Tag Archives: Dan Wetzel

An innocent American wrongly imprisoned in China, getting no help. Chance the Rapper with a hilarious hockey sketch on “SNL.” And are you ready for a Saints-Pats Super Bowl?

Part of me doesn’t even want to justify the inane Tweets of our President by paying any attention to them. The general rule seems to be, the more unhinged and ridiculous his Tweets are, the bigger the shitstorm that’s about to come down (which means today could be a big day for Robert Mueller and his group).

So I don’t know what to expect today after the orange-faced grifter in the White House went off half-cocked on Sunday, spewing some crap about how LaVar Ball, father of one of the three UCLA basketball players arrested for shoplifting in China, and then released, should be more grateful and stop dissing Donald Trump in Ball’s own Tweets. (Honestly, if you have no idea what I’m talking about here, you’re probably better off.)

But anyway, the three yahoos from UCLA are indeed home, safe and sound, and not that Trump gives a damn, but there actually is an American athlete being held in China who appears to be innocent, and whose situation is a nightmare.

This sensational Dan Wetzel column tells the tale of Wendell Brown (above), a former star football player from Detroit who, by September of 2016, had found a home in China as a personal trainer and as a coach in the American Football League of China. Then, after an altercation at a bar, Brown was arrested, and has been held in jail for the past 14 months.

No bail, no political leaders able to help, just an innocent man (video surveillance from the bar shows Brown didn’t do anything wrong) sitting in a Chinese prison, for God knows how long.

Wendell’s parents have tried everything, involving the U.S. Consulate, U.S. Senators, everything they can. But they don’t have the power of UCLA, or a President visiting China who knows about the case of their son.

“They basically got a saint locked up over there,” said Travon King, Wendell’s father. “There isn’t any other way to look at it.”

And so three stupid kids who were guilty of shoplifting get to go home after two days in China, while an innocent man sits in jail for 14 months.

Hey Don, go ask your friend the Chinese President about Wendell Brown’s case. And his parents have already said they’d thank you if you did anything, so your massive ego can get a little boost too.

“I’ll thank him,” Antoinette Brown, Wendell’s Mom, says. “If Trump helps us, if he helps Wendell, I won’t stop thanking him. He helped get three basketball players who were guilty get out. I pray he’ll help get my innocent son out. And if he does, I’ll thank him and thank him and thank him.”

There you go, Don. We know that’s all you care about. So get on the phone, will ya?

**Next up, I’ve written a few times about how much I respect Chance the Rapper, for what he’s trying to do in his hometown of Chicago (donating time and money to help poor people.) He hosted “Saturday Night Live” Saturday and while there were some other good sketches, this one, as a brand-new to hockey reporter trying to talk about the game, had me laughing out loud.

As we always say when we watch my favorite teams play, “Let’s do that hockey!” I also love the facial expression when he’s told he’ll be covering hockey for six months.

**Finally today, the New Orleans Saints, ladies and gentlemen. The New Orleans Saints! That’s better.

Man oh man. Nobody thought this team would be any good before the start of the year, and now they erased a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit and won their eighth game in a row. Drew Brees is playing great, they’ve finally got a running game and a defense, and they look darn good. I could very easily see a Saints-Pats Super Bowl.

If only the fine residents of New Orleans had any kind of nightlife in which to celebrate their team’s good play …

— The Eagles, though, sure look like the best team in the league. Going into Dallas in prime time and dominating them Sunday night? Very impressive. Carson Wentz, the pride of North Dakota, is so poised for a second-year QB.

— Beyond the Eagles, Pats, and Saints, I have no idea who’s any good in the NFL. The Chiefs lose to the Giants? Terrible. And the idea that the Jets, my Jets, are one game out of a playoff spot the week of Thanksgiving is kind of nuts. Mediocrity, thy name is the AFC.

— Poor Nathan Peterman. Yes, I’m partial to the Bills’ rookie QB who made his first start Sunday because his first name is my older son’s name, but wow did he have a rough day. Kid threw FIVE interceptions. In the first half! Oy. I hope he gets another chance somewhere down the road, so that’s not his only NFL memory when he’s 80.

 

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An enormous college hoops scandal shocks all, except college hoops fans. The Puerto Rico devastation up close is awful. And Jimmy Kimmel as an unlikely health care crusader

So much going on in the world right now, I feel like I want to blog four or five times per day (not sure where I’d get the time for that, but hey, that’s how I feel.) I really don’t want to make you read the 4,383rd take on the national anthem/flag controversy, so I won’t. I’ll just point you to this, from the great Bob Costas, and this, from ex-NFLer Shannon Sharpe, and this, from Texas sportscaster Dale Hansen, all of whom say exactly how I feel, and more eloquently.

First up today, you know sometimes when you’re close to something you don’t realize how it looks to people outside that sphere, and that things you completely take for granted as normal, other people see as a criminal enterprise? Of course you do.

That’s kind of how I feel about the bombshell that rocked college basketball Tuesday. It’s pretty rare there’s any college hoops news this time of year, but this was huge: The FBI announced results of a massive investigation that led to indictments for 10 college basketball assistant coaches, sneaker executives, agents, and recruits.

The investigation alleges that coaches took money from sneaker companies, paid players, steered players toward schools that were affiliated with the sneaker companies, then hooked those players up with agents of the sneaker companies’ choosing once they became pros in the NBA.

The evidence is shocking, and enormous. This scandal has the potential to fundamentally change and destroy many major programs, like Louisville, USC and Auburn.

And yet, to me and my fellow diehard college hoops fan friend Tony, our reaction was: Of course this all goes on. You feds are just figuring this out now?

Because one of the compromises we college basketball fans make to ourselves is to ignore the seamy stuff, and just focus on the beautiful product on the court. We have long taken for granted that so much of the sport we love is underhanded: One person paying another person, steering that person to a certain school which happens to have a contract with adidas or Nike or Under Armour, steering the player to a certain agent, with everyone getting kickbacks and bribes along the way.

It’s just that now, and for the next several months, the rest of the world will learn just how sleazy this all is. Not every program will be caught up in this (I may lose it if Duke and Coach K are found to be involved in this garbage), but many many will.

It’s hilarious that some people Tuesday were like “The NCAA didn’t know this was going on?” Of COURSE the NCAA knew this was going on, but they didn’t want to talk about it or investigate it. It’s all just an accepted part of the sport.

It’s going to be ugly. But you know they say disinfectant is the best sunlight, so maybe, just maybe, for a little while things can get a little cleaner. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports has a terrific column explaining all this.

March Madness may look a lot, lot different next year.

**Next up today, on the list of celebrities who’d eventually became health care law crusaders, I’d have put Jimmy Kimmel pretty far down the list a year ago.

But since his newborn son was diagnosed with a heart condition, the late-night host has been sort of thrust into the spotlight, and amazingly, his passion about health care and insurance may have had a small part in sinking the latest horrendous attempt by the GOP-led Senate to repeal ObamaCare.

Since Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said any new health care bill would have to pass “The Jimmy Kimmel test.” Well, the new law fell far short, and for three days last week Kimmel called Cassidy’s bluff and called “bullshit.”

All three monologues were great, but this was the first and I think best one (above).

**And finally, the devastation in Puerto Rico isn’t getting nearly enough attention. While so much of the media talks about anthem protests and private email addresses and that stuff, the people of Puerto Rico (who are Americans, by the way!) are suffering after a devastating storm last week.

There were a ton of great stories and videos if you dig hard enough, but these short video pieces from CBS News correspondent David Begnaud, reporting from the San Juan airport, really hit home for me.

The federal government, back open for business. A brilliant story on the flight home from Dallas on 11/22/63. And a disturbing new high school rape case

yosemite_0

Well Hallelujah and pass the champagne: We have a government back open in these here United States!

Yes, our brief national nightmare is over for now, after two-plus weeks of hundreds of thousands of government workers furloughed, national parks and other major pieces of society closed, and more ridiculous posturing in Congress than any country should ever be subjected to.

Happily and surprisingly, this shutdown ended with a pretty complete surrender by the Republicans, as even the wing-nuts like Ted Cruz and Louis Gomert seem to have realized that they weren’t going to win this one.

Some quickie thoughts on the end of a shutdown that never should have happened:

— I was happy to see that for once, Harry Reid and his fellow Dems didn’t back down, didn’t cave, didn’t move an inch. But as I said to a friend Wednesday night, “where would they have caved to?” Would they have agreed to repeal ObamaCare, to delay it for a few years, to do all kinds of the idiotic measures the House wingnuts were asking for?

— Also, all this talk of the Democrats “winning” is nice, but look at all kinds of discussions we’re having now. The sequester cuts seem permanent, we’re not spending ANY money to replace all the devastating cuts to social services, infrastructure, etc., and it would take an act of God to raise taxes in this country again. The GOP has pushed the debate so far to the right that just the Dems stopping them a little bit seems like a big victory.

— And before we all start celebrating, and I hate to throw cold water on things, but all the deal Wednesday does is delay the real negotiations for a few months. The debt ceiling and the funding of the federal gov’t only goes through mid-January and early February, so we might have to do this all over again this winter.
Now I can’t BELIEVE the GOP Tea Partiers will be stupid enough to try another gov’t shutdown, but no one ever went broke overestimating the Tea Party’s stupidity.

— My buddy Clay seems to think this shutdown, which has greatly damaged the GOP in every poll I’ve seen, is going to have a big effect on the 2014 elections. I’m dubious, though, because 2014 is a long way away and this country has the attention span of a gnat, and because all kinds of delay and obstruction can still happen between now and then.

So, we’ll see. But hey, for today, we’ve got Yosemite National Park (above) open again, so let’s be happy.

esq-jfk-jackie

**Whether you like it or not, you’re about to be inundated with news about the the JFK assassination, as we’re a few weeks away from the 50th anniversary. There’ll be TV specials, movies (the new “Parkland” movie, about what happened at the hospital right after the shooting, looks interesting), and a whole ton of newspaper and Internet stories about it.

Obviously we can’t consume all of it, but if you read only one thing, I highly recommend this Chris Jones story from Esquire this month. Through meticulous reporting and dozens of interviews, Jones reconstructed what happened on the flight back from Dallas to Washington on Air Force One, when John F. Kennedy’s casket was on board, along with a grieving Jackie Kennedy, a stunned but suddenly-President Lyndon B. Johnson, and two rival factions of advisers trying to figure out what to do next.

What struck me most about the piece was how composed Jackie Kennedy was, how unsure of everything LBJ seemed, and just the incredible balance everyone else tried to achieve between grief, and acceptance, while the body literally lay a few feet away.

Truly an incredible, and unprecedented moment in American history, and awfully compelling reading.

**Finally today, you may remember the rape trial of a couple of high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio last year, where two boys got a girl drunk and then sexually assaulted her. The case, and trial, divided the town and attained the kind of national attention a city just doesn’t want.

Not surprisingly, another small town is now facing the same specter. Again, the details are disgusting: Teenage boys, 14-year-old girls, a whole lot of alcohol, and sexual assault (this one has the lovely detail of the boys dumping one of the half-naked victims out of the car and leaving her, completely drunk, outside her house in the 22-degree weather.

Maryville, Missouri is where this incident occurred, and Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel has all the gruesome details, including why the prosecutor there already decided the boys should not stand trial. Here’s an interview as well with the second victim

Good News Friday: A very cool look at the International Space Station. Dogs, teaching other dogs stuff. And little kids tell the difference between boys and girls

With all the craziness in sports the past few days, and serial liar and world class jerk Lance Armstrong finally coming clean, and the Manti Te’o story (which, frankly, I’m a little obsessed with, partly because it keeps changing every freaking hour, though Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel had the best Tweet of the day: “A positive to the Manti story is it turns out a girl didn’t die of cancer. I credit Lance Armstrong.”), I’m glad it’s time to step away and embrace some good news on Good News Friday.

So here you go, three completely hoax-free, steroid-free things for you to enjoy on this fine Friday:

First, this was a very cool video on Andrew Sullivan’s blog the other day; a guided tour of what it’s like to live on the International Space Station. I was riveted. It’s amazing to think that all of this is possible, when it was less than 50 years ago when we first started our space program.

My favorite quote from Sunny Williams, the astronaut who led the tour: “I haven’t sat down for six months.”

**And now, little kids tell Jimmy Kimmel the difference between boys and girls. These kids speak the truth:

**Finally, here’s one dog teaching another dog how to walk down stairs, a video my fiance swears she showed me two weeks ago but I have no memory of it. So cute, and I’m not even a dog person.

At the Olympics, every story’s a great story. The brilliance of Bolt. And a beautiful story of a small auction hoping to go big

NBC gets mocked a lot at the Olympics for showing us “touchy-feely” features on athletes, usually American ones.
But for all the heroes that are thrust at us, what I love most about the Olympics are the smaller stories we don’t always hear about in America. I stumbled across two beautiful tales of Olympians Thursday, guaranteed to put a smile on your face (or your money back; hey, it is Good News Friday.)
The first is from Dan Wetzel, the immensely talented writer for Yahoo! Sports. He wrote about the Irish female boxer Katie Taylor, who won a gold medal Thursday and had already created a frenzy back home. We in the U.S., I think, forget about how important some of these Olympians are to their home nations; we have so many superstars that we take them for granted.
Right now, in Ireland, Katie Taylor is a forever legend.

The second story I loved was more whimsical. Joe Posnanski, who as you know I think is a writing Zeus, stumbled upon a fascinating team handball player from Iceland. I know, you’re thinking, why should I care?

Because the Olympics are made up of all kinds, and this is the story of Ólafur Stefánsson, and he is strange and wonderful and just one of the millions of reasons I love the Olympics and he says thinks like “You want to play well for long enough that you leave with a medal around your neck. “That is great. But in the end, it is not about medals. … It is the journey that stirs us.”

**Here’s a terrific story that should get more publicity. A man named Samuel Annable works for a minor-league baseball team in Peoria, Ill.  After hearing the famous “Red Paper Clip” story (a man trades a paper clip for greater and greater value until he turns it into a house), Annable has decided he wants to trade two blue dice in to eventually get a sick child to a Super Bowl.

It’s a beautiful and noble goal, and I salute him. To read more about Annable and his quest, check out his blog here.

**Finally, Usain Bolt. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen another athlete quite like him. Thursday he won again, his fourth consecutive Olympic win in either the 100 or 200 meters, the first person ever to win both events at back-to-back Olympics.
He is a force of nature, he is so much better than everyone else. For the second straight Olympics, he actually slowed up in the last few meters while winning a gold medal. His time Thursday of 19.32 could’ve been even faster; that’s what’s so scary.

I know track and field gets little attention except for two weeks every four years. But it’s such a joy to be alive when a transcendent performer like Bolt is running among us.

I can’t wait to see what he does next.

A Detroit Lion who’s suffered more than most. The biker who got run over by an antelope. Cricket in Compton? Yep.

It has not been easy being a Detroit Lion for the past 10 years.
They have been the worst franchise in the NFL, by a long shot. A laughingstock, a joke, a sorry excuse for a team, and often they’ve been the third-best team in the state of Michigan.
Course, that’s all changed now. Now the Lions are 5 and freaking oh, one of the last unbeatens in the NFL after a Monday Night Football stomping of the Bears last night.

So it’s a perfect time for Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel’s great story on Lion center Dominic Raiola, a poor sap who’s been with the Lions for 10 years and seen almost nothing but misery.
Till now.
This story is really worth your time. I’m so happy for Lions fans; they deserve joy after so much misery.

**Because who doesn’t want to see a biker get attacked by an antelope, I give you  Evan van der Spuy of Team Jeep South Africa, who sorta had a problem during a recent road race (Don’t worry, he wasn’t seriously hurt).
Wonder what the guy did to piss off the antelope so bad.

**One of the most bizarre and unlikely stories you’ll read in quite some time is here.  Ex-gang members, police officers, and a few people who actually know the sport have joined together to form the Compton Cricket Club. That’s Compton, of South Central L.A., the one rap group N.W.A. sang about.

It’s a fantastic story of sport once again bringing some peace to a troubled spot on the globe. Enjoy.