Tag Archives: Steph Curry

Good News Friday: A Carolina Panther with some amazing work after Hurricane Florence. Your periodic reminder that Steph Curry is pure, pure joy. And a man inspired by a teacher meets his hero once again

A couple of programming notes before we dive in to Good News Friday: 1, I don’t believe in my 43 years of life I’ve ever had a hurricane named after me, but Hurricane Michael is here and walloped the hell out of parts of Florida and Georgia, and on behalf of all Michael’s everywhere, we apologize.
Also, about a year after we bought the impossible-to-get tickets, the wife and I finally saw “Hamilton” on Broadway Thursday night. Mind-blowingly good. Like, “holy cow everything everyone said about it being amazing was an understatement” kind of good. Much longer blog post about it coming next week.

OK, on with the show…

We start Good News Friday this week with a story of a wonderful gesture from Carolina Panthers football player Julius Peppers. The longtime star defensive end is from North Carolina, and back when Hurricane Florence hit last month he immediately donated $100,000 to the relief efforts, and got teammates like Cam Newton to match that amount, too.

But Peppers didn’t just put up money; this week on his off day he went to the United Way headquarters in Robeson County early Tuesday morning to begin a day of service.

According to this story in the Charlotte Observer, he joined volunteers as they went through neighborhoods to speak with residents and see homes, and lend support as those affected told their stories.

“A lot of these people had to rip the walls out of their homes, throw out furniture and clothing, throw out everything that they had, all of their possessions thrown to the side of the road,” said Peppers. “Seeing those things, and the people telling their stories, it was an experience that I’m going to take with me and that I’m going to share with others as I encourage others to come try to help out, too.”

Peppers joined members of the Mennonite community as they served meals to residents affected by the storm in various neighborhoods in the county.

Then, Peppers and the United Way volunteers helped clean out and start repairs on the home of a policeman who couldn’t save his own belongings from the storm, because he was out in the neighborhood helping others evacuate.

Outstanding job, Julius. I like highlighting these stories because we hear so often about the Ray Rices and Greg Hardys of pro football, who have committed crimes, but not nearly enough about the vast majority of good humans who play in the NFL. They deserve praise, too.

**Next up, every once in a while I like to remind myself and others of how amazing Steph Curry is. This was just one moment in a meaningless pregame warmup to a meaningless preseason game.

But seriously, how cool is this shot? Watching Steph Curry is pure joy, man. Just pure, pure joy.

**And finally today, it was International Teacher’s Day last week, and while I think every day should be one we honor teachers, this one was special for at least one student.
Ian Wright is a former soccer player from England, and he told a story about his favorite grade school teacher, a man named Mr. Pigden.

Here’s Wright, in a short 2-minute video, explaining what Mr. Pigden meant to him, and oh man, get the tissues ready for what happens starting at the 1:20 mark.

Great teachers never die, they just live on in our memories.

In defense of Facebook, which brings me more joy than sorrow. A gorgeous time-lapse video of falls you’ve never seen. And could LeBron lose in the first round? And other NBA and NHL playoff thoughts

So this is something that’s been percolating in my brain for a week. Ginia Bellafante is a columnist for the Metro Section of the New York Times, and I find her to be usually thought-provoking. She has a strong bias against Mayor Bill de Blasio (it’s a very strong bias that comes through in everything she writes about NYC), but generally she’s fair, informative, and a talented writer.

But she wrote something in last Sunday’s paper that really bothered me, and that I disagreed with strongly.

It’s about Facebook, and not anything about the recent controversy involving data theft, and political hacking and news-feed manipulation, that led Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress last week.

No, Bellafante’s column point was this: Facebook brings people down, or makes them green with envy, or fills them with depressing news about people. Here’s one passage from the column:

But apart from envy, Facebook, in my experience, primarily energizes profound feelings of dread, perhaps especially for those in middle age, because it serves to remind us over and over how many ways life can go horribly and dramatically wrong. Just this week, someone I do not know posted that she had just lost her best friend. I continued reading to discover that her friend, who lived in Grosse Pointe, Mich., was killed in a car accident in Colorado along with her husband and two children. The accident appeared to involve black ice (the terrifying subject the writer John Seabrook had recently published an article about in The New Yorker).

She goes on to talk about research studies that show Facebook makes us envious of our friends, and that it’s a net negative for our lives, brings us down, etc.

I could not disagree more. Of course there are negative updates from people on Facebook; this colleague had cancer surgery, that one just broke up with her boyfriend, this one got laid off from work.

But in my experience, there is so, so much more good. I log on and am often deluged with happy news: An engagement, or a job promotion, or someone sharing something hysterically funny.

Facebook updates from friends more often than not uplift me; it gives me a smile to see someone’s 3-year-old going trick-or-treating for the first time; it makes me feel good to see people I know and love having good things happen to them. (My favorite Facebook thing these days is my awesome friend Diana’s weekly post on Friday morning, simply asking her friends “What made you happy this week?” I don’t know 95 percent of the respondents, but I still get a small joy out of their joys.)

Maybe Ginia Bellefante and her friends are just Debbie Downers, I don’t know. But the idea that Facebook just makes us envious and sad about our mortality? Absolutely not. I probably spend a little too much time on the site, and I know it’s far from perfect.

But every day, there’s something uplifting from one of my friends or colleagues that gives me a smile. And there’s real value in that, always.

**Next up today, just a small piece of beauty to get you smiling on a Monday. From Dustin Dilworth of D3 Imagery, a beautiful time-lapse video of Tahquamenon Falls, Mich., a place I’ve never been but now surely somewhere I want to go.

Nature, man. It’s wild.

**And finally today, I’ve yet to weigh on the NBA and Stanley Cup playoffs, and there’s just been so much surprising and great stuff going on that I’ve got to get at least some of it out of my brain and into yours.

Let’s start with the hockey, because of course that’s where my passion lies.

— The Washington Capitals, man oh man, I thought it was rough being a New York Jets fan. But the Caps just destroy their fans every year. They lose the first two at home, then come back and win two at Columbus (hey John Tortorella, glad to see you’ve mellowed. Not.) and then grab an overtime victory in Game 5. Now they’re a win away from playing the Pittsburgh Penguins, who will, as they always do, beat the Caps and make their fans wonder why they even bothered.

Ah, to be a Caps fan.

— Can Toront0 and Boston play in the Stanley Cup playoffs every year, please? That series has been phenomenally entertaining to watch. I hope the Leafs win tonight and it goes 7. Because I always root for Game 7’s.

— A Twitter feed I enjoy tabulates the number of days it’s been since the Philadelphia Flyers last won the Stanley Cup. Sunday’s total: 15,670 days. As a Rangers fan that makes me happy.

— We are one round away from my dream Western Conference final: Nashville vs. Las Vegas. What a phenomenal series that would be, of course, on the ice, but the idea of those two cities playing hockey for a spot in the Cup Finals, where guys like Rocket Richard and Ken Dryden and Bobby Orr played fills me with glee. Nashville has become an amazing hockey town (they call it “Smashville”) and Vegas has totally embraced its new Golden Knights franchise, but still, it’s hilarious to think of Nashville vs. Las Vegas in hockey, right? Can we get Garth Brooks and Wayne Newton to drop the puck for Game 1?

— On to the NBA, where I have no idea what’s going to happen. LeBron James is carrying the Cleveland Cavaliers, and even though he’s the greatest player of all time, his team might still lose in the first round. Even after gutting out a Game 4 win Sunday night, Cleveland is just tied 2-2 with the Pacers. Man this Cavaliers team is underachieving, or maybe just not that great.

If James gets THIS team to the Finals? Would be his greatest feat yet.

— Toronto is supposed to be the best team in the East and they’re tied 2-2 with the Wizards. Oklahoma City has Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony (three superstars) and is down 2-1 to Utah. New Orleans, who no one expected to win against Portland, just swept the Blazers in four straight. The Houston Rockets, who were the best team in the West all year, are struggling too.

Tell me again why people bet on sports?

LeBron James brings Cleveland a most improbable title. An awesome old movie dance scene remix. And a cute puppy commercial that leaves me perplexed

LeBron.tears

Yeah, I got nothing.

I’m supposed to write coherently about maybe the most improbable sports championship I’ve ever seen? I’m supposed to be coherent writing about the best basketball player I’ve seen in my lifetime, and that includes Bugs Bunny’s co-star in “Space Jams?”

A guy who did THIS last night, in a Game 7 with the score tied and the pressure of the world on his shoulders?

The Cleveland Cavaliers are NBA champions. The city of Cleveland, which has not seen a sports team win a title since another LBJ (Lyndon Johnson) was in the White House, is going crazy today and probably will for the next several months.

Down 3-1 to a Golden State Warriors team that’s an all-time great in history, an Akron native son led the Cavs to their first-ever NBA title. He dominated this series, he humiliated Steph Curry and all the cocky Warriors, and he did what he set out to do when he came home two years ago.

I don’t care what anyone says: LeBron James is the greatest basketball player of all time. To lead his team to this comeback… I mean, he should just announce his retirement at the championship parade in Cleveland. Because he’s never, ever going to top this moment.

Fifty-two years of frustration, of John Elway and Earnest Byner and Jose Mesa blowing Game 7 of the World Series and Art Modell stealing their team and LeBron leaving the first time … it’s all gone. It’s washed into Lake Erie now, replaced by joy.

The joy that Kyrie Irving (Duke!) brought with that game-winning 3-pointer. The joy of Kevin Love, basically useless for the first 6 games of this NBA Finals, coming alive in Game 7 and playing huge defense on Curry. Tristan Thompson, a man among men on the boards. Even Richard Jefferson was tremendous Sunday night.

I’m just so happy for the fans in Cleveland. I know sports isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things, and I know life as they know it isn’t going to change just because some tall men with “Cleveland” on their jerseys won a championship.

But psychologically, man, what a boost. Just tremendous.

Couple other quick thoughts on a magnificent Game 7:

— So glad we got a nail-biter after six blowouts. It just had to come down to the end like it did.

— Lot of people going to say Curry and the Warriors choked, that a 73-win team couldn’t get over the finish line and was overrated. I don’t know, that Oklahoma City series took a LOT out of them physically, and when jump shooters like Klay Thompson and Curry miss shots like they did, it’s usually because they’re tired.

Also, the Draymond Green suspension for Game 5 was a big blow, and maybe, just maybe, they didn’t take the Cavs as seriously as they should. Curry shot 21-for-60 in the last three games. His reputation will take a while to recover.

— That LeBron block will be in the first 10 seconds of his Hall of Fame induction highlights video. Guaranteed. I mean, look how FAR he comes to block it. The athleticism, the timing, just incredible.

— I really thought LeBron broke his wrist on that fall with 10 seconds left, when Green fouled him. He landed so hard and looked to be in so much pain. And that would’ve been the most Cleveland way to lose, ever: Cavs up by 3, 10 seconds to go, LeBron gets seriously hurt, his replacement misses both free throws, Curry hits a three to send the game to OT, and with no LeBron, the Warriors win.

I guarantee you at least 25 percent of Cleveland fans watching that had that fleeting thought.

— Craziest stat I saw Sunday night: With the Warriors losing, none of the teams in all four major team sports who set records for most wins in a season won a title that year. (2001 Seattle Mariners, 2007 New England Patriots, and the 1996 Detroit Red Wings).

— Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop This Feeling” is everywhere these days, and even me, who hates most current music, finds it infectious.

**Finally, this is a very cute commercial from Amazon that aired in Japan, with a dog and a baby, but the ending leaves me perplexed: Wouldn’t the baby be totally freaked out and scared by what the dog looks like at the end?

Maybe the baby thought the dog was a lion all along.

Celebrating the life of the incredible Prince. Vin Scully, as sharp as ever at 88. And Obama and Steph Curry make a great mentoring video

prince.purplerain

It is Friday, which usually means I post only Good News stories, and it would be impossible for anyone to say that the death Thursday of 57-year-old music icon Prince Rogers Nelson is good news.

It’s tragic news, because anytime the death of someone leaves less genius in the world, it’s a tragedy.

Prince was so many things, to so many people. To me, he was an incredible voice, a scintillating talent who could sing, dance, write music, play 30 instruments all in one sitting (he once did an entire concert like that, playing each instrument for three minutes each), and pretty much revolutionize music in his own way.

He was an epic music producer for so many other artists, he was a trailblazer in fighting record companies for what he believed he should rightfully get paid for music rights, and more than anything else, he was just a weird, weird dude.

Exhibit A, the story of Prince playing ping-pong with Jimmy Fallon.

Then there’s Kevin Smith’s fabulous re-telling of a week spent with Prince making a documentary (watch if only for the revelation that Prince buys workout clothes from the boys department at Nordstrom!)

He was one of a kind, and his music got me through a lot of long nights in college; my friend Brian Hickey would put a Prince CD on while a bunch of us toiled away on deadline at the school newspaper The Review and we’d get a burst of energy from “When Doves Cry” and “Kiss” and most of all, “I Would Die 4 U.”

His unique voice has been silenced forever. Goddamn, we’ve lost Bowie, Glenn Frey, and now Prince this year and it’s not even May yet.

Rest in peace, sweet Prince. You will be missed.

** Next up today, a small tribute to a giant of a man. Vin Scully has been broadcasting Dodgers games for 67 years, and the 88-year-old has announced this will be his last season. Scully will be celebrated all season, for his kindness to others, his humility, and just his remarkable ability to weave interesting stories  through his broadcasts.

Already this season we’ve gotten two classic Scully stories. The first, embedded above, about why the No. 13 should be celebrated, not feared. And the second, below, is just an incredible story about Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, and a snake, and some other stuff.

**Finally, Barack Obama and Steph Curry did a video, a public service announcement about mentorship last week, for the organization My Brother’s Keeper.

It is, predictably, awesome, and put a big smile on my face when I saw it.

 

 

Larry David and Julia-Louis Dreyfus reunite on SNL, and it’s great. Germany’s radically different prison system is worth copying. And the best of Steph Curry, all in one place

Tuesday is the New York presidential primary, and so of course everyone here in NYC (well, most people) are pretty focused on it.

Even though I’m a huge Bernie Sanders supporter, I’m pretty sure Hillary is going to win Tuesday, though I’m hoping it’s at least very close, like within a few points. The next week pretty much makes or breaks the Democratic race; if Bernie can pick off New Jersey, or New York, or Pa., we still have a race.

Otherwise, not sure we do. But hey, this has been an exciting last few weeks for political junkies like me; New York hasn’t had a competitive Democratic primary since I was in high school! (And oh yeah, there’s a GOP primary too, but Mr. Trump is so far ahead in the polls I’m not sure there’s much drama there.)

Anyway, as usual, “Saturday Night Live” was all over the primary, using the awesome Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ hosting last weekend as a chance to bring back Larry David as Bernie (By the way, am I the only one who remembers JLD on that briefly great show “Day by Day,” with D.B. Sweeney?).

The cold open of SNL featured Elaine Benes, and Rachel Greene, two real “new Yorkers.” I laughed pretty hard toward the end.

60minutes.Prisonstory

**Next up, I’m a few weeks behind on my “60 Minutes” viewing so this piece aired two weeks ago. But it kind of blew my mind: Reporter Bill Whitaker went on a tour of prisons in Germany, and to say they’re a bit different than here in the U.S. is the understatement of the year.

In Germany, prisons are radically less punishment-oriented, and way more rehabilitation oriented. Prisoners are allowed all kinds of family visits, they have keys to their own cells, and the relationship between guards and inmates is 180 degrees different than here in the U.S.

I’m not saying American prisons should be exactly like this, but wouldn’t it be nice, and refreshing, if we at least took some of their methods?

It’s really a fascinating look at how much better and more humane prisons could be.

 

**Finally today, the NBA playoffs started this weekend, and of course Golden State easily won its first game.

If you’re like me and still in awe of Steph Curry’s amazing performance this season, this highlight video of his 20 greatest plays this year will be enjoyable watching.
The New York Times also had a very cool graphic Sunday about Curry and how record-shattering his season has been; his 3-point shooting has been so far and away better than anyone ever, that percentage-wise, his year would be equivalent to someone in baseball hitting 103 home runs.

Incredible. This guy is such a joy to watch.

 

I finally saw “The Book of Mormon” and it was fabulous. SNL with a great Hillary spoof. And the Golden State Warriors leave me breathless

bookofmormon
Two things happened in New York in 2011: I moved back here, and “The Book of Mormon” debuted on Broadway.

Pretty much since it opened and I heard how astoundingly great it was, I’ve wanted to see it. I’m not a huge Trey Parker/Matt Stone fan, don’t love “South Park” all that much, but I heard so many wonderful things about it, I figured I had to see it.

Finally, five years later, my lovely wife got us tickets to see it on Saturday (bless her, she’d already seen it once before we met, and her reaction: “I’m kind of embarrassed at how hard I laughed at it.”)

Yes, I knew it’d be raunchy, and totally inappropriate, and probably offensive if I was even a tiny bit Mormon.

And after seeing it, I can honestly say: It was really damn funny. The story of two apple-cheeked and fired up new Mormon missionaries named Price and Cunningham (first names Kevin and Arnold, so of course I thought of Kevin Arnold and once again, it ALL goes back to “The Wonder Years”) being sent to Uganda to convert a whole bunch of African-American villagers is hilarious. The dialogue is SO over the top, and the props so delightfully tacky, and the profanity sprinkled throughout (an African general is called “General Butt-fucking Naked”) but it’s all done in service of laughs.

The musical numbers are tremendous; the actors playing Cunningham (Christopher John O’Neill) and the female Ugandan villager Nabulungi (Nikki Renee Daniels) were particularly fabulous; I was also blown away by the energy and intensity of all the performers, for the whole two hours. We saw a Saturday matinee, so to think the whole cast had to turn around and do the whole show again just four hours later was kind of mind-boggling.

“The Book of Mormon” wasn’t perfect; it started off slow, and the musical numbers in the second act were much better and funnier, at least to me. But it was really, really good. If you are visiting NYC and can get tickets, definitely worth your time.

**Next up today, the New York presidential primary is fast approaching, and after watching these candidates from afar for the past year, it’s a little bit cool seeing them pressing the flesh just a few miles from me. I did some Bernie Sanders volunteering on Sunday, and as you might expect, his people are mighty fired up. (Unlike me, they actually think Bernie will get the Democratic nomination. Ah, to be a young dreamer…)

SNL did its part to help Bernie Saturday night, with the great Kate McKinnon poking fun at Hillary Clinton in the opening sketch. I laughed pretty hard…

 

**Finally today, the end of the regular season in the NBA very rarely is interesting. Most teams have either clinched their playoff spot and are getting ready for the postseason, or have packed it in long ago and are just playing out the string (our two NYC teams are happily doing just that). I normally pay as much attention to the last week of the season as I do to golf (though hey, good job by that British dude winning The Masters Sunday.)

But this year’s different, because the Golden State Warriors, my goodness, are just so much fun to watch, and they’re chasing a record that really means very little like it’s the most important damn thing in the world. They’ve been trying to equal or beat the Chicago Bulls 72 wins in a regular season, and this weekend the Dubs (as they’re called by the cool kids) pulled out two games they absolutely could’ve lost.

The regular season means nothing, these guys have killed themselves all year, they’re the best show in sports right now, and still, they found the wherewithal to pull out huge road wins over Memphis and San Antonio, all while Steph Curry makes Harry Houdini shots like that (above).

It’s so wonderful to watch a team of ego-less players at the highest level, playing the game with so much joy. The Stanley Cup playoffs (and my underachieving Rangers) usually have my full attention this time of year, but sleep be damned, I’m going to try to catch as many Warriors games as I can.

This kind of team just doesn’t come along too often. I mean, look at this shot!

Tales from subbing at a junior high gym class: It’s as bad as you remember. Sarah Silverman is back with a great election year video. And the NRA website gives Cinderella and Goldilocks AK-47s.

EdCutlip.wonderyears

So as I’ve said here many times before, I’ve been substitute teaching in the New York City school system for four years now, though since our son was born I’ve only been teaching once a week.

Usually I go to a different school each week, and it’s uneventful. I love getting “out in the world” without the little guy once a week, and I avoid the truly awful schools, and my experiences are generally fine and routine.

Lately, though, I’ve had a pretty cool assignment. My favorite middle school in NYC, one that knows me and has used me a lot, asked me to be a five-week fill-in for one of their three gym teachers, who is on paternity leave.

So for the past four Tuesdays, I’ve reported to the gym and stayed there all day. I didn’t get a whistle or wear a cool hat like the legendary Coach Cutlip from “The Wonder Years,” but it has been a fascinating experience.

Some notes from the phys ed experiment:

— I hated, hated, hated junior high, and the worst part by far was gym class. Being half-naked in the locker room, as an adolescent boy, is horrifying. Throw in that I was considered a bit of a nerd, and there were mean bullies in my class, and well, use your imagination.

Here’s a nice re-creation of gym class from the folks at “Freaks and Geeks.”

Happily, I didn’t see too much of that so far. Each gym period has three classes in it, and they are inter-gender (which mine never were), so we’ve got 90 kids and three teachers all in one giant room.

— And let me tell you something, it’s physically dangerous. Not for the kids, but for me. They’re doing a basketball unit and so everyone was playing hoops today, but not really playing games, just shooting around. I got hit in the head with a volleyball during 2nd period (we’d run out of basketballs), and then hit again in the head with a basketball during 3rd period. I don’t think I was concussed, but seriously, it’s a jungle in there.

— In the last month I’ve seen about 1,000 boys take half-court shots. I think 10 went in. I wish I could say this was the “Steph Curry effect” since he makes so many of them, but I seem to remember my friends and I trying ridiculous half-court shots, too. What is it about heaving the ball as high and far as you can that’s appealing to us? I truly don’t know the answer.

— So this was fun: Tuesday one of the male gym teachers was telling the students that failing gym could prevent them from getting into their preferred high school, and that they must have a “real medical excuse” to get out of gym.

So one 7th grade girl raises her hand and shouts “That’s so not fair, what if we have our period?”
I was shocked because I don’t think 25 years ago when I was in junior high any girl would ever, ever shout that out and make it a topic of discussion, in front of boys, no less! But I guess kids growing up today, between Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter and all that, share their lives completely and totally, and real life in school is just an extension of that.

— On that note, one hilarious threat from the female gym teacher a couple of weeks ago, to some 7th grade classes: “If you guys don’t be quiet and let me start the class, we’re going to sit here and I’m going to tell you in great detail where babies come from!”

The gasps of horror and “Noooooooooooooooooo!” screams could be heard all the way to California, I think. Needless to say, the kids got quiet.

Ah, junior high. There isn’t enough money in the world you could pay me to make me go back and be 12 again.

**Next up today, the great Sarah Silverman is back with another election-year video; in 2012 she famously told New York Jews to schlep down to Florida and make sure their grandparents voted.

Now, Sarah is supporting Bernie Sanders, and come on, is there any way I wasn’t going to post this video? It’s fantastic. Seriously, watch it. It’s 5 minutes and explains Bernie better than he ever could.

**And finally, I wish this was one of those stories from “The Onion” and we could all have a good laugh about it.

But no, no, it’s real. The NRA Family website and author Amelia Hamilton have created new versions of fairy tales where the characters carry guns.

Yep, Cinderella can now blow away those evil stepsisters with a rifle. Goldilocks wouldn’t have had any problem with those bears if she’d had her AK-47 with her! And Little Red Riding Hood, whoo boy, no worries on her walking through the woods now that she’s got her trusty pistol with her!

Seriously. This is a thing. Disgusting, revolting and just … awful.

“Making A Murderer” was amazing, and infuriating. John Oliver’s great segment on abortion. The bus that lets you give confession while you ride.

SteveAvery

For the past two months, I have been trying to avoid any and all news about “Making a Murderer,” the 10-part Netflix documentary about a man named Steven Avery, who was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for 18 years on a rape charge, then was free for a year before getting arrested again and being charged with murder.

So many people in my life had told me it was fantastic, that the 10-year process undertaken by filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos had resulted in an amazing look at our criminal justice system, as seen through the small-town Manitowoc County, Wisc. sheriff’s office.

I knew I would love it. What I didn’t know, and what I learned as I finally plowed through it over the past few weeks, was just how infuriated “Making A Murderer” would make me.

Over 10 episodes, you will get outraged and angered over and over again, and wonder how in the world what happened to Steven Avery could happen in America.

It was a sensational, sensational movie. Of course I have some thoughts, but first, a WARNING!  THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD!If you plan to watch “MAM” and don’t want to know anything about it, skip ahead to the video underneath this part of the post.

OK, for the rest of us, some thoughts I must share:

— Point No.1: Steven Avery was no saint. He may even be considered a bad guy, and not very helpful to society. But when a person is put on trial, the prosecution must prove they are guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and I don’t know how anyone can watch this series and NOT see reasonable doubt. From the lack of Teresa Halbach’s DNA on her car key, to the completely ridiculous story told by Avery’s nephew Brendan Dassey (more on him in a bit), the amazing conflicts of interest the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Dept. had, I saw reasonable doubt all over the place. There was so little evidence tying Avery to the crime that it stunned me not only that he lost, but that every appeal so far has been denied.

— Point No. 2: What the Sheriff’s office and his own attorneys did to teenaged, low-IQ Brendan Dassey was absolutely deplorable. Between his extremely-coerced confession, where he was basically led by the hand, to the horribly biased job done by Dassey’s public defender, who was basically in cahoots with the sheriff, this poor kid was railroaded by the system. I don’t think he had anything to do with Teresa’s murder at all, and yet he’ll be in prison for 40 years because of a grossly unfair arrest and trial.

— No. 3: Avery’s lawyers, who he hired with the $400,000 he settled for in a civil suit from the earlier false conviction, were fantastic. Dean Strang and Jerry Buting did a marvelous job picking apart the prosecution’s case, and pointing out how easily Manitowoc Co.’s investigators could have planted evidence.

— No. 4: On the other hand, special prosecutor Ken Kratz struck me as just an asshole. From his smug attitude, to his completely unethical story-changing of how Avery committed the murder, Kratz was everything that’s wrong with our legal system. Happy to find out that he eventually resigned from his post after a sexting scandal.

— Finally, of all the crazy things that happened during this series, what dumbfounded me the most was how both Kratz and Strang/Buting held daily press conferences, during Avery’s trial, where they explained their strategy and answered very detailed questions. I have never, ever seen anything like that, and I can’t possibly imagine why the lawyers thought it was a good idea.

I mean, that’s unheard of.

I strongly, strongly recommend “Making a Murderer.” It’s fairly addictive, and it’s a fantastic portrait of just how easily our criminal justice system can ruin lives.

**Next up today, John Oliver’s fantastic series “Last Week Tonight” began its third season last week, and thank the Lord for that. As I’ve said many times in this space before, Oliver is the funniest, smartest and downright clever-est late-night host out there, and I never, ever watch his show and fail to be wildly entertained.

For his second show back he tackled the always-controversial issue of abortion, and how states over the past few years have disgustingly rolled back laws and made the procedure incredibly more difficult to procure.

As usual, Oliver’s biting commentary hit home. Really, really important stuff.

**Quick interlude here to show you this amazing play from Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, who may be the most entertaining athlete in any sport right now. Wow, is he amazing…

mercy bus 2

**And finally today, I’m Jewish so this wouldn’t apply to me, but I think it’s pretty funny and awesome.

There’s a new bus driving around England these days called the “Mercy Bus,” and on it you can give confession if you feel the need, and you’re too busy to get to church.

Commit a sin on your way to the bus stop? No worries, friend! You can get that off your mind immediately.

Steal someone’s seat on the bus? Say something horrible on a cell phone call while on the bus? Don’t sweat it another minute, you can get absolution before your next stop!

Says Father Frankie Mulgrew, the inventor of the bus:

“The Mercy Bus is for everybody, as God’s mercy is for everybody. If anybody has a burden, we’re inviting them to come onto the bus and be free from it.”

Grab a token and get your Hail Marys ready, all aboard!

Thoughts on the death of a sexist, racist Supreme Court Justice who died. NBA slam-dunk contest gets great again. And funny Valentine’s Day poems for married people

Greg Anthony and why athletes paying for sex will always puzzle me. Pixar’s 22 rules for telling a great story. And Steph Curry exudes pure joy

Greg-Anthony1

Wrote this post while watching Obama’s State of the Union speech: Lots of thoughts, but need to get to bed. So I’ll just share this: While listening to our President, a Democrat, rattle off all the encouraging statistics and facts about where America stands these days, my brain kept screaming: WHY DIDN”T ALL YOU DEMOCRATS WHO RAN AND LOST IN 2014 SAY SOME OF THIS STUFF IN YOUR RACES?
Maybe then Obama would have a Congress he could actually work with.

Sigh. On with the show…

OK, hear me out on this, something I alluded to in the intro to my post on Monday:

Greg Anthony is famous. He had a fantastic college basketball career at UNLV, a solid but not spectacular career in the NBA, and is now a well-respected broadcaster for TNT and CBS.

He is extremely well-known, well-spoken, and most assuredly wealthy.  I covered pro sports a bit in my journalism career and I can tell you that men like Anthony, whether they were still active or not, had absolutely zero trouble finding women to sleep with them when they were on the road.

These women would literally stalk NBA team hotels and make the players their prey, some not stopping until they had bedded an athlete. (Not at all saying the athletes were helpess to stop it, just saying I saw some really aggressive women)
And yet, last week Greg Anthony, famous and wealthy man that he is, was arrested in Washington, D.C. for soliciting a transgender prostitute. 

I just don’t get it. Why? Why does Greg Anthony need to pay for sex? Is it just that he’s too lazy to actually talk to women? Is it that some part of him is insecure and he doesn’t think he could get a stranger to sleep with him without paying for it?

I think I understand why so many male politicians, pumped full of ego, cheat on their spouses: They think they’re indestructible, they think they deserve it, they don’t think they’ll get caught, yada yada yada.

But why professional athletes, even retired ones, go out and pay for sex is something I’ll never, ever understand.

pixars-22-rules-for-storytelling

**Next up, I thought this was really cool. The folks at Pixar Studios, who do such a wonderful job making movies and drawing us all in with great storytelling, have posted a list of “22 rules of Storytelling.”

There are some real gems for writers of all kinds in here, including:

— “You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.”
— “When you’re stuck, make a list of what wouldn’t happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.”
— “Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.”

They’re all really great rules; check out the whole list here:

**Finally today, is there a more joyous sports experience these days than watching Steph Curry play basketball?

Curry plays for the Golden State Warriors, maybe the best and most exciting team in the NBA. Trouble is, almost all their games start after 10 p.m. here in the East, so unless you’re a hard-core NBA fan you’re probably not watching anything more than highlights of Curry.

But man oh man, are there great highlights of the Warriors this season.
Curry, part whirling dervish, part shooting assassin, plays with such passion, such joy, such … ease that the things he does just jump off the screen. At least three or four times I’ve had my jaw drop watching some of the stuff he does.

This latest ridiculous highlight (above) was from a game last weekend. What a pass.
Man, he is so much fun to watch.