Monday, November 26, 2012
It's easy to become cynical from a sports world that is littered with self-absorbed,
and self-promoting athletes, who in some cases, suffer major wounds to their careers
and reputations because of self-inflicted stupidity.
We see athletes kneel in post-game prayer, giving thanks to the Lord, only to be
arrested later that night for spousal abuse.
Tiger Woods gathers his loving family around the living room for pictures, but as
soon as the photographer says, "we're good," he's off to Perkins for the grand slam
breakfast and a side order of waitress.
And the one incident that pushed me into the cocoon of cynicism when it comes
to athletes, occurred several years ago when former NBA star, Latrell Sprewell said
he was "insulted" by the Minnesota Timberwolves offer of three-year, $21 million
contract because that wasn't enough to "feed his family." Good grief, Charlie Brown.
But for every hundred stories about selfish, out-of-touch athletes, who live in a
fantasy world most of us never come close to experiencing, there is one that can
wipe the ugliness all away.
On September 26, Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. He had spent 28
years of his life paying his dues as he cris-crossed the country as an assistant coach
for several college and professional teams.
Last January, he achieved his ultimate dream of being a head coach when the
Indianapolis Colts tapped him to be the man to lead them out of the Peyton Manning
Era and resurrect the franchise. However, after just three games, Pagano got
the news that changed the course of his life.
It didn't seem fair that a man who had worked so hard for something and finally
had secured it, that it could all be taken away so quickly. But we all know that life
has never been fair. Bad things happen to good people, and bad people often
achieve great things through their calculating and manipulative ways. It's life,
Pagano went off for weeks of intense chemotherapy, losing all of his hair and a
lot of weight. Doctors say his leukemia is now in remission, but as much as Pagano
wants to, he's not ready to return to the sidelines. There is more treatment to endure
and he's not yet strong enough to handle the every day grind of being an NFL coach,
which demands long hours and strong shoulders to handle all the stress that
comes with it.
Pagano, who is as well-liked and well-respected as any coach in the game,
has spoken to the team and attended a few games. While he is often out of
sight, he certainly isn't out of mind to the players on the Colts, who've dedicated
the season to their coach, playing inspired football at 7-4. Their remarkable
season could end up in a berth in the AFC playoffs.
In a show of solidarity and support for Pagano, 30 players, including star quarterback,
Andrew Luck, have shaved their heads. It was a heart-warming gesture, but it
certainly wasn't all that spectacular. Men shave their heads all their time, and unless
you're really follically challenged, the hair will grow back pretty quickly.
On Sunday, a pair of Colts cheerleaders took the support for Pagano to a entirely
different level. In between the third and fourth quarter, the two women who had
A LOT of hair, shaved it for Pagano and to raise money for cancer research. This
was bold and something to be admired. It was the biggest shave to a woman's
head since Demi Moore got clipped clean in "G.I. Jane". The cheerleaders raised
$22,000 for cancer research. It's not a big number in the grand scheme of things,
but the gesture and commitment to Pagano is priceless.
Pagano might never make it back to the sidelines, that's just the harsh reality
of it. Cancer doesn't lose very often and anyone who has suffered from it or
has seen a friend or family member try to beat it, knows there are never any
The support for Pagano is a real feel good story and it could grow as the
Colts continue their amazing run to the the playoffs. Nobody expected to
see the team rise to contenders so quickly. But they are proving to be fighters
Chuck Pagano has been during the biggest battle of his life. Everyone
is hoping that the Pagano story has a great ending, whether he coaches again
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
One of the great things about Facebook is that it can connect us, if we so choose,
to virtually anyone who has passed through our lives. It gives us the opportunity
to keep up with friends, family, and our friends' families. Memories that have long
been dormant, can suddenly come to life with a picture or a funny comment from
a friend. In an instant, we can see a picture of a baby come into the world and
learn about an old friend who has left it.
On Monday, while reading a post from Robert Troup, I discovered that a person
who had touched my life in a very special way, had moved onto a much better place.
Troup's father, with the same name, died at the age of 92. To the people of New
Canaan, CT, he was known as "Papa Blue", "The Colonel" and, of course, "Colonel
In a town of bankers, brokers, and a boatload of millionaires, Troup stood out
from the crowd and there was nobody quite like him. "Papa Blue" was a true original.
If there was a food label attached to him, it would've read, "100 percent all-natural,
no ingredients added." He was so bright, so down to earth, and so personable,
that after meeting him for the first time, one got the feeling they had known
"The Colonel" their entire life.
I never knew what Troup did for a living, nor did I care. He put a smile on my
face and made me laugh every time I saw him. He'd often zoom around town
in a convertabile, his long white-grey hair flowing in the wind, a scarf often
snuggled around his neck. "The Colonel" was tall, good-looking, and extremely
dapper. He looked like as if he was created in Hollywood and refined by the world's
most courteous parents. I wish I can tell you there was movie star, a politician
or even an athlete than he reminded me of, but I can't. Troup was incredibly
unique in every way. There wasn't an ounce of a mean in his body and talking
bad about another person wasn't in his DNA. Quite simply, he was a beautiful
Troup had a plethora of nicknames and he seemingly tagged everyone with one
of their own. "He used to call me 'Haystack Martin', who was a professional wrestler",
said Mark Rearick, a legendary coach in New Canaan, who is a mountain of a man
at 6'4 and a svelte 300lbs. "We'd go into a restaurant and he'd have the waitresses
calling me, 'Haystack Martin'. He'd get kids to ask me for my autograph. It was
hilarious. The Colonel was the greatest. He'll be missed."\
Every time I ran into Troup in New Canaan, he'd always greet me the same way.
"Hey, Devils, what's going on?" He didn't really have to ask because he always
seemed to know what was going on in my life, as well as my friends' lives, and
even the friends of my friends lives. He had his pulse on everything and everyone
in New Canaan. He was a huge supporter of the athletic programs in town and
if there was a game being played, there was bound to be Troup hanging out in the
stands or on the sidelines.
Troup had the look and temperament of someone who had seen it all, and he
probably did. He was in World War II, suffering a significant injury that he had
to live with, but never really let anyone notice/. He managed to convince Jimmy
Carter to come to New Canaan and Waveny Park during the presidential campaign
in 1976. Nobody in town had the power to get that done, nobody except "The Colonel."
Everybody knew Troup from politicians, movie stars, to athletes and coaches. If
you met Troup, you never forgot him.
You have to search this country far and wide to find someone to say a bad
thing about Robert Troup. If they did, they were lying. It certainly wasn't because
they had an axe to grind because nobody, and I mean nobody, had an axe to
grind with Troup. He was that well-liked.
Colonel Troup, I love you. You were one of a kind and you will be missed.
Friday, November 9, 2012
history of the Colorado Rockies. His ascent from high school coach to skipper of a
major league franchise is quite shocking, even to a sports nation that has built up a
strong immunity to surprises, thanks to all the scandals that have reared their ugly heads
over the past five years. But to everyone who was a teammate of Weiss at UNC, including
myself, the new position for Weiss is close to mind-boggling.
There's no question Weiss has a tremendous baseball IQ, his work ethic at UNC was
legendary, and he was respected by everyone who played with and against him in the ACC.
The same things were said about Weiss during a 12-year career in the big leagues that
saw him win a Rookie of the Year award and become a World Series champion.You'd
have to search far and wide to find anyone to say a bad thing about Weiss. He is just a
solid, solid guy. But when he was working his craft in Chapel Hill, there was nobody,
and I mean nobody, who ever thought Weiss would be a manager in the big leagues
some day. Nobody.
I thought Michael Jordan would have a better chance of becoming a basketball executive
that knew what he was doing than Weiss did of becoming a manager, especially without any experience at the professional or collegiate level. I was clearly wrong. I'm still shocked
as I type this article.
When Weiss was at UNC, his life was pretty much baseball, blue jean jackets, and Bruce
Springsteen. He and the other half of the brilliant double-play combo at UNC, Mike Jedziniak,
worshipped Springsteen and knew every word to every song that the Boss had ever played.
He probably still does. That was his hobby, but baseball was Weiss' passion. He was such
a great shortstop, he made everything seem so routine. He was so smooth that he rarely made a mistake. He was so quiet, you sometimes didn't even know he was there.
Everybody on the UNC baseball team had a nickname. Everyone. Weiss became known
as "The Peanut Man". His head was so small it looked like a peanut and the name fit--and
stuck. The plastic adjustable strap on the baseball hat wasn't enough to keep Weiss' lid on,
so he had to tape it to make it tighter.
Weiss was tagged with a great nickname and also gifted with a powerful arm that could
pump out 93-mile an hour fastballs and it led to a few of the most memorable moments in
UNC history. Our coach, Mike Roberts, was Bobby Valentine with a southern twang. Like
Valentine, he always wanted people to believe he was the smartest man in the game.
During Weiss' sophomore year, he tried to turn Weiss into a shutdown closer. And he tried
to do it without any practice or preparation.
In the final week of the 1984 season, Roberts summoned Weiss in from shortstop to pitch
the 9th inning against Virginia Commonwealth. Weiss drilled the first and only batter
he faced in the ear hole with a 93-year mile an hour fastball. It was the first time
I saw the helmet of a batter actually pop off. It was frightening. We all thought
the guy was dead. We also thought it would be the last time we'd ever see Weiss on the
mound again. We were wrong.
A week later, during the ACC tournament at Durham Athletic Park which was later made
famous by "Bull Durham", we were playing North Carolina State, a longtime fierce rival
with loyal, but vicious fans. In front of nearly 8,000 people, we built a five-run lead
on the Wolfpack heading into the later innings. Instead of going with an established
reliever, and there were many talented ones on the UNC staff, Roberts brought in Weiss
to help close the game out. Seriously, he really did. Weiss was so amped up, he was hitting
95-miles hour on the radar gun. Trouble was, he had the accuracy of Nuke LaLoosh.
Weiss couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat, but he did nearly hit the mascot, which
would've resulted in an instant death.
With every ball and subsequent walk, the decibel level generated by the Wolfpack fans,
rose so high, it felt like the roof of the stands was about to blow off. It was a surreal scene
and Roberts did nothing to end it quickly. The five-run lead vanished as Weiss continued
to walk the entire free world. Dominant relievers sat in bullpen in utter astonishment until
Roberts finally went out to save Weiss, a fan from NC State screamed, "Hey Roberts,
who you going to bring in next, BJ Surhoff?" Weiss went back to shortstop and his
pitching career was over. Weiss did a lot of great things at UNC, but that moment is the
one that a lot of Tar Heels remember the most.
Walt Weiss is a great man. If he fails as a manager, it won't be because of a lack of preparation
or hard work. The man is dedicated to his profession and I guarantee that he will be the first
one to the park and the last one to leave. I'm also pretty confident in saying that the Rockies
new manager will be, pound-for-pound, the strongest man in the clubhouse. He's a fitness
freak who loves to be challenged.
Managing the Rockies will be a tough challenge for Weiss and the critics are sure to pounce
on his inexperience as soon as one of his moves backfire. But Colorado has a manager who
will lead by example, and one thing is certain, he will have the respect of his players and
he will always have their backs. Weiss is the anti-Bobby Valentine and a man who every
Tar Heel is rooting for.
Good luck, Peanut Man.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Somewhere along the line, somebody said that sports are a distraction from life's
everyday hardships. Even for just a few hours, they say, sporting events can provide
"relief" and take your mind off the problems that may come as a result of a crisis.
I've never believed it.
Superstorm Sandy re-affirmed my belief that sporting events really don't matter
much at all. They are just games, that's it. As the people of Staten Island were dealing
with the devastation that wiped out their homes, livelihoods, and in some cases, the lives
of their loved ones, do you really think they cared about the running of the New York
City marathon that starts in their borough every year? I don't think so.
Some people wanted the New York City marathon to go on because it would
show the "toughness and resilience" of New Yorkers, as if that actually means
anything when your home has been decimated by a storm surge and you're trying
to find your next meal. There would've been 40,000 people in that race with only
about 10 who had a chance at winning it. And those runners come from places that
are hard to spell, much less even pronounce. Nobody really cares who crosses the
finish line when you have to pretty much re-start your life with next to nothing.
Thanks to ESPN, the Internet, and dreams of being professional athletes, a good
part of the nation has become obsessed with sports. But when the biggest storm to
EVER hit the Northeast, it's amazing how insignificant sports become. I say this as
person whose world, at one time, was all about sports. I played sports through college
and was lucky enough to play minor-league baseball for a few years. After that, I became
a sportscaster. It was my world. But the longer I worked in it, the less important sports
became to me.
I can never really understood why people get so emotional about their teams. Adults
wear the jersey's of their favorite team and get offended when somebody, usually
another adult, talks "trash" about "their" team, as if they're actually a member of it.
In some cases, it leads to physical confrontations, bodily harm, which can result in
prison. All over a game where fans don't make a difference and have nothing to
I've never understood why fans care so much about athletes who care nothing
about them. Do you think Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks really cared
all that much about the storm victims just because he took the microphone before
the team's season opener against the Miami Heat and thanked the fans and said he
was "thinking" about the all those who are homeless because of the hurricane? I didn't
see Anthony down on Staten Island providing support or signing a check to make
a big donation.
In fact, I haven't seen anything athletes help out or chip in with a game check. I
guess they think talking into a microphone or giving an emotional 15-second soundbite
on "SportsCenter" will be more than enough.
Without having power to light up televisions or beam up a radio, people found
other ways to spend their time and pretty much forgot about what was going on
in sports world. That might be a good thing, because in the grand scheme of things,
sports don't really matter.