July 2020 M T W T F S S 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
- My Top 10 favorite athletes of my lifetime. Coach K does a fantastic “Black Lives Matter” video. And R.I.P Carl Reiner, a damn funny guy
- This Russian spy bounty story is outrageous. Sarah Cooper’s latest Trump lip-sync video is fantastic. And WiFi is coming to the ocean and dolphins are excited
- Good News Friday: A Baltimore kid with cancer gets a parade from the Ravens and Orioles. A national anthem singer gets a wonderful surprise co-star. And a man creates a mailbox for people to write letters to their departed Dads
- Major League Baseball is coming back, and it looks like a disastrous plan. “Almost Famous” is having a 20-year reunion podcast and I’m so there for it. And Novak Djokovic has COVID-19, a completely unsurprising development
- Hey Democrats: Way too soon to be burying Trump and being overconfident about November. A fantastic brain-teaser about great works of literature. And my favorite-ever video about awful Dad jokes
- Good News Friday: A wife tells her husband she’s pregnant in a delightfully bizarre way. Two teen girls reunite after a long absence and it’s beautiful. And a woman gets into law school and films her Mom’s incredible reaction
- The ex-girlfriend of a Netflix user creates a brilliant way to keep using his account. A man puts a GoPro camera on a turtle. And the U.S. Open is happening without fans, but it’s still happening!
- After a week of enormous changes, NASCAR banning the Confederate flag gets a huge “wow” from me. A hilarious video of what tennis “should” look like when it returns. And the man who broke into a bank just to use the microwave
- The Daddy Chronicles Returns, as we’re almost out of quarantine! Tales of potty-training, bike-riding and discovering “Madagascar”
- A college freshman writes the best story I’ve read in a long time: A gripping tale of cleaning up after a shooting. An NFL player’s “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” video is terrific. And a nurse is reunited with the firefighter who saved her life as a kid
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- @jonbecker Ah. I thought as much. Very strange. 5 minutes ago
- @jonbecker What is the deal with Chotiner, anyway? Are his Tweets some sort of Andy Kaufman/Joaquin Phoenix longrun… twitter.com/i/web/status/1… 37 minutes ago
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Tag Archives: Usain Bolt
My Top 10 favorite athletes of my lifetime. Coach K does a fantastic “Black Lives Matter” video. And R.I.P Carl Reiner, a damn funny guy
So I did a fun exercise on Facebook the other day, one of these things where a friend “tags” me and challenges me to do one of those cool lists they had just done.
And I had a lot of fun with it, so I thought I’d share it here. My Top 10 favorite athletes of my lifetime. Would love to hear your input as well, dear readers:
1. Roger Federer: Huge surprise, I’m sure, to find him on my list Simply the most beautiful tennis player I’ve ever seen, and the greatest. Watching him compete in his prime is the most pleasure I’ve ever had watching a single athlete. He may not end up as the greatest Grand Slam champion of all time (pretty sure Novak Djokovic will pass him), but that’s OK, he’s still the greatest to millions of fans.
2. Mark Messier: Another shocker on my list, I’m sure. My all-time favorite team has only one championship in my lifetime, and he delivered it in 1994. When he arrived in New York in 1991, he completely transformed the franchise. An incredible captain and leader, Mr. Clutch had the best game by a Ranger I’ve ever seen, Game 6 against the Devils in 1994, when the Blueshirts absolutely had to win.
The picture of Messier when he first takes the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman is one of ultimate joy; I’ve never seen a human being happier than he was at that moment.
3. Don Mattingly: My first sports hero. Younger people forget just how awful the Yankees were for much of the 1980s, but Donnie Baseball was always someone we could look up to. The lefty swing, the Gold Glove at first base, the incredible 1985 season when he almost won the Triple Crown … he was sensational.
4. LeBron James: Just an absolutely incredible athlete, and an even better humanitarian. On the court he is, in my opinion, the greatest basketball player of all time. Has had a dominating career, scoring, rebounding, passing and lifting his teams to three championships, including an improbable one for the starving Cleveland fans in 2016.
But his impact off the court has been even bigger. He built schools, he’s giving every kid in Akron who goes to his academy free college, and he’s taken on social issues and causes way, way more than other athletes of his generation have.
5. Billie Jean King: I’m cheating a little here because her career ended before I learned my ABC’s, but she’s always been a hero and idol of mine for so many reasons. A trailblazer and pioneer in women’s sports, she championed so many causes that were unpopular, and took on the sexist male hierarchy for decades. I’ve been lucky enough to meet her in real life a few times, and she has absolutely lived up to her reputation.
6. Shane Battier: My all-time favorite Blue Devil. Just a fantastic leader, all-around player and the most entertaining interview subject I ever had the pleasure of meeting. His defensive plays in the 2001 title game against Arizona were all-timers. When I covered him in the late 1990s at Duke he always sent us scrambling for our dictionary after post-game chats.
7. Usain Bolt: The most exciting athlete I’ve ever seen. I can’t describe the feelings of watching him in the Olympics: It was like seeing a person who was 2-3 levels more evolved than anyone else. His incredible 100-meter and 200-meter performances in Beijing were mind-blowing; he slowed up in one of the races at the end and STILL set a world record.
8. Curtis Martin: There is so much misery and sadness associated with my favorite NFL team, but for a few years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, we got to see an all-time great. One of the very few Jets who never let me down, No. 28 was always so dependable, so elusive, and such a good teammate.
9. Henrik Lundqvist: The King. One of the best goalies in the history of the NHL, he singlehandedly kept the Rangers in so many playoff series, winning a bunch of them they had no business winning. He’ll never get a Cup, but man did he get close in 2014.
10. Martina Navratilova: On the Mount Rushmore of women’s tennis, she revolutionized the sport by being stronger and fitter than everyone else. I loved watching her play, and her courage in defecting from Czechoslovakia, and in coming out as a gay athlete long before it was accepted, will always make her a hero of mine.
**Next up today, I meant to share this powerful video on Monday but I forgot. I’m always proud to be a Duke fan and call Mike Krzyzewski a coach I greatly admire, but maybe never more so than after watching this video.
Three minutes of pure brilliance, in support of the Black Lives Matter Moment.
**And finally today, a few words about Carl Reiner, whose magnificent life sadly came to an end Tuesday at age 98.
Reiner is maybe one of the funniest people who ever lived; the creator of so much great comedy. He created “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” did sensational stuff with Mel Brooks, directed “All of Me,” a truly underrated classic film, and much, much more.
By all accounts, Reiner was a decent man as well: Humble, gracious and kind to the end.
Michael Schur, a comedy writer and creator of “Parks and Recreation,” wrote this lovely tribute to Reiner, and if you need a good laugh today, I posted the famous “2,000 Year Old Man” sketch above.
The world is slightly poorer without Carl Reiner in it.
The great Usain Bolt retires, but man what a show he put on. A beautiful new commercial from Proctor & Gamble. And a quick-thinking teacher on a plane foils child molesters
Even when you’ve watched as many sporting events as I have in 41 years of life, there are some things you absolutely will never, ever forget.
The first time I saw Bo Jackson hit a baseball (it went really really far). The first time I saw Roger Federer strike a tennis ball.
And without a doubt, the first time I ever saw Usain Bolt run. Usain Bolt may be the most incredible athlete I’ve ever seen, and I know that’s saying a lot.
At 6-foot-5, with impossibly long legs and the easiest stride in his sport, Bolt was an absolute superstar the moment he stepped onto the world stage.
I distinctly remember watching the 2008 100-meter finals, hearing that this incredible physical specimen from Jamaica with a perfect last name for a sprinter was taking the sport forward.
Track and field in 2008, remember, was coming off some horrible doping scandals, as former “heroes” like Tyson Gay, Marion Jones and Justin Gatlin had all been exposed as cheaters.
And here was this clean, joyful man running faster than anybody has ever run. Watch this 100 meter final again, it’s still astonishing how much faster than everyone else Bolt was…
He went to win gold in the 200 meters and the 4×100 relay, and then did the same in 2012 in London, and last year in Brazil. He carried a sport to new heights and was as beloved worldwide as any track athlete ever has been.
But the show has finally ended. Saturday in what he says is his last competition, Bolt finished third in an incredible photo finish (that amazing picture above was taken by the Associated Press’ Matthias Schrader), not exactly going out in a blaze of glory.
But Saturday’s loss is hardly relevant. Bolt will go down in history as the greatest sprinter ever, and more importantly, he’s never failed a drug test.
I will miss watching him run. Because man oh man, could he run . Tim Layden of SI has a fabulous tribute to Bolt here.
**Next up, a beautiful and powerful new commercial from Proctor & Gamble, as part of their “Let’s Talk” series discussing racism in America.
In this ad, generations of African-American parents from decades gone by up to the present, discuss with their children how they should deal with the “N” word and other bias they will feel.
This ad, predictably, has caused controversy from neanderthals who claim P & G are “attacking whites” and other nonsense. God forbid we acknowledge that racism is alive and well in 2017, and that African-American parents like the mom at the 1:05 mark have every right and responsibility to worry about their child coming home safely.
It’s a fantastic commercial. I hope it airs on the Super Bowl and everywhere else people are watching.
**Finally today, a rare instance of something positive and even heroic coming out of an airplane flight delay. A preschool teacher on a recent flight from Seattle to San Jose buckled her seat belt and noticed that the man sitting in front of her had some strange, unsettling words on his iPhone. (The man had an oversized iPhone and was using large print text to type, making the phone easier to read.)
At first, the passenger saw the man texting explicit and illicit sexual messages to the individual he was texting with. But then she saw the man, identified as 56-year-old Michael Kellar, discussing children, a 7-year-old and 5-year-old, in sexually explicit language.
As the flight took off the texting continued, and the unidentified woman took photos of the man’s screen, and alerted the flight crew to notify authorities on the ground.
They contacted San Jose police and its airport division stationed at Mineta San Jose International Airport, the destination for the flight, and Kellar and the woman he was texting were both arrested.
The Seattle detectives, and FBI agents from that area, used the smartphone evidence to pinpoint a home in Tacoma where the woman exchanging texts with Kellar lived. That’s when they confirmed that the case was more than outlandish texts, and that two children ages 5 and 7 who lived at the home were being sexually abused.
“It’s kind of mind-blowing,” said San Jose sex-crimes Detective Nick Jourdenais. “She gets on a plane, a normal citizen minding her business. A couple of hours later, she’s intervening on quite possibly the most traumatic thing children can go through. This was life-altering for them.”
What a wonderful and heroic series of actions from this airplane passenger. I can’t imagine what those poor children went through before, but hopefully they’ll never have to deal with it again.
What a crazy story.
It sounded like such a great idea at the time: Good friends of ours whose daughter is about six months older than our little guy said “Hey! Why don’t we all go to Sesame Place together this summer! The kids will love it!”
We enthusiastically said yes, and then pre-bought tickets for what turned out to be the hottest freaking day of the summer. Maybe in history.
Yep, Saturday on the East Coast was the kind of day that would make any sun-worshipper stay inside and let the air-conditioning work its magic. I don’t want to say it was hot, but I think I saw a human being melt into the concrete he was standing on.
Anyway, it was a hell of an interesting day, and not just because it was our first adventure to a children’s theme park with my boy, who turns 2 in about a month.
Some thoughts on the hot and sticky madness that is Sesame Place on an August afternoon:
— I’m pretty certain I’d been here 35 years earlier or so with my own parents, but I have no memories of the place. Still, I was a huge Sesame Street fan as a kid, and I was anxious to see how Nate would respond to seeing characters up close. He’s never seen “Sesame Street” (we haven’t let him watch TV yet), but he’s a huge fan of his Elmo doll, and before we went I showed him some videos of Oscar, Bert and Ernie, and the gang.
The first thing I noticed that surprised me was that the main characters were hardly anywhere to be seen. There was a parade with Abby and Elmo and all them at 3 p.m and again at 8:30, and a live show in the theater at 5, but other than that, we hardly saw anyone in costumes. Maybe it’s just at Disney World where there are characters everywhere you look.
— I will say, it’s got to be cruel and unusual punishment to dress a human being in a giant furry costume on a 100-degree day like Saturday was. I think I saw Oscar the Grouch lugging an air conditioner into his trash can.
— Was prepared for horrible lines and crowds, but it really wasn’t that bad. Since our kids were too little to go on the popular rides, we didn’t have to wait too long for most stuff.
— The line of the day went to our friend who remarked, as we walked into the wading pool to cool off, “Try not to think about how much urine is in this thing right now.” Always good advice!
— The people we did see, though… man. There was a whole lot of humanity on display. First of all, I know it was hot, but there were a ton of people walking around with no shirt on who really shouldn’t have, you know what I mean? I’m not judging, but I think I saw a few bodies that were scarier than the characters were.
— Also always fun seeing the parenting “styles” on display. I saw one father scold the hell out of his son for walking too far away from the family, and a few minutes later saw two girls, about 8 and 10 years old, asking if the other one knew where there parents were. Most disturbingly, one time while I was resting on a bench two little girls (maybe about 6) approached and one asked in a really timid voice “Do you know where our Mommy went?”
I told them I was sorry but I didn’t, and then talked to them for a few minutes figuring that might keep them calm. The mother arrived a few minutes later and not even a word was said.
— The park itself is smaller than I expected, and things went pretty smoothly except for the inexplicable fact that while we were in one of the cafeterias getting food, they told us they ran out of ice. How do you run out of ice at a summer water park???
— As for my little guy (above, holding hands with his little girlfriend), he had a great time. He forsook any nap attempts all day, had a hell of a time splashing around in the wading pool festooned with water cannons drenching us occasionally, and was totally enthralled at the “Elmo: The Musical” live show I referenced earlier. He’s still not a fan of Carousels (screamed bloody murder as we tried to put him on a horse) and rides in general have him spooked.
It’s funny; I know he won’t remember any of this, but it’s so rewarding to see him experience stuff for the first time.
So, Sesame Place. The kids will love it. Bring your own ice. And don’t drink the water in the wading pool.
**Finally today, just a few words on Usain Bolt. The Jamaican sprinter won his third straight 100-meter Olympic final Sunday night, and once again, he made it look so, so easy.
The picture above (from his semifinal race, taken by Cameron Spencer of Getty Images) illustrates just how much fun, and how easy, all of this seems to be for Bolt. Dude is 6-foot-5, a legend, and trailed for 80 of the 100 meters in the final, and still won looking like he barely broke a sweat.
One of the most legendary athletes of our time. Just sensational to watch. Dear God, I hope he’s clean.
My first weekend at the Jersey Shore: Sun, fun and no Snooki to be found anywhere. And Usain Bolt, still the fastest, most amazing man
Greetings from the land of “The Situation,” where we most certainly did not have a situation this weekend.
Yours truly is wrapping up a wonderful weekend getaway with the family to the Jersey Shore, a place I’ve never truly spent time as an adult (I’ve been to nearby Atlantic City plenty, but those were just for gambling and hotel stays.)
We’re heading back to the city Monday morning after a great family reunion; a patriarch on my wife’s side of the family had a 95th birthday celebration on Saturday, so dozens of cousins and friends gathered to salute him (Ninety-five is amazing to me. Do you realize Warren G. Harding was President when this man was born? I can’t fathom that.) My son got to meet a whole bunch of family members he’s never met, so that was a big thrill.
We had a great time in Chris Christie-ville, and am a little sad to leave. Some thoughts/ruminations from my brain on a weekend in Joisey…
— We spent a lot of time on the beach, of course, and our relative’s house was pretty close to an entrance onto a small strip of sand where we sunbathed Saturday and Sunday.
And one thing I learned is universal: I don’t care how rich or poor you are, what race or creed you are, whether you’re old or young, big or small: Everyone has to endure the 50-100 yards of schlepping beach stuff from the pavement to their favorite spot on the sand.
The look on the faces of all who did it was the same: “Why am I lugging all this crap to the beach? Do I really need all this crap? And are we almost there?
It was reassuring to see that some things in America are still equal for everyone.
— Atlantic City ain’t what it used to be. Or maybe I’m just too old to see its appeal. Probably both. When I was a kid, Atlantic City was an incredibly exciting idea: Driving a few hours meant you were glamorous, dazzlingly bright neighborhood filled with fancy casinos, sparkly showgirls and a boardwalk that teemed with taffy and all kinds of fun.
Now, thanks to so many other states legalizing gambling, and the economy tanking, there are only a handful of casinos left in Atlantic City, and the whole place just felt, when we went to play blackjack Sunday night, like a party everyone had left, only some people didn’t know the party was over yet.
— Did you know you can still smoke in all Atlantic City casinos? Seriously. In 2015. In a completely indoor venue with little air circulation.
We were in one Sunday night and it was like being transported back in time 30 years. Ridiculous.
— Final gambling note: When you push on 20 in blackjack, it really feels like a loss, doesn’t it?
— My kid loves the ocean. Who knew? We took the 11-month-old down to the water for his first-ever experience, expecting that the freezing cold H20 on his toes would make him miserable. Only, he squealed and squealed with delight for 10 good minutes, smiling and giggling as the tiny waves crashed into his little legs.
It’s amazing how you never know how he’ll react to something new. I smell a future surfer in the family.
— Hotel breakfasts have gotten so much better since I was a kid. We had a couple this weekend that were so beyond restaurant quality it was stunning. I remember as a little boy getting stuck with, like, stale English muffins and maybe a crummy croissant.
— Finally, this made me sad. The hotel we’re staying in had a sign at the front desk advertising free access to local newspaper’s websites when you check in. Instead of, you know, actual newspapers in the lobby.
Ah, print papers, oh how I’ll miss you when you’re gone.
**Finally today, just in case you’d forgotten how incredible Usain Bolt is, he was kind enough to show the world again on Sunday at the World Championships.
It’s exceedingly rare for a sprinter to last as long as Bolt has, and stay on top; he first won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games; here we are seven years later, and he’s still the fastest man alive.
This is a hell of a race from American Justin Gatlin, but he fell one-hundredth of a second short; in 9.79 Bolt held onto his crown.
Sensational stuff. So help us all if he’s ever found to have been doping all these years.
At the Olympics, every story’s a great story. The brilliance of Bolt. And a beautiful story of a small auction hoping to go big
NBC gets mocked a lot at the Olympics for showing us “touchy-feely” features on athletes, usually American ones.
But for all the heroes that are thrust at us, what I love most about the Olympics are the smaller stories we don’t always hear about in America. I stumbled across two beautiful tales of Olympians Thursday, guaranteed to put a smile on your face (or your money back; hey, it is Good News Friday.)
The first is from Dan Wetzel, the immensely talented writer for Yahoo! Sports. He wrote about the Irish female boxer Katie Taylor, who won a gold medal Thursday and had already created a frenzy back home. We in the U.S., I think, forget about how important some of these Olympians are to their home nations; we have so many superstars that we take them for granted.
Right now, in Ireland, Katie Taylor is a forever legend.
The second story I loved was more whimsical. Joe Posnanski, who as you know I think is a writing Zeus, stumbled upon a fascinating team handball player from Iceland. I know, you’re thinking, why should I care?
Because the Olympics are made up of all kinds, and this is the story of Ólafur Stefánsson, and he is strange and wonderful and just one of the millions of reasons I love the Olympics and he says thinks like “You want to play well for long enough that you leave with a medal around your neck. “That is great. But in the end, it is not about medals. … It is the journey that stirs us.”
**Here’s a terrific story that should get more publicity. A man named Samuel Annable works for a minor-league baseball team in Peoria, Ill. After hearing the famous “Red Paper Clip” story (a man trades a paper clip for greater and greater value until he turns it into a house), Annable has decided he wants to trade two blue dice in to eventually get a sick child to a Super Bowl.
It’s a beautiful and noble goal, and I salute him. To read more about Annable and his quest, check out his blog here.
**Finally, Usain Bolt. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen another athlete quite like him. Thursday he won again, his fourth consecutive Olympic win in either the 100 or 200 meters, the first person ever to win both events at back-to-back Olympics.
He is a force of nature, he is so much better than everyone else. For the second straight Olympics, he actually slowed up in the last few meters while winning a gold medal. His time Thursday of 19.32 could’ve been even faster; that’s what’s so scary.
I know track and field gets little attention except for two weeks every four years. But it’s such a joy to be alive when a transcendent performer like Bolt is running among us.
I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Murray and Bolt take over the Olympics. A fabulous book from a ballplayer who finally made the Show (and hated it). And Italy creates a bizarre new law
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It was a hell of a day for two sporting giants at the Olympics Sunday; one we all expected to be standing atop him sport, the other a pretty pleasant surprise.
First, the man we thought would have gold draped around him:
Usain Bolt is the one track and field star who commands your attention, the guy who was so indescribably fast in Beijing four years ago, winning the 100 meters and the 200 meters, that he re-defined what “fast” is in the sport. (As was once said about the great Negro Leagues star Cool Papa Bell, “he was so fast he could turn out the light switch and be in bed before it got dark.)
Bolt is why we watch the Olympics; to see someone so superhuman raise their game just a little higher. Sure, the luster came off the Jamaican a little this year when he lost in the Olympic Trials, but Sunday the fastest man on Earth was back on top.
Bolt (and again, could any Hollywood screenwriter come up with a better surname for track star?) blew away the field in the 100, winning in 9.63 seconds, a new Olympic record. Amazing.
The other hero Sunday was Andy Murray. Even being as big a Roger Federer fan as I am, I was happy for the long-suffering, and long-underachieving Scottish star. Always getting close but never quite winning the big matches, the UK’s best tennis player in decades thrashed Federer at Centre Court, losing just nine games and winning a gold medal.
It’s not a Grand Slam win, which Murray desperately seeks, but it was pretty terrific and moving, nonetheless.
On a related note, God I love the Olympics.
**Got a super book recommendation for you, if you’re a baseball fan, or just a fan of great writing. A couple of years ago a career minor-league pitcher named Dirk Hayhurst wrote the fabulous “The Bullpen Gospels,” a book about a year in the minors that touched on so much more than baseball. It was smart, it was funny, it was touching (read more about it here) and I highly recommend it.
This spring Hayhurst wrote a sequel, called “Out of My League.” It’s about his 2008 season, which finds him finally in Triple-A, madly in love with a woman, his alcoholic brother finally sober, and Dirk waiting desperately for a call to the bigs.
When it finally comes, you expect he’ll be thrilled, and celebrate, and cherish every day in the majors. But it doesn’t turn out that way, and this is where an already-fabulous book gets even better. Hayhurst beautifully writes about the moments when your dreams come true, only to open the door to crushing, soul-sucking failure.
I don’t know if Hayhurst’s second book is better than his first. But it’s definitely at least as good. Pick it up here
**Haven’t come across any “man, they are so crazy in Italy” stories in a while, partly because everyone’s favorite punchline across the Ocean, Silvio Burlesconi, isn’t in charge there anymore.
But this story caught me as pretty bizarre: A new law has been passed making it illegal to utter the phrase “You don’t have the balls,” in Italy.
Apparently a man took his cousin to court for questioning his manhood by, well, questioning the size of his testicles.
And an appeals court ruled that, well, you can’t say a man is less than a man!
Not sure this law would hold up in America; We might have 50 million arrests at bars across the country every weekend.
So it’s Yom Kippur Sunday night. Always a rough time for your humble blog author.
Ask anyone who knows me: I love food. Love, love, LOVE food. I love the smell of hot food coming out of the oven, whether it’s chicken parmigiana, lasagna, steak, whatever. I love the first bite of a dish prepared out of the kitchen of a restaurant, when you’ve had 20 minutes to wait and anticipate and build up expectations.
I’m not going to go all Frank Bruni on you here, but you get the point.
I eat constantly, pretty much every few hours., so much so that when my wife or my in-laws asks who’s hungry, they don’t even wait for an answer from me. Because they know the answer is always yes.
“Of course I could eat!” I reply. It also annoyed my sister and others throughout my life that I could eat crap and not gain weight; I had my mother’s metabolism, thankfully. (Of course, now in mid-30s I eat much healthier than before and actually am gaining weight. Just the other day a guy in my adult tennis league, who hadn’t seen me since May, told me that “it looked like I put on some pounds” over the summer. Seriously? I wanted to say. But I digress).
Anyway, so me and food, we’ve been in a longtime, loving relationship. Except for once a year, we have a violent, 24-hour breakup. I don’t look at it, I don’t touch it, I try not to even think about it.
They call it Yom Kippur, the Jews’ Day of Atonement. Apparently we don’t eat or drink from sundown to sundown, and our sins are washed away.
(Have you heard the great old Jon Stewart joke about Yom Kippur? “You don’t eat or drink for one day and all your sins are forgiven . BEAT THAT!! Beat that with your “Lent” . . . what’s that, 40 days? Forty days to one . . . even in sin, you’re paying retail!”)
I’m not really a practicing Jew; I don’t go to synagogue regularly, at least not since my Bar Mitzvah 21 years ago. But for some reason, I’ve always observed Yom Kippur.
I try to be a good person; I don’t think I commit too many sins (I run a few red lights, accidentally have backed into other cars in parking lots, commit the occasional grand larceny, that kind of thing), but I still feel that it’s important to spend one day a year, cleansing your body and soul.
It’s tough, though, I gotta tell ya. When I was a kid, it was no big deal. I remember the big “breaking fast” meal over at the Lipton’s house every year; family and friends got together and noshed on bagels and lox. Time just flew by like Usain Bolt in the 100 meters back then.
Now, especially when Yom Kippur bleeds into a work day, those last few hours are rough. No water, no morsels of food can pass my lips, and by 3:30 p.m I’m pretty much running on fumes. I start dreaming of what I’ll have for dinner around, oh, 1 o’clock or so.
But you know what, I survive every year. My people have been doing it for thousands of years, so what’s one day, right?
To anyone else fasting out there, I say good luck and if I can offer only one piece of advice, it’s this:
Try not to pass any bakeries or pizzerias Monday.
Lots of things have happened in this sporting summer. Roger Federer won Wimbledon, which thrilled me. The Yankees pulled away in the American League East. Also good.
But I think the greatest phenomenon of the last few months is a 23-year-old Jamaican guy who right now is miles beyond everyone else in his sport.
We’ve become so immune to numbers in athletics. Some guy hits 65 home runs, and we yawn. A running back rushes for 200 yards and four touchdowns. Meh. A basketball player scores 50 points in a game? Pretty good, but … next.
What Usain Bolt is doing right now at the World Championships of track and field in Berlin is a rare and beautiful thing. Every generation, we get an athlete who takes his sport to the next level. Babe Ruth did it in the 1920s.
Muhammad Ali had the 1960s and ’70s. Jack Nicklaus was right there with him in his sport. Some kid from North Carolina named Michael Jordan brought his game into another stratosphere in the 1980s and ’90s, while Michael Phelps brought those in the water up on his shoulders into a glorious place.
What Bolt is doing, in smashing his own world records in the 100 and 200 meter dashes, is something remarkable. He’s destroying the idea that track records are broken in increments, hundredths of a second at a time.
He beat his own 100-meter record by .11, then broke his 200-meter by the same mark. Do you know how ridiculous that is? It’s like a halfback running for 350 yards in a game, or a baseball player hitting 81 home runs in a season.
It’s laughable, how much of a mockery Bolt is making the competition. Poor Tyson Gay ran the 100 this week faster than any American ever had, posting a 9.71. And he wasn’t even close to winning, as Bolt’s 9.58 blew him away.
His margin of victory – 0.62sec – in the 200 is greater than the sum total of winning margins of the five previous winners of the world 200 title.
As many have said this week, Bolt is simply redefining what the human body can do. Consider:
— His 19.19 in the 200, when broken down by 100-meter increments, were a 9.58 and a 9.61. So he equaled his own world record, and then missed it on the second 100 by .03 seconds. Nobody ever runs the second 200 that fast.
— We’ve always been told sprinters have to short and stride quickly. Bolt is 6-foot-5 and takes long strides. When he runs, he’s like a gazelle, attacking the pavement and the air around him like it owes him money.
— He can still get better. In both the Beijing Olympics and in the 200 this week, Bolt slowed a little in the last five meters. He can go faster. He can run a 19.05 200, and maybe a unbelievable 9.4 in the 100.
Listen to veteran track and field people talk about Bolt, and it’s like they used to talk about M.J. when he first started with the Bulls.
TV announcer Ato Boldon just keeps screaming “Oh my God!” when talking about Bolt. Michael Johnson, never known for humility, can’t get over how “ridiculous” Bolt is.
Is the kid a little cocky? Absolutely. He says things like “I’m on my way to becoming a legend,” and talks about being up for knightood.
But wouldn’t you be a little in love with yourself if you broke the a world record in the last FIVE major meets you’ve competed at?
Now … the big elephant in the room here is this: Is he clean? So far, he’s tested positive for nothing more than excitement. Track and field has been plagued with so many superstars who flash on the scene, then are disgraced by drug testing results.
Ben Johnson. Marion Jones. Justin Gatlin. Just to name a few.
I don’t know if Bolt is clean or dirty. I pray that he’s doing all this legitimately, because it’s such a good story. But a fellow scribe of mine, Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle, wrote a great piece saying that Bolt is providing so much joy, we shouldn’t race to assume he’s guilty.
“You can’t rob me of my joy,” Solomon writes. “He is the most amazing, entertaining athlete on the planet.”
I couldn’t agree more. If it turns out he’s cheating, well, I’ll be sad because he’s such a remarkable runner.
For now, I’m just going to enjoy this Jamaican kid lift everyone higher, higher and higher.
I wanted to be upset and angered and outraged when I heard that Brett Favre, he of more “retirement” pronouncements than Larry Holmes and Rocky Balboa combined, announced Tuesday he was coming back to play for the Minnesota Vikings.
I wanted to be ticked off that Favre had again lied to everyone’s face when he declared back in July that he was definitely retired for good.
You know, kind of like when he said after leaving my beloved New York Jets after last season that he was through. And when he retired as a Packer after the 2007 season. And when he retired … well, you get the jist.
But I just couldn’t work myself into a froth over it. To me, Favre’s just not worth it. He’s clearly a raging egomaniac who has now held 3 (count ’em, three) franchises hostage over the past two years, while we all waited to see what King Brett would do.
“You know who he is?” I said to my friend Tony Jones on the phone today. “He’s Freddy Krueger. Everytime you think we’re rid of him, every time he’s definitely, totally, completely gone, Favre pops back up.”
I just really don’t care about Favre anymore; as a Jets fan, Brett was like that really hot girl in high school who you NEVER think you’ll be able to get to go out with you. Then, amazingly, she agrees to be your girlfriend for little while, only to be totally not what you hoped for. (Incidentally, there was a great “Freaks and Geeks” storyline about this very same thing.)
A few questions I have about this whole new Favre arrangement:
— Can Vikings fans really just forget the last 16 years of hating this guy and cheer their guts out for him? Forget where I read it today, but this is like Derek Jeter putting on a Red Sox jersey, or Larry Bird getting traded to the Lakers. The Purple-clad Vikes fans hated No. 4’s guts for almost two decades, and now they’re going to pin their Super Bowl hopes on him? Definitely a weird set of emotions today if you’re a Vikes fan.
— Another question: Did Brad Childress and Co. watch any of the last six Jets games last season? Because I did. And injury or no injury, Favre has nothing left. I don’t think he’ll lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl anymore than Sage Rosenfels would’ve.
— Am I bitter as a Jets fan? Not really. I’ve said repeatedly that I loved that the Jets went and got Favre last yea, and that I was equally happy when he quit. It was a gamble worth taking, and I really don’t care about him anymore.
(What I do care about is my NFL Jets Favre jersey being devalued now; I kinda hoped it’d be a collector’s item one day, you know, Favre’s last-ever NFL jersey. Oh well; I’ll have to figure out another way to pay for my future kid’s college tuition)
— Will Packers fans boo Favre at Lambeau this year? Not sure. The question was tackled in a good SI.com column from Don Banks, and Packers fan and author David Maraniss said he wasn’t sure. Packers fans are wildly loyal and I just don’t know if they have it in their hearts to boo their legend.
Then again, I was just perusing the message boards on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Favre story, and well, the mood is not very friendly.
Anyway, I’m done with Favre. Play, don’t play, I really don’t care. Just for the love of God, don’t ever actually tell us you’re retiring again!
**Couple more scattered thoughts on a Tuesday night/Wednesday morning:
— One more beauty of Facebook: It has completely ruined the ability of friends to say they forgot your birthday. If you’re Facebook friends with someone, there’s a little application on everyone’s home page that reminds you of all your friends’ birthdays.
It’s really quite wonderful; heard from so many people yesterday with good wishes. Would they’ve remembered without Facebook? Probably not. But it’s just one more nice way to stay in touch in our incredibly disconnected world.
**I’ve watched the Usain Bolt race a few more times since the weekend. I think I may have to do a separate post on him soon; I’m just so blown away by what he’s doing to track and field. He’s taking his sport to a whole new level.
Here’s a great story by Christopher Clarey in the NY times about him:
**Finally, Democrats in Congress =absolutely spineless jellyfish. So pissed off at my Party right now. Why must we always, always, screw things up when we’re finally in charge? Push a damn health care bill through, you’re in the MAJORITY!
It’s always dangerous to look into another man’s heart. (I’ve also learned it’s dangerous to tell a woman she has too many pairs of shoes, to ask a rampaging bull to kindly slow down, and to cut a dinner roll with a huge, sharp knife. But I digress).
We don’t ever really know what’s going on in somebody’s head, what their motives are, and if someone who has committed some truly awful crimes is really repentant.
As a fairly cynical sportswriter, I feel like I have a pretty good “phony” radar for athletes. It goes off every time Terrell Owens or Kobe Bryant speaks, for example.
But watching Michael Vick on “60 Minutes” Sunday night, I’ve gotta say that I was truly impressed. I thought Vick came across as sincere, humble, and pretty broken up about what he had done.
Now, I’m sure he was coached by his p.r. people. But I think there was too much real emotion on display for it to be all fake. I liked when James Brown (who did a surprisingly good job as the interviewer; boy would I have liked to see Mike Wallace grill Vick) asked the disgraced dog-fighting kingpin whose fault all his problems were.
“I blame me,”Vick said … “I deserved to lose the $130 million (NFL contract).”
“Yeah, I deserve to lose it,” Vick continued. I deserve to lose the $130 million. Why would a guy who was making a $130 million and, you know, on the flip side, you know, killing dogs or doing the wrong things, why would– you know, he don’t — he don’t deserve it.”
I also was watching Vick’s face closely while Brown read off some of the horrendous details of what Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels did to the poor animals. Vick seemed to be visibly wincing. I got the feeling that every time he relives what he did to the dogs, he feels pain. Which is very good, because he should feel pain.
Vick talked a lot about the “disgust” he felt about himself, and for the entire interview he seemed like a guy who knew just how royally he screwed up his life.
I understand that there are a lot of people who don’t think the ex-Falcons quarterback should’ve gotten a chance to play in the NFL again. But this America, and we give people second chances.
I have no idea if Michael Vick will really do everything he can to educate black and rural kids that dogfighting is wrong, and they should steer clear of it. But he deserves the opportunity to prove that prison changed him, and so far, he seems like a different man.
Good for him if he really has changed. He can do so much more good after falling from grace than he ever could’ve done when he was on top of the mountain.
Couple other thoughts on the “60 Minutes,” piece, whose transcript is here.
**I thought James Brown did an outstanding job, journalistically; much better than I was expecting.
** The most revealing part of the piece for me was when Vick talked about how, as a little kid, he saw dogfighting and thought it was OK. And that opinion was reinforced when, he recalled, some local policemen in Virginia pulled up to a dogfight one night, got out of their cars, then drove away.
In no way shape or form is it an excuse, but kids learn what they see at that age.
P.S. Hell of a day in sports Sunday, on the whole. Usain Bolt, who is so fast he makes lightning look slow, set a new world record by running a 9.58 in the 100 meter dash in Berlin. That’s .009 seconds faster than Bolt’s old world record, which is a huge gap in a small race like this. (By the way, is there a more perfect name for a sprinter than “Bolt?”). This kid from Jamaica is making a mockery of all past sprinters; he’s just on a whole different playing field than anyone, ever, in his event.
Check out the incredible Bolt race here:
And although I loathe golf with all my being, I see Tiger Woods was chased down from behind by someone named Y.E. Yang and blew the PGA Championships on Sunday. Mr. Woods shot a 75, and Yang shot a 70.
Tiger Woods getting caught from behind in the last round of a major? Never happened before, and may never happen again.
One more reason sports is the greatest reality television of all time.