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The 96th Miss America pageant took place Sunday night in Atlantic City at Boardwalk Hall. I was on the red carpet before the show and spoke with a few of the judges (Cole Swindell, Gabby Douglas, Mark Cuban, Laura Marano) and one of the co-hosts, Sage Steele, about the big event.
missamerica_ralphie

The conversation has been ongoing. Third Eye Blind’s Steven Jenkins talked about it in his 1998 hit, “Jumper.” The inspiration for the song was a friend of Jenkins’ who committed suicide by jumping off of a bridge. He was gay and a victim of bullying.

“The song is kind of a noir, because it’s really talking to somebody who is already dead,” the lead singer explained. “So this is kind of what you would say (to him).

“When I wrote it, there was this kind of darkness to it. But now when I sing it, it feels exalted, and you see the audience… they sing most of it, I kind of let them sing it… and you can see this release. So I find a lot of joy in that song now. Maybe that’s bouncing back and reflecting the times.”

Perhaps it is – fast forward to 2015 and indie-rock outfit Walk The Moon is releasing, “Different Colors,” a song about acceptance and unity, to radio.

“It feels really relevant to be playing it right now, and really cool,” guitarist Eli Maiman.

“It’s incredible,” lead singer Nick Petricca added. “We’re just all on the same team out here and it’s cool to feel a part of a movement.”

Maiman noted that the song started as a “rallying cry,” but feels more like a “victory march” when it’s played these days. Again, it’s a reflection of the times – the fact that the movement is deemed “cool” is a step in itself. When you add in the Supreme Court ruling and the light that Caitlyn Jenner is shining on the LGBT community, specifically for Trans people, it is easy to see why the momentum behind equality is stronger than ever.

But as Jenner reminded us Wednesday night at The ESPY Awards, there is plenty of work to still be done. She mentioned Sam Taub, a 15 year-old Transgender boy from Bloomfield, Mich. who committed suicide in April.

“Sam’s story haunts me in particular because his death came just a few days before ABC aired my interview with Diane Sawyer,” Jenner said to the audience. The former Olympian was honored by ESPN with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. “Every time something like this happens, people wonder, ‘Could it have been different, if spotlighting this issue with more attention could have changed the way things happen?’ We’ll never know.”

Jenner admitted that she contemplated taking her own life as well. Now she’s hoping that her actions can help others, if by nothing else, keeping the conversation alive.

Photo: instagram.com/espn

Photo: instagram.com/espn

I joined HLN’s ‘Showbiz Tonight’ and former WPLJ night host A.J. Hammer to chat about my interview with Miss Alabama USA 2012, Katherine Webb. The former crown holder gained fame overnight after appearing on ESPN’s BCS Title Game broadcast. She’s the girlfriend of Alabama QB AJ McCarron.

Usually if a person strikes celebrity oil and becomes famous, they immediately move out to Los Angeles or New York.

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The story of how Katherine Webb gained fame and over 200,000 Twitter followers in 24 hours isn’t exactly your usual story.

Webb became an Internet sensation when ESPN’s Brent Musburger mused over her as cameras caught her cheering on boyfriend and Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron during the BCS Title Game on Monday night. The former Miss Indiana USA since commented that she was flattered; Musburger through a network statement apologized for his remarks.

It doesn’t seem other people minded either. Webb’s follower count on Twitter quickly grew to six digits within 12 hours, far surpassing her boyfriend. It seems great for someone who competed for the title of Miss USA just this last June in Las Vegas.

“I’m currently living in Los Angeles and I’m pursuing (modeling),” Webb noted in a phone interview on “The Ralphie Show,” before dropping an interesting piece of news. “Now that me and AJ are dating, I’m pretty sure I’ll probably be moving back home and focusing on our relationship.”

That’s right: the woman that America swooned over Monday night is putting her boyfriend, of only one month mind you, before her seemingly-now-booming modeling career. But Webb is just getting started; she also revealed what she plans to use her new-found platform for.

“My heart and my passion is for being a coach and a leader for the younger generation and for the kids,” she explained – immediately striking a similar tone to the many pageant contestants you’ve heard on TV. Only this time, there was no crown at stake. “I love nothing more than being a good example to kids and just doing good for others.”

Webb also stated that she’ll be even more careful with what she posts for her followers to see. But, she won’t have to worry about LeBron James coming across her tweets in his timeline though. To the curiosity of many, the NBA star followed and then unfollowed the QB’s girlfriend.

“I have no idea, and I have no idea how to answer that question,” Webb said before laughing. “My roommate in California, Miss California USA; I guess Kobe Bryant ended up seeing that LeBron followed me so (Kobe) decided to follow her. I don’t know! I don’t know what’s going on with that.”

The model ended up pulling an all-nighter on Monday, celebrating ‘Bama’s win in the team’s hotel lobby with McCarron’s family and friends before embarking on a rather ambitious round of media interviews. She also received love on Twitter from a few non-sports celebrities, including Donald Trump. The real estate mogul announced that Webb will be a judge for next year’s Miss USA pageant, while perhaps inadvertently confirming that the competition will once again be held in Las Vegas.

Considering this story won’t really resonate with most of my loyal readers, I’ll attempt to keep it brief. However, the following exchange affected me so profoundly that I’d be remiss not to share.

Reggie Jackson is known in baseball as “Mr. October” for his clutch play in the most important month of the baseball season. He once hit three home runs in a World Series game… on three consecutive pitches. ESPN even made a mini-series about that team, the 1977 New York Yankees, entitled, “The Bronx Is Burning.”

Last Saturday, I traveled to the swamps of Secaucus, NJ for “Yanks For The Memories.” The event featured mostly former and a few current Yankees baseball players, and for nominal fees, you could meet the stars and obtain autographs and inscriptions on pre-purchased items. I went essentially to meet Jackson, who I look up to as a professional, although I also paid to meet Bucky Dent, Mel Stottlemyre, and David Wells.

I arrived at the event with about an hour left in the Jackson autograph session. My friends, including Cousin Tony, already met the Hall of Famer – and warned me about his terrible demeanor, especially compared with the other Yankees players. Nonetheless, I was unfazed, as I’m used to dealing with these types of people on a daily basis.

Fast forward to meeting Jackson. I wanted him to sign “The Straw That Stirs The Drink” underneath his famous cursive autograph. The quote was allegedly misattributed to him by a reporter in the late 70’s – although two sources lay the statement to Jackson at one point or another. The phrase, no pun intended, stirred up a controversy amongst the team, which though of it as overzealous.

Jackson refused to sign “The Straw That Stirs The Drink” or “The Bronx Is Burning” on the photo.

“I don’t want to be associated with that stuff,” the Hall of Famer told me. “A lot of people come up to me and say that they loved The Bronx Is Burning. But I was embaressed by it.”
He eventually relented to offering me two inscriptions for the price of one. So the photo reads: “To Ralph – Reggie Jackson, #44 – Mr. October.”

I offered up the original requests for two reasons: “The Straw That Stirs The Drink” is a quote I live my career by. Who doesn’t want to be “the man”… “the go-to-guy”… “Mr. Clutch”? 

Second, I wanted my autograph to be different, unique – something that carried more than just a monetary value.

But at the end of the day, Jackson satisfied my second reason. Now whenever I look back on the photo and experience, I’ll think about the man that I thought epitomized “swagger” – and how it was all manifested by the media. 

i am a chris berman fan. his brother, len, is a fellow syracuse university/waer alum.

still, this is hilarious.

i am a chris berman fan. his brother, len, is a fellow syracuse university/waer alum.

still, this is hilarious.