Tag Archives: Derek Jeter

The end of an era in N.Y. sports, as Eli Manning is benched. A sensational documentary short about the Holocaust, and family. And this Washington Post/O’Keefe scam is nuts, and pathetic

There are some days where something seismic happens in New York sports, and you kind of have to pay attention if you live here.

Wednesday was one of the days. Things were going along normally, no big whoop, and then all of a sudden around 4 p.m., an era ended.

Eli Manning, brother of Peyton, son of Olivia, Archie and the city of New York, was benched. The man who won two Super Bowls for the Giants, whose completely-expressionless face appears on billboards and signs throughout the tri-state area (seriously, you can’t get away from the guy, even my Mom knows what he looks like), was benched after an incredible 210 straight starts at quarterback.

This has been coming for a while, even if Giants fans don’t admit it. Peyton’s bro hasn’t been good for a few years now, creating more turnovers than an excited baker on their first day, and the Giants are terrible this year. It makes sense to want to see younger quarterbacks on the roster play, even if one of them is the horrendous Geno Smith (every Jets fan is laughing right now).

But the way the Giants handled this today, just really poor. The head coach, Ben McAdoo, was awful and awkward in explaining the decision, basically saying it was Eli’s choice, and they threw Manning to the interview wolves while he fought back tears.

This is probably the end for Eli in N.Y., and he’s had such a strange career. Many of his seasons were terrible, and he made you wonder just what he was doing. But he had two amazing, transcendent years in 2007 and 2011 and led the Giants to two improbable Super Bowl titles, and that’s usually enough to get someone into the Hall of Fame, and a lifetime pass to go out on their own terms.

I was talking about Eli with my man Jeff Pearlman after the news broke, and we couldn’t decide if Eli was a Hall of Famer or not. Your gut reaction says yes because of the postseason success, but his overall stats   aren’t all that great.

Still, he is an icon, a model of durability who, like the last N.Y. athletic icon to retire, Derek Jeter, managed to live an entire career in the spotlight and barely make a misstep.

I’m no Giants fan, of course, but you can’t help but admire Eli for composing himself with class and humility his whole career. He deserved to go out better than this.

**Next up today, another in a sensational series of short New York Times documentaries caught my eye Tuesday. This one is incredibly beautiful and powerful, about a 92-year-old woman named Klara, escaping Auschwitz, and family. Some amazing storytelling here.

Never forget.

**Finally today, I’m not sure what I can say that would be more shocking to you about this expose the Washington Post newspaper did today, about a fake source trying desperately to get the Post to report that she was raped by Roy Moore at 15, hoping that they’d report it, she could tell them it was all a scam, and therefore make everyone in Alabama convinced that all the women accusing pedophile Senate candidate Roy Moore of assault are lying.

Or, as ABC News’ Jake Tapper Tweeted Tuesday, rather succinctly:
“To reiterate: James O’Keefe hired a woman to pretend she had been sexually abused in an attempt to undermine actual victims of sexual assault and child molestation.”

The details of this story are horrifying, and amazing, and … I really don’t know what to say. Except: James O’Keefe, you’re going to a very, very warm place down below when you die, sir. And you deserve nothing less.

The horror of “lunch-shaming” poor public school kids. Jimmy Kimmel with an amazing story of his son’s birth, and health scare. And maybe the most awkward and awful TV interview ever, starring A-Rod and Derek Jeter

There is much to be outraged about in our society these days, but today I just want to single out one horrible, vile, disgusting practice that is apparently just fine with nearly half of school districts in America.

The practice is called “lunch-shaming,” and if you’re not familiar with it, here’s how it works: A student goes to school and then to the cafeteria at lunch time. They stand on line, grab a sandwich or a hamburger and some fruit or whatever. They get to the register, and if it turns out they have an outstanding balance on their account, the cafeteria workers get to do something drastic. Like take their food and throw it in the garbage. Or give the child a cold sandwich with very little in it. Or not give the child any food at all.

From this New York Times story that got me all fired up:
“The practice is widespread — a 2014 report from the Department of Agriculture found that nearly half of all districts used some form of shaming to compel parents to pay bills. (About 45 percent withheld the hot meal and gave a cold sandwich, while 3 percent denied food entirely.)

A Pennsylvania cafeteria worker posted on Facebook that she had quit after being forced to take lunch from a child with an unpaid bill. In Alabama, a child was stamped on the arm with “I Need Lunch Money.” (my addition: STAMPED ON THE ARM!???) On one day, a Utah elementary school threw away the lunches of about 40 students with unpaid food bills.

Hazel Compton, 12, remembers being given a sandwich of white bread with a slice of cheese instead of the hot lunch served to other children at her Albuquerque elementary school. (A school district spokeswoman said the sandwich met federal requirements.)

School is really, really fucking hard for some kids. There are all kinds of extra disadvantages when you’re poor, from not being able to wear nice clothes or the “cool style” to having to do homework late into the night because you had to work an after-school job to help support your family, or having to ride 2-3 buses or trains to get to a good school because the schools are terrible where you live.

School can be so, so hard. And knowing all that, knowing how painful and difficult and excruciating it can be, we still have school districts that allow employees to humiliate and disgrace children who are poor through no fault of their own.

Look, I know there’s another side to this, that school districts are underfunded, that someone has to pay for that food, etc. But come on! How about our state legislators bump up school funding so schools can help out poor families? How about lowering the limits for the free lunch program, so more families can get meals for their kids?

So many better solutions than “lunch-shaming.” What a despicable practice.

Makes me so goddamn mad.

**Next up today, grab the tissues and hold all calls for 10 minutes, this is absolutely worth your time. Jimmy Kimmel was off last week from his terrific late-night show, and Monday night in an emotional, heart-felt monologue, he explained why: His son Billy was born, only there was an immediate medical scare that had Billy fighting for his life.

Stay till the end, when he says something about saving children’s lives that, silly me, I thought 100 percent of people could agree with (nope, some were still mad at him for saying it.)

Really fantastic, raw, real stuff here from Kimmel.

**Finally today, who doesn’t love a great, horribly awkward interview starring an interviewer who has no clue about his subjects, doesn’t listen to them, then calls them by the wrong names?

I give you a five-minute masterpiece of awfulness here, folks. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were on CNBC Tuesday to hype some charity, and were interviewed by CNBC’s Bob Pisani. Besides calling Derek “Alex” a few times, asking Jeter about the Met gala after Jeter had just said he didn’t go, and trying to cause tension between the two, everything went great.

God this is wonderfully terrible TV.

The Jets stink again, and more NFL musings. Facebook turns Grandmas into rappers. And the Buckingham Palace guard who just had to dance


It’s not even October yet, and the New York Jets 2014 season is about to be kaput.

Which is nice, because it would spare me a couple months of angst, and I could just expect losses every Sunday and skip the games and spend time with my newborn son.

Still, it was so damn frustrating Sunday. Geno Smith, I so want to believe, is going to improve this year. But four games I’m in having Sanchez flashbacks; good play then bad play, good play then bad play. Sunday Geno made mostly bad plays, but he was far from alone.
The pass defense was atrocious, and that’s without Calvin Johnson being healthy enough to have an impact. The receivers couldn’t get open, and when they did, Smith missed ’em. The offense and defense never played well at the same time, and the Jets are 1-3, and they’ve got San Diego, Denver and New England next, and 1-6 looks likely, and this has got to be it for Smith if they don’t win one of the next three, right?
Ugh. Looks like Jets will be QB shopping again next year. That Texas A&M kid looks pretty good, and so does Mariota up at Oregon.
Some other NFL thoughts on a day with only a few entertaining games:

— By the way, you notice how well some of the other young QBs played Sunday? Blake Bortles gave the Jags a spark, Teddy Bridgewater was fantastic for Minnesota… I want one of those type guys in green and white, please.

— To sum up the Packers’ beatdown of the Bears, see this awesome photo I saw on Twitter Sunday night: yeah, that Bears baby ain’t happy. And the Packers are impossible to figure out.

— J.J. Watt. I mean, he’s just ridiculous. You see this interception return he made for a TD Sunday?

— And so much for the Bills being good this year, right? That 2-0 start was a long, long time ago.

— Paging LeSean McCoy? Anyone seen him? Maybe he’s still hurt and shouldn’t have been playing, but he was invisible Sunday.

— 2 quick baseball thoughts: Beautiful job by the Red Sox in honoring Derek Jeter with so many Boston legends like Bobby Orr and Paul Pierce joining the ceremony, and I’m hoping for a Royals-Pirates World Series, those two fan bases have suffered enough the past three decades.

**Next up, if you’ve ever been to England, you know that at Buckingham Palace the guards are famously stoic, and don’t move or react to anything you say to them (I tried cracking a few jokes to one of them when I visited seven years ago, and dude didn’t move a facial muscle. Impressive discipline. Or maybe my jokes weren’t funny.)

Anyway, a 20-year-old guard named Samuel Jones recently decided to have some fun and break up the boredom of the job, performing for tourists in the above video. Sadly, this story says he’s currently being investigated and may face disciplinary action (though it looks like me just be fined).


**So this story cracked me up: You know how on Facebook when you start typing the first few letters of a name, Facebook suggests and auto-fills a name sometimes?
Well, some Grandmas who’ve been trying to tag themselves on the site have accidentally been tagging Grandmaster Flash, the pioneering rap artist from the 1970s.

Which results in hilarious posts like these:

3.) Now grandma has an even cooler nickname.

Grandma Grandmaster Flash Facebook Tag Accidental Tagging

Grandma Grandmaster Flash Facebook Tag Accidental Tagging

Good News Friday: Derek Jeter writes the perfect farewell. “Blackish” a really fun new show. And Aaron Rodgers does good by some kids.


We get magical moments in sports all the time, but the joy is that we never know exactly when they’re going to happen.

Derek Jeter played his final game at Yankee Stadium Thursday night. It comes after a full season of hype, publicity, and at times nauseatingly-loving media coverage, coverage so immense that even Yankee fans like me were sick of it by midsummer.

He is one of the greatest Yankees in history, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and a man whose play the last few years has been painful to watch for those of us who remember his prime fondly.
So Thursday night it was finally going to end, and “Jeet” had a couple of nice moments through eight innings: A double off the wall, a go-ahead grounder that scored a run, and in the top of the ninth he stood at shortstop with the Yankees about to close out a routine 5-2 win over Baltimore.
Only then, the Hollywood ending wouldn’t have happened. So David Robertson, a solid closer all year, gave up a couple of homers and the O’s tied the game at 5, and of course Jeter was due up third in the bottom of the ninth, and of course the Yanks got a man to second, and then, this happened…

Some of us got chills. How great is that? A perfect ending for a marvelous career.


**Next up, there are so few good network sitcoms these days that I think a new one debuting is worthy of a Good News Friday mention. I’d read some good things about the new Anthony Anderson show “Blackish,” so the wife and I gave it a shot Wednesday night.
Really, really funny. The writing was sharp (I especially like the part where Anderson and his wife discuss the O.J. case), the acting spot-on, and the premise seems like it can be carried out humorously for awhile. (Though bad-ass Laurence Fishburne playing a Grandpa made me feel really, really old.)

I’ve seen lots of shows that have had great pilots and then stunk after that (I’m looking at you, “Michael J. Fox Show”), so I don’t want to get too excited about “Blackish.” But it was smart, funny and definitely I show I’ll keep watching for a while.

**Finally, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has a pretty good reputation for being a good guy (his idiotic blind defense of steroid user Ryan Braun is one notable screw-up by him), and he showed again that there are 99 percent good dudes in the NFL, we just hear about the screw-ups.

Rodgers heard about a woman named Annie who’s suffering from spina bifida, and surprised her with the biggest shock of her life. Really sweet, heart-warming video, especially at the reveal at 1:40 mark …


A harrowing story of random gun violence. A crazy-cool dance by the New Zealand basketball team. And the New Yorker’s awesome Derek Jeter cover


Some more ruminations and links while the wife and I wait for this kid to finally make its appearance in the outside world. I’ll say this for my unborn child: He/she certainly doesn’t seem to be in any kind of hurry. Due date is Friday, and they’ve said they’d only let my wife go a week after that, so sometime in the next 10 days, I’m going to be a daddy. I think…

So often when gun violence is talked about in America, it’s in the abstract, with numbers and statistics, and with one side (the NRA) completely whitewashing the innumerable tragedies that result from guns in the name of protecting Americans’ “personal freedom.)

So when a terrific writer does a story on an innocent victim of senseless gun violence, maybe it hits home a little more, and just maybe makes a person think.

The above photo is of a 26-year-old Boston woman named Dawnn Jaffier. She supervised at-risk youth at a local  Boys and Girls Club. She had big dreams, a beautiful smile… and she’s lying in a grave right now, accidentally caught in the crossfire of a gunfight.

The Boston Globe’s Evan Allen wrote this fantastic piece on the last day of Jaffier’s life. It made me angry, and sad, and … just read it.

Goddamn guns.

**And now, for something you just don’t see every day. The New Zealand men’s national basketball team played the U.S. at the FIBA World Cup this week, and before the game the “Tall Blacks” (that’s what they’re called) did a ceremonial Hakka Dance, which they do before every game.
It’s quite… something. I love the looks on the faces of the American players, sort of like “what in the hell are they doing?”
I thought it was very cool.


**And finally, maybe you hate Derek Jeter, maybe you love Derek Jeter. Either way, I think everyone can agree that this week’s New Yorker magazine cover starring No. 2, drawn by Mark Ulriksen, is pretty cool.

And oh yeah, Ulriksen is a Red Sox fan.

A few days late, thoughts on the awesome Spelling Bee. RIP, Alice from “The Brady Bunch.” And the perfect graphic for/against Derek Jeter


Game 7, overtime, Blackhawks-Kings. Nuts. And L.A. wins it. So now we know it’s Rangers- Kings, starting on Wednesday. Should be a whole lotta fun. New York vs. L.A., Marian Gaborik against his old team, maybe the two best goalies in the world going head-to-head… can’t wait till Wednesday.

So one of my favorite events of any kind in any year is the National Spelling Bee, and every year since I”ve had this here blog thingy I’ve written about the Bee, its awesome contestants, and everything associated with it.

Alas, this year the Bee happened during Game 6 of Rangers-Canadiens, and so I didn’t get to see the coolest “smart kid” competition of them all until this weekend.
My father-in-law thought I was “very weird” for watching a Spelling Bee on DVR, but he just doesn’t get it.

Some thoughts, a few days late, on the craziness of the Bee and the first co-champions in 52 years:

— OK, first of all, every year ESPN tries a little bit harder to make these kids seem cool. But this year, man, they went SO over the top trying. Those skits/vignettes with the spellers dressed up in weird costumes, set to current music? And the whole skit with Dr. Bailly, the awesome pronouncer, yelling at the kids that “it’s Bee Day!”

Bless your heart, ESPN, for trying to make our spellers look like cool kids. but they’re not, they know they’re not, WE know they’re not. But I’m glad you try.

— Is it me, or has this thing gotten way friendlier and more casual this year? The sentences Dr. Bailly’s reading out as part of the definitions were funny, lots of times, and filled with pop-culture references, like “Breaking Bad” and lyrics from Kelis. And all the kids say “hi” to Dr. Bailly before spelling their word! Man, I remember when this competition was more cold-blooded.

— Still my favorite thing about the Bee: When a kid sounds out a word, basically guesses, gets it right, then comes back to the chair and gives the other kids a look like “I didn’t know it!” Happened a few times Thursday.

— Jacob. Jacob, Jacob, Jacob. This kid’s in the Bee Hall of Fame off his theatrics in the finals, isn’t he?

–Finally, I’m so glad this is on national TV every year. It’s always riveting; I mean, co-champions, with each kid nailing incredibly difficult words in the last few minutes? Great drama. And for once, it shows young people with no athletic ability or “musical talent” in a positive light, for millions to emulate. I know it’s corny, but I love it.

**Very sad to hear that Ann B. Davis, Alice of “The Brady Bunch” died Sunday at age 88. She will always be remembered as Alice, the housekeeper who for some reason got brought along on family vacations with the Bradys (she threw her back out in Hawaii, who could forget that?), never could get Sam the Butcher to commit, and in the end got replaced by some chick named Kate.

I always loved her little shopping list chalkboard, and her genuine enthusiasm for every Brady kid triumph.
Ah, Alice, you’ll be missed.


**Finally today, this made me laugh out loud, pretty hard. Derek Jeter is beloved by  Yankees fans, hated by everyone else, and generally acknowledged to be the kind of player whose greatness is always talked about in intangibles, like “he’s a winner,” or “he plays the game right.”

It drives quite a few people nuts, including Joe Posnanski, who laughed at this “scouting report” graphic posted about Jeter before a game last week.

So he wrote a column about it, and it’s hysterical, especially the “conversation on the mound” part.
It’s Monday, and you need a good laugh. Click here.

Down go the Yankees, as A-Rod and Co. choke again. The end of Friendly’s restaurants? And “everything’s amazing and no one’s happy”

Damn A-Rod.
And so another Yankees season has come and gone, rather remarkably, as the Bronx Bombers blew a golden opportunity in Game 5 of AL Division Series Thursday night, playing at home and Detroit not throwing its all-world ace, Justin Verlander.

The last few innings were tense and exciting; for all of baseball’s faults, to me no sport does drama better. The wait between each pitch heightens your anxiety as a fan; I was on the edge of my couch for 45 minutes.
A few scattered thoughts on Game 5 from the brain of this occasional baseball fan:

**Say this for Alex Rodriguez: Dude is consistent. He always fails to deliver in the playoffs. OK, that’s not true; he was awesome in 2009 when the Yanks won.
But save that one year, he’s been consistently awful. Twice in key spots Thursday night he came up in the late innings, and struck out both times.
What bothers me most about A-Rod is what I think bothers a lot of people: Guy’s body language out there is just awful. He always looks like he doesn’t care.

**Sad to see what was likely Jorge Posada’s last game as a Yankee. Guy was such a huge part of the dynasty of the late 1990s, and he always played hurt, and often played while going through personal trauma with his son.

**I liked listening to Ron Darling and John Smoltz on TBS, but I wondered this: Why is it pitchers are always the best broadcasters? How come hitters, besides catchers, are never in the booth?

**Derek Jeter’s shot to rightfield in the eighth totally felt like a game-changing home run. I was stunned it didn’t go out.
**Why did the Tigers win? It’s the month of Detroit, baby. Lions are 4-0, Tigers are in the ALCS, and U. of Michigan football is back. No city deserves this sports success more after the last few years of economic catastrophe there.

**Spent an inordinate amount of my childhood in Friendly’s restaurants.
And was very happy to do so.
I mean come on, who didn’t love Friendly’s? The enormous ice cream sundaes, the Big Beef burgers, the salty as all hell french fries? It was fantastic, as I remember it. Plus, it has never stopped being fun drinking a Fribble. Or saying the word “Fribble.”
My friend Andrew worked at Friendly’s in high school, and despite him never giving us enough free ice cream (hey, we saw it as our in), I kept going there constantly.
Now, it looks like the old chain may be in trouble. This week news revealed that Friendly’s is going Chapter 11, and may not be long for this world.
Makes me a little said, truthfully.

**This is one of those things that I thought I had blogged about several times but apparently not. It’s one of the funniest comedy bits I’ve seen in a long time. I watched it several months ago and then my man Joe Poz  (in writing this beautiful tribute to Apple and the iPad) linked it so I watched it again Thursday.

The great Louie C.K., explaining how in 2011, “everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy.” Four minutes of awesomeness.

A few thoughts on the late Betty Ford. Jeter’s 3,000th sucks me back in. And “instant music gratification” may be a bad thing

Spent a little time Sunday reading about the remarkable life of Betty Ford, who died Friday.

I think you can make the argument that she led the most important and meaningful life of a First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt, which is sorta funny considering Betty Ford’s husband was President for such a short time.
But think about what this woman lived through: cancer, addiction to pills, rehab and then founding an incredibly important and breakthrough rehab center, Watergate, and many other setbacks.
Betty Ford was a remarkably brave woman. She was a pioneer in helping women confront the fear of cancer; she overcame her addictions in a very public way, and to the end she was a graceful example of how to live in public life.
She was also very pointedly political when she was in the spotlight in the 1970s, as a strong supporter of abortion legalization, and the ERA.
She deserves to be remembered as one of the most important women of the 20th century.

**I’ve said on here many times that I’m not much of a baseball fan anymore. But every once in a while, I get pulled back in. The last week, being back in New York and being subjugated to non-stop “Derek Jeter 3,000th hit” talk sparked my interest again.
Then Saturday, while at my Grandma’s 93rd birthday party, my uncle’s phone suddenly beeped and he shouted “Jeter did it!” So we huddled around his iPhone a few minutes later and watched the clip of the Yankee shortstop who helped make the late 1990s so awesome for us Yankee fans achieve a wonderful career milestone with a home run.
I admit it, I got excited watching that above clip. In this swampland of fallen baseball heroes the past 15 years, Jeter has always stood above the rest as a classy, honest guy who did his job extremely well every day.

**You ever have a conversation about something with a friend, and then the next day read an article about the exact phenomenon you were just discussing? Happened to me Sunday. A day after my friend Andrew and I lamented that his son will never know what it’s like to not have information immediately at his fingertips, I read this really nice piece by the gifted writer Te-Nehisi Coates, who I got turned on to through Andrew Sullivan’s blog. He talks about how all the mystery is gone now when it comes to music; you used to spend hours wondering what was the name of that song you just heard, and then having that “aha!” moment when you found out.
Now, we’re all about instant music gratification. And it’s somehow not as fun.
You know how many hours as a kid I spent trying to remember names of songs? Then again, think about all the other ways my brain could’ve been working then. I know my 6th grade math teacher, Mrs. Mealy, would’ve appreciated me spending more brain matter on algebra.

An Olympic curling heartbreaker, the wonderful Vonn, and a kick-ass John Hughes tribute

Oy, so many things to blog about tonight, and so little time … I know you’re all as busy as I am so a bunch of quick-hitting thoughts today:

— Why I love the Olympics, Reason 467: Lindsey Vonn’s emotions after winning her

first gold medal, in the women’s downhill. If LeBron James or Derek Jeter lose a playoff series, they know they have next season. These Olympians have to wait four years to try to reach the pinnacle of their sport again, and the thousands and thousands of hours of training and suffering aren’t worth it unless you medal.

Vonn, who has had so much pressure on her in the run-up to the Games, since she was NBC’s poster-child for Team USA, came through with the race of her life. And then, after it was over, she wept and sobbed and embraced her husband in such a beautiful moment. (Though hey, NBC, could we have given them their private moment without filming it? I mean, it was great television, but a few minutes of privacy first would’ve been nice for them.)

— Julie and I were absolutely riveted between 6-8 p.m. Wednesday night, as the U.S. and Switzerland’s men’s curling teams battled in a great match. I’m telling you, this curling stuff is phenomenal. The strategy, the announcer guy Don (who has a fabulous Canadian accent and such a folksy charm; he’s like the Tom Bodette of these Olympics), the fact that there are timeouts (that kills me), the cool but enormous measurement tool they use to see which rock is closer to “the house” … it’s all fascinating.

Brutally tough loss for the U.S., as our skip, John Shuster, couldn’t quite do enough to lead America to victory.  It was our second-straight one point defeat; couple that with the U.S. women’s loss Wednesday morning, and it’s safe to say our rocks haven’t been, well, rockin’ so far.

— A brief non-Olympics interlude: I am truly blown away by how bizarre “Big Love” is getting. I mean, it’s bordering on the ridiculous. Still, I’m riveted. OK, end of digression.

— I have no idea how Shaun White does what he does. But damn, it’s awesome.  I don’t want to say he was up high on the half-pipe course, but three people boarded him thinking it was the plane for their flight to Seattle.

— The short-track speed skating continues to thrill. Good for Shani Davis to win again, and watching the women’s 500 late last night was awesome; there were four crashes in the prelim races; this sport truly is NASCAR with skates.

— And finally, I wrote about my love of the late, great director John Hughes here when he died.  For some reason I hadn’t seen this yet, but my old college buddy Rob Kalesse put this on his Facebook page tonight, and I was blown away.

If you’re a child of the 80’s, or just love John Hughes, this is five wonderful minutes that you’ll enjoy.

Agassi’s book blows me away, SI again snubs Federer, and a holiday gift you must own

When I read Lance Allred’s brilliant autobiography a few months ago, I thought that would be the sports book I measured all others against for a while.

Lance, I love ya. But move over. The Andre Agassi book I’ve just finished, “Open” blows you and everything else out of the water.

Let me state right off that I was never an Andre Agassi fan as a tennis player. I thought he was cocky, obnoxious, and didn’t respect the game. I thought he floated by on natural talent, never worked that hard, until the middle of his career, and didn’t really love the game that much.

In this brutally honest memoir (ghost-written, it should be said, with Pulitzer Prize winner J.R. Moehringer), Agassi revealed that, well, he hated tennis his whole life.  Reading the book, I can understand why. He was basically a tennis slave for his father, Mike, for most of his childhood, and never had the chance to do anything else he might like.

I was pretty pumped up a few weeks ago when I wrote about reading the excerpts from the book, but let me tell you, the crystal meth admission, which got so much attention early on, is about the 28th most interesting thing in this book.

We learn about Mike Agassi’s dreaded ball machine that tortured Andre, and the great match with NFL legend Jim Brown when Andre was 8. We learn how shy Agassi was around girls, and about how lonely and tortured he felt at the boot-camp style Nick Bollettieri tennis academy, where he was shipped once hit double-digits in age.

There’s plenty of “inside tennis” stuff for fans like me: Agassi tells a great story about notorious player Jeff Tarango cheating when both were in a junior tournament and both were under 10. There’s an “in hindsight” hilarious dismissal of Pete Sampras’ career prospects, and some serious anger Agassi felt toward Sampras (a bad tipper, we learn), Boris Becker, Jimmy Connors (a jerk to Agassi several times in his life) and Michael Chang. The book opens with an incredible passage describing Agassi’s last U.S. Open win, a 5-set thriller against Marcos Baghdatis (a match yours truly has on tape, it was so good).

But this is so much more than a tennis book. There are fabulous stories about Agassi basically stalking Steffi Graf to go out with him; about Brooke Shields’ odd behavior, and about Agassi’s remarkably devoted friend/mentor/trainer, Gil Reyes (How dedicated is Reyes? He doesn’t ever get up to go the bathroom during Agassi’s matches, lest Andre look for him in the stands and not see him).

Most of all, it’s about the maturation of a spoiled kid who hated life into a remarkable man who now runs a school that helps poor kids get to college.

I urge you, for any person in your life who likes to read, to buy the Agassi book for them. It will stay with me for a long, long time.

***So Sports Illustrated named its Sportsman of the Year Monday, and as I sadly expected, it wasn’t Roger Federer.

They went with a nice, safe, American choice, the Yankees’ Derek Jeter. Can’t say No. 2 doesn’t deserve it; he’s been a classy Yankee for 14 years, doesn’t get caught doing drugs or steroids, or beating his wife. He’s a class act and a pretty humble guy considering he’s a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. Like with so many things in life, it all goes back to good parenting.

Still, I wish SI had given Fed the nod. It is a pretty cool cover, though.

**Finally, I know most of you have probably started your holiday shopping, but look no further for the person in your life who loves pajamas, and presidential politics.

Presenting … the Ojamas! PJ’s with the president’s face all over them. Who doesn’t want this as a holiday gift, anybody???