Tuesday, December 27, 2011


When an athlete passes a milestone or breaks a record, it's easy to
wax poetic about them and it becomes fashionable to engage in the
"hero worshipping" of them. Lord knows, ESPN has buttered their
bread with it over the years. (Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Brett Favre,
Derek Jeter, you get the picture)

Media outlets around the country are doing the same with Drew
Brees today. Last night, he broke Dan Marino's single-season
record for passing yards in a season, a mark that stood since
1984. There are few records that really mean anything in football,
that was one of them. In the coming week, we'll see Brees on
SportsCenter, "PTI", "Good Morning America, and even the
Ellen DeGeneres show where he has made several appearances.
Everyone will want the "hottest" star and story of the week
because it will give them broadcast cred and perhaps a bump
in the ratings.

The record is nice and Brees is a bona-fide superstar, but all
the glitzy highlight reels, features, and accolades by the networks
will never be enough to illustrate just how much one man has
meant to a city. It's not just because Brees is a great athlete, but
more importantly, a  person of great strength and character. He
has help change the face and perception of a Saints organization
that had been inept, insecure, and in need of savior. Brees helped
energize New Orleans and aided in it's recovery from Hurricane
Katrina. No athlete in the history of sports has been more important
to its city than Dree Bress. That includes Michael Jordan, Magic
Johnson, and Derek Jeter. Those athletes played in stronger-than-
Atlas cities, ones that already had an identity and resources to
withstand catastrophe.

After Hurricane Katrina, he didn't flee New Orleans, he embraced
it. He didn't bolt to a ritzy suburb, he stayed in the heart of the
city and helped it rebuild. Many of us thought the Big Easy would
never recover, but Brees made sure it not only recovered, but
 flourish. He helped lead the Saints to a place where they had
never gone before, beating hometown hero Peyton Manning of
the Colts in the Super Bowl. He became the king of the Mardis
Gras parade and a person that parents wanted their kids to emulate.

It's not about the record with Brees. It's about the person.
In a sports world that has been riddled with scandal,
sarcasm, and superstars without a moral compass, Dress Brees
is everything right about sports. Thank you, number 9.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


In a college football world where every coach always seems to
be looking out for number one, it was refreshing to hear Mark
Richt looking out for others. The Georgia Bulldogs head football
coach was cited by the NCAA for "impermissible" payments.
Richt apparently paid some of his assistant coaches more than
$60,000 from his own pocket over the course of a three-year

The veteran coach of the Bulldogs didn't think a few members
of his loyal staff were being compensated fairly by the university,
so he supplemented their incomes. How cool is that?

In a day and age where coaches like Lane Kiffin and Todd Graham put
blinders on and chase the almighty dollar, it's nice to see a guy
taking care of the guys who take care of him. Loyalty and dedication
was rewarded by Richt, who some say put his job on the line with these
"transgressions". (The NCAA has so many silly rules that
it's nauseating). Not by a long shot. Richt enhanced his reputation
as a coach and person who is grounded and of high-moral
fiber. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Richt
helped out in a number of ways.

• To former recruiting assistant Charlie Cantor, $10,842 over an
11-month period through March 2011.
• To former linebackers coach John Jancek, $10,000 in 2009 after the
previous university administration declined to give Jancek a raise when
he turned down a coaching opportunity elsewhere.
• To director of player development John Eason, $6,150 in 2010 when his
new administrative position called for a salary reduction after he
stepped down from an assistant coaching position on Richt's staff.

Richt also paid a total of $15,227 when the school -- citing "difficult
economic conditions being experienced by the University" -- refused
bowl bonuses to 10 non-coach staff members: director of sports medicine
Ron Courson, video coordinator Joe Tereshinski, strength coaches Keith
Gray and Clay Walker, football operations manager Josh Brooks, high
school liaison Ray Lamb and four administrative assistants.

He also paid a five-year longevity bonus of $15,337.50 due to tight
ends coach Dave Johnson when he took a job at West Virginia in 2008
just short of his fifth anniversary coaching at UGA and $6,000 to fired
defensive ends coach Jon Fabris in 2010 when Fabris was unable to find
a job after his UGA severance package expired.

 As we've seen over the past few months, there are a lot of quality coaches
in college sports, but not a lot of quality people. The University of Georgia
has a great coach and person in Mark Richt. Paying more $60,000 from
his own pocket for his assistants? How cool is that?

Monday, November 21, 2011


Sexual molestation, infidelity, murder, cheating, lying, lockouts
....it's all been part of a sports world that's turning into a one
giant cess pool. This guy is going to prison for selling drugs,
that guy got caught using performance-enhancing drugs and
blamed it on tainted meat, blah, blah, blah. It's getting rather
nauseating, isn't?

Then a guy like Tim Tebow, who is squeaky clean, comes along
and a lot of people seem hell bent on trying to dirty him up. The
Denver Broncos quarterback seems to be about the only thing
in the sports world that hasn't been stained by scandal, ego, and
greed. Tebow always says the right things, treats everyone with
respect, and now is helping his team win football games. Yet,
everyone wants to find the chinks in his armour. They make fun
of his "Tebowing", the act of going on one-knee to pray to somebody
up above. Opponents, media members, and fans everywhere make
fun of him.

There have been plenty of experts and analysts to mock him and
his ability as well. Tebow can't drop back, throw, read a defense,
or do anything except, well, win. He has won four of his five NFL
starts and has pumped new life into a team that had been on life-
support after the first five weeks of the season. John Fox, the Broncos
said that if Tebow had to play in a pro-style offense, "he'd be
screwed". How's that for confidence in your starting quarterback?

Why are people so quick to criticize Tebow? Is it because he
seems too good to be true? Do they hate the fact that he brings
religion into the stadium every week? Or do people hate the
fact that the former Florida Gator icon has a life that isn't as
quite as miserable as theirs? It's probably a combination of all

Tebow is turning out to be Doug Flutie with two extra growth
sports. Like Flutie, he's a Heisman winning quarterback who
did superhuman things while he was in college. Flutie, like Tebow,
had plenty of haters, too. Most of them were NFL scouts who
said said Flutie was too short and couldn't play in an NFL-style
offense. After playing in the USFL in Canada, Flutie came
back to prove them all wrong. He had great flashes and won
some games for the Buffalo Bills before being replaced by
somebody who was bigger, stronger, and much better looking
when it came to playing quarterback.

That will happen to Tebow, eventually. His flaws when slinging
the football, might be too much to overcome. Teams will eventually
figure out a way to stop him in the last five minutes of the game,
and he'll eventually be replaced. It may be in the next three games or
the next three years, but he's not long for the NFL.

But right now, his teammates believe in him and Tebow is
proving that he can win, perhaps not play at high-level, but
win. He may be winning "ugly" but Tebow is winning, and
that's the bottom line in the NFL. However, his attitude,
charisma, and character is certainly refreshing. I've grown
tired of writing about liars, cheaters, and ego-driven millionaires.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


We live in a society of front-runners and users. There are some
people we can't stand, but still befriend them because they can
help us get more money, a better job, or great tickets to the Super
Bowl. People will be friends with you until they deem you no
longer useful or helpful to them, or you become unpopular with
a certain crowd and it's bad for their image to be seen with you.
They'll only do the right thing if it's right for them and it keeps
them in good standing with the right people.

Last week, child abuse allegations were made against Syracuse
assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine. In the wake of the Penn
State mess, people have already convicted Fine of being a sexual
predator and friends have run away from him quicker than Usain
Bolt pulls away from the field in the 100 meter dash. In the court
of public opinion, Fine is a child molester, pervert, and someone
with serious problems. He may be exonerated down the road, but
his reputation has been ruined forever. There will always be the
uncomfortable stares and the people who turn the other way when
they see Fine coming. Jim Boeheim is not going to be one of them.

Boeheim, the Hall of Fame  basketball coach of the Orange, has
worked side-by-side with Fine for the last 36 years and has known
him for a half-century. When the world was throwing Fine into
the same cess pool as Jerry Sandusky, Boeheim stood up for his
friend and told anyone who would listen that he believed in
Fine's innocence.

“I have been friends with Coach Fine for 50 years," Boeheim
said last week. " And that buys a lot of loyalty from me and
it should."

Boeheim, unlike most people, doesn't believe loyalty is a
one-way street. He should be applauded for not turning
his back on a friend who dedicated his life to helping him
turn Syracuse into a national power. Beoheim should be praised
for not selling out a friend who made tremendmous and personal
sacrifices to help the team and athletes become the best it could
be. It's been said that you find out who your real friends are when
adversity strikes. Fine has a real friend in Boeheim.

A lot of coaches in Boeheim's position would have rinsed their
hands of Fine as quick as the allegations came down. Few of them
would want anything to do with a person who's being accused of
child molestation, after all, it's not good for their image and "legacies".

Critics and crisis management "experts" say that Boeheim is
"risking everything" in defending his friend.  Everything being
his job, reputation, and legacy. It's bold and refreshing to hear
Boeheim pretty much say, "to hell with those things." Boeheim
is not going to sell out a friend and is taking a stand in the face
of public criticism, believing in his friend and what he thinks
is right. And there are no shortage of people who have criticized
the stance Boeheim is taking.

"If you can get in trouble for supporting a friend you’ve known
for almost 50 years, I don’t want to live in that country,” Boeheim said
last week. “Is that clear? And yet people are saying stuff like that.
That’s sad. That’s a sad world. When you can’t be loyal to your
friends, I don’t like that world.” Neither do I.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I never knew Brian Bill or Pat Tilman but I admired them more than anyone I've ever met, outside
of my parents. Bill and Tilman took very different paths to the military, but tragically, both suffered
the same fate, dying as they fought for our freedom.

As the nation took a breath from the mind-blowing events at Penn State and paid tribute on Friday
to those who fought  and died while serving our country, I couldn't help but think of Bill and Tilman
and how they made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States.

A lot of people say they love our country, but if someone took a poll, it would probably come after money, family, sex,  Facebook, and before the IPad and the IPhone in the rankings of what we like
the most in our everyday lives. There are few people who would actually fight for our country and
do the things necessary to protect our freedom which we take for granted every  single day. Yes,
we do. Each of us takes our freedom for granted all the time. Oh, sure, there are moments when we appreciate it, like when those who  died fight for it, come home in a casket or an act of terrorism
is thwarted. It's sad, but not many of us can say that it's not true.

Tilman gave up millions that came his way from  playing in the NFL. But after 9/11, the former
Arizona Cardinals safety said, "football's not important to me, serving my  country is." He became
a Ranger and went on a few missions before he was killed by his own battalion in a dangerous
canyon in Afghanistan. It was sad, tragic, and made even worse because the government lied to
everybody at first,saying that Tilman was a hero and killed by enemy forces. But what Tilman did,
giving up the riches and the good life of the NFL, to serve our country should be admired. He
should be remembered and admired along with the others who fought and died in wars that tried
to rid evil and destruction

Brian Bill wasn't a former NFL player, but he was a man who was a great athlete and a person
who had accomplished so much. He was a triathlete, mountaineer, spoke French fluently and
aspired to be an astronaut. Bill became a Navy SEAL  and was a member of the elite Team Six.
He was bold, brave, and more courageous that most of us could only dream of being. Bill was
killed along with more than 25 other SEAL's when their helicopter they were traveling in, was
brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan.

Tilman and Bill were in the prime of their lives with so much ahead of them. But they, like so many others, never made it back to home soil. It's so sad that we sometimes forget about the people who are still
fighting faceless enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan, in wars most of us really don't support anymore. It's
really sad that most people don't think of the dangers our troops experience everyday, many of them
not even old enough to legally drink yet, fighting to protect our freedom. Fighting for our freedom. That statement sometimes seems corny. But it is very real. Tilman and Bill are real heroes and I'll never forget
the sacrifice they, along with so many others, made for us and our freedom. That's what
I'm thinking about on this Memorial Day.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


On his first day on the job, Theo Esptein, the new Chicago
Cubs president of baseball operations, was asked if he was
going to reach out to Steve Bartman, the scapegoat of the
2003 National League Championship Series. Epstein, who
didn't navigate through the Red Sox and shark-infested
media waters of Boston without being savvy, said that
it was time to reach out Bartman.

"From afar, it seems like it would be an important step,
maybe a cathartic moment that would allow people to
move forward together. I'm all about having an open mind,
an open heart and forgiveness."

As smart as the Yale-educated Epstein, his statement about
giving Bartman "forgiveness" just accentuates what is wrong
with the sports culture, our world, and the fans of Chicago.
Eight years after the Cubs imploded in the NLCS against
the Florida Marlins, people are still blaming Bartman for the loss.

As I write this, I'm thinking of former NBA great Allen Iverson's
diatribe on  his feelings about being criticized for not practicing
hard.  Iverson, at the time, was averaging more that 20 points a
game an MVP candidate.

"We're talking about practice, not a game, but practice,"
Iverson said emphatically. "Wait, wait, wait. Not a game,
but practice."

Eight years later, the Cubs are still not talking about a player,
but a fan. Not someone who played in the game. But a
fan. Not a player like Alex Gonzalez, who butchered a
tailor-made double-play ball that would've gotten the
Cubs out of the inning, but a fan.

After reaching for a ball that supposedly caused Cubs
outfielder Moises Alou, whose defensive prowess will
never be confused with that of Ichiro, to miss a ball,
everybody in Chicagoland blamed Bartman for what
followed. Leading 3-0 in Game 6 and just five outs
from reaching the World Series,  everybody immediately
vilified Bartman as if he were serial-killer John Wayne Gacy.

Thanks to Alou, who made a tantrum of epic proportions,
with a death stare on a kid wearing a headphone, a Cubs
hat, and a green turtleneck, fans showered Bartman with
beers and berated him with words reserved for players like
John Rocker.

The Cubs go through the regular-season and the playoffs,
and they blamed Bartman for their loss. And still are. Epstein
is talking about "forgiveness"? For what, being a fan who did
what everybody else would do?

Bartman's life as he knew it was destroyed the moment Alou
yelled at him in front of Chicago and the entire baseball world.
He went into hiding. Reporters from ESPN stalked him at
work. He received death threats, hate mail, and had to have
police protection outside of his own house. He was a die-hard
Cubs fan who suddenly was wanted dead by every fan of
the Cubs.

IT'S INSANE. Fans directed their hate at another fan, not
another player, but a fan. Imagine having your life destroyed
and being vilified for being part of a play that didn't even
count. It was nothing more than a long strike.

Fate is twisted and it is cruel. In 1996, Jeff Maier reaches
out and helps a ball hit by Derek Jerek to carry over the fence.
He is immortalized in New York, while Bartman tips a ball
that's out of play and he is ostracized. Do you think a day
goes by when Bartman doesn't think about what happened
and all the hate that comes his way. This guy loved the
Cubs but now, can no longer even go to the friendly confines
of Wrigley Field that turned out to be anything but friendly
for Bartman.

Theo, get Bartman. Bring him out of hiding and support him.
As the new messiah in Chicago, people in the Windy City will
follow your lead. In a normal thinking world, Bartman wouldn't
need "forgiveness", but you're right, he needs it now. This
kid has been tormented long enough. Nobody should have to
live in the world Bartman has for the last eight years. Free
Bartman, give him back his life and the happiness that he

Friday, September 30, 2011


As I was watching the ESPN documentary "Catching Hell",
the riveting story of how Steve Bartman single-handedly, according
to some, changed the course of the 2003 NLCS, I quickly asked
myself, "Is this about Bartman or Bill Buckner?" More than 20
minutes of the program was dedicated to the tragic tale of Buckner
and his blunder in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Even though
the story wasn't about him, it was about Buckner, which reminded
me just how pathetic the media can sometimes be, and how they
were in their despicable treatment of Buckner after his error against
the New York Mets. The error ended the game, but in Boston sports
lore, Buckner cost the Red Sox a championship, one that fans
and members of the media in that town and throughout the region,
thought was rightfully theirs.

Buckner became a scapegoat, punch line, and punching bag for
all the miserable souls in New England who had watched their
team suffer year after year without a championship. He became
a symbol of the team's epic failures and a living, breathing, and
walking reminder of how the franchise always choked or
was seemingly cursed in their efforts to win the World Series
trophy, which in New England, is akin to the capturing the
Holy Grail.

It's unfortunate and sad that Buckner had to be cast unfairly as
a scapegoat, especially after what he had to endure in his
personal life. When he was 13-years old, Buckner's father
committed  suicide. When a father, mother, sister, or brother
takes their own life, it can rip apart a family, and open a gaping
wound that can never be stitched up, no matter how much time
passes. Contrary to popular belief, time does not heal all
wounds. The unanswered questions and psychological impact
of it all can destroy a person for life. I'm sure Buckner found
himself asking himself why? Did I have anything to do with it?
Why did he leave all of us? Questions that remain unanswered
to this day.

This could have destroyed Buckner, but it fueled him. He
committed himself to being the best baseball player that he
could possibly be, and he became a pretty darn good one.
Buckner spent 22 years in the major leagues, won a batting
title, had a .289 lifetime average and accrued 2,715 hits.
That's more than Ted Williams, Jimmy Foxx, and all but
59 players in the history of the game. But after his error
in the '86 World Series, nothing Buckner  accomplished
really mattered. The image of his blunder was burned into the
consciousness of fans and media throughout New England.

After Buckner threw out the first pitch to start the 2008 season,
which was a highly-emotional event, the former Red Sox
first baseman held a press conference. Teary-eyed and on
the verge of becoming unglued, Buckner said that he had
to forgive the media, not the fans, in order to really move
on in his life. And he did, which in many ways, is really
sad. A man makes an error playing a kids game and he
has to live with the pain and shame that the media in
New England thrust upon him. They wrote about him,
mocked, and degraded him as if he weren't a human being.
They buried a career that was just 285 hits from being
enshrined in the Hall of Fame. No town creates a scapegoat
better than Boston and they had one of epic proportions.
And it is sad how they treated Buckner, really sad.

Everybody in New England kind of  lightened up on
Buckner after the Red Sox won two World Series titles
in seven years, but after suffering the biggest collapse
in baseball history, fans in the region are back to being
the same miserable souls they were until they won
it all in 2004. The Red Sox have a new scapegoat in
Terry Francona and that big bus is back in motion, running
over a lot of people who had a hand in the team's
monumental meltdown. Even Buckner's name is being
tossed around again. He appeared in "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
in early September when the Sox had a nine-game lead.
They started to collapse the day after Buckner made the
catch his life, saving a baby from an unhappy ending.
Unfortunately, Buckner couldn't rescue the Sox from
hemorrhaging to their own death.

Imagine what is going through Steve Bartman's mind
as he continues his stay in hiding, almost disappearing
into thin air in this world of cellphone cameras, Internet,
and paparazzi. The fans and media in Chicago are
even more pathetic than the ones in Boston. They still
blame a fan, someone who wasn't even playing, for
the Cubs misfortune.

Think about it. The Cubs were leading 3-0 and were five outs
away from going to the World Series. And they blame a fan.
Not a player, but a fan. A loyal Cubs fan who just wanted to
catch a foul ball. It didn't matter that Alex Gonzalez booted a
routine double-play ball that would have gotten the Cubs out
of the inning. Everybody in Chicago, fans and media alike put
the Billy Goat horns on Bartman, just as the ones in Boston
did to Buckner. How sad. How very sad is that? Bartman, like
Buckner had his life changed forever and he has to live
with taunts, criticism, and pain that few of us can imagine
living with.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Sweetness. Rarely has a nickname suited an athlete more perfectly
than the one given to Walter Payton during his college days at
Jackson State. Payton was a kind, gentle, and humble man, who
morphed into one of the most electrifying and fascinating players
the game has ever seen. He could vault over lineman and land
untouched into the end zone.

Payton would sometimes bury his helmet between the numbers of
250lb linebackers and turn them into road kill on the way to a
65-yard  touchdown run, which he sometimes accentuated with
the straight-legged kick of the leader of the drumline as he
waltzed into the end zone.

Payton kept on running until he earned a place into Pro Football's
Hall of Fame. He was, is, and always will be the face of the
Chicago Bears. But Walter Payton died too soon, the victim of
cancer, an opponent he couldn't outrun, run over, over give one
of his patented stiff-arms to. Bears legendary coach Mike Ditka
called him one of the greatest people he had ever met. The
NFL named its Man of the Year award after Sweetness, an
honor that is coveted by every player in the league.

Now, 12 years after his death, Jeff Pearlman is showing off
Payton's ugly blemishes. In his book, "Sweetness: The enigmatic
life of Walter Payton", set to go on sale October 5th,
Pearlman paints the picture of an icon who abused painkillers
after his career, talked about suicide, and had an uncomfortable
marriage. Pearlman, a talented and detail-obsessed writer, has
become an expert in painting people in a bad light. He was the
scribe that John Rocker brought along for that fateful ride on
the 7 train in New York City and decided to spew all those
ugly comments that offended every ethnic  group and homosexuals
throughout  the world. Rocker was  a bad guy, but he never
recovered  from Pearlman's portrayal of him in that issue of
"Sports Illustrated."

Pearlman's revelations shouldn't really shock anybody. After
seeing Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, Magic Johnson,  and even
Mickey Mantle exposed over the years, nobody is really surprised
by anything anymore. Superstar athletes are human like the rest
of us, sometimes filled with demons and hardships just like
the average Joe.

Payton abused painkillers? Add him to the thousands of current
and former NFL players who've had that same problem.
Remember Brett Favre? He almost died from them. Walter
Payton played 13 years in the NFL and never missed a
game. He had 10 seasons in which he carried the ball more
than 300 times. And he did it while playing on one of
the worst surfaces in the NFL. The turf at Soldiers Field
was akin to playing on concrete.

His offensive line during his early years in Chicago was akin to a
sieve and Payton paid  for it. Sweetness was not a big man. He
had massive thighs, a  ballerina's waist, and the biceps of a young
Arnold Schwarzenegger, but was listed at 5'10, which was probably
his height in his make-shift platform shoes which he used when
running up  hills during his grueling and legendary off-season
workouts. His  body took an incredible amount of abuse during
his NFL career and the pain he suffered didn't go away when he
hung up his cleats. Payton needed something to cope, and
painkillers, apparently were the answer. Not really surprising, is it?

Pearlman writes that Payton talked of suicide. As tragic
as it may seem, a great deal of people in our society do
the same thing. Some athletes, as we've seen recently,
(Mike Flanagan, Hideki Irabu, Dave Duerson, Wade
Belak, and Rick Rypien) actually went through with it.

An uncomfortable marriage? There isn't enough space
to fit all the people in that category. Walter Payton was
human with personal problems that millions of people
in society face everyday. Pearlman can try to bring
him down as much as he likes because that's what writers
do to sell books and make the New York Times
best-seller lists, which means more money in their pockets.
Herschel Walker has a book and admits he had as
many personalities as Sybil. Sugar Ray Leonard has
a book where he says he was sexually abused. What?
We never heard of anything like that before. Exactly,
Books wouldn't sell if they covered the same things as
as everyone else. They have to be controversial and explosive.
We've seen it many times before, we'll see it many times

When I was 13 years old. our family moved to Lake
Forest, Ill. which is where the Chicago Bears have trained
for many, many years. Their football fields were just about in
our backyard, literally. My dad used to take me to see
Walter Payton practice. Payton was almost a god-like
figure, much like Ted Williams was to Red Sox fans.
The first NFL game I went to in person, Payton ran for a
then-record  275 yards. He did it with a 101-degree temperature
and a  serious case of the flu. I admired him, while many in Chicago
deified him. My grandmother, who came over from Ireland
and settled  in the south side of Chicago, was a racist. She didn't
like black people. But oh, did she love Walter Payton. She
worshipped him. People didn't see black and white when it
came to Payton, he was a legend and hero to many.

12 years after his death, people in Chicago and around
the country still worship Sweetness. He was loved by
all his teammates, respected throughout the league, and
admired by nearly everyone whom he touched. Many
people in the Windy City consider what Pearlman is
doing, blasphemous. However, his "findings" shouldn't
tarnish his legacy. Never. Payton was a great man, with
his own faults and demons. He's forever "Sweetness", a
person and player the NFL will never see again.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Evan Longoria's walk-off home run put the exclamation on
what was, arguably, the greatest night of baseball in regular
season history. Four games and two walk-offs decide
the final two playoff berths. It was simply unbelievable. The
heart pounding, jaw-clenching theatrics brought back memories
of one of the funniest moments I've ever had covering the game.

On September 27, 2008, almost three years to the day of
Longoria's home run monumental home run against the Yankees,
the Tampa Bay Rays celebrated their first-ever division title
and a trip to the playoffs. This downtrodden franchise that
had experienced nothing but failure and a name change, busted
loose in a way that few teams ever have when it comes to
champagne celebrations. There was the obligatory music
blaring at decibel levels that would bring down a building
and the goggles to protect the eyes of the players as they
poured the bubbly and beer all over each other like the kids
in the "Bad News Bears."

But when you've been the doormat of baseball for so long, playing
in a city where people still don't know a major league
franchise resides there, well, let's say there are no boundaries
when it comes to partying.  This clubhouse was like "Animal
House". The only thing missing was Dean Wermer's wife
making out with the players. It was off the hook wild.

During the celebration, I crossed paths with Longoria
and asked him for an interview. He was already a little
buzzed because the team actually finished their game against
Detroit, went to dinner, then came back after learning the
Yankees had lost to the Red Sox in a rain-delayed game,
giving the Rays the division title. Longoria obliged. What
happened next was pretty funny.


Grant Balfour, then a reliever for the Rays, gave me a shower that
I've never quite forgotten. The beer he doused me with was so cold,
it could have been kept on ice since the birth of their franchise
in the  '90's. I was cryogenically frozen. Ted Williams corpse
in the tube in that Arizona laboratory never reached the temperatures I 
experienced that night. My cameraman did a phenomenal job of
zooming out while the near-frozen liquid was pouring down
on my scalp and neck. I wanted to scream and say,
"WTF!?",  but didn't. I was proud of the way I kept my composure
during the interview,  especially since my scalp was screaming
in pain and what little brain I have, was not exactly comfortably

As Longoria was rounding the bases on Wednesday night, my thoughts
turned to that day back in late September of 2008 and I wondered
which reporter might get a shower and a brain freeze like I did that
crazy night in Detroit.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


With the premiere of "Moneyball," the Red Sox riveting collapse,
and another NFL weekend, it was easy to miss the incredible mission
that Diana Nyad started at 6pm on Friday in Cuba. The 62-year
endurance swimmer jumped into the water to begin her goal of
swimming 102 miles to Florida. 102 miles through shark-infested,
man-o-war stinging jellyfish, and whatever lies the beneath the
surface of the waters of the Florida Straits. Nyad is doing all this
without a cage to protect her. It's a true open-water swim.

Think about this for a second. A 62-year old woman swimming
for more than 40 hours through elements that are best described
as vicious. Swimming through the Florida Straits when it's pitch
black out, knowing there are a lot of creatures below the surface
that can end your mission, not to mention your life, is downright
scary. No sleep, no security, no hot showers....this is borderline nuts.

During Nyad's swim, she suffered stings from man-o-war
jellyfish that have supersized her face, arms, and neck. Nyad stopped
once because of it, boarding a boat to get medical treatment. This
altered the swim from a record non-stop one, to a staged one. But
really, does that matter at all when you're trying to swim 102 miles?
Hardly. Nyad has seen a curious oceanic white tipped shark cross
her path. A school of 10 whales appeared in front of her. And she's
already come face-to-face with jellyfish.

Talk about courage and mental toughness. This is the true test of
it. Nyad tries passing time by singing songs, but with the average
one lasting just over three minutes, that doesn't help very much.
The will to keep on going is off the charts. The drive to keep on
swimming when toxins from jellyfish stings are tearing up your
body is beyond words.

I was borderline obsessed with Nyad's swim. I got up at 4:30 this
morning to check her progress. 40 hours, 21 minutes, 30..31..32,
100,453...100,454...100,455 strokes. It was pitch black when I
checked my computer, I can't imagine what Nyad was thinking
or the pain she was enduring.

An alert came across the screen of my computer a few minutes
ago, Nyad's quest to swim through the Florida Straits was over.
Doctors warned that more stings from jellyfish could cause death.
It was over. More than 40 hours, 50 miles,  and 100,000 strokes
and Nyad was done.

Critics will say that Nyad failed again. She had tried the same
swim when she was 28-years old and did not finish. Nyad attempted
the journey once again in August. Once again, she stopped, this
time because of an 11-hour asthma attack. Today, Nyad stopped
because the stings were just too painful and too dangerous.

However, Nyad did not fail. She is a true inspiration to all those
who say, "I can't". She is a hero to all those who say, "I'm too
old, too weak, and not talented enough." She is someone to be
looked up to her for her iron will and determination. She should
be admired for her persistence, courage, and dedication. Nyad
may have stopped, but she did not fail.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


"Moneyball" is brilliant. It's not easy to turn a movie about baseball
and the implementation of something called sabermeterics into
a blockbuster hit, but Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour-Hoffman,
and a cast of actors who deliver spot-on performances, deliver like
Mariano Rivera in the 9th inning of a pressure-packed, can't-
look-til-it's-over game.

This film is easily one of the best of the year and instantly deserves
its place among the best baseball movies ever made. If you're
a casual baseball fan, you may become addicted to it as you are
Facebook after seeing "Moneyball". If you're a baseball junkie
who gets a rise out of on-base percentages, WHIP's, and OPS's,
then you will  probably see this movie twice in a week. It's
that good.

What makes the movie all the more impressive is the detail
in which the producers go through to make the baseball
scenes incredibly realistic, which is hard to do. Remember
"Bang the Drum Slowly"? Those actors couldn't make their
high school baseball team.  "Field of Dreams" was phenomenal
but they had Shoeless Joe Jackson,  one the greatest pure
hitters in the history of the game, if not one of its most polarizing
figures, hitting right-handed when he was actually a lefty.

The actors playing David Justice, Scott Hatteberg, and
Chad Bradford, were so similar to the players with their
appearance and mannerisms, it was scary. Even the guys
playing Mike Sweeney and "Everyday" Eddie Guardardo
were so good, I wondered if the former major leaguers
had come back for cameos.

Only the most astute baseball fans notice how Tim Hudson
wears hit hat so low that you can barely see his eyes. That
was spot-on in the movie. David Justice and that little flick
with the leg kick? Carbon copy in the movie. Seymour-Hoffman's
impersonation of Art Howe was scary good. Howe might
be a little upset with the big boiler (gut) Seymour-Hoffman
had because the former A's manager was thin and good shape, but
that was the only thing that was a little off.

Pitt, who admittedly, doesn't like baseball very much, puts
on a performance that is worthy of an Oscar in his portrayal
of Billy Beane, the A's general manager who tries to reinvent
the game by using stats to find and use undervalued players
whom nobody else wants.

"Moneyball" has some LOL lines throughout the film. Baseball
and the characters in it, usually provide enough great material
for a sit-com, but "Moneyball" took it to the next level. During
a meeting with his old and crusty scouting staff,  Beane (Pitt)
was trying to find player to replace Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon,
and Jason Isringhausen. Scouts were throwing out names of
players who might and might not be candidates. In describing
one player, the scout said, "His girlfriend is only a 6, so that
means he doesn't have any confidence."

The A's and their $41 million dollar payroll, or about $7 million
dollars less than what the Yankees are paying A-Rod and Derek
Jeter, come close to "reinventing" the game and getting to
the World Series. "Moneyball" did change the way a lot of
general managers scout and put together their teams. The Rangers,
Rays, Red Sox, Indians, and Padres, are all proponents of
"Moneyball". Billy Beane's theory has had a definite impact
on the game. Pitt's performance and the filmmakers expertise
puts "Moneyball" in a class all its own.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Do you ever feel like certain events in your life could make for a good
sitcom? That's kind of how I felt when I showed up for the Toughman
Triathlon in suburban New York on Sunday. I picked up my registration
packet, and other than my name and address, there was a note highlighted
in neon yellow which read, "WEIGH IN!". I was like, seriously, I have
to get on a scale and weigh in? Because I was in the Clydesdale division,
reserved for those 200 or more pounds, my weight had to be certified.
42 athletes out of 1,000 were in the big and fat division and we actually
had to get on a scale. Nice. For the record, I was 236lbs, or 10 pounds
less than when I started training in earnest for the 70.3 mile event.

When I went to unload my Jeep of all the equipment needed for the
swim, bike, and running events, I had an uneasy feeling come over me,
the kind you get after checking and double-checking your list, but still
feel like you forgot something. Then, all of a sudden, I was like John
Belushi in "Animal House" when he discovered he accidentally killed
the horse in Dean Wermer's office. "Holy S-h-i-t! Holy S-h-i-t!" My
sneakers were missing. That's kind of like Derek Jeter forgetting to
bring his glove for a baseball game. What the hell was I going to do?
I couldn't go home and get them. The mall wouldn't be open until at
least 11am and I didn't even know where the hell it was. What a dope!
I had to get creative so I decided to size up all the volunteers at the
event to see if any had a jogging shoe that was a 10.5. Yeaaaaah. I'm
trying to focus on this event and now I have to worry about getting a
pair of shoes. I found a kid who was a freshman at Iona College. He
had a pair of maroon and yellow Nike Livestrong shoes. They were
size 10, but I didn't care. I gave the kid a $70 check. I'd worry about
the fit when I started the run.

With my mind somewhat at ease, I got ready for the swimming portion
of the event, a 1.2 mile leg in the Hudson River, which after all the storms,
looked like Chocolate milk. Oh, well, if you sign up to swim in the Hudson
you have to expect dirty water, drift wood, and even corpses. It is what it
is. Open water swimming is nothing like training in a pool. I describe it
as swimming in a blender. Arms, legs, feet, elbows, and heads everywhere.
It's like roller-derby in the water at the start.

My goal was to start out slow, get my breathing settled, and concentrate
on my strokes.  I started out slowly and that was about all I accomplished.
My heart rate was too fast and I struggled to catch my breath. This
wasn't good. I got  elbowed a few times and was kind of disoriented. I
had to do breast stroke for about 10 seconds to get my bearings again.
Once I did, I settled in and got the cadence of my stroke going. I finished
the 1.2 mile race in 36:02 which is not a bad time.

I really wasn't in any hurry to get through the transition from the swim to
the bike, which required me to take off the wetsuit, put on gloves, helmet,
and shirt for the bike. My only goal was to lower my heart rate to get ready
for the 56-mile journey through the rolling hills of Hudson Valley, New York.
I wasn't going to win the race, so I wanted to make sure I didn't rush
through things getting out on the bike.

The bike ride was challenging but fair. I had done a half-marathon in
Middletown, CT last June and the hills were ridiculous and brutal. This
ride was smooth  and solid, for me at least. One mile into the race, I
witnessed a nasty wreck  between two cyclists. One rider ended up
on his back, stunned and with a nasty case of road rash. At the 32-mile
mark, a girl was sitting on the side of the road crying because her tire
had blown out. That's my biggest fear, blowing out a tire during the race.
You just pray you don't run over a sharp object and then have to change
a tire with your heart rate blasting and your brow dripping with sweat.
I finished the 56-mile trek in a personal best of 3:29.45. And I celebrated
mostly because I got through the race without popping a tire.

As I got to the transition area, I was just hoping and praying that
those shoes that I bought from that college kid, weren't going to be
too tight and cause me to have miserable blisters. The shoes were snug,
but they were light and felt pretty good. I didn't even know if they
were actually running shoes. They sure didn't have a lot of cushion.
But they were a lot better than running 13.1 miles in my bare feet. I
started brutally slow in the run, trying to stretch out my legs after 3.5
hours on the bike. I felt pretty good and strong. My sister, Kara, sent
me a note before the race for inspiration. It read:

       "It doesn't matter how slowly you go, just as long as you do not stop"

I don't know if Confucius ever did a triathlon, but those words stuck in
my head. I made it my goal NOT to stop, no matter how big the hills were
or the pain I was experiencing. The 13.1 mile run was a nice layout that
included streets and trails that led us by the Croton Dam which was a
spectacular site. I did not stop. Not once. I was also dedicating this race
to Brian Bill, A Navy SEAL from Stamford, CT, who was killed recently
while on a mission. There was no way I could stop. This guy used to
do Ironman Triathlons for breakfast before going on mission. He was as
tough as they come. A man of great courage and bravery who sacrificed
his life protecting our country and its freedom. I would not stop, I could not

As I came down the last mile of the 70.3 mile journey, I couldn't help but
think how much I enjoyed the entire day. The 4am wake-up call, the
weigh-in, having to buy shoes from a college kid, the frenetic swim, the
long bike ride and run. And all the pain gave way to pleasure, knowing
that I accomplished a goal and could finish in honor of Brian Bill, a
military man who could never fulfill his great promise. A life cut down at
the age of 31, with so much accomplished, yet so much left to conquer.

I finished in a time of 6 hours and 29 minutes. I didn't enter to win,
just to finish and enjoy the challenge. In all honesty, my training
was sporadic, at best. This was more about will than skill. 10% of the
race was about talent, but it really doesn't take much talent to run,
bike, or swim. We all can do it. 90% of the race was about persevering
through the pain and not giving up. That's what I'm most proud of.
Going the distance for Brian Bill and never stopping, no matter what.

Since the day started like a sit-com, it was only fitting that it ended like one.
After my 6 and half-our endurance event, I went back in the chocolate river
known as the Hudson. It was chilled just right and I stayed in to lower
my body temperature and cool off my joints. When I was pulling out out
of the parking lot, my Jeep was blocked by none other than a "Mister Softie"
Ice Cream truck. LOL. Larry David wasn't around but that giant vanilla
cone with chocolate sprinkles was. Man, the Fat Guy would've certainly
loved it.