Thursday, September 15, 2016

SIDE-BY-SIDE FOR A SPECIAL HONOR


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

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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come Sunday, it needs to stop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

9/11 is not that time.

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

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


Friday, September 2, 2016

PENN STATE WEAK


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

Seriously?

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

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

Wow. Talk about tone deaf.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is almost beyond belief.

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

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

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

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