Tag Archives: Serena Williams

“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.

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The miracle of the Williams sisters ought to be celebrated more. A hilarious commercial from the Netherlands directed at America’s new President. And a note from a neighbor warms a Muslim’s heart

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The outstanding sportswriter (and, full disclosure, friend of mine) L. Jon Wertheim often says that Venus and Serena Williams’ remarkable rise to the top of the tennis world is the most under-covered story in sports.

The first time he wrote that, I scoffed. Come on, who doesn’t know about the Williams sisters? Even non-tennis fans I know are good on the basics: Two young African-American girls, raised in gang-infested Compton, Calif. and coached by their Dad, rise up together and become two of the greatest players in the history of a lily-white sport, inspiring thousands of young people and becoming legends.

Everybody knows that, right? Sure. But the longer their careers have gone, and the more championships they’ve won and long absences they’ve taken from the court due to injuries or illness, the story has only gotten more astonishing.

These two women, these two sisters, individually have had two of the greatest tennis careers ever. But the fact that they’ve played each other 27 times, and have 29 Grand Slam singles titles between them, and their first meeting was in 1997 when most of us were still learning what the Internet was… I mean, how is this not a bigger story?

Can you imagine if LeBron James had a slightly younger brother, and they competed against each other for championships all the time? Or if Tom Brady’s sibling went against him in the Super Bowl once or twice? It’d be the biggest story in America for 20 years.

But because tennis is sadly not a major spectator sport in the U.S., I think Wertheim’s right: The enormity of what these 2 have accomplished is not talked about enough.

I’m an odd duck when it comes to the Williams sisters, in that I’ve always liked and admired Venus while I find Serena repellent and an awful sportsman, though her behavior and off-court attitude have improved in recent years. They play for an Australian Open title Saturday night, improbably, and it feels like a delicious treat because most of us tennis fans never thought we’d see it again.

Venus has always struck me as a thoughtful, intelligent observer of tennis and sports, and what she said following her semifinal win Thursday has stayed with me. Check out this quote about why we watch sports:

“What I will say about sport, I think why people love sport so much, is because you see everything in a line. In that moment there’s no do-over, no re-take, no voice-over. It’s triumph and disaster measured in real time. This is why people live and die for sport, because you can’t fake it. You can’t. You either do or you don’t.”

Triumph and disaster measured in real-time. I love that.

I don’t expect you to wake up at 3:30 a.m. Eastern time to watch their match in the wee hours Saturday morning. But ESPN2 is showing the final at 9 a.m. Saturday. Tune in, and see history we’ll likely never see again, from two remarkable champions who were born to the same parents.

**Next up, this is all kinds of fantastic. A comedy show in the Netherlands decided to make a welcome video for Donald Trump, telling him all the wonderful things about their country. It’s hilarious and brilliant; fast forward to the 36-second mark for the beginning of the piece.

You go, Dutchmen.

**Finally today,  this is a good news story that warmed my heart. A Muslim woman in Cincinnati, Ohio named Hend Amry was concerned the morning after Donald Trump was inaugurated. She and her family have always been OK in her community, but still, this was a possibly life-altering event.

A white neighbor of hers thought she might be upset. So he wrote this amazing note and put it on her uncle’s front door:

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Know hope.

Two aging ’80s rockers thrill me one more time. James Corden and Anna Kendrick do the history of a relationship through song. And Andy Murray and Serena, King and Queen of Wimbledon

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It is absolutely not a secret to regular readers of my little blog that I’m completely a child of the 1980s, love nearly all TV, movies and music about the era, and kind of think, at least musically, the ’80s were the best decade of music ever. The Sirius XM 80s on 8 channel is by far the most listened to in the Lewis-mobile, and much of my iPhone is filled with songs from that decade.

So when I tell you the wife and I took in a Pat Benatar/Melissa Etheridge double bill at the Beacon Theatre last week, you shouldn’t be surprised.

Loved, loved, loved the show. They each played for 90 minutes each, and while of course the only people in the crowd were aged 40 and up, and of course neither artist has had a hit since Bill Clinton was President, I was inspired by watching them. Here’s why:

It’s easy to make fun of aging rockers like Benetar and Etheridge, playing their greatest hits to an audience that knows them by heart, even if neither of their voices was as strong as they used to be (Benetar definitely used some pre-recording on the high notes of “We Belong” and “Invincible.”)

But they were inspiring because they were still out doing what they love. Singing the same songs for 20-30 years must get boring and repetitive, but both stars put everything they had into it, even at their age (Pat Benatar is 63! Seems impossible). They now play for 3-5,000 people instead of four times that number. But they still care enough about their audience to put on a great show, and no one left the Beacon feeling cheated.

As I rocked out to “All Fired Up” and “Come to My Window,” Benetar and Etheridge reminded that excellence is always to be appreciated, and that it doesn’t come easy. To be still near their best after so long is one hell of an accomplishment.

**Next up today, speaking of music, my dream girl Anna Kendrick teamed up with the fabulous James Corden for a really cool and funny skit a few weeks ago on his show, that I somehow missed.

It’s sort of a “history of a relationship using only lyrics to love songs,” and it goes from great at the start, rocky in the middle, and great at the end (like so many relationships, right?)

Anna’s voice is fantastic, Corden’s a great performer, and I just really loved this. Especially the frying pan bit.

**Finally today, a few words about the Wimbledon champions of 2016. Serena Williams once again dominated for two weeks, winning a very close final against Angelique Kerber and proving that at worst, Serena is among the top 2-3 players of all time.

Hard to believe this was her first major title since last Wimbledon, when she won her third Slam of the  year and headed into the U.S. Open looking for a calendar Grand Slam.
But she was entirely worthy and by far the best player this year at Wimbledon, and I again must give her kudos (since I have ripped her plenty in the past) for being so gracious and humble-sounding in her post-match interviews and comments. And winning the doubles title with sister Venus was pretty cool, too.

The story of the Williams sisters, as much attention as it has gotten, continues to be underappreciated. Two sisters from Compton growing up and being this dominant, and being good for so long, is amazing.

Also, this Serena point against Christina McHale in the second round was as good a point as you’ll see:

As for the men, well, of course I was very disappointed Roger Federer lost in the semis on Friday, but part of me was glad to see some “new blood” finally break through from the next generation of men’s players. Milos Raonic had a terrific tournament, but Sunday he ran into the guy who was simply better.

Andy Murray, remarkably, seemed to play better Sunday than he has all year, and he’s been to all three major finals. Murray was fantastic in all aspects Sunday, and when he won his 2nd Wimbledon title, he broke down much more emotionally than he did when he broke that long British title drought in 2013.

While I’m not a huge Murray fan (his on-court language and behavior toward his coaches/friends box is deplorable, and he has the worst body language of any top athlete I’ve ever seen), I admire how he’s persevered while clearly being the Ringo Starr of the “Big 4” of men’s tennis. He took advantage of Novak Djokovic’s upset loss and grabbed the crown.

And yes, I did think several times while watching the finals this weekend, “Man, I can’t believe I was actually there during this tournament!”

With Serena going for a record-breaking 23rd Slam title and the Djokovic-Murray rivalry heating up again, this year’s U.S. Open is going to be awesome. Can’t wait.

 

The tennis-playing sisters from Compton give us more thrills. A Barenaked Ladies cover that’s awesome. And a really bad idea at the Auschwitz camp

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The story has been told so often, and yet, I feel like it can’t be told enough.

Two young African-American girls, growing up on the dangerous streets of Compton, Calif., rise up to become extraordinary tennis champions, and role models to millions.

They win Grand Slam championships. They play each other for some of them, always feeling awkward and uncomfortable celebrating a victory while the sibling suffers.

And after nearly two decades in the spotlight, Venus and Serena Williams are still here, playing on the world’s biggest stages, still at or near the peak of their sport.

The two put on a fabulous show Tuesday night at the U.S. Open, putting on one of their better matches against each other. Venus raised her game significantly to match Serena’s, and going into the third set, I stared at my TV and honestly thought Venus might, might have a shot to win.

But then much as Roger Federer seems to do, Serena went to 11. She raised her game, showed what an incredible competitor she is, and hung on for the win.

Before we get back to focusing on Serena’s quest for the calendar-year Grand Slam, let’s not lose sight of the amazing career Venus and Serena have both had; Sibling rivalry? They never showed any sense at all of any jealousy (well, that’s not true, Venus did look a little mad when Serena was the first to win a major).

They have been best friends and confidants, and have at times taken turns ruling the sport.

Two little girls, growing up in Compton, Calif., turning out like this.

If it’s not the most improbable sports story of all time, well, it’s in the Top 5.

**Next up today, this is one of those random covers of a classic song that’s probably been out there for a while, but I’d never heard it until recently and I think it’s fabulous.

It’s Barenaked Ladies, a terrific band that’s not as famous as they should be, performing the Phil Collins song “In the Air Tonight” at a small show this past summer.

Just beautiful stuff, a different twist on a great tune.

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**And finally, an idea so awful you just have to laugh out loud. At the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp, administrators there wanted to do something to help visitors/tourists cope with the oppressive summer heat in Poland.

So they installed “misters” to spray mist on the visitors. Mist, which is basically water, which of course reminds people of the showers that millions were forced into during the Holocaust before they headed to the gas chamber.

Oy. Pretty bad optics on that one, Auschwitz.

A point in their defense, though, which was raised by a panelist on ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” where I first heard about this: You’re on a tour of Auschwitz. Aren’t you supposed to be thinking about the Holocaust at this point?

Just saying.

Some thoughts on a fabulous first week at the U.S. Open. And a football team plays with 10 men to honor a fallen teammate, and scores a TD

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I have been extraordinarily blessed this year in many ways, with the latest wonderful gift my having acquired a full press credential to the 2015 U.S. Open, thanks to the rising fortunes of my American junior star Reilly Opelka, who I’ve been covering for a long time.

As such, I have been here at Flushing Meadows almost non-stop since Tuesday morning, and am enjoying every damn second of it. I’ve been doing some freelancing for new places (hello, Buffalo News and Wilmington News-Journal readers!), hob-nobbing with some of my tennis writing/broadcasting heroes (spent five minutes with the amazing Mary Carillo Sunday; she’s fantastic) and seeing some fabulous tennis.

I’ll try to keep this relatively coherent but my brain’s been overloaded with lots of great stuff and I’ve been in the sun a lot this week.

Herewith, some thoughts from a fantastic opening seven days of the U.S. Open…

— Best thing I’ve seen, Part 1: Donald Young, a former phenom who was once hyped as the future of American tennis, but then never quite lived up to it. I saw him on Court 17 Tuesday come back from two sets down to beat the No. 11 seed, Gilles Simon.
Then, improbably, he fell behind two sets again on Friday, to Viktor Troicki on the Grandstand court, the best place to watch a match here. With the crowd going nuts on every point, Young fought back to win the final three sets, punctuating the win on match point here.

I was at the top of the stands for the final set, and it was an insane atmosphere; crowd was screaming on every point, and even the yahoos chanting “U-S-A!” U-S-A-!” didn’t bother me that much. (OK I lied, it did bother me. Does every international sporting event have to turn into a xenophobic “we’re No. 1” contest?)

Nothing better than the Grandstand court during a great match.

— Best thing I saw, Part II: The last U.S. Open match of Lleyton Hewitt was also fabulous on Thursday; he played fellow Aussie Bernard Tomic, and believe me when I tell you a stadium full of Australian fans cheering and chanting is about as much fun as it gets. Hewitt got down two sets, won the next two, went up 5-3 in the fifth, and then somehow lost the last four games. Again, the crowd made it special.

— You really don’t appreciate how hard, and how accurate, pro tennis players hit the ball until you sit down close. Madison Keys on Friday night hit the cleanest, most powerful shots I saw all week. She obliterated her opponent, and I thought for sure she had a good chance to beat Serena Williams yesterday.

And she didn’t come close. That’s how good Serena Williams is.

— Two Serena thoughts: 1, She first won the Open in 1999, and now she’s going to win it in 2015. Sixteen years apart, that’s never been done before. 2, she plays Venus on Tuesday night, and how dramatic and incredible would be if her big sister stopped her Grand Slam?

— Did a mid-tournament podcast with my Twitter e-migos Jonathan and James over at The Body Serve; give it a listen here if you want to hear three tennis nuts have a good time.

— So here’s something I wished I’d seen: A flying drone crashed in Louis Armstrong Stadium Thursday. During a match. Didn’t hurt anybody, thankfully. But that had to have been weird to see.

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— They honored the legendary tennis writer/broadcaster Bud Collins Sunday morning in a dedication ceremony, officially naming the media center after him. It was a sweet, beautiful tribute, with Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and other luminaries there. Two great pieces on Bud that I read Sunday: this one by Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated, and Mike Lupica, Bud’s best friend in the media, penned an ode to Bud as well.

— Nothing like seeing the “professionalism” of European media members openly cheering loudly at matches for their countrymen. That would be, um, frowned upon here in the U.S.

— Finally, this bothered me to no end: I saw a bunch of people throughout the week dragging strollers with babies in them around the grounds. Really? This seemed like a good idea, bringing your baby or toddler to the Open for 7-8 hours in 90-degree heat, schlepping them up and down stadium stairs? Sometimes I just don’t get people.

**Finally today, Arkansas Tech is a Division II college football team, and earlier this year a teammate, Zemaric Holt, unexpectedly died at age 21.

He was a defensive player, so to honor him, Arkansas Tech decided to start the first game of the season, on the first play, with only 10 men on defense.

And then this happened…

Very cool…

Saluting 3 worthy Wimbledon champions: Djokovic, Serena, and Opelka. And R.I.P. Robin Colcord and Lord John Marbury

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It’s the Monday after Wimbledon, which always makes me a little sad, because it means my favorite tennis tournament in the world has ended for another year.

But I’m not sad today. I’m actually thrilled, because these last two weeks have given us tennis nuts so much magnificence.  Some of it we expected, some of it we most certainly did not (I’ll get to that in a minute).

Today on the blog, a few words about three extremely worthy champions.

First, Novak Djokovic. I was, as usual, pulling with all my heart for Roger Federer to win another Grand Slam title on Sunday, and I really thought he could do it. He played one of the best matches of his life in Friday’s semifinals, and I thought if he could come close to duplicating that, he’d have a real shot at Wimbledon title No. 8.

But Novak Djokovic, who doesn’t inspire nearly the passionate fan base as Roger or Rafa Nadal, just keeps winning anyway. He’s too good, too impenetrable at the baseline, and too clutch in the key moments. He and Federer played two of the best sets of tennis you’ll see Sunday, before Djokovic raised his game to another level and won the match in four sets.

He’s a tremendous sportsman, a class act on and off the court, and still very much in his prime. He’s likely to continue leading this incredible era of men’s tennis for years to come. And the Swiss guy ain’t done yet.

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**Serena Williams has never been nor will she ever be a favorite of mine; I’ve made that clear many times in this space over the years. But what she’s doing these last 12 months is beyond ridiculous, it’s just silly. Four straight major titles, including the first three this year. She wins when she’s playing poorly, she wins when she’s playing great. She’s winning some matches in a breeze, others she has to gut out by the skin of her teeth.

She is an incredible athlete, the best female athlete of her generation, and I must admit her attitude and off-court actions have improved quite a bit in recent years. She is an admirable player who has taken her sport to a new level that others cannot yet reach, and isn’t that the greatest legacy someone can leave?

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**Finally, the third champion I want to write about is one I’m much more personally connected to than Novak and Serena. I’ve written about Reilly Opelka since he was 12 years old, when while working at the Daytona Beach News-Journal I went out to his house in Palm Coast, Fla. and hit with him and watched him play.

He’s grown more than a foot since then, to 6-foot-10, and gotten five years older. But he’s still the same kinda goofy kid with deep humility and respect for others, and a low-key demeanor that almost borders on catatonic sometimes.
Except now, he’s a freaking Wimbledon champion. In a week no one saw coming, least of all him, Opelka won the junior boys singles title Sunday, his first-ever Grand Slam title and becoming the first tennis major champion from his hometown.

I was along for the ride “virtually” all week, watching Opelka’s matches on the Internet, interviewing him each day for my part-time writing gig at FlaglerLive.com (his town’s best news source/website), and marveling at how this kid who has gotten zero of the hype accorded other U.S. prospects showed he’s every bit the potential star they are.

One of my favorite things about being a sportswriter was watching a kid grow up and mature athletically right before your eyes; I felt more than a little pride Sunday that the little boy I first met became this enormous champion.

Djokovic. Serena. Opelka. Worthy title winners, all.

**Finally today, one of my favorite character actors from the last 30 years on TV died over the weekend. Roger Rees, who so perfectly played Kirstie Alley’s billionaire boyfriend Robin Colcord, and then showed a terrific comedy touch as Lord John Marbury on “The West Wing” died on Saturday.

He was 71 and an accomplished Broadway actor. But to me, he’ll always be Marbury, the loony but brilliant political ambassador who the Bartlet administration called on from time to time.

This is one great scene of his, but he had so many more.

In the Women’s World Cup final, the U.S. steamrolls Japan. Stephen Colbert and Eminem, kicking it on public access TV. And Manic Monday at Wimbledon is here!

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Well that was a pretty typical soccer game Sunday night in the Women’s World Cup final, huh? Very little action, barely a goal, ton of boring stuff…

Um, yeah. That wasn’t a soccer game, that was a track meet in cleats. If more soccer games were like that, I might actually watch the sport more than once a year.

With 15 years of built-up World Cup frustration, the U.S. Women’s National team unleashed holy hell all over Japan, getting revenge from the heartbreaking 2011 finals loss and just blitzing their opponents.

The score was 4-0 after 20 minutes, which is insane. It’d be like a football game being 42-0 in the first quarter, or a basketball game being 46-3 after the first period.

Carli Lloyd, who’s the new hero of millions of American sports fans and most 11-year-old girls (move over, T. Swift), scored a hat trick in the first half, and the final was 5-2, and the second half was basically academic.

What a wonderful moment for women’s sports. I don’t think this World Cup-winning team will get the incredible recognition and fame the 1999 team got, because of the circumstances in which that team won, that is was on U.S. soil, it got unprecedented attendance and TV ratings, etc. (Just for fun, I asked some friends who are soccer-savvy on Twitter Sunday night who would win if the ’99ers played this team. All said this year’s group would win.)

But this team is sensational. And deserve every ounce of attention they will get. Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, the legendary Abby Wambach… just great stuff.

Congrats, ladies. Take a well-deserved curtain call.

**Next up, Stephen Colbert continues to do weird and wonderful stuff while getting ready to take over David Letterman’s old time slot on CBS late night. Last week he took over a public access TV show in Monroe, Mich., and completely played it straight, interviewing the show’s usual hosts, and then bringing on “Michigan native” Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem, and the two put on a hilarious deadpan interview, including Colbert asking him “Are you one of those slow-talking rappers or fast-talking rappers?”

The first five minutes are my favorite part, but the whole thing is great.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 01: Venus Williams (l) and Serena Williams of the United States during their Ladies Doubles second round match against Kristina Barrois of Germany and Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland on day eight of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 1, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

**Finally today, my favorite tennis tournament has always been Wimbledon, which of course is going on now, and the best day at Wimbledon is always the second Monday.
It’s called “Manic Monday,” and not because all tennis fans worship the Bangles (though hey, if they were good enough for Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, they’re good enough for me.)

Today is the day when every player left in the singles draw plays, with eight men’s matches and eight women’s matches on top. It is fantastic and filled with great tennis all day.

Today’s Manic Monday is even more special because for the first time in six years at a Grand Slam, the Williams sisters will square off. I could spill barrels of ink writing about the incredible impact on sport Serena and Venus has, about how the younger sister Serena has far eclipsed her sister’s accomplishments, and how this likely is the final time the two will meet in such a significant match.

My e-migo Jonathan Newman has written a great piece here about the rivalry and today’s match; for me, even though neither player is my favorite, the historical nature and specialness of it will make it must-see TV.

Happy Wimbledon Manic Monday, everyone. And also, check out this terrific piece by Pete Sampras, wherein he writes a letter to his 16-year-old self. Really great stuff here.

A weekend in Philly and a return to my alma mater was wonderful. And quickie thoughts on a huge sports weekend

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Lots of people romanticize their college years, mythologizing them beyond all actual truth because their memories (often drug-affected) get worse over the years, or because in college, everything seems possible.

I’m one of those people who had an incredibly wonderful college experience; as I’ve written about on here before, attending the University of Delaware (above) was the best decision I made in my life, professionally and personally.

It was the launching pad for so many wonderful things, and the best part of it was The Review, the completely student-run newspaper where I spent the better part of three years learning, screwing up, getting better, having an insane amount of fun and losing an insane amount of sleep while learning to be a journalist.

So when word got out a few months back that the paper was in financial trouble, many of us alumni, who used The Review as a springboard to fantastic and successful journalism careers, started raising money, spreading the word, and doing what we could.

Saturday night there was a fundraising dinner for newspaper alumni at UD, and I was thrilled to be there. We didn’t get as many old scribes as I would’ve hoped, but the atmosphere was terrific, and it was great seeing how many care. In talking to the current editors, it turns out that the fundraising has made a difference, and the paper is in better financial shape than it had been (Truth be told, all independent college papers seem to be struggling; ad dollars are down, and kids just don’t read their school paper anymore.)

It was great to be back. UD will always hold a place in my heart.

Some other thoughts from a fun weekend, where the family and I stayed in Philadelphia and I drove down to UD on Saturday:

— The cheesesteaks in Philly are all people talk about and rightfully so, I had two this weekend and they’re awesome. But for my money, the best gastronomical delight in the city are the hand-rolled cannolis from Termini Bros., three of which came home with us in the car (I won’t tell you how many made it all the way back to NYC). I mean, they are sinfully good.

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— Went to the Franklin Institute Saturday morning; what a wonderful museum. Saw a fabulous exhibit by Nathan Sawaya, a guy who builds incredible sculptures painting re-creations (like the one above of Edward Munch’s “The Scream” using only LEGO. Blew my mind. Check it out if you’re in Philly the next few months.

— Stayed in a lovely Center City hotel in Philly, except for the 12:15 a.m. Saturday night fire alarm going off, followed by five consecutive obscenely loud announcements telling us an emergency had been reported, please stand by, followed five minutes later by five more obscenely loud announcements piped into our room as well, telling us the fire dept. said all was clear, we can relax.

Shockingly, all that woke our 9-month-old.

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**Finally today, there was so much great stuff in sports this past weekend that I could write several hundred words about each one. But neither you nor I have time for all that, so some quick-hit thoughts on a sports-gasm that lasted for two days:

— Gotta start, of course since it’s my passion, with the tennis. Serena Williams continues to show why she’s now, at worst, one of the two or three best players of all time. As much as I dislike Serena for her histrionics and poor sportsmanship, she continues to blow away all criticism by continuing to win, so deep into her career. I think she’s erasing all argument about the G.O.A.T. debate, and after winning a few more Slam titles and passing Steffi Graf’s record of 22, she’ll be acknowledged No. 1 of all time.

And of course, on the men’s side at the French Open, Stan Wawrinka shocked the hell out of everyone, including himself, with an incredible win Sunday over Novak Djokovic. Everyone, including me, thought that after Nole beat Rafa Nadal in the quarterfinals, he’d find a way to win the one Slam crown that has eluded him. But Wawrinka and that postcard-perfect one-handed backhand were just too good.

I love Djokovic and felt terrible for him, still not able to win the one title that he doesn’t have. He’ll get one one day, but he’ll never have a better chance than this.

— So American Pharoah shut up all those people who said there’d never be another Triple Crown winner, huh? Tremendous horse. Happy the drought is finally over after 37 years. Amazing that after all those horses before him had failed, American Pharoah simply led wire-to-wire and made winning the Belmont look so easy.

— These first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals have been wild. Blackhawks definitely seem like the better team to me, but Tampa’s offense is explosive. And the goalie musical-chairs thing Tampa pulled in the 3rd period of Game 2? Bizarre.

— LeBron James. What more can you say about this man? Single-handedly carrying the Cavaliers on his back, and got zero help from his teammates down the stretch in Game 2, saw the referees do their damnedest to help Golden State win the game, and still the Cavs pulled it out. What a fantastic first two games of the NBA Finals, though honestly, that was the worst-officiated fourth quarter of an NBA game I’ve seen, maybe ever.

I don’t care if the Cavs win this series or not. LBJ has, in my mind and that of many others I’ve read in the past week, reached that rarefied air inhabited only by Michael Jordan.

I’m not saying LeBron’s better. I’m saying he’s Jordan’s equal. And I never in a million years thought I’d write that sentence in my lifetime.

The Jets dominate and survive as the NFL returns! Ireland’s wacky “Armagaydon”. And Serena cruises to another U.S. Open title

chrisivory

Football’s back!
Yeah yeah, I know college football started last week, but to me, the first Sunday of the NFL season is the real start of football season.
I love the first Sunday. I love seeing way more people in the sports bar than normal, because everybody’s fired up about their team, they’ve missed the sport, and they’re convinced their favorite team is going to win (hey, everyone’s undefeated at this point!).
I love trying to re-teach my brain how to watch 5 games at once. I love tricking myself into thinking the Jets will be good this year. And I really love the drunk moron in the bar (there’s always one) taunting other fans because he’s drunk and thinks he’s being funny.

Ah, football, I’ve missed you so. Some quick-hit thoughts from a pretty compelling week 1.
— I start with the Jets, of course. That was the most dominating five-point win you’ll see, since my boys shot themselves in the foot so many times the game wasn’t the blowout it should’ve been. Geno Smith looked mostly good (that’s different from mostly dead, right Miracle Max?) except for two killer turnovers, the running game looked fantastic, and the defense was stellar (albeit against a terrible team).

Jets will get creamed at Lambeau next week, I’m sure, but this was an encouraging start.

— It’s always a wonderful day when the Jets win and the Patriots lose. Boy that improved Pats’ D didn’t look so improved on Sunday.
— I’ve never NOT been entertained in recent years by a Saints-Falcons game. They play shootouts every single time. Matty Ryan was sensational on Sunday.

— Ah, Tony Romo, so good to have you back. My great friend Tony put it best about gunslingin’ No. 8, who threw three picks Sunday: “Tony Romo: the man with a Brett Favre mentality without Brett Favre ability.”

— Um, RGIII? What the hell happened to you? Man did the Redskins look awful. Poor RGIII hasn’t been the same since injuring his knee in that playoff game two years ago; he may never be the same again. Mike Shanahan, the blood of his career is on your hands.

— I know they lost, but man, Andrew Luck is some kind of terrific quarterback. Indy fans are so spoiled, getting Peyton and then him back-to-back.

– Did you see the clip of the Steelers player karate-kicking the Browns punter in the face? I mean, come on, that’s awful!

**Next up today, I thought this was very clever. Marriage-equality proponents in Ireland made this ad leading up to a vote for same-sex marriage, about what would “happen” if it were legalized. How do you deal with the “Armagayddon?” Hide all the women and children!

serenajumping

**Finally today, Serena Williams won a third straight U.S. Open title Sunday, routing Caroline Wozniacki, 6-3, 6-3. I’ve said the following on here several times but it’s worth saying again: I strongly dislike Serena as an athlete, for her comportment and lack of decency on the court (not just for screaming at linespeople when she foot-faults), and her arrogance and condescension off the court.

But I also admire the hell out of her career, and marvel at how when she’s playing well, like she did the past two weeks, she’s the best player women’s tennis has seen.
I would love to see her in her prime, up against Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova, because for the past decade, when Serena is at her best, she’s miles ahead of the rest. An incredible, one-of-a-kind athlete wbo simply cannot be matched.

As for the men’s final today, shoot, I have no freaking clue who’ll win. I’m still in shock that Djokovic and Federer were so easily dismissed in the semis on Saturday. Kei Nishikori is a rising star, and a Japanese player winning a Slam for the first time would be a great story. But Marin Cilic played out of his mind last week and on Saturday, he’s got a huge serve, and may just be unbeatable right now (I cannot believe I’m saying that about Marin Cilic.)

As disappointed as I am that my man Federer lost, I’m thrilled that men’s tennis has some new blood in a Slam final. I’ll say Nishikori wins in 4.

The Jets are undefeated, and more NFL Week 1 thoughts. A beautiful letter from mother to son. And Serena, queen of the Open

genosmith

Fifteen more wins and the Jets go undefeated! Super Bowl here we come baby!

OK, OK, I’m not anywhere near that crazy.

I know that my beloved New York Jets got a little lucky Sunday, thanks to the Tampa Bay Bucs making a whole lot of stupid plays, and took a horrendous late-hit penalty in the final 10 seconds that gave the Jets a chance to kick the winning field goal and claim an improbable 18-17 win.

And look, I still think this Jets team is going to be terrible, winning either four or five games.
But I’m allowed to feel good after a Week 1 win, right? I’m allowed to notice that Geno Smith, after a shaky first 1 1/2 quarters, had a great TD drive at the end of the first half, and a really solid final 30 seconds, making a big throw and a big scramble to set up the winning field goal?
The kid looked poised except for a few plays. He was not Mark Sanchez, which is always good, and it didn’t seem like the moment was too big for him.
And the Jets defense was stellar, particularly against the run, except for them forgetting to cover Vincent Jackson all day.
Given how well they competed, to still need a near-miracle to win, doesn’t bode that well for the future. I fully expect them to get crushed by the Pats on Thursday night.
But hey, for one day, 1-0 sounds really sweet.

— Other quick-hit NFL thoughts:
— The Giants and Cowboys always play wild, ugly but exciting games in prime time, don’t they? No wonder NBC always wants them.
— My Dad’s in one of those NFL “suicide” pools this year for the first time, where each week you pick a team not to lose, and as long as they win, you stay in. But you can only pick a team once.
I told him to pick Pittsburgh for Week 1, because they always win their opener and they were playing a poor Titans team. Oh well. I got the guy eliminated in Week 1. Hard to do.
— Huge win for the Saints, confidence-wise, to beat Atlanta. Such a different team with Sean Payton back coaching them.
— Something I never thought I’d say: Terrelle Pryor might be a decent NFL QB. Looked good for the Raiders at times.
— And how about those Buffalo Bills? Always there to break your heart. Thought they might actually beat Brady and Co., taking a late lead, but then of course they let No. 12 come down the field on ’em at the end, and get a last-minute field goal. Oh Buffalo, don’t ever change.

 

Momletter.pic_for_upworthy

**So this was really sweet and touching. A teenage boy named Zach Gibson decided to announce that he was gay on Facebook, and his mother found out about it that way.

And so Michelle Conway McClain decided to write her son a small note telling him how she felt about his admission. Read the letter above, and an explanation of why she wrote the letter here.

 

**Finally today, in-between all the football I took in the U.S. Open women’s final, which was again a showcase for how good the sport can be (anyone who doesn’t think women should get as much prize money in this sport as men is just nuts).

Serena Williams, as has been the case for most of the past 13 years, showed why she’s in the conversation for greatest player ever, beating Victoria Azarenka, 7-5, 6-7, 6-1.
I’ve said many times that I don’t like Serena as a person, thanks to her arrogant attitude and her abhorrent on-court behavior at times, but you have to admire her talent and career.
That she is still dominating, and can rise to the occasion whenever it’s called for, is damn impressive. Her fifth U.S. Open title wasn’t tough sledding until the final, and all credit to Azarenka, who despite her shrieking like a tortured animal every time she struck a ball (seriously, does she realize how obnoxious her grunting sounds?) played a hell of a match.

But Serena is an incredible talent, and even though her behavior leaves much to be desired (though she was exceedingly gracious in interviews during the Open), she is a champion worth saluting, one of the best we’ve ever seen.