Monday, May 30, 2016

CINCINNATI ZOO DOES THE RIGHT THING


We live in a world where second-guessing is a national past time. Nearly everybody
with  a Twitter account believes they can run the country better than President Obama,
coach better than Bill Belichick,  act better than Robert DiNiro, and solve society's
problems in 140-characters or less.

So, when officials at the Cincinnati Zoo acted swiftly and decisively to save a child from
possibly being killed by a 400-pound silverback gorilla, the so-called experts said something
other than shooting and destroying the rare animal could've and should've been done.

Stop it. Please.

A 4-year-old child who snuck down into the gorilla's habitat, looked like a tic-tac sitting
next to "Harambe", the menacing-looking and powerfully-built gorilla. It marked the
first breach at the zoo in 38 years.

38 years. Think about that, too.


At first glance, it looked like Harambe was trying to protect the child. However, as the
screams of the patrons at the zoo grew louder, it appeared Harambe was starting to freak
out a bit.

Harambe grabbed the little boy by the leg and dragged him in the water like a rag doll.
If you watched the video, it didn't take much to be horrified by what you saw.

Imagine how the boy's mother felt?

Oh, there are some calling for the mother to be arrested for letting her child sneak his
way into the gorilla's territory. Yep, because no kid has ever disappeared under the watch
of a mother, father or both, in a crowded environment.  Most witnesses acted like the mother should've had her kid on a leash or ball and chain.

How absurd.  Mistakes happen, we all know that.


Can you imagine if you saw your child being dragged around in a body of water by a
gorilla who was covered with nothing but muscle? Those silverbacks can crush a coconut
with their bare hands. Imagine what he could do to a small child?

Zoo officials acted swiftly and decisively. There was no hemming and hawing. They
didn't want to see the child killed on their watch by a gorilla who seemed to becoming
increasingly annoyed by the screams coming from people watching the incident play out.

Harambe grabbed the small child once again, swirled him through the water, then went out
of sight.

Officials made the decision to shoot to kill. There wasn't much thought given to using
a tranquilizer to knock the big gorilla out. According to experts, Harambe could've gotten
frustrated and subsequently freaked out by the drug going into his system.

This was a split-second decision that had to be made. Officials couldn't Google up other
incidents where gorillas encountered children who found their way into a dangerous
environment.

There was no time to say, "Oh, but Harambe looks so cute. He would never hurt a child."

Officials shot the gorilla. They saved a child and that's the most important thing. Could
you imagine the mother going up to officials after watching the gorilla rip her son in half
and ask, "Why didn't you shoot the gorilla? You could've saved my child. How can you
look me in the eye and tell me you did the right thing."

Zoo officials in this case, did the right thing. They saved the child. And the director of
the zoo said they'd make the same decision again...and again....and again.

I love animals and I was fascinated by Harambe, the silverback gorilla. But he was an
animal, not a human. But you know what? He could've snapped just as easily as many
humans do when they get frustrated, lose their poise, and ultimately, their minds.

That child could have died in front of a lot of people Saturday. It would've made for
a horrific situation and one of the saddest funerals the state of Ohio has ever seen.

Moving on from the death of a gorilla would've been easy for many. After all, they didn't
really know the big fella. Moving on from the death of a child who could've been saved, um,
not so easy.

Zoo officials made the correct decision. Don't second-guess it. Don't think you could've
made a better decision. If you think that way, then you're just another person who
thinks they have all the answers. Which you clearly don't.



Thursday, May 26, 2016

"AMERICAN SNIPER" IS STILL AMERICAN HERO



Report: American Sniper lied about his medals

Navy investigating discrepancy in 'American Sniper' medal count.

'American Sniper' could be lying about medals earned.

Those were some of the headlines circulating the Internet after an article by the
on-line news site, The Intercept,  revealed that Chris Kyle, whose autobiography
"American Sniper" became a best-seller which was turned into a blockbuster
movie, may have exaggerated the number of medals he actually won while serving
his country.

Go ahead, America, pile on. It's what you do best. Read a headline and conclude
you know all the facts of what actually happened and then go tear down a man who
isn't here to defend himself. Spit on the legacy of someone who did something you
never did: fight for our country.

Chris Kyle is a hero to me. So is everybody who put their lives on the line for our
country. They are the ones who had far more courage than most, fighting on foreign
soil while we sleep at home and enjoy the freedom of the United States.

However, the social media scarecrows who want to hide behind their tweets are
attacking Kyle for being "a liar, fraud, and psycho." The so-called experts say he
"stole valor", as if he were Brian Williams telling the world he was in a helicopter
in Afghanistan taking on enemy fire.

Stop it, please. And then take the time to get all the facts instead of making a judgment
based off a headline designed for shock value and attracting attention.

In his book, Kyle wrote he was the recipient of two Silver Stars and five Bronze
Stars. But the Navy found citations for one Silver Star and three Bronze Stars in
response to an open records request from The Intercept.

Go ahead, America, keep believing everything you read especially from The Intercept ,
which isn't exactly the New York Times. In this land of five billion web sites,
The Intercept is just another one probably trying to do something extravagant
to get noticed and be relevant. Think Al-Jezeer America with their blockbuster
story of Peyton Manning using HGH. They got attention all right, but it was too
late. The news network was already in a deep hole, insignificant in the plethora of
24-hour news channels. They shut their doors in April.

Go ahead and try to smear the character of Chris Kyle. I'm sure you knew him
so well because you saw him portrayed by Bradley Cooper on the big screen. That's
how people are in this country. They see an athlete and a 15-second soundbite on
'SportsCenter' and believe they actually know what he's like and how they act.
"Oh, he's a great guy", they say, only to see him get arrested for domestic violence
a week later.

According to an article in USA Today, A form in Kyle’s personnel file credits him
with two Silver Stars and six Bronze Stars, according to a Defense official familiar
with the issue but not authorized to speak publicly about it. That form, known as a
DD 214, is filled out by clerical staff at the small unit level and errors are not
uncommon, the official said.

So, if we are to believe that, then Kyle actually shortchanged himself. The DD 214
which was not filled out by Kyle, indicated he won six Bronze Stars.

In the article by The Intercept, there is the "anonymous" Navy source that said he
warned Kyle before the book was published there was a discrepancy in his record.
It sure seems like all these "exclusive" stories have the "anonymous" source. It's like
a bodyguard for the author to hide behind if everything blows up in his face.

"Well, that's what my source told me......"

The number of medals Kyle won does not matter to me. He fought for our country.
He went on four deployments in one of the most dangerous places on earth. He saved
people. He protected us. He made tremendous sacrifices. He was courageous.

And now people want to spit on his legacy? Get a life--and a clue.

When Chris Kyle wrote about his story,  he was most likely suffering from Post-Traumatic
Stress Disorder. That can happen when you return to civilian life after years of fighting.
It can happen when you see your fellow soldiers split in half by bullets from an AK-47.
It can happen when a bullet whizzes past your head and kills a friend behind you.

Did Kyle exaggerate some things in his book? Probably. I'm sure if somebody wanted
to fact check everything Louis Zamperini said in "Unbroken," there are actual events
that weren't so actual. Are we going to crucify a war hero for that? Gimme a break.

Critics will say that Kyle lied or exaggerated about other things before. As critics,
I guess that is their right. But let's not blur the lines of what Kyle really was.

He was loved and respected by his fellow SEAL's and soldiers.

His superiors commended Kyle's commitment, sacrifice, and his bravery.

He went back to Iraq and Afghanistan again and again to fight for his country
when many in this country didn't care what he was doing, or about the war
a world away.

We all have are our flaws. Nobody is perfect even if they get perfectly played
by a mega-star in Hollywood like Bradley Cooper.

But acting is not fighting. Hollywood is not Iraq. There are no re-takes on the
battlefield. Nobody gets to say, "cut" or "that's a wrap" when things go awry
or come to an end.

Chris Kyle's war was real. He is a hero, like everyone else who has bled for
this country. His legacy shouldn't be about the medals. It should be all about
his sacrifice, bravery, and courage.

To try to smear him now when he's not here to defend himself is cowardly.
Very cowardly.




Tuesday, May 24, 2016

TONY GWYNN, ICHIRO, AND THE LEGEND OF COLON


The family of Tony Gwynn filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the tobacco industry
Monday. The Hall of Famer died in 2014 at the age of 54 because of salivary gland cancer
which was most likely caused by Gwynn's 31 years of dipping smokeless tobacco.

Every day for 31 years he put poison in his mouth.

Gwynn knew the dangers of tobacco. Knew it could cause cancer. Knew it could kill him.
It did. Now his family wants someone pay for his death.

I respected Gwynn as a player and person. He was a good guy and "Mr. Padre". But I'm
not a fan of his family going for the money grab.


Bartolo Colon of the New York Mets turned 43 years old Tuesday, one day after shutting
down the Washington Nationals on one run over seven innings. Colon has become a cult
hero around baseball, especially after hitting his first career home run in early May against
the San Diego Padres. 

Colon has 222 career wins, which is more than Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. The big fella
was busted for PED use a few years ago when he was with the Oakland A's, but people
seem to have given him a pass because he is far more likable than say a Roger Clemens or
Barry Bonds who never failed a test but have always been under the jet black cloud of
suspicion since the Steroid Era.

I guess it all depends on who you are.


Ichiro has been seemingly lost in the large shadow cast by Colon, the oldest player in
baseball. However, the Japanese superstar who is 42-year-old and just five months younger
than Colon, is starting to make people take notice. Ichiro had four hits for the Marlins
Monday night, raising his average to .417 for the season.

Ichiro is now just 40 hits shy of reaching 3,000 in his MLB career. Ichiro, unlike Colon,
is a fitness fanatic who keeps himself in terrific shape and it's paying off.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

MY DAD'S BEST FRIEND, JACK GRAHAM


May 17, 2016.

Today marks the eighth anniversary of my father's death. Anyone who has lost a parent
knows the tsunami of emotions that flood one of life's most difficult, yet enjoyable days.

The memories of my time with my father blitz through my mind like a slickly-edited
highlight package on ESPN. The smiles, laughs, and cherished moments come to life and
there is there is that hope my dad will come around the corner with that big smile
on his face and give me a big hug, which he did almost every day of my life.

It feels like that dream that is so good, and so real, but then you wake up and realize that
wonderful moment that weaved through your mind in a deep sleep, will never happen
again.

However, nobody can take away those moments and times I shared with my dad. They
are etched in my mind and soul forever.

One thing that will never get washed away are the great acts of kindness by the many
people who helped my father during the last five years of his life when he was suffering
from Alzheimer's disease, the wicked thing that robs a person of his mind and memory.

Alzheimer's disease not only changes a person inflicted with it, but often changes the
way people treat them. I spent a lot of time with my father during his last few years,
taking him to his golf club where he was loved and well-respected. My dad was a
funny man with a big personality. He loved life and the Westchester Country Club was
one of his favorite places to be.

However, I noticed after my father was in the grips of Alzheimer's, some of his friends
really didn't know how to react to him. I reckon some of them just wanted to remember
him for who was during all the great times and shied away, which stung me a lot more
than it hurt my dad.

I understand. There is no manual on how to treat someone with Alzheimer's. Some people
can be uncomfortable, others can be shallow, some can act like nothing ever happened.

But there was nobody like Jack Graham, my dad's best friend. He treated my dad not
only like who he had been, but who he was at the time. They had been golfing buddies
and friends for almost 40 years. Graham, who is still going strong at 94-years-old today,
is a man of impeccable character, integrity, and honor. He had Hollywood good-looks and
the most down-to-earth, humble personality few men have ever been blessed with.

My dad had a lot of friends at the club, but none like Jack Graham. My dad knew
he could always count on Graham in the best of times on the course and found out,
Graham would be there through the worst of times, off it. When dad was suffering
from Alzheimer's, Graham was always there for my him.  He would often come over
and pick my dad up and take him out for lunch, putting a big smile on his face.

At that point, Alzheimer's didn't always allow my dad's speech to be in sync with
his mind and flowing conversations were often difficult. But Graham was incredibly
patient and made my dad feel comfortable and loved.

That is Jack Graham.

His friendship is  unconditional and his care for my dad was unforgettable. He is the
definition of a "best friend".

In many ways, I grew up with Jack Graham. When our family was in the process
of moving from Chicago to New Canaan, CT. before my sophomore year, Graham
welcomed me into his home so I could have a place to stay during summer football
camp.

When I tagged along with my dad during his rounds of golf at WCC, I'd often
ride in the cart in-between my dad and Graham. He was as humble on the course as
he was off it. A great athlete who starred on the football field for Boston College,
Graham was an excellent golfer. I'd ask him what he shot after a round and he'd
often say, "I'm not sure. But I hit some good shots." I'd look on his scorecard and
the number of shots would always be in the 70's.

As great a golfer Graham was, he is a better man and person. You'd have to search long
and hard to find anyone to say a single bad thing about Graham. He is beyond reproach
and as pure as they come.

I will never, ever forget how Jack Graham treated my dad through the tough times.
He was so kind, so caring, and such a great friend to my father.

My dad loved Jack Graham.

So do I.

Thank you, Jack Graham. You are the best friend my dad ever had.




Sunday, May 8, 2016

MAT OREFICE IS A STAND-UP GUY


''It's never too late to be what you might've been."
                                                          George Eliot
 

 
On March 20, Mat Orefice walked onto the stage at the Ridgefield Playhouse to make
his comedic debut. He had taken a eight-week course to prepare for this moment, but in
reality, it was more like 47 years in the making.
 
"I have been a stand-up comedy junkie since I was seven," said the 1979 graduate of
New Canaan High School. "I always scoured the TV Guide looking to see when Steve
Martin, George Carlin, or Flip Wilson would appear on Merv, Johnny, or the Michael
Douglas show.
 
The TV Guide? That went out long before the Rubik's Cube, acid-washed jeans, and the
Sony Walkman. At 54-years-old, Orefice knew he wasn't getting any younger, so in
January he decided to go after his dream.
 
"I just never had the guts to try it myself," said Orefice. "But I made a resolution
to toughen up and go for it. That, and I was waiting for my parents to die to avoid
disgracing their good names," he said jokingly.


 
If Orefice was nervous, he certainly didn't show it. He was relaxed, confident, and
downright funny as he entertained the lively crowd. At 6'6", Orefice is an imposing figure
and with a last name like his, there is enough material to bring down the house.
 
"Yeah, my dad's name really is Dick," he said. "Some things just write themselves."

 
Everyone who saw Orefice's stand-up debut posted on Facebook wrote complimentary
things about their friend's performance. They weren't just being nice, they were being
honest because Orefice has some real talent to make his own mark in the industry even
if he is just a rookie.

"The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago," the Fairfield resident said. "The second-best
time is today." Orefice added. "I try to put fear in the backseat so I get to drive the car.
And I'm a notorious late-bloomer, so this stuff isn't totally out of character."

No, it most definitely is not.

Orefice had another obsession growing up: punting a football. His hero was Ray Guy,
the Hall of Fame punter of the Oakland Raiders. In middle school, Orefice competed in
the annual Punt, Pass, and Kick competition and spent hour after hour booting footballs.


He never punted a single one for New Canaan High School because as Orefice puts it,
then-coach Harry Shay didn't want anyone on the team "who would just stand around
to kick and punt."

After graduation, Orefice headed to SMU, which was on the cusp of building a national
contender, thanks to a lot of $1,000 handshakes, flashy sports cars, and two spectacular
running backs named Eric Dickerson and Craig James. Without punting a single football
in high school, Orefice thought it was time to chase a dream.

"I tracked down the special-teams coach (Jeff Kohlberg) in the fall of ’80 to ask for
a tryout," he said. "I punted barefoot, but stopped and put on cleats soon after it got cold."


Orefice got to walk-on, but the coaches would often try to make him walk-off with
killer workouts that were not meant for the faint of heart.

"I had never lifted weights or done sprints before and I would be so sore and barely be
able to walk for two weeks, but I stuck it out," Orefice said.
 
Orefice ended up sticking it out for three years and there were perks that came with
his perseverance. The Mustangs won bowl games, competed for conference titles, and
while he didn't receive any $100 handshakes from boosters, because after all, he was
just a punter, Orefice got an all-access pass to one of the country's best football
venues.

"Coaches gave us the keys to Texas Stadium where the Cowboys played because they
figured if we were going to punt footballs around, we might as well do it where we played,"
he said. "We'd do pretty much whatever we wanted at Texas Stadium."


Even in today's game, kickers and punters aren't thought of as 'real' football players
who get their craniums busted up every day in nutcracker and Oklahoma drills designed
to 'toughen' players up, and back in the early 80's, the punter from New Canaan
didn't get special treatment from one the team's most special players.

"My locker was right next to Eric Dickerson's for three years and he always used to
say to me, 'Man, you are NEVER sweaty,' recalled Orefice.

The NCAA eventually caught up to the "cash-and carry" scandal and put the program
on probation during Orefice's junior year. A few years after Orefice graduated, the
NCAA gave SMU the 'death penalty', shutting down the football program.


"Was it deserved? Yes. But it was devastating and the program is still feeling the effects
of it today," he said.

Today, Orefice is the founder and president of Wordplay Inc. He is married with
two children and still plays drums and writes songs for a band called, "The Zamboni's."

Orefice is also a stand-up guy, one with unlimited potential and enough time to
be who he still wants to be.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


THANK YOU, MOM


One day isn't long enough to honor the women who mean everything to us.

There isn't enough space on a blog or page to contain all the superlatives needed to
describe our mothers.

No chocolate is sweet enough to match the contents of the most important person in our
lives.

There isn't a bouquet of flowers or gift, no matter how expensive it is, that can match
the real value of those we call "Mom".


Charlene Devlin is my mom. The most important person in my life, as well as my brother,
Patrick, and sister, Kara.

She is more than just a mom, though. She is our best friend, confidant, cheerleader, and
inspiration. She has been the walking, talking, and living manual on "how to be a great
mom" for my sister, Kara. My sister observed, took great notes, and now embodies
everything our mom is all about.


My mother has always lived by her own "Golden rule." She does everything for everyone
else and never asks for a thing in return. Never.

She's never been in a bad mood. If she has, we have never seen it. Ever.

Mom has held us up, calmed us down, and always steered us in the right direction. Her
moral compass is perfect, unquestioned, and guides us for every decision we have to make.

My mother was blessed with many gifts: beauty, sense of humor, and great personality.
But her greatest gift is a heart of gold.


When her husband of nearly 50 years, and our dad, got Alzheimer's, one of the most
dreadful diseases, mom became his caretaker 24/7. It could have broken her, but she
remained strong, determined to give everything back to the person who gave her such
a wonderful life.

With her six grandchildren, mom has, in a way, gotten to be mother all over again,
getting to do what she does best: giving joy and happiness, not to mention an endless
barrel of gifts to them. Every day is Christmas to my mom and she always wants to
play Santa.

I can go on and on and on about what mom has meant to all of us, but it still won't
do her justice. I can only say, "Mom, thank you for being you, the best mother anyone
could ever ask for. I love you."

Happy Mother's Day.