Tag Archives: Wayne Gretzky

“Don’t Think Twice” is a sweet, funny movie you should see. Michael Phelps may be the most dominant athlete ever. And Alex Rodriguez, don’t let the door hit you on the way out

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“Has anyone here had a particularly hard day?”

That’s the question the fictional improv group “The Commune” asks at the beginning of every show in the fabulous movie “Don’t Think Twice.” It’s an open-ended question that any audience member can respond to, by saying anything, and then the magic begins: The six comedians onstage take whatever is thrown out and make a hilarious sketch out of it.

Improv comedy is one of the most fun shows you could possibly get into, but it’s also very, very hard, isn’t at all lucrative, and can lead to quite a lot of frustration.

I love Mike Birbiglia, as I’ve expressed on here before, and I love Keegan-Michael Key, and when a movie starring two of my favorite comedians has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 99 percent, I had a feeling I’d love “Don’t Think Twice.”

And I did. This 90-minute little gem of a flick, about an improv group and what happens when one of them makes a “Saturday Night Live”-type show is terrific. I thought it would be funny, and it was. But it was much sweeter and tender than I expected, as we get storylines like Bill (Chris Gethard’s) Dad struggling with health issues, and Miles (Birbiglia) being the elder statesman/teacher character and being forced to watch his pupils have better careers.

Gillian Jacobs is sensational in this movie (I never watched “Community” so I didn’t know her that well), and the dialogue and reactions of the characters feel very real.

“Don’t Think Twice” isn’t playing in wide release, sadly, because in the summer only superhero-type movies make money. But if it’s playing near you, I highly recommend it.

Next up today, another incredible night for American athletes at the Rio Olympics so far, and also might I say me and millions of others may be wrong about these Games being a total disaster? Oh, there have been problems in Rio so far, but not nearly the disaster it appears to be (NBC’s TV coverage, however? Yeah, that’s a disaster).

I promise to write about the fantastic Katie Ledecky sometime soon, but tonight I’m all about Michael Phelps. This guy… I mean, is he more dominant, for a longer period of time, than any athlete, ever? You can say Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky were each on top as long as the 12 years Phelps has, and I would say you’re right.

But Phelps is right there on the same level as MJ and Gretzky, and great as they were, they had teammates. Tuesday night, competing in an event he said he’d never do again (the 200 butterfly), he turned back challenger Chad Le Clos from South Africa and squeaked out yet another gold medal win.

That’s 21 gold medals for Phelps now, more than all but 40 countries have ever won. Phelps has 21 golds, the next closest athletes have NINE. NINE!

The superlatives are useless in describing him, they really are. Guy is a once-every-hundred-years kind of competitor, and we’re lucky we’re alive to see him.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 22: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees reacts after lining out to left in the second inning against the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium on July 22, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

**Finally today, a few words about Alex Rodriguez, who’s announcing his retirement from baseball on Friday.

Good. Riddance. One of the most despised players in baseball in the last 40 years, his career is a testament to cheating, phony statements and sentiments, and an overall persona eclipsed in jerkitude (not a word but I’m making it one) by only Barry Bonds.

I’ve been a Yankees fan for 35 years, and he’s far and away my most despised Yankee (Clemens is No. 2). He is one of the greatest players to ever play, with natural talent so many would kill for, and he chose to knowingly cheat, then lie and obfuscate about it for years.

I cannot wait until he’s out of that Yankee uniform for good. Few have disgraced it as much as he has.

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A 3rd-grader does an awesome fundraiser for his fellow students. An incredible goal from hockey’s “next big thing.” And Ellen gives the Oscars pizza guy a big tip.

This is why I have so much hope for the future. Because of kids like Cayden Taipalus, an 8-year-old in 3rd grade at Challenger Elementary School in Michigan.

One day on the lunch line recently, Cayden saw another student have to put their lunch tray with hot food down, and take a cold sandwich instead. The reason, Cayden learned, is because the student didn’t have any money in their lunch account with the school.

“That made me sad,” Cayden said. “So I asked my Mom what we could do.”

What Cayden did is extraordinary, and beautiful. He started collecting cans and bottles for the refunds, and set up an online fundraising site to help get money for students whose lunch accounts were empty.

Cayden has raised more than $23,000 so far, which is incredible, and can pay for 295 lunches. And Cayden wants to raise more, too.

What a wonderful kid. If you want to donate to Cayden’s lunch fund, click here.

**Next up, you probably saw on the Oscar telecast Sunday that host Ellen DeGeneres did a funny bit where she ordered pizzas for the stars to eat during the show, and had a delivery man come out and pass out slices.

Well, Ellen collected tips from the actors that night, and this week she had the guy, named Edgar, on her show. Really sweet little segment; the guy seems totally overwhelmed and happy.

**Finally today, hard-core hockey fans like myself have been hearing for a few years now that a 17-year-old kid from Canada named Connor McDavid is the next Wayne Gretzky, or the next Sidney Crosby. Kid is pretty phenomenal from the highlights I’ve seen, and he won’t even be in the NHL until 2015.

Watch this goal he scored Wednesday night; it’s a thing of beauty. Can’t wait until this kid’s in the NHL…

I start my new year at the Bronx Zoo. A classic “Swingers” scene revisited. And Michele Bachmann pals around with terrorists

Spent part of my birthday Wednesday (No. 36 if you’re scoring at home) at one of my favorite places as a kid: The Bronx Zoo.
If you’ve never been to New York, the Bronx Zoo may be just about one of the coolest places in the city. The place stretches for acres and acres and acres, and you can see just about anything from the entire animal kingdom there.
Giraffes, elephants, monkeys, gazelles, baboons; they’ve got it all.
Of course Wednesday when I went, there were about 45,000 other people there, since it was summer and Wednesdays you get in for free (they suggest you make a donation, which pretty much everyone does).
I love zoos. I find them endlessly fascinating, since it’s a small glimpse at animals you don’t ever get to see up close anywhere else.
Couple thoughts that hit me as I pondered now being twice as old as a high school graduate:
— In some parts of the zoo, like with the polar bear area, there was just one animal roaming by himself. Couldn’t they get him or her a playmate, so they wouldn’t get bored and maybe attack a tourist with a camera?
— I don’t think any animal takes my breath away like a giraffe. I just can’t get over anything in the world being that tall. They’re so beautiful and graceful. I think I want one as a pet.
Think my landlord would be OK with that?
— No. 1 most commonly heard phrase at a zoo: “I don’t see it. I don’t see it. I AM looking over there!”
— No. 2 most commonly heard phrase at a zoo: “Why can’t we feed him?”
— Saw two guys in line at the concession stand nearly come to blows over who was ahead of who. Fellas, you’re eating junk food at a ZOO, for God’s sakes. Is there really a race to be first?

**If you’ve seen the movie “Swingers,” (and really, if you haven’t, you really should, it was awesome) you probably remember the classic scene when they’re playing video-game hockey in Mike’s apartment and one of his friends makes video Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed. Now, one of Gretzky’s former teammates (in the game and in real life), Jeremy Roenick has enlisted some friends to re-enact this scene. Sadly, this exact scene has probably happened among 20-something guys in real life thousands of times.
Cracked me up. (here’s a link to the original scene).

**Finally, it’s always fun to see the chickens come home to roost (or is it hens? I always get that expression wrong. Then again, I was just at the zoo Wednesday…)
Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (God do those four words written together frighten me) was one of many GOP’ers who spent months in 2008 trying to play up the relationship between Bill Ayers (former terrorist) and Barack Obama.
And now comes word that Mrs. Bachmann has in her employ a man named Peter Waldron, who was arrested and charged with terrorism in Uganda five years ago.
Hmmmm….. I’m sure she’ll be very quick to call him out and fire him, don’t you?

Baseball sucks me back in, a great film about the Great Gretzky, and Wilford Brimley raps (seriously)

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Well, all right baseball, you’ve got me for another October.

My very first post on this blog was about how I’d pretty much broken up with baseball. College basketball, hockey, tennis and the NFL had all moved ahead of the sport I played in Little League (right field, thank you. You get a LOT of time to think out there in right field, let me tell you. A lot of time.).

But as I figured, all it took was one exceptional playoff tiebreaker game to suck me back into the vortex. Tuesday night’s Twins-Tigers game was thrilling; back and forth, and forth and back, extra-innings drama that had plenty of screw-ups and great plays, one after another.

I was rooting for the Tigers at first, because don’t the people of Detroit deserve some joy after the last couple of years? But then I thought that a team that had collapsed down the stretch as bad as any team since, well, the 2007 or 2008 Mets (sorry, Mets fan readers. I know the wound is still fresh), doesn’t deserve to be in the playoffs.

The Twins pulled it out in 12 innings, and I’m happy for my relatives who live in Minnesota (shout out to the Haas family!). The horrible, ugly, louder-than-loud Metrodome gets to live one more week.

Of course, now the Yankees of New York will proceed to kick the ever-loving hell out of the Twins, as always happens in the playoffs (2003, 2004). The Twins haven’t beaten the Bombers once this year, losing all seven games, including three in excruciating, walk-off fashion back in May.

Plus, and as a Yankee fan I take perverse delight in this, the Yankees get to face Carl Pavano, who may have been the worst Yankees free-agent signing ever (and believe me, that’s not an easy list to top.) I’m guessing old Carl (Everything Hurts) Pavano will pull a calf muscle 10 minutes before his playoff start.

By the way, hell of a few days in the Twin Cities. Monday night Favre and the Vikes beat Green Bay, then Tuesday the Twins win a dramatic game to make the playoffs, and just for good measure, the NHL’s Wild come back from 3 goals down in the third to win their home opener, 4-3.

**Quickie playoff predictions, free of charge: Yanks over Twins in 4, Rockies upset the Phillies in 5 (just a hunch), Angels over Red Sox in 5, and Cardinals over L.A. in 3 (too much pitching).

**So there are plenty of reasons to bash ESPN, and I’ve hardly abstained in the past. It’s a great channel and I can’t imagine life without it, but there are plenty of things it screws up (the fact that they steal stories from other media outlets and claim them as their own, for example).

Still, I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this excited about something the network is doing. To celebrate its 30 years on the air, ESPN commissioned 30 filmmakers, from Spike Jonze to Barry Levinson to Steve (Hoop Dreams) James, to make a one-hour documentary on some famous, or not-so famous, sports story in the last 30 years.

It’s called “30 for 30,” and the list of upcoming films is incredible. So many great things on here I want to see: the Reggie Miller vs. New York Knicks feud is in here, and the story of the rise and fall of the USFL. A documentary on the late great Len Bias, and a movie about June 17, 1994 (something about O.J. and a white Bronco springs to mind). The Allen Iverson bowling-alley brawl trial, which was such a huge deal at the time and now no one remembers it.

Truly, I went down the list and all the movies seem compelling. The first one premiered Tuesday night: “King’s Ransom,” about the maybe most important transaction in NHL history: Wayne Gretzky’s 1988 trade to the L.A. Kings. This was cataclysmic on so many levels; I remember as a kid being completely dazed, wondering how the hell the greatest player ever could just be traded. This was so huge in Canada; picture how Brooklyn Dodgers fans felt about Walter O’Malley in the late 1950s, then multiply it by 10, and you’ve got how Oilers fans felt about owner Peter Pocklington for trading the Great One.

The movie did not disappoint; I highly recommend catching it on the reruns. The series will run once a week until next March.

**And now, for our grand finale, Wilford Brimley rapping about his “diabeetus.” Thank you, Andrew Sullivan, for directing me to this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Vick has paid his debt. Let him play.

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My mother-in-law is pretty far from what you’d call a sports fan.

Wonderful woman that she is, she couldn’t tell you the difference between John Elway, Dan Marino or Wayne Gretzky if you put them in a police lineup.

She doesn’t watch sports, follow sports, or care about sports; one time while on a car trip I asked her over the phone to “check the score” of some game, and it was as if I’d asked her to explain quantum physics. She was completely flummoxed.

Anyway, I relate all this because about two or three times a year, she gets really angry about something that happens in the world of sports. I feel like if she’s fired up about it, plenty of other non-sports fans are, and Monday evening she was all kinds of fired up about the Michael Vick reinstatement to the NFL.

Before I go into why I think Roger Goodell did the right thing by conditionally allowing the felonious Vick back into the league in October, pending certain conditions, I want to stipulate the following, before I get tons of angry comments (actually, I’d be happy for ANY comments at this point, but that’s another story).

Michael Vick has been a disgusting excuse for a human being. His pathetic abuse of defenseless dogs, his blatant lying to everyone about his involvement, and the frightening and methodical way he ran a dogfighting ring puts him just below bat excrement on my list of favorite things.

He deserved to be punished severely, and he was. He absolutely, positively should live in shame for a long time in the public eye for what he did.

But I’m having a hard time agreeing with people, like my mother-in-law, who think he should never be allowed to play pro football again. They argue his deeds were so heinous that he should never be allowed the right to resume his profession.

I don’t get that. Let’s think about what has happened to Vick in the last two years: He lost his NFL career and his major contract with the Atlanta Falcons, costing himself more than a hundred million dollars.  He lost all of his endorsers. He was convicted of a felony. He spent nearly two years in prison, and for the rest of his life he will have to live with the memory of what he did (and, I’m sure, he’ll have to live with the animal-loving masses who no doubt will stalk him wherever he ends up.)

Now that he has paid his debt, is he not entitled to go back to work? If he was a banker or a lawyer or a gravedigger, would he not be allowed to try to pick up the pieces of his life and resume his career?

This is America, where getting a second chance is practically written into the Constitution. Was Vick’s crime more disgusting than most? Sure. Is it worse than athletes who beat their wives or get charged with DUI manslaughter like Donte Stallworth and Leonard Little, NFL players who aren’t suffering 1/10th the penalty that Vick has gotten?

One other thing that people who are railing against the NFL seem to be forgetting is that no team has to sign him. There are no guns to anyone’ s head.

It would take a coach and general manager who are awfully secure in their jobs, and in their team’s popularity with its fan base, to risk the backlash of a Vick signing. I fully expect huge PETA and/or ASPCA protests at any NFL stadium Vick would play in this year, or any year. Who could gamble on him? I’d say New England, because Bill Belichick is pretty bulletproof up there, or maybe Pittsburgh, coming off a Super Bowl win. And then there’s the Detroit Lions, who are so pathetic that perhaps their fans wouldn’t care about Vick’s transgressions if he helped them win.

Look, I think Vick should absolutely be scrutinized and banned permanently from the NFL if he even does anything remotely outside of the law.

But how long do we as a society need to punish a person? I’m not saying forgive Michael Vick, because he doesn’t deserve that yet.

But by allowing him to attempt to pick up  the pieces of his shattered life, the NFL is simply giving Michael Vick a second chance.

A chance that all of us in this country deserve.