Tag Archives: Ted Williams

Jon Stewart kicks butt again. Ted Williams off to rehab. And this kid’s got serious game

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As I await a fantastic sports day for me Saturday (Duke at 2 p.m., Steelers-Ravens at 4:30 p.m., a rare Rangers national TV hockey game at 7, and Falcons-Packers at 8), a trio of things strike my fancy today:

Jon Stewart, once again, your job is made easier by the folks at Fox News. Watch, and weep (with laughter, as I did.):

**Well, gotta give it up to my sister, an expert social worker. She called this one right off the bat. Ted Williams, the guy we all fell in love with last week, the guy who was homeless but had a golden voice that, through YouTube, made him a huge star.
Well, after his whirlwind media tour and overnight celebrity, he’s drinking again. He had an altercation with one of his daughters in a hotel, and after talking to Dr. Phil (of course, who else?), Williams is checking himself into rehab.
Definitely a little sad, but again, his sudden fame has been a good thing. Would he be getting clean and sober if he was still out on the street?

**Finally been meaning to show you this kid for a while now but keep forgetting. His name is Jordan McCabe, and he’s a 12-year-old basketball player from Seattle. Watch this kid and be mesmerized (sorry about the ad before the video). Also watch how scary it is that his dad looks exactly like ex-Jets and Browns coach Eric Mangini:

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Turkey invents the perfect game show. An opposing view on Ted Williams. And I finally win a fight with my toothbrush

Give up, America. Stop trying to invent reality shows; the genre has been perfected.
And the nation of Turkey has done it. (Oh come on, we all know when it comes to reality TV, Turkey is our leader.)
Apparently this show started in 2009, but I just heard of it on NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” last week.
It’s called “Penitents Compete,” and this is the deal: A rabbi, a Muslim imam, a Catholic priest, and a Buddhist monk all go into a room with 10 atheists, and try to convert them to their particular religion.
The atheists’ prize, if they’re converted? They get to go to the spiritual home of each religion (which, as Wait Wait pointed out, for the new Jews would be South Florida.)
This is fantastic on so many levels. First, can you imagine the contestants ‘playing the religious leaders off each other: “Well rabbi, I know you people don’t have confession or have to pray six times a day, but I can’t eat pork now? That’s a deal-breaker.”
And how about the religious leaders secretly slamming each other to the atheists? Or the pure joy when a contestant picks a religion and realizes all the crappy stuff about it that the religious leader never tells them?
This has to come to America. Come on, we steal all of England’s TV shows, we can’t steal this one?

**So this whole Ted Williams saga keeps rolling along; he’s the homeless guy with the golden voice who became an Internet sensation this week after a video of him made YouTube. He was on the “Today” show Thursday, and MSNBC has also hired him to do some voiceover work.
But as always, a few smart journalists are looking a little deeper here. Pat McMannon at AOL FanHouse has written a great story asking harder questions, about homelessness, our rush to sainthood for Williams, and other good stuff. Check it out here.

**An open letter to the people of Crest, makers of the SpinBrush Pro electric toothbrush:
Dear Crest,
I’ve been using your excellent SpinBrush Pro electric toothbrush for several years now. I love how it feels, totally happy with the job it does, the whole nine yards.
Here’s the problem, though: When you have to change the batteries, it takes the strength of a large NFL lineman to get the battery compartment cover off. Seriously, this thing is tighter than the skin on Cher’s face.
In the past, I’ve always been able to eventually get it off, though it took a huge effort.
Three days ago I needed to change batteries, and the sucker would not open. I came at it from all angles, tried every different method I could figure out, and it did not budge at all.
Finally this morning, I got a wrench from the garage. And after a few minutes with it I actually opened the damn thing.
A wrench! I needed a wrench to get off the battery cap off a toothbrush.
So I’m just sayin’, you might want to make that cap a little easier to take off.
Thanks.

The incredible luck of a homeless man named Ted Williams. Jon Stewart nails it. And the “butt dial” heard round the world

When I read the great Malcolm Gladwell book The Tipping Point, one of the big themes I took away from it was just how much extraordinary luck goes into success.
Bill Gates happened to have access to computers long before most of us. The Beatles practiced for hundreds of thousands of hours in tiny clubs in Germany, honing their sound long before they became famous.
I thought about luck today as I saw the incredible story of Ted Williams (no, not THAT Ted Williams) go from curiosity, to full-blown media sensation.
If you haven’t heard of this guy by now, let me fill you in. A Columbus Dispatch newspaper videographer named Doral Chenoweth III stumbled upon Williams panhandling on a corner in Columbus a few weeks ago.
Williams had a sign that said he had a special talent, a “golden voice.” Chenoweth filmed him speaking like a radio announcer, and a few days ago the video made it onto YouTube.
Eight million hits later, Ted Williams’ life has changed forever. He’s become an overnight celebrity, literally overnight. He’s gotten job offers for voiceover work from MTV, the NFL, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs, also offered to  loan him money to buy a house.
He’s going to be on the “Today” show Thursday, and Jimmy Fallon Thursday night.
Now, Williams is no saint; he’s been arrested more than a dozen times. and has spent five months in prison on theft charges.
He talks in the video about how he’s been sober for 2 1/2 years.

But it’s truly amazing how luck has turned Williams’ life around. What if the Dispatch video guy had never stopped to film him? What if the video didn’t suddenly get picked up my every major media outlet in the country?
Ted Williams, homeless man, would still be standing on the corner near I-71, begging for change despite having great pipes. I’m fascinated by this stuff, because it seems so random. You never have any idea what’s going to happen every day.
Maybe the panhandler down the street will become famous today.

**Update: Here’s Williams on the “Today” show Thursday morning.

**Jon Stewart, once again, making me laugh so hard I nearly fell over, talking about the “debate” for the job of Republican National Committee chairmen:
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**And then there was this, which is too bizarre for me to describe properly. On Monday, a man who was in his car, listening to hip-hop music, accidentally dialed his wife on his cellphone (lodged in his backpocket, apparently called “butt-dialing”) and caused a SWAT team to show up at a Winnetka, Ill.  school.
The wife heard the lyrics and thought her husband was being held hostage at the school where he worked, and a SWAT team showed up to assess the situation.
Seriously, you’ve got to read this. What a crazy world we live in.
If only he’d been listening to Barry Manilow like I usually do, this whole thing could’ve been avoided.

An inglorious end for the Great Gretzky, and a hilarious Ricky Gervais rant

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Sports fans have been incredibly lucky over the last 30 years.

Let’s say you’re like me, and started to become interested in sports around 1983 or so. Just since then, we have been privileged to watch the greatest basketball player of all-time (Michael Jordan), the greatest tennis player of all time (Roger Federer) and, apparently, the greatest golfer ever (Tiger Woods. I say apparently because I loathe golf and refuse to care or pay attention to it).

Maybe you could get an argument on a few of those from people. Some will argue Rod Laver or Pete Sampras is better than Federer, and there was a golfer named Nicklaus who seemed to be pretty good once.

But no one, I mean NO ONE, argues that Wayne Gretzky is the Greatest Hockey Player of All Time.

Name a record in the NHL record books, and he holds it. I don’t know if I’m so into hockey because of No. 99, but he certainly had a big part of me loving the sport as a child (And yes, there will be hockey on this blog. That and college basketball are my other winter passions. )

I loved it that my beloved New York Rangers were Gretzky’s final team; I can still see him skating around MSG one final time after his last game in 1999, as the adoring masses cheered.

Fast forward 10 years, and Gretzky is hardly being adored. Thursday he resigned as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, who are in the midst of a truly messy ownership squabble, even by NHL standards. Gretzky may have been fired by a new ownership group, which is battling the NHL to own the Coyotes (why anyone wants such a pathetic franchise is beyond me, but hey, it’s not my money).

So instead of being pushed out, the Great One jumped. Truthfully, his stint at coaching was a disaster. In four years he had a 143-161-24 record, and Phoenix missed the playoffs all four years. Did he have much talent to work with? No. But he certainly didn’t make the talent any better.

Gretzky joins a long list of superstar players who were bad coaches. Magic Johnson. Ted Williams. Larry Bird. Bill Russell. These guys were legends, but they just couldn’t translate their brilliance onto others. I remember Magic vividly becoming angry after one Lakers practice, saying he just couldn’t understand why Point Guard X didn’t see that coming, or why he didn’t make that play.

The answer, of course, is that the guy wasn’t Magic Johnson, and Magic never could come to terms with coaching players who just didn’t have his gifts.

I hope Gretzky is back in the NHL at some point soon; he deserves a hallowed place in the game for as long as he lives.

But no hockey fans in Phoenix are boo-hooing his departure today. As a coach, Wayne was a failure. Maybe that’s the real reason he left: He knew he wasn’t getting it done, and it was killing him.

***I know there are a legion of Ricky Gervais fans out there, but I’m not really one of them. The British comedian who starred in the original The Office”  in England just isn’t usually my pint of ale.

But I thought this was truly hilarious, a brief discussion of the terrible lessons we get from nursery rhymes:

R.I.P., Teddy Kennedy, last of the great liberals

 

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Whatever else you see or read today or in the next few days about the late Edward Kennedy, let me assure you of this:

The man did not get cheated by life. He lived four or five lifetimes in his 77 years: a young kid just hoping to carry the mantle of his slain brothers; a senator who many thought was a lightweight but grew into a powerful advocate, an incredibly wealthy man who cared deeply about people who had so little money.

He was also shamed and disgraced after being responsible for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick in 1969, pathetically leaving the scene of the crime, then not reporting it for hours while Kopechne drowned; and finally, after the drinking and carousing and womanizing was finished, he became a fantastic and distinguished voice of experience in the Senate, raging against big-company greed and fighting so hard for things like aid to the poor, civil rights, and immigration.

Really, the guy lived enough for three or four movies about him.

One of the things I said in a post last month about Kennedy is that he was such a tragically flawed hero, and was such a lightning rod, that most people either loved him or hated him.  I mean really, have you ever met anyone with no opinion on Teddy?

Just as so many of us on the left were thrilled he was championing causes few believed him, he was mocked viciously on the right, for his excessive alcohol intake (a woman in my office has a bumper sticker that reads: “I’d still rather go hunting with Dick Cheney than drinking with Ted Kennedy.”)

Much like with Bill Clinton, I think that if Teddy could’ve eliminated some of the more noxious elements of his personal life, he could’ve accomplished so much more.

As much as he did accomplish (helping pass the Voting Rights Act, helping found OHSA, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, getting the minimum wage raised, starting the wildly successful SCHIP program for kids’ health), I feel that he could’ve had an even bigger impact, perhaps as President, if his wildly reckless behavior had been curtailed before the 1990s.

There are some people that I’ve read today who think Kennedy’s death from a brain tumor will spur change and action on the health-care debate, that now there will be some kind of symbolic unity and America will finally get a strong universal health-care plan.

Yeah, I’m not seeing that; Republicans and special interests are too dug in and this goes way beyond Teddy Kennedy’s legacy. 

What I keep thinking about today is, who’s going to fill his shoes? I don’t mean, literally, who’ll take his Senate seat.

I’m talking about, who’ll be the charismatic liberal voice in the Senate? We lost the great Paul Wellstone in a plane crash in 2002, and now Kennedy has died.

There are other liberal Senators fighting for our causes, men like Russ Feingold and Dick Durbin, but they lack the national profile and, quite frankly, the charisma of other past standout Senators.

I just fear that with Barack Obama turning out to be more of a centrist than I hoped, that with Kennedy’s death the era of the mad as hell, fire-breathing liberal championing those who don’t have anyone else to champion them is officially dead, too.

Who will speak for those without a voice? Who will argue on behalf of the single mother working two jobs and still being unable to pay the mortgage, or the minimum-wage-earning man trying to earn a living and break a cycle of abject poverty in his life, or in his surroundings? Hardly anybody speaks for those people now above a whisper, and now poor people lost one of the few megaphones they had left.

I thought John Edwards could be that voice once, but, well, we know what happened to him.

I think historians decades from now will see Kennedy in a mostly positive light; the alcohol and indiscretions will be glossed over, and his legacy will be that of the only Kennedy brother who lived a long life, and packed as much into it as it could.

Adam Clymer maybe summed up Kennedy best in his 1999 biography:

“The deaths and tragedies around him would have led others to withdraw. He never quits, but sails against the wind.”

Farewell, Senator Kennedy. You lived one hell of a life.

And say hi to Jack and Bobby for us, too.

 

 

The Teddys of New England

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I’m not sure if HBO planned it this way (it’d have been very smart if it did), but in the past three weeks the channel premiered two brand-new and extremely good documentaries on men called “Ted” who both are inextricably linked with New England.

Ted Williams, the greatest baseball hitter who ever lived, and Ted Kennedy, who’s been serving in the U.S. Senate for 46 years (I admit, that number astounded me, even though I knew he’d been there forever. Let me use a sports metaphor to put that into perspective: Ted Kennedy has been running for, or been in the Senate for the entire history of the New York Mets franchise. Amazing.)

I watched both movies this weekend, and thought both were terrific. You wouldn’t think there would be that much in common between them other than Massachusetts: Teddy Ballgame was a San Diego kid who grew up and could do something better than anyone else in the world: hit a baseball between two fielders.

And Teddy Kennedy, well, he’s an indestructible force of nature, for good and bad, who’s been a part of the American political scene longer than anyone else.

A couple of things I think connect the two men, which came into focus after watching the two movies:

**Both of them gave people plenty of reason to dislike them, yet have ended up being mostly beloved. Williams was a jerk to a lot of people: teammates, the media, his own family, sometimes.

**They both had difficult childhoods, though for very different reasons. Williams was neglected by his parents and forced to grow up fast, while Kennedy suffered tragedy after tragedy. Two siblings died before he was even 15 years old, which I don’t think most people remember about him.

** You want your flawed heroes, here are two very flawed men. Williams was a jerk a lot of the time, an absent father to his kids, and he seemed to resent how much Joe Dimaggio won, and yet “The Splendid Splinter” could get to only one World Series.

(Still think that might be the best baseball nickname ever. Although it’s hard to argue against “The Human Rain Delay,” which was what they called ex-Indians slugger Mike Hargrove. He got the name because he took so damn long between pitches, stepping out of the box and what not. See, the things you learn on this blog!)

And as for Kennedy, well, where do you start with his flaws? He was a heavy drinker for most of his adult life, an accidental murderer of a young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne on the island of Chappaquiddick 40 years ago, and an egotist who commanded the spotlight everywhere he went.

But both men were so human, with their foibles so out in the open, that I think perhaps they became larger than life when they succeeded.

A few other thoughts on each movie, both of which are showing on HBO all month and on HBO On Demand:

** I knew Williams had a love-hate relationship with Red Sox fans, but I was honestly shocked to learn that as early as 1940, after his amazing rookie season, he was getting booed at Fenway. The guy had just hit .327, drove in 145 runs, and finished fourth in the MVP voting, and he’s getting yelled at by his home fans? Crazy.

**His temper was legendary, but I thought the best example in the movie was the anecdote told by one of his former wives, who said he once ripped the phone out of the wall in their house, then demanded she call the phone company to have them come fix it. Funny if it wasn’t so scary.

**Robert Redford chose No. 9 for the Roy Hobbs character in “The Natural” because he idolized Ted Williams. Didn’t know that.

** I know the “Ted Kennedy has endured so much tragedy” angle is as cliched as it gets, but when you see it all put together at once, it’s still breathtaking in its sadness. Brother Joe and sister Kathleen die early in his life. Brother John murdered while President. Then Teddy nearly dies in a plane crash. Four years later, other brother Robert shot while running for President. Then Ted’s son gets bone cancer and has to have leg amputated. It’s just staggering.

The man is truly indestructible, like the knight in the famous Monty Python sketch who gets his legs and arms cut off in a fight then screams, “Come back, it’s only a flesh wound!”

** I find it sad that Chappaquiddick has almost become an afterthought in the Kennedy legacy. A woman died. Kennedy drove off a bridge, escaped, tried to save her, then went back to his room and never reported that she was down there. Truly horrible, despicable behavior. I like so much of what Kennedy has done as a senator, but it’s really hard to respect him as a man after what happened in July of 1969.

**Also found it interesting that during the 1970s busing crisis in Boston, Kennedy was a pariah. He was booed and pelted with debris because he actually supported interracial school busing.

I came away with more admiration and respect for both 20th century giants after seeing this. Check them out if you have the chance.

P.S. The link on the Ted Williams reference above is to an Esquire story by Richard Ben Cramer, and it’s one of the single greatest pieces of sportswriting ever. If you have 20 minutes, it’s definitely worth your time.