dies in an early scene. David’s character, Norman, has a loving but frustrated wife (Rita Wilson), an arrogant lawyer brother (Ben Shenkman, who was terrific), a housekeeper with a family secret she finally spills (Rosie Perez, also great), and a host of other aunts, uncles and relatives.

It’s really well-written, Shenkman and the supporting cast were all great, and I enjoyed myself. But I couldn’t help thinking me and the rest of the audience got tricked into spending over a hundred bucks to see a two-hour “Curb” movie.

seywarddarby.amtrak

**Next up today, an extraordinary piece of writing from a woman named Seyward  Darby, who was a passenger on Amtrak train 188 that crashed and killed eight people last week near Philadelphia.

Darby writes in this Washington Post piece about her lifelong debilitating worry that those she loves are about to die, and how having a near-death experience herself made her see her worries in a whole new light.

Really, this is a sensational, wrenching piece that deserves to be read. Truly great work.

southwestairlines

**Finally today, I have long been a big fan of Southwest Airlines. For the 5-plus years I lived in Daytona Beach, I was on the Orlando-Long Island flight at least 6-7 times per year, and always found Southwest to be on time, with friendly (and often really funny) pilots and flight attendants, and reasonably priced. I recommended Southwest to all.

But after the story I just read about this weekend, man, I don’t know if I can feel good about this company anymore. Did you hear about this?

A Wisconsin woman named Karen Momsen-Evers was onboard a flight about to take off from New Orleans back to Milwaukee on April 3 when she got a text from her husband:

“Karen, please forgive me for what I am about to do, I am going to kill myself…,” Andy Evers’ text read.

Naturally panicked, she immediately tried to call Andy and had her phone slapped out of her hand by a flight attendant, who told her to put the phone away.
When Karen explained what was going on, the flight attendant cited FAA regulations, even as Karen told her the whole story. She said she then begged the flight attendant to have the pilor or someone in the cockpit radio the authorities in Milwaukee, to do something to help Andy Evers.

Even after the flight reached cruising altitude, Evers was prevented from making a call, and a different flight attendant said she couldn’t disturb the pilot with this information.

When Karen landed, she called the police, who then found Andy Evers dead at the family home.

I mean … come ON! The woman gets a text from her husband threatening suicide, and the Southwest personnel can’t even do one thing to help this poor woman?
Just deplorable. Southwest’s statement in response to this is as tone-deaf as it gets: “our hearts go out to the Evers family during this difficult time. Flight attendants are trained to notify the Captain if there is an emergency that poses a hazard to the aircraft or to the passengers onboard. In this situation, the pilots were not notified.”

Just awful. There ought to be some serious discipline handed out to those flight attendants, and as this story gets more and more traction in the media, Southwest should rightfully get more and more scrutiny.