Tag Archives: Fred Phelps

Some thoughts on the first four days of March Madness (but not on Duke losing). Rachel Maddow on the death of Fred Phelps. And Fallon and Billy Joel tune up

Syracuse v Dayton

Here’s what you won’t be reading today at Wide World of Stuff: A several-hundred word rant on the incredibly disappointing and sucky Duke men’s basketball team, which for the 2nd time in three years got bounced out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round by a vastly less-heralded team.

You won’t be reading that because since the game happened Friday afternoon, I’ve had more than 48 hours to stew about it, rant about it to my friends, and basically process it through my sports digestive system.

Instead, I want to talk about some of the other incredible stuff that’s happened in the first few days of March Madness, the greatest event in sports:

— Like the North Dakota State upset over Oklahoma on Friday night, which led to this awesome dancing from players and coach…

And the dancing from that Mercer kid I know I’m already sick of, Kevin Canavari, who played six minutes in their win over Duke but hey, kid’s entitled to celebrate:

— One of the constant themes of just about every upset, or blown lead (I’m looking at you, N.C. State): Missed free throws. It’s the easiest shot in the game, the one where no one guards you, yet every  year at crunch time players miss ’em. Crazy.
— Not shocking that Duke or Kansas lost early, because they were led by freshmen and sophomores. That’s why Mercer, Stephen F. Austin, and North Dakota State’s wins weren’t shockers; those teams have been playing together for years, not months. They know each other’s games so well.

— I know a lot of people don’t like Charles Barkley as an announcer, and I don’t like him sometimes, too. But he is damn funny.

— Dear CBS: We don’t need to see a little boy in the stands crying over Kansas about to lose, SEVEN times in the last few minutes of the Stanford upset over the Jayhawks. I mean, OK, show the kid once for the human drama, but to keep going back to it is cruel.

— I know that No. 15 Eastern Kentucky didn’t end up beating Kansas, and No. 16 Coastal Carolina lost their steam and fell to No. 1 seed Virginia, but those moments, where the underdog is winning in the second half and their bench is going crazy and the crowd starts to believe this really can happen? Best part of the Tournament, every year.

— Best team I saw over the first four days: Wisconsin. Second-best? Florida.

— Finally, I can’t tell you how infuriating I found that Chris Webber/Burger King commercial, though not as infuriating as any Michigan fan surely did. Chris Webber, if you don’t know, was a major star at UM in the early 1990s, leading the Wolverines to two nat’l title game appearances. You won’t find any of those wins Webber led Michigan to in the NCAA record books, because thanks to Webber taking cash and benefits from agents, all those wins were wiped out.

Michigan was also put on probation thanks to Webber, and the sanctions set the program back years.

And now here he is in 2014, 20 years later, wearing a maize and blue Michigan jersey in a Burger King commercial, making money for himself off his association with Michigan basketball! The chutzpah, the gall, the whatever, of Webber to do that is mind-boggling.

**Next up today, you may have heard that Fred Phelps, leader of the disgusting Westboro Baptist Church and one of the most odious human beings who ever lived, died last week.
Rachel Maddow beautifully dissects the “positive” legacy of Phelps. This piece is so worth your time, to reaffirm that so much hate, can breed so much love and compassion:

**And finally, Jimmy Fallon and Billy Joel team up for an awesome musical duet, doing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” thanks to a cool iPad app called Looper.

Seems like Fallon can get his musical guests to do anything.

One man fights back beautifully against Westboro Baptist Church. The strangest international event I’ve ever heard of. And the joy of lunatic sports radio callers


Sometimes, when coming up against an individual or group so despicable, so hostile, and so just downright evil, you have to respond with a smile.

“Kill ’em with kindness,” I believe the expression goes. My former partner on the high school sports beat at the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Buddy Shacklette and I, would always say that to each other when a high school coach would give us crap about one thing or another. After a while it got to be a joke between us, as the more angry the coach got, the happier and kinder we got.

Anyway, I’m sure you’ve all unfortunately heard of the Westboro Baptist Church, the “religious” group that pickets military funerals, puts forth hate-filled messages to gay people, and in most other ways make complete asses of themselves in public.

Well, a man named Aaron Jackson decided to get some sweet revenge and tweak the hate-mongers as well. Jackson, a 31-year-old community college dropout, noticed there was a house for sale across the street from Westboro Baptist’s main headquarters in Topeka, Kan.

So he bought it and decided to paint the house completely in the colors of the gay pride flag (that’s the house in progress, above.)

“We’re going to take the negative attention and try to spin it into something positive,” said Jackson’s friend and roommate, Davis Hammet. “Instead of millions of children around the world getting this hate message, they’re going to see this message of compassion and love.”

I love it. You go, Aaron Jackson. I’d love to see the look on the face of Fred Phelps (Westboro’s leader) when he leaves in the morning and has to see that every day.

**And now, in honor of March Madness (one more day till my favorite day of the year!), we present a lunatic sports radio caller from Kentucky, who blames liberal socialism for the Wildcats not making the NCAA Tournament. Yep, that’s it. For you WFAN old-timers like me, this guy makes Jerome from Brooklyn seem sane…


**Finally today, this has to be the most bizarre and random international sporting event ever. For the past 50 years, the people of Liberal, Kansas and Olney, England have held an annual race on International Pancake Day (what, you didn’t know there was an International Pancake Day? March 13, baby. This is what you get from this blog, all kinds of useless info.)

According to this fascinating and weird story I heard on NPR’s “Only a Game” radio show, back in 15th century England, a woman was busy making pancakes out of those foods when she realized it was time for church.

“She heard the church bells ringing and dashed off to church realizing that she was late,” an organizer of the event said. “Well, she still had her pancake in her hand, and ran all the way to the church like that.”

In Olney, a town of about 6,000, this whole running-with-pancakes thing kind of caught on, and they started to have a race each year, requiring the women of the town to run while holding pancakes in frying pans. In 1950, a resident of Liberal named RJ Leete read about Olney’s racing tradition in Time Magazine, and well, the rest is Aunt Jemima history.

So yeah, every year women in both towns run as fast as they can for three blocks wearing  a headscarf and apron, and, of course, carrying a pancake in a skillet. And no, they’re not required to flip the pancakes while they’re actually running, though they do have to flip them once before they start, and again after crossing the finish line, just to prove they still have them.

The race happens in both towns, and then afterwards the townspeople in both places meet to compare times and see who won.

I love this so much. I might just have to go to Liberal, Kansas one day to see it. (the whole town basically shuts down every March 13th for the race).

At the very least, you gotta figure you’ll get a delicious breakfast out of the trip.