Friday, January 29, 2016

REST IN PEACE, TIM MURPHY



"The greatest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude."
                                                                                    -Thornton Wilder

Tim Murphy died Friday morning after a hard-fought battle against cancer. He was just
55-years-old.

For all those who knew Murphy from his hometown of New Canaan, CT., he was the type
of guy you wanted to hang out with, confide in, and call a great friend. Murphy was a kind
and gentle soul who had three great loves: his wife, Kimberly, hockey, and his career as
a Norwalk police officer.

Murphy had a sterling and impeccable career protecting and serving a city that bordered
his hometown of New Canaan, but one that was far more dangerous than the tony-town
town he grew up in.

On February 26 of last year, Murphy turned in his badge and retired from the police force
after 33 honorable and distinguished years as a man dressed in blue.

Two days later, Murphy was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

It all seemed so cruel, so unfair, and just so wrong. Murphy, whose only mean streak
surfaced while crushing an opponent during a game of men's hockey, was the nicest
of guys, one who would not only give you the shirt off his back but his entire wardrobe,
as well.

Murphy fought the good fight, battling a disease that rarely loses. As I saw pictures of
Murphy posted on Facebook over the course of the last year, I was convinced he was
going to beat cancer.


Friday morning, I was stunned to learn he did not. Murphy passed away at his home in
Florida, taken away from us far too soon.

I choose not to grieve his death, but rather show him my gratitude for all he did for
others in his life. Murphy served a community for more than 30 years, knowing with the
inherent dangers of it, every day could very well be his last.

I am grateful for the times we spent together at the gym, on the streets of New Canaan,
and during work as I spent a good deal of time covering Norwalk and the police beat as
a news reporter. He always put a smile on my face with a good story or made me
laugh with a good clean joke.


Tim Murphy was the best. A man with a heart of gold and an incredible spirit. He was
one of the great ones, a person who touched the lives of many and one who will never
be forgotten.

Rest in peace, Tim Murphy, you deserve it.





Wednesday, January 13, 2016

LAWRENCE PHIILLPS AND A LIFE WASTED.



"The saddest thing in life f is wasted talent and the choices you make will shape
your life forever." --Chazz Pelminteri
 
There isn't a more fitting quote in the world to describe the life of Lawrence Phillips than
the one hatched by Bronx-born and raised actor, Chazz Pelminteri..

God blessed Lawrence Phillips with jaw-dropping talent that made him the sixth
overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. At 6'1" and a chiseled 230 pounds, Phillips was a
freight train in cleats. His 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash allowed him to outrun everybody
not name Deion Sanders.

Fame and Fortune were there for the taking. But his decisions throughout his 40-years on
the planet shaped his life, which ended Wednesday in a jail cell in California. Lawrence
Phillips killed himself, thus, closing the book on a sad and tumultuous life that saw him
waste his incredible talent.


Phillips spent much of his life inflicting pain on others, both on and off the field. He
assaulted people, dragged a girlfriend down a stairwell by her hair, and even killed
another man--in prison.

Yes, Lawrence Phillips was a mean person and just a bad dude. Some will say he was
a thug. Others described him as a sociopath.  I seriously doubt tears were shed by people
around the country when they heard the news of his death.  Most likely didn't bat an eyelash.
Family members won't attend his funeral because Lawrence Phillips didn't real have
a family.

Those affected by his maniacal behavior probably uttered a "good riddance" or much harsher
phrases aimed at Phillips, who was likely to get the death penalty after being convicted of
killing another person in jail.


Suicide was his way out. He was either going to spend the rest of his life in prison or die
by lethal injection. Lawrence Phillips did things on his terms, which is just about the
way he went through high school, college, and the NFL.

Nobody will every really know what led to his demise. It could've been the fact that
he grew up in foster homes, passed on from one family to the next. God may have tapped
him on the shoulder and said, "I have blessed you with great gifts, use them wisely.
However, you will have to do it all on your own, without the guidance of any parents."

Phillips' may of had great talent, but he was void of being loved by his natural family
that abandoned him. Perhaps, the hurt of that sparked a raging inferno inside of him
that couldn't be extinguished unless he put it out himself.


Coaches coddled Phillips all his life because he had a special talent that could improve
their lives and their careers. In 1995, Nebraska coach Tom Osbourne didn't kick Phillips
off the team after the star running back was arrested for brutally assaulting his girlfriend.
Osbourne suspended Phillips before reinstating him in time to get ready for the national championship game.

Osborne defended his decision, saying that abandoning Phillips might do more harm
than good, stating the best way to help Phillips was within the structured environment
of the football program.

I wonder what Tom Osborne thought after hearing the news  Wednesday about
the suicide of his former star player. Perhaps, kicking Phillips off the team would've
done more good than harm. Maybe Phillips wouldn't have thought he could get away
with just about everything, including murder.



Other coaches in the NFL looked the other way when Phillips went off the rails again
and started to cause trouble again. He was arrested for driving his car into a group
of kids after a pick-up football game.

Yet, there was another team  and franchise willing to give Phillips another chance
because of his 'special' talent.

It all caught up to Phillips eventually and he found himself in his rightful place:
in prison and a jail cell. Phillips was a menace to society and even the population at
a maximum-security prison. He had to be put away.

On January 13, 2016, Lawrence Phillips decided his wasted life was no longer living.
The decisions he made throughout his 40-year journey had shaped him. He was just
a terrible guy, one who was out of control and nothing without his God-given talent.

Perhaps, now, Lawrence Phillips has finally found a little peace in his life.

Monday, January 11, 2016

BUD GRANT AND 'THE REVENANT'


It took only one moment to rinse away the stink from Saturday's night's game between
the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals. When Bud Grant walked to mid-field
for the coin toss of the Seattle-Minnesota playoff game Sunday, all was good again
in the NFL.

Grant is the former Vikings coaching legend who drove his teams to four Super Bowls.
He looked like a coach out of central casting with a chiseled face, steely-blue eyes, and
the demeanor of a bad ass.

Grant retired from coaching in 1985 after 18 seasons with the Vikings. The all-time wins
leader in team history hasn't been seen much since then, and there were even many who
actually thought he had passed away.

On Sunday, Grant was 'The Revenant', making his return after a long time away from
the game and national spotlight. The return Grant made was the stuff of Hollywood
legend.


The 88-year-old Minnesota icon was the honorary captain for the Vikings, showing up
for the third coldest game in NFL history. At -6 degrees and with a wind-chill factor
of -25, the sell-out crowd showed up in five layers and Parkas. There may have been
a flask or two of Jack Daniels buried underneath all the clothing, as well.

Yet, there was Bud Grant in a polo shirt. Yep, just a thin shirt to protect him from the
bone-chilling temperatures.  How tough is he? How great is that?

Grant has always been tough as nails and expected his players to be the same. When he coached
the Vikings and Old Man Winter took up residence in the Land of 10,000 lakes, Grant
didn't allow heaters on the sidelines for his team. Man up, he told his players, those who
are mentally tough don't let the weather affect them.



Grant knew how to deal with the antartic-like conditions, that's for sure. He coached
the Winnipeg Bombers of the Canadian Football League for 10 years, winning the title
four times before landing a job with the Vikings.

Sunday was a return of sorts for Grant, who went to the University of Minnesota where he
played three sports. After college, Grant played in the NBA for the Minnesota Lakers
and in the NFL with Philadelphia Eagles. He is the only person to  play in the NFL
and NBA. When the Winnipeg Bombers opened a new stadium in 2014, they unveiled
a statue of him. Bud Grant is a god.


Leonardo DiCaprio stars in 'The Revenant", which means a return from a long absence.
During filming, DiCaprio and the crew were in Calgary with sub-zero temperatures, going
take-after-take in some brutally tough scenes.

When I saw Grant come out in a -25 wind chill factor in a polo shirt, I thought for sure
he could've played DiCaprio's character in "The Revenant" because Bud Grant is just
that kind of tough.

They certainly don't make them like Bud Grant anymore.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

FIRE MARVIN LEWIS? GET A CLUE




In this knee-jerk, rush-to-judgment world we live in, just about everybody thinks Marvin
Lewis should've been fired within minutes of the Cincinnati Bengals meltdown against the
Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL playoffs Saturday night.

The Bengals came unglued and their lack of discipline cost them a chance to get
the two-ton gorilla off their backs, you know, the playoff futility that goes all the way
back to 1991.

Everybody from Boomer Esiason, former Bengal and CBS analyst, to the experts in the
coffee shop said the Bengals' behavior in the final minutes of the game was an
embarrassment, which is true. Esiason said Lewis should be held accountable, which is
also true. But for Lewis to lose his job, as just about everybody in the social-media world
posted, is just ludicrous.

I realize Lewis has never won a playoff game, but we are talking the Cincinnati Bengals
here. In the last five years, the Bengals have made the post-season, playing in one of the
NFL's toughest divisions. During that span, the Lewis-led Bengals are 52-27-1. You're
going to tell me a coach who is nearly 30 games over the .500 mark in the last five
years should be canned?

The Bengals record of 12-4 this season was the best in franchise history and the coach
deserves to be fired? Seriously? Oh, I know you're going to say it's not about the regular
season, but there are plenty of fans in Cleveland,  Bufalo, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Tampa
Bay, Atlanta, New York, New Orleans, and many others who think differently. They'd
take 30 games over .500 and a spot in the post-season for five consecutives seasons in
a heartbeat, don't you think?

Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones blew their fuses at the worst time, drawing two
15-yard penalties to give the Steelers a chip shot field goal that was the difference in
the game.

The so-called experts said Lewis should be accountable for their behavior
and be fired.

They say Lewis lost control of his players and needs to go.

Seriously?

Then Mike Tomlin should go if that's your logic. Mike Muchack, a Steelers assistant
coach and Hall of Famer, grabbed the hair of a Bengals player out of bounds and yelled
at him, drawing a 15-yard unsportmanlike penalty.


Late in the fourth quarter, another assistant, Joey Porter, who had a reputation as a big-mouth,
dirty player during his career, was on the field during a scrum. Man, Tomlin has no control
of his coaches, he should be fired tomorrow!

What the heck was Porter doing on the field, anyway? Oh, I guess when the head coach
was fined for trying to distract a runner during a game by taking a step towards the
playing field, actually going the field is no big deal. The Steelers have absolutely no
self-control amongst coaches! Fire Tomlin now!


How can the Rooney's tolerate that?  (Wink, wink). How could they not fire Tomlin for
not having control over his coaches? Oh, right, he's wins playoff games!

Early in the fourth quarter, Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier knocked out Bengals running
back Giovanni Bernard with a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit.  Shazier clearly launched
himself into Bernard, causing a fumble. There was  no flag. Nothing. Oh, he's going to
receive a letter from good 'ole Roger Goodell asking for a sizable donation, but that won't
make the Bengals feel any better.


On the Steelers final drive, Burfict tried to decapitate Antonio Brown and rightly so,
got a 15-yard penalty. He's going to get a much bigger fine than Shazier, that's for
sure. Adam Jones made things worse by yelling at Porter, who again, for some reason
was on the field during a scrum. Adam Jones has a bad reputation for his off-field
transgressions and the referees had no problem tacking on another 15-yards on him
when he said the magic words.

Incidentally, before he got to the Bengals, Jones couldn't be controlled by anyone.
Not the Titans nor Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. He's great athletic talent with a
10-cent head. Marvin Lewis must've have gotten to Jones, because up until Saturday night,
he had been on pretty good behavior. Unfortunately for the Bengals, his time-bomb
went off at the wrong time.


Jones and Burfict embarrassed the entire Bengals organization and they should be
the ones who should be held accountable for their actions. Jones is 32-years-old. If
he hasn't gotten it by now, he'll never get it. Burfict couldn't be controlled by the
best lion-tamer in the world. He doesn't get it, either.

At some point, players have to be accountable for their actions. They are grown men.
Should Belichick be held accountable for drafting a sociopath in Aaron Hernandez
and giving him a contract with a huge guaranteed payout?

Marvin Lewis is no Bill Belichick, that much is clear. But it's tough to argue with
his success over the last five years. 52-27-1 and five playoffs appearances. Who can
say that other than Belichick?

Go ahead and point out his playoff record, it's terrible, I know. But how are you going
to justify firing a guy who just led the team to its best record (12-4) in franchise history.
No coach in NFL history has been fired after a 12-4 record.

Marvin Lewis shouldn't be the first one.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

$800 MILLION LOTTERY: THERE IS A CHANCE, KIND OF.



You know that 12-year-old kid with absolutely no talent who makes a travel team
only because his parents dish out $2,500 and buy a 10-pack of hitting lessons to
a baseball facility? Yeah, he's got a much better chance of making it to the major
leagues than you do of winning the $800 million lottery.


You know that street you need to cross to get to the other side? There's a much better
chance of you getting mowed down by a car than having all the balls come up in
your favor during Saturday night's drawing of the biggest jackpot in American history.

You know that ocean you're going to go swimming in during your vacation to
the Bahamas? Yeah, there's a great white shark in it who is hungry and wants to
eat.  You have a much better chance of getting devoured by it than you do of
winning $800 million.


Yep, the chances of winning the pot of gold and changing your life forever is about
one in 300 million. But, yes, we all still believe there is a chance that we will be the
one to overcome the tremendous odds to be the one in 300 million.

However, if there is one time to blow $2 for a ticket, this is the time. I mean, if you're
of age in New York City, you probably tip the bartender $2 for the $20 margarita he
just poured you. So, its really no big deal and the payout could be huge.

All the network are making a huge deal of this, of course. They have brought in
lottery "experts" to tell the believe-everything-we-hear world we live in there
are actually ways to give yourself a better chance to win the jackpot.


They say to forget about picking birthdays. Ok, check. They tell us the most big jackpots
have been won in Pennsylvania. Check. I'm loading up the car right now for a nice
trip to the Keystone State. They say 75 percent of the winners are of the computer-
generated, quick-pick variety. Ok, cool

I'm not using birthdays and I'm going to Pennsylvania where I'm going to say,
"One quick-pick, please."

Man, with those suggestions I'm starting to feel like it's my lucky day!

It wasn't a lucky day, month, or even year for this gentlemen I saw in the stationary
store on Wednesday when I was buying my ticket. He must've had 250 tickets from
past lotteries and as he ran them through the scanner to see if he had won so much
as a dollar, the exasperated look on his face morphed into one that said, "He's going
to go postal on somebody."


Few people ever win anything on these lotteries. It's really just for suckers who
keep forking over dollar after dollar to win millions. Oh, well, it's their money,
not mine.

I realize I have a better chance of wining "Dancing With the Stars" than winning
tonight's lottery, but what the hell, as the sucker saying goes, "Ya gotta be in it
to win it", I'm dropping down $2 to win $800 million

Yes, there is a chance.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

GOOD-BYE, MAUREEN SLOAN


Maureen Sloan.

She was one of the first girls I met when I walked into Deerpath Junior High School
in the fall of 1977. Our family had moved to Lake Forest, Illinois and as a 13-year-old kid,
I was starting over in a new town, a new school, and challenged to make new friends.

Maureen was one of my first friends in my new school. She was one of  the prettiest girls
in Lake Forest who seemed wise beyond her years. She was smart, sweet, and seemed to
have the beginning of real life figured out well before the rest of us.

I had a mad crush on Maureen Sloan, too. She didn't return the crush. As I mentioned,
she was wise beyond her years. :)

Maureen was one of the truly incredible people I met during my short stay in Lake
Forest. Our family moved back East after just two years. It was an amazing place
where I forged friendships that still remain strong today.

Thanks to Facebook, I reconnected with Maureen nearly 38 years after first meeting
her. Man, when I write "38 years" it doesn't seem real. Has life gone by this quickly?
Despite the time that accumulated between our last conversation, Maureen and I had
an easy time picking up right where we left off.

She seemed happy in her first year of life after 50. There had been demons that many
of  us face through this journey of life, but it seemed as though she had overcome
them and enjoying herself. That was evident in a text she wrote to former
classmate and good friend, Lisa Pharris.


As I was browsing through Facebook a few days ago, a short blurb caught my eye:
Maureen Sloan R.I.P.

I was hoping against hope it wasn't the Maureen Sloan I knew from Lake Forest in 8th
grade. I went to her Facebook and I read posts confirming that it was.


Maureen Sloan, 51, was hit by a car on New Year's Eve while crossing a busy
street in Sarasota, Florida. Gone tragically and way too early. She was loved and
had an impact on many of her friends, as many posts on her Facebook page indicated.

"I LOVED Maureen Sloan...I am so incredibly sad to hear of this horrible news...
My First friend at LFHS...A TRULY dear and gorgeous soul...You will be missed.
CANNOT believe this....! "  --Maria Salidas.

"RIP Maureen Sloan you truly impacted my life, many serious chats we shared
and how often you comforted me.... I will never forgot you or that beautiful smile....
Such a genuine, strong woman. Say hello to my brother up there!" ---Julie Hilliker

Maureen Sloan, you were truly loved. Anyone who met you, admired and respected
you. Good-bye, Maureen, you will be missed.