Wednesday, November 23, 2016

GOOD-BYE, RALPH BRANCA


Ralph Branca will be always be remembered as the guy who gave up one of the most iconic
home runs in baseball history. Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants crushed a fastball
off the Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher for a walk-off win in the 1951 playoffs, making it "The
Shot Heard 'Round The World."

I will always remember Branca for so much more

Branca died Wednesday morning at the age of 90. He was a great friend and golfing
buddy of my father, who passed away eight years ago. They had a special friendship which I
benefitted from greatly.

I was addicted to baseball as a little kid, often playing from sun up to sundown with my
neighborhood friends. Branca would come over to our house and we'd have a catch in the
backyard. He saw my passion for the game and helped take it to an entirely different level.


In 1974, when I was just 10-years-old, Branca, who married into the O'Malley family, which
owned the Dodgers at the time, took me down to Shea Stadium to meet the team. Growing
up in Westchester county, New York, I was a die-hard Mets fan, but that all changed when
Branca took me under his wing on a hot summer night in July.

He ushered me into the clubhouse of the Dodgers, one that was filled with the likes of Steve
Garvey, Ron Cey, Don Sutton, and Reggie Smith. Most kids are in awe when they go
to Disneyworld to see Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. I was in fantasyland that day,
meeting major league players in a real clubhouse. Not a locker room, but a clubhouse which
was filled with buckets of bubblegum, sunflower seeds, and the greatest players in the world.

After introductions to all the players, Branca led me through out through the tunnel and
onto the field at Shea Stadium. Forget about being as happy as a kid in a candy store, I
was walking on cloud nine with the biggest smile the world has even seen.

I was on a big league field meeting all these players I had seen on television. There was
Tom Seaver and Rusty Staub of the Mets. Hey, there goes Tommy John and Davey Lopes.
Oh, my god, are you kidding me?!

Branca then took me back to the dugout to meet this coach who had an audience all his
own. He was loud when he talked, even louder when he laughed. The man had a bit of
a gut that was hanging over his leather belt as he sat on the green padded bench.
At the time, I thought everybody in baseball was in shape, but I guess coaches were a
different story.

It was Tommy Lasorda, who was the third base coach at the time. Branca introduced me
to Lasorda and he was very friendly, taking care of me like I was Branca's own little kid.

He said to me, "Paul, if you think I'm going to be the next manager of the Los Angeles
Dodgers, I will give you this hat." That hat had number 52 written under the brim. It looked
brand-spanking new as if it just came out of the box. It was Dodger blue with "LA" stitched in
white across the front of it.

Lasorda said the hat would be mine. All I had to do was say  I believed he'd be the
next manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and he'd hand it over. I did. And he did.

This was the greatest day of my young life.

From that point on, I became a Dodgers fan, following them religiously while pretending
I was Steve Garvey, who became my favorite player. The hat Lasorda gifted me allowed
me to be the coolest kid in the school for a day. Of course, I wore it around even though
it didn't come close to fitting.

Wearing the Dodgers hat Tommy Lasorda gave me.

However, good 'ole Ralph Branca wasn't done being good to me. A few years later, while
our family was vacationing in Florida, the Dodgers legend suggested to my father he go
to the team's spring training site in Vero Beach.

My father got me in the car and we traveled a few hours to see the Dodgers play a spring
training game. Vero Beach was baseball paradise. A field of dreams lined with palm trees.
It might as well have been heaven to me.

We approached the clubhouse of the Dodgers and met a Japanese man named Nobe Kiwano,
who turned out to be the team's clubhouse man. My father said to him, "We are here as
guests of Ralph Branca." I looked around and didn't see any sign of Branca and wondered
what was going on.

Kiwano then said, "Come this way." He led me into the Dodgers spring training clubhouse.
My father stayed behind. I was like, "This is unbelievable."

That's pretty much the same thing I said when I entered the clubhouse and saw Steve
Yeager and Pedro Guerrero sitting side-by-side at their lockers smoking cigarettes.
I couldn't believe it. I didn't think any professional athlete smoked cigarettes and here
were two players I admired taking drags off butts like they were in a big hurry.

I was in a bit of a shock for a second, but was quickly re-set by the sight of Garvey
strolling through the clubhouse. He was the MVP in 1974 and my favorite player. Kiwano
saw my eyes, which had to be as big as half dollars, and he took me by the arm and
introduced me to Garvey.

The Dodgers first baseman asked me where I was from, how old I was, and what position
I played. I by-passed answering the first two questions and immediately told him I
was a first baseman just like him.

Man, that was awesome.

I went out on the spring training field, making like I was a seasoned veteran, even
though I was just 12-years-old. I was still wearing the hat that Lasorda and I was hoping
to say hello to him. However, he did indeed become the manager of the Dodgers and
every reporter was gathered around him asking him a bunch of questions.

I was lucky. Real lucky, thanks to Ralph Branca.

I saw Branca many times after that and played golf with him several times over the
years. He always took the time to ask  about my baseball career and offered advice to
improve my game.

When I heard the news that Branca died today, I lost a bit of my breath. He was
a wonderful man who was a great friend to my father and a person who brought me
so much joy and happiness by taking me to meet the Los Angeles Dodgers. News
of his death brought a tinge of sadness to my day, knowing it came just before
Thanksgiving.

I am so very thankful to have met Ralph Branca. I was lucky enough to have played
catch with a baseball star and soak in the advice he gave me along the way.

Rest in peace Uncle Ralph, you will be missed.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

GRAHAM HARDEN FACES HIS TOUGHEST OPPONENT



During his lacrosse career, Graham Harden was assigned to defend against the opponent’s most skilled attackman, those trying to penetrate the zone and fire the ball on net. Harden, a New Canaan, Connecticut native, was incredibly gifted with physical tools, smarts, savvy, and unquestioned toughness.
Harden weaved all that talent into an incredible legacy which he cemented at the University of North Carolina. He was named the National Defenseman of the Year in 1991, earning All-American honors in the process. Harden also captured ACC Player of the Year honors that same season and led the Tar Heels to a national championship.


In 2012, Harden was voted to the ACC’s list of the Top 50 players of all-time, capping a lacrosse career very few have ever matched.


Today, Harden, who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, is defending against another powerful opponent.
Graham Harden has ALS.
Harden received the devastating diagnosis in August after experiencing weakness in one of his legs.  A team of physicians concluded Harden had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
ALS is a progression neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  Those afflicted with the disease eventually lose all motor skills throughout their entire body.
There is no cure or effective treatment for ALS. The average time a person has left to live after being diagnosed with the disease is just three-to-five years.


Life is not fair and it can be downright cruel. One only has to remember what happened on December 14, 2012 to realize that. 20 innocent children at the Sandy Hook Elementary school were slaughtered by a deranged gunman who had no regard for human life. It made me question hard the “everything happens for a reason” statement many of us like to lean when bad things happen.
I thought about life being so unfair and so cruel when I learned of Harden’s ALS diagnosis. Graham is one of the most wonderful human beings you could possibly meet. Forget about his legendary lacrosse career, Harden is about as solid of a person as a 150-year-old Oak tree in Waveny Park.


He’s been a pillar of his community in Cincinnati, volunteering as a firefighter and EMS member. He also lends his time and expertise as a volunteer coach at a local high school. Everybody loves Graham Harden and anyone who grew up in New Canaan and knew his family, loved and respected them, as well.

Lucy Gail, the mother of four wonderful children who all grew up to be amazing people, could be one of the nicest human beings ever to walk this earth. That's not hyperbole. Anyone who has met Lucy Gail will tell you the same thing.
Just as Graham did to his opponents during his brilliant career, he is taking the insidious disease that is ALS, head on. He and his brothers, Boyd and Holmes, both of whom were also All-Americans in lacrosse at UNC, and sister, Shea,  have formed Team Harden, coming together to battle ALS.


They have started “Game On! Graham Harden and G-Force against ALS.” The foundation raises money for research and medical care for those afflicted with ALS.
The Cincinnati community where the Harden family resides is also giving back.



Knowing there are three children and a wife to be taken care of, friends have initiated fundraisers to help with the financial burdens that will mount in the coming years.
As of November 1st, just over $78,000 has been raised through the G-Force campaign. The goal is $300,000.
It is my hope the New Canaan community comes together to take help take care of one of its own. Graham Harden is a special person who made New Canaan proud. His entire family is part of the fabric of the small Connecticut town.
The road ahead is a tough one for Graham. He needs our help.


If you’d like contribute and help make a difference in the lives of Graham, the entire Harden family and others afflicted with ALS, you can donate via www.youcaring.com/graham-harden-ii-family-trust-660908/donate#wp

Monday, October 3, 2016

WINNING ONE FOR JULES


When I walked into the office of Carl Alexander at the Golf Club of Purchase
several years ago, two things stood out to me. One, the rich black and white photographs
of famous golfers that lined the walls. They are breathtaking, classic, and nearly
perfect---taken by one of the world's best photographers.

The other thing that captured my attention was the number of oversized paychecks
tucked away in the corner of it.Those paychecks represented the prize money that
Alexander, the head professional at the prestigious club which is located about a
Bubba Watson drive outside of New York City, has won over his playing career.

Last Thursday, Alexander added another oversized paycheck to his office and honored
the man responsible for all those spectacular photographs hanging on the walls.
Carl's father, Jules Alexander, passed away in August after 90 great years on this earth
and a legacy that will live on forever through the countless lives he touched through
his wonderful photographs.


Playing in his first tournament since his father's passing, Alexander won the Met
Senior PGA event by two strokes, winning the top prize at the Metropolis Country
Club in White Plains.

"I hadn't played a lot of golf since my father's death," said Alexander, "But I felt really
comfortable out there."

Before the tournament, Alexander paid a visit to his mother's home at the Westchester
Country Club and took a momento of his father for the two-day tournament.

"He had a box with a lot of valuable coins. I saw a 1969 silver half-dollar that I took
to the tournament and used as a ball marker," said Alexander. "69 is a good number
in golf."

In the first round of the tournament, Alexander carded a 69.

"I knew dad was looking down on me, especially after I hit one towards the woods.
It hit a tree and popped back into the fairway," Alexander recalled. "I said, 'Yep,
dad is definitely with me now."


Alexander led by one-stroke after day one of the tournament then came up clutch
late in the second round to win it.

On the par-5 16th hole, Alexander squared up a 4-iron from 197 yards away, knocking
his second shot to within six feet of the hole. He drilled the putt for a spectacular
eagle. Alexander then birdied 17 en route to a 67 and a two-shot victory over Craig
Thomas, who had the advantage of playing on his home course.

"This won was definitely for Jules, " Alexander said. "He taught me how to play
the game and a lot was going through my mind on the course. It's a four and a half-hour
round so I had plenty of time to think of him. The win meant a lot to me."

It was a picture-perfect win for Alexander and one that had to put a big smile on the
face of Jules from up above.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

SIDE-BY-SIDE FOR A SPECIAL HONOR


Shortly after informing me I was going to be honored by the New Canaan Old-Timers
association, historian Terry Dinan started waxing poetic on what a great event it
was going to be.

"We are going to have a big crowd, continental breakfast, a luncheon...." he said.
It all sounded great, but I was hoping to hear something else. "And Paul, it's going to
be an awesome time." No that wasn't it.

"That's great, Terry," I said. As I finished that sentence, I realized it wasn't going
to be all that great because I didn't hear what I was hoping for. As I was about to
say good-bye, Terry interjected with excitement in his voice. "And Paul, you're sister,
Kara, is going in with the you."


Strike up the band and pop the champagne! Those 11 words were the sweetest
ones I've heard in a long time. They brought a mile-wide grin to my face as a shot
of adrenaline rushed through my entire body. My sister, Kara, a 3-time All-American
swimmer at New Canaan High School would be joining me on Sunday, September
18 for a celebration I can promise you I will never forget.

To be able to share a day, the stage, and a wonderful honor with my sister is so
special, not to mention really cool. I knew we were going to be on this list of New
Canaan athletes, but to be on it as "Kara and Paul Devlin", is one of the highlights
of my life.



Let's face it. I'm on the back nine of life. Honors and awards at the age of 52 are
few and far between. Unless, I beat Mick Jagger's record for having a kid past the
age of 73, there probably won't be any more honors coming my way.

And that's ok, because this is just awesome.

I realize it's not like we are going into  Cooperstown together, but it's a great honor
and something both of us are extremely happy about it. Devlin & Devlin. That's
pretty damn cool

Kara is one of my heroes. In the pool, she was as fierce a competitor as I've ever
come across in sports. I used to joke with my friends that Kara was so tough, she
eats nails for breakfast. She was driven and had the heart the size of Texas. As a
16-year-old  sophomore, Kara posted a time in the 200-meter butterfly that earned
her a world  ranking of 16th. No, not in town, county, state, or even the country, but
the entire friggin' world. I was so proud of that.


I'm not sure Kara was, though. She was so humble and never talked about her
many impressive accomplishments. Being boastful wasn't part of her DNA.
Chuck Warner, her longtime swim coach, was quoted in a local paper saying,
"Kara is like a country club swimmer. She dives in the water. Beats the hell out of
everybody. And then just goes home."

In this country, swimmers really only get appreciated once every four years with
the Olympics. I appreciated, admired, and respected my sister every single day after
seeing how dedicated and committed she was. She'd rise at 4:45 every morning,
eat breakfast, and then get driven by our mother 30 minutes away to swim practice.

She'd pound out a 5,000 meter workout in the morning, eat a snack on the way to
school, then do it again after the final bell sounded. I'd pick her up after  evening
practice and seemed never seemed to be exhausted and never complained about
being tired. That was my kid sister.

After earning two consecutive Connecticut swimmer of the year honors, Kara was
recruited by nearly every major swimming program in the country. I was at the
University of North Carolina playing baseball when she came down on a recruiting
trip with the Tar Heels. Selfishly, I wanted my kid sister to join me in Chapel Hill.

That would've been an awesome experience. However, my parents and I wanted
it to be her decision. It was her life, her career. We wanted her to do what she
wanted to do and not be influenced by us.


Kara chose to go to the University of Florida, which at the time, was the top-ranked
program in the country. She wanted to be pushed hard by the coaches to see how just
how great she could be. Part of me was upset that we couldn't support and be there
for each other in Chapel Hill, but that's just life, I guess. I was happy she made
the choice on her own and was following her dream.

Kara earned All-America honors at Florida during her freshman year before
transferring to USC where she duplicated the feat. That was a great accomplishment.

I'm even more proud of my sister for the person she became after her swimming
career ended. Kara is a wonderful mother to four great children and a wonderful wife
to her husband, Chad. She is so loving, giving, and unselfish. Blessed with our late
father's sense of humor and our mother's heart of gold, Kara has always been a
magnet, drawing people to her in a very special way.


Even though we live about as far about as you possibly can in the United States (Kara
in Santa Barbara, CA., brother Paul in Norwalk, CT.) she has been a rock for me and
one my biggest supporters. She was always there for me during some times in life
and, of course. when I attempted to become an Ironman. Kara was always sending
me articles and videos for  motivation, while getting me on a diet and training plan
so I'd be at my the best for the grueling 140.6 mile race.

A day didn't go by where I didn't have an email from her on my computer. There
would always be some words of encouragement, a motivational speech, or a "get-
your-ass-pumped-for the race" music video.


That is Kara. So thoughtful, so inspirational, and really so wonderful.  I have been lucky
to experience a lot of great things in my athletic career. I had the chance to represent my
country on a baseball tour of Taiwan. I got to fulfill my dream of signing a professional
contract. And, oh yeah, there was that "Bull Durham" thing.

However, my greatest honor comes Sunday when my great sister, Kara , and I will
be honored together in New Canaan.  That is going to be special---really, really special.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

DEAR NFL PLAYERS: DON'T SIT ON 9/11



The NFL is a lot like the Kardashians. They just loooove attention. They are quite addicted
to it, actually. It doesn't matter if the subject they are dealing with is good or bad, just as long
as it makes them the center of attention, it's all fantastic.

Both franchises have used social media, talk shows, and 24-hour networks to push their
product and make obscene amounts of money. The NFL is a multi-billion industry that
is bullet proof to scandal and, in many ways, thrives off it.

I mean, the NFL is the brand that let a little air being let out of Tom Brady's balls
mushroom into a nearly two-year reality show. It was something they could've ended after
one episode, but instead, let it develop into a seemingly longer sit-com than "Seinfeld".

Hey, if it was good for ratings, the almighty dollar, and season-ticket renewals, then by
golly, let the "controversy" keep on rolling, they must've thought.

Now, the NFL has another controversy on its hands. Colin Kaepernick, a mediocre
quarterback on an even worse football team, ignited a storm two weeks ago by sitting
down during the national anthem. However, unlike Hurricane Hermine, it didn't fizzle
out and die quickly. In fact, it just got stronger and stronger.

The Kaepernick case is now a runaway train with nearly everyone in the country
weighing in on the subject. Athletes, politicians, CEO's, and co-workers at the
watercooler have all put their two cents in. Some have been thoughtful, others insightful,
while more than a few have been downright ignorant.

However, something tells me the suits that occupy the NFL offices on Park Avenue
in New York City, are grinning from ear to ear.

The controversy means more attention given to their game. More eyeballs, more ears,
more tweets, and ridiculous epic rants on Facebook.  You see, in that boring period
of meaningless preseason games played mostly by those you never heard of before
training camp opened and perhaps, will never hear from again, the NFL dominated
everything: social media, ESPN, the talks shows, headlines and front pages.

The frenzy is sure to equal higher-ratings and a louder cha-ching at the cash register.
Yep, as they say, bad publicity is better than no publicity at all. And the NFL is soaking
it all up. Everybody is talking about Kaepernick and the league couldn't be happier.

Come Sunday, it needs to stop.

Sunday is the first full weekend of the new season. It's the real "opening day" for the
league and a time to celebrate.

It's also 9/11. One of the most significant days in our nation's history.

We are 15 years removed from that terribly tragic day that saw more than 3,000
innocent people lose their lives. Among them were heroic firefighters and police
officers who rushed the towers in an effort to save lives. Instead, many of them
perished when the buildings collapsed atop of them.

To Colin Kaepernick and anyone else who thinks Sunday is about something else,
please do the right thing and stand when the national anthem is played wherever
you are. I realize the 49ers play on Monday night, but Kaepernick should just lay low
or even disappear when approached by a camera or microphone.

Oh, I understand it's everyone's constitutional right to do what they want to and
protest anything they wish, but 9/11 is not the time. That day is sacred. 

For two minutes and change, pay your respect to all those who lost their lives. You
don't have to love everything about the country. You may not feel everyone is treated
the same and you may be upset about how some police officers deal with minorities.
I understand that. There is a time to discuss all that.

9/11 is not that time.

I really don't have a problem with Kapernick and others expressing their views and
using their freedom to protest. Our constitution assures everyone of that. However,
I will have a problem if he or anyone else does takes a sit or a knee when the national
anthem is played on 9/11. It is the one day where people should really think about
others and not about their views or making a statement.

The NFL can't make anyone stand for the national anthem, but I sure hope they get
the attention of the players by Sunday and make sure they all get the message about
the right thing to do. That would be the statement they need to make.


Friday, September 2, 2016

PENN STATE WEAK


Penn State plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Joe Paterno's first game
coaching the Nittany Lions on September 17 when the school takes on Temple.

Seriously?

When I first read that sentence my skin crawled and I got a pit in my stomach.

After a child molestation scandal  was uncovered in 2011, costing Paterno his job
and putting Jerry Sandusky, his former longtime defensive coordinator behind bars
for the rest of his life, the administration thought it'd be great to celebrate their former
football coach five years later.

Wow. Talk about tone deaf.

There's long been a saying the smartest people in the room often make the
dumbest decisions. This move by the highly-educated folks in Happy Valley certainly
supports that statement.

How could they possibly think a "commemoration" of Paterno's first game at a school
he helped besmirch the reputation of forever, is a good idea? Do they think
selling JoePa T-shirts to mark the occasion is going to put their income into a higher
tax bracket?

Did they think the world forgot about all the sordid details of a scandal where Sandusky
sexually abused more than 26 children? Did they see all those lawsuits the families of
the children settled at a cost of almost $100 million as no big deal?

We will never know what exactly Paterno knew about the sick behavior of Sandusky
and when, but it's clear he knew a lot and for some reason still employed Sandusky as
his highly-accomplishment coordinator.

We will never know why he gave Sandusky cart blanche to the football offices, stadium,
and locker rooms after he retired. According to court records, Sandusky brought young
children into those facilities and showered with them.

In is last interview before dying, Paterno admitted  he "should've done  more." He
stated he told his superiors about an incident and then left it up to them deal with it.
Those superiors, the school president and athletic director would up being charged
with failing to report crime against children, among other things.

It turned out to be on very big cover-up by the administration and Paterno in order to
protect his legacy, the reputation of the school, and their jobs. They didn't care about the
welfare of the children back then, now the administration wants to honor Paterno now?

This is almost beyond belief.

Five years might be a long time for some people to put things back together, but it's
not enough to heal the wounds all those children suffered. Most of them will carry
them to their graves. And no matter how much money they received in the settlement,
it won't be enough to rinse away their insufferable pain.

Somebody at Penn State needs to explain why they feel  now is a good time to
'celebrate' Paterno. Oh, I know that 50 is a nice, big, and powerful number, but like all
his wins in Happy Valley, it has been rendered meaningless.

The rest of country doesn't care about the number of wins Paterno had or how long
ago it was that he first ran onto the field in Happy Valley. Nope, not when the residue
of the most despicable scandal in college sports history is still evident at the university.

Anniversaries and milestones mean nothing when the black cloud of child abuse sex
scandal still hovers above. It's just too bad the administration at the school can't see
it because everyone else does.




Wednesday, August 31, 2016

WHY KAEPERNICK'S PROTEST IS A GOOD THING


Someone on Facebook responded to a post I made concerning Colin Kaepernick and
his decision to sit during the national anthem before NFL games with San Francisco 49ers:

"When it's all said and done, Kaepernick's protest will accomplish nothing."

My response was simple: He already has.

The veteran quarterback ignited a firestorm that mushroomed into a towering inferno,
causing heated debates about the American flag, national anthem, patriotism, oppression,
freedom, racism, and law enforcement.

And you know what? That's damn good thing for a lot of different reasons.

Oh, sure, when news first broke of Kaepernick dissing the national anthem, America
did what it does best: it went bat shit-crazy, overreacting, and talking stupid. That
can happen when the knee-jerk reaction is strong enough to split the uprights with
a football from 95 yards away.

My goodness. Some people act like Kaepernick committed mass murder, jeopardized
national security, or bilked the country out of its lifetime savings.

Many people wondered how Kaepernick can cry about oppression when he lives
in a country that's afforded him the opportunity to make $19 million dollars a year
slinging a football around. I believe they got that part wrong because Kapernick
made it clear he is standing up for others who are being oppressed, not him.

Kapernicked was blistered for disrespecting every person who fought for this
country and protecting our freedom, which actually gives everybody the right to
protest and criticize those who do.

Stan VanDriver, a 12-year Navy veteran, told USA Today, "I and other veterans
fought so he could have his freedom of speech rights, so that all Americans can
have the right to free speech, the right to protest."

This from a person that actually fought for the country, the flag, for you and me.
Do you respect his opinion?

All of these issues needed be talked about and discussed. And everyone's
talking about them from legends and social activists Jim Brown and Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar to military veterans, law enforcement officials, and just about
every athlete in the sports world has weighed in on the subject, as well.

And that is truly a great thing.

Many people think Kaepernick snubbed his nose at the American flag, national
anthem, and patriotism when he chose to stay on the bench while everyone else
saluted them. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said the protest was actually very patriotic.
People have different views on it, which again, is their right.

The outrage touched off by Kaepernick has actually shed more light on what
many African-Americans have had to endure in their lives and that flag and song,
no matter how beautiful and sacred it is to most, represents something completely
different to others, including Jackie Robinson, who faced more obstacles than
any athlete in the history of sports.

In his autobiography, Robinson wrote:

"I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am
a black man in a white world."

Whoa! I had never heard that before. That's from the immortal Jackie Robinson and
a history lesson right there. So, if you hate Colin Kaepernick then you must also hate
Jackie Robinson, right? I don't think many are willing to crush the legacy of 42, that's
for sure.

If you despise Kaepernick, then shouldn't you also despise the late Muhammad Ali
for refusing to fight for the country after being drafted? Just about everybody admired
Ali for "taking a stand", albeit years after Ali became a true legend. So, why are we
vilifying Kaepernick for what he did?

I am quite certain that for all their love Americans have for the national anthem, flag,
and country, most do not know all the lyrics to the song or understand what the 13 stripes
on Old Glory represent.

After Kaeperick's protest, I am thinking most Americans will become more attentive
when the national anthem is being played and that flag is unfurled. They will make
damn sure they know all the words and become better educated on what every stripe,
star, and color of the flag represents. Going to the bathroom  while the Star
Spangled Banner plays at a sporting event will no longer be considered.

On Memorial Day weekend next year, perhaps, people will stick around for a
parade and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, even thanking a veteran
for their service, instead of bolting to the Hamptons for a barbeque.

And that would be a great thing.

Some people had a problem with the method by which Kaepernick tried to send
his message. But what was he supposed to do to get everybody's attention? Tweet
something out? Post it on Facebook? Give me a break. He went big and bold and
got the world talking.

Perhaps, with Kaepernick's protest and the debates that follow, we will get a better
idea of what comes with all the rights the founding fathers crafted and every
member of the military fought so hard to maintain. And what true freedom actually
means.

Freedom of speech is a powerful thing. So is the freedom to protest. I have the right
to put my thoughts down in a blog, you have the right to bash them. Whatever the
case, we have been given the right to do both.

Kaepernick may have cost himself friends, a fistful of dollars, and eventually, a
football career, but he may have done something positive that most of us may not
understand for quite a while.

He has forced us to think, debate, and perhaps, even sympathize. It may have
come at a great cost, but I believe this country really needed it.