Monday, October 15, 2018

REST IN PEACE, JPM. WE WILL NEVER FORGET YOU


John Martin died on Sunday. 

When I read the news of his passing on Facebook, it felt much the same way it did two years 
ago when it was revealed the longtime NESN videographer had ALS: like a wrecking ball 
to the stomach that blew nearly every ounce of oxygen from my body.

It hurt. A lot. That feeling is something that will stay with many of us forever. 

John Martin was an extraordinary human being inflicted with the cruelest of diseases. We all 
know life isn't fair, but this was just brutal. John was the nicest of guys who made everyone
feel like he was their best friend. And he had a ton of friends - far too many to even bother to 
count. 

JPM, as he was known to all his friends, had to battle a disease that has never lost. He knew
what he was facing and did it courageously. He fought hard, he was brave, and he is forever 
one of my heroes.


Martin will always be a hero in a New England community that rallied around him as his
body wore down against ALS. We loved him, admired him, and wanted to do anything we 
could to comfort him during a fight no person should ever have to be in, much less face alone.

His friends made sure JPM didn't have to do that. They were always there for him.The local
teams rallied to support him.  Robert Kraft of the Patriots made the most moving of speeches 
to honor John and his family. The Red Sox raised money for him, as did the Bruins. Celebrities 
and athletes and stopped by Café Martin to bring him some cheer and it seemed like 
the entire region bought a Café Martin hat and posted pictures on social media wearing 
it, as well as great big smiles, hoping to put one on the face of JPM.


There was Eddie Vedder giving Martin a shout out at Fenway Park during a concert and
athletes from all over wearing their Café Martin hats with great pride and purpose.

Everybody loved JPM. You'd have to search the country far and wide to find someone to say
something bad about him - and if you did, I can assure you they are lying. JPM had such a 
wonderful way about him - one that attracted people from all walks of life to him. He always
had time for everyone and usually a great story to go with it. 

I could talk about his great talent as a videographer, but that would just take away from
the person he was. There were few better - anywhere. He was truly loved and had universal
respect. We adored JPM because he loved his job, loved his family, and loved all his friends.
There was nothing artificial about John, even as he worked in a business with a lot of 
disingenuous people. He was a straight shooter who didn't have time for a lot of B.S. JPM
didn't care about celebrity or status and could see through a person and an agenda in a split-
second.

JPM received a lot of love because he gave a lot of love. He coached youth baseball for
nearly 30 years in the not-so-great parts of Boston. He was always there for the hundreds
of kids he coached over the years, making a huge impact on their lives. JPM loved 
baseball and loved  coaching. That showed in his job as a videographer and in his passion 
for helping young kids.


JPM taught us a lot as he battled to hold off death. He kept living his life as an insidious 
disease tore through his body. JPM wrote not one, but two books - the second of which gave us 
an intimate, yet brutal look into the battle he was facing. There were a lot of dark moments,
for sure, but JPM always managed to keep the smile on his face and stay positive. He loved
Adrienne and his beautiful two girls and always had them in his heart.

John's death hurts. It will take a while for us to get over it. There was nobody like JPM. He
had a heart of gold, a mega-watt smile, and a personality that nobody will ever forget. 

We love you JPM. We will never forget you.







Tuesday, September 11, 2018

SERENA WILLIAMS AND THE RULES


Respect seems to be part of a foreign language these days and the meaning of it has become
pretty foreign to a lot of us, too. Oh, we know how to spell it - I discovered that after
Aretha Franklin died and people plastered R-E-S-P-E-C-T all over Facebook, as if that
was the only song she ever performed. I've learned ignorance is a societal problem, as well.

No, we don't seem to respect very much these days. Parents, teachers, law enforcement officials,
and even the flag don't seem to carry all that much weight these days. People tweet anonymous bombs on social media, few of us respect the office of the president and the president doesn't
seem to respect anyone or anything.

So, it really wasn't all that surprising to see an episode of Jerry Springer break out at the U.S.
Open last Sunday. Big drama in the Big Apple. A reality show worthy of a slot on HBO.
Serena Williams, a new mom and the greatest tennis player of all-time, got embarrassed by
a 20-year-old kid and then embarrassed herself with her boorish behavior. And then she did
what most people seem to do these days when things don't go their way: she pointed the
finger at someone else.

Yep, it the was chair Carlos Ramos that had to be blamed for her epic meltdown. In fact,
judging by the comments that followed on social media, half the free-world saddled Ramos
for causing the spectacle which happened, sadly enough, at Arthur Ashe Stadium, who was considered so classy, dignified, respectful, and universally respected, they named a huge
building after him.

Yep, it was Ramos who was giving hand signals to Serena. Yep, it was Ramos who smashed
his racket on the hard court like a petulant child. And of course, it was Ramos who verbally
abused himself.

Serena was clearly getting outplayed by a Grand Slam final neophyte. She was losing. She
was desperate. She tried to distract her opponent with her tantrum and verbal abuse of the
official. If she was closer to Naomi Osaka, I almost think she would've gone all Mike Tyson
when he was getting embarrassed by Evander Holyfield and bit the kid's ear off.

Instead, she screamed and pointed at Ramos demanding an apology and called him a
thief,  both of which qualify as verbal abuse - not to mention unprofessional and uncalled for. Williams should've known going into the championship, Ramos is considered one of the
strictest officials in the business. It probably played a part in why he was selected to officiate
the championship match in what many to believe is an electric, if not hostile environment.
Serena challenged him in front of the tennis world and she lost. Ramos didn't buckle in the
face of celebrity and gave her not what she deserved but earned: three violations and a game
penalty.

And everybody went bananas.

Stop it, world. Ramos showed that he had a strong spine and enforced the rules. He simply
did his job to the best of his ability. Are we going to bash a guy for trying to uphold the integrity
of the game by making everyone play by the same rules? Isn't that what we all want in sports,
business, and life? What happened if he didn't follow the letter of the law? I'm pretty sure
the other side would have claimed he was intimidated by Serena and looked the other way.


Perhaps, Ramos seemed to remember what a lot of other people conveniently forgot:
Serena's history at the U.S. Open with officials. In 2014, she all but threatened to jam a
ball down the throat of a lineswoman after disagreeing with a call that she made. That
was quite a display of sportsmanship. Serena was disqualified from the match. Anyone
starting to see a pattern here?

God dang, many people wax poetic about "the integrity of the game" and playing by the rules,
but once a strong person tries to enforce them, all the rhetoric and righteousness goes out the
window. Why blame Ramos for respecting the rules and trying to ensure fair play? Isn't
that his job? It matters to him and he should be appreciated for not melting in the face
of pressure and celebrity and doing the right thing. I welcome and applaud that.

In her press conference where she was almost as pathetic as she was at the awards ceremony,
Serena said Ramos was sexist and she was fighting for women's rights. Stop it, Serena. Check
the history book. Men have been penalized far more than women in the history of the game and
they don't get away with the things you think they do.

Sure, we remember John McEnroe smashing rackets and screaming at the umpire, "You can't
be serious!" Well, Johnny Mac didn't get away with very much. He was fined $6,000 for that
outburst. McEnroe was suspended for two months after the U.S. Open in 1987 for his childlike behavior.

There isn't enough room on this page to list all his fines and suspensions. Few umpires looked
the other way when Johnny Mac was playing and he paid the price for his act.

Just last year at the U.S. Open, Fabio Fangino was fined $96,000 and suspended from two
Grand Slam events for his despicable behavior. After seeing Serena fined just $17,000 following
her performance at the U.S. Open perhaps Fabio should be crying foul.

Instead of pointing the finger at the Ramos, Serena should be looking in the mirror and pointing
at herself.




Monday, August 13, 2018

RYAN HOWISON'S 'SENIOR' MOMENT IN SCOTLAND


The news feed on Facebook bears a lot of crazy things - people taking selfies of their busted
faces and broken bones, women in their 50's posting pictures in their bikinis back in their 20's,
and the never-ending ugly feet by the sea pictures. So, when I saw a picture of Ryan Howison
and his family drinking beers after missing a flight to Europe, I didn't think much about it.

However, when I saw a picture of Howison standing in front of a golf leaderboard two days later
that showed he qualified for the Senior British Open, I yelled out, "You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding, Me!"


Howison, who was a baseball teammate of mine at UNC, qualified for a major golf tournament
and was getting the chance to play on the Old Course at St. Andrews, which is universally
known as the home of golf. He was going to play on the sacred grounds of Scotland in the
Senior British Open.

How the hell did this all happen?

"Last year when I watching it on TV, I thought I should try to qualify, " Howison, 51,
said from his home in Jupiter, Florida. "If for nothing else, to at least be comfortable that I
gave it a shot vs.wishing I had. Especially since it was going to be played at St. Andrews."

That would be great and all, but Howison was working full-time as a financial advisor and
not pounding ball after ball as he did when he played professionally a decade ago. There
wasn't a lot of time for practice and trying to get ready for the type of game he'd have to play
in Scotland was a challenge.

"There aren't many links style course in Florida, especially since it rains here during the
summer and courses don't allow for any roll," Howison said. "In Scotland, balls can roll 100
yards. I started practicing three weeks prior to the trip."


Howison teed it up on one of the four local course used for qualifying. His game was
sharp, as was his mental toughness. With a spot in the Senior British Open within his grasp,
Howison came up clutch, carding a 1-under 70.

"Not that one qualifying round means a lot, but to birdie the final hole to get into a playoff,
then birdie the first playoff hole to earn one of the of the seven spots in the Open, was a great
feeling," Howison said.

Howison was playing in a field that included the great Tom Watson and Bernhard Langer.
Mark O'Meara, Vijay Singh, Tom Lehman, and lovable John Daly was part of it, too. And
there was Ryan Howison - a guy who played baseball, not golf at UNC, getting after it in a
major tournament.


"I had the goal of going over to qualify and now I had," said Howison. "I was looking
forward to running into players I hadn't seen in years. I actually didn't know how many would
even remember me but surprisingly, guys I didn't know all that well were coming over to
congratulate me. That makes you feel good," Howison said.

Howison walked-on and became the starting third basemen on the 1989 UNC team that
won the Atlantic Coast Conference and earned a trip to the College World Series. The next
year he turned pro - in golf. He won three tournaments on the Nike  Tour and earned a
shot on the PGA Tour where success doesn't come easy, especially for a kid who didn't
even play in college.

But now he was in the Senior British Open, playing as a re-instated amateur on the hallow
grounds of St. Andrews, some 10 years after playing with the big boys on the PGA Tour.

"It was a very cool experience," Howison said. "There are many blind shots and you can't see
most of the bunkers which you need to avoid," he said. "I had to putt one time from the fairway
from 60 yards from the green."


Howison couldn't shake off the rust in the first round, posting a 5-over 77. He found his game
in round two and was 3-under through 13. However, he couldn't get the putter to fire up some
late round magic and Howison finished with a level par-72. That wasn't good to play on the
weekend.

"Unfortunately, I missed the cut," he said. "Overall, I left the event feeling like I could still
compete - if I didn't have a day job," Howison joked.

Asked if he ever thought about what would've happened if he concentrated on golf instead
of baseball at UNC, Howison didn't take long to react.


"I do and I'm so glad I didn't," he said. "My experiences being part of UNC baseball are
some of the best of my life. I loved the team aspect and the relationships created that have
lasted 30-plus year. Never once did I wish I played college golf. And it makes a better story
that a baseball player played on the PGA Tour than an All-America golfer did," Howison said.

And Ryan Howison can also say he's the only person to play in the College Baseball World
Series, golf on the PGA Tour, and compete in a senior major championship. That's a damn
good story.





Monday, August 6, 2018

BRIAN BILL AND THE POWER OF ARLINGTON CEMETERY



Arlington National Cemetery can overpower you.

It moves you in a way you never thought possible.

400,000 white marble headstones on 624 plush green acres will humble you, take your breath
away, and make you seem as small as the blade of grass that nestles up to a marker letting
you know someone far bigger than you can ever hope to be, made the ultimate sacrifice for
the country.


While on assignment interviewing professional athletes Washington, D.C. in June,  I was
drawn to Arlington National Cemetery. I needed to walk the sacred grounds where nearly
every soldier who lost  their life in our nation's conflicts, starting with the Civil War, is buried.

But of the more than 400,000 soldiers laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, there
was one I just had to visit, no matter what.

Brian Bill.

Bill died on August 6, 2011 while fighting in Afghanistan. Riding in a Chinook helicopter,
Bill and 16 of his brothers on SEAL Team Six were brought down by a rocket-propelled
grenade fired by the Taliban. In all, 30 Americans lost their lives - the largest loss of life by
the U.S. in the Afghan War. It's forever known as Extortion 17.

Bill was from Stamford, Connecticut, the town bordering the one I spent most of my high
school years. He was just 31-years-old. I was working at a local station at the time and
when I saw where Bill was from, I wanted to know everything I could about him. And the
more I learned about him, the more I realized what a real genuine hero the guy is. Not was.
Is.

There is no better proof of this than the actions that earned him the third of his four Bronze Star
Medals with Valor. I read this during a fundraising event for Bill last June and quite honestly,
my jaw dropped.

From the U.S. Department of Defense:

While performing in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Bill was part of a ground force
element during a daring nighttime raid against a heavily armed enemy commander. While
attempting to engage a barricaded fighter hidden inside the target building, one of his teammates
was struck and mortally wounded by enemy fire, causing him to fall directly in front of the barricaded enemy's position.

With complete disregard for his own safety, Bill fought his way into the compound, exchanging
fire with the enemy fighter while maneuvering to his wounded teammate. Within point blank
range of the barricaded enemy, Bill pulled his comrade from the precarious position where he
had fallen as enemy rounds impacted the rock wall around him. He then courageously exposed himself to the enemy fire again, as he pulled his wounded teammate across the open courtyard
to a position behind cover.

By his extraordinary guidance, zealous initiative, and total dedication
to duty,  Bill reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United
States Naval Service.

Simply amazing.

I have written several articles about Brian Bill and met his incredible family - and if you've
had the opportunity to meet the family you'd probably say "incredible" doesn't do them justice.
They are amazing people - just as Brian was. I've tried to do my best to honor his sacrifice
and fearless commitment to our country with my words and incredible respect for him.
I hold Brian in higher regard than any professional athlete I've ever met or profiled.


However, during that sweltering day in June, I felt the need to pay my respects to him in
the Arlington National Cemetery.  I went to the information center and typed the name of
Brian Bill into a computer.

Section 60 Site 9930

That is where the body of Brian Bill, American hero, rests.

No words were spoken between me and my photographer who was on assignment with
me. After I softly uttered, "Section 60 Site 9930" we were muted by the sight of all those
headstones that dominated the land in front of us.


I was in awe of all the soldiers who gave so much to our country. I was once again in awe
of Brian Bill when I came upon his headstone in Arlington National Cemetery. My spine started
to tingle and goose bumps raised quickly across both of my arms. Breathless.

I paid my respects, thanked him for his service, and let him know I had met his wonderful
family. Brian Bill will always be an American hero. He should never be forgotten. Ever.

And if you ever get to Washington, D.C., make sure to visit Arlington National Cemetery.
It is powerful. It is humbling. And it will make you really appreciate what self-sacrifice is
all about.






Wednesday, August 1, 2018

JOHN MARTIN'S 'GREATNESS' FINALLY ARRIVES



For nearly 20 years, New England fans saw their sports teams through the lens of John
Martin who captured the many indelible images while working for NESN, the flagship 
network of the Boston Red Sox and Bruins. In the midst of battling ALS, Martin put those
20 years into 141 wildly entertaining pages of a book called "Waiting For Greatness:
Memories and Musings of a Sports Television Cameraman."

"I always maintained during my television career, I'd someday write a book chronicling my
experience," Martin wrote from his home in Newton, Massachusetts. "Tried a few times
but couldn't get it going. Always knew the title. A year and half past retirement, I just started dictating one afternoon. It took me a month and a half to put together."



Martin experienced an incredible run covering the professional teams in the best sports town
in the country. Boston is a sports mecca with the biggest stars producing the greatest reality
series on television. Martin was there when the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins
captured 10 world championships during a 15-year stretch. The moments were priceless, the memories - unforgettable.


"My hope is that people get an inside look at my career during an unprecedented time in
Boston sports. And a few laughs," Martin said. "It morphed into more of a giant job description
and a venue of offering personal accolades to fellow co-workers. I'm quite pleased with it. The pictures were important, too - being a visual person."


Martin is much more than a visual person. He is creative, thoughtful, funny, hardworking,
and dependable. There isn't a person who has met Martin that doesn't love him. In the
cut-throat world of television, Martin was universally loved and respected. You may have not
been his best friend, but he always made you feel like you were.

The book was released July 18 and received rave reviews from his former co-workers and
colleagues.

'Waiting For Greatness' lives up to its title. John has been there for all the good times, the
bad times, and best of all, he knows how to tell a unique story about all of it. He really 
showcased what working in the media was all about for those of us there were there. It
was more about the stories, the friends, and all the laughs." - Bryan Brennan, Selfie King
and former NESN videographer.




There were a lot of laughs with his former co-workers and colleagues from his near two
decades working in sports television. Few worked harder than Martin and not many had
as much fun as Martin did. As he often liked to say, "I'm just living the dream." He lets
readers know just how great he had it while covering sports in Boston.


"It's a great peek behind the curtain of Johnny's career at NESN. Some great stories from
the man who spent a lot of time on the road with the B's and Sox. You also get a glimpse
into the mind of JPM - a man who always tells it like he sees it." - Greg Glass, videographer
at WHDH-TV in Boston.

In a television industry filled with people born with paper-thin skin and easily bruised egos,
Martin always said what he had to say in a way that didn't offend anyone- but they sure
as heck got his point. That's one of the things that makes Martin so great - and admired.
That comes through in 'Greatness' which makes for a wonderful read.



"Without trying, John showcases his humble kindness, true happy nature, being a genuine
friend and inspiring those around him as well. One word comes to mind when I think of
John and this book - genuine. He doesn't focus on himself. Like a scrapbook of his life, this
book takes the reader on the journey he took over the years." - Kim Agostino, former 
co-worker at NESN

I worked with Martin for two years at NESN. We spent most of the time hustling our asses
off and laughing so hard until it hurt. We loved our jobs and were always committed to
doing our best no matter what obstacles we faced. There were moments we'll both never
forget like covering Bill Belichick playing touch football with his family well after a game
in near total darkness at Gillette Stadium. We were the only members of the media there
and watched in amazement as the Hoodie was laying out to catch passes as if he were Wes
Welker during his prime. And there was John, in his element, capturing it all through his
lens.

'Waiting for Greatness is the perfect book if you want to know what goes on behind
the scenes of the sports world. Johnny has seen it all and his stories are funny and spot
on accurate." - Marc Cappello, longtime producer 98.5 sports radio.



All his great moments and memories are now documented in "Waiting For Greatness", a book
that Martin is very proud of. It's his story told in his own unique style and JPM appreciates
the response he's received from it.

"It's been overwhelming. More than 200 books were sold in the first week. People genuinely
are enjoying it," Martin said.



Get your copy of "Waiting For Greatness" today. It's a great read.









Monday, July 16, 2018

PETE BOCK, A GREAT BASEBALL MAN, PASSES AWAY




Less than a month after Durham celebrated the 30th anniversary of a movie classic, the
city is mourning the loss of a man who had a significant role in the making of "Bull Durham"
and was a big part of the fabric of baseball in North Carolina.

Pete Bock, who I affectionately called, "Mr. Baseball", passed away on July 14. In my travels
through baseball and sports broadcasting, I've never met anyone quite like Pete Bock. He was
truly a gem. Bock was as nice as the Pope with a kind, gentle heart, who didn't have an enemy
in the world. OK, so maybe he made a few when he worked as a professional umpire, but
once he put away his gear, Bock was as beloved as any person I've ever met.

I first met Bock back in the fall of 1987. I had finished up an unfulfilled baseball career at
UNC and was taking classes needed to get my degree. I'm not sure how Bock got my name
and phone number, but he called me one day to see if I wanted to be part of this baseball
movie in Durham. I was a Radio, Television, and Motion Picture major at UNC so I figured
I'd see how a movie was made up close and person. I reckoned the movie would be in
Blockbuster three weeks after it was released, but thought it'd be a great experience, nonetheless.

Pete and I hit it off right away. I was fascinated by his career in baseball that saw him
become the general manager of the Durham Bulls as well as the Hawaii Islanders, the former
AAA franchise of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a franchise Bock rooted for all the way up until his
death. There were also stops in Eugene, Oregon and Idaho Falls. He must've wondered when
the heck I'd stop with all the questions about his baseball career. I was like a sponge and
wanted to soak in all of his great stories.


With his extensive baseball background and ties to the Durham Bulls, Bock was a natural
fit to be the baseball consultant for "Bull Durham." He was in charge of coordinating baseball
boot camp, a two-week session where the actors really learned how to play. Bock also
chose which players he felt should do which scenes and also appeared as the minister in
the movie, marrying off Millie and Jimmy.

One evening, Pete tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Get a bat and your helmet and go
see Ron at home plate." Ron was Ron Shelton, the director of the movie. He told me that
Kevin Costner was going to tell me what pitch was coming and I was going to hit a home
run. Four pitches later, that was a wrap. 30 years later, I still get to say I hit a bomb off
Nuke LaLoosh.


Thank you, Pete Bock.

For some reason, Pete and I stayed in touch after the movie ended -for like, 28 years. I
criss-crossed the country for various jobs in television and we still managed to keep in touch.
Maybe it was because of the "Bull Durham" thing. Maybe it was because we were former
Tar Heels, I don't know. I will say this, Pete was a much bigger former Tar Heel than I could
ever dream of being. The man loved the Heels. Went to many games dressed in Carolina blue
gear from head-to-toe.  He was friends with Roy Williams and a big contributor to UNC and its
athletic programs.

In 2015, tragedy struck. After an ice storm hit North Carolina, Bock, who lived near Raleigh, 
slipped and fell in his driveway. His wife, Cindy, rushed to his side only to  fall and break her hip.


Bock hit his head in the fall and was paralyzed below the waist. In an instant, his life, which 

had been an amazing up until that point, was changed forever. Hearing this was like a punch 
to the gut that sucked nearly every ounce of oxygen from my entire body. It was sad, tragic, and seemingly so unfair. Anyone who has walked this earth long enough knows that life can 
be cruel and terrible tragedies occur everyday, but this just wasn't right.

Bock was universally loved and respected in a profession where both don't come easy. Besides
his extensive experience running minor-league teams,  Bock founded the Coastal Plain League, 
a collegiate baseball summer league that lists Kevin Youkilis and Justin Verlander among 
its alums.



Pete Bock was a baseball man through and through. But he was so much more than that.
He was a great father, husband, and family man who was very religious. I will never forget
his kind heart, infectious smile, and great laugh. His was a life well-lived. Pete leaves
behind a wonderful family and friends too many to count.

Pete Bock will be missed, but "Mr. Baseball" is in a great place right now, in Heaven, telling
amazing stories about his life and the game he loved.









k.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

THE GREATNESS OF JASON COOPER


As I was running in New Canaan on a sun-splashed Thursday afternoon, a Jeep Wrangler
with its top off, was waiting for the light to turn green at the intersection of South Avenue
and White Birch Road.  I recognized the mountain of a man in the driver's seat who made
the Jeep seem like a Tonka Toy. We had been football teammates at New Canaan High
School and college rivals, attending schools just eight miles apart in North Carolina.

With his mega-watt grin and booming voice, my old friend yelled out, "Devils!", which
brought a big smile to my face. Jogging past his Jeep, I bellowed out, "Big Coooooop!
You are still da man."

Two days later, Jason Cooper, an extraordinary athlete and an even better person, was gone.
He died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 52. His death sent shockwaves through this
bucolic town along Connecticut's Gold Coast.


Cooper was the man during his playing days at New Canaan High School. The football gods
seemingly poured him into a uniform and announced, "This is what a football player should
look like." Cooper was blessed with great size, strength, and immense hands that swallowed up nearly every ball thrown his way. He had a motor that never quit, playing through the whistle
while destroying everyone in his path. Cooper could've played any position on the field and
been named all-state at every one of them. He was that good and that talented. Cooper was
eventually named all-state at tight end while leading Lou Marinelli to the first of his 12
Connecticut championships.

Cooper was all-state in lacrosse as well. At 6'4" and 225 pounds, Coop was a man among boys
and virtually unstoppable playing attack for Coach Howard Benedict's New Canaan Rams.

After graduating from New Canaan, Cooper ascended to even greater heights at Duke
University where he played every single game through his junior year, catching 68 passes. He
also played on the Blue Devils lacrosse team for two years which is quite an amazing feat.


A broken ankle late in his senior year on the gridiron hurt Cooper's chances of being drafted,
but signed free-agent deals with the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys. However,
he never played in an NFL game.

I can go on and on about the great athlete Cooper was - there were few better in the history
of New Canaan sports - but that would take away from shining the light on the person Cooper
was. As tremendous as Coop was on the playing fields, he was even better off them. He was so humble, so giving, and such a loyal friend and teammate.


I used to get a chuckle when Coop would walk into a restaurant or bar with his close friends,
many of whom were much smaller than him (who wasn't?). They would always be in the lead
with this incredible hulk following close behind. They'd have confident looks on their faces,
ones that seemingly wanted to blurt out, "Hey, if you mess with us, then you'll have to mess
with Coop."

Incredibly gifted and extraordinarily accomplished, Cooper never bragged or started a sentence
by saying, "I did this...." or acted like he was better than others. Coop just wanted to be one
of the guys. He was a man's man whom women adored. Cooper was truly loved, admired,
and respected by everyone he came in contact with. We weren't best friends, but he always made
me and many others feel like we were.


On a hot summer night in 1988, I was in Durham playing in a Carolina League game for
the Lynchburg Red Sox. While in the on-deck circle, I heard a booming voice that was quite
familiar to me. "Hey, Devils!" I turned around and it was Coop with a few of his football
teammates at Duke. He had come down to see me play and just say hello. Two innings later,
I hit a grand slam for my first professional home run. Coop was going crazy. Next time I was
in the on-deck circle, he came down to see me and said, "We have to celebrate that one!"
And boy, did we ever. We went to Chapel Hill and closed the town down. Cooper wouldn't
let me pay for a thing and offered to take care of the fine for breaking curfew - which I did
after arriving back at the hotel close to 6 a.m.

That is one memory of Coop that I'll never forget.

While working at a gym one summer, the owner, who was getting rid of some Nautilus
equipment, told me that "if you can move it, you can have it." I needed the biggest and
strongest person in New Canaan to help me. That, of course, was Jason Cooper. When I
asked him, he didn't hesitate - and didn't expect anything in return for giving his time and extraordinary muscle.

That was Jason Cooper.

Cooper was an amazing guy who touched a lot of lives. He was blessed with extraordinary
gifts and used them to accomplish many amazing things.  Jason Cooper was a beautiful
human being-a great, great man who left this world far too soon.

We will never forget you, Coop.








Thursday, May 17, 2018

IF I HAD 10 MORE MINUTES WITH DAD


May 17, 2008.

It's been 10 years since Patrick Joseph Devlin took his last breath in this world. Sometimes it
seems like yesterday that my father died. Other days it feels like he's been gone for more than
a decade. The heart-searing pain that goes with losing a parent subsided a while ago, but on anniversaries, especially the 10th one, the floodgates of raw emotion open far and wide.

My father's death was not sudden, but it came far quicker than anyone in the family could've imagined. He had been battling Alzheimer's disease when he came down with pneumonia. He
went from the emergency room to hospice care in a blur and facing the inevitable became the
reality that we weren't quite ready for, even if his fate had been sealed with his diagnosis five
years earlier.

I was lucky,though, because I got to say good-bye to my father. Some people don't get that
opportunity because death is often sudden and there isn't even a chance to say one last, "I
love you."

I did.

My father was conscious but incoherent as I nestled up to him on his hospital bed to give him
one last hug, the kind he gave me countless times while I was growing up. As morphine
continued to drip from the IV next to his bed, I hugged him a little tighter, hoping to
provide a bit more comfort during the last difficult moments of his life.

I knew my father heard me when I thanked him for everything he gave to me and the entire
family. I know he felt the love, admiration, and respect I had for hm. My Dad was my hero.
A self-made man with the heart the size of Texas and a person who always put others ahead
of himself.

That was never more apparent during a visit I made to him about three weeks before his
death. I always came up from Rye, New York to see him on the weekends. One Saturday
afternoon he was at the kitchen table with the New York Times spread out in front of him.
I went over to see what he was reading and saw a bunch of circles in the classified section.

I asked him what he was doing and he told me he was looking for a job. I said, "Dad, you
don't need to work anymore."  He responded by saying something that nearly brought me
to my knees.

"I need to get a job so Mom is taken care of when I'm gone."

In the midst of his battle with Alzheimer's Disease, my father was thinking about the
well-being of others. That moment defined who Patrick Devlin was.

10 years after his death, I still think my father is going to come around the corner and give
me a big bear hug. When I'm in need of advice, I want to reach out to him and ask him what
I should do.

Man, if I just had 10 more minutes with Dad.

If I was granted a few extra moments with my father, I'd tell him that Mom has been a pillar
of strength since that fateful day in May a decade ago. It hasn't been easy, but Mom has
been amazing. Oh, she has her moments. As tough as she is, being alone as one gets older can
be a challenge. But Mom has never complained - instead she has been resilient, something
I know would make my Dad very proud.


I'd tell my Dad that he should be very proud of his daughter, Kara, and son, Patrick, who
followed his lead to become terrific parents. They've raised six remarkable kids, all of whom
inherited the a few character traits of their grandfather. Sergei, who is 12-years-old certainly
has my Dad's appetite and can crush a buffet with the best of them.



I'd tell my Dad how much I miss him. I'd tell him how correct he was in every piece of advice
that he gave me.

Most importantly, I'd tell my Dad how much I love him. You can never say that enough. Ever.