Tag Archives: Roger Federer

Another Friends of Jaclyn “Angel Walk” makes me so grateful. Federer/Nadal playing doubles together was awesome. And NFL Week 3 was bananas and unpredictable (the Jets even won!)

Sunday was a glorious and sad day, at the same time for me. The day my family and I participate in the Friends of Jaclyn Angel Walk always is.

I’ve written a lot about the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation here, because it is the No.1 charitable cause near and dear to my heart. Pairing up high school and college sports teams with children suffering from pediatric brain tumors and other deadly cancers, FOJ is an incredible beacon of light for thousands of sick children, and for the athletes on teams who adopt them. (All my stories on FOJ’s kids and teams can be found here, if you’re interested.) It is run by wonderful, kind-hearted people who work so hard to make so many lives better.

Every year FOJ holds an “Angel Walk,” to honor those children who have died at some point after being adopted by a team. While thousands of children are thriving and beating cancer, way too many others bravely lost their battle (we’ve lost 144 children overall, since FOJ’s founding. And so every year, teams, athletes, families and others involved in FOJ meet at the Bridge over the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to keep memories alive.

There are speeches given by players and coaches, and by founders Denis and Jaclyn Murphy. We walk across the bridge, bagpipes are played, and at the end of the ceremonies, white doves are released into the sky, as a symbol of those who we lost.

It’s a glorious day because we come together and show our support for so many, for such a good cause. But it’s a sad day because of all we have lost.

My favorite comment every year in a speech came Sunday from a University of Hartford basketball coach named Matt Mihalich, who said “I can’t wait until FOJ becomes obsolete. Because that means there’ll be no more pediatric cancers.”

Amen to that. But while there still is, this beautiful ceremony every year makes me realize how important FOJ’s work is.

**Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have done so many amazing things in their careers; they are two of the 5 or 6 best male players ever, they’ve made more money than small countries take in in a year, and they have absolutely nothing left to prove.

But what they’d never done, not in any real competition, is play doubles together. It’s so unusual to even think about, the two best players of an era teaming up on the same side of the court. Did Borg and McEnroe ever play as a team? Sampras and Agassi? Navratilova and Evert? Nope.

But at a newfangled tennis competition this past weekend called the Laver Cup, Federer and Nadal actually teamed up. The competition is Europe vs. the World, so once again the best rivalry in the sport were oddly on the same team.

And it was … jarring to watch. But so much fun. I knew they were the same height, even with such different body types, but seeing them standing next to each other was great. They made mistakes as a team, seemed to constantly be smiling, and it was just a joy to watch.

Highlights above. Who says tennis season has to end after the U.S. Open?

**After a couple of really drab weeks of NFL football, Sunday was filled with fabulous games, none of which I saw since (see above) I was out all day. But lots to catch up on…

— J-E-T-… wait, what??? They WON? Don’t they realize they’re supposed to tank, go 0-16, and draft No.1? Can’t even do the “losing on purpose” thing right.
No, I’m kidding. I knew they were going to win at least 2-3 games this year, because it’s really really hard to go 0-16. Sunday the Dolphins helpfully decided to roll over and play dead, the Jets defense decided to show up (what, you’re allowed to tackle before the end zone?), and Josh McCown at quarterback actually played pretty damn well. 4-12 here we come, baby!

— The Jets have more wins the Giants. Never thought I’d say that this year. A 61-yard field goal at the buzzer by the Eagles’ rookie kicker, Jake Elliott to win the game?  Crazy.

— Also, Odell Beckham Jr. made ridiculously impressive TD catches for the Giants. Then somehow decided it was a good idea to pantomime a dog peeing in the end zone for one celebration, drawing a flag. So, you know, business as usual for him.

— Go ahead, bet on the NFL: Saints crush Panthers. Bears beat Steelers. Jets dominate Dolphins. Yeah, I’m sure everyone predicted that Sunday morning.

— NFL referees are still horrible. Just thought I’d let you know that. Lions got totally screwed Sunday on that TD at the end of the game, not being called a TD.

— Never underestimate our current President’s ability to make new enemies. During a rambling, mostly incoherent 9o-minute speech in Alabama Friday night, the Orange Grifter managed to piss off both NFL players AND owners, not an easy task. The owners in particular, nearly all of whom are wealthy white men who are Republicans, came out strongly against Trump’s idiotic comments, releasing all kinds of strong statements like this one from Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch.

This is all well and good, these owners making statements condemning Trump. But I guarantee you most of them gave money to the RNC or Trump personally last year; suddenly they are realizing what he is, because he’s attacking football? They didn’t know he was a sexual abusing, racist arrogant a-hole in 2016?
Still, it was good to see some owners standing with their players, and even better to see SO many players either kneeling, or in the Steelers, Titans and Seahawks’ cases, refuse to even come out on the field for the national anthem.

–One more time, for the people who still think, like our President does, that this is about “disrespecting the flag.” It’s not. It’s never been. It’s been about protesting the racial injustices in our society, that see African-Americans and other minorities get the short end of the stick on everything, and white police officers never, ever getting made to pay the price for their deeds. That’s it.d That’s what this is about.

Of course these players love America. They just hate how unequal things are now, not as bad as they’ve ever been of course, but still pretty bad.

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A kid gets baptized inside the Stanley Cup and it’s great. Darci Lynne slays me again on “America’s Got Talent.” And Federer vs. Nadal at the Open, so close I can taste it!

We begin today with a hockey story, because it was 88 degrees here in New York City Tuesday so of course we’re all thinking about things played on ice.

As sports fans know, one of the awesome perks of being on a team that wins the Stanley Cup is that in the offseason following the win, each player gets to take the Cup for a day, to do with it whatever they want.

There has been some adventures with the Cup, including rumors that the 1994 New York Rangers did some, let’s say, R-rated things with it. But for most creative Stanley Cup experience, let us pause and honor Pittsburgh Penguins forward Josh Archibald, who along with his wife Bailey baptized their three-week-old son Brecken in the beautiful silver chalice.

You think that kid will be telling that story for the rest of his life, or what?  No truth to the rumor that after lying in the Cup for a few seconds, Brecken got out and started skating immediately.

**Next up today, yes I know I’ve featured the amazing 12-year-old ventriloquist from Oklahoma, Darci Lynne, a few times on here before, but I can’t help it, the kid is freaking amazing.

“America’s Got Talent” held their first semifinal Tuesday night and America’s Sweetheart (yeah I’m calling her that) brought out a new puppet to sing an Aretha Franklin classic to Simon Cowell. It was, as usual, all kinds of awesome.

**Finally today, I’m afraid to jinx it. It’s almost happened so many times, we thought it was going to happen, then it didn’t happen, and we’re all disappointed.
No, I’m not talking about Kim Kardashian going away forever, or me growing to be 6 feet tall.

I’m talking about Roger Federer playing Rafael Nadal at the U.S. Open, the one major venue in the sport that they’ve never met. It’s really improbable that they’ve never played here, because they’ve both been at or near the top of tennis for so long.

But it’s never happened, and now, tantalizingly, it’s one match away, and me and millions of other tennis fans are hoping/praying it happens. At this thoroughly weird and wonderful U.S. Open (seriously, it’s been very strange, and that was before Sloane Stephens fell off her chair trying to avoid a fly at her press conference Tuesday (fast forward to the 11:50 mark, it’s pretty damn funny), Nadal plays outstanding youngster Andrey Rublev Wednesday afternoon, then Federer plays Juan Martin Del Potro on Wednesday night. If they both win, they play each other Friday night, and man won’t the ticket scalpers be happy that night.

Come on fellas, three more sets each and we finally, finally get a showdown on the biggest court in the world. Fingers crossed.

The greatest of all time wins Wimbledon title No. 8. A Jewish kid in Pa. dedicates his bar mitzvah to Jimmy Kimmel, and Jon Stewart’s not happy. And even Fox News is tired of being lied to

Between 2013-2016, you would hear the stories on TV, or read them in newspapers or on the web.

At first they were whispers, as there was still so much respect for the person they were talking about. But then they got louder, and louder, and louder.

What’s wrong with Roger Federer? Why isn’t he winning anymore? Is he too old? Maybe he should just … retire.

Yep, looks like all those experts were right. That four-year-gap between Grand Slam wins for Roger Federer was the end. Guy could barely play anymore, he should’ve just shuffled off to Switzerland’s version of Del Boca Vista, Phase 2 and called it a career.

Not quite. Roger Federer, the greatest athlete I’ve had the privilege of seeing in my 41 years of life, is writing a story in 2017 that’s never been seen before. He’s doing things no 35-almost-36 year old tennis player has ever done, hell, no professional athlete has done at this age and stage of his career.

Let me hit you with a few quick facts on this incredible champion’s run in 2017:

— He’s won 2 of the 3 Grand Slam events. He’s only played two of them.
— He just won Wimbledon for a record eighth time. And did it without dropping a set. That’s insane.
— He’s 25-0, that’s 25 wins and no losses, in the four biggest tournaments he’s played this year.
— He’s got an excellent chance to become No. 1 in the world again, at the end of this year.

It is all so miraculous to watch for those of us who are hard-core Federer fans like me. We saw the struggles of the last few years, the shocking losses to people like Tommy Robredo and Sergei Stakhovsky at majors, and winced. Nobody wanted to see Federer go out like this.

Then, he got hurt twice in 2016, and took the rest of the season off. Nobody, and I mean, nobody, not even Federer, thought he’d win two Slams this year, and play so flawlessly.

His movement, his serve, his backhand… all of it, back or even better than it was 10 years ago, when he dominated his sport like few others ever had. It’s incredible to see, and Sunday, when he beat a clearly-injured Marin Cilic in straight sets, you could tell how much Federer was enjoying this career renaissance.

Oh, I know, he didn’t have to beat Nadal, Murray or Djokovic to win this title, his 19th Slam overall. But that’s not his fault; two of them were injured and the other (Nadal, having a terrific year himself) lost an epic five-setter.

It’s truly a remarkable story, Federer doing this at his age, doing it so well.

And before I move on, a few words about Venus Williams. She’s 37, she’s overcome so many injuries and illness the past few years, and yet she’s still a Top 10 player. She made a fantastic run to the Wimbledon finals before falling short to Garbine Muguruza, but she’s an inspiration. Venus has always been a class act, and I hope she does get one more Slam title before she’s done.

Great Wimbledon. U.S. Open only seven weeks away!

**Next up, this made me laugh really hard. Seems there’s a 13-year-old in Media, Pa. named Will Rubin who is a huge fan of Jimmy Kimmel and his late-night show. Such a huge fan that he invited Kimmel to come to his bar mitzvah. Understandably, Kimmel couldn’t attend, but he did send a video message along, and Will ended up having a “Jimmy Kimmel Live” theme at his celebration of becoming a man.

Well, a certain Jewish comedian named Jon Stewart wasn’t too pleased he was passed over;and he “stormed” Kimmel’s set last Thursday night to argue/appeal to the boy. “Will, wouldn’t you rather idolize a talk-show host who’s also circumcised?”

This is great.

**Finally today, my head hurts trying to keep up with all the lies coming out the White House these days. Honestly, it’s exhausting trying to keep track, between them lying about the Russia meetings, what’s in the health care bill (and as brilliant Tweeter John Fugelsang pointed out Sunday, after learning that there’ll be no health care vote this week “Mitch McConnell has to delay taking healthcare from American taxpayers until after John McCain has surgery, paid for by American taxpayers.”

It is now beyond clear, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Fredo Trump (Don Jr.) and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner lied, repeatedly, about meeting with representative of the Russian government bent on helping Trump win. But still, 35 percent of Americans will support this President no matter what he does or says.

But every once in a while, some sunlight comes in, even to Fox News. Check out Chris Wallace and Shep Smith the other day, talking about this scandal and the incredible number of lies, lies, lies coming out of the White House.

“The deception is mind-boggling,” Smith says, and he’s right.

“The Big Sick” a really warm, funny movie with heart. Remembering the best July 4th fireworks show I saw live. And Wimbledon begins, can Federer win No. 19?

It’s rare that I go to the movies anymore, and even rarer that I go to the cinema in the summer, when nearly every movie is an insipid superhero flick with $200 million special effects budget but a $5 plot. Summer movies are almost always dreadful; the best thing about them is that you’re inside and getting air conditioning for a few hours.

But I’ve been reading and hearing so many positive things about “The Big Sick,” the new romantic comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani (he’s on HBO’s excellent “Silicon Valley”) and Zoe Kazan, that my beautiful wife and I decided to check it out.

It was sensational. Really, really strong flick, maybe the best romantic comedy I’ve seen since I don’t know when. (maybe since I saw “Knocked Up?”)

The plot is simple: Kumail (playing himself) is a Pakistani stand-up comedian in his 20s living in Chicago, totally happy with American culture, but stuck with old-world parents who keep trying to set him up. One night at a comedy club he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan), a blonde and perky grad student who’s studying to be a psychiatrist. The two hit it off immediately, start to have a relationship, and a few months later it falls apart (I won’t spoil the whole plot).

Then right after the breakup, Emily gets very sick and is put into a medically-induced coma, and suddenly we’re in a very different movie. Soon Kumail has to deal with Emily’s parents (the usually hilarious Holly Hunter is great here, and Ray Romano continues to show he can actually act), who know about the breakup and understandably aren’t thrilled he keeps showing up to the hospital every day.

There were a lot of little, funny touches in “The Big Sick,”  that show the writers (Nanjiani and his real-life wife, Emily Gordon) realize the small things are important, including Kumail needing to get ahold of Emily’s parents, but not having their phone number, and of course Emily’s phone is locked.

So he takes Emily’s iPhone and slides her comatose thumb over the home button, unlocking the device, then mouthing “sorry” to her. But hey, how else would he have gotten their digits, right?

The movie also contains what I believe to be the first and only truly funny 9/11 joke, which I won’t spoil here. You may hate yourself for laughing at it, but you will laugh, trust me.

“The Big Sick” has great heart, its hilarious and moving, and credits its audience with having a brain, rare for a summer movie. It’s only playing in certain cities right now, but it’s gotten a 91 percent fresh Rotten Tomatoes score for a reason: It’s terrific. If it’s playing anywhere near you, go see it.

Next up, I’m probably not going to be attending any live fireworks shows this year (our little guy can’t stay up that late and is terrified by loud noises), so I got a little nostalgic and found this on YouTube: In 1986 there was an amazing fireworks show over the Statue of Liberty, to celebrate its 100 year anniversary. My family and I camped out 12 hours earlier to get a good spot. It was pretty magical…

**Finally today, it’s a national holiday for tennis fans like me: Wimbledon is here! The most prestigious and best Grand Slam of the year arrives, and for me it’s two weeks of pure racket bliss. OK, sure, I did have a few moments this weekend remembering the once-in-a-lifetime trip to Wimbledon my wife and I took last year, and had a few small pangs of “Man, that was so incredible, I want to go back!

But that quickly passed. This Wimbledon figures to be utterly predictable on the men’s side, and completely unpredictable on the women’s side. With the men, I have to believe it’ll be either Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal winning the title; Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are in deep slumps, and I can’t see an upstart like Grigor Dimitrov or Alex Zverev breaking through here. Please, please tennis Gods, give us Federer/Nadal final in 2 weeks.
On the women’s side, who the hell knows? Serena Williams is pregnant, Maria Sharapova is hurt, and none of the other top women’s players have any great pedigree on grass.

Jelena Ostapenko won the French Open, Simona Halep is always dangerous, and don’t count out Venus. Should be wild.

Two glorious weeks of Wimbledon. Can’t wait.

With so much oxygen sucked up over Trump, let’s not forget the health care debacle GOP is trying to pull. The most incredible in-game promotion race you’ll ever see at the ballpark. And Nadal and Ostapenko amaze at Roland Garros

The drumbeat is unceasing, hour after hour, day after day. There is so much coverage, in print, on the Internet, on the radio and TV, of the latest stupid thing President Donald Trump has said, or done, or threatened to do, that it overwhelms you.

You spend so much time trying not to laugh when one of his own sons contradicts what the President has said about to James Comey, or when you read that this egomaniac lunatic in the Oval Office actually demanded GOP House members go on TV to defend him after the Comey testimony, or that someone who blasted Obama for always playing golf has spent every weekend of his Presidency on the links.

My point is, the Orange Cheeto-man sucks up so much oxygen, it’s so easy to get lost in his drama, and forget the real, sinister things going on in the Senate right now. Especially when it comes to health care.

As you read this, Mitch McConnell and his merry band are planning to ram through new health care legislation that will cost millions their health insurance, and give huge breaks to corporations. This bill is being crafted in secret, by a handful of men, without any hearings, discussions, budget analysis, or amendments. It is the complete opposite, in every way, of the ObamaCare process, which took more than a year to complete, and was packed with GOP-favored amendments. (Go ahead and disagree, GOP, with this plea from Sen. Claire McCaskill.)

But you’re not hearing nearly as much as you should about this horrendous miscarriage of justice, but everything is Trump, Trump, Trump. It is one of many, many unfortunate results of the 2016 election, that so much nefariousness is going on in the Oval that lots of other deleterious changes are happening while few are paying full attention.

Here’s an ad the Democratic Senate Committee has put out, that ought to shock people into action:

It is a disgrace that a health care bill that will affect so many millions, is only discussed in secret.

For shame.

**And now, maybe the funniest in-game baseball promotion ever. So the Atlanta Braves are terrible once again this season, in their first year in a new stadium, but they’ve got one awesome contest. They’ve come up with this gimmick called “Beat the Freeze,” and it goes like this: “The Freeze” is a former college sprinter from Iowa Wesleyan College, and every game he races a fan. The fan gets a huge head start, then “The Freeze”tries to catch him.

This is what happened Friday night, and it’s one of the greatest athletic feats you’ll ever see. The expression on the fan’s face when he realizes “The Freeze” has caught up to him is freaking priceless. So, so great. Hope it gives you a Monday laugh.

**And finally, the French Open concluded over the weekend with one wholly expected result, and one shocker.

The expected was, of course, the incomparable Rafael Nadal, utterly destroying the competition on his way to a Grand Slam. There’s a lot of numbers I could throw at you about how dominant Rafa was in winning his record 10th (10!) French Open titles, but try this one on for size: In the semifinals Nadal played the No. 6 player in the world and the No. 3 player in the world. In six sets, he lost a total of 13 games. That. Is. Insane. Even for Nadal, who has been winning on clay forever.

As the great Jon Wertheim pointed out, imagine at the start of 2017 someone told you Federer and Nadal would win the first 2 Slams, most of the major events in between, and be the two best players of the year so far. You’d have probably told them to lay off the drugs. But here we are, going into what should be an awesome Wimbledon in a few weeks.

The big shock at Roland Garros was Jelena Ostapenko, a 20-year-old Latvian who was still a teenager when the tournament started. She was ranked 47th in the world coming in, but slugged and shrieked her way to the title. An amazing accomplishment, because you almost never seen players this young win majors anymore (the sport has become too physical for younger players to win seven matches over two weeks).

 

Everybody into the pool! I give you some tips on winning your NCAA March Madness bracket. Federer gets “interrogated” by 50 kid reporters. And SNL with a pretty fantastic sketch on Ivanka Trump

Sing it with me now! It’s, the most wonderful time, of the year…

At least for me it is. After I just spent five amazing days at Barclays Center in Brooklyn last week covering the ACC basketball tournament (something I last covered in 2000), I am wiped out but incredibly excited for March Madness. (More on my strange back-in-time week as a sportswriter, including when I ran into Chris Christie twice and nearly got bulldozed by Notre Dame star Bonzie Colson in a hallway, in Wednesday’s post.)

Sunday night we learned who’s playing who, when, and where, and I have to say, usually on these nights I’m bitching and moaning about the selection committee snubbing a team badly, or drastically over or under-seeding somebody. But this year, I think the committee did a real good job. Wichita State and Wisconsin got jobbed, both should’ve been at least a 6 or 7 seed, and I can’t understand how a good Wake Forest team was made to play in the play-in game, but those are minor quibbles.

I know a majority of you are going to be filling out office pools this week, and you want to know which upsets to pick, who’s going to the Final Four, and all that stuff. So as I do every year, I am here to guide you, my fine reader. Last year’s opening rounds were insane (remember this shot from Northern Iowa?), so don’t expect nearly as much drama this time.

But we can hope.

Couple quick thoughts on the bracket; not ready to pick my Final Four yet, that’ll be Wednesday.

— OK, right off the bat a few upsets I like: UNC-Wilmington, a 12 seed in the East, to beat Virginia. UVA has really struggled lately and the Seahawks can really shoot. I could see No. 13 Bucknell beating No. 4 West Virginia (I always pick against Bob Huggins teams), No. 12 Middle Tennessee State (who shocked Michigan State last season) beating Minnesota, and maybe, maybe, No. 13 Florida Gulf Coast over No. 4 Florida. Also don’t be stunned if No. 14 Iona beats Oregon, or Winthrop beats Butler.

— As always, some tantalizing possible second-round matchups: Kentucky vs. Wichita State in a rematch from three years ago, when the Wildcats eliminated the then-undefeated Shockers; Duke-Marquette (Coach K vs. his old player, Steve Wojciechowski), and Louisville vs. Michigan. The loaded South bracket could give us Kentucky vs. UCLA in the Sweet 16 (think that might get some decent ratings), Arizona-Florida State in the Sweet 16 in the West would be tremendous, and a Kentucky-North Carolina Elite 8 game looms huge.

— Someone on the committee really, really hates Kansas. The Jayhawks got a brutally tough bracket, stuffed with No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Purdue, and a second-round game with either Miami or Michigan State. I don’t see the Jayhawks surviving all that.

–Meanwhile, my Duke boys, fresh off an improbable ACC Tournament championship, got a real nice draw. They could face old friend Steve Wojciechowski in Round 2, and Baylor in the Sweet 16, but really, Duke should get to the Elite 8 at least, where they’d play defending national champion Villanova. That would be sensational.

The madness begins in just a few days. Can’t wait!

**Next up today, any chance I get to show Roger Federer being awesome, and super-humble, I’m going to take it. The greatest tennis player of all time is in Indian Wells, Calif. this week for a pretty major tournament, and as part of promoting the event he did a “press conference” with 50 local 2nd-graders. It’s pretty hilarious and adorable, especially the end.

As the great Jon Wertheim said on Twitter, you can’t fake this level of engagement. What a great, fun little few minutes this is to watch.

And finally today, I haven’t seen “SNL” in a few weeks but they’re still turning out great, slightly subversive material. Over the weekend they did a fake commercial on Ivanka Trump called “Complicit,” and it’s pretty fabulous. The tagline, delivered with about 20 seconds left, is devastating.

Anger, joy, sadness: So many thoughts from another Trump-ruined weekend. A Monty Python video to make you laugh. And an epic Aussie Open ends with Federer and Serena on top

laxprotest-refugees

I really don’t even know where to begin.

Since Friday afternoon, when the current leader of our country signed an incredibly cruel, stupid and inhumane executive order barring citizens from seven nations from entering the U.S., and also inexplicably banned legal residents with green cards, until Sunday night, when I beamed with pride looking at all of the protests (and one big ACLU legal victory) across America at what that president has done, I’ve had so many emotions and thoughts running through me.

Fear. Anger. Sadness. Pure joy (that’s when I was watching the Australian Open tennis, more on that later). Frustration.

I don’t know how coherent any of this is in my head right now, but the only way I think I can try to be semi-intelligent on this is through some bullet-points thoughts.

So here goes, on yet another almost-unprecedented weekend (I’m imagining this is a little bit like what the mid-1960s felt like, and not I’m not equating the two eras .. yet)

— The first thing I could not get over Friday was how fast this executive order from the White House was implemented and had its effect. Do you realize that government never, ever works this fast? I mean, it takes days, weeks, months to get anything done, whether it’s legislation, or just a trip to the DMV. Yet somehow at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday the President signs a piece of paper and suddenly the entire federal government apparatus at airports and other border checkpoints springs to life and begins detaining anyone from those nations on Trump’s order, as well as legal green-card residents trying to get back into the country.

The speed and power of how this happened should frighten the hell out of any American.
One other quick point: I see lots of people calling this a “Muslim ban.” Trump is not banning ALL Muslims from entering the U.S. It’s not a Muslim ban. No need to make it worse than it is when it’s already terrible.
Besides, the full “Muslim ban” is probably still ahead of us from Trump.

— One of the many unbelievable parts of the executive order was that legal green-card U.S. residents were detained, including 88 and 83-year-old Iranian green card holders who were detained for 17 hours at the airport. You have a new administration refusing to allow people who are LEGALLY allowed to be in America access. It took 48 hours but the Homeland Security secretary, John Kelly, said Friday night that green-card holders should be allowed back in.

Wow, what a hell of a compassionate stance. Put him up for sainthood.

muslimpic-satire

— Two quick facts that help to illustrate how ridiculous Trump and Bannon’s “this will keep us safe from terrorism” bullshit is:

1. It’s worth noting that South Carolina born terrorists killed more Americans on US soil in last decade than terrorists from the 7 named countries.

2. There have been 3.2 million refugees admitted to the U.S. since 1975. 0.00062% of them committed terrorist acts, killing a total of three Americans.

So, you know, those are my “alternative facts.”

— The airport protests were fantastic, all across the country, Americans coming together to protest the grotesque and inhumane treatment refugees were receiving, and protesting that so many people here legally (there’s that pesky word again). I loved the passion, the chanting, the sheer “we can’t let them get away with this” attitude.

I wonder if this is what it’s going to be like for a while, every week a new Trump administration atrocity, and every week new protests.  As an anonymous Twitter person said Sunday: “If you’re looking for something to invest in during the Trump presidency, I think the poster board market is going to hold up pretty well.”

— So oh yeah, while everyone was rightfully pissed at the executive order, two other huge and awful things happened from the White House. First, and this is pretty inexplicable, the White House didn’t mention Jews in their statement commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day because, and I quote spokeswoman Hope Hicks here, “because we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all those who suffered.”

Wow. I mean… wow. Six million Jews killed, and you don’t mention them on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Shameful. The other huge deal that is getting less attention is that Stephen Bannon, the white supremicist (sorry, “nationalist”) who is basically running the White House has been named to the National Security Council while two other high-ranking security officials are told they can only go to some meetings. This is unprecedented, and wildly dangerous. For why, read this and get chills.

–Finally, I don’t ever wanna hear a Republican talk about a Democratic president overreaching, ever again in my life. That was the one of their huge complaints about Obama. Go ahead and tell me how Trump/Bannon aren’t acting like dictators right about now.

**And now, because I think we ALL need something completely pointless and hysterical today, I give you my favorite Monty Python sketch ever, the iconic “Black Knight.” I’ve seen it 100 times, still makes me laugh every time. “OK, we’ll call it a draw then.”

roger-federer-australian-open-final

**Finally today, this weekend’s Australian Open finals, as I alluded to earlier, brought me much joy. Sure, I was rooting for older sister Venus to beat Serena on Saturday morning in the women’s final, but it was a competitive match and hey, Serena is an incredible player and as I’ve said before, clearly now the greatest female to ever play this sport.

Sunday morning, my goodness, what a match. I don’t want to gush on too long about the great Roger Federer because this post is super-long already, but what a tremendous show he and Rafael Nadal, his greatest rival, put on. Five sets, back and forth, one of their best matches ever, plot twists aplenty in the fifth set, Federer getting down 3-1 and me getting pretty upset as I paced the room… and then somehow the Swiss master found a way.

The greatest men’s player ever won five straight games over as good a competitor as the sport has right now. Somehow, despite being 35, coming off a six-month layoff and being deep in the fifth set, Federer pulled it out.

There’s so much about him to admire, but how about this quote from Federer: “Tennis is a tough sport and we don’t have draws but if I could have shared it today with Rafa I would have taken a draw.
“Keep playing Rafa, please. Tennis needs you. Thank you for everything you do.”

We are so, so fortunate to be tennis fans in this age of Federer and Nadal, two supreme sportsmen who have a wonderful rivalry and are both thoroughly decent human beings.

Eighteen Grand Slam singles titles for Roger Federer. What a champion.

“Fences” was fabulous, and hey, the Oscars aren’t so white this year! Aziz Ansari really brought it on “SNL.” And Roger Federer turning back the clock at Aussie Open

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I love, love, love movies that are beautifully written, with monologues that go on for minutes, acted out by thespians who are at the top of their craft, with a cast that is as good as they are.

Sitting in a movie theater while a screen legend brings the fire, the pain, the heart, and the love, using words that were written by master craftsmen, just inspires me so much.

I felt that way when I sat mesmerized in a theater last week by “Fences,” the new movie Denzel Washington and Viola Davis burned through the screen in. Based on a Pulitzer-Prize winning play by August Wilson, “Fences” tells us a simple story of a married couple in 1950s Pittsburgh, with Denzel’s Troy character the hero of his own world as a garbageman still bitter about not getting the chance to play baseball in the major leagues. He’s a flawed man raging at slights, real and imagined, but he’s trying to do his best by his family and his son.

Denzel is phenomenal in this role, especially in the scenes where he’s just riffing to his buddies and his wife. Oh yeah, that wife is played by the fantastic Viola Davis, who more than holds her own as Rose, Troy’s long-suffering wife who indulges his crazy talk because she knows he’s, deep down, a good man.

Until we learn, maybe he isn’t. Davis lights up when she finally gets a chance at a few good monologues of her own, tearing into Troy as she asserts herself for the strong, independent woman she is.

The supporting cast is great, too, especially Mykelti Williamson as Troy’s brother, who suffered a serious head injury in World War II and has been radically altered in more ways than one.

“Fences” is terrific filmmaking, which is why I’m thrilled it got nominated for Best Picture on Tuesday, with Davis and Washington deservedly getting acting nods as well.

Oh yeah, the Oscars nominations came out Tuesday! And some non-white people got picked in the big categories, whoo-hoo! After two years of the Oscar picks being paler than a Trump rally, we got some welcome change.

All kinds of people of color are up this year, including Washington, Davis, Dev Patel for “Lion” and director Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight.”

We’ll see if any of these people actually win, but hey, at least you gotta give the Academy credit for finally realizing that non-white people occasionally do good stuff.

**Next up, I wrote here last year about my newfound appreciation for Aziz Ansari, who created and starred in the Netflix show “Masters of None,” which ought to be coming back for Season 2 soon.

Ansari is also a fabulous stand-up comic, and over the weekend he did a really strong opening monologue (apparently that’s the word of the day here at Wide World of Stuff) on “Saturday Night Live.”

Stay through to the end, that’s the best part.

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**And finally today, it’s feeling an awful lot like 2006 at the Australian Open, and it’s so great.

Venus Williams, age 36, making one hell of a resurgent run and reaching the semifinals, where she’s one win away from probably playing her sister Serena in the finals (wouldn’t that be something?)

And my man Roger Federer, given up for dead in terms of him ever winning another major, just two wins away from Slam title No. 18 in his first major tournament since missing six months with a knee injury last year.

Federer is playing out-of-his-mind right now, hitting winners and moving about the court like a guy who’s 25, not 35. He has to play Stan Wawrinka in the semis, which will be no cakewalk, and then maybe, could it be… Rafa Nadal in the finals?

The tennis Gods have been so good to us the last 10 years or so. Is it too much to ask for one final Williams-Williams championship match, followed a day later by one more Federer-Nadal match? I mean, come ON tennis Gods, we’re stuck with President Trump, can’t we at least get this?

Jason Gay at the Wall Street Journal has a fabulous article up on the Federer resurgence, and what so many of us tennis fans are feeling right now.

Thoughts on a glorious 2 days at Wimbledon, where crowds are deathly quiet and the champagne flows

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And a Happy 4th of July to all of you there in Web-land! Hope everyone has a safe and fun holiday (and that means no fireworks for you, Jason Pierre-Paul).

My apologies for not having a post up last Friday; I fully intended to write about my incredible adventures at Wimbledon on that day, but I caught some sort of cold/sinus/virus thingy on the plane home from England and had no energy for a couple of days.

However, thanks to the power of Advil Cold & Sinus and some hot tea, I’m feeling much better and ready to try to put into words the wonderful, strange, and dream-fulfilling trip.

— It’s not often in life that something you build up in your mind for decades ends up being as great as you hoped. But Wimbledon absolutely was. As my friend and SI writer Jon Wertheim has written, nobody ever comes to Wimbledon for the first time and comes home and says “Meh. Wasn’t so great.” From the historic grounds of the All England Club, to the friendly British ushers/fans/security people, to the fabulous tennis we watched, the two days my wife and I spent at Wimbledon last Monday and Tuesday will go down as some of the best of my life.

— OK, so some details. First off, the most immediate and striking difference from Wimbledon to the U.S. Open or any other sporting event I’ve been to in America? The quiet. The absolute, library-like silence in the stands even after a great shot or exciting point. I’m telling you, it’s three or four seconds of polite applause, nobody says anything, then you could hear a pin drop.

No lie, I must have gotten a dozen dirty looks over the course of two days just for saying things like “Way to go, Venus!” or “Great shot, Dennis!” in a normal tone of voice. The British tennis fans simply do not like exhortations.

— On the other hand, the other thing that struck me most about watching Wimbledon live was that on multiple courts, we saw fans drinking and pouring Champagne out of full-sized, glass bottles. Like it was no big deal.

I asked someone about it and they told me it’s basically encouraged. “It’s a British thing and a Wimbledon thing,” she said matter-of-factly.

I cannot even imagine any American sporting event allowing glass Champagne bottles to be brought in. So odd.

— The jokes write themselves when it comes to British food, but it actually wasn’t that bad. We are, I think, legally required to eat the strawberries and cream while at Wimbledon, and they were decent. The rest of the food was typical middling British fare, but we had a great dinner at a Lebanese restaurant one night that was very different than what we’re used to.

— Much less seating on the outdoor courts at Wimbledon than at U.S. Open; we stood a lot of the time, even on matches that it would seem few cared about. The upshot of that is that you’re often standing a few feet away from a player’s girlfriend or coach. Makes for great eaves-dropping.

–Two major highlights stood out from the two days: First, we didn’t have Centre Court tickets for Monday but Roger Federer, my all-time tennis idol, was playing on that cathedral of the sport at the end of the day. So even though the way you’re “supposed” to get onto Centre Court if you don’t have tickets is to go to the window and buy “returned” CC tickets after 5 p.m. that day, we did it the unauthorized way:  We stood outside a gate and as people walked out, begged them for their tickets if they were leaving. Two nice folks gave my wife and I their seats, and for one glorious set and a half, I got to watch Federer on Centre Court.

Imagine watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel, or seeing the Beatles at Shea Stadium. That’s what it felt like.

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— The second highlight was what happens when you push your luck just a little bit. After the rains came Tuesday around 5, lots of fans left and there were plenty of seats close to Centre Court. Our CC tickets were for a pretty high section, but we had made a friend with amazing 2nd row CC seats and I asked if we could try to sneak down there with her. At the gate entrance I of course started schmoozing the nice female security guard, threw every reason I had as to why she should let us sit there for a pretty un-exciting match (Coco Vandeweghe vs. Kateryna Bondarenko), and finally she relented.

So for an hour this was our view (above) for tennis. It was … breathtaking being that close to world-class tennis on the greatest court in the world. I was praying for a three-setter but alas, we only got two.

— Other different vibe from U.S. Open: Way more ushers/security guards here, fewer lines to get into matches on outside courts, and much fewer food choices.

— Grass court tennis is wild; the ball stays so low, skids and goes very fast, players have to be fast to scoop ball off shoe-tops. We never see grass tennis in the U.S. so seeing it up close was pretty fabulous.

— Not Wimbledon but still cool: My favorite new thing I saw in London was in a bathroom near the London Eye tourist wheel thingie: It was a water faucet that also doubled as a hand dryer. The whole hand-cleaning and drying process all in one spot! I get excited by things like this.

— We picked one hell of a week to be across the pond, when it comes to news. I arrived two days after the shocking Brexit vote (and I highly recommend John Oliver’s take on it.) , and then while we were there the English national team lost to Iceland (Iceland!) in soccer.

Honestly, reading the London tabloids I’m not sure which calamity was more painful. The English athletes get killed 100 times worse in the press than American athletes do. U.S. stars have no idea how easy they have it. My favorite story included “The 23 members of the English soccer team, having made complete asses of themselves earlier that night, flew home to Heathrow Airport…”

And they only lost 2-1! Imagine if they’d lost 6-0, I think they might not be allowed back in the country.

Alex Rodriguez and Tiger Woods, you should thank your lucky stars you weren’t born in the U.K.

 

 

Farewell to Muhammad Ali, the most famous athlete in world history. And Novak Djokovic completes a career Grand Slam in Paris.

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“You know I’m bad, I have murdered a rock,
I injured a stone, and hospitalized a brick.
I’m so bad, I make medicine sick.”

— Muhammad Ali, 1974

I have never in my life felt more utterly inadequate as a writer than right now, trying to sum up and analyze the life of the most famous athlete in world history.

Cassius Clay, who became Muhammad Ali, was more than just an athlete, of course. He was a trailblazer, an icon, a pioneer and a humanitarian, though we never saw that last attribute until long after his boxing career was over.

I’ve read so many tributes and obituaries to the “Greatest of All Time” over the past 48 hours, since I learned of his death late Friday night, and so many of them have been great (I’ll link some below).

It seems a criminal understatement to say Ali changed the world we live in. From the time he burst onto the scene in 1960 at the Rome Olympics, until his last major public moment, lighting the torch at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, he has been the most intriguing figure in all of sports.

I’m glad that most of the obituaries haven’t whitewashed his flaws; Ali was far, far from a saint. His philandering in regards to women, his horrendous, criminal verbal treatment of decent men like Joe Frazier and Ernie Terrell, and his race-dividing comments on behalf of the Nation of Islam from the 1960s should be as much a part of his legacy as his remarkable personality, his devastating skill in the ring, and the way he became a symbol of hope and courage in dealing with Parkinson’s Disease the last 30 years of his life.

As a writer I loved that Ali loved reporters, using them to entertain, and often inflame. What other athlete, ever, has written poetry like the one I quoted up top? He was an incredibly smart man, something he rarely got credit for.

I never got to meet Ali, which is a huge regret. And I was certainly born too late to have any real memories of him as a fighter. But I remember getting goosebumps seeing him up on that podium in Atlanta, a symbol of America in all its messy, complicated glory.

Before I leave you with the best I’ve watched and read over this weekend, I want to tell one more Ali story that’s always stuck with me, and always made me smile. The story may be apocryphal, it may be true; no one really knows.

The champ was on an airplane once and ignoring the flight attendant’s request to put on his seat belt.

“Superman don’t need no seat belt!” Ali exclaimed.

“Superman don’t need no plane, either,” the flight attendant replied.

Rest in peace, Superman. And thanks for taking so many of us on such a wonderful ride.

**The best on Ali’s death: This column by Jerry Izenberg, legendary sportswriter and Ali’s longtime friend, was excellent.

Robert Lipsyte was one of the first sportswriters to “get” Ali and what he was about, and has spent decades chronicling him. He wrote the New York Times obit, and it was outstanding.

And Dave Kindred, another legendary sportswriter, also covered Ali for almost his entire career, and wrote probably the best thing I read this weekend on the champ: 

— HBO, which always does the best sports tributes, put together this fabulous 8-minute piece on Ali’s life, with some of his most memorable quotes as well.

— And finally, I embedded the famous 1979 Billy Crystal roast/tribute to Ali, called “15 Rounds,” above. Damn, Billy Crystal is talented. His monologue/impression is just perfect.

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**While Ali’s death was by far the saddest sports news of the weekend, Sunday brought me and other tennis fans great joy, as Novak Djokovic finally won the French Open title that’s long eluded him.

I’ve written many times of my admiration of Nole; he’s my second-favorite player, I admire his generous spirit and genuinely good heart, and am thrilled he’s completed the career Grand Slam.

His match Sunday with Andy Murray wasn’t one of their classics; Djokovic started slow, then steamrolled Murray until the end, when at 5-2 Djokovic got tight and dropped two straight games.

I thought it was sweet how after he finally won, Djokovic seemed totally confused about how to react; he’d been thinking about this moment for so long that it was like he didn’t know what to do first.

He ended up painting a heart in the clay (a move Gustavo Kuerten first did at Roland Garros), then summoning a bunch of ballkids to salute the crowd.

He was gracious and classy as usual in victory, and I’m glad crowds finally seem to be responding to him.

Djokovic is up to 12 major titles now, and I can’t believe I’m ever writing these words, but he’s got an excellent shot to pass Federer’s once-unassailable total of 17 Slams.

I mean, Nadal’s body is cruelly breaking down, Federer hasn’t been able to beat Nole in a Slam in years, and Murray just can’t quite top his rival in big matches anymore.

Barring injury, who’s going to stop Djokovic? We are so, so spoiled as tennis fans, seeing three of the all-time greats playing in this era.

Win Wimbledon and then the U.S. Open this year, and Djokovic will have the calendar Slam that eluded Serena in 2015.

I think he’s going to do it.