Good News Friday: The Ice Bucket Challenge money leads to ALS breakthrough. A 69-year-old woman gives up her liver donor spot to a 23-year-old. And a San Francisco street sweeper is inspiring

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And a Happy Friday to all of you out there in Internet-land. As we await the exciting Opening Ceremonies from the Rio Olympics tonight, where we may get to see raw sewage seep out of the stadium and onto the athletes as they march (Seriously, there’s nothing that would surprise me at these Olympics, they’re going to be historically awful. Check this out.)

We start today’s Good News Friday with the Ice Bucket Challenge. Remember that in the summer of 2014, when practically every person in America decided to dump ice water over the heads of a friend or loved one? Sure it was dopey, but it raised an incredible amount of money for research into Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or ALS, approximately $115 million. (My favorite one was above, when hockey player Paul Bissonnette had water from a helicopter dumped on him.

It was thought at the time that such a huge sum could eventually lead to a breakthrough to find a cure to such a horrible disease (You may have seen some publicity about ALS with the new documentary Gleason, featuring the life and times of ALS sufferer and former NFL player Steve Gleason.).

Two years later, the ALS Association has announced that in fact, the Ice Bucket Challenge money has started to pay off. Thanks to a large data-driven initiative funded through the Ice Bucket Challenge, researchers on Project MinE announced they’ve identified a new gene associated with the disease, which of course could lead to new treatment possibilities.

“It’s very exciting because it shows everyone who contributed to the ice bucket challenge that their donation had an impact on the research,” said Brian Frederick, executive vice-president of communications and development at the ALS Association. “The work that Project MinE is doing is really important, and the discovery of this new gene will help us better understand ALS.”

Now some have quickly debunked that this is a huge “breakthrough,” but it certainly seems to be a step forward. If only we could also get an “Ice Bucket Challenge” for a disease like Alzheimer’s…

**Next up today, a beautiful story of selflessness. A 69-year-old woman in Texas named Brenda Jones had been waiting for a liver transplant for more than a year, when on July 17 she finally got the call that one had arrived.

At the hospital, Jones met 23-year-old Abigail Flores, who was from a tiny town in East Texas and had only days to live if she didn’t get a new liver. Both Jones and Flores were perfect matches for the new liver Jones was scheduled to get.

According to this story on People.com, doctors decided to tell Jones about the situation.

In my heart, I wouldn’t have been able to live with the liver if I had let this little girl die,” Jones told the news outlet. “And I still had more time … I would have been a very selfish person.”

Jones selfless decision ended up saving Flores’ life – and just a few days later, she received a liver herself.

“I think she saved my life,” Flores told the news outlet. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be sitting right here right now. I thank God for her each and every day.”

What a great story. Jones had no way of knowing whether she’d get that liver she’d been waiting so long for. But she selflessly allowed a complete stranger to have it.

Beautiful.

**Finally today, I love people like this. A 67-year-old San Francisco woman named Suu Ngo moved to America from Vietnam three decades ago, overcame the tragic loss of her daughter (murdered by her husband), and now helps raise her grandchildren.”

After leaving a restaurant job five years ago, Suu walked into San Francisco’s City Hall and asked for a job. She’s now a street sweeper for the city, and loves her life and her job.

“My grandchildren say, ‘Grandma you need to stop work, we’ll take care of you.’ and I say, no. I still strong, I want to work. I don’t want to stay home, boring. Nothing to do. Watch TV all the time? You’d be crazy. I don’t want to do that. I want to go outside, exercise and see people talking, talking, happy. I don’t want to stay home, no. I happy.”

Watch the video and see the simple joy of a woman who loves her life, and just wants to see people happy.

 

Sandy Hook Elementary prepares to re-open, four years after the horror. An inspiring story of an Olympic swimmer with Crohn’s Disease. And a beautiful tribute to a mom from an NHL star

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It’s been nearly four years, and it still seems kind of unfathomable, doesn’t it?

A man walked into an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 12, 2012 and killed 26 people, including 20 children, some as young as 6 years old.

It was supposed to change everything, the great Charlie Pierce writes in this piece that I highly, highly urge you to read. A man slaughtering children, with an arsenal of weapons on his person, was supposed to finally, finally, finally be the massacre that made Americans demand that our elected legislators in Congress do something about gun control, and how incredibly easy it has been to kill fellow citizens.

From Pierce: “The NRA and its hirelings used the slaughter of children to line their pockets. The Republican majorities in the Congress hid behind the drapes, and Sandy Hook slipped into memory, one more station on an endless road to an armed and dangerous Golgotha.”

But as you know, nothing changed, and I don’t want to go off another rant about guns here. Instead, read this piece by Pierce about Sandy Hook Elementary getting ready to open once again in a few weeks (it’s at a new location, thankfully), and think about the power of the human spirit, and how even in a place where such horror occurred, there can be positive thoughts like this one:

“Our school is built on being nice to each other, as our principal, Dawn Hochsprung, always said and preached,” said Newtown First Selectman Michael Llodra.

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I hope the children of Sandy Hook have nothing but happy days in their sparkling, $50 million new school.

But it’s an absolute tragedy that it had to be built at all.

**Next up today, a happier story from my man Joe Posnanski, who’s going to be all Olympics, all the time for a few weeks for NBC Sports. Joe always writes best when he writes about his family, and this week he wrote a beautiful story about Olympian Kathleen Baker, whose Crohn’s disease mirrored that of Joe’s daughter. Baker had to completely change her training and re-adjust her goals, but she made the Olympics anyway.

I loved this story, and not just because I, too, have Crohn’s (a much, much, much milder form than Joe’s daughter or Baker does, though.)

It’s a great read.

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**Finally, The Player’s Tribune, the Derek Jeter-founded website that allows athletes to speak directly to fans, continues to put out tremendous content.

Bobby Ryan, an NHL star, lost his mother, Melody Stevenson, to cancer recently, and the loss understandably devastated her son.

Ryan’s father was incredibly abusive, and he beat up his wife almost to the point of killing her one night in 2000. Bobby and Melody fled to avoid him, and Ryan’s father was eventually caught and sent to prison, and then it was just Bobby and Mom, trying to make a life for themselves.

From Ryan’s piece:

As I reflect on our time together, there’s something I really need to tell you — and for the world to hear me say it: Thank you, Mom. Thank you so much.

Thank you for putting your life on the back-burner for several years just so that I could be happy. I know you didn’t have anyone to lean on, but you understood how much I needed you, and so you gave me all of yourself.

Thank you for showing me what it means to be a professional, for showing me that no matter what obstacle you may be facing, the best approach is always to just put your head down and go to work.

Thank you for helping me get through the eighth and ninth grades when neither of us really knew what we were doing with the whole home school thing. I still can’t believe we pulled a 3.0 GPA.

Thank you for playing so many roles in my life. You were my only parent for so long, but when it was time you were still able to let me go so that I could learn about the world on my own. I know how difficult that was for you. One of the biggest reasons I am where I am today is because you put me in a position to succeed. And not only succeed, but succeed on my own.

The whole thing is great. And after you read it, if you’re able to, call your mother. I know I did.

A wonderful day spent helping underprivileged kids get school supplies. The dude who jumped from a plane with no parachute. And a brilliant cartoon sups up the 2016 election

Jefferson Argueta loaded up his new backpack with goods donated by several local and national businesses, such as Kohls and Staples. Lynbrook Temple Am Echad 7/27/14

So many days of the year, you feel like you’re not making much of a difference. But every once in a while, a day comes along that just gives you hope, and the knowledge that maybe, maybe, your actions helped make a small, positive change in the lives of a few people, and you go to sleep feeling great.

Sunday was one of those days for me. A few years ago my wonderful mother-in-law told me about this fantastic annual event that her synagogue hosts. Sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women (an organization my late, beloved grandmother volunteered for), it’s called the Back 2 School Store, and it’s purpose is simple: To provide free clothes, school supplies, books and other merchandise to underprivileged children in the Nassau County, N.Y. area.

More than 500 children attend each year, the events are held by NCJW in many big cities, and Sunday was this year’s event. I had tried to volunteer for it last year I but I think I missed the deadline or something. This year, though, I made sure I was there.

And it was wonderful. And uplifting. The entire temple is turned into a department store, with registration tables, areas for the parents/guardians to sit and wait, and most importantly, a huge section for shopping. There were tables and tables of pants, shirts, shoes, winter coats, hats, books, underwear, socks… basically everything a child needs to get ready for the school year.

I was lucky enough to do two jobs Sunday: for part of the time I was a Parent Escort, helping guide the parents to the different areas where they could wait for their child to be finished, but I also got the coveted assignment of Personal Shopper for a few hours: I walked around the store with children helping them try on clothes, pick out their favorite outfits, and excitedly fill their bags.

It was so much fun. Seeing the look in their eyes while they grabbed a sweatshirt or some flashy new pajamas, realizing that all this stuff was free and they could take it home… some of the children just glowed. I heard some heartbreaking stories from other volunteers about kids from past years, including one who was so excited about one particular freebie: “You mean, I get my OWN toothbrush!” he exclaimed.

The children I helped Sunday couldn’t have been more gracious: One of “my kids” seemed ready to take the first thing I offered him from each table, before I reminded him “it’s OK if you look around a little, you can take whichever one you like best!”
Then there was the 7-year-old boy who, halfway through, looked up at me all of a sudden and asked “I’ve got to pay for all this stuff, right?” I told him no, it was all free, and he immediately smiled and kept shopping.

Then I had a second-grade boy who didn’t care much at all about which clothes he got, but when we got to the free backpacks, opened about 10 of them to see what color the folders and binders inside were, till finally being happy with a black and red one.

Watching their faces walking out was so gratifying; the thanks and gratitude expressed to the volunteers as they lugged out their haul was worth any tiredness accrued.

Did we change the world Sunday? Not in a grand sense, no. But 500 kids will have nice new clothes and school supplies for the new year starting in a few weeks, stuff they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

And that’s a pretty good way to spend a day.

**Next up today, this happened over the weekend and was kind of insane. For the first time ever, a man skydived from an airplane at 25,000 feet without a parachute.

And, you know, lived to tell about it.

Luke Aikins, in the above video, leaped out of a perfectly good, working plane and into a giant 100-foot net in California on Saturday. The video from his helmet is just breathtaking.
Way to go Luke, you crazy bastard. Also blogging about this gives me an excuse to link you to this video: Me, jumping out of an airplane for my first-ever skydive, in 2009 in Florida. Still can’t believe I was crazy enough to do it.

**Finally today, sometimes a political cartoon is so clever and brilliant, it makes your mouth go wide.

Cartoonist Joe Heller drew this fantastic cartoon (below) summing the Hillary/Trump opposing viewpoints, and it took me a few seconds to get it, but when I did, I knew I had to share it.

Great job, Joe.

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Good News Friday: The future Madam President speaks, and galvanizes the crowd. A Muslim-American delivers the best speech of convention. And a 6-year-old gets his wish to be a garbageman

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Hillary Clinton first appeared in the New York Times in 1969, for giving the valedictory speech at Wellesley College. She has been “famous” since at least 1991, when her husband started running for President. She has been criticized for longer, and more intensely, and for more things, than any American politician in history.

And yet, Thursday  night, in front of millions of viewers and a packed Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, her task was to “re-introduce” herself to Americans.

There can’t be more than 10 people in all 50 states that have no opinion on her: She is loved, she is hated, passionately on both sides. But Thursday night, after an incredibly moving and powerful evening of speeches, Hillary Clinton gave the most important speech of her career.

And I think she (mostly) nailed it. Look, she’s not a natural public speaker, she doesn’t have the charms or charisma of her husband. But on an incredibly historic night, that meant so much to so many millions of women across the country, she did what she had to do.

She told the story of her life, with help from a fantastic video introduction, and she talked about what she’ll do as President.

She shot fish in a barrel by using Donald Trump’s numerous disqualifications against him, with a great line being “a man who can be baited with a tweet, cannot be trusted with the nuclear weapon codes.”

But maybe most importantly in the grand scheme of world history, she showed that the first woman nominee for President by a major party is wholly and completely qualified for the job. She moved millions of women just by being there on stage Thursday night, showing once and for all that women are completely equal to men.

Hillary Clinton was not my pick, and I still have some reservations about her ideas and beliefs. But this election is the starkest, clearest and most obvious choice for President of my lifetime.

For the future of our country, she is the only sane choice in November. And I’ll be proud to help her make history.

**The most powerful, most important speech of the night Thursday was not given by Hillary Clinton, or Jennifer Granholm, who was sensational, nor even William Barber, the NAACP leader from North Carolina who had me out of my seat screaming “Hell yeah!” at the TV.

It was this, from Khizr Khan, whose soldier son, Humayun Khan was killed by a car bomb in Iraq. In direct, simple language, he destroys Donald Trump. “Have you ever read the Constitution? If not, I can lend you my copy.” (That part starts around 4:30 mark)

So, so, SO important to hear from American Muslims, who have been so criticized and abused since 9/11, and even more so by Trump.

He is a brave, powerful man who should be heard by every American.

**Finally today, I loved this story: 6-year-old Ethan Dean of California suffers from cystic fibrosis, and he asked the Make-A-Wish Foundation if he could be a garbageman for a day.

Much as other cities have done in the past, the city of Sacramento went all out for Ethan; watch this video and again, smile and realize how much good there is in the world.

Have a great weekend.

Michelle Obama and the Democrats show how it’s done, with 2 beautiful days. And Trump pissed off his littlest followers, and now they’re suing

My goodness, what a breath of fresh air the last two days of the Democratic National Convention has been.

Look everyone, actual grown-ups giving speeches, with specifics, and those crazy little things called facts, and somehow giving us the idea that America isn’t a complete hellhole just a few weeks away from total obliteration!

The contrast could not be more obvious. Monday night and Tuesday night in Philadelphia, a cross-section of America, people that actually look like America, walked up to the podium and spoke from their heart with an uplifting, realistic message.

And Tuesday night, a little before 7 p.m., a woman became the nominee of one of our two major political parties, for the first time ever. Even though it has been known for months that Hillary Rodham Clinton would make history, it was still pretty amazing to see it happen.

So much I want to talk about from the first two nights, but I have to start with the greatest speech from a First Lady, maybe ever.

— I mean, how inspiring was Michelle Obama? This highly educated, graceful, beautiful woman stood on the stage at the Wells Fargo Center and tore the roof off. She spoke so movingly about her daughters, and about history, and starting at the 11:30 mark of the above video, uttered one of the greatest passages I’ve ever heard spoken.

“Today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent black young women, playing with their dog on the White House lawn.”
What an incredible line, delivered beautifully. I know she would never, ever do it, but I’d vote for her for elected office in a nanosecond.

– Cory Booker = the 2024 Democratic Presidential nominee. He was powerful and passionate Monday night as well, making the case for Hillary strongly. I still think he should’ve been the VP pick.

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— Another sensational moment Tuesday night was the speeches by the Mothers of the Movement, moms whose children had been killed by law enforcement in the last few years. Hearing their gripping, beautiful words of pain and grief is so important.

— Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I don’t think the speakers the first two nights hit Trump hard enough, specifically, how incredibly terrifying a Trump Presidency would be. The GOP spent four days last week on doom and gloom and fear and horror, preying on Americans’ worst nightmares.

I think 20 minutes of the nightmare of Trump and Putin destroying the world is in order, maybe tonight by Joe Biden. The case has to be hammered home, over and over, how catastrophic a Trump win would be.

— The Big Dog, aka Bubba, aka Bill Clinton, gave a long and mostly terrific speech about his wife Tuesday night. He humanized her, which needed to be done, telling great anecdotes about their life together, but when talking about how she sticks with things, he might’ve said “And she stuck with me through all my cheating and zipper problems, even after I got oral sex in the Oval Office! How ’bout that woman!”

Still, he was solid and seemed to, as always, relish the spotlight.

— Finally, allow me a few words to vent about the idiotic Bernie Sanders delegates who heckled, booed and disrupted the first two days: GROW UP. Seriously, grow the f up. Heckling Elizabeth Warren with chants of “We Trusted You!” and, most amazingly, “Goldman Sachs” was just ridiculous. Elizabeth Warren, the most anti-Wall Street politician in the country, getting heckled with “Goldman Sachs” chants… so stupid.

The ideological purity and absolute fealty they were demanding was so naive and juvenile, and booing their OWN hero, Bernie Sanders, during his speech Monday and then again on Tuesday showed these narcissistic blowhards to be beyond the pale.

We Bernie fans desperately wanted him to win. He didn’t. Shit happens. Get on board and realize a Trump Presidency would be astronomically awful. Grow up.

**Finally today, this story, pointed out to me by avid blog reader (and wonderful friend) Will, just about made my freaking day. Do you remember that incredibly creepy “pep rally” video I posted on the blog back in January, of three little girls doing a dance routine before a Donald Trump rally? If you don’t recall it, watch it above (Their group is called “USA Freedom Kids,” which sounds like an awful charity or something.)

Then again, maybe don’t watch it: It’s about the worst piece of propaganda I’ve seen since that awful Rick Santorum “Game on” commercial back in 2012.

Anyway, I’d forgotten about these little misguided darlings until Tuesday, when the Washington Post ran a story saying that the father/manager of one of the girls, Jeff Popick, is suing Trump because he never paid the group what they were promised.

“These are guys that insist they’re straight shooters,” Popick said, “‘You may not like what we’re going to say, but we mean what we say and we say what we mean’ — and they just would not say anything of any substance!”

“I’ve invested a lot of time, effort, money,” he continued, “and it’s just been complete silence.”

You can screw with lots of people, Donald Trump. But you do NOT fuck with the USA Freedom Girls, OK?

After last week’s debacle, Hillary and Kaine get their shot. The Rio Olympics are already a disaster. And remembering the biggest moment of Hall of Famer Mike Piazza’s career

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There’s always something to be said for going last in a two-person competition. You get to leave the final impression, you can see what the other person did and NOT do that, and maybe most importantly with this week’s Democratic National Convention, the bar for “being better than your opponent” has never been lower.

I mean, is it possible for Hillary Clinton and Co. to make a worse impression, to come off more disorganized, racist, plagiarizing and lying through their teeth than the GOP? I honestly don’t think it’s possible.

Lots of things I’ll be watching for in the next days, some quick-hit thoughts on what should be a pretty good show in Philadelphia:

— Tim Kaine in his national spotlight audition. I didn’t love Hillary’s choice of the Va. Senator as veep; he’s a bland, moderate white guy, when so many more appealing choices were available (Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren, hell even Tom Perez would’ve gotten people more excited). But after a few days of reading up on Kaine’s background (dude’s never lost an election, that has to be encouraging), voting record, etc., I think he’s probably a decent choice. I don’t love that he loves Wall Street and banking deregulation so much, but otherwise he checks most liberal boxes. And he’ll help in Virginia. I’m anxious to see what kind of performer he is under the huge spotlight this week.

— Bernie Sanders speaks Monday night, and boy will he have a lot to say. The DNC email leaks scandal is one thing, and happily, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the maestro of the incredibly tilted Democratic primary this year, has resigned. But I really want to hear how Bernie speaks about his core issues, since he did so much better than anyone thought he would, and what he says about Hillary, after months and months of attacking her.

— Michelle Obama speaks tonight, too; will she make me and millions of others happy by starting with “When I was a young girl growing up in Slovenia…”? That would be so awesome.

— The Big Dog, Bill Clinton, talks Wednesday: Will he talk about Hillary as her husband, or as a future President, and how many great one-liners about Trump will he get off?

— Barack Obama’s speech on Wednesday; he and Hillary have some history together as rivals and then partners, and he, too, is in supreme position to push back on all the lies Trump told last week. I hope he calls out every one of them.

Should be a fascinating four nights.

View of an athlete's room at the Olympic and Paralympic Village for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 23, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBAYASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images ORIG FILE ID: AFP_DI6ZI

**Next up today, rarely has an Olympics looked more like a shitshow than these Rio Games appear to be. So many problems in Brazil right now, from the economy, to the uncertain political leadership, and the nation looks completely unprepared to host an Olympics, who oh by the way, start in 10 days.

I don’t know, you think THIS is a bad sign? Sunday the Australian delegation announced that upon arrival at the Olympic Village, where thousands of athletes will be staying, the place was “uninhabitable.”

The toilets wouldn’t work, there was a rank smell, and all sorts of exposed wiring. Again, this is TEN DAYS before the Olympics.

Man oh man, I know lots of Olympics have looked like they’d be disasters before they started, and everything then ran smooth, but I don’t see how that happens here.

**Finally today, one of the few baseball things I pay attention to each year happened Sunday, the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

I was incredibly fortunate, when I worked in upstate New York for the Glens Falls Post-Star, to get to cover two HOF inductions, and they were awesome, some of the best things I’ve ever covered. Cooperstown is such a special place, the people are incredibly friendly, and Otsego Lake is spectacular.

Anyway, Sunday was this year’s ceremony, with Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. being enshrined. Griffey Jr., was a no-doubt pick, and it’s still incredible to me that he didn’t get 100 percent of the vote (No one ever has.)

Piazza’s a more iffy case, because rumors of steroids (very, very strong rumors) have dogged him for a long time. But as a New Yorker, what I’ll always remember Piazza for, beyond the whole “Roger Clemens throwing the bat at him in the World Series thing, is that he gave me one of the most indelible sports memories I’ll ever have.

On Sept. 21, 2001, the Mets and Atlanta Braves played the first professional sporting event in New York City since 9/11. The whole city had been feeling so awful for 10 days, and sports seemed even less important than usual. Nobody was smiling, for any reason.

In the bottom of the eighth, with the Mets down a run, Piazza pummeled a pitch over the center field wall for a go-ahead home run. Shea Stadium went nuts. I remember going nuts, too, and I’m a Yankees fan. As Piazza rounded the bases, the sound from the crowd just kept growing and growing, and the TV cameras flashed to a bunch of FDNY firefighters in the crowd, and I get goosebumps right now just watching the above video.

An incredible night I’ll never forget. After so much horror, for two minutes, millions of New Yorkers got to feel just a little bit of joy.

So I’ll always be grateful to Mike Piazza for that.

Good News Friday: The NBA shows some courage and pulls All-Star-Game from North Carolina. Michelle Obama’s awesome “Carpool Karaoke”

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Not going to say one word about last night’s speech by the Republican Presidential nominee. It speaks for itself.

Time for some happy news as we head into a weekend that may hit 100 freaking degrees up and down the East Coast (somewhere, sunscreen company executives are planning new extensions to their homes).

First up, it’s not often a major sports league takes an important stand on an issue knowing it’s going to anger one of its franchises, and some of its fans. But good for the NBA, and commissioner Adam Silver, for doing what they did Thursday.

After North Carolina’s Republican-dominated state legislature and puppet governor, Pat McCrory railroaded the odious anti-gay and lesbian law known as HB2, lots of corporations and sports leagues made threats about boycotting the state of North Carolina. Silver said if the law didn’t get changed or repealed, he might pull the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.

Well the law still stands, but the All-Star Game is going elsewhere. The NBA announced Thursday that it was pulling the game from the state, thereby costing the Hornets, and North Carolina, millions in expected revenue.

“While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2,” the league said in a statement.

Good for them. Let’s see more sports leagues take major events away (why are things still held in Indiana?) and see what kind of impact it has.

You know, if they really wanted to make a stand for equality and gay rights, the NBA ought to put this year’s game in San Francisco.

**Next up today, it’s been obvious for years that Michelle Obama is the coolest FLOTUS since at least Jackie Kennedy, and probably even cooler than her.

While her speech was getting plagiarized by some former model from Slovenia, Michelle was driving around singing Stevie and Beyonce with James Corden on the host’s newest “Carpool Karoake.” Love the singing, but love the chat about 3 a.m. grilled cheese sandwiches, too.

I have no idea what Michelle Obama will do come January. But whatever it is, I know it’ll be great.

**And finally, for the millions of you out there who are dog people, this should put a smile on your face. A second-class petty officer named Christina Baez was away at sea for a year, and one of the things she missed most was her pet pitbull, Layla.

Well, Baez has finally come home, and there were cameras out to record Layla’s slightly excited reaction.

“When you’re away from an animal, and even a child, you’re nervous coming home and afraid that they won’t remember you,” Baez said.

I don’t think that’s a problem. Just beautiful stuff.

The worst kind of grief exploitation, fear-mongering and oh yeah, plagiarism at the RNC. And Jon Stewart makes a triumphant return to late night.

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So, so, so many thoughts to share after the first two nights of the KKK rally Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

I mean, just … wow. As awful as I thought it was going to be, it was worse. I swear to God, Ben Carson and Chris Christie on Tuesday were thisclose to saying Hillary Clinton should be dragged to Salem and burned at the stake as a witch.

Full disclosure: Tuesday night I was out at my annual Yankees game trip with my wife and father-in-law, so mostly I only followed it on Twitter (but I saw the Christie/Carson highlights and threw up in my mouth a bit.)

But that’s OK, Monday night I was tuned in, riveted and horrified for the whole three hours-plus spectacle.

— First of all, nothing was more disgusting and distasteful than the politicization of family grief. It was ALL over the stage Monday night, and the worst offender was Pat Smith, whose son tragically died in the Benghazi attack (maybe you’ve heard of it?). She stood up and blamed Hillary Clinton personally for her son’s death. As if the Democratic nominee had a hand in killing him. So we had, from the stage of the national convention of one of the two major political parties in America, accusations that the nominee of the other party was responsible for murder.

Going out on a limb here, but as we’ve said so many times during this campaign, that’s never happened before. It’s absolutely, positively disgusting and immoral, what Ms. Smith said, and as we know I’m far, far from a Hillary Clinton defender.

— What’s almost as amazing as what Smith said is that, while she was saying it, Donald Trump called in to Fox News for a live interview, stepping on his own convention coverage! The man’s pathological need to constantly be on TV is really quite something. I mean seriously, he should be studied in psychology textbooks for decades.

— Scott Baio and Antonio Sabato, Jr. were both tapped to give speeches, and I’ll never be able to watch “Charles in Charge” again without crying.

They were both horrendous (Sabato later said he was absolutely sure Obama is a Muslim, so I’m glad we cleared that up), but I honestly wondered where the hell was Kirk Cameron? He was a MUCH bigger star than Baio in the 1980s, he’s certifiably wing-nut crazy, and they had plenty of time to let him talk.

Mike Seaver got screwed, folks. I blame his sister.

— The plagiarism thing with Melania Trump’s speech became a huge deal Tuesday, and justifiably so. Lifting entire passages from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech is hilarious, and sad, and I honestly have no idea whether Melania wrote the speech and thought no one would notice, a vengeful Trump campaign speechwriter inserted the passage as a mean shot at Melania (my wife’s theory), or this is just incredible negligence.

What I do know is my fellow Blue Hen and Twitter must-follow, Frankie the Goat (I’m guessing that’s not his real name) had the two best Tweets of the night on the controversy.

— Another highlight of Monday: GOP Congressman Steve King saying that white people have been the only group responsible for the progress of Western Civilization.

Said King: “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out: Where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about? Where did any other sub-group of people contribute more to civilization?”

I can’t make this shit up.

— Rudy Giuliani. My goodness, what a trainwreck. New Yorkers of my generation and older may remember that back in the early 1990s, Rudy was actually considered a moderate, almost a real Democrat. Now he’s so far out there I think Pat Buchanan was saying to himself last night “Man, that guy’s nuts.”

**Watched some of Paul Ryan’s speech, calling for civility and decency and coming together. Then saw Chris Christie give one of the most vicious and hateful speeches in convention history, followed by the completely nuts Ben Carson comparing Hillary Clinton to Lucifer. In prime time, on national TV.

I mean… what the fuck has happened to the Republican party?

— Facts have no bearing at this convention. None, whatsoever. Crime is lower than it has been in decades. The economy is humming along, unemployment is below five percent, but if you listened to the first two nights of speeches, you’d think we were on the verge of collapse as a society.

And we’ve got two (count ’em, TWO) more nights to go.

**Finally today, the best thing that happened Monday night wasn’t that Giuliani finally left the stage, or that wingnut GOP Senator Joni Ernst was bumped past 11 p.m. It was the wonderfully welcome return of Jon Stewart to late-night TV.

He was on a sketch with old buddy Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show” live episode after the convention, and it was great. It was only four minutes, but it made me miss Stewart all the more (shouldn’t he be doing some of those HBO shorts we heard about by now?)

The circus comes to Cleveland this week, starring master clown Trump. A baby acts out the entire “Rocky II” training montage, hilariously. And P.K. Subban a Nashville hero already

Penceminiature

Let me start today’s blog with a question: Is there anything that could happen at the Republican National Convention this week in Cleveland that would truly surprise you?

I mean, honestly, what would make your jaw drop? Donald J. Trump announcing that this has all been a ruse, a reality show, and he doesn’t really want to be President? I wouldn’t be stunned.

A group of old-school Republicans from back in the day storming the podium and asking “Seriously? You actually want THIS man representing the party in this election? This clown who doesn’t know shit about anything, insults everyone and everything in his path, and can be trusted as much as three-card-monte player in Times Square?

Or how about a scenario in which new vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence, who was barely mentioned by Donald Trump in the bizarre introductory press conference on Saturday, is tackled by Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich on stage, with each of them saying they deserve to be VP instead, and not leaving until Trump changes his mind?

None of that would stun me. Folks, Scott freaking Baio is speaking this week, and if he gets on stage and says “Hey, Charles is BACK in charge!” and puts his name into nomination, I’d barely bat an eye.

Honestly, I have no idea what’s going to happen. This whole Republican primary season has been one shitshow after another, and the weekend’s “events,” with the vulgar, talking yam (That’s Charlie Pierce’s beautiful name for the Donald) using his intro of Pence on Saturday as a yet another masturbatory exercise in self-love, and Sunday night on “60 Minutes” barely letting Pence get a word in edge-wise (sparking the fantastic Photoshop someone on Twitter did, above).

It is now, and will forever be a stain on our country, that this man was actually nominated by one of our two major parties.  I am still 95 percent confident he will lose, and he might just go up in flames this week.

It’s a disgrace that he has fooled so many millions. But this week should be damn entertaining. Pass the popcorn and the Junior Mints, please…

**Next up today, this made me laugh harder each time I watched it, and I watched it three times in a row.

Two-year-old Charlie Magilavy of Ohio has become obsessed with the awesome training montage near the end of “Rocky II” (for my money, the best montage in ANY Rocky movie ever), so much so that the toddler acts out, along with Rocky, every move of the montage.

I absolutely thought this video was fake, until I read this story about it. My boy is almost 2, and there’s no way he could pull this off (partly because he’s not allowed to watch TV or movies yet).

Bravo, Charlie. Bravo. Now if we could just find a 2-year-old to play Apollo Creed…

**Finally today, I was going to write a few hundred words about the awful killing of three policemen in Baton Rouge, Sunday. But quite honestly, there’s been so much awful news lately that I just didn’t have it in me, not after having a wonderful day with my family.

So happily, I found out that old blog favorite and hockey superstar P.K. Subban had done something cool already in his new home city of Nashville. Subban, just stupidly traded from the Montreal Canadiens, went to legendary bar Tootsie’s in Nashville and belted out an adequate rendition of the classic Johnny Cash song “Folsom Prison Blues.”

This guy is so much damn fun. You know how huge he’d be if he came to my Rangers and entertained in the big city? (Dare to dream.)

Good News Friday: Four major NBA stars vow to speak out against racial violence. A groom’s awesome reaction to his bride walking down the aisle. And the best show on TV FINALLY gets Emmy nominations galore.

It really feels like every day right now, a major tragedy is happening somewhere. If it’s not the police shooting African-Americans for no reason, or a crazed man killing five police officers, or a truck plowing into a crowd in Nice, France on Thursday and killing 77 people, it’s something else.

I can’t remember a year where this many bad things happened (Plus, you know, Donald Trump’s rise).

It’s so easy to get depressed and throw in the towel and say “F it” to the world. But hopefully enough people still see how much good there is out there, and maybe, just maybe, some good can come out of some of these tragedies.

Which leads me to my first Good News Friday stories. For a long time people like me have been waiting for a new generation of superstar athletes to use their enormous platform to try to enact social change (or at least awareness). A few athletes have; LeBron James and Serena Williams among them. But Wednesday night at the usually-meaningless ESPY awards on ESPN, LeBron, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony opened the show with a powerful pledge to become more involved, and to lead the fight against racial injustice.

Will they follow through after these powerful words? I don’t know. But it’s a start, and these four men have enormous followings, and maybe, just maybe, this will be a tipping point for athletes realizing they have the power to do so much good.

**Next up, this video was sent to me by my father a while back but it got lost in the morass that is my inbox, so I finally watched it this week.

And it’s fabulous. It’s a short video of a wedding of Gabriel and Annabelle Deku, and specifically, it shows the incredible emotion Gabriel is overcome with as he watches his beloved walk down the aisle.

The tears flow as he is overcome by the moment; overcome by joy. It’s a beautiful reminder of love.

(And of course after watching that, I had to go back and watch this, still the best wedding entrance video ever.

**And finally today, the Emmy nominations came out Thursday, and for once, I was not angry. Finally, finally, FINALLY, the best show on television, “The Americans” got a bunch of nominations. After being inexplicably shut out for the first three seasons, “The Americans” got a best drama series nod, as well as acting nominations for Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. I was over the moon excited to see a wonderful show finally get rewarded: I know “Game of Thrones” will win best drama but hey, it’s a start.

Also loved that “Fargo,” “Masters of None,” and “American Crime Story: O.J. Simpson” got a bunch of nominations, and “Better Call Saul”‘s amazing Jonathan Banks was tapped as well.

Great, great job by the Emmy voters this year. To leave on a high note, I give you this wonderful commercial up for an Emmy, from the Ad Council, called “Love has No Labels.”

Love is love. Have a great weekend.