Tag Archives: The Wonder Years

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.

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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.

Good News Friday: Jim Kelly, fighting cancer bravely. Twin sisters show true meaning of family. And “The Wonder Years” cast reunites and looks great

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Note: This blog post was written BEFORE I went to Madison Square Garden, screamed my voice raw, high-fived at least 48 strangers, may or may not have screamed into a TV camera, and watched an improbable Rangers season continue to the Stanley Cup Finals. I’m wiped out. Deliriously happy, but wiped out.

And a Happy Friday to all my readers. We start this week’s GNF with a simple photo, of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, who’s suffered way more serious losses in his life than those four Super Bowls the Bills came up short in.

Kelly’s son, Hunter, died at age 8 due to Krabbe’s disease, and now for the last few years Kelly has painfully been battling mouth cancer, which has spread and returned to his body several times.

But I was really uplifted by this picture Kelly’s wife, Jill Tweeted out this week, of the whole Kelly family celebrating his last radiation treatment in the hospital.

I mean, how many of us could be this upbeat, this positive, after going through what he’s gone through? Here’s a great story Peter King wrote about Kelly a few months ago as he was battling his cancer; truly, Kelly is an extraordinary human being.

Let’s hope, finally, his cancer is gone.

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**Next up, this is a really neat story about 8th-grade twins named Chloe and Claire Gruenke, who were competing in an Illinois state track meet for junior high school kids.

They were both running in a 800-meter race two weeks ago when Chloe Gruenke felt a weird sensation in her leg and suddenly couldn’t run anymore.
She’d hurt a quad muscle, and was in serious pain.

So Claire did what a twin sister does: She helped. She scooped up Chloe and carried her, piggyback-style, to the finish line.
The Gruenkes finished last, like that matters.

“It’s about showing compassion, love and sportsmanship, even if you lose and help somebody it’s still worth it,” Claire told WPTV.com. “The energy from the crowd made me stronger. They were saying ‘I can’t believe you just did that.”

More on the Gruenke’s wonderful story here.

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**And finally, I mentioned the other day how much I loved “The Wonder Years.” Well, happily, the cast just had a reunion to celebrate the long, long-delayed release of the show on DVD (the problem all these years was how expensive it was to license the iconic music used on the show.)

Winnie Cooper, we will always love you. And man, most of them have aged quite well.

Learning to love Joni Mitchell, a few decades late. And Extreme Couponing? Really? And Kevin and Winnie.

My semi-regular plea for  you to follow me on Twitter here.

I think for just about all of us, there’s at least one gap in our musical knowledge.
We all think the music we like is awesome, and refined, and sophisticated, and if you don’t like it, well, you’re just wrong.
I’ll never forget a raging argument I had with my childhood friend Marc Feigelson one day while we were in college; we were arguing about some music group I said I liked, and he said they were crap. And we went back and forth for a while and then finally he just said “But Michael, here’s the thing:  the music I like is good music.”
And that was that in his mind; end of discussion.
Anyway, what I’m saying is, we all have at least one or two singers or groups who we know is legendary, and we respect them from afar, but never really took the time to listen to them.
For me, one of my gaps was Joni Mitchell. Go ahead and scoff and shake your head; I see you doing it. “Lewis, you idiot, you n ever listened to Joni Mitchell??”

Of course I’ve always known who she was, and always she knew she was an amazing songwriter with a fantastic voice. But really, I never took the time to listen to her music.  Until recently, when I heard a song of hers on a “Wonder Years” re-run I was watching, and it sent me scouring to YouTube for more.
Truly, she is/was an astonishing talent, and one I’d never truly appreciated. Here, check this out, Joni Mitchell singing the beautiful “Both Sides Now” from a concert in 1970 (Lyrics are here).

So perfect:

**I know it’s crazy that I still get surprised at some of the idiotic ideas that get made into TV shows these days. But what can I say, I still can’t believe people watch some of the bizarre stuff that’s on.
Heard about this show the other day, on TLC, which apparently is the home of mostly bizarre shows. It’s called Extreme Couponing, and it basically showcases people whose major skill in life is hoarding coupons, and then getting a $75 pair of jeans at Macy’s for like 38 cents.
Apparently it debuted last winter and is coming back on April 6. Might be train-wreck TV viewing for me.
Tell you what, my buddy Clay would be a perfect star on this show.  As cheap as they come (and I say that with affection), he loves coupons like pyromaniacs love fire.  He’d put all these people to shame.

**Finally, since I’m in one of my “The Wonder Years” re-run phases that I love getting into from time to time,  I just wanted to share this. Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss, the last scene from “The Wonder Years” pilot, with an incredible closing monologue from Daniel Stern.
Just one of the greatest shows ever.

Oscar thoughts. Two baseball stories to get you thinkin’ spring. And a “Wonder Years” moment.

Man, that was not a good Oscars telecast.
Not in the least. Not in any way, shape or form. I hate to pile on, but really, it wasn’t good. James Franco, great actor. Anne Hathaway, good actress, and she was all kinds of enthusiastic, but she and Franco were totally not up for the job of hosting the Academy Awards.
I said it on Twitter and I’ll say it again: I don’t think James Franco and Anne Hathaway are famous enough to host the Oscars. They’re nice little movie stars, sure, but the Oscars demands bigger.
Besides the hosts being bad, there were a lot of other good stuff I noticed:

**Loved the few minutes we got of Billy Crystal. Made me wish he was the host again. Like, right then and there.
**Great to see Melissa Leo win, then drop an F-bomb during her speech. Ah, the joy of 7-second delay.
**I thought Jennifer Hudson, Marisa Tomei, and Helena Bonham Carter looked the most amazing.
**I loved the ending, maybe the best part of the show, with the cute fifth-graders singing on stage. Staten Island, representing.
** Thought the speeches from “The King’s Speech” guy and from Natalie Portman were the best and most heartfelt.
**SO happy to see one of my writing gods, Aaron Sorkin, win for “The Social Network.” He is eleven kinds of brilliant.
**Why the hell did Lena Horne get to bat last in the death montage, and not Dennis Hopper? Bad job, Academy.
**Finally, I remain angry that “True Grit,” the best movie of the year, got bubkes. But I’ll get over it.

**A brief interlude from “The Wonder Years.” Caught the end of this episode Sunday night after the Oscars. One of the best endings in the history of a show that gave us so, so many great moments:

**Spring training has kicked off in the past week in Florida and Arizona; it used to get me all pumped up. Now, not so much. But two very cool baseball-related stories I read/heard this week.
First, the death of Ernie Tyler brought a couple of wonderful tributes. Who’s Ernie Tyler? One of the many behind the scenes people who make baseball run; he was the attendant for the umpires for the Baltimore Orioles for 3,769 consecutive home games, from 1960-2007.  His streak only ended when Cal Ripken, that other ironman, asked him to be present at Cal’s Hall of Fame induction.
Sounds like, from this obit and this one, that Ernie was a beautiful man.

**Then there was this delightful story, heard on NPR’s “Only a Game,” about Justine Siegal, the first woman to ever throw batting practice to major league hitters. One more tiny barrier falls; why shouldn’t women who are good enough be allowed to pitch to men, even if it’s only spring training?
Siegal is actually quite an advocate for women in baseball; check out her “Only A Game” interview here: