After early-morning temperatures had fallen to 20 degrees on the back porch last week, my walk through the garden on this, the first day of December, is rather drab. So instead of our usual orchids and onions, today we’ll substitute a sprig of holly with red berries or a serving of cold ashes from the fire place to a string of recepients:
A HOLLY SPRIG in celebration of the incomparable Maxine Alper, who will be buried this morning in B’Nai Zion Cemetery after a glorious life. I used to marvel at the fact she made me feel special every time I saw her, but then I realized everybody else thought exactly the same thing. She and her sister, the late Zudie Leventhal, also raised money for more charities than you can imagine.
COLD ASHES for NBA coach Jason Kidd who deliberately spilled a drink on the playing floor to stop a game in the final seconds. He said he was just "trying to win" when he ordered a player to hit him and knock the drink onto the court. The NBA, which takes a dim view of cheaters, promptly fined the Brooklyn coach $50,000 for such boorish behavior in a dumb attempt to stop the clock.
A HOLLY SPRIG to Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, who was furious over the drink spill after his team won the disputed game, 99-94. "I knew he was going to get caught. You can't do that. That's crazy. He can't do that. It's cute for a lot of people, but you can't do that," D’Antoni said. “That's against the rules. I don't think that's very savvy or cool. I love Jason to death, he's going to be a great coach, but no, you don't do that."
COLD ASHES to Ohio governor John Kasich for a resolution recognizing "Scarlet Letter Saturday" and urging his state not to use the letter “M” before Saturday’s game between Ohio State and Michigan. This is a guy who needs to grow up and take his office in a responsible way. Competition and “The Game” are wonderful, but showing kids how to be a jerk is not a governor’s task.
A HOLLY SPRIG for the glorious life of Willie A. Haslerig, a Howard High graduate who was awarded the nation’s highest civilian award – the Congressional Gold Medal – this September after once enduring severe racism as one of the first black Marines at infamous Montford Point. Afterwards Willie became one of the most beloved and respected Southern gentlemen in the history of North Georgia and spent his life as a successful farmer, advocate for the poor, and defender of the needy before he died last Monday.
COLD ASHES to the injury epidemic in the NFL. Multiple sources reveal that there have been a record 38 confirmed ACL tears already this season and 265 players placed on the injured reserve list in the first 10 weeks of the season. That includes nine quarterbacks. Ouch!
A HOLLY SPRIG to Pope Francis, who just last month granted a sister’s wish that her horribly disfigured brother could attend a gathering at the Vatican City. Vinicio Riva was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 1 when he was 15 years old and his entire face is covered in oozing boils. When Vinicio and his sister arrived, they were escorted by the Swiss guards all the way to the front row and moments later the Pope rushed to Vinicio, embracing him in his arms for well over a minute. Accustomed to strangers’ hostile stares and “Don’t sit next to me!,” the 53-year-old was shocked when Pope Francis hugged him. "He didn't have any fear of my illness," he told CNN. "He embraced me without speaking ... I quivered. I felt a great warmth."
COLD ASHES to the Mormon church in Salt Lake City where, last Sunday, at least five members of the congregation asked a homeless man to leave and many others noticeably ignored him after he offered a greeting of “Happy Thanksgiving.” It turns out the homeless man, after using a highly-skilled make-up artist, was actually Mormon Bishop David Musselman and that his forthcoming sermon on compassion promises to be a dandy. (Members of his own family didn’t recognize him, either!)
A HOLLY SPRIG to Cracker Barrel for serving the best Thanksgiving Day feast to literally thousands who happily endured a wait of over an hour at some locations because the food and service is so good.
COLD ASHES to pro basketball’s Allen “The Answer” Iverson who played in 11 All-Star games, made over $200 million before last month, at age 38, he was forced to declare bankruptcy. There has got to be a way for pro sports to protect young and immature athletes from themselves.
A HOLLY SPRIG to Charlotte basketball player Gerald Henderson who threw a rocket of a pass during Friday’s game against the Bucks that sailed into the stands and flattened a woman attending her first game ever. Afterwards Henderson’s tweet read, “Nailed a lady tonight with a pass. If u follow me on twitter PLEASE tweet me. I know that hurt. I’m not that good of a passer. I AM SO SORRY.” The woman was taken to the hospital as a precaution but was pronounced OK and when she got home Henderson’s Air Jordans shoes were delivered bearing his autograph.
COLD ASHES if you think you are going to win Monday’s Mega-Millions lottery that is worth an estimated $275 million. Then again, your chances greatly increase if you buy a ticket.
A HOLLY SPRIG for the resiliency of embattled Nebraska coach Bo Pellini who, after Friday night’s bitter 38-17 loss to Iowa, was asked if he was going to get fired. "If they want to fire me, go ahead," Pelini said in a matter-of-fact tone, "I believe in what I've done. I don't apologize to you. I don't apologize to anybody, myself or this staff. My record, our record since I've been here, speaks for itself. And this program is heading in a good direction. You choose not to think so, that's your prerogative. All I know is myself, this staff, the people who have been associated with this program since I've been here can look themselves in the mirror and feel good about what they've done." (Nebraska now has an 8-4 record and will play in a bowl game but a buy-out would cost Nebraska $7.5 million.)