Sunday, December 1, 2013
You can gauge the pulse of the sports nation by checking out the news feed of Facebook
during the weekend. Once you navigate through the pictures of food and the bare feet by the
ocean, there is usually a plethora of comments posted by sports "experts" across the nation.
It doesn't take a rocket-scientist to figure out the type of fans out there. There are the ones
who think their teams and players should win every game, championship, and post-season
award. (Boston fans). The ones who think their teams should win everything, but never do.
(Jets, Mets, Rangers, and Knicks). Finally, there are experts who aren't happy unless they
are bitching about their teams. They can't do this, can't do that, and just plain suck. It
really is quite entertaining.
A lot of these folks talk about their favorite teams using "we" and "us" in the same sentence,
as if they have actually sweated through two-a-days together or took part of a champagne
celebration in the clubhouse. Wearing authentic laundry of your favorite team during a
two-hand touch football game on the weekend, doesn't actual make you a part of it. And
in all reality, we all are cheering for laundry with the name of the team stitched across the
front of it.
Saturday was a day not to root for a team, but rather to just admire and inhale the beauty of
sports. There was no script and nothing was routine. It was spectacular. Ohio State-Michigan,
which is quite possibly the best rivalry in college football, was a scintillating game not
decided until the Wolverines had the courage to go for the win, but came up short. I could've
used the word, "failed", but that doesn't quite fit for a team that played so valiantly and
played for a monumental win, instead of a tie. Who can get on them for that? Who can
get on a bunch of kids and young men, which we often seem to forget.
That game was just a teaser for one that turned out to be one for the ages. Alabama-Auburn,
heated rivals, the Iron Bowl, a trip to the SEC championship on the line. There was Nick
Saban, the control freak who often preaches about "the process" matching wits with Gus
Malzahn, an offensive wizard who has resurrected a proud program in less than a year
in the toughest conference in the country.
The Tide are the like the New York Yankees of college football, a program steeped in
tradition where success is defined by the number of national championships, not division
titles, they've won. To Alabama, Auburn is the red-headed step child and the program that
has always taken a back seat to the Tide.
Saturday was different. You could just feel it from the opening kick-off. This game had
everything: big plays, bad calls, taking chances, and finally, a sequence that will go down
as one of the most important in the history of this great rivalry. Even if you were just a
casual fan, it was easy to get totally engrossed in this game. You didn't dare click away
or get up for food or to take a long bathroom break. This was just too good. This is what
sports is all about. This was a beautiful thing.
Good is not a word many used to describe Saban's decision to try a seemingly unmakeable
57-yard field goal. Of course, most of the experts used it after Auburn returned the miss
for a touchdown with no time left on the clock. Saban went for the win. What's the crime
in that? He had to at least try to win the game. Anything can happen in overtime, right?
The control freak that Saban is, he wanted to his team to decide it.
It's another great thing about sports: the debate.
However, there is no debating the beauty of this game, even if you didn't like the final
score. If you didn't really care who won or who lost, this game personified the beauty of
sports. In any given game, you can see something you've never seen before, even in
a world that's experienced millions of games over more than 100 years. Oh, sure, a failed
kick has been returned for a touchdown before, but it didn't end a game the magnitude of
the one played between Alabama and Auburn.
It's never happened to a coach like Saban who prides himself on being meticulously prepared
and teaches his players to be ready for any situation. He prepared him team for a return
on a failed field goal, and they still failed to stop it.
It can happen in sports and that's the beauty of it. We should always appreciate it.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
I am thankful for my health. The groin pulls and calf strains may occur more frequently now
and the grooves around my eyes are deeper, but I'm thankful that I'm still upright and strong
enough to run marathons, swim across lakes, and bike to Montauk.
I am thankful that I have a job that I love and work with people who share the same passion, commitment and interests that I do. Love what you do, do what you love, and not have to worry about co-workers stabbing you in the back and throwing you under the bus is a beautiful thing.
I'm thankful I still have a lot of hair and women between the ages of 75 and 98 on Christian.
Mingle.com find me cute as a button.
I am thankful to have an unbelievable circle of friends. From Rye, New York to Lake Forest, Ill.
to New Canaan, CT. to Chapel Hill, NC to Atlanta, Ga. to Boston, MA, I have met some
great people who are loyal and just flat-out incredible.
I am thankful that God has blessed me with six incredible nieces and nephews who I treat
as if they are my own children. Wow. They touch my heart every time I see them.
I am not wealthy, but I'm thankful I've been enriched with opportunities that have made this
a truly wonderful life. Baseball at UNC, with the Red Sox, "Bull Durham", a sportscaster
covering Super Bowls, World Series, Olympics, Final Fours---yeah, sorry, but I do sometimes
feel like Walter Mitty. Oh, sure, I've had some serious hard knocks a long the way- been
fired, laid off, and thrown under the bus, but it's all been part of a wild and exciting journey.
Most of all, I am thankful for an incredible family. Kara is one amazing sister. She is filled
with so much love, thoughtfulness, and one giant heart. Those who know her, know she
was blessed with not only great athletic talent, but humbleness and a terrific sense of humor, too
Brother Pat is a beautiful human being. Has never uttered a bad word about anybody and
has become a great father and husband. We may not always see eye-to-eye, but we've always
been on the same page and he would do anything for me without asking anything in
My mom. Wow. I am so thankful to have her as my mother and great friend. So selfless,
giving, and understanding. After my father passed away, she became the rock of the family.
Simply amazing. She took care of my ailing dad for five years, 24/7 and did it with
strength, courage, and such amazing dignity. I love and admire her so much for that. I
was truly blessed to have such tremendous parents.
I am thankful, truly thankful during this holiday season.
I wish you all and your families all the best during this most special time of the year.
Monday, November 25, 2013
No parent should ever have to experience what happened in a small town in the southwest
part of Connecticut last December. No community should have to be forever linked to one
of the worst events imaginable. No resident should ever have to hear the words, "Oh, I'm so
sorry," after identifying where they are from to outsiders.
The massacre of 20 innocent children and six adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School is
always going to be a part of Newtown, Ct, just as Dallas is forever woven into the JFK
assassination. The town is trying hard to move on from the tragedy that seared its soul and
punctured its heart. On December 14, the one-year anniversary of the event, there won't
be a moment of silence for the victims. Church bells won't ring and there won't be a
a gathering in the center of town for the people to come together. It's all part of a
coordinated and calculated effort to try to put the past in the past, as well the unimaginable
pain behind them.
Unfortunately, an insensitive and unscrupulous world is not helping them. In the days,
weeks, and months after innocent children were ambushed by a crazed gunman, despicable
behavior followed. A woman in New York falsely claimed to be a grieving family member
of one of the victims and set up a fake charity to defraud donors. She is currently serving eight
months in prisons.
The parents of a child who actually survived the shooting, attempted to sue the state for $100
million just two weeks after the event that shook this country at its core. They said their child
suffered irreparable damage for the shooting at the school. Irreparable damage? Your child
survived. Think about the 'irreparable damage' the parents of the children who died, have
to endure. The lawsuit was dropped after their attorney got death threats.
And less than a month before the anniversary of the event, a manufacturer produced a vile
video where a gunman walks into an elementary school and massacres children, then gives
the participant options of what to do next, which includes committing suicide as the police
entered the building. It doesn't get any more heinous than that.
Now, something more for the parents and community to deal with. The final report on the
shooting and events that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School is to be released to
the world, on-line, of course, at 3pm on Monday. There will be more pain, more sorrow,
and more questions as to why, which will never be answered because Adam Lanza and his
mother are dead.
In reality, Newtown will never be able to move on from this tragedy. It will always be
Newtown followed by, "yeah, that's the place where 20 little children were murdered."
That's tough for any resident of that small, quiet community to deal with, especially for
the parents who lost a child that day.
However, there is some joy in Newtown, thanks to its high school football team. Yes,
football is merely a game where one team wins and another team loses. In the grand scheme
of things, football, whether it be the NFL or a small-town conference, is really not all
that important. But it can help bring a community a little closer together and bring more
The Newtown Nighthawks are undefeated (11-0) and are ranked first in the state in Class
LL. They are a fun and exciting team to watch with a Johnny Manziel-type quarterback
in Drew Tarantino. Their top running back, Cooper Gold, has a name straight out of
Hollywood. Their best player, Julian Dunn, is a junior and already being recruited by
several Division I schools.
The team proudly wears "Newtown" on the front of its jerseys. On the helmet is specially-
designed logo that pays tribute to the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School. The school
colors of Newtown are blue and gold, but they added a touch of green this year. Green is
the school color of Sandy Hook Elementary School. There is a the number '26' that boldly
stands out on the logo for everyone to see. The players have been advised by the First
Selectman in town not to talk about the tragedy a year ago, but they have not forgotten
the 20 children and 6 teachers and administrators who were senselessly murdered that day.
There is a Hoosiers-type feel to this team. They are a small-knit group who are quite
capable of doing great things. The division they play in is quite stacked with teams that
are bigger and more talented than them, but the Nighthawks have a big heart and appear
to be on a mission.
If everything falls their way, the Newtown Nighthawks could play for the state championship
on December 14--the one-year anniversary of one of the worst tragedies on American soil.
If that happens, the word Newtown could be followed by 'state champions'. It won't erase the
bad memories of a terrible day, but it will bring more pride to the town and truly help them
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
In the weeks leading up to the NYC Marathon, I said I was going to beat the Kenyans, win
the endurance race, and have a parade down the Canyon of Heroes to celebrate. This near-50,
pasty-white, painfully slow man was going to shock the world and beat 50,000 runners to
the finish. Yes, I said it all.
I had to.
Just 21 days before the marathon and less than 48 hours after I secured a spot in the race, I
suffered a lower leg injury during the last 50 yards of an 18-mile run. It was my last long run
leading up to the marathon. I shut everything down because I didn't want to break the cardinal
rule of running: make sure you don't get injured on the way to the starting line. I wondered
how the heck I was going to run 26.2 miles when I wasn't sure if I was even going to be healthy.
I wondered how I was going to finish my first-ever marathon when I ran a total of five miles
in the three weeks leading up to the event.
So I lied.
I didn't lie to myself, but I lied to my mind. They are not one and the same. I covered a golfer
at Penn State several years ago and he was down four holes with six to play in a match-play tournament. After he came back to win, I asked him what the heck he was thinking. He said,
"I lied to my mind and tried to trick it. I said I was playing really well and I was going to win the
match and I did."
That's why I posted on all messages on Facebook. I had to see it in writing, have people doubt
me, challenge myself, and most of all, believe I could do it. And there was no way I was going
to miss the opportunity of running in the great New York City Marathon. Nobody is promised
tomorrow and I sure as heck wasn't going to wait a full year to run this race.
The adrenaline rush as the howitzer went off to start the race, along with the feeling of running
across the Verrazano bridge was truly amazing. If there was any pain in my leg, I sure as heck
didn't feel it.
Running through the streets of the five boroughs of NYC was just flat-out incredible. People
you had never seen before and certainly didn't have any ties to, were screaming wildly. I wore
a "Carolina Baseball" T-shirt, showing the pride in the school I graduated from. I quickly found
out how many people love the University of North Carolina. There were shouts of "Tar"..
followed by "Heels", a famous chant that all graduates of the university in Chapel Hill know
all too well. It kept me going and fired me up.
Almost as amazing as the race itself, was how the organizers could track 50,000 runners
and all their split times. I know technology these days is off-the-charts, but to be able to chart
the progress of every runner for 26.2 miles and post it instantaneously in real-time, is truly mind-boggling. Below is my chart from the race. As you can see, I had a good pace going. I hit the
half-way mark at just over 1 hour and 49 minutes and was well-within reach of my goal of
I was running strong until I got to mile 21, hitting that mark at three hours, but
then the pain became too much too bare. It felt like somebody took a sledgehammer
and whacked my left knee. I slowed to a walk and tried to massage my knee and leg to
get things going. I couldn't even look at the crowd because I was too embarrassed for them
to see the pain I was in. I had run 21 miles and now this?
If I had been on the course for six hours, I wouldn't feel bad about walking to the finish,
but I was still fresh and feeling strong. There was no way I was going to walk the rest of
the way. I would've felt too much shame. I even tried running backwards hoping to alleviate
the pain. Even in NYC where nothing surprises anybody, I'm sure many people in the crowd
were looking at me like I had three eyes and two heads.
However, the adrenaline rush, once again, erased the pain. The course took us through
Columbus Circle and then on to Central Park where thousands of fans just about
escorted us to the finish line. It was scintillating and spine-tingling, to say the least.
I finished in 4:04:56, but it wasn't about the time. As they say about life, it's all about
Out of 50, 000 plus runners, I finished 17, 989. No, I didn't beat the Kenyans, but I'm claiming
a victory of my own in the New York City marathon. Wow. What a day. What a race. I'll never