Tag Archives: Joe Posnanski

Good News Friday: NBA star Kyle Lowry donates $1 million to his alma mater. A Baltimore school tries meditation instead of detention, and it’s working. And a beautiful story about a father, a daughter and a driving test

And a Happy Friday to you out there, unless you’re a government employee who’s about to go on an unplanned and unpaid vacation because our Idiot-in-Chief has no clue on what he wants, so Washington D.C. comes to a halt and we have a government shutdown.

First up today, college basketball players get a bad rap these days for not giving a fig about school, and only using the university they attend as a “way station” to the NBA.

But the reality is, nearly every NCAA Division I player won’t make it to the pros, and many of them really do care about their university, and realize how big a role it plays in their lives.

One of those who did make the NBA, but didn’t forget where he came from, is Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry. Lowry made a splash this week in a great way, announcing he’s donating $1 million to Villanova University, where he grew up and learned so much.

Lowry’s story, told beautifully here by The Athletic’s Dana O’Neil, is of a hard-headed, sullen kid who came to college and four years later, left a very different man.

“They always accepted me. They all wanted me to do well,’’ Lowry says. “Yeah, I took advantage of it, but they helped me figure out how to do it.’’

Really great story here.

**Next up today, I found this next story fascinating, and hopeful. We all know teachers and principals have been giving out detentions and suspensions forever, and whether they work or not is always up for debate.

An inner-city elementary school in Baltimore named Robert W. Coleman has been trying something different: Not suspensions, but sending kids to a “Meditation Room,” where they learn to breathe and relax and not stress so much.

It’s part of a partnership with the Holistic Life Foundation, a Baltimore non-profit. Does it work? Well, there have been ZERO suspensions at Coleman this year, so that certainly seems to be a good number.

Read the story here about other ways meditation is helping these students.

**And finally today, a beautiful story from Joe Posnanski, about his daughter, turning 16, and the fear of a driver’s license test. I think we can all relate to the terror of sitting there at the DMV, waiting for your instructor to call your name, and then hoping to hell you can finally pull off a solid parallel park. (2nd-best parallel park of my life happened on my road test; it was a freaking miracle.)

Posnanski is never better than when he’s writing about his family, and this column is just sensational.

Here’s the lede:

She is so scared. I can always tell when she’s scared; she has this look on her face, and it’s not so different from the look she had when she was three years old and we were walking through Times Square, and the crowd was overwhelming her. I reached down then and picked her up and slowly the fear drained from her face. She was happy again. I cannot pick her up now. She stares at the monitor, the one that shows who will be called next. D113. C149. E228.

I look at her card again. It is A102.

It’s a wonderful tale that we all can relate to. Have a great weekend. Oh, and I’m picking the Vikings and Patriots to meet in the Super Bowl.

 

Me and Joe Poz on the horrible “Atomic Beam” flashlight infomercial. A hilarious take on Jagger and Bowie’s “Dancin’ in the Streets.” And the stupid criminal foiled by his name on his shirt.

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Before we begin today’s blog, a loyal reader has requested (nay, demanded!) I update you on one of the most pressing issues of the day: The USA Freedom girls, the adorable tykes I’ve blogged about twice, who sang at a Donald Trump rally, then didn’t get paid after promises were made to pay them, are now suing The Donald. Which is awesome. I hope they get lots of money from him. On with the show…

It’s been a while since I’ve written about a truly terrible and awesome infomercial, but thankfully, Joe Posnanski, whose infomercial “analysis” is second to none, is back with this hilarious story on the Atomic Beam infomercial, which truly is one of the stupidest products/infomercials I’ve ever seen.

Watch it please (linked in my Tweet above, for some reason it won’t embed properly), and then come back and answer a few questions for me, including:

— Why in the world would a mugger be scared off by a woman with a flashlight? Mace, I understand. But bright lights scare these would-be criminals? Are they like, part-Gremlin?
— Putting the flashlight in a vat of frying oil filled with French Fries (at the :40 mark), makes me really question the cleanliness of that particular fast food establishment.
— Our former Marine host dude keeps trying to smash the Atomic Beam, but all he really does is smash the block of ice around the flashlight, not the light itself. Why should I be impressed?

I’ve got lots more questions, but Joe Poz has his own hilarious take on it. If you need a really good belly laugh today, I urge you to read it.

**Next up today, this is why I love the Internet: People take the time to do stupid stuff that turns out really funny. In this case, someone on the Internet took the time to take all the “music” out of the famous video for “Dancing in the Streets,” starring those two legends, David Bowie and Mick Jagger.

Really hilarious. Mick looks so uncoordinated here…

**And finally today, in addition to terrible infomercials not being on my blog for awhile, it’s also been a long time since I’ve gotten around to talking about stupid criminals.

Thankfully, the brilliant folks on NPR’s “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” brought one to my attention this week.

Meet Dustin Brannon, a Kenosha, Wisc. man who was responsible for two robberies in the state recently.

Dustin was arrested last week for robbing a gas station and a liquor store. How did the intrepid cops get a break in this unsolvable crime? They found T-shirts left at the scene that had the name “Dustin Brannon” ironed on to the inside.

Oh Dustin. I don’t know what’s more embarrassing: That you left your shirts at the scene of the crime, or that you have your name ironed on to your T-shirt.

Good News Friday: A teenage girl gets to see “Hamilton,” and her Dad writes about it. Mother and daughter find each other, 80 years after adoption. And a Children’s Village in Tanzania is absolutely inspiring.

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And a Happy Friday to you. Been a couple weeks since I’ve done a GNF so the good news stories have happily piled up. Have three here that really moved me and I think you’ll enjoy.

First up, the great Joe Posnanski is never better than when writing about his family; I don’t care if he never wrote another sports column, I’d read anything and everything he wrote about his wife and kids.

This piece might be his best ever.

It seems Joe’s 14-year-old daughter Elizabeth has, like millions of other Americans, become obsessed with the huge Broadway musical “Hamilton,” and despite ticket prices being astronomical (seriously just for the heck of it I checked “Hamilton” prices on StubHub and about fell out of my chair), he took her to see it in New York recently.

This essay, partly about why “Hamilton” has struck such a chord, why it’s so good, and about his daughter’s passion in seeing it, is just sensational.

An excerpt:

The thing about seeing Hamilton RIGHT NOW at its peak moment is that even before it begins, the entire theater is filled with wonder. Every single person would rather be here than anywhere else in the world. As a sportswriter, I often feel that sort of energy at the biggest events, at the Masters or the Super Bowl or the Olympics, but it’s even more pronounced in this theater. People look at each other with the same wide-eyed expression: “Can you believe we’re here?”

And then the show begins, Aaron Burr on the stage, talking about that bastard orphan Hamilton, and within about two minutes you realize the thing that makes Hamilton magical is this: It’s going to be even better than you had hoped.

How do you know only a minute in? You just do. The charms of Hamilton are so overwhelming and come at you from so many different directions that it’s hard to pinpoint. The music is fantastic, of course, and of every style. The actors are all thoroughly wonderful. The set, which is so simple, is ever changing as people bring things on the stage and take things off, almost without notice. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics are so fun and surprising and joyful and glorious …

Here, the Marquis de Lafayette is the “Lancelot of the Revolutionary set.”

Here, George Washington is not the white-haired truth-teller known for annual white sales, he is the only hope when the Colonies are “outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered, outplanned.”

Here, the Revolutionary War is not some bloodless classroom lesson, but the answer to the question: “How does a ragtag army in need of a shower, somehow defeat a global superpower?”

The column gets better and better as it goes, and the postscript Joe added a few days after the column went viral? The perfect ending.

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**Next up, this incredible story from the Chicago Tribune was sent to me by loyal reader Sanford, and it blew me away. More than 80 years ago, a 16-year-old girl named Eileen Wagner was raped on her way home one night and became pregnant. She was sent away by her parents to a “special home” for teenaged girls who became pregnant, and after delivering the baby in 1933, the child was given up for adoption. That child, Dorien Hammann, was adopted after being in a ward of the state for two years, and Eileen never saw her again.

Until this past April, when now 83-year-old Dorian called Eileen and said two incredible words: “Hello, Mother.”

After eight decades, Dorien and Eileen have reunited as daughter and mother. It’s a wonderful tale from journalist Vikki Ortiz Healy, and well worth your time.

I almost gave up on ever finding her,” said Wagner, who added that she has thought about the baby girl she had given up every day “from the day she was born.”

“It is still so hard to believe that at my age, my birth mother is still alive,” Hammann said. “I get chills and goose bumps all at the same time when I think of this.”

Eighty years. Can you imagine finding your mother after all that time?

**Finally today, a “60 Minutes” piece I finally got to watch on our flight home Tuesday night really hit me. It’s about an American woman named India Howell and her business power, a Tanzania native named Peter Leon Mmassy, and the children’s village of nearly 100 kids they’ve created in a remote part of the world where so many kids were orphaned or abandoned.

What these two people have built over the past 20 years is nothing short of remarkable. Together, Mmassy and Howell have transformed so many lives in so many ways. Watch the full story here.

 

Good News Friday: Remembering the great Yogi Berra, with a smile. The baby who loves books more than any baby, ever. And the best 100-year-old athlete in the world

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And a Happy Friday to you; it’s been a good week in that I survived my Yom Kippur fast, the Jets are 2-0, and I’m getting a ride in the Popemobile today (OK not really, but wouldn’t that be awesome?)

We don’t usually start Good News Friday celebrating someone’s death, but you know what? Yogi Berra always made me, and millions of others, smile, and that’s what so many people have been doing the last 48 hours since his passing: Smiling at the memory of all that Yogi did, all that he gave us, and all the funny things he said, over the course of his 90 years.

Picking a favorite Yogi quote is like picking the prettiest mountain or the most beautiful flower: There are just too many options.

I’ve always loved “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” and also, “Hey, Yogi, what time is it?”
“You mean now?”

But there are so many others. There are also numerous instances of Yogi’s innate goodness, his charitable works, and how every single tribute to him that’s flowed in has talked about his humility, and his kindness toward others.

Lawrence Peter Berra was a war hero (he had a part in the D-Day invasion), a 10-time World Series-winning catcher, an incredible hitter, a manager who brought two teams to the brink of a World Series title, and a baseball legend, permanently ensconced in the Hall of Fame.

But maybe the best epitaph for him? “He was a truly nice man.”

I’ve read a bunch of wonderful Yogi tribute stories the last few days, but my two favorites are this one from the brilliant Tom Verducci of SI, and Joe Posnanski’s sweet column on NBCSports.com

**Next up, I really think this is a good news video, even though there’s a baby crying in it. Meet Emmett, the adorable little fella who cries every single time his mom finishes reading him a book.

Emmett loves books SO much, he just can’t handle it, emotionally, when they end.
Love it! He’s going to grow up to love books and probably become a librarian.
Wish my kid loved books that much. These days he just tries to eat the pages.

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**Finally today, meet Don Pellmann. He was born before World War I ended, and he’s still competing as an athlete.

He’s 100, and at the recent San Diego Senior Olympics he threw the shotput (or put the shot, as it’s properly said) more than 21 feet.

He also competed in the high jump, winning a gold medal there (3 feet, 1 1/4 inches) and then broke 27 seconds in the 100-meter dash (not to quibble, but can we really call it a “dash” if a 100-year-old is doing it?).

What a tremendous medical marvel.

“I guess I have pretty good genes,” Pellmann said.

Good News Friday: The Beatles debut in America turns 50. An awesome Canadian response to Russia being anti-gay. And a USA Olympian to root for.

It’s hard to fathom for people of my generation how amazing and transformative a cultural event “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9, 1964 was.

Of course rock and roll existed before that date, but when the Beatles came on television, it was like nothing any Americans had ever seen before.

Elvis made girls scream, sure. But when John, Paul, George and Ringo were around, people lost their ever-loving minds.

Lots of good stuff has been said and written this week about the 50th anniversary of that seminal moment, and I’m very much looking forward to the special on CBS Sunday night about them.

I’ve been a Beatles fan since I was about 13, when a friend of my mother’s bought me their “20 Greatest Hits” cassette, and I played it pretty much non-stop for a while.

I’m nowhere near as obsessive as most fans, but what struck me tonight while I was going through some of their history was just how much music they made in such a short time. They made twelve studio albums from 1962-70, an insane pace that no act today could ever match.

And so many of those albums are filled with classic songs; there really isn’t a bad record in the bunch.

Everybody always wonders what would’ve happened if they’d stayed together. Me, I’m just happy they did so much amazing work while they got along.

**Next up, yet another reason for me to love Canada, as if I didn’t have enough already, what with their universal health care, worship of hockey and curling (Man am I excited to watch curling again at the Olympics!), and wonderful gifting of comedians to us.

Ahead of the Winter Olympics which, oddly, started Thursday before the Opening Ceremonies), the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion has released this hilarious 30-second commercial mocking Russia’s horribly anti-gay laws and beliefs.

And the music is classic, too. Bravo, Canada.

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**Finally today, the Olympics really get going this weekend, which gives me a chance to plug my Olympics writing for Thrive Sports. I’ll be writing daily blogs about skeleton, curling and speedskating.

NBC will of course give us lots of human-interest stories to make us care about Team USA, but I doubt there’s a better story than Emily Scott, a short-track speedskater making her first Olympic appearance.

Joe Posnanski has written a magnificent story about Scott, who’s overcome a lot in life: Her mother was a meth dealer and has been in prison for most of Emily’s life, and Emily’s Olympic dream pretty much ended last year when she ran out of money to train.

But a story about her in USA Today led to a fundraising drive, and strangers from across this great land of ours (689 people, to be exact) pitched in nearly $50,000. And now Emily Scott qualified and is in Sochi, and her heroic father will be there to watch.

Read the whole story here; pretty hard to get through without having a lump in your throat.

The Reds make a Down’s Syndrome kid’s dream come true. Joe Poz with a unique Ebert tribute. And pro athletes living in a retirement community? Sure

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And a happy Friday to all of you out Internet-land. I’m extremely happy today because my heart attack-inducing Rangers finally clinched a playoff spot. Onward with today’s good news…

The Cincinnati Reds became acquainted last season with a young man named Teddy Kramer, a huge fan of the team who was born with Down’s Syndrome.

Teddy’s parents won an auction last year for Teddy to be an honorary batboy for a game, and he quickly bonded with the team.
That’s normally where these stories end. But Kramer was back with the Reds this week, and, well, some amazing stuff happened, including him predicting the final score and asking player Todd Frazier to hit him a home run before one at-bat.

And then Frazier went and did it, sending the crowd into delirium and later chanting Teddy’s name.

It’s a beautiful story and one that I promise will put a smile on your face.

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**I thought this story was really cute. The Washington Spirit are a new women’s pro soccer team, as for about the 11th time women’s soccer tries to get a real league going in the U.S.

Looking to save money, the team was trying to find low-cost housing for some of the players.
And it what may be a first in pro sports, they found it in a retirement community.
Yep, in between canasta games and folks bragging about the grandchildren, several Spirit players are loving life at Ingleside of King’s Farm, a D.C. senior citizens complex.

Average age of players: 28. Average age of residents: 82.

It’s a really cute story, with the senior citizens baking cookies and stuff for the players. Check out the really nice story here.

My favorite quote? “I can’t wait to learn how to play bridge,” said Spirit player Diana Matheson, 29, an economics major at Princeton.

**Finally, it’s been a few weeks since the greatest film critic of all time, Roger Ebert, died, but the tributes are still rolling in.

I thought this was really creative by the great Joe Posnanski: He took 75 first lines of Ebert’s movie reviews and combined them into one story.

There’s great thoughts about life, movies, and plenty else in this cobbled-together story.
What a fabulous mind we lost in Roger Ebert.

A truly bizarre and wonderful Super Bowl ends with Ravens on top. And the ridiculous product of the new year: The WaxVac!

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Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.
That was one hell of a Super Bowl. We are so spoiled right now; just about every Super Bowl in the last 10 years has been great, and this one … man, I don’t even know where to start.

The Ravens dominate, go up 28-6. Then the power, inexplicably, goes out at the SuperDome in New Orleans. Thirty-five minute delay. Then the 49ers roar back into the game, and the Baltimore D looks totally gassed, and Niners QB Colin Kaepernick looks like he’s writing the greatest comeback story in Super Bowl history.

Then the Ravens hang on with a fantastic goal-line stand at the end (and no, it wasn’t a hold on 4th down; a good no call by the refs, methinks) and finally after four hours the millions watching on TV exhale.

This is why the NFL can’t be killed. No matter how many concussions are doled out, how many lawsuits are brought by old players who are in unspeakable pain and agony playing the sport they loved… this is why the NFL endures. Because it gives us drama like this.

Some quick-hit thoughts on the game, the commercials, and the announcers who talked about it all:

— The blackout in the third quarter was bizarre. Did someone from the 49ers pull the plug to stop the bleeding on the field? Pretty embarrassing for the NFL, no matter how it happened. Just a totally different game when play resumed. (Best Tweet about it? From @NealPollack: “This time, it’s the rich people trapped in the Superdome.”

— Joe Flacco, the pride of the University of Delaware! I’m a very proud alum today, after our most famous recent athlete put on a dazzling show in the Super Bowl. Three first-half touchdowns, one prettier than the next. Man he has such a great arm. Representing Blue Hens on the world stage; way to go Joe. (Fun fact: in the last 5 years my little school has had a vice-president, a Nobel Prize winner, and a Super Bowl winning QB.)

— Kaepernick is just sensational. As bad as he played in the first half, he showed why he’s going to be so special in the 2nd half. Can’t believe on that last drive the Niners didn’t call a play for him to run it in.

— I thought the Sandy Hook Elementary School choir singing “America The Beautiful” with Jennifer Hudson before the game was just beautiful.

— Beyonce at halftime: I mean, wow. She looked phenomenal (someone Tweeted that all of America was rooting for a wardrobe malfunction; count me in on that), and sounded phenomenal. The computerized graphics were fabulous, and the woman just brought so much energy and flash to her performance. For my money, one of the best Super Bowl halftime productions ever.

— On the commercials, several really good ones stood out for me and the crew watching the game: The Taco Bell ad, with the old people partying and “We Are Young” in Spanish playing in the background, was awesome.

We also loved the Audi commercial with the kid who kisses the dream girl at the prom, then drives home happily with a black eye, and the Doritos ad with the fathers all playing dress-up in princess costumes was cute, too.

And the Oprah Jeep commercial tribute to our soldiers was pretty terrific and tear-inducting

But the top commercials, to me, were the Tide “Joe Montana Stain” commercial (above); hilarious…

and the Budweiser Clydesdale Farmer ad, which was moving and beautiful and made up for the two earlier crappy Bud commercials…

— Commercials we didn’t like: The GoDaddy.com ad was tame (for them) and the Budweiser “Black Label” ads seemed lame; the Psy “Pistachios” ad was incredibly stupid (your 15 minutes are up, pal).

— On the broadcast side, I thought Phil Simms and Jim Nantz did OK; although they seemed to have no idea how or why that 2nd-quarter brawl broke out between the teams, then they barely showed a replay of it. And they both talked way too much.

— Here’s something I thought of a few times during the game: Seven years ago, the Louisiana Superdome was just about destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. All the experts said the building was done hosting football, hosting anything. It was a shelter for thousands of people whose lives had been destroyed.

And now, it’s once again a shining sports cathedral. Made me happy to see the SuperDome shine again.

**Finally today, two things I love most combined again last week: Joe Posnanski writing comedy, and him writing comedy about a ridiculous infomercial. Never fails to crack me up. This time, he takes on the WaxVac (above), a needless product designed to vacuum-suck wax out of your ears.

The reaction of the guy who screams “Oww!” is just priceless.

We’ve got Harbaugh-palooza in the Super Bowl. Two baseball legends die on the same day. And do we really need inaugurations anymore?

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We’re all going to get really sick of the Harbaugh brothers in the next two weeks.

But I don’t care, I’m jazzed up about the upcoming Super Bowl after two pretty thrilling conference title games Sunday.

The San Francisco 49ers, with their amazing running and throwing quarterback, made yet another dramatic comeback Sunday to beat the choking Atlanta Falcons, to reach the Super Bowl.

And then we got the Baltimore Ravens, looking for a half like they’d throw up another valiant but losing effort to the forces of evil that are the New England Patriots, before waking up at halftime and ripping off 21 consecutive points, making Tom Brady cry (OK I can’t prove he cried) and turning Bill Belichick into a sore loser, once again.

As a Jets fan, you take your joy where you can get it, and seeing the Patriots suffer is always nice.

But this should be a fascinating Super Bowl, even if, like me, you’re sick of Preacher Man Ray Lewis. Joe Flacco (a fellow Blue Hen!) becoming a big-time QB before our eyes. Two great running backs, Ray Rice and SF’s Frank Gore, going head to head. Two excellent defenses. And, you know, two brothers coaching against each other in a Super Bowl for the first time.

Should be a great game. And if you’re a Harbaugh family member of any kind, even a fourth cousin, your phone will be ringing off the hook this week.

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**Tough day for baseball fans on Saturday, as two legends of the game died within hours of each other.

Earl Weaver, the legendary Baltimore Orioles manager who infuriated umpires but took the O’s to four World Series appearances, died at age 82. I always loved, as a kid, watching Earl stomp around the field berating umpires, and this is my favorite clip of him, though I warn you there’s a teeny bit of foul language. Weaver loved home runs, hated bunts, and didn’t take any crap from anybody, becoming one of the best managers in baseball history. He’ll be missed, especially now that today’s managers seem mostly devoid of personality.

And then a short time later Saturday, Stan (The Man) Musial, maybe one of the 2-3 greatest hitters who ever lived, and by universal agreement one of the finest gentlemen who ever lived, died at 92. Musial was before my time, but his Hall of Fame career ranks with anyone who ever played the game, and I’ve never read a bad word about him.

In St. Louis, where he is a God, there is much mourning today. The great Joe Posnanski, who tried for years to get Musial to cooperate on a book, has of course written a gorgeous tribute to Musial; read it here to appreciate the man.

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**Finally today, the once every four years tradition of a Presidential Inauguration is taking place.

All weekend there have been parties, speeches and celebrations to hip-hip-hooray the fact that Barack Obama is still the President of the United States. And believe me, I’m thrilled he’s still the President, and not Willard Romney. I think Obama’s second term could be filled with greatness, from gun control laws to immigration reform to who knows what else he may grow a backbone about over the next four years.

But I mean, why do we need to go nuts and spend millions of dollars on an Inauguration when the same guy is basically just keeping the job? I understand why you need an inauguration when someone new takes over; you’ve got to swear him in, go over all the things he has to do Constitutionally, yada yada yada.

But when a President is re-elected, can’t we just go on with our lives and let him keep doing the job?

Just seems like a big waste of time to me.

The Baseball Hall of Fame properly elects no one. Celebrities reading mean Tweets. And Jon Stewart, pissed off about guns

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There are lots of issues in sports that I can see both sides on.
The idea of baseball players who used steroids being elected and inducted into the Hall of Fame is not one of them.

This is a very, very simple thing in my eyes, and apparently in the eyes of a majority of baseball writers who on Wednesday declined to elect Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa or any other members of the “Steroid Generation” to the Hall of Fame.

I don’t want to hear any of the ridiculous arguments friends of mine, and many baseball writers (including my beloved Joe Posnanski) make to say that Bonds, et. al should be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Don’t tell me “everyone was doing it,” don’t tell me “it wasn’t against the rules at the time,” and most insultingly, don’t try to tell me that steroids “don’t help you hit a baseball.”

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and their juiced-up brethren knew they were cheating to get an unfair advantage. They took steroids, they were either caught, implicated or presented SO much physical evidence of steroid use (Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, I’m looking at you, and those are two photos of Barry Bonds, above, notice the huge difference in head size), and now they will suffer the consequences.

Of course the Hall of Fame has cheaters in it. So we should excuse the 1990s stars because of past misdeeds.

These guys cheated, prospered, and were never truly punished. Well you know what? They don’t belong in the Hall of Fame.

And I’ll feel that way until I’ve watched my last-ever game.

Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated says it much better than I could here.

**And now, one of my favorite features of the “Jimmy Kimmel Show,” which oh by the way has now moved to 11:30 p.m., to go head-to-head with Letterman and Leno.
In this bit, Kimmel got celebrities to read, out loud, some of the meanest Tweets they’ve received lately. Warning: Language NSFW (Not Safe For Work).

Pretty darn funny, especially the Tenacious D one.

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

**Finally, Jon Stewart and the brilliant “Daily Show” team have been on vacation for a few weeks, so they hadn’t had a chance to weigh in on the Newtown massacre and the gun control debate we (hopefully) are about to have; one positive step was New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (who I believe will be the Dem. nominee for President in 2016) announcing strict new proposals on Wednesday).

Stewart took a very strong but reasoned approach on his show last night, keeping the humor to a minimum but laying things out very plainly and simply. I couldn’t embed the clip but please watch it here.

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.