Tag Archives: tommy tomlinson

Another great school instruments song from Fallon and the Roots. The great Dean Smith, fading away. And I vent after a despicable Duke loss

Lefty Driesell, Tim James, Dean Smith

I’ve written about Dean Smith a bunch of times on this blog over the years, which might seem odd coming from a huge Duke fan (more on them later).

It’s just that along with Billie Jean King, Dean is the classiest individual I’ve ever had the privilege of interviewing, and it’s been such a shame reading and hearing about his battle with dementia over the past few years.

Mostly, the stories about this incredible basketball coach’s failing mind have been rumors and whispers, without much coming from his inner circle.

But now Tommy Tomlinson, whose work I plug on here so often he ought to pay me, has penetrated that inner circle and written a heartbreakingly beautiful story for ESPN.com about the 83-year-old coaching legend.

So many of the stories about Dean’s dementia ring true to me, because I experienced it with my grandmother: A person who was once so sharp, so on top of everything, now unable to remember the simplest things. And just as cruelly, dementia leaves the body physically fine, so there’s no telling how long the sufferer has left to live.

Read Tomlinson’s story about a true American legend. It’s one of the best things I’ve read in a long time.

**Next up, you may have seen some of Jimmy Fallon’s “elementary school classroom” routine with songs before, where he and The Roots take a current hit song, bring in the singer, and perform it using only instruments you’d find in a grade-school music room.

It’s pretty hilarious every time, and it is again with Idina Menzel (or whatever John Travolta says her name is) singing her Oscar-winning hit from “Frozen.”

Duke.Wake

**Finally, I freely admit that sometimes this blog is more “therapy” for me than entertainment for you.
That’s the case tonight, as it’s March, the NCAA Tournament is coming up, and I need to rant for a few hundred words after a pathetic, disgraceful, disgusting showing Wednesday night by my beloved Duke Blue Devils.

After a week between games, against a miserable Wake Forest team that has won ONCE in the past 10 tries, Duke fell behind early, rallied to take a seven-point lead in the second half, then completely imploded and lost by 10.
They went more than FIVE minutes without a basket in the final minutes. Quinn Cook, who used to be good, is more useless than a 1970s Dodge Dart at the point guard spot, dribbling and dribbling so damn much it’s like he thinks you get points for pounding the ball into the floor 403 times per possession.

Jabari Parker, the best player on the team by far, barely touched the ball in the final minutes. Rodney Hood is still committing stupid fouls, 35 games into his Duke career. Andre Dawkins can’t shoot anymore. No one on the damn team can shoot anymore.

When Marshall Plumlee is the lone bright spot, you know it’s a bad night.
So fed up with this team’s lack of heart. And lack of consistency. And K’s annual refusal to go deeper into his bench on nights like this, to see if someone, anyone might provide a spark.

Duke is soft on the interior, can’t hit 3’s anymore, and folds in the clutch. And has major problems at point guard. And plays the hottest team in America. the damn Tar Heels, on Saturday.
Other than that, everything’s great.
I can’t see this team making a run in March. Right now, a Sweet 16 appearance is all I can hope for. Just such a waste.

OK, I feel better now. Thanks.

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Michael Sam, poised to be an enormous NFL pioneer. A beautiful essay on being 38. And Jimmy Fallon sings with The Muppets

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To knock the Olympics off the main story of sports pages, TV stations and websites across the country Monday, it would take a major, almost earth-shaking sports moment.

Well, one definitely arrived. Michael Sam, an All-American defensive end from the University of Missouri, announced he was gay. Sam has entered the NFL Draft, and in all likelihood he will be selected.

Which means come September, Michael Sam can become the first active, openly gay male athlete in a major professional team sport (NBA forward Jason Collins, for his trail-blazing, has not played this year since announcing he was gay).

This is huge news, of course, because unlike Collins, Sam is not at the end of his career and easily dismissed as an insignificant player.

This is a kid who prior to Sunday night’s announcement to the New York Times and other media outlets, was expected to be a middle-round draft pick.

I’m thrilled about Sam’s announcement, because it’s long overdue for pro sports to accept an openly gay player.

And after devouring a bunch of stories about Sam, and seeing what a down-to-earth, intelligent young man he is, I have no doubt he has what it takes to be the Jackie Robinson of the gay movement.

Read this interview he did with Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated, and tell me you don’t come away impressed with him. (For a great take on what it will mean for the NFL, I highly recommend this Tommy Tomlinson piece)

Of course there will be haters, and of course there will be moronic fans screaming epithets at Sam next fall. But finally, after we thought it would happen with Jason Collins, a major barrier to acceptance should come tumbling down.

Amen.

**Look, there’s a few guarantees here at Wide World of Stuff headquarters: such as,  if it’s February, I’m going to be writing a long post about the first Duke-North Carolina game of the season (Wednesday night, and I’m very pumped up!).

Also if Jimmy Fallon, who I love, and The Muppets, who I love, do a duet together, well, that’s a guarantee I’m going to post it.

Take it away, Mr. Future Tonight Show host…

**Finally today, I love stumbling upon bloggers I’ve never heard of and finding out how well they capture some of what I’m feeling.

Lindsey Mead is 38, just like me, and she has written a stunning essay on what it feels like to be this age.

Quick excerpt from her fabulous writing:

Thirty-eight is solidly in the middle of my life. Thirty-eight is realizing that there are likely as many years behind me as there are ahead. It is acknowledging that life is no longer a green field, that certain doors are closed, that some choices are irrevocable and that many of the big what-ifs that haunted my childhood have been answered. Thirty-eight is also realizing that despite these answers, there are far, far more new questions.

Thirty-eight is not having any more grandparents. It is hearing about the illness and death of my friends’ parents. It is going to funerals, and also christenings, more often than weddings. Thirty-eight was leaving my injured mother’s side before surgery a couple of years ago to run home to my daughter, who was crying that I wasn’t spending enough time with her. Thirty-eight is the middle place.

I read a few of her other posts and they’re also terrific; please check her out.

“The Heat” leaves me cold, as expected. The Arizona firefighter tragedy, and real heroes. And the teacher who wore the same outfit for 40 years

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I knew better than to go see the Sandra Bullock-Melissa McCarthy buddy cop movie “The Heat.”
I really don’t like action movies, I knew this one would be stupid, and I really don’t even like Sandra Bullock that much (outside of her awesome performance in “The Blind Side.”)
But I was quasi-kidnapped; during our Baltimore trip last weekend the three guys I was with all decided that was the flick they wanted to see (reasonably asked my new wife: “That’s the movie three men in their 60s wanted to see?”)

So I sat through it, and as I expected, it was pretty bad. The story of the movie is that Bullock is a straight-laced, cocky FBI agent assigned to a case in Boston, where she’s forced to work with McCarthy, a foul-mouthed, awful-dressing, tough-as-nails cop.
In between, there’s a terrific collection of random bit players in the movie, including Tony Hale (from “Veep” and “Arrested Development,” the gym teacher from “Freaks and Geeks,” and others).

There were a few funny scenes, because sometimes McCarthy is so outrageous that you can’t help but laugh (hard to believe that the potty-mouthed McCarthy used to play sweet lil’ Sookie on “Gilmore Girls.”)

But mostly it was a predictable, one-note action flick that lowered my IQ a few points. I’m sure the film will make a ton of money, and the other people in the theater seemed to love it.

Maybe it’s me. Nah…

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This next story cracked me up big-time. An elementary school teacher in Dallas named Dale Irby had nothing to wear on school picture day in 1973. So he came up with this (above left).
The next year, he wore the same thing, as a joke. And kept it going for 38 more years.

That’s right, Irby has worn the same outfit for his yearbook photo for 40 years, and now he’s retiring, and taking that sweet outfit with him.

I implore you to read this story and then check out the photo gallery through the years. As the great Tommy Tomlinson said on Twitter said, “it’s like a timeline of evolution.”

firefighter**Finally, the heartbreaking story out of Arizona about the 19 dead firefighters just continues to get sadder. The names of the men who were killed were released Monday, and predictably, all but one of them was under 40.

I clicked through this page of bios about them and it just breaks your heart. There isn’t enough money in the world to pay me to be a police officer or a firefighter; what these men and women do on a daily basis is mind-bogglingly courageous.

Nineteen dead. Just awful.

Second-graders give advice on running the country. Tornado tragedy strikes again. And a very cool hockey story from Canada

In the grown-up world, this is a big political week. The GOP presidential candidates are all competing in Super Tuesday primaries tomorrow, with Mitt Romney trying once again to convince people to like him, Rick Santorum garnering all the anti-contraception votes, and Newt Gingrich shouting to be taken seriously. Each of these men claim to have all the answers as to how to fix America.

I say “Poppycock.” Thanks to Charlotte Observer writer Tommy Tomlinson, I’ve found real leaders.
They’re in second grade.
Here are some of the “rules for running the country” Tomlinson heard when he asked the tykes what laws they’d make if they were starting a new country:

— When grownups go to the store, they have to bring back toys!
— You should be able to drive at age 7!
— Everybody can have a rocket that takes you anywhere you want in one second!
— “No punching,” says Lilly Funk.
“Make sure people eat healthy foods – not sugar,” says Maddie Miller.
And maybe the best rule of all…
— Figure out your wants and needs. “You don’t need wants but you need your needs. You have to know the difference.”

I’m ready to cast my vote for Miss Loretta Ricciuti’s class, aren’t you?

**Every year, it seems to get worse and worse. By now surely you’ve heard about the horrible and devastating tornadoes that swept through the Midwest and South on Friday. Thirty-eight people were killed across five states.
Just awful. Words can’t do the destruction justice; check out these photos and see the destruction just a few minutes can do.

**Spent a few hours Sunday watching my first-place New York Rangers play a thrilling game against the Boston Bruins, winning 4-3, but that wasn’t the coolest hockey story of the weekend.

No, it was this one. A  junior team called the Erie (Pa.) Otters suited up only one goalie after an injury to the backup in the previous game. So of course, two minutes into the game in St. Catherines, Ont., the Erie goalie got hurt, and suddenly there was no one to stand behind the pipes.
Except for forward Connor Crisp, who hadn’t played goalie since he was 5. The kid played the whole rest of the game, in goalie skates that were three sizes too small, and made 33 saves in a stunning shutout… OK, no way you’d believe that.
Connor gave up 13 goals, and his team lost 13-4.

But my favorite part of the story? The fans of the other team, the Niagara IceDogs, cheered each save Crisp made, gave him a standing ovation at the end of the game, and Crisp was named the first star.

That’s right, a goalie who gave up 13 scores was the first star. Because he tried, and because he did his best.

God I love hockey, and all the people in it.

For another great read, check out this SI story from last week on the worries of a Hockey Mom after a tragedy in Minnesota.

Why do people riot over sports? The best local car commercial ever. And a beautiful, tragic love story


I don’t get it. Someone please explain it to me.
You’re a huge fan of a sports team. That team gets all the way to the brink of a championship, a Game 7. And they lose.
And so you go out and burn the city that you live in. You smash cars, break windows and set fires all over the place.
This is what happened in Vancouver Wednesday night, when the Canucks lost to the Bruins and once again didn’t win the Stanley Cup.
Where does this come from, this bullshit behavior? Alcohol can’t be the only reason; people are drunk and angry all the time in other cities.
Anger over their team losing? Do we take sports that seriously in the world that our team getting beat prompts law-breaking violence?
I just don’t get it. I get rioting for other reasons. I understood, at least a little bit, the Rodney King riots, and the riots in the 1960s for civil rights.

But this is SPORTS. These are games. And it sickens me that the outcome of a hockey game can cause destruction like this. It’s despicable.

I know the vast majority of Vancouver residents didn’t do this. And they’re embarrassed by it, as evidenced by the heartwarming outpouring of volunteer cleanup crews that sprung up Thursday.

It just really makes me wonder if as a society our sports obsession has gone too far. Funny argument from a sportswriter, I know.
But for God’s sakes, these are games. They ain’t that important.
I hope all the riot morons are found and put in jail. And forced to watch Game 7 over and over again as punishment.

P.S. That couple kissing on the street photo, in the gallery linked above? Incredible. It’s going to win a whole lot of photography awards, methinks.

**The website funnyordie.com usually highlights their own work, and it’s usually great (like this Ralph Macchio video, “Wax on, F#ck Off”)
But they Tweeted a link Thursday to maybe the greatest local commercial ever. It’s for a car wash in California, and well, there are no words…
Vodpod videos no longer available.

**Finally, I’ve extolled the virtues of the wonderful Charlotte Observer writer Tommy Tomlinson before, and the incredible wordsmith has done it again in this story.
It’s a short read, but oh so great. It tells the story of a newlywed couple named Kristopher Watkins and Nina Leavitt.
Check out how spare his prose is here. No wasted words or energy. And a beautiful final sentence. Just such great writing.

Honesty in writing. The boy who fell out of the sky. And is Tiger Woods back? Maybe.

Two great stories to get you going on a Monday…

I have written here, a few times, how much I admire Chris Jones as a writer, and now as a blogger.

One thing that I admire about the blog is his honesty. Last week Jones, who writes primarily for Esquire, wrote a post about being upset and disappointed that he didn’t get nominated for a National Magazine Award (the magazine writer’s equivalent of a Pulitzer, basically) for a brilliant story he wrote about Roger Ebert.
We writers all care about awards, and we all want to be acknowledged and recognized for our work. Any writer who says they don’t care is fibbing, I think. I’ve been very fortunate to win a bunch of writing awards in my career, and each one has meant a lot to me.
Anyway, Jones wrote this strong blog post about being disappointed, and he took some heat for it in certain corners of the Internet, which I didn’t get. Basically he was being accused of whining and only caring about the work for the award’s sake, which is 100 percent NOT what he was saying.
Anyway, Jones followed up with an even better post, which says so much about what I feel as a writer.
He’s honest in his blog, painfully so sometimes, and even though I think I’m pretty honest here, I wish I had the courage to be as totally free and open as he is.

**Speaking of great writing, Tommy Tomlinson is a legend in newspaper circles, but he’s a guy who I don’t think most of the general public is aware of. He writes for the Charlotte Observer, and this weekend he wrote this fascinating tale of Delvonte Tisdale, a seemingly-normal teenager who one night went to the airport and climbed inside the wheel well of a US Airways flight right before it took off.
And of course, died at some point during the flight when he fell from the plane. This is a story that seems to make no sense, but Tomlinson does a superb job in trying to find answers to a very strange and sad tale.

I urge you to read it today.

**Finally, a few words about Tiger. I loathe the “sport” of golf, but usually watch one day of the sport every year, the final Sunday of The Masters, just because it’s the Wimbledon of their sport. But I missed it Sunday and caught some highlights Sunday night. Tiger Woods had a hell of a day, shooting a 67 and leading the tournament for a little while.
Every time Tiger does this at a major, people start wondering if he’s “back.” And when the hell he’s going to start winning again.
Maybe it’ll be now. Or maybe, as some are saying, he will never be “Tiger Woods” again. Maybe the whole women scandal has taken something from him, and he won’t ever be able to get it back. He also continues to act like a spoiled brat on the course, so all this talk of “change” from him didn’t seem to stick.
As much as I loathe the guy, it’s fascinating to see him struggle, after being SO good for so long.