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.

7 comments:

  1. This is one of the best things you've written. So sorry we can't be there to help you celebrate! Please post lots of pics and hopefully someone will shoot it. Congrats-this is really good stuff!

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  2. Wishing both you & Kara a wonderful Sunday. Great post.

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