Tag Archives: Tom Brady

That was the greatest comeback in sports history. I hate you but I salute you, New England Patriots. There were a few good Super Bowl commercials that stood out. And “SNL” gets a hilarious Melissa McCarthy appearance.

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Yeah, I got nothin.’

As the Atlanta Falcons bullied, pummeled, and bludgeoned the New England Patriots all over the field for the first 2 1/2 quarters of Super Bowl 51, I was so, so tempted to gloat. So much was I enjoying seeing my hated nemesis and their two-headed monster, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick get their butts kicked, I wanted to get excited. I want to taunt my Pats fans friends (of which I have many). I wanted to make sarcastic remarks about Bob Kraft and Trump and Brady and so much of the New England mystique getting smushed on Sunday night… but I didn’t.

Because deep, deep, deep down, I knew that even at 28-3, this game wasn’t over. I have seen this movie, this incredible Patriots movie, too many times before. Too many times has No. 12 come down and broken hearts, splintered hopes, destroyed dreams.

And so with an enormous assist from their opponents, the Patriots and their robot quarterback did it again. In the biggest Super Bowl comeback ever (biggest by 14 points!), New England won a 34-28 overtime thriller.

And I’m … spent. In disbelief at how it happened, even as I feared it might. After looking so awful for so long, the Patriots woke up. Stopped dropping passes, stopped letting Brady get hit every time he threw, and actually played a little defense of their own.

And because they did, I have to finally say it: Tom Brady is the greatest QB in NFL history. And his coach is probably the best in NFL history, too (though Lombardi and Paul Brown have some pretty good arguments).

A horrible game. An amazing final quarter. A win that will last forever. A few semi-coherent thoughts from my notes…

— I mean, there have been sports collapses before, and choke jobs, and gag jobs, and just terrible play by teams that are way ahead… but oh my goodness, the 2017 Atlanta Falcons 2nd-half Super Bowl performance will be the standard all other collapses will be judged by. For eternity. you’re up 28-3! So many times they could’ve put this game away, but the two biggest screw-ups have to be throwing the ball on 3rd and 1, when you’re inside field goal range up 28-20 and a FG pretty much wins it in the fourth quarter, and then Matt Ryan’s sack/fumble that gave the Pats life a few minutes earlier.

Just an unbelievable collapse. The Falcons’ D surrendered but it was exhausted by overtime. This loss is just as much on the offense; how do you only throw the ball to Julio Jones FOUR times??? (and on one of those he made one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history). Just a complete and total meltdown that will forever stain all those involved.

— Somewhere Rodney Harrison, victimized by the David Tyree catch nine years ago in the Super Bowl, was smiling Sunday night. Because that Julian Edelman catch (above) was some kind of Spiderman shit, too. If there was any doubt at that point that the Pats would win, that unreal catch was it.

— Kind of amazing that after dropping so many balls the first three quarters the Pats receivers caught every freaking ball in the fourth quarter and OT. (No, I’m not bitter.)

— Is there anyone in America, except maybe Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who thought once the game went into overtime Atlanta had a chance? Nope. There was no hope, especially after Atlanta lost the OT coin toss. Those defensive players’ legs were rubber.

Lady Gaga performs during the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show held at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, TX. (Photo by Anthony Behar) *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***(Sipa via AP Images)

— Lady Gaga’s halftime performance was stellar and pitch-perfect. Not overly political but certainly inclusive, she performed her hits, had outstanding choreography, and a pretty fantastic finish. Well done.

— A lot of otherwise-bright people will tell you today that this was the “best Super Bowl ever.” Nonsense. It was a one-sided rout for three quarters. It was the best comeback ever, maybe the most dramatic game ever. But it was a snoozefest for a long time.

— I am so, so glad I didn’t have to cover that game and write a coherent story on deadline.

**So, the commercials. I thought they were pretty decent this year, actually. I loved the Turbo Tax Humpty Dumpty one, and I thought the Christopher Walken/Justin Timberlake ad was really clever. But the two I liked the best were the Honda ad with quotes from celebrity high school yearbooks (above) and this one, from Budweiser, about how their two founders met: Really smart and well-done.

**Finally today, this was about the only thing that could cheer me up after the Super Bowl: “Saturday Night Live” hit it out of the park again over the weekend, as Melissa McCarthy did her best Sean Spicer (White House Press secretary) impression.

Again, these things are hilarious but the real-life stuff is just so scary; Trump saying on the Super Bowl pre-game that sure, Putin’s a killer but we’ve got killers in America, too is pretty horrendous, but this passage, from this tremendous NYT story, is what will scare the hell out of me for weeks:

Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council,…

The President of the United States had NO IDEA what he was signing!!!!!!!!!!

Ugh. OK. I think I need to take some pills. Have a wonderful day.

 

 

Why I have mixed feelings about Saturday’s enormous marches across U.S. A hockey coach’s Dad does 100 straight push-ups and I’m in awe. And the Falcons and Patriots are feeling Super

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This was a pretty remarkable weekend in the history of the United States.

On Friday, the 45th President of America painted a horribly dark and vile portrait of our current-day 50 state union that seems at odds with reality.

Then on Saturday, millions upon millions of women, white, black and brown, old and young, marched in cities large and small across this nation that’s already great in opposition to the vile man who was just elected, vowing to fight him every step of the way. Men marched as well, and bless them too, but this was overwhelmingly a female statement.

Saturday night the new President and his press secretary chose not to usher in a fresh start and offer a new vision, but instead bitched and moaned at the press, then uttered bald-faced lies.

I don’t want to talk about Trump and his “alternative facts” today, there’ll be plenty of time for that.

I want to talk about the Women’s March, and why it left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was amazing, beautiful, sensational and moving. I’m thrilled beyond belief that so many individuals availed themselves of our right to protest, and spoke loudly and clearly that the new President has many, many opponents.

I just … I just wish the millions who marched Saturday also stayed active and called their local representatives, and lobbied Congress, and ran for office themselves. Because as wonderful as Saturday was, it doesn’t change that the GOP controls 68 out of 100 state legislatures right now, and 31 governorships, and have both houses of Congress and the Presidency.

And that’s where the sausage gets made, the laws that restrict voting rights and have done a powerful job denying women’s rights to their own bodies, and have completely corrupted campaign finance reform, and horribly mismanaged our criminal justice system so a guy is in jail for 40 years for selling an ounce of pot.

That’s where the long-lasting impact of Saturday can lie. The march will be for naught unless we effect small, incremental changes at the lowest levels, and build from the way up. That’s what the Koch brothers realized in the 1980s, and look what they’ve wrought.

Don’t just be fired up and involved in political change once every four years. Come out to vote in 2018’s midterms. Lobby your local officials and don’t let draconian policies that greatly affect you fly under your radar.

Fighting for your rights shouldn’t be a once in a while thing when millions of others are doing it on the same day. It needs to be an every day thing if things are going to change.

 

**So this is pretty fantastic: Most every NHL team has a “Dad’s road trip” each season, where player’s Pops get to come on the road for a week or so, hang out with their famous kids, and watch a lot of games and beam with pride. It’s a really cool quirk and new tradition in the best sport in the world.

This, though, I’ve never seen. A man named Kenichi Ohashi, father of a Caps’ assistant coach, told the team he’d do 100 pushups if they won on Saturday. They won, so he did.

I’m in awe, Mr. Ohashi. Absolute awe.

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**Finally today, the Super Bowl is set, and it’s a matchup we’ve never seen before, which is always nice. But the bleepin’ New England Patriots are in it, which for me isn’t so nice.

A team that hasn’t been in the big game for 18 years, the Atlanta Falcons, destroyed Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers Sunday afternoon, 44-21, and it wasn’t that close.

I’m happy for Matt Ryan, who has presided over some pretty terrible playoff losses in his career and finally has won a big one. I’m happy for two guys I used to cover or write about, Eric Weems and Ricardo Allen, both from Daytona Beach, Fla., who will get the awesome experience of playing in the Super Bowl.

The Falcons offense is pretty sensational; yeah the Packers had won eight in a row and had lots of injuries on defense, but Atlanta just carved them up. Julio Jones, Ryan, a fierce offensive line… the Falcons are dangerous.

And then, the Patriots. This is their, what, 34th Super Bowl in the last 10 years or something? They just keep winning and winning, and Tom Brady made a deal with the devil to stay young forever, and Coach Hoodie keeps finding these undrafted dudes who no one else likes and turns them into Jerry Rice at wide receiver (Chris Hogan, it’s your turn) and it just gets tiring rooting for this team to fail year after year.

I have no idea who’ll win the Super Bowl yet; maybe Atlanta’s offense can light up the scoreboard and make this a great game after what’s been a pretty terrible NFL postseason.

Nobody outside of New England wants to see the Pats win a fifth title. For the next two weeks, we are ALL Falcons fans, right?

After a great Thanksgiving weekend, thoughts on three notable deaths: Castro, Henderson, and Branca

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I’m still pretty full from a four-day weekend of orgy-like eating and drinking, but man was it fun. So much seems to have happened since my last blog on Wednesday; want to share thoughts about the long-awaited “Gilmore Girls” reunion movie and a deep thought I had watching children of many races swimming together at our hotel pool in Baltimore.

But that will have to wait until Wednesday’s post.

Today, while trying hard to be surprised by the Jets losing to the Patriots again on Sunday (what? this Tom Brady fellow is decent at 4th-quarter comebacks?) I wanted to write about the trio of celebrity deaths last week that each deserve thinking about.

The first and by far the most consequential to the world was Fidel Castro. So much has been written since he died on Friday, so much of it outstanding, but reading this NYT obit really struck me. There was a thing I read about years ago, I can’t remember where, about assessing each person’s life by asking what their “between the commas” moment would be.

As in, when you’re reading someone’s obit, what’s the major event or accomplishment that would be in-between the commas in the first paragraph of their death story. You know, like “Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin, died at 68.” Or “Harry Truman, who as U.S. President dropped nuclear bombs on Japan, died at …”

You get the idea. It’s your signature you’ve left on the world. Well, I’ve been reading obits for more than 30 years, and I’ve never quite read a “between the commas” like this one for Fidel: “Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died on Friday. He was 90.”

I mean… damn. That’s one hell of legacy. Castro was a dictator, a showman, an absolutely brutal human being who somehow charmed and frightened five decades’ worth of rival world leaders.

He survived something like 600 assassination attempts, a total matched only by Batman and James Bond. He nearly, of course, brought the world to an end (or at least, to the brink of a nuclear war) in 1962, and somehow held on to power for nearly five decades, despite starving his people and isolating Cuba from the world.

Castro was a medical marvel, and there’s also the famous story that in the 1950s he had a baseball tryout with the Washington Senators. Can you imagine how the world would have changed if he’d made the team?

There has, frighteningly, been a lot of praise for Castro since his passing, including a wildly tone-deaf statement from Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. But this man should be remembered for being evil, for fomenting hatred wherever he went, and for the pain and suffering he caused millions and millions of Cubans.

I hope one of those cigars he loved are currently roasting him in the afterlife.

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**Florence Henderson was, and always will be, remembered as Carol Brady. If you’re like me, one of the millions of people who loved “The Brady Bunch” through reruns, she has lived on all these years later as a loving and gentle mother to six sometimes-unruly children.

Of course we made fun of “The Brady Bunch” for its preachiness, it’s wholesomeness, and its complete detachment from reality. But dammit, Mrs. Brady’s warm smile could melt any cynicism.

Henderson later went on to be the famous Wesson Oil spokesperson and more recently, she founded a company that helped older people learn to use electronic devices like DVD players, iPhones and DVR.

She was an iconic American actress, and she will be missed. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go play ball in the house, even though Mom always said not to.

**Finally, a few words about someone you might not be as familiar with. For every great sports moment in history, there’s someone or some team on the other end of it, whose failure made it happen. Ralph Branca was a very good pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950s, but like Bill Buckner after him and Fred Merkle before him, all most people remember about Branca is that he gave up one of the most famous homers in baseball history, to Bobby Thomson on Oct. 3, 1951 that won the pennant for the Giants and lost it for Brooklyn.

But Branca was so much more than that one moment. I got to interview him several times over the years and found him to be unfailingly polite, charming and always willing to talk about the one awful pitch he threw that made him famous.

Branca was incredibly accepting of Jackie Robinson when he came to the Dodgers, and had a reputation of being all class.

I hope he’s remembered for more than just one pitch.

The latest Democratic Debate was fantastic for all. Another dramatic weekend of NFL football, and I’m conflicted. And great news out of Iran, as a reporter is freed

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Whew. That was one crackling, energetic, informative and substantive Democratic debate Sunday night.

If you didn’t watch, you missed a doozy. I know it was on a Sunday night of a holiday weekend, but hey, this is sadly as close to a big audience as the DNC is going to allow the primary candidates this year, and all three of them put on a hell of a debate. (here’s a 2-minute video recap)

Quick thoughts on the 2-hour affair:

— Bernie Sanders was outstanding on the economy. He had his best debate yet (yes I’m biased as a supporter of his), being forceful, shouting less and pointedly telling voters the differences between he and Hillary Clinton. He dominated on the economy, and scored morality points by refusing to talk about Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct. He did nothing to hurt his recent rise in the polls.

— Hillary was very strong as well. She dominated on foreign policy; she wipes the floor with any candidate in either party on that one. She tried hard to paint Sanders as a position-shifter on guns and was effective in trying to say his health care plans are unrealistic. She attacked Bernie as strong as she ever has, and yet… she was still unable to explain how she’d be tough on Wall Street, when she’s taken so much of their money.

— Martin O’Malley had about two minutes to speak the whole night. Poor guy was railroaded but I thought he had some great answers, critiquing Hillary on her Wall Street ties, and on drug treatment.

— Bottom line for me: If Democratic primary voters think this election is about the economy, Bernie has a great chance to score the big upset. If it’s about terrorism or foreign policy, Hillary wins as expected.

— It’s ridiculous we’ve had only four Democratic debates, and no more before Iowa. Ridiculous.

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**Next up, another dramatic weekend of NFL football, setting up a fantastic Championship Weekend next Sunday. Patriots at Broncos, with Brady and Manning facing off probably for the last time in a big game like this. And then Carolina hosting Arizona, the two best teams in the league all year going head to head. Fantastic stuff.

Couple thoughts from the weekend, and then one big thought that gave me a lot of pause, that I’ll hopefully expand on more in another post.

— That was an incredible comeback by Seattle Sunday, down 31-0 and roaring back to only lose 31-24.

— But then again, you have to also fault Seattle for getting totally destroyed in the first half. Where the hell was the defense?

— The Arizona-Green Bay game was just nuts. Nuts. Arizona finally takes the lead late, gives up a 4th and 20 to Aaron Rodgers to keep the game, alive, then this ridiculous Hail Mary (the 2nd of the year for Rodgers!) that tied it and sent it to overtime.

Then in the extra period, the Cards’ Larry Fitzgerald makes that incredible catch and run, and Arizona wins.
After the game, I went on Twitter and as usual after a big sporting event, people were losing their minds with excitement. I got caught up in it and Tweeted something to the effect of “no matter how many CTE lawsuits and concussions happen, football will survive because of awesome games like this.”

Well, my good friend and former boss Dave saw that and we got into a terrific text exchange. Dave likes to call me on things I say and write, which is good, because we all need to be checked sometimes.

His solid point Saturday night, which I am trying to square my heart with, is that he can’t really get excited about football anymore knowing the longterm damage it does to so many brains, and bodies. And he wondered how I could justify still obsessively following the NFL when I know the horrible pain it causes.

He said “I don’t think, as a society, we should simply excuse the real effects as the price of a great game.”

I’ve been thinking about that a lot for the past 24 hours. I don’t have a good response. It bothers me that I read and write about the horrors of what football does to a person, and yet scream and yell on Sundays and can’t wait for next week’s title games.

Definitely something I need to think more about. And maybe change my behavior.

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**Finally today, it’s not often there’s any kind of good news out of Iran, but Saturday we finally got some in the “case” against Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Rezaian, an Iranian-American, had been detained for more than a year on ridiculous and nonsense “spying” charges after he was reporting for the Post in Tehran.

The Iranian courts had arrested him, did God knows what to him in the notorious Evin Prison, and allegedly sentenced him to death just a few months ago.

Finally on Saturday, after months and months of negotiations, the U.S. and Iran struck a deal to release Rezaian in exchange for other Iranians held in America also being released.

It was a prisoner swap, and no one’s ready to back-slap Iran for doing a wonderful deed. But Rezaian is by all accounts a first-rate reporter who did absolutely nothing wrong, yet was imprisoned for 545 days.

Thank God he’s free.

 

The Jets with a stunning, thrilling win over the Patriots, as Belichick makes a rare stupid decision. “Master of None” a superb new Netflix show. And the rapist who made sure his victim got home safely.

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Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. It’s been several hours since the New York Jets pulled off an always-satisfying, and always-rare, win over the Patriots Sunday.

And I’m still jazzed. Damn, that feels good. I’ve said before that a victory over New England, since it’s so uncommon, feels like two wins instead of one. And this one certainly does.

Where to start? Well, for once Bill Belichick didn’t come off as such a genius. Coach Hoodie seemed to make major blunders throughout the game, starting with the end of the first half when he inexplicably decided not to try to score more points, with 1:50 left, 2 timeouts, and his team trailing by 7.

But Billy boy saved his best brain work for OT, when after winning the coin toss, he told his captain to say the Pats wanted to kick off. This meant, if the Jets scored a TD, New England wouldn’t get the ball at all and the game would be over.
Which is exactly what happened.
Because Ryan Fitzpatrick, God bless his journeyman soul, led the Jets downfield for a beautiful TD. I don’t know what the hell has gotten into Fitz this year, but this isn’t the QB I watched so many years in Buffalo and Houston. This guy is calm, poised, and after a shaky start, played a terrific game Sunday.

And Brandon Marshall… you complete me. I never saw Don Maynard because I wasn’t born yet, but Marshall’s the best Jets receiver of my lifetime. At least he’s having the best season of any Jets receiver of my life. He’s been so clutch, and so huge, in so many games.

The Jets defense also was fantastic, though to be fair, I think the Patriots were down to the kids from “Lucas” on the offensive line and at wideout by the end. Brady is just so fricken good, he almost pulled out a win anyway.

Ah, so much fun to beat the Pats. Now the Jets have set me up for the ultimate heartbreak: Having to beat Rex Ryan and Buffalo next week to get in. Bills, nothing to play for, Rex desperately wanting to beat his old team, Jets in a great spot… what could possibly go wrong?

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**Next up, I’ve been reading and hearing over the last few weeks about how fantastic Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix comedy, “Master of None” was. I’ve seen it on a bunch of “Top 10 shows of the year” lists, my favorite TV critic Alan Sepinwall had raved about it, and word of mouth about it was great.

Still, I wasn’t a big fan of Ansari or “Parks and Rec,” his last show, so I didn’t immediately watch.

Big mistake. The wife and I have been binge-watching it this weekend and it’s absolutely terrific. We’ve seen eight episodes (of 10) and it’s getting better and better.

The show, ostensibly, is just about a single man (Ansari) in his 30’s, working as an actor, hanging out with his friends, and having adventures both in dating and professionally. But it’s much more than that.

The writing is sharp and real; the chemistry among the actors (none of whom besides Ansari are famous) is terrific, and the stories told are fascinating.

One episode has Ansari’s character, Dev, vying with another Indian actor for a role in a TV show, since “you’re only allowed one Indian per show.” Another hilarious episode has Dev and his Asian friend Kevin trying to repay their parents for giving them a great new life in America by learning about their journeys.
And maybe the best storyline so far involves Claire Danes and Noah Emmerich in guest-starring roles, playing comedy so well.

It’s the rare show that treats its audience as intelligent adults; the relationships seem real, the dialogue is really funny, and it’s just a great, great show.

Can’t wait to watch the last two episodes; this is definitely a show you should check out.

**Finally today, I’m a few weeks late on this but just got around to reading it this weekend, and it’s brave and powerful and fabulous so I wanted to share it. Alisson Wood wrote this in the New York Times Week in Review a few weeks ago, about the time she was a college student, working as a waitress in a diner, and was raped by her boss, a manager at the restaurant.

The headline “Get home safe,” my rapist said” doesn’t grab you, nothing will. After committing his sexual assault in his office, Alisson’s boss helped her into her car, then followed her home.

It took years for her to come to terms with what happened, and her essay brings forth all her emotions. It’s difficult, important writing, and it’s done very well.

Rapists come in all shapes, sizes and demeanors; the stereotypes are often very wrong.

It’s a terrific essay and I highly urge you to read it.

A movie I’ve seen WAY too many times: Brady slays my Jets. How many tragedies can Oklahoma St. endure? And a beautiful profile of master NPR interviewer Terry Gross

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There are some movies I love to watch over and over again.

I can’t view “The Princess Bride,” or “Coming to America” enough, and if “The Shawshank Redemption” or “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” are on, I’m stopping to watch for at least 10 minutes.

And then there’s the movie I can’t stop watching, even though I really want to. It’s a movie I’ve seen so many damn times before, and it stars a pretty-boy quarterback who wears No. 12 for the New England Patriots football team, and in this movie that runs on a loop twice a year in the fall, the quarterback slices and dices the defense of my beloved New York Jets.

Oh, sometimes the script changes a little bit, sometimes the green and white get closer to beating the Pats; sometimes it hurts more than it does others.

But the ending Does. Not. Change.

I watched it again Sunday, and once again I got suckered in, thinking maybe this was a director’s cut or some new spliced footage coming in. My boys played a strong first three quarters: Ryan Fitzpatrick looked real good at QB, the defense bent but didn’t break, and even without the customary strong running game, the Jets were in every position to win.

The Pats were dropping passes, settling for field goals, and as soon as the Jets’ Brandon Marshall hauls in that pass to put the Jets up 24-16… only he drops it. And of course the Jets kick only a field goal, and of course Brady marches New England down the field for the go-ahead touchdown, and you know the rest.

Every damn year. So frustrating, because this Jets team is good enough to beat the Pats. But it never changes. The movie reel never runs out before the bad guys win.

Dammit, dammit, dammit. Forty years old and I’m still yelling at my TV over a stupid football game.

One day Brady will retire, and the movie might change. Maybe.

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**Usually, interviewers dream about, or are desperate to interview one or two famous people they’ve never gotten to talk to.

In the case of NPR’s queen of awesome, Terry Gross, it’s celebrities who fantasize about being interviewed by her on her iconic NPR afternoon radio show, “Fresh Air.”

Seriously, listen to some of these quotes from this fantastic profile of her in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine…

‘My No. 1 fantasy of all time is to be interviewed by Terry Gross.’’

‘‘I have gone so far as to rehearse answers to specific questions. … ’’

‘‘Every single time I hear a Terry Gross interview, I wonder what it would be like for her to do some research on me and do an interview.’’

Terry Gross has hosted “Fresh Air” for my entire lifetime (since 1975) and she’s quite simply the best interviewer on the radio, TV or anywhere else. This profile by Susan Burton really goes into who Gross is, how she gets inside her subject’s heads so, and what makes her tick. When I listen to her, I often find myself saying “that’s a great question, I wonder if I would’ve thought to ask that.”

She’s a maestro, and this profile is well worth your time today.

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**And finally today, you may have heard about the awful tragedy that happened Saturday afternoon in Stillwater, Okla. when a car driven by a drunk driver plowed into a parade celebrating Homecoming at Oklahoma State University, killing four people and causing dozens of ther injuries.

It immediately made me think: Is this poor school cursed? This is the third major tragedy the school has suffered in the past 14 years, all tied to the athletic program.

In 2001, a plane crash carrying men’s basketball team personnel and broadcasters crashed in a snowstorm, killing 10 people.
Ten years later, in Nov. 2011, women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna were among four killed in a plane crash in Perry County, Ark., while they were on a recruiting trip.

And now this. It’s unfathomable, and awful, and no school deserves to continually go through this. It’s amazing that three tragedies like this have happened to the same place; I can’t imagine one small community having to go through all this.

Spare a thought for the people in Stillwater today, as old wounds just get dredged up again.

A fabulous video on if we treated the arts like sports. A Michigan law disgustingly discriminates against gay adoption. And a father turns funny kids sayings into art

Thoughts on a Monday morning while pondering why God hates Cleveland, how if Kyrie Irving were healthy the Cavs would’ve been planning a parade in Ohio right now, and knowing damn well that no matter who wins this NBA Finals series, LeBron should be Finals MVP…

It’s obvious to millions of people in this country, even to sports diehards like me, that we put way too much emphasis on athletics in America.

And that of course extends to the media, which covers people like Alex Rodriguez, LeBron James and Tom Brady as if they were the most important humans who ever walked the face of the Earth (“what, they can hit a ball far over a fence or throw it 50 yards? Of course they should be treated like kings!”)

However, since it’s not like sports are suddenly going to be de-emphasized, in place of say, the arts, it’s up to comedians like Owen Weber to produce brilliant parodies like this (above), sent to me by my smart and funny friend Will. It’s a “Sportscenter”-like take on how shows about the arts would look if they were given the same God-like status in our culture as sports.

My favorite part? “The stage-presence-enhancing drugs.” Brilliant.

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**Next up, it’s fairly depressing for liberals like me to look around at the enormous majority of Republicans running statehouses and state legislatures these days, and the draconian laws they’re passing.

Truly, I could write a post a day, seven days a week, for months just on the anti-choice, discriminatory bills against gays, minorities, and any other group that isn’t a while male that gets passed, usually under the radar. Sure, the GOP-led Congress is doing nothing, but truly insidious laws are being passed in places like Florida, Texas and Oklahoma.

Today, though, I want to focus on Michigan, and a remarkably shameful piece of legislation just passed.

From the Detroit Free Press: “On Wednesday, Republican majorities in both chambers approved a bill that would allow faith-based adoption agencies — including those who take taxpayer dollars to place children who are in the state’s custody — to discriminate in the practice of their work. They can deny services to families that violate the agency’s religious beliefs, including unmarried couples, same-sex couples and those who hold different religious beliefs.

The legislation is a craven attempt to cloak discrimination in faith, and it leaves the best interests of the 13,000 children in the state’s care — entirely out of the equation.”

So once again, just like in Indiana last spring, the Michigan legislature has legalized discrimination, telling anyone, like an adoption agency, that they don’t have to let gay couples adopt.

This is disgusting, and as has been discussed before, oh so stupid; committed gay couples are just as likely, if not more likely (thanks to the fact that it’s infinitely more difficult for them to adopt) to be good parents for those kids who need homes.

I really think that, 25 years from now, this idiotic thinking is going to look so bizarre to people, that simply because of a couple’s sexual preference, they weren’t allowed to be parents.

And hiding behind “religious reasons” is just oh so cowardly.

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**Finally today, my friend Amanda pointed me to this pretty hilarious post on the ScaryMommy.com blog, highlighting the work of Martin Bruckner. He’s a Dad who runs a Tumblr called “Spaghetti Toes” (the name comes from overhearing his wife say to his daughter, “Please don’t put spaghetti between your toes” at the dinner table,” something I’m sure I’ll say at some point in the next year or two to our son), and what he does is take utterances by parents to little kids, or vice versa, and makes art out of them.

The one above might be my favorite, but I love this one too:

Scarymommy.tiredandoutofgasCheck out more at Bruckner’s Etsy.com site here.

 

A damn entertaining Super Bowl, with some great commercials to boot. And Serena and Djokovic rule again at Australian Open

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Never in Super Bowl history have so many jaws hit the floor at the exact same time as they did a little after 10 p.m. Sunday night, in one of the greatest Super Bowls ever played.

You don’t have to ask what I’m talking about. From sea to shining sea, all 110 million football fans watched the Seattle Seahawks just GIVE away a championship to the New England Patriots in the final seconds of Super Bowl 49.

At the 1-yard-line, with :30 left, with the BEST SHORT-YARDAGE BACK in the NFL on your team (Marshawn Lynch), with a touchdown winning the game, the Seahawks decided to throw the ball.

I had to watch it four times to actually believe what they did. But it happened. And Russell Wilson’s pass was intercepted, and the Patriots won, and oh my God that was one sensational football game.

And it’s too bad that so many great moments from the game will be forgotten because of the worst play-call in Super Bowl history. The incredible Jermaine Kearse catch to get Seattle down there in the final minute (and if that had led to a Seahawks win, on yet another fluke/crazy catch in a Super Bowl, the entire New England region would’ve been on suicide watch, I think).

Tom Brady, cool as Fonzie, bringing his team back from 10 down. The great games by guys you never heard of, like Seattle’s Chris Matthews and New England’s Malcolm Butler.

One of the five best Super Bowls of my lifetime, with an ending that’ll never be forgotten.
It pains me, really, really pains me to type this.  But congratulations to the legends, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. To win four Super Bowls in 14 years is insanely difficult, and worthy of much praise.

Some other Super Bowl thoughts from my scattered brain…

— Idina Menzel sang the hell out of the anthem. God, what a voice.

— Loved the cool new NBC overhead camera angle they showed us at times; really let you see the whole field.

— Real classy, Doug Baldwin of the Seahawks, pretending to poop out the ball after scoring a TD (NBC cut away from this delightful act, but it’s all over the Internet if you haven’t seen it.) Your whole life, you wait to score in the Super Bowl, and that’s what you do?

**Loved a bunch of the Super Bowl commercials, including the Dove for Men ad (yes, of course me being a new father had a little to do with that), the Budweiser Lost Puppy ad, and this Snickers “Brady Bunch” ad was hilarious:

I also loved the Dodge commercial featuring the 100-year-old people giving pearls of wisdom. And I thought the Nissan commercial with the race-car driver and Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” was good too, though as many pointed out on Twitter, Chapin died in a car accident so maybe not the best idea to have his song there, Nissan?

**On the other hand, that Nationwide commercial? Way too dark. Scared the hell out of me. Yes, let’s talk about kids dying from being unsafe on the Super Bowl.

— Didn’t watch much of the halftime show, since Katy Perry doesn’t do it for me. But seeing dolphin mascots dance alongside her was … interesting.

— It’s unconscionable that the Pats’ Julian Edelman wasn’t checked for a concussion after that severe hit he took in the fourth. It’s all about the safety of the players, right Roger Goodell?

— No more football for awhile. Boo.

Serena-Williams-5

**Finally today, I want to say a few words about Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, who just completed dominating performances in winning the Australian Open, once again.

Serena, who it’s no secret to anyone who reads this blog I have long loathed for her poor sportsmanship and arrogance on and off the court, was once again her dominant self. She now has 19 Grand Slam singles titles, rapidly closing the gap on Margaret Court’s total of 24 (and let’s be clear, it’s MUCH harder to win Slams these days, because the field is so much tougher than it was in Court’s day.)

She’s inching up the ladder toward being considered by most tennis experts as the greatest of all time. I still have her behind Steffi Graf and Martina, but it’s damn close. Serena is an incredible athlete, an unmatched competitor with a killer instinct like few others.

And Novak Djokovic? Well, he just about owns the Australian Open now, winning it for the fifth time. His defense, his shot-making, his mental toughness, just so impressive. Andy Murray had plenty of chances to win Sunday, and he played great at times.

But Djokovic was fitter, stronger, and better. He’s not in Rafa or Roger Federer’s category yet when it comes to all-time greats, but shoot, he’s getting closer.

Great Australian Open.

The best and funniest newspaper corrections of the year. Stephen Colbert goes out with a bang. And Rex Ryan loses one more soul-crusher to Belichick

 

It is of course the time of year when we are all inundated with lists, best-ofs, and other reminders that the 12 months we just lived are about to end, and a new year will start.

But if you read this column regularly you know that only one year-end list really matters to me, and really makes me happy: Craig Silverman of the Poynter Institute’s “Regret the Error” column, rounding up the best, worst and most hilarious newspaper or magazine corrections of the year.

I cringe when I read some of these, because as a longtime journalist I can see exactly how some of them could’ve happened (hey, at my first job in Wilmington, N.C. I once ran a photo with an obit of a guy he died. Except it was the wrong picture; dude whose mug we ran was very much alive, and called the next day to express his displeasure about being prematurely killed. Hey, no one’s perfect!)

Anyway, these are always great and worth your time. Some of my favorites from this year’s collection (the whole column can be read here):

From the Washington Post:  An earlier version of this story erroneously said that Joaquín Guzmán was found in bed with his secretary. He was found with his wife. This version has been corrected.

From SlateThis post originally quoted photographer Tom Sanders as saying it takes him five years to get on the dance floor. It takes him five beers.

From The DartmouthA front-page editorial published Oct. 17 calling for the abolition of the Greek system at Dartmouth stated that in the late 1980s, Alpha Delta fraternity pledges were forced to perform oral sex on an ejaculating dildo. The editorial should have stated that some pledges were required to simulate oral sex on an inanimate object, which the house’s advisor now says may have been a banana.

Glad they got that cleared up.

**Next up, the great Stephen Colbert ended his groundbreaking “Colbert Report” last Thursday night, and it was beautiful. For the final segment, he gathered a whole bunch of famous people in his studio, including Jeff Bridges, Barry Manilow, Katie Couric, Bryan Cranston and Willie Nelson, for a rousing chorus of “We’ll Meet Again.” Seriously, he had every famous person alive (EW.com has the full list of everyone on stage here; it’s dizzying.)

I thought this was great. Colbert takes over for Letterman next spring, and we all know he’ll do a great job, but the “Report” brought the funny each and every night.
It’ll be missed.

Jetsjersey

**Finally today, some thoughts from the gridiron, as the NFL season winds down and we get set for what looks like it’ll be a wide, wide-open playoffs:

— So because I’m a masochist, I watched most of the Jets-Patriots game, even though I knew exactly how it would end. It’s like a movie you’ve seen 50 times so you know the ending, but you just can’t stop watching, anyway.

Jets defense played great, confusing Tom Brady. Jets offense played well between the 20’s, only to completely stall inside the red zone. And just when the game’s close, just when Gang Green might pull it out, Brady embarks on a clock-killing drive that ends the game.
Happens so damn often. At least the Jets made ’em sweat a little, and didn’t worsen their draft position. But I hate, hate, hate losing to Belichick and Brady. 17-16 was the final, so damn close.

— Who’s excited for that divisional showdown with a playoff spot on the line next week, the 6-8-1 Carolina Panthers vs. the 6-9 Atlanta Falcons! Anyone? Anyone? What a joke that one of those losing teams will get to host a playoff game.

— Couple games to get legit excited about next week: Bengals-Steelers for all the marbles in the AFC North, and Lions at Packers for all the marbles in the NFC North. Nothing better than football in Green Bay in late December.

— Mark Sanchez, you made me all nostalgic Saturday night. Throwing a couple of key interceptions, helping cost your team a playoff berth… man, it’s like it’s 2011 all over again. (Wipes tears away with Kleenex.)

— Arizona, you ain’t going nowhere with Ryan Lindley. Watched some of that game Sunday night and I’m sorry, there’s a reason he’s third-string.

— Finally, the Buffalo Bills. Oh, the Buffalo Bills. Huge win last week, giving their fans hope for the playoffs. Then Sunday, they lose to … the awful Oakland Raiders? Really Buffalo? Been 15 years now since they made the playoffs. Those fans deserve better.

A fantastic profile of the great Billy Joel, tortured genius. A girl with an inoperable brain tumor has an amazing day of hoops. And I hold my nose and praise the incredible Tom Brady

NikWallenda.Chicago

**Nothing to see up above, just Nik Wallenda walking blindfolded on a high wire, without a net, above the city of Chicago Sunday night. Insane.

I’ve really fallen down on the job lately in this space when it comes to recommending/highlighting great stories I’m reading. There’s so much out there that’s so well-written that I try to point readers toward, but the truth is I do a much better job of hyping great stories on my Twitter feed than I do here.

But I’m trying to rectify that this week with two posts about amazing journalism I’ve read lately. The first is this exquisitely-researched and composed profile of Billy Joel by Nick Paumgarten in the The New Yorker. If you’re a kid who grew up on Long Island in the 1970s and ’80s like I did, Billy Joel pretty much was the soundtrack of your childhood.
Even if you weren’t a fan, his music was everywhere, on every station, seemingly all the time.

I’ve always been a big admirer of his music, have a ton of his albums, and know all the lyrics to many of his songs (not that you asked, but my three favorite songs of his are “She’s Always A Woman,” “Goodnight Saigon,” and, “The Angry Young Man.”)

But Joel has always had off-stage troubles, from legal problems to drinking problems to women problems. He comes off as a hard guy to work with and to like, but Paumgarten does such a thorough, fantastic job in this story, and given so much access by Joel, that the reader is sort of forced to admire all that Joel has accomplished. And at 65, he’s still going strong, making $25 million for just a dozen concerts at Madison Square Garden in 2014.
A really terrific story; I know it’s long, but read it a little bit at a time when you can, it’s so well worth it.

laurenhill.gameshot

**I’ve been following this Lauren Hill story for several weeks, and almost wrote about it a bunch of times. But each time I stopped, because I wanted to wait until it had at least a sliver of a happy ending, which it did Sunday.

Lauren Hill is a 19-year-old college freshman from Ohio. She was supposed to be a varsity starter for tiny Division III Mt. St. Joseph’s (OH) College this year, but as a high school senior she received some devastating news from her doctor: Lauren was diagnosed with a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, which is a rare tumor that destroys brain cells and squeezes off vital functions.
It is inoperable, there is no known cure, and doctors told Hill this summer that she likely only had months to live.

Lauren still wanted to live out her dream of playing one college basketball game, and Mt. St. Joseph’s desperately wanted that for her, too.

And so the NCAA agreed to let MSJ move one of its early-season games up to Sunday, so Hill could play. A tsunami of love and support poured over her from everywhere in the world, with famous pro athletes, fans from as far away as Japan, and so many thousands of people in Cincinnati who bought tickets to the game.

Finally the game came on Sunday, and off the opening tap, Lauren Hill sank a layup. And the biggest cheer she ever heard erupted from the crowd. They gave her a standing ovation, and chanted her name, and … here, just watch. If you don’t get chills, check your pulse, you may not be alive.

Such a horrible hand Lauren Hill got dealt in life. There’s nothing anyone can do to get rid of her tumor, but they at least gave her one incredible day. Here’s a great story about her ordeal, and her wonderful day Sunday, and why Lauren Hill has inspired so many.

**And finally, a few words about a man who has tormented my football team for more than a decade. A man I loathe, a man I’m sick of, but a man I can’t help but stand in awe of after yet another phenomenal performance Sunday.

I speak of course of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who helped throttle the Broncos Sunday. Year after year, Brady, like Dan Marino before him, has driven a stake through my football heart, but leaving that aside, he truly is one of the five greatest quarterbacks I’ve ever seen play.

Every year, his supporting cast changes, he hasn’t had a good running game in a decade, and his receivers are rarely big-name guys. But Tom Brady gets it done, year after year, game after game. Sure he’s lost a couple of Super Bowls, but they weren’t his fault. The man is incredibly consistent, and at 37, still on top of his game.

I hate him, but he is a marvel and a legend. And he deserves all the accolades he gets.

Geez, you see what an eight game Jets losing streak does to me? I’m writing paeans to Tom Brady!