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Some thoughts after a crazy awesome week at U.S. Open. A picture unlike any I’ve ever seen. And why I think about Jerry Lewis every Labor Day

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Happy Labor Day, my fellow Americans (and if you’re reading this somewhere else, happy Monday).

I’ve had an amazing week at the U.S. Open, once again freelancing for multiple newspapers and websites, earning some scratch while also watching fantastic tennis.

I’ve walked more steps than even my FitBit cared to count, spent hours in the sun (yes Mom, I lathered on the sunscreen) and saw some amazing stuff. Won’t bore you with all the tennis greatness, but definitely wanted to share a few sights, sounds and smells I was lucky enough to experience.

I am so damn fortunate.

— So I have to lead off with the highlight of my journalism year, or maybe the decade: The greatest tennis player of all time (non-Federer division) is Australian Rod Laver, who dominated tennis in the 1960s. He’s also famous for being one of the nicest people ever. I stumbled upon a note in the U.S. Open program Sunday that “Rocket” Rod was doing an autograph signing of his new book in the Open bookstore at 4 p.m.

Now, there was no indication he’d be doing any press, just a simple meet and greet for anyone who wanted to buy his book. And I had no specific story I was working on that needed quotes from him.

But I mean, COME ON, it’s Rod freaking Laver! I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. So I schmoozed his publicist who was standing three feet away from the stack of books and the line of people waiting to meet Laver, told her I just needed five minutes, and then waited an hour until he was free. I knelt next to him, asked a few fairly relevant questions about young players he’s liked and the Aussies and racket technology and like Elaine when she first talked to John F. Kennedy Jr. on “Seinfeld,” all I could keep thinking was “I’m talking to Rod Laver!”

Interview was over, I shook his hand, walked away, and smiled for 20 minutes. After so many years as a journalist, I never get starstruck, but this was awesome.

— So you sit next to all kinds of people at the U.S. Open, and some of them are really, really clueless. On successive days last week I had someone ask me if I was Australian because I had an Australian accent, and someone else started speaking Polish to me because he thought I was Polish.

— Silliest thing in all of tennis: Player wins a point because a shot hit the net and barely trickled over, and the opponent was way back at the baseline and therefore can’t get there in time. The player who won the point holds up his/her racket and hand to say “Sorry.”

In what other sport does luck get apologized for? Does an NBA player who accidentally banks in a 3-pointer apologize? How about a wide receiver in football who catches the ball that deflects off a defender?
So silly that this still goes on in tennis.

–I know he lost in heartbreaking fashion on Sunday, but Rafael Nadal hit the shot of the tournament the other night. This is just ridiculous.

— Saw at least three women wearing leather skirts and carrying Hermes bags around the grounds. Really people, this is what you wear to a tennis match?

–Finally, it was very cool getting to see the making of a new star up close. Two weeks ago I’d never met Jared Donaldson, the 19-year-old pride of Rhode Island. Then I covered his qualifying matches, interviewed him a bunch of times, met his dad and agent and sister, wrote four stories about him, and seen the best week of his life as he reached the 3rd round. He’s a smart, kind kid who was off the radar screen for a while, but no longer ignored in the tennis world.

Suddenly, he’s a little more famous, and likely will be a lot more famous. Very cool to be there at his “coming out party.”

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**Next up today, I thought I’d seen pretty much every kind of football photo there is. But this picture from the Dallas Morning News photographer Jae Lee, during a high school game last Friday, is unlike anything ever.

The offensive lineman’s helmet coming off and Lee snapping the picture at exactly the right moment makes it looks like there’s a ghost player protecting the quarterback.

How cool is that picture?

** And finally today, on this Labor Day spare a thought for Jerry Lewis, who is still going strong at age 90. If you’re like me, you remember the more than three decades Lewis spent doing the Muscular Dystrophy telethon every year on Labor Day.

Say what you want about Lewis (and the ignoble way the telethon streak ended, with he and the MDA parting on ugly terms), but he raised millions and millions of dollars for a worthy cause, and spotlighted a problem few others were talking about.

Just a little clip to remind that beyond the jokes, those telethons did a lot of good for a lot of people.

Good News Friday: The FSU star who did an enormous good deed. A mom and pop mini golf course on Cape Cod has a beautiful backstory. And remembering Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka


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Hi everyone. Sorry there was no blog on Wednesday, simply got too busy with U.S. Open stuff. A few links to my work the last few days: Here’s one on Jared Donaldson, the pride of Rhode Island, who scored the biggest-first round upset; and here’s one on Delaware’s Madison Brengle, who had a truly bizarre first-round loss: Thanks for reading.

It’s football season, which means we’re going to be hearing all kinds of negative stories about the sport. The drumbeat against football, much of it completely deserved and legitimate, has been going on for years and likely will continue.

So when there’s a small, happy story to share involving a football player, it tends to make news.

Florida State football player Travis Rudolph and some teammates were visiting Montford Middle School in Tallahassee on Tuesday, and Rudolph noticed a small autistic boy named Bo Paske sitting by himself at the lunch table.

Rudolph decided he would give the boy company and join him for lunch with a couple slices of pizza. The boy’s mother, Leah Paske, found out about the gesture, and was incredibly moved, even to tears, and posted on Facebook about it.

It read, in part …

“A friend of mine sent this beautiful picture to me today and when I saw it with the caption “Travis Rudolph is eating lunch with your son” I replied “who is that?” He said “FSU football player”, then I had tears streaming down my face. Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver at Florida State, and several other FSU players visited my sons school today. I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes.”

Such a little thing. Such a big thing.

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**Next up, another small story that made me smile. I heard it on the awesome NPR radio show “Only a Game,” which I’ve written about here numerous times.

It’s about a man named Mo Burke, his wife Sylvia, and a lifelong dream to build and own a miniature golf course that has gone for more than six decades.

It’s called Sandwich Mini Golf, it’s on Cape Cod, and it’s a beautiful story of a man holding onto his dream, and a beautiful lady who supported him all these years.

NPR’s Gary Waleik tells the radio story here, beautifully.

**And finally today, a happy  memory of Gene Wilder, who to me will always be the greatest as Willie Wonka in the “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” upon his death this week.

This is just one scene out of many I could’ve picked. What a brilliant, brilliant actor.

 

An NFL QB stirs up a whole big shitstorm by sitting for the National Anthem. A crazy ping-pong double play in baseball. And a ridiculous and sexist pronouncement by a middle-school teacher

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It’s Monday! But more importantly in my world, it’s the start of the U.S. Open! Apologies in advance if you’re not into tennis, but there’s a pretty big chance there’ll be a lot of tennis on the blog and in my Twitter feed the next two weeks. I’ll be linking a lot of the stuff I’m writing (I’m covering 4 players for various newspapers) here and on Twitter. I’m beyond psyched and beyond lucky to get to watch tennis and make a little $ doing it. Here are two things I wrote last week: First, a look at U.S Top 50 women’s player Madison Brengle for her home state newspaper in Delaware, and then a profile of rising American player Lauren Davis for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

It’s extraordinarily rare that anything that happens in an NFL preseason game is worth talking about.

But Saturday night and all day Sunday social media and the sports world were all up in arms over what a once-famous but now kinda forgotten NFL quarterback did.

During the national anthem before the San Francisco 49ers game Saturday, Colin Kaepernick refused to stand like all of the other players and fans. He sat on the bench, in full uniform, in protest of the conditions African-Americans face, and how they’ve been treated by law enforcement.

Kaepernick, who is biracial and was adopted and raised by white parents, spoke after the game about why he did what he did.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

I am one of those people who has been pleading/begging athletes with a huge platform to take stands on social issues, when their voices carry so much more weight than others. So I think what Kaepernick did took guts, courage and a whole lot of backbone.

I 1,000 percent support his right to protest in whatever way he sees possible. Those who scream and yell about supporting America and how disrespectful he’s being absolutely get to be heard. But so does he.

Kaepernick is going to get enormous blowback from this. He’ll probably lose fans (though honestly, he was a rising star a few years ago and his play has fallen off pretty drastically, so I don’t think his locker was all that stuffed with fan mail) and endorsers and the vulgar, talking yam Trump will probably condemn him (heavens no!).

But this is a man who looked at the chaos around him and decided to protest in his own way, following in the footsteps of Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, John Carlos and Tommie Smith.

Good for Colin Kaepernick. More athletes should take a stand like this. Excellent column on this from Will Leitch of Sports on Earth.

**Next up today, this was kind of cool. The Dayton Dragons minor league baseball team pulled the old “line drive off the pitcher’s back, then off the umpire’s foot, then to the shortstop who steps on second and throws to first” double play.

Happens every day, right?

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**Finally today, my good friend (and fantastic social worker and family coach) Catherine Pearlman had a pretty shocking experience at her 8th grade daughter’s Back to School Night for parents last week. With her permission, I’m sharing this here (she first shared it on Facebook), because sadly, I have a feeling this gym teacher moron is not alone in this thought.

This is, in short, what the gym teacher (a female teacher, by the way) told parents: Your daughters cannot wear yoga pants or leggings in class, because the boys can’t really control themselves, and could get an erection. And that could be embarrassing for them, and we don’t want that, so your daughters can’t wear yoga pants or leggings.

I mean… I don’t even know where to start. First, I cannot believe this is a school policy (and Catherine learned afterwards that the assistant principal was upset the teacher said this, and spoke to the teacher about it, but the teacher apparently said it again to another group of parents.)

Second, are you freaking kidding me??? We’re going to be so sexist and tilted toward boys that we’re so afraid they won’t be able to control themselves when they see a cute classmate in yoga pants? Let me tell you something, what we wore in gym class (boys and girls both!) at Burr Junior High was a pair of ugly maroon shorts and a gold t-shirt, and there was never a chance in a million years anyone got excited. Gym class is NOT in any way a sexy place, especially in junior high.

And third, really, boys getting a hard-on because a girl looks nice in leggings is something we’re afraid of? You ask any 12 or 13-year-old boy, and they will tell you: They get 14 erections a day. Literally ANYTHING can get a young boy in the midst of puberty an erection.

Just disgraceful. I hope that teacher gets suspended.

Good News Friday: An honest, real conversation about race on TV. An awesome pep talk from a Little League coach to his son. And saluting the awesomeness of teachers

Here in the dog days of August, when we have so much racial tension in the air, and a Presidential candidate for a major political party stoking racism as much as he possibly can, it can be really, really hard to find some honest to goodness good dialogue out there.

But if you look hard enough, it’s there. I was alerted to this four-minute C-Span clip the other day on Twitter, and it’s really pretty fantastic.

“I’m a white male and I’m prejudiced,” began a caller from North Carolina to a C-Span show with guest Heather McGhee, an African-American woman who runs a public policy organization called Demos.

The caller went on to explain his biases and why he feels the way he does, and asked “What can I do to change?”

McGhee almost visibly is taken aback, but she calmly explains to the caller a few simple things he can do, such as getting to know an African-American personally, and turn off the news that almost always over-represents African-American crime.

It’s a simple exchange, but it struck me as really important. There’s no yelling, no name calling, just an older white gentlemen trying to change his ways, and an African-American woman offering suggestions to help.

If we turn down the volume just a little bit and listen to each other a little more, who knows what may happen.

**Next up today, there are a lot of things wrong with what the Little League World Series, held in late August every year in Williamsport, Pa., has become. ESPN televises WAY too much of it, and often horribly zooms its camera in on an 11 or 12-year-old crying in the dugout because of his team’s loss. The pressure on these kids is often unfair, and there are lots of way-too-intense coaches who intimidate their players.

Which is why I love happy stories like this one. Isaiah “Bugsy” Jenkins is a pitcher for Bend North, an Oregon team that advanced to Williamsport this year. Isaiah was pitching a great game on Monday when, in the fifth inning, he started to struggle.

His coach and Dad,  Joel Jensen, came out of the dugout for a pep talk. What he said was simple and beautiful. Watch the very short video above.

Good job, Coach Jensen. That’s how it’s done.

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**And finally today, lots of American students and teachers are already back in school, while some, like the ones here in New York, still have a few more days of summer vacation.

So I thought it’d be nice to salute the hard-working educators who go so far above and beyond to help their students. Upworthy.com profiled 11 of them, including this biology teacher (above) who wears wacky outfits to get her students interested in learning about the human body.

Teachers are awesome.

U.S. Open qualifying the best freebie in sports. Sunscreen that smells like KFC, because, you know, it’s America. And the new cereal restaurant in Times Square is a lot of fun

New Grandstand View #2 Photo Credit Jennifer Pottheiser

There are two things every year I look forward to on the sports calendar more than anything else. Happily for my wife and the health of my marriage, they’re spaced six months apart.

One is March Madness. The other is the U.S. Open, my love for which I have written about many times here. Tuesday started the pre-Open qualifying tournament, which is the best value in sports.

The qualifying tournament is for those players whose pro ranking isn’t high enough for them to be invited into the main draw of the Open, which starts next Monday. These are players usually ranked outside the Top 100, and they usually fall into three categories: young players just on the way up, former stars who have fallen pretty far and are trying to get back, or career “journeymen” who are in their mid-20s to mid-30s, just trying to scrape out a living doing what they love.

Anyway, “the qualies” always produce great, compelling tennis, and they’re free for fans. I went Tuesday and saw all the cool new stuff at the Open this year, including the new Grandstand court, above (it looks way too big and the lower seats, always available on a first-come first-serve basis at the old, beloved Grandstand, are now cordoned off for the hoi polloi only) and the new food court by Court 17.

If you’re anywhere in the New York area, I highly recommend checking out the qualies. You can get mere feet away from future stars, the crowds are non-existent, and again, it’s FREE.

Going to be doing a lot of freelancing from the Open again this year and will link some stuff; this first story is on women’s Top 50 player Madison Brengle, the pride of Delaware.

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**Next up today, another one of those stories that I prayed was just an Onion satirical thing, but is actually real.

Kentucky Fried Chicken (sorry, KFC, because they don’t want to remind you that their product is fried) has come out with a new sunscreen that smells like KFC food.

Yes, step right up at the beach, folks and get yourself some “Extra Crispy Sunscreen,” SPF 30, guaranteed to protect you from the sun’s rays and leave you smelling like fried chicken. (sorry, it the ad says “leaves you with a healthy chicken aroma.” As if that’s a thing.)

Come on people, I know Donald Trump is a major-party nominee and everything, but have we sunk THIS low? Who the hell wants to walk around the beach smelling like fried chicken? Are you trying to attract birds or something to your towel? Are you hoping other sun worshippers smell you and get hungry, then come over to your sand and ask for a thigh or a leg?

Who would want this? Sigh. America.
UPDATE: Yeah, KFC gave away 3,000 bottles of this stuff in two hours on Monday. I weep cholesterol-filled tears for the future.

**Finally today, my little guy and I had a unique lunch experience the other day. I heard about this place on “CBS Sunday Morning” a while back, and it was as cool as I’d hoped. Kellogg’s NYC is a new cereal-only restaurant in Times Square, where they concoct twisted versions of your favorite cereals that taste great.

Besides the wide variety of toppings and spreads you can get on your Corn Pops or Frosted Flakes, there are some cool touches here, like getting your order out of a little cabinet. It’s totally a tourist-y thing to do if you’re in NYC, but me and my boy enjoyed it. But it’s pretty inexpensive, and who couldn’t use a bowl of Cocoa Puffs every now and again?

Anybody remember Merrick Garland? The Supreme Court disgrace continues. Team USA completes an amazing Olympics, winning something not seen since 1908. And the P&G ad that made me cry again

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So there’s been quite a lot of news going on this summer. We’ve got a Presidential election going on, starring perhaps the most bat-shit crazy person ever nominated by a major political party (I say “perhaps” because who really knows how nuts Richard Nixon or some other candidate I’ve never heard of from the 1820s might’ve been). The Olympics are just finishing up, and they were as usual, awesome and infuriating and dominating the news. (more on them below)

We’ve got racial tensions and police violence and violence against police in so many American cities, plus a ton of other stories that don’t get nearly the attention they deserve.

And in all that, nobody seems to be talking about the outrage that is the Merrick Garland nomination to the Supreme Court.

Merrick Garland, remember him? Name ringing a bell? He’s the completely qualified, unimpeachable judge who was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the next Supreme Court Justice after the death of Antonin Scalia.

That was five months ago. FIVE months ago! And as I write this, there has been no Senate judiciary committee hearing on Judge Garland. There has been no Senate confirmation hearings either, of course. There have been almost no meetings with Judge Garland by Senate Republicans, lest they (heaven forbid) be seen even considering voting for or against him.

I cannot stress this next point enough: This is unprecedented in American history. One political party refusing to even interview or hold a hearing on a Supreme Court justice, dangerously and irresponsibly allowing the Court to remain at eight justices, leading to (of course) several 4-4 opinions decided in June.

I don’t know why this injustice isn’t being screamed from the high heavens by every elected Democrat and every Democrat running for a House or Senate seat. I don’t know why Merrick Garland isn’t being paraded around the country next to these Senators and Congressmen, with everyone in America being reminded, over and over again, what a disgrace it is that a Republican-majority Senate refuses to even hold a hearing (and remember, the GOP is still in the majority! What are they so afraid of?) is.

I know there’s a lot going on in the world, I do. But this absolute refusal to consider Garland should be getting a lot more attention than it is. Let’s hope clueless Harry Reid will follow up on what he’s promising here.

Brianna Rollins of the U.S. celebrates winning the gold medal with silver medalist compatriot Nia Ali and bronze medallist Kristi Castlin in the 110m hurdles. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Brianna Rollins of the U.S. celebrates winning the gold medal with silver medalist compatriot Nia Ali and bronze medallist Kristi Castlin in the 110m hurdles. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

**Next up today, the Rio Olympics ended Sunday night, after what, all things considered, has to be considered a really successful Games. Again, the bar was so low given how unprepared Brazil seemed a few weeks ago, but overall these Olympics will be remembered for the incredible performances, I think, more than any malfunctions.

Too many great efforts to mention them all here, but just this past weekend, I was inspired by Usain Bolt and Jamaica dominating on the track, an American named Matthew Centrowitz winning the 1,500 meters, the first time a U.S runner has done that since 1908 (1908 was also the last time the Cubs won the World Series, so, you know, that’s an omen), and this little piece of video from American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks, who decided to stop an attempt midway through when he heard “The Star Spangled-Banner” playing.

The fantastic photographers at Reuters put together this great photo gallery of the Olympic’s best moments. No. 3, No. 9, No. 17 and No. 26 are my favorites, along with the one above, but they’re all just terrific.

**Finally today, I always love the heart-tugging Olympics commercials, and I’m kind of amazed how every Olympics Procter & Gamble manage to set the bar pretty high for emotional ads.

This one was just superb, it gave me chills each time I saw it. Watch it, then go call your Mom.

 

Good News Friday: A beautiful display of Olympians helping each other on the track. Missy Franklin’s community does something awesome. And Roger Federer’s hilarious new commercial

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Quick note: Before we get to three happy, uplifting stories, many of you may know, from reading this blog over the years, that I spent several years of my sportswriting career covering Ryan Lochte for his hometown paper, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, and interviewed him and his family dozens of times. (His mom is a total sweetheart and I hate that she’s been dragged into this).
It’d be way, way too easy to pile on Ryan right now after his idiotic last few days in Rio, but I’m also not going to defend him. I’d rather wait a bit and see if he shows any contrition. In the meantime, Sally Jenkins wrote a fantastic column about the mess here.

All righty then, let’s get to some positive stories. First, I’m sure you heard about this one earlier this week at the Rio Olympics. During the women’s 5,000 meter track and field finals, New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin and Team USA’s Abbey D’Agostino collided and both fell to the track.

Instead of keeping on running as maybe 99 percent of other runners might’ve done (and hey, it’s the Olympics, who could’ve blamed them?), D’Agostino helped Hamblin up, telling her “Get up, get up, we have to finish this.”

D’Agostino was injured during the collision, and could barely run as they continued. Hamblin did not go off and chase the pack, though; she stayed with D’Agostino and the two hobbled to the finish line together. D’Agostino would leave in a wheelchair, and is too injured to compete in the 5,000 meter final tonight (Hamblin is scheduled to race).

Hamblin was overcome by D’Agostino’s gesture; it really was beautiful

“That girl is the Olympic spirit right there,” Hamblin said … “I’ve never met this girl before, and isn’t that just so amazing, such an amazing woman,” Hamblin said.

“Regardless of the race and the result on the board, that’s a moment that you’re never ever going to forget for the rest of your life, that girl shaking my shoulder, like ‘Come on, get up’.”

Tremendous stuff. So great to see. Here’s footage of how it happened.

**Next up today, swimmer Missy Franklin was a huge star of the 2012 Olympic Games, and figured to continue her ascent into Michael Phelps-land in the Rio Games. But Missy has had a rough last couple of years in the pool, and at this year’s Olympics she won “only” a relay gold and didn’t reach the finals in her individual events.

So returning home to Centennial, Colo., you could understand if she was a bit down. Then she saw all the love shown to her on her front lawn. What an awesome video; her reaction is so sweet.

**And finally today, it’s almost U.S. Open time, which of course has me giddy beyond belief. I sadly won’t get to see my man Roger Federer at the Open this year, because of injury. But Fed is starring in this brand-new Mercedes commercial and it’s hilarious. Basically, it’s a trip through 100 years of tennis and fashion through Federer’s, um, body.

Really, really love the mullet, Rog…

The man whose death left dueling obituaries, by his wife and his girlfriend. Simone Biles wows everyone again. And I inflict a horribly awesome Donald Trump rally song on you

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And a Happy Wednesday to all of you in blog-land; I turned 41 a few hours ago and am feeling like a very lucky man these days.

First up today, my old friend and an amazing journalist, Brian Hickey, got to do one of those stories that you pray for when you’re a young scribe, because they’re so bizarre and fun.

Seems a man named Leroy Black of Egg Harbor Township, N.J. died on August 2, and naturally there was an obituary in the paper submitted by his loving wife.

And another one from his girlfriend.

Yep, old Leroy was quite the ladies’ man, apparently.

“A man answering the phone at Greenidge Funeral Homes told PhillyVoice that the obituaries were placed separately because “the wife wanted it one way, and the girlfriend wanted it another way.” But he did not anticipate any problems because everybody knew it was happening.”

Well, sure. As long as the wife and girlfriend know about each other and can write separate obits, all is well with the world.

Oh, Leroy, even in death you are causing trouble.

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**Next up today, the Olympics continue to roll on, with so many great moments each day it’s hard to keep track of (that collision/pickup in the women’s track race yesterday will be happily covered in Good News Friday this week). Lots of upsets are happening, lots of dominant performances, too, that it’s hard to single out any one particular effort.

But Simone Biles, my goodness. What an incredible Olympics she’s having in gymnastics, capped off by yet another gold medal on the floor exercise on Tuesday. This tiny woman is so powerful, so smooth, so graceful on the mat, that she’s bringing the sport forward several leaps.

I know the shelf life of an Olympian is very short, and in a few years Biles will be off doing “Dancing With The Stars” or pursuing a college education, or something else worthwhile.

But take a minute in the middle of your day to watch her amazing performance yesterday in winning her fourth gold medal. In an Olympics with so many standouts, her grace and joy somehow manage to rise above.

**So, since this is probably one of the last weeks people consider Donald Trump a “real” Presidential candidate (the guy is imploding more and more every day; Walter Mondale’s going to call him soon and be like “Dude, even I won ONE state!”), I feel it important to share these two pieces of political propaganda.

First, a delightful takedown of the vulgar, talking yam in his own words over years:

And next, something you truly have to see and, what’s the word, inflict on your friends. It’s a “song” by Rodney Carrington, called “Vote for Trump,” and oh, it’s glorious in its awfulness.

Enjoy?

A hot and fun day at Sesame Place in PA.: Oh, the humanity. And Usain Bolt, just incredible again

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It sounded like such a great idea at the time: Good friends of ours whose daughter is about six months older than our little guy said “Hey! Why don’t we all go to Sesame Place together this summer! The kids will love it!”

We enthusiastically said yes, and then pre-bought tickets for what turned out to be the hottest freaking day of the summer. Maybe in history.

Yep, Saturday on the East Coast was the kind of day that would make any sun-worshipper stay inside and let the air-conditioning work its magic. I don’t want to say it was hot, but I think I saw a human being melt into the concrete he was standing on.

Anyway, it was a hell of an interesting day, and not just because it was our first adventure to a children’s theme park with my boy, who turns 2 in about a month.

Some thoughts on the hot and sticky madness that is Sesame Place on an August afternoon:

— I’m pretty certain I’d been here 35 years earlier or so with my own parents, but I have no memories of the place. Still, I was a huge Sesame Street fan as a kid, and I was anxious to see how Nate would respond to seeing characters up close. He’s never seen “Sesame Street” (we haven’t let him watch TV yet), but he’s a huge fan of his Elmo doll, and before we went I showed him some videos of Oscar, Bert and Ernie, and the gang.

The first thing I noticed that surprised me was that the main characters were hardly anywhere to be seen. There was a parade with Abby and Elmo and all them at 3 p.m and again at 8:30, and a live show in the theater at 5, but other than that, we hardly saw anyone in costumes. Maybe it’s just at Disney World where there are characters everywhere you look.

— I will say, it’s got to be cruel and unusual punishment to dress a human being in a giant furry costume on a 100-degree day like Saturday was. I think I saw Oscar the Grouch lugging an air conditioner into his trash can.

— Was prepared for horrible lines and crowds, but it really wasn’t that bad. Since our kids were too little to go on the popular rides, we didn’t have to wait too long for most stuff.

— The line of the day went to our friend who remarked, as we walked into the wading pool to cool off, “Try not to think about how much urine is in this thing right now.” Always good advice!

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— The people we did see, though… man. There was a whole lot of humanity on display. First of all, I know it was hot, but there were a ton of people walking around with no shirt on who really shouldn’t have, you know what I mean? I’m not judging, but I think I saw a few bodies that were scarier than the characters were.

— Also always fun seeing the parenting “styles” on display. I saw one father scold the hell out of his son for walking too far away from the family, and a few minutes later saw two girls, about 8 and 10 years old, asking if the other one knew where there parents were. Most disturbingly, one time while I was resting on a bench two little girls (maybe about 6) approached and one asked in a really timid voice “Do you know where our Mommy went?”

I told them I was sorry but I didn’t, and then talked to them for a few minutes figuring that might keep them calm. The mother arrived a few minutes later and not even a word was said.

— The park itself is smaller than I expected, and things went pretty smoothly except for the inexplicable fact that while we were in one of the cafeterias getting food, they told us they ran out of ice. How do you run out of ice at a summer water park???

— As for my little guy (above, holding hands with his little girlfriend), he had a great time. He forsook any nap attempts all day, had a hell of a time splashing around in the wading pool festooned with water cannons drenching us occasionally, and was totally enthralled at the “Elmo: The Musical” live show I referenced earlier.  He’s still not a fan of Carousels (screamed bloody murder as we tried to put him on a horse) and rides in general have him spooked.

It’s funny; I know he won’t remember any of this, but it’s so rewarding to see him experience stuff for the first time.

So, Sesame Place. The kids will love it. Bring your own ice. And don’t drink the water in the wading pool.

Bolt.photoOlympicsemi

**Finally today, just a few words on Usain Bolt. The Jamaican sprinter won his third straight 100-meter Olympic final Sunday night, and once again, he made it look so, so easy.

The picture above (from his semifinal race, taken by Cameron Spencer of Getty Images) illustrates just how much fun, and how easy, all of this seems to be for Bolt. Dude is 6-foot-5, a legend, and trailed for 80 of the 100 meters in the final, and still won looking like he barely broke a sweat.

One of the most legendary athletes of our time. Just sensational to watch. Dear God, I hope he’s clean.

Good News Friday: A woman sends her Uber driver to the Olympics to watch his son. The L.A. Rams making kids’ day and doing great things. And the American-Muslim fencer breaking down barriers

UberDriver

And a Happy Friday to all of you fellow sweltering people if you’re on the East Coast like me; triple digit temperatures are always fun, no?

I’m hoping to cool down at a water park this weekend, I highly suggest you do the same if you have the chance.

We start an Olympics-heavy Good News Friday post with an awesome and random encounter between an Uber driver and a customer. (Awesome Olympics night Thursday night: Simone Biles, just amazing. Aly Raisman, pretty awesome, too. And Michael Phelps just swimming AWAY from everyone in the 200 IM, that dude just isn’t human!)

Sorry, back to the Uber driver story. A woman named Liz Willock was leaving the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia a few weeks ago and grabbed an Uber driven by a man named Ellis Hill.

They got to talking and it turned out Hill had a son going to the Olympics in Rio named Darrell Hill, a Team USA shot-putter.

You must be so excited for him, are you going to Brazil? Willock asked. Nope, Ellis replied. Too expensive.

For 95 percent of us, that would’ve been it. But Willock went the extra mile, times 10.

“It just made me sad because any loving parent would want to see their child compete in the Olympics,” she said last week in a great Washington Post story.

Willock started a GoFundMe page to raise money for Ellis to go to the Olympics to watch his son. Darrell Hill shared the page on social media, and within 48 hours they’d exceeded the $7,500 goal for flights, hotels, meals and other expenses.

So now when Darrell Hill competes in the shotput next week, his proud Papa will be there to watch him live.

Awesome. I love this part of the story, at the end:

“Hill had only been an Uber driver for about four weeks when he met Willlock. And meeting her as reaffirmed what he’s always believed to be true about people.”

“People are people, so until they do something different, you expect the best out of people,” he said. “It’s an awesome thing.”

Rams.Pearlman

**Next up today, my fantastic friend Jeff Pearlman took his 9-year-old football-crazed son to a Los Angeles Rams practice the other day. The Rams, as you probably know, just moved back to California from St. Louis, where they’d been since 1995, when they left L.A.

You would think that the Rams would go out of their way to cultivate new fans since they’ve been gone for so long. Happily, they are.

Jeff wrote beautifully about a magical day he and his son had at Rams practice. Pro athletes’ small gestures can go so far, and how great they treated children on this day is terrific.

**Finally today, I love the story of American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim-American Olympian to compete while wearing a hijab.

“I feel like my hijab is liberating,” Muhammad says. “It’s a part of who I am, and I believe that it allows people to see me for my voice, and now necessarily how I look.

“I hope that it’ll change a lot of the misconceptions that people have about Muslim women specifically.”

The above video shows Muhammad speaking truthfully about the stereotypes that confront her every day, including a scary incident where a stranger followed her because she “looked suspicious.”

Ibtihaj Muhammad didn’t medal in fencing; she was eliminated in the second round earlier this week.

But as this Michael Rosenberg column on SI.com pointed out, she won just by competing.