Senior Reporter Andrew Nodell called in to the show on Monday. He had news on Ariana Grande, Mariah Carey and Aaron Carter – who apparently won’t be voting in the upcoming election because of Internet trolls.

On a normal year I spend the first weekend of the NCAA Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas. I traditionally travel alone but upon landing west, am greeted by a group of guys that I grew up with in Niagara Falls, NY. Now what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but specifics withheld, the three days are usually filled with lots of sports, casino chips and the occasional alcoholic beverage (read: bottle).

However, 2016 would prove to not be a normal year. I’m 30 and most of the fellas in my group are at least a year or two older than me. They also all live back in Western New York. So while I’m still single and relatively care-free, my boys are now proposing, closing on houses, having kids or taking care of their young ones.

And this year, essentially all of those things happened at once, creating the perfect storm to cancel our annual Vegas excursion.

But, I’ve grown so accustomed hanging with the guys for March Madness, and we’re so used to seeing each other that we quickly decided something had to serve as a placeholder for Vegas until 2017. With a founding trip member and their wife was expecting a baby that weekend it was decided that we’d rent out a suite in North Buffalo, set-up three TVs, stock up the kitchen and bar and enjoy all of the Cinderella stories and buzzer beaters we could handle.

Perhaps keeping with the Vegas spirit, not many details of this trip will be publicized either; however I documented a modicum of it on Instagram. The fun began after an all-nighter Wednesday night, with a first-class Delta flight to the 716.

Of course I represented for my Syracuse Orange – who advanced to the Sweet 16 after thumping both Dayton and Middle Tennessee State.

And when in Rome… well, you know. On Thursday’s menu: La Nova pizza and char-grilled barbecue hot chicken wings.

Friday’s menu: Breakfast pizza from La Nova (highly recommend) along with spicy Bloody Marys that lasted until our early dinner: a huge fish fry with the fixings from WNY-staple Wegmans.

On Friday night, the trip’s itinerary took a turn: snow and rain were projected to hit New York on Sunday, the day I was supposed to fly back. I’ve become all-too-familiar with delays in-and-out of the tri-state area. In the interest of not spending all day Sunday at the airport or getting stranded in Niagara Falls, I proactively called Delta to have my flight bumped earlier. The airline was not as accommodating as they should have been but they did switch me to a Saturday flight.

That plane departed at 5:45 am. I found this out at about 1 am. So, I did what anyone else on vacation would do: I called my buddy Shawn who was working downtown at a nightclub, took a cab to meet him with my luggage in tow, hung out, grabbed food at Elmwood Taco and Subs (ETS!) and then Shawn drove me to Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Sure my weekend wasn’t spent in Vegas, but most importantly it was spent with my friends. And besides, with the eating, drinking and sleeping habits that ensued, I don’t think my body could tell the difference anyways.

Haley Reinhart has traveled an interesting path from “American Idol” finalist to independent solo artist. The Chicago-born songstress signed a deal with Interscope after her top 3 “Idol” finish and recorded her debut album “Listen Up!” That would be her only release under the label. Reinhart eventually joined fellow season 10 alum Casey Abrams in Postmodern Jukebox before stumbling upon the next chapter of her career, all thanks to a gum commercial.

“Wrigley and Extra Gum kind of sought me out and had me record the song kind of overnight and it worked out,” Reinhart explained of her new single, a cover of the Elvis Presley classic “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” “It worked out, they put out the commercial, it blew up and now it’s being played on the radio.”
For the most part, Reinhart seems to be enjoying the ride.

“I’d rather things take their own course and their own time to completely fall in to the right place,” she said. “I don’t like anything to be forced. So thankfully in this instance and in a lot of other cases, it’s overnight and you don’t expect it, and those are the greatest gifts.”

Reinhart’s gift to her fans will be the sophomore album “Better,” due out in April.

“I actually had to hold back putting out the album because of all the buzz that’s happened around this single,” she revealed. “It’s been a labor of love for about three years or so now.”

But Reinhart isn’t complaining. After all, there are some things you can’t predict and others you simply shouldn’t force.

Adam LaRoche abruptly retired from baseball this week, allegedly because the Chicago White Sox told him he could no longer bring his teenage son to the ballpark every day. LaRoche, looking to bounce back from a disappointing season, will pass up his guaranteed salary of $13 million.

“Thank u Lord for the game of baseball and for giving me way more than I ever deserved! #FamilyFirst,” LaRoche tweeted, prior to the news of his ballclub’s request becoming public. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal broke the story; White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams spoke with LaRoche about his son last week and again on Sunday according to the Chicago Tribune.

“Even 50 percent (of the time) is probably too much, but there’s a wide range between 0-50 percent, so I was a little surprised by the stance he took, which is unfortunate,” Williams told the Tribune. “He talks about being there for his family, and he put it front and center. I respect and admire that.”
The response on Twitter has been actually quite tempered. How do you knock a man for putting his son ahead of $13 million? Why would any employer, especially a ball club looking to return to the postseason, allow employees to bring their kids to work every single day?

As evidenced on this blog and confirmed by those who listen to my radio show, I am far from Switzerland. But this is one of those rare times when no one is wrong. LaRoche perhaps felt he set a precedent last season by signing with the Sox and bringing 14 year-old Drake to the park every day. The White Sox might believe that the clubhouse isn’t a place for kids all of the time, and may have been trying to send a message to LaRoche. The Designated Hitter batted .207 with 12 homers and 44 RBIs, all below his career averages.

And yes, there might be added pressure on the South Side this year following the Cubs’ run to the National League Championship Series last season. Heading in to Opening Day next month, the North Siders are the odds-on favorite in Las Vegas to win the World Series.

That shouldn’t matter to a father whose primary focus is taking care of a child. And that should matter to a business which not only has to look out for its employees but essentially has a large group of shareholders (fans) to look out for.

Each side made the correct decision for their best interest. Hopefully for all parties involved, in true Switzerland policy, the conclusion is a peaceful one.

Looking for Englishman-turned Aussie-turned LA native Conrad Sewell when he visits New York? You have good reason to seek out Irish pubs on the Lower East Side.

“The guy (at the bar) knows me, so I just get lots of free booze and I always end up like completely… being really responsible by the time I leave there,” revealed Sewell of is favorite watering hole. Perhaps that’s why he called it Gilhooley’s? A quick Google search yielded many pubs in the UES, none of which bared that name.
Then again, maybe his intention was not to be sought out.

“There’s so many good places,” he continued to gush about Manhattan. “Katz’s Deli obviously, get a couple sandwiches from there.

“It’s the only city that I still go to (where) you get that buzz that you get when you’ve never been to a place before. I get that every time I go to New York.”

Sewell is working on a full-length album to follow up his new EP, “All I Know. The singer is also currently on tour with Andra Day but is not listed to support her New York show on March 25 at Webster Hall. He will join her in Cambridge, Mass., Washington D.C., Philadelphia and his native Los Angeles.

But of course, none of those cities have the same buzz… or Katz’s Deli’s pastrami sandwich.

Collaborations, cameos and covers are three ways in which Nelly has surprisingly yet seamlessly crossed genres from hip-hop to country. However his latest move, a cover of Thomas Rhett’s hit, “Die A Happy Man” may just be the biggest surprise to everyone, including Rhett, yet.

“It was crazy, man,” Rhett described of not just the new rendition, but of the whole experience with the single. “Just to have a song that was so personal to me and to my marriage, and to have it on the radio and be so successful, and then kind of organically cross over (to other radio formats) I think was the coolest way it could have ever happened.”

“Crazy” is one way to describe it but “unprecedented” might be a more accurate summation. “Die A Happy Man” spent an unheard-of six consecutive weeks atop the country radio airplay chart. The last track to accomplish that feat was Taylor Swift’s “Our Song,” which held the number one spot from December of 2007 through January of the following year.
A country male solo artist hadn’t spent five weeks on top of the airplay chart since Kenny Chesney in August of 2007. Not only did Rhett surpass that reign, but “Man” also ruled the airplay chart, Billboard’s Hot Country Songs and the Country Digital Songs tally simultaneously… for three straight weeks.

And then, Nelly decided to put his spin on it. I asked Rhett how the track clicked with the St. Louis emcee.

“I have no idea,” he replied. “We did talk on the phone the other day, and I’ve been a huge fan of Nelly for my entire life.

“He was just like, ‘Man, if you know me, you know that I love great songs and that I’m a songwriter and the first time I heard this song, I just felt your emotion and I wanted to put my voice on it and make a different track.’”

Rhett didn’t mention a possible remix but if the two artists do attempt to link up for a remix, it might have to be remotely. The Georgia-born singer just wrapped a country music festival in London with Miranda Lambert and following a few one-off dates in April will pick back up with Jason Aldean’s tour this May. The trek, which officially started in Illinois last January, wraps in Virginia on October 1.

It was a Sunday Funday for the books.

First stop: The World’s Most Famous Arena. I’ve been to countless Knicks games, Syracuse University basketball matchups, concerts and press opportunities at Madison Square Garden. But from my earliest visit (1998, WWE Summerslam) to this weekend, I had never attended a Rangers game.

On Friday night, I knew that was going to change as soon as I mentioned to my friend who is from Pittsburgh that the Penguins were playing the Blueshirts in Sunday matinee matchup. We purchased two tickets in 308 about 40 minutes before the puck dropped, and I raced down to MSG.

Section 308 is in an area that The Garden calls “The Lounges.” It’s like a suite, built for groups with inclusive food and non-alcoholic beverages, but it isn’t enclosed by walls. It’s on the same level as the equally-new Chase Bridge and offers a nice view of the rink. We were behind the net that the Pens shot on twice, so we had a nice vantage point as Sidney Crosby banged home an empty-netter to seal a 5-3 victory for the bad guys.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on

The assorted sandwiches and couple Bloody Marys did not slow me down; I headed back uptown, fit in a 4 mile run in Central Park and hopped back on StubHub. The Nets were home in Brooklyn against the Milwaukee Bucks. I really don’t care for either team but two former Syracuse stars, Tyler Ennis and Michael Carter-Williams, play on the Bucks. Not to mention, despite the countless events I have attended at Barclays Center including the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards and a New York Islanders game, I had never been to see the Nets!

That changed as well.

My buddy and I scored lower sideline tickets for this game but what really stood out besides our nice view and the padded seats were the extra amenities. As part of our ticket, we had access to the “Happy Half-Hour,” which commences an hour before tip-off and wraps up 30 minutes before game time.

The special? Free domestic beer and wine in the Honda Club. Deal!

Our tickets also included a special pre-game buffet on the suite level and an all-access pass to the food vendors: we could buy anything we wanted from any stand. The cashier simply scanned our ticket and it was free.

Brooklyn played a good game but Barclays Center played a better host. The Nets fell to the Bucks; to be honest, I was a bit too full to notice.

On April Fools Day, a band named Lukas Graham with a lead singer named Lukas Graham, nee Forchhammer, will release a self-titled album in the States.

This is not a prank, but as I found out during a recent chat with the band, the guys sure do love to joke around.

“But ‘The Revolvers’ just sounded too 60’s,” Graham shot back when I inquired why the band uses his name instead of something different. He then offered a more serious explanation.

“I write the lyrics. I write the songs. It’s my experience as a human being on this planet Earth that is being portrayed on the record,” Graham said. “So, it’s natural that it’s my name.

“And, my name is prettier.”
Mark Falgren, Magnus Larsson and Kasper Daugaard compromise the rest of the band. Perhaps even in jest he had a point.

“We all get caught up in the live show,” Graham revealed regarding the emotions of his music. The band’s U.S. tour kicks off later this month and runs through the end of May. Most dates are sold out. “We have a lot of songs about my father and my family but also songs about having fun and being drunk in the morning and going to strip clubs or taking the world by storm.

“We can influence each other with our music and our expressions on stage to be three-and-a-half minutes in one emotional setting, and then switch it up completely in the next three-and-a-half minutes.”

The band mates, from Denmark, have known each other since high school and have never strayed through trials and triumphs.

“In a song on the album called ‘Happy Home,’ I wrote, ‘All my good friends, now they’ll last; the same ones that stood by me when my daddy passed,’ Graham told me. “After my father passed, we went straight back on tour and I had three of my very best friends there with me to back me up and to give me all the inspiration to write, ‘7 Years,’ ‘Funeral,’ ‘Don’t You Worry About Me.’”

The track “7 Years” is currently gaining steam at radio, breaking in to the top 20 on the pop airplay chart this week for the first time. Graham said in an interview with Official Charts that the song is about the past, present and future of his life. But as Graham sings about himself as a 7, 11 and 20 year-old and looks ahead to 30 (he’s currently 27), he ends the ballad by musing about what life might be like at 60. And he won’t go any further.

Because his father died three years ago, at 61. And until Lukas lives past it, he won’t believe it.

I met Paul O’Neill in May of 2009 at the now-closed Crowne Plaza in Secaucus. He was one of a number of former Yankees participating in an autograph signing held by memorabilia company MAB Celebrity.

If you have never been, basically you show up and purchase a ticket which allows you to obtain an autograph on an item of your choosing (you can provide said item or buy one there) from an athlete.
Of course, being 30, I remember the ‘96 team and made some of my first trips to both Manhattan and Yankee Stadium during the championship run from 1998 to 2000. Growing up in Niagara Falls, I would also frequently drive up to Toronto so I could watch the Yankees play the Blue Jays in the then-SkyDome.

Anyone who followed those teams loved Paul O’Neill. He was as George Steinbrenner so notoriously dubbed him, “The Warrior.” He always left it all on the field and certainly racked up his fair share of clutch hits and memorable moments in route to helping the Bombers secure four World Series championships.

On the field, he was as intense as they come (just ask the water coolers in the dugouts that felt his wrath following a strike out or missed opportunity). But off the field, O’Neill is now known as a pretty fun-loving guy, mostly due to the personality he showcases as a color commentator in-game on the YES Network.

So when I met him, I asked him why Michael Kay and the other guys in the booth rib on him so much for always talking about collecting free swag, like clothes and equipment. He got a kick out of that and we had a good laugh before he signed my 8×10.
If I ran in to O’Neill tomorrow, I’d ask him something similar: perhaps jokingly inquiring how he puts up with Kay and David Cone for a full season of broadcasts. Maybe I would want to discuss what the team’s chances of a playoff run are this year. I might even see if he has any favorite spots in my neighborhood, the Upper West Side.

You know what I wouldn’t ask him? His views on politics. Want to know why? I don’t care, and quite frankly it’s none of my business.

As a fan that buys tickets and merchandise and invests time in to following the team, the only thing O’Neill “owed” me and anyone else in Yankees Universe was effort and integrity. I wasn’t supporting him because I thought he was going to lower taxes and feed the homeless, I cheered for him because I wanted the Yankees to win. That’s something we received from “The Warrior” ten-fold. He helped bring us four rings and never compromised the Yankee tradition us fans adore.

But the overriding issue here is the lack of perspective we have in regards to the opinions we value. The guy we’re talking about is a retired baseball player. He is not an elected official, nor does he work in the public sector. He’s an American citizen who talks about sports on TV. I love Paul O’Neill, but like the Starbucks red cups had zero effect on my celebration of Christmas, number 21’s pick for President will have no impact on my own political views.

If O’Neill ever cheated or abused drugs or committed an act of domestic violence, then I’d certainly revisit his canonization in the Bronx. I’d lead the way on the “Appall O’Neill” headlines. But until then, I’m not holding O’Neill’s political preferences against him the same way I’m not judging Mayor de Blasio based on his baseball allegiances or for that matter, judging “The Boss” over who he liked to hang around with in his day.

Because you know Trump and Steinbrenner were good friends, right?

Erin Andrews is a victim who found justice in our legal system. But judging by the way people reacted online following a $55 million verdict in a lawsuit she filed against the owner of the Marriott at Vanderbilt University and the man who stalked her across two different cities, you’d think the sportscaster had just gotten away with murder.

Back in 2008, Andrews was secretly videotaped through a compromised hotel door peephole by a pervert who was eventually convicted of interstate stalking. The perpetrator, Michael David Barrett, served 30 months in prison. But his ability to easily find out Andrews’ room number and then book his stay next door is the reason the TV host named both the hotel and Barrett in her lawsuit.

A jury in Nashville, where one of the incidents took place, sided with Andrews. When the defense is as incompetent as the hotel’s legal team was, it is not difficult to understand why she won. Attorneys for the Marriott’s owners, West End Hotel Partners and Windsor Capital Group, actually had the gall to argue in court that the leaked video of Andrews’ naked body helped her career.

The idea that Andrews, who since the tape’s release moved from ESPN to Fox Sports and also picked up “Dancing With The Stars” co-hosting duties, was helped by this criminal act is irrelevant. The idea that a person could prey on someone in a hotel and the company’s counsel would actually try and defend the act is reprehensible. Thankfully jurors in Nashville sent a clear message to the hospitality industry: the privacy and safety of guests is and should always be a priority.

That message, along with hopefully Andrews’ ability to heal from the pain and trauma of this incident, is the true value of this verdict. However some don’t see it that way, in part because they probably can’t see past Andrews: she’s attractive, successful and scandal-free despite the heinous crime committed against her. It doesn’t matter if her rights are violated and her privacy shredded to pieces because she’s famous and the best at her job, right?

I guess that’s why it made sense for one columnist in the New York Daily News to call the verdict, “a mockery of real pain and genuine suffering.” The author, Gersh Kuntzman, cited the police brutality cases in the deaths of Eric Garner and Freddie Gray. Their families received $5.9 and $6.4 million respectively.

Kuntzman doesn’t believe it is fair for Andrews to receive that kind of money from a jury when the verdicts for more serious cases are far less. Had Andrews won a $55 million settlement because she was mistreated by police, maybe he would have a point. Perhaps someone gave him some bad information, but hopefully by now he has been informed that these cases have nothing to do with each other.

(Ed note: TMZ reported Andrews will probably take home about $6 million after the appeal is settled and the legal beagles receive their cut; not that her take-home in any way is relevant to either the verdict or cases of police brutality.)

Kuntzman, Fox News legal analyst Arthur Aidala and countless Twitter experts who can’t even throw a name behind their opinion clearly have never experienced such a violation of privacy. The women in their lives must be immune to it as well, because I’d like to think that had this happened to someone they cared about, it wouldn’t be so quickly dismissed as “a mockery.”

Especially considering the verdict came down on the eve of “International Women’s Day.”