Tuesday, May 31, 2011

BEST SPORTS CITY IN THE COUNTRY? IT' NOT EVEN CLOSE

Boston. The best sports city in the country. Period. Bar none.
Try explaining why your athletic world is better. Oh sure, The
Sporting News comes out with its poll every year, but they just
rotate the names depending on who just won a World Series or
Lombardi Trophy. But year in and year out, Boston is the name
that should be on top of their list and everybody elses.


There is no other city in the country that comes even close to
Boston as a sports town. Don't tell me about New York. There
are too many other great things going on in the Big Apple that
people care about.And when you have the Knicks and Rangers,
who haven't won anything in a long time, you don't come close
to sniffing the Sports Hub that is Boston.

Chicago? One of America's great cities. It's beautiful, clean,
and has da Bears, da Bulls, and Ditka. But it's the second-city
once again, this time to Beantown. Atlanta? They have the dubious
distinction of becoming the first city to lose not one, but two NHL
franchises. Detroit? Hide the woman and children, enough said.

Boston is the ultimate city for sports. Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics,
Bruins, Since 2004, they won 5 world titles and the big, bad Bruins
might just bring Lord Stanley back to the city in a few weeks.
Boston College,  Boston University, Harvard, and the Head of the
Charles. Covering sports as a member of the media in that town is
like celebrating Christmas every day. It's all sports, all the time.

You want legends? How about Ted Williams, Bobby Orr, Larry
Bird, Doug Flutie, and Carl Yastremski. I'll stop there for the sake
of time and space. You want current studs and rock stars? Tom
Brady, Bill Belichick, Kevin Garnett, Shaq, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen,
Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon. Once again,
I'll stop there for the sake of time and space.

Stadiums? It does not get better than Fenway Park. It wreaks
of history and tradition. It has the Green Monster and Monster seats.
It seems like every game is played with the large shadow of Ted
Williams hovering over it. Gillette Stadium is one of the best venues
in the NFL. Pure and  clean. Sorry, I can't do anything about the
obnoxious fans in Foxborough.

Every game in Boston is covered like the seventh game of the
World Series. It's not like Atlanta where there are three cameras
at the game and reporters would rather be friends with the players
 than ask a tough question for fear they'll never get another interview
In Boston, reporters could care less if they are liked by the players
or their readers. Bob Ryan, Dan Shaughnessey, Jackie McMullen,
Nick Cafardo and the Boston Globe, it doesn't get much better than
that. The Sunday sports section of the Globe is bigger than any
Sunday paper in the country, and a much better read.

Not many cities can say they have two regional networks covering
there teams. NESN's game production of the Red Sox is top shelf.
It's just as good, if not better than Fox or ESPN on a nightly basis.
Ok, so NESN tries to sponsor  everything but Jerry Remy's
mustache.  But they are good. Comcast SportsNet New England
does a great  job competing with NESN for every day coverage of
teams in the region.

The fans in Boston are addicted to its teams like you're addicted to
Facebook. It's the first thing they check on in the morning and the last
thing they watch before they go to bed. They are ridiculously loyal
and knowledgeable. Their grandfather's father and their father grew
up addicted to the Saaawx. They've been spoon-fed everything Sox.
And there's a good chance they can tell you the astrological sign of
the back-up second baseman's mother in Lowell.

As far as sports cities go, Boston is the best of the best, bar none.

JIM TRESSEL: THE LYING GAME IS THE END GAME.

The most startling piece of information I heard concerning Jim Tressel
and his resignation from Ohio State was relayed by former Buckeye and
ESPN analyst, Robert Smith. Smith recounted a conversation he had with
Tressel last thing and he recalled the coach saying, "The thing that astounds
me the most is how these kids have a willingness to look your straight in
the face and just lie." That deserves a wow. Pure shock and awe.

It was Tressel's out and out lies that did him in. The coach who carefully
cultivated a squeaky clean, holier than thou image, got buried in an avalanche
of his own lies. He was outed as a fraud who was more concerned about
his image than that of The Ohio State. Tressel's problem was that he bought
into his senatorial appearance, believed he was above the truth, and didn't
think any arrow could penetrate his sweater-vest or pristine image.

How wrong he was and oh, how we were all duped once again. Image is
everything right? Andre Agassi, Tiger, and the Terminator all believed it.
So did Tressel. Now, like Tiger, he had a great fall and has to find a way
to pick up the pieces.

Tressel was defied in Buckeye land because he had the team playing for
national championship and he just owned Michigan. And everybody thought
he was doing it the right way. Turns out, everything about Tressel was wrong.

During spring practice, Tressel wore a camouflage hat and army boots as
part of "military appreciation" day. Perhaps, he knew he was in for the battle
of his life or that was just another "image building" exercise for himself.
I'm thinking it was probably the latter.

Last year, Tressel knew he was using players that were ineligible. He also
knew that he couldn't win without them. The pressure was too great, and lord
knows, if you lose more than two games a year in Columbus, you're considered
mediocre.  Tressel couldn't handle that. He wanted his legacy to be vault
him to the top of the coaching ranks at Ohio State, ahead of another beloved
but disgraced coach, Woody Hayes.

His ego took over. There was no way anyone could pin anything on him, he
must've thought. Perhaps, he felt entitled the way Tiger did when he announced
to the world he was a dirt bag. Perhaps, he felt he was about reproach like
Arnold Schwarzeneggar did when he fathered another child with his housekeeper
and kept both of them around his family for nearly 10 years.

Like Bruce Pearl, Tressel could've avoided the mess by just admitting the truth.
We are a nation that forgives when a person says, "my bad, I messed up, please
forgive me." But Pearl nor Tressel didn't. They  compounded a bad situation with
more lies. They had preached to their athletes to "be honest, tell the truth, and do
the right thing".

It's too bad neither Tressel nor Pearl lived by their law.

Friday, May 27, 2011

WHEN HATE TURNS TO LOVE...AGAIN.

After helping the championship-starved and seemingly cursed Red
Sox to a pair of World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, while averaging
more than 40 home runs during that span and being labeled as the
"greatest clutch hitter" in franchise history, David Ortiz was the victim
of one of the worst sell-outs in recent memory.

It didn't quite rank up there with Bernie Madoff selling out his family
and friends, but it was pretty bad. You see, Ortiz was as a beloved figure
in New England as the region had ever seen. He was the Dominican
Babe Ruth. He was large in stature, had a mega-watt smile that never
got turned off, didn't know what a bad mood was, and he was pretty
much the life of every Red Sox Nation party. He was everything good
about sports.

But then came the slump, and another one, and one that lasted even
longer than the previous one. In 2008, it appeared that some of the
magic in his bat that had produced so many walk-off wins and Ruthian
blasts, was gone. Big Papi was suddenly too old, his bat no longer
quick enough, and there were more than a few whispers that his production
dipped because he was no longer on the juice. He finished with a .238
batting average, which was a huge fall-off from his .332 mark the
year before.

In 2009, things got worse for Ortiz, much worse. He got off to another
wretched start,  every at-bat seemingly ended with a weak ground ball
to second base. Big Papi didn't hit a home run until near Memorial Day,
and he was getting booed by the fans who had loved him, and ripped
hard by the media, who had built him up. NESN, the Red Sox owned
station, even went so far as to make Oriz the subject of their on-line
poll for a post-game show. "Should David Ortiz be the Red Sox DH?"
the question was asked. Needless to say, this didn't go over well in
the Red Sox clubhouse, or with management.

Then in August, Ortiz' name oozed to the media as one of the 103 players
who allegedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.
Big Papi used the bad Flintstone vitamins excuse, but whatever the case,
the damage was done. The fans started to turn on him,  and the media
continued to analyze and criticize his every at-bat. Bill Simmons, the
smart alec columnist for ESPN, who's only association with a jock-strap
was by sniffing it, wrote a column for the World-Wide Leader and used
the "things always end badly, or they wouldn't end",  comment when
referring to the decline of Ortiz. Other columnists and sports writers begged
the Red Sox just to release Ortiz and cut their losses.

In 2010, Ortiz got off to a 1 for 12 start and found reporters six deep after
his locker after games. Another bad start, and the Boston media was investigating
Big Papi's trouble's again as if it were Watergate. 1 for 12 in a season that
yields an everyday player 600 at-bats. The panic button was hit, and the
criticism started again. Big Papi was done, he's much older than his age,
those big numbers he posted during the Red Sox magical years had to
be steroid-inflated. Ortiz finished with 32 home runs and drove in 102, but
he hit .270, which didn't seem to be good enough for Red Sox nation
or the media who covered him.

Then a funny thing happpend. Ortiz got off to a great start in 2011. He's
been driving balls hard and putting up very good numbers. The omnipresent
smile has returned to his face, and so have the cheers from the fans. The
pessimists can say Ortiz is in the final year of his contract, and he's more
focused in his pursuit of getting another one. There have been a few
whispers about PED's, after all, how does one lose bat speed and suddenly
reacquire it, late in there career. Big Papi is hitting .309 with 10 home runs.
The Red Sox have reacquired their swagger after a brutal start. Life is
good again for the fans in Red Sox Nation. The media is back on the Bip
Papi bandwagon. It's really sad how everyone jumped off a few years ago.

Everything doesn't have to end badly.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

THE NFL: TIGER WOODS IN DISGUISE?

If the NFL were a person, it'd be Tiger Woods before he hit that fire
hydrant. You remember that guy, don't you? He dominated the world,
had every major sponsor eating out of his hand, was a ratings magnet,
and a gold-plated ATM machine who could make it rain at will. He was
the most powerful figure in sports since Muhammad Ali,  and one who
could repel controversy. Or so we thought.

The NFL owns the road for which all sports leagues travel. It's a
high-octane, high-performance machine that attracts great crowds
and record ratings. Fans are addicted to it, families plan around it
from September through February. It's the golden goose that has made
a lot of people rich beyond their wildest imagination. It's the perfect
league with a shield so big and powerful, nothing can penetrate it.
Um, maybe not.

Like the Tiger Woods we once knew, the NFL has been unstoppable.
It has everything, money, power, prestige, and an enormous following.
Crazed football fans flock to games and bars, wearing face paint and
their favorites teams apparel, and are so obsessed, they even put together
their own squads in fantasy leagues.

People used to tail Tiger like he was the pied-piper. Crowds twenty
deep would follow him, and those pictures of Tiger walking up the
18th fairway to claim another title with a mass of humanity behind
him, are hard to forget.

Perhaps the NFL is forgetting about the following they have. Every
Sunday, stadiums are packed to the gills with win-thirsty fans who
are passionate about their football and the teams that represent their
city. The NFL marketing machine has spit out a product so good, it
almost seems heaven sent, kind of like Tiger once was.

Now, at the height of their success, the NFL is about to engage in
self-sabotage, which as Tiger found out, leads to self-destruction. The
NFL, like Tiger, could be on the way to ruining a truly great thing.
Perhaps, just as Tiger felt a sense of entitlement in the terrible acts
that he committed, feeling that he was beyond reproach, the NFL
believes the act of pure greed will not affect their product one
damn bit.

With the NFL lockout in day whatever, fans have yet to hit the
panic button, but they've gotten a little jumpy. Training camps
are just around the corner and there hasn't seemed to be any progress
in making a deal. Splitting up a nine billion dollar pot shouldn't
be that hard to do, but the NFL owners are seemingly making it
impossible. The game has never been better, but it appears the
league is on the verge of screwing it up.

Will the fans forgive the league if there is a work stoppage? Oh,
they've come back before and helped make it better than it was
back then. But the NFL might be taking them a bit for granted this
time around. If you gauge the temperature of the fans on talk radio,
they might be ready to boil over, and never return to the game.

Many people around the country are struggling just to make ends meet.
A work stoppage caused by friction between the millionaires
and billionaires may cause irreparable damage this time, and fans
may not come back.

Many of us thought that after watching Tiger Woods fall like Humpty
Dumpty, that'd he have little trouble picking up the pieces. He was
far too talented not to make a full recovery. We were wrong.
If the NFL knocks itself over, don't assume they can put everything
back together and make itself as good as it used to be.


Right now, Roger Goodell and 32 NFL owners have jam-packed their
way into a black SUV. They are barreling down that driveway, reckless
and out of control. Dead ahead is that fire hydrant. Avoid it, and they
continue down that road to even more riches. Hit it, and a whole lot
of ugliness will spew out of it, just like what happened to Tiger Woods.

Monday, May 23, 2011

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE JOE DIMAGGIO?

Image is everything. Isn't that what Andre Agassi had us believe
while he was pimping cameras for Cannon in the late 80's? He was
the rebel, the anti-establishment tennis player who dressed up in
acid-washed shorts, neon-trimmed clothing, and had that punk
rocker-type hair.

Despite never having won much of anything early in his career,
sponsors and the public bought into that image, which helped Agassi
become an instant millionaire. It wasn't until years later that we learned
everything about that image was fraudulent, right down to the hair,
which was really a wig.

Tiger Woods? He had the perfect image that helped him become the
richest athlete on the planet. He was just about universally loved and
respected. Remember those staged photos Tiger sent out of his family
and dog? Aw, they were so cute. We all bought into them. Tiger was
the ultimate husband  and father. Little did we know that as soon as the
 photographer said,  "That's a wrap", Tiger was headed down to Perkins
for a grand slam breakfast and a side order of waitress.

The list of great athletes gone bad goes on and on. Arnold Schwarzenegger?
We admired him for his rags to riches story. A world-class bodybuilder who
could hardly speak two words of English when he arrived in this country,
rose to prominence as a blockbuster actor and a politician. Turns out he
isn't much different than Tiger Woods.

Rick Pitino? He was the coach in the Armani suit who wrote
best-selling books, commanded big money for speaking engagements, and
was considered a basketball messiah and good family man. That image
was shattered when Slick Rick had a sexual tryst with a woman not his
wife on the floor of a restaurant after hours.

The Pinocchio Hall of Fame is getting crowded with the recent inductions
of Jim Tressel and Bruce Pearl. These men of "integrity" who demanded
that their players be honest and forthcoming, couldn't do as they said, and
turned out to be frauds. The jury is still out on Lance Armstrong.

The media, the sponsors, the public...we are all guilty of putting these
athletes on pedestals. We worship, deify, and admire these people just
because they are blessed by god with jaw-dropping talent. Our kids idolize
them because they can throw a ball 98 miles an hour or can hit a ball out
of Yellowstone Park.

The majority of these athletes and coaches are not the people we
thought they were.  Most are self-centered, self-absorbed people,
who feel the world owes them something. Some of them like Tressel,
manufacture squeaky clean, holier than thou images. The Ohio State
football coach was impeccably dressed and always said the right thing.
Turns out, Tressel and his sweater-vest are not bullet proof. He got
caught lying and was exposed as a fraud.

We thought they were different from the rest of us because they were blessed
with talent most of us can only dream about having. But they are not special.
They are no different than all of us with faults, blemishes, and susceptible
to making life-altering mistakes.

It's time that we stop building these athletes up, knowing full well they
will be torn down at some point. We want to have our heroes, players like
Derek Jeter, who so far, is who we thought he is. We had our heroes in the
past, players who were built up to mythical like figures, like Mickey Mantle.
It turned out he was not the guy we thought he was. Sadly, not many of the
athletes we admire, adore, and idolize, ever are.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

COMING OUT: PERSONAL RELIEF OR PUBLICITY STUNT?

The Chinese calendar doesn't say that it's the year to come out, but
it sure is starting to feel that way. Rick Welts, president and CEO of
the Phoenix Suns and Don Lemon, an anchor with CNN,  recently
came out of the closet and admitted they were gay. Steve Buckley,
a talented and respected sports writer with the Boston Herald, used
his column in January to tell his readers that yes, he is a homosexual.

I'm saying this with compassion and sensitivity, but why is it that people
who are gay,  feel the need to use such a platform to tell the entire world
such a private thing? In a world where we have seen just about everything
from Tiger's remarkable infidelity, Arnold's love child, and bin Laden's
penchant for porn, do we even blink at someone coming out anymore?
Do we even care? Does it matter?

In my 18 years in the broadcast business,  I've worked with openly
gay anchors, news directors, producers, directors, and executives.
I, nor my co-workers, ever cared about their sexual orientation and
it didn't really matter to us. Just as long as everyone was doing their
job and getting along, nobody cared what the heck was going on once
the shows were over.

Charles Barkley, the human quote machine, recently chimed in on
the subject and said that he played with teammates who were gay
and he didn't care. He said he'd rather be a teammate of a gay player
who could really contribute, than a straight player who was "tur-a-ble".

For some who are coming out of the closet, they say its a relief to
let it all out and tell everybody. A cathartic effect. I think people,
for the most part are compassionate when another person makes an
admission, whether it be as an alcoholic, drug addict, or whatever.
Are there still hate mongers and homophobic's out there? Absolutely.
But I really believe we've come a long way in...I don't want to say
"accepting", because I don't think that is the right word. I think "reacting"
to the news that someone is gay, is more appropriate.  Most of us, say
that's cool, and move on.

Will there ever be an active athlete who admits they are gay? Never
say never, but it's highly unlikely. It would be career suicide for
a professional player to come out because they would have to deal
with insensitive fans, for one. Playing a sport at the highest-level is
tough enough, trying to do it with people who are going to try to
break you, is nearly impossible. Tiger Woods has heard the whispers
about his sex life as he walks the PGA fairways, and as tough as he
is mentally, all of it has to be affecting him in some way.

A gay person can go into work knowing that he'll be protected
from insults and hate. A gay athlete going into a stadium will be the object
of a fan's wrath, either to distract them from playing well or because
they feel that because they paid for the ticket, they have the right to do
anything they want.

A stadium packed with 40,000 fans who've spent two hours drinking
in the parking lot before the game, is a lot different than a controlled,
professional office, where drinking and yelling are not allowed.
Do you think the fans in Philadelphia, who come out  of the womb
screaming "You suck!" are going to be kind to an athlete
who comes out of the closet?

A person in the work force who comes out, is more likely to be
protected in their job because of the admission. Companies shy
away from that all together and don't want to deal with potential
lawsuits. We've never seen an athlete make an admission while
playing, but John Ameche, a former NBA player who came out
after his playing days were over, said that he probably would've
lost his job if he outted himself while still under contract.

I've read comments from Lemon, who incidentally came out of
the closet just about the same time his book, "Transparent" is coming
out of his publisher's warehouse,  which is transparent itself.
Lemon said he wanted to come out so others would have the
courage to do so.

I must admit that I'm a bit cynical when I hear a television personality
state they are doing something for others, as if they were falling on a
grenade for another troop in the battlefields of Afghanistan. Most of
the anchors I've worked with would rather stab you in the back, than
help you out. That's just the way the television/entertainment business
is. The ones currently in it and reading this, are nodding their heads in
agreement.

And when an admission coincides with the release of a book, I get
a little queasy. I see that person taking advantage of his orientation
to make money and promote himself. Heck, I never really knew who
Lemon was until yesterday. Now he's plastered all over the
Internet, appearing on all the talk shows, and pimping his book. In
the cut-throat news and entertainment business, something like this
definitely brings the Q-rating up, and Lemon will get more than
his allotted 15 minutes of fame and perhaps, a fat new contract and
even the cover of "People" magazine.

It's not much different when I see Ashley Judd or Meredith-Baxter
on television promoting a book and then saying, they suffered from
depression, drugs, abuse, and a few other things. It cheapens
the entire thing because  all they want to do is sell a book, like
Lemon.

I never heard of Rick Welts until he came out of the closet, now
he's pretty much a household name in the sports world. I've seen him
on CNN, Fox, and a few other 24-hour news and sports channels.
His picture is splashed all over the papers and on the Internet.

Welts stated that he didn't want to come out earlier because it
might have kept him from his goal of becoming an NBA executive.
But now that he's attained his dream job, he's telling everyone in
the world that he's gay and  wants other openly gay people
not to have to worry about coming out.

I've heard from the so-called experts that it takes "courage" to
come out like that. I don't think courage is the right word. That
applies to those battling cancer or a faceless enemy in Iraq. That's
real courage. Those who come out in public, may have some
intestinal fortitude if it's not accompanied by the release of
a book or an appearance on Oprah.

I just hope we get to the point when the news organizations
finally use their better judgement and realize that people coming out
is not real news. It's just not. That is making them different from
the rest of us, and they are not. We are all the same.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

JORGE POSADA: A MONSTER EGO DULLS THE SENSES

Jorge Posada is not Yankee royalty. That kingdom has become
a crowded house with the likes of Ruth, Gerhig, DiMaggio, Mantle,
Munson, and Jeter. But Posada has already has been woven into
the fabric of the organization. Nearly eigthteen years of gritty, lay-it-
on-the-line- service, and five World Series rings guarantees Posada
a lifetime of "Hip, hip, Jor-hay's".

However, Posada's prima donna act last Saturday, put a serious chink
in the man who used to wear the catcher's armour. After finding out that
he and his .165 batting average were batting ninth, Posada waited until
an hour before the game and told manager Joe Girardi he was taking a
knee, as in packing it in for the night. Posada didn't give Girardi or the
man who would replace him in the line-up, the courtesy of getting the
necessary time to make changes and prepare for the game.

As part of the Yankees "core four" consisting of Derek Jeter, Andy
Pettitte, himself, and Mariano Rivera,  Posada helped the Yankees
change the banner above home plate five times over to "27 World
Championships" He has been rewarded handsomely for his loyalty
and production, earning just over $104 million dollars in his career
in the pinstripes. That doesn't include playoff and World Series shares
and all the perks that come with playing for the Yankees in the media
capital of the world

However, Posada left a stain on his character and career that is like
the tattoo on Mike Tyson's face. It's not coming off. No matter how
hard he tries and no matter what how many apologies he makes, the
damage has been done. His act was a selfish one, trying to stick it
to management and his teammates, as well. After all, he was Jorge
Posada. He was entitled to do it, right?

Come on Jorge, you're a very good player, but you're not even the
best or most beloved catcher in franchise history. Thurman Munson
was the man and Yogi Berra was a 3-time MVP and Hall of Famer,
who incidentally made just over $485,000 in his illustrious career.

Posada said he felt "disrespected" despite being paid $13 million dollars
a year. Can't you just hear Rodney Dangerfield barking from the grave
about a guy making $13 million dollars a year playing baseball and not
getting any respect?

It's apparent that after almost two decades of being a Yankee, winning
five world championships,  being adored in the biggest city in the
country, and cashing ridiculous paychecks has pumped up his ego and
dulled his senses. Here's how:

SIGHT Despite being told to leave his catching gear at home, Posada
didn't see the writing on the wall. Years of squatting, blocking balls,
home-plate collisions, and foul tips off every body part has taken its
toll. Last year, he had so much trouble throwing runners out that Shaquille
O'neal wanted to try to steal a base off him for that reality series:
"SHAQ VERSUS.." The Yankees just told him to concentrate on being
a DH and begged him not to pick up a glove.

SMELL Posada isn't very good at being a DH, but to be fair it's not as
easy as it looks. His entire career, Posada was the busiest guy on the team.
Catch, take the gear off, hit, run the bases, talk to the pitchers on the bench,
check the scouting reports during the game. He had to be proficient at
multi-tasking and he was. Then all of a sudden, he's sitting on the bench getting
four at-bats a game. As David Ortiz said, "DH-ing sucks." And it caused
Posada's batting average to smell. .165? For a 13-million dollar a year
DH? You can get Mike Hampton out of the beer softball league and he'll
hit .250 with a couple of jacks for a tenth of what they're paying Posada.

HEARING Posada couldn't hear the footsteps of Father Time. Unless, you're
still pumping fraud into your body, players aren't getting better as they
get older. He's near 40. The bat has slowed down, the reflexes
have been hijacked by old man time. There were whispers that Posada was
going to be moved down in the order, unfortunately, he couldn't hear them
too well.

TOUCH Posada's monster ego has left him out of touch with reality. If
you're batting .165, you're pretty much an automatic out. What? You wanted
to hit fifth and kill every rally on the planet? He's lucky he's not a horse
or the Yankees would've turned him into glue a long time ago.

Posada should take a look at his long-time rival, Jason Varitek. They
are both about the same age. Varitek's skills admittedly have declined.
He's a bottom of the order hitter, yet, he never complains. He accepted
his role as a back-up and still provides leadership to the team and helps
out Jarod Saltalamacchia. That's why he's still the captain. And he's
not getting paid $13 million dollars a year.

The reality is this, Jorge.  Everybody in every vocation grows old,
loses their edge, and eventually  gets replaced by someone younger.
That's life. And you weren't even  getting replaced,  just moved down
in the order.

TASTE His senses were dulled so much by his magnificent ego,
that Posada didn't realize he was getting a taste of his own medicine.
During the game in which he bailed out on his teammates and didn't
give Girardi or Andrew Jones, his replacement adequate notice, GM Brian
Cashman held an impromptu gathering with the media to inform them
that Posada was not hurt as his wife stated in a Tweet and he said
after the fact.

Posada told the media after the game that Cashman was out of line
for doing that and that he should've talked with him about it. Unreal.
Posada bails on his teammates, leaves his manager hanging, and gives
his teammate, Andruw Jones little time to prepare for the game and he's
upset with Cashman for selling him out? Wow.

A day after the mess, Posada started backpeddling like Hines Ward
in "Dancing with the Stars". The steps were fast and furious and he
apologized to management and his teammates profusely. As Bill Parcells
always says, "You are what you are." And right now, Posada is
a 1-something hitter with a sense of entitlement. I don't see this one
having a happy ending.

Monday, May 16, 2011

ONE FINAL ROUND

It was a spectacular afternoon in May of 2008. The sky was a perfect shade of blue, void of
any clouds. The air was crisp, clean, and  intoxicating, thanks to the cool breeze off the Long
Island sound  which intersected with the fragrance from the Augusta-like flowers that lined
the walking paths at the Westchester Country Club.

My Dad and I had made the 500-yard trek from the driving range to the first tee a million
times before. As a child, I used to be in awe of my hero hitting balls on the range, before walking down this  path as he held my hand, ensuring both a priceless moment and his tee time.

But this day would be different, unlike any other my father and I had experienced during our
time together. The effects of Alzheimer's disease, had stolen some of his memory and his
ability to play really good golf. However, the disease couldn't touch his love for the game or
chip away at his happiness. Nothing could. His will was as strong as a blue ox, his desire as impenetrable as Fort Knox.

But my father could no longer find his way from the driving range to the first tee without some
help.  On this day, I was holding his hand, leading him to the first tee, realizing this was a moment that was priceless and to be cherished. The look on his face, mirrored the the one I must've
had as a child going to play golf for the very first time. Excitement danced in his eyes, a mile-
wide grin was splashed across his face.

That look vanished momentarily when we came to the fork-in-the road near the gateway to
golfing heaven. Westchester Country Club had two meticulously kept and challenging courses
for the adults and a par-3 course for the little kids. For nearly 30 years my Dad had teed it up
with me and his good friends on the "big boy courses", which had become his personal playground.

As a kid who didn't have two nickels to rub together growing up on the south side of Chicago,
I don't think my Dad could ever have imagined being a member at a club like this. He had nothing but a desire to give his family the things that he never had, and an undying belief that
he could be anything he wanted to be. It was through hard work and diligence that he got this opportunity and he would squeeze everything out of it that he possible could.


As we came to the fork in the golf roads, my dad saw many of his good friends and former
playing partners that he had known for more than three decades. There were plenty of laughs and meaningful hugs.In many ways, they were long good-byes, as my Dad and his friends
knew the end of a truly wonderful life was about to come to an end.

Instead of going down the path to one of the big boy courses, my Dad and I veered to the road
that led us to the "Little 9".  Although still in great physical shape, my Dad's game was no
longer suited for a course that was more than 7,200 yards long. We had no choice but to play
the kid's course. It was a par-3 layout where all the dad's took their kids  for their first round of
golf. It's where they taught their children how to play, while burning the memories into their
personal computer chips. It's where my Dad took me by the hand, showed me the direction
to hit the ball, and where a good walk was never spoiled.

On this day, I was teeing the ball up for my Dad, much like he had done for me forty years
earlier. I was showing him where to hit the ball and encouraging him, much like he had
encouraged me when I golfed for the very first time. After he'd hit the ball, I'd pick up
his clubs, then hold his hand as we walked to his ball for his next shot.

The moment wasn't lost on me. I remembered how much my Dad loved  taking me out for
a round of golf on this course before graduating to the big boy tracks. It was a special time for
him. He liked nothing more than to play golf with his son. He had never so much as played
catch with his father, much less takes swings on  a golf course. It was always priceless for
my Dad. And the memory floodgates started to open for me as we navigated our way
through the "Little 9".

My Dad and I had laughed so much over the years while we played  golf. We had  exchanged booming drives, traded barbs,argued like best friends sometimes do, thrown more than a few
clubs, and high-fived each other after good shots. I never realized it at  the time, but playing
golf with me  was one his favorite things to do. And I sadly discovered, this would be the final
time we'd ever play a round of golf together.

As our final nine holes progressed, there were plenty of laughs, bad shots, and a few thrown
clubs. My Dad was still very competitive and that Irish-fueled temper didn't leave with the part
of his memory hijacked by Alzheimer's. He loved to compete and even on this par-3 course,
he loved to score well. There were grounders,  flubs, and shanks, but I still encouraged Dad as
if he was on his way to a record finish.

We approached the final hole, hand-in-hand, which gave way to an arm around the shoulder,
then a wish-it-could last forever hug. I wanted my Dad to know that he was truly loved, as his
time on earth drew near. I wanted him to know that our bond could never be broken, no matter
what happened. We were best friends and  I wanted to make this last hole,the best one we'd
ever play.

The ninth hole was only 90 yards, and with a solid swing, my  Dad somehow, someway saw
his ball roll up to the edge of the green. We almost sprinted down the fairway, like young kids
on their way to a big Easter egg hunt. It was only a short distance to the hole, but  I really wanted
to make it last forever as we smiled, laughed, and  chuckled our way down the alley of luscious
green real estate.

Dad would chunk his second shot but it still trickled onto the  green, stopping about five feet
short of the hole. He lined-up his putt as he had done so many times before, studying it as if
there was big money on line, and a green jacket to be won. With a laser-like focus and his
tongue tightly wedged between his lips and teeth, a la Michael Jordan, Dad, who was always
a great putter, stroked the five-footer with surgeon-like precision. The ball seemed to roll
endlessly before clanking the iron at the bottom of the cup.

It was just a par for my Dad, but it might as well have been a Masters-winning birdie. We
celebrated as if he had won the biggest tournament of his life. The smile on his face was
genuine. The tear in his eye, priceless. We embraced like a pitcher and catcher do after
clinching a perfect game. This was our perfect game, our perfect moment, our perfect final
round.

As we broke away from our hug,  I saw the smile on his face and the tear in his eye. The
only thing I could say was, "Dad, I love you. This  was great." He responded by saying,
"I love you, too."

My Dad passed away just over a week later on May 17, 2008. I have never played golf
on that course or at the club again. It's  hard to top the perfect final round.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

CHAD OCHOCINCO: THE BEST ENTERTAINER IN SPORTS.

When I was watching ESPN reporting on its NHL analyst, Matthew Barnaby,
having been arrested for domestic abuse, I couldn't help but chuckle
at the story that was being scrolled across the bottom of the screen:
"Chad Ochocinco rides a bull for 1.5 seconds in PBR event".  At a time
when sports figures like Barnaby and Albert Haynesworth are getting
arrested, or being prima donna's like Jorge Posada, Ochocinco,
or whatever he calls himself now, is really a breath of fresh air.

This guy just loves to have fun. You may see him as another overpaid,
self-centered athlete who is addicted to attention. I see a man trying
to squeeze every ounce of fun and laughter from a life that God has
given him. He's a guy crossing off items from his "Bucket List"
right before our eyes and he's having a helluva lot of fun doing it.

On January 30th, Ochocinco tweeted three simple, but very powerful
words: I LOVE LIFE.  As the Gatorade commercials once stated, "Life
is a sport, drink it up. That is what Ochocinco is doing and clearly, he
is loving every minute of it, even if he does play for the Cincinnati
Bengals. That would make a lot of people gulp down Hemlock.

Is he a self-promoter? Absolutely. But haven't most of us become
self-promoters in this rapidly changing world? Just look at the home
page of Facebook and see the number of people who post their beauty
shots and frames of themselves crossing the finish line in some endurance
event. It screams, "Hey, look at me! Aren't I great?"  Go on Twitter
and you'll see entertainers pimping their next event or appearance.
I promote this blog on Facebook. As Bill Belichick would say,
"It is what it is." All of it has become accepted in today's social
media driven world.

And nobody is better at doing it with a more entertaining flair
than Ochocinco, who has played in the NFL with the Bengals for
ten years. There is a reason he has more than 2 million people
following him on Twitter. Just look at what Ochocinco, formerly
known as Chad Johnson, has done over the last five years. He's
been on "Dancing with the Stars,"  did a show with T.O,  played
pro soccer in the MLS,  had a reality gig on MTV,  raced a horse,
and signed endorsement deals to promote pistachios, Reebox, and
XBOX.

Ochocinco is a funny guy and wildly entertaining. Who can forget
his "Riverboat" or Irish jig dances in the end zone? Remember how
he put the gold, Hall of Fame jacket over his shoulder pads after
scoring a touchdown? How bout the the time he made good on his
promise to jump into the "Dawg Pound" in Cleveland after scoring
a touchdown. The guy is great entertainment. How can you not laugh
at some of the things he's done during games?

Ochocinco has never been arrested for domestic violence, a DUI,
or gone to jail for shooting himself in the leg. Oh sure, he's written
many checks to Roger Goodell, like the time he was fined $25,000
for Tweeting at halftime that he was tired of getting hit so hard in
a pre-season game. That's funny stuff. That's Ochocinco.

For most of his career, number 85 has been a wonderfully talented
receiver on an awful bad football team. If he doesn't keep his mouth
shut, at least he works hard, and there's nobody on the Bengals who
will deny that.

Ochocinco figured out long ago, that he's an entertainer, not just a
football player. I don't think the Bengals or the NFL for that matter,
really mind his antics. After all, the more popular Ochocinco becomes,
the more #85 merchandise they sell,  and the more money they
make. And they all love the Benjamin's.

Ochocinco realizes that an NFL career is short, and he's just laying
the groundwork for his next stop in the world of showbiz. He's sure
to get a gig as an analyst for ESPN or Fox when he hangs up the cleats.
He's perfect for it because the camera loves him as much as he loves
the camera. Ochocinco is bright, funny, and he knows the game of football.
Plus, if he's not afraid to take shots at players when he's still running
routes, do you think he's going to back off when he puts on the microphone?

After his 1.5 second bull ride, Ochocinco was asked if he thought
the NFL would be upset with him for risking serious injury. Ochocinco
flatly stated, "I've never played by the NFL's rules."

Don't we all want to play by our own rules? Don't we all want to do
the things that makes us happy and other people laugh? Coming from
an underprivileged upbringing, Ochocinco didn't have a lot of opportunities
growing up that a lot of people have. He beat the odds to make it to the
NFL, now he's enjoying all that comes with being a professional athlete
and entertainer. He's living life and making sure that he leaves this
world with no regrets. Can you blame him?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

DONOVAN McNABB: PINATA NUMBER 5.

Cinco de Mayo has come and gone, but people are still whacking around
the Pinata with the number 5 on it. A few days ago, Bernard Hopkins, a
world-class boxer, took the big stick out and thumped Donavan McNabb hard.
Real hard. McNabb, the much maligned NFL Quarterback, was
"not tough enough" and even worse, "not black enough", according to Hopkins.

McNabb, it seems, has been the favorite pinata of a lot of people during
his star-crossed career with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington
Redskins. Terrell Owens said he wasn't mentally tough enough, throwing
up on the last drive against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Mike Shanahan,
the coach of the Redskins pulled him out of a potential game-winning drive
against the Vikings, because he was not in shape enough to do it.

And the fans in Philadelphia, who come out of the womb screaming, "You
suck!"? There's not enough space on here to fit in all the venomous things
they've said about McNabb over the years. Now we have Hopkins, who
has a history with McNabb, basically saying that he's a wuss and an
Uncle Tom, two haymakers that are sure to bring another thorough
examination of McNabb's character once again.

Before we continue, let's hit the rewind button to see where all this hate
against McNabb started. After a spectacular career at Syracuse, McNabb
was selected by the Eagles with the number two pick in the 1999 draft.
When the selection was announced, the boos and hate reigned from the
rafters at Radio City music hall in New York, as the hard-to-please Eagle
fans displayed their dissatisfaction. They wanted Ricky Williams, not
McNabb. How'd Ricky the Reefer man turn out, by the way?

McNabb only led the Eagles to five NFC title games and one Super
Bowl appearance. He holds every passing record in franchise history
and has the third-highest winning percentage of any active QB not named
Brady or Manning. He's thrown for more than 35,000 yards and 225 TD's.
He's done a lot of great things, yet, could NEVER satisfy the fans, media,
teammates, and critics.

McNabb has fueled the fired, stoke the flames,and attracted hate
and venom like a refrigerator magnet. But why? Why has McNabb been
the human punching bag and like the pinata the 5-year old kid drills
with fury and passion at the neighborhood party? Why does everybody
from Bernard Hopkins  to Rush Limbaugh want to criticize McNabb?
Hopkins added that McNabb is not one of us, "he just has a sun tan,
that's all."

McNabb, to his credit won't respond to the comments made by Hopkins, and
has never chosen to get in a verbal joust with T.O., Shanahan, or the fans
of Philadelphia. Perhaps, he feels that it's better to just "turn the other cheek",
and let the others look bad for saying bad things about him. McNabb, some
say, has handled everything with class. His detractors say that he should
stand up for himself. But why should he have to defend himself against such
utter non-sense? Why should he let himself get pulled into the cess pool
with the engineers who are creating the dirty waters?

McNabb, by most accounts is a good guy. He's never gotten a DUI, been
arrested for hitting his wife, failed a drug test, or tweeted a ridiculous
comment. He's generous with his time and money, giving to the less fortunate
and charitable organizations without thumbing his chest and saying, "Look
at me, look what I've done."  Heck, when Michael Vick needed a job
after two years in the slammer, McNabb went to management and encouraged
them to sign a guy who would eventually take his job.

Unless McNabb is a total jerk behind the scenes and a two-faced, prima
dona capable of duping all of us, I think everybody should put down
the stick and lay-off the pinata. These comments from T.O, Shanahan,
and Hopkins seem to be agenda driven and filled with hate, jealousy,
and pettiness.

Perhaps, McNabb wasn't what they thought he should be. Perhaps,
Hopkins doesn't feel that McNabb represented their race in the right
way. But all those people should really take a look at themselves in the mirror
before trying disgrace and discredit McNabb. No matter how hard they
whack the pinata, it has yet to break, and when it's all said and done,
McNabb will go down as damn good quarterback and a class act. The
numbers and records back it up.

Friday, May 13, 2011

TIGER WOODS: A BROKEN MAN

The pictures of Tiger Woods limping off the golf course
on Thursday were worth a lot more than 1,000 words. The
pain, the frustration, and humiliation of a great life and
career gone bad, was there for everyone to see. It isn't just
the knee that is broken, but the heart, mind, will, and the swing,
that are in serious need of repairs.

At one time, Tiger was the the master of great recoveries,
a Houdini with a Swoosh that could navigate his way out of
the most perilous of situations, then emerge with a mile-wide
grin on his face. The smile is long gone, now replaced  by a
perpetual grimace, which gives the world a glimpse of the
the pain in his knee and the train wreck just off the tracks
in his personal life.

It seemed like Tiger used to have an army of friends. The
gallery once followed him as if he were the pied-piper of
golf, marching his way to another jaw-dropping win. He
seems so alone now, his father and Elin long gone, his
mother Tilda, no where to be found.

His carefully cultivated, near perfect image crafted by his
father and orchestrated by the symphony at IMG, was shattered
when he barreled down his driveway 18 months ago. The
details of his sordid sex life came spewing out like the water
from the fire hydrant he ran over.

Gone was the image of the perfect family man. Shattered.
The squeaky clean image? Vaporized. His sponsors fled
like red ants who had their farm stepped on by Arnold
Schwarzenegger. Good friends quickly scattered away from
Tiger's personal Tsunami.

Since that November night, where he laid in the street in
that ambien-fueled state, Tiger has lost more than his wife,
millions, sponsors, and his reputation. He misplaced his
swing, surrendered his mystique, lost his laser-like focus and
Navy SEAL-like will.

Fellow golfers, once scared and downright intimidated
by Tiger, were taking shots at him, and even mocked him
openly. Pre-accident, pre-strippers, porn stars, and next
door neighbors, that never would've happened. Steven
Ames once made a dig at Tiger, then wound up getting
buried in a hole, losing  9 and 8 in Match-play.

Once the greatest putter to ever walk the planet, Tiger is
no better with the blade than your country club champion.
The demons may be dancing in his head, making the 8-footers
that were once automatic, now a challenge for even him.
There hasn't been a win in 20 months, or a memorable putt
to hang his Nike hat on. The magic is gone, perhaps towed
away with that black SUV outside his home on that November
night.

Tiger has a knee that might have to be replaced in the prime
of his life and at the most critical time of his career. He's
endured five surgeries on the same one, stopping and starting
a golf schedule that is once again on pause. The pursuit of
Jack Nicklaus' record for majors, has come to a screeching halt.
Once thought to be given, Tiger may never come closer to breaking
Jack's mark of 18, than he is right now.

Tiger needs four majors to catch the Golden Bear, which
after going winless in the last 20 months and seeing the young
guns on the Tour pass him by on their drives, may seem like
the big pie in the sky.

Even if he does catch and pass Nicklaus, Tiger will never have
what he once had. The mystique, the invincibility, the image of
perfection, both on and off the course. It's all gone. The quest
to be the greatest golfer to have ever lived is now just a journey
with a driver who has been mocked, lampooned, and the punch
line of many jokes.

We all love a great comeback and the return of the Tiger we once
admired for his magnificent talent, and envied for his perfect life,
would make for a Pulitzer-prize winning story. But I think that the
Tiger we once deified, is long gone forever.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

TWEET, TWEET, TWEET...AND BOOM GOES THE ATHLETE

The only thing more dangerous than Plaxico Burress with a
gun, is an athlete with a Twitter account. From Rashard Mendenhall,
who defended bin Laden, to Cappie Poindexter, who suggested
the Japanese got what they deserved when a Tsunami tore through
its country, athletes have injected the social media network with
stupid.

Last fall, seemingly moments after dropping a game-winning TD
pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Stephen Johnson of the Bills
tweeted God, questioning how he could allow that to happen.

What's next? Mark Sanchez tweeting the world the phone number
of his 16-year old girlfriend?

Twitter and athletes are forming a dangerous brew. It's a toxic
mix that is vaporizing reputations and poisioning credibility. Next
time an athlete logs on to tweet, they should get zapped by
an electric fence when a stupid thought attempts to leave their
brain.

Brett Favre should thank his lucky stars he never figured out
how to use Twitter or he could have really screwed up his
legacy for more than he did when he texted pictures of his pee-pee
to the opportunist, Jenn Sterger. Favre and his inner most thoughts
tweeted to the world? That could've been ugly. Real ugly.

There is a reason why athletes get paid to play and not to say.
God blessed them with incredible athletic gifts to run fast, jump
high, and throw unhittable gas. They should stick with what they
know and not be a know-it-all when it comes to politics, religion,
and the gross national product.

Athletes should keep their tweeter accounts in their holster, and
thoughts to themself. Now, there are some thoughtful, intelligent
athletes, like Stanford-educated Jeremy Gutherie who use their
accounts wisely and give us some things to pontificate.

He  recently questioned why Major League Baseball fined White
Sox manager $20,000 Ozzie Guillen for tweeting after getting
thrown out of a game, while the league does nothing when players
like Derek Lowe and Miquel Cabrera get DUI's during the season.

However, most of these athletes should stay away from making
comments when it comes to politics, current events, or even
their colleagues. After Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears bailed
on his team in the NFC championship because of an injury,
Maurice Jones Drew of Jacksonville sent a tweet that basically
said that Cutler was a coward. Of course, the Jaguars running
back started back-peddling after he got criticized for throwing
his NFL bretheren under the bus. MJD later said he was "just kidding."

That seems to be the excuse athletes tend to use after making
a stupid comment. Just kidding. Isn't that what Reggie Bush said
after the former Heisman-tropy winning and then losing running
back tweeted the world how about how much he was enjoying
the NFL lockout? Bush ignited a firestorm bigger than the one his
former girlfriend, Kim Kardashian creates when she takes a walk
on the beach in front of the papparazzi, wearing a Barbie-sized bikini.
To douse the flames, Bush tossed out the, "just kidding" thing.

Before the lockout, Seattle QB Matt Hasselback made light of
the comments made by Antonio Cromartie, who had suggested the
players needed to get a deal done soon. (Because he had to feed
nine kids). Hasselback knew what he said was wrong, and deleted
the tweet. Too late. Cromartie found out about it and threatened
to kick Hasselback's backside in front of the entire world.

These athletes, and everyone else who hops on the social media
network, sometimes fail to realize, that once you hit "send" your
tweets and thoughts are in the cyberworld in some way, shape, or
form, forever. We can't take things back. Damage done. Horse
out of the barn. Stupid spewing out of your mouth.

Why do the athletes feel compelled to share their inner most
thoughts with the world? Do they want the instant gratification of seeing an
"LOL" or an "OMG, that's funny."? Do they want to hear
from all the jock-sniffers and star chasers, whom they blow
off after the games for autographs, but respond to them with a
tweet?

Personally, I think "Tweeting" is ridiculous and as Betty White
said about Facebook, "an utter waste of time". Why do you have
to update everyone that you're breathing? Why do you have to
tell everyone you're stuffing your face at Chik-Fil-A and the
cashier looks like Pee Wee Herman? People care about that
stuff? Really?

Back to the regularly scheduled story and Mendenhall. The Steelers
running back questioned why people celebrated the death of bin
Laden when most people didn't even know the number one terrorist
in the world. Oh, boy. Not a good move. Champion, the sports apparel
company, whom Mendenhall had an endorsment deal with, dropped
him quicker than it took Tiger to barrel down his driveway, run
over that fire-hydrant, and ruin his life.

His own team, the Steelers, distanced themselves, without cutting
Mendehall outright, by sending out a release, saying they supported
the president and the operation. Mendenhall is now a pariah in
Pittsburgh (until he scores his next touchdown) and even his
response and excuse for his thoughts went unheard and he was
unforgiven.That tweet will follow Mendenhall for the rest of his
career and life. Sad, but true. That's how life works.

If you, me, or Winnie the Pooh tweet something about bin Laden
or the disaster in Japan, nobody cares. But when you're a pro
athlete, everything is noted. There is some blood-thirsty reporter
out there looking for a negative tweet and looking to make a name
for himself by scooping everyone else out there. With the Facebook,
Twitter, and everything else that comes with the Internet, news is
instant and so is controversy

While freedom of speech still exists, its against a lot of people's
standards, especially your employers, to tell everybody your
stupid thoughts. It won't be long before sports franchises try to
have language written into players' contracts banning them from
having twitter accounts. They'll do it to save the athletes from
themselves, and the team from embarrassment.

Will these athletes learn from Mendehall? A few might. But Reggie
Bush didn't learn from Mendenhall, who didn't learn from Poindexter,
who didn't learn Ocho Cinco Johnson, or whatever his name is, who
got fined $25,000 for tweeting during halftime of a pre-season.

There will be more inflammatory and reputation-crushing tweets
from athletes in the future. It could be today, tomorrow, or next
week. But they will be coming, and if history tells us anything,
they will be a lot worse than Mendenhall's tweet about bin Laden.

Pro athletes: Put away the Twitter accounts before you hurt yourself
and somebody else--again.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

DEREK JETA'S A BUM! WAIT A MINUTE, HE'S DA MAN!

Since the start of spring training, no player in baseball has been
scrutinized as often, and criticized as much as Derek Jeter. Despite
being on the doorstep of 3,000 hits and stamping a career .314
average on the back of his baseball card, the Yankees captain
is being treated by fans, media, and the so-called "experts"
like he's Julio Lugo.

When Jeter, who has more hits than any player to ever slip
on the pinstripes, got off to a dreadful start, the fans pounced on
him like he was the second coming of Milton Bradley. He was
hitting in the low .200's with no power and no spark. It was as
if he was hitting with a wet newspaper and never played the game.
Critics said at 37-years old,  Jeter's bat was too slow and his
reflexes were shot.

Vinny Bagadonuts from the Bronx called into WFAN in New York
and implored the Yankees to trade for Jose Reyes of the Mets.
Mario from Manhattan said that Jeter should just retire and the
Yankees should find a shortstop like Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins.

But Jeter has been down this road before, hasn't he? In 2004, he was
on the cover of Sports Illustrated for a feature the magazine was doing
on "Solving the Slump: The greatest mystery in sports." On May
25th of that year, Jeter was hitting .189. That's right, .189! Under
the Mendoza line with more than 150 at-bats in the books. He
finished the year hitting .292 with 23 home runs. What's today's date?
What's Jeter hitting?

Yet, the so-called "experts" of sports talk radio, the guy's who were
most likely to be the last guys picked for the elementary kick-ball teams
at recess, were declaring Jeter DOA. I do get a chuckle when these
rabid fans and talk show hosts suddenly forget all that Jeter
has done and get amnesia when it comes to their baseball skills
growing up. They couldn't make their Babe Ruth team, yet feel they
have the right to critique and criticize the most popular Yankee since
the Sultan of Swat.

Oh, did we forget that it's not even mid-May and that baseball is
a marathon and not a sprint? So what if Jeter hits .200 in May, if he
finishes at .290 when the leaves turn brown? The Yankees shortstop
does have a higher average than teammates Mark Texiera and Alex
Rodriquez, yet no one is saying peep about them. Jorge Posada is
hitting an anemic .152 but nobody is paying much attention to
a guy whose bat speed has become slower than molasses in the winter,
and an automatic out in the Yankees line-up. Up north, Dustin Pedroia
is hitting under .240, but nobody is bailing on the former AL MVP.

On Sunday, Jeter had four hits, two of them going for round trippers.
He raised his average from .251 to over .276. The next day, Wally
from White Plains calls into WFAN and says, Jeter is  "The Man"
once again. Rocco in Rockland says number 2 is the number 1 Yankee
forever. The tide had turned overnight. To the fellowship of the miserable,
Jeter had made a few adjustments, and all of a sudden, he's that
future hall of famer, they all thought he was. He's the pride of the
Yankees, the face of the organization, the man who suddenly rediscovered
his bat speed like Marie Osmond surprisingly found her love for
the husband she divorced more than two decades ago. That was after
ONE game. One game out of 162.

Sports fans in New York, what is wrong with you? Before Sunday,
Jeter was Roy Smalley. After his two-HR game against Texas, he
was Roy Hobbs. Relax, get a grip, and realize that the season is
162 games long, not 30. Get it into your head that hitting a baseball
consistently is tough as hell. Don't you remember that's why you never
made it past Pony League? The great Albert Pujols is even struggling,
hitting under .250 despite being a LIFETIME .331 hitter. Hitters go
through slumps and streaks all the time. It's part of baseball. Nobody
gets crowned with a batting title on May 15th.

Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra came into the league at virtually the same
time. They, along with A-Rod, were the three kings at shortstop. Only
Jeter is still playing the position and Nomar is no longer playing the game.
Garciaparra was productive until he was 32 and finished with a .313
career average, a point behind Jeter. He broke down with injuries while
Jeter continued to play 155 games a year. And it was only two years ago,
that the Yankees captain hit .334 for the season. Has he lost a step?
Of course, most people his age do, unless they're pumping fraud
into their body.

I've heard people say that Jeter is overrated, which is an absolute joke.
No hall of fame shortstop with five rings, who will finish with more than
3,300 hits and a 3-something average can be put in that category. And
Jeter has done it while playing under an intense microscope every day.

Overhyped? Absolutely. That happens when you're the captain of the
crown jewel in all of sports that sits in the media capital of the world.
If he had played in Seattle, Jeter would still have been a great player,
but not the icon he is now. If Willie Mays had been a Yankee, he'd
probably be considered the greatest player of all-time. More hype,
more exposure, more attention, and a lot more credit when you win.
It's all goes with being a Yankee and playing in the Big Apple.

Jeter has three and half more years to go on a four-year contract.
Yankee fans, Jeter is not going anywhere, deal with it. Oh, he might
be moved to the outfield in two years, but he's staying in pinstripes
at at the top of the Bronx Bombers line-up. Remember that Jeter
knows how to bust a slump and repel the negativity that comes with
it.  Will he hit .334 like he did two years ago? Probably not. But
let him get his 600 at-bats before you shovel more dirt on his grave.
The man is, has been, and always will be a great player, just give
him the chance to prove it---again.

Monday, May 9, 2011

THE WILL TO LIVE

Perhaps the only thing more devastating than having to bury your own
child, is knowing that child took his own life. On October 15th of
last year, John and Susan Trautwein of Johns Creek, Georgia had their
lives changed forever when they found their 15-year old son, Will,
dead from suicide in their home.

"It was devastating to us," said Trautwein. who pitched in the major
leagues with the Boston Red Sox in 1988. "We had no idea that Will
was suffering on the inside. Up until the day he died he was talking about
the fun stuff on his plate. He was going to get his driving permit literally
the next day and his braces off next week. His band (Will was a guitar player)
was playing their first gig in two weeks. He was very excited about all
three of those."

The emotions for Trautwein and his family are still very raw. The pain
of losing their son will never go away. Will was a good-looking kid who
was popular in school, and excelled as an athlete and musician. He appeared
to have it all. But he was depressed, something the Trautwein's didn't
know about until it was too late. John admits there is some guilt and often
wonders if he could've saved Will.

"But we truly are not sure what we could've done," said Trautwein. "He
lived in a happy home. He was so loved and he was told and shown how much
he was loved every single day. We now know, after being a bit more educated
on depression and suicide that we could have done more. Yet, he's now gone.
If it can happen to a young man like Will, it truly can happen to anyone."

Trautwein wants to help make sure the tragedy he and his family suffered,
doesn't happen to anyone else. With teenage suicide in the country on the rise,
that may seem like an impossible task, but Trautwein, who played baseball
at Northwestern, is going to do his best to help teenagers in Georgia, as much
as he possibly can. He and his wife recently established "The Will to Live
Foundation", in their son's honor.

"We feel that Will's hand along with God's hand is on our back saying, 'do this
mom, do this dad, this is good.' If we can get kids and families and the
communities to understand that depression is everywhere, even in the most
popular kids like my son, and to understand that these kids are dealing with
the pressures that are more intense than what we went through, then it's a great
step forward."

In this day and age of Facebook, Twitter, and everything else that comes
with the Internet, the social pressure that teens endure has intensified. Trautwein
knows it can have a dramatic effect on them.

"Absolutely. If they have a bad day or make a mistake or take a bad picture,
within seconds it's 'Nationwide'-unlike anything we ever had. So it truly adds
to the pressures they face and put on themselves."

Trautwein realizes that he'll never be able to bring Will back or have the tough
questions on why he committed suicide answered. But he is certain that
establishing the foundation was the right thing to do.

"We know Will would've been in the front row of a foundation like this
had the circumstances been different," Trautwein said. "We are making
something positive out of a tragic story. Something positive out of our
son's legacy. This foundation is promoting all the things Will stood for
and it gives up so much comfort and strength."

For more on Will and the foundation and the ways you can help out,
please view www.will-to-live.org.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

OUR MOTHER, OUR HERO

 

Whether prepared or not, we sometimes get into situations or circumstances that not only test us,
but in many ways, define who we are. It may be God's way of challenging our  faith, commitment, and resiliency. Whatever the reason, no one goes through life on the  good ship lollipop, void of trials, tribulations, and tragedy.

My mother, Charlene Devlin, had her character set in stone a long time ago, and those who know
her, know what I'm talking about. The only child of blue-collar parents from the south side of Chicago, she is an unselfish and generous woman, who has never been in a bad mood or said a bad thing about anyone in her life. Ok, so she had some harsh  words about my ex-girlfriend, but they were more than well-deserved.

Mom was the one who woke up at 4:30 every morning to make my sister breakfast and drive her to swim practice before school. She did the same after school, taking Kara, who turned into a world-class swimmer, for more mind-numbing workouts, encouraging  her only daughter to just do her best, that's all.


Mom was the one who would go to my brother's head-banging, blow-your-eardrums out, rock
band performances with a smile on her face, not quite understanding the words my brother, Pat,
was screaming into a microphone or knowing if the music he was playing, was any good. She
was the one who always had my baseball uniform cleaned, and offered  words of encouragement when I was struggling, which was quite often in my college and minor-league years. Nobody did more and asked for less than good ole, Mom. She lived by the phrase, "It's better to give, than
it is to receive."

However, Mom was really put to the test in 2003, when my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The mental deterioration of Dad, who was smart, funny, and witty, was shocking and devastating to all of us. He was our hero. To know that he had no chance against a disease that
would eventually steal his mind, was heart-wrenching and deflating. But Mom became the beacon who guided us through the storm. She became the captain who righted the ship when it appeared it was about to capsize.


My Dad had treated my mother like a queen, cherishing her every day, taking care of  everything: The  money, the bills, and everything else that goes with being a great patriarch and provider.

When Dad could no longer handle his every day tasks, Mom was thrust into the role of both
mother and father. All of a sudden, it was her that was paying all the bills, taking care of the taxes, and managing everything else that came her way. And boy, a lot came her way. There was an explosion in the furnace that caused the dispersion of soot that infiltrated every piece of furniture
and clothing in the house. She took care of everything with no complaints.

Every piece of clothing had to be sent out to get cleaned, every wall had to be repainted,  and
every piece of furniture had to be cleansed refreshed. Then it started to pour. Cats and dogs, and
in huge buckets.

While I was working in Boston, I received a call from a neighbor saying that my Mom had a
bad accident. She had fallen down the stairs outside and suffered a 6-inch gash to the forehead
and a cracked sternum. A neighbor went into my parents and tracked down my number.

I made the three-hour trek home from Boston to find my Mom  resting on the couch, big
bandage on her forehead, and still wearing a blood-soaked t-shirt. But she was more concerned
about my father's welfare than her own. She diligently gave him his medication fed him dinner,
and showered him before he went to bed. I was in awe. Here was a woman who suffered serious
injuries and all she cared about was making sure our father was OK.

She also made sure that Dad lived his normal life as his mental health started to go in a steep
decline. Mom wanted  to make sure that Dad kept doing the things he loved to do. She'd shower
and clothe him, take him to church every day, bring him to the driving range to hit balls that
never went very far, drove him to the club to work out, then back home for dinner.

This was her routine EVERY DAY, weather permitting, of course For five years, Mom took
care of Dad  24/7. She had her moments when it looked like she would come unglued, but never
did. She had her days when it appeared like she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs, but
she refused to let that happen. Dad had given her a wonderful life, and she wanted to be there for
him "in sickness and in health".

Dad died on May 17th of 2008. Mom was so strong, so loving, and  so dedicated to him and the entire family. I always appreciated my mother for what she had done for all of us, but she went to
a whole new level in all of our books for the way she took care of Dad through the tough times.


Mom never complained and after Dad was gone, she put even more of her energy into her kids
and grandchildren. She has always been there for my sister and brother when they want to take
their spouses out for a night or go on vacation. Mom is always there to help out in  a pinch and
at a moment's notice. Pick up the grand kids, take them here, there, and everywhere across four counties in Connecticut. Mom has always been there for me through the tough times when my
world seemed to be falling apart. She has always been there for everyone of us.

She has never asked, "what about me?",  even though she should. She has never asked for
anything but our unconditional love. That's it, that's all. Charlene Devlin is one amazing person.

I have to admit, this time of year is always tough for me. I mean, what do you get for a mother
who has everything, never wants anything, and anything you give her will never equal to what
she has given you.

Mom, all I can say is, "I love you." You are one amazing person and all of the Devlin's are
thankful that God blessed us with such a great mother.

Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, May 6, 2011

NESN SPORTS PHOTOGS: AN APPRECIATION

Sports videographers. They are like offensive lineman, the guys who
do all the dirty work, but rarely get any glory. They're as dependable
as the mailman who delivers through rain, sleet, and snow. Unfortunately,
they too, are like umpires in baseball, whom you notice only when
they mess up. That comes when they forget to white balance and the
video comes out blue, or  miss a key shot that every other station
has in town but theirs.

But there is a trio of sports videographers at NESN, who bring their
"A" game every night to cover every game in Boston, the best sports
city in the country. Patrick Gamere, John Martin, and Chris Del
Dotto are the glue that holds that network together. They are overworked,
underpaid, and never get the appreciation they deserve.

But these guys, NEVER complain. Oh sure, Martin used to yipe when
I put one bag of sugar in his Hazelnut coffee, instead of two. Del Dotto
would cry like a baby when there wasn't enough Jack to go along with
his Ginger. And Gamere would bum out when Rajon Rondo turned
the ball over in traffic at a key point during a game. Other than that,
these guys are pure gold.

They are stud photogs who always put the team ahead of themselves.
They'd fit in perfectly with Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Hard-working,
versatile, and soldiers who never say "I" before "We".

If you're on Facebook, check out Patrick Gamere and see his gallery
of photos from work. You'll see what I'm talking about. There is a picture
of Gamere in the middle of a Celtics celebration, a champagne shower
drenching him, but he remains steady, with a laser-like focus washed
over his face, a 30-pound camera hoisted over his head. He was
trying to get that one "money" shot that all of New England would see,
but would never know that Gamere shot it.

That's part of their job. They toil in relative obscurity, while bringing
the network to life with great moving pictures. They jockey for position
in locker room scrums that are as crowded as a NYC subway train at
rush hour. They have to deal with elbows, microphones, and overzealous
reporters, who'd run over their mother if it meant getting closer to
an athlete.

If you're at a football game, check out the sidelines. Those guys in
a full-sprint trying to stay ahead of the play? Yep, the sports photogs.
Try running with a 30lb weight on your shoulder in a driving rainstorm.
It's not easy. That's what these guys do every day.

These ironmen work weekends, holidays, and pretty much whenever
the station orders them to cover an event. There is long-stretches away
from their families, but you'll never hear them complain.

They'll never gripe about being overlooked or not getting so much
as a "nice job" from management. That's because they are a tight-knit,
all guts, but no glory group like the Navy SEALS, who do their assignment
and don't parade around looking for attention. THEY know when they
capture a great shot. They know when their instinct puts them into
position to get a shot that no other photographer could get. They know
that nobody at the station works as hard as them.

Oh yeah, and they're the ones who have to deal with prima donna reporters,
who demand that they shoot their stand-ups perfectly and get the lighting
on their face just right. They have to put on their Dr. Phil hats to
soothe temperamental talent who keep flubbing  the lines during
the close of their reports. They have to channel their inner Anthony
Robbins to help "talent" from becoming emotional wrecks.

These photogs do it all, but never get the credit they deserve.
Patrick Gamere, John Martin, and Chris Del Dotto are among the
best in the business. Nobody works hard or is more committed than
the "Big 3" of NESN.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

CINCO DE MAYO SPECIAL: FAB 5 IN SPORTS

During my career in baseball and broadcasting, I've been blessed
and fortunate to work for, with, and around some tremendous people.
They inspired me and I came to respect them a great deal for their
class, integrity, and talent. On Cinco de Mayo, here are my top
5 best people in sports.

5. DENNIS ECKERSLEY Hall of Fame pitcher, NESN baseball
    analyst. Most of us who watched the Eck during his incredible
    career thought he was cocky, brash, and self-absorbed. After all,
    he was a rock-star in cleats who pointed at many hitters that
    he struck out. But Eck is living proof that you can't judge a book
    by its cover. He is the most humble, unaffected player to walk
    through the doors of Cooperstown. The Eck is downright cool
    and treats everybody from the custodian to the commissioner,
    the same way: Great. Just a wonderful person.

4. JERRY YORK Hockey coach, Boston College. York, quite
    simply, could be the nicest man in college sports, bar none. I
    think he has an electric fence around his brain because I don't
    believe the man has ever said anything bad about anyone in his
    life. As soon as one comes to his mind, it must be zapped or
   something. Oh yeah, the man can flat out coach, leading the
   Eagles to four national championships. The man has ZERO ego.
  
3. HUNTER NICKELL President of the SPEED CHANNEL.
    Nickell is the Roy Hobbs of sports television executives. He
    started out as a high school hockey coach and an English teacher
    as his vocation. When he was just 23 years old, he suffered a
    nervous breakdown and disappeared from New Canaan High
    School, where he worked. Next time I heard from him, he was the
    General Manager at Fox Sports Net in Atlanta. I had the privilege
    of working for him, and he is one of the most loyal, intelligent and
    creative "executives" I've ever worked for. A true stand-up guy
    who makes his own decisions without being influenced by others.

2. FREDI GONZALEZ Manager, Atlanta Braves. I first met
    Gonzalez when both of us were starting out in our careers. I was
    a neophyte sports anchor in Erie, Pa. and he was the manager of
    the Erie Sailors, the Marlins first-ever team in professional baseball
    Our careers took on an eerily similar path, as we kept climbing the
    ladder in the "minors," then ultimately made it to Atlanta at the same
    time. He was a third base coach during the Bobby Cox years. Gonzo
    is truly one of the nicest guys in the business. Never forgets where
    he came from and has no ego whatsoever. In baseball, they call
    tuning out somebody, "Big Leaguing" someone. That's not in his
    vocabulary. Just a great guy and EVERYBODY in baseball and
    broadcasting says the same thing.

1.DICK HOYT Triathlete. Hoyt could be the most inspirational
   person to walk the earth since Jesus Christ. I'm serious. His son,
   Rick, was born with cerebral palsy and couldn't communicate.
   Doctors told Dick it'd be best to institutionalize his son because
   he'd be nothing more than a "vegetable". I don't have to tell you
   where Dick told him to go. Instead, he started pushing his son
   in a wheelchair during road races. After his first one, Rick, through
   a computer, told his dad that when they ran, "he didn't feel handicapped
   anymore." The rest is history. Together they have competed in more
   than 1,000 events, including 68 marathons and 240 triathlons. When
   he swims, Dick puts Rick in a boat and pulls him. Are you kidding
   me? This guy is a true Ironman. Unselfish, dedicated to his son,
   and a man of impeccable character and integrity. Truly inspiring.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

TOP 10 ATHLETES WHO COULD FORM A TEAM OF NAVY SEALS


10. BROCK LESNAR Ultimate Fighter. Long before he became
      a heavyweight champion in the UFC, Lesnar was a gifted
      wrestler who won the 2000 NCAA individual championship.
      He also attempted to make the Minnesota Vikings as a free-agent.
      Lesnar is 6'3 and 280lbs with about 8% body fat. He is one mean
      dude, who would have no problem parachuting in behind
      enemy lines.

  9. SERENA WILLIAMS Tennis player. The only female to
      make the team, Williams is a freight train in tennis shoes.
      Big, strong, fast, and brutally tough. In the U.S Open two
      years ago, Williams threatened to tear the head off a linesman
      and shove the ball down her neck. She was raised in Compton,
      Ca, so you know she can handle herself.



  8. DANNY WOODHEAD Football player, New England Patriots.
      The Patriots all-purpose man is 5-foot nothing, and 170lbs soaking
      wet. He's pound-for-pound, inch-for-inch, the toughest player in
      the NFL. Quick, agile, and mobile, Woody would excel in ground
      combat and squeezing through tight spaces.

  7. CAM NEWTON Football player, Carolina Panthers. The youngest
      member of this team, Newton has the body of a hummer and
      runs like a Ferrari. He's 6'5", and 250lbs of twisted steel and can
      cover 40 years in 4.5 seconds. Newton is used to covert operations.
      He played at some junior college you've never heard of before going to
      Auburn. Newton has the guts of a burglar, stealing a laptop while
      a freshman at Florida. Plus, the kid laughs off pressure.
      Despite being caught in the cross-hairs of a pay-for-play scandal
      at Mississippi State and being the most scrutinized player in recent
      college history, Newton won the Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers
      to the national championship.



   6. DUNCAN KEITH Hockey player, Chicago Black Hawks. No team
       is complete without a hockey player. Tough, fast, and physical, Keith
       became a legend when he took a puck in the mouth in Game 4 of
       the 2010 Western Conference finals. Keith hardly flinched after losing
       seven teeth. That's right SEVEN TEETH! Think about that for a second.
       The guy was spitting chicklets and he returns minutes later like nothing
       ever happened. Keith won the 2010 Norris Trophy as the leagues
       outstanding defenseman. Would excel at hand-to-hand combat.

   5.  NICK SCHUYLER Lone survivor after the boat he was in capsized
        75 miles off the coast of Florida in March of 2009. Schuyler, a former
        football player at the University of South Florida, spent 43 hours in
        frigid waters before being rescued. Three other men, including two
        NFL players drowned and were never found.



    4. DEAN KARNAZES You probably haven't heard of Karnazes, but he's
        the fittest man in America. He an ultra-marathon runner who once did
        50 marathons in 50 consecutive days! That's 1,310 miles. Talk about
        will and mental toughness. In 2004, Karnazes won the Badwater
        Ultra-marathon, which is a 135-mile race through Death Valley in July
        Temperatures surpassed the 120 degree mark. Karnazes has run more
        than 100,000 miles since his 30th birthday. This dude is sick!

    3. MICHAEL VICK Football player, Philadelphia Eagles. He's elusive,
        tough, and lightning quick. You can't catch what you can't see, and the
        enemy would have a hard time capturing Vick. Vick is mentally tough
        after spending nearly two years in prison and the man can take a hit.
        He'd rather be hit by a heat-seeking missile like Troy Palomalu than
        slide like Mark Sanchez. I know what you're saying, "the guy is a dirt
        bag for what he did to all those dogs", but he's paid his price and he'd
        make a great SEAL.


   2.   ARON RALSTON Mountain climber and subject of the movie,
        "127 Hours". Ralston went hiking in Blue John Canyon and got his
        arm stuck between a rock and a hard place. Ralston was stranded for
        five days and survived by rationing his food supply and drinking
        his own urine. You read that right. He drank his own urine to survive.
        Anybody who does that can be a Navy SEAL, no problem.
        Ralston also survived an avalanche in his hiking career and became
        the first person to climb all 53 of Colorado's mountains of over
        14,000 feet, solo in the dead of winter. Hello!

    1. DICK HOYT Triathlete. Hoyt,71, didn't start running until he was
        37 and has completed 86 marathons, 28 of which where of the
        Boston variety. He's also done 240 triathlons, including 7 that
        were Ironman distance. Oh yeah, he's done 1042 events, all with
        his son, who has cerebral palsy. Hoyt rides a bike with his son
        in a special seat in front of the bike. When Hoyt gets into the water,
        he puts his son in a boat and pulls him. Then pushes his wheelchair
        during the run. Team Hoyt has crossed the country, completing the
        3,300 mile trek in 45 days. Hoyt is man of mental toughness and
        incredible will, who has a giant heart.

     

        COMMANDER OF SPECIAL OPS. Who needs Sergeant Hulka
        when you can have Bill Belichick? This disciplined, cold-blooded
        football coach, would make a great leader of this Navy SEAL team.
        He shows no emotion, is detail-oriented, and doesn't play favorites.
        Belichick is a great tactician who can make adjustments on the fly.
        If a man goes down, his response would be, "It is what it is. The next
        guy has to step up."