Monday, August 12, 2019


As a television producer, Flip Fors went into every show knowing he'd probably have to
change things up on the fly. Breaking news, reporters missing slots, and satellite feeds
dropping just before hit times are just a few things that can throw off the most meticulously
planned shows, leaving him to carry the load and make a seamless transition to normalcy
while trying to put out fires in the control booth.

Now, after nearly 20 years in broadcast news,  Flip has changed things up on the fly in a big way.
He left the organized chaos world of television and is settling into his new profession - a truck driver.

"I had always been intrigued by truck driving. When I worked in my last job. I would see truck drivers out on the road and say to myself, 'Wow, I'm driving seven or eight hours for a one or
two-hour meeting,' Flip said while en route to delivering a load to Fort Myers, Florida where he
once worked as a producer for WBBH-TV.  "Then I'd have to drive back another seven, eight hours not really getting anything done. "But these truckers are in their office right now," he said. "And what
I love about it is how we are directly impacting the economy by delivering all of the amazing
products that people buy every single day."

It's not everyday someone in television winds up as a professional truck driver. Flip might actually
be the first in broadcast history to go from senior producer to a rookie driver of a big rig.
There was shock and awe when Flip told many of his friends of his highly-unusual ambition, but
getting Kristin, his wife of 15 years, on board with it was somewhat of a challenge.

"Well, it was a huge shock to my wife when I initially told her that I was considering it, " Flip said.
"I explained that I had researched it and had actually been thinking about it for a while, so it just
wasn't "on a lark." I laid out my case and she was impressed and basically said I should go for it,"
he said.

The Atlanta, Georgia resident who has a 14-yearold daughter named Grace, went for it
shortly after being laid off from The Dairy Alliance, a milk company where he worked as a  communications director. Out of television and out of work, Flip saw a world of opportunities in
front of him and threw caution to the wind, setting out to do what he wanted to do.

"I realized I had the chance to reinvent myself," Flip said. "I didn't have to be 'Flip' the TV guy
or Eric the dairy communications guy. For the next chapter of this wonderful life, who did I
want to be?" he said. "I did research on high in-demand careers, their training, and their long-term
financial opportunities. I attacked it and put my plans into motion to get my CDL and work
with a trucking company." Flip said.

Flip isn't afraid of the grind that goes with being a trucker - after all, he gained mental toughness
as a  swimmer at the University of Georgia and knew how to endure the pain that
accompanies 10,000 yard workouts at 5:30 in the morning. He went all in and signed up for
trucking school where he passed his exam on the first try.

"Training was pretty darn tough, but it was a lot of fun," he said. "You're getting to drive and
maneuver a massive 20-ton vehicle - it can be up to 40 tons if the trailer is full. "That's a lot
of pressure and responsibility. During school, you're basically re-wiring your brain to understand
that the trailer will go in the exact opposite direction that the wheel is turned because it's
articulating on the pivoting fifth wheel on of the back of the tractor, " Flip explained.

Flip, who made stops in Macon, Ga., Fort Myers Fla., Louisville, Ky., and Atlanta, Ga., during
his career in television, will now be criss-crossing the country carrying loads to some cities he's
never even heard of.  But Flip doesn't mind and certainly doesn't care what you think of his new profession.

"I will say this right now - despite any preconceptions that you might have, truck driving is a real
skill set and the behind-the-wheels people are valued professionals," Flip added.

Flip is still in the training program and hopes to get his own rig by next year. He's already
picked out the color of it and knows exactly how he's going to brand it.

"I'm hoping to to have a nice dark blue one like my training partner has. They're good-looking
rigs. " Flip said. "I'm going to paint a dolphin like Flipper jumping through a flaming hoop or
possibly a giant Georgia Bulldog on the side."

10-4, good buddy. 10-4.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019


I gave up cheering for professional sports teams when I was 16-years-old. I just felt the
time and energy rooting for jerseys could be better served in another capacity. I truly
respected the athleticism and accomplishments of the players, but the wins and losses
didn't matter much to me, mainly because, well, they were not my wins and losses.

And during my career playing and covering sports, I wasn't much into hero worshipping.
I was of the belief that big stars put their pants on just like everyone else: one leg at a time. 

I have met Michael, interviewed Lebron one-on-one, and shared a scene with Kevin Costner
in the movie, "Bull Durham" - and never thought it was a big deal. I've only had one, "Holy
Sh%t, OMG" moment in the presence of another person when I had a chance meeting with
Ted Williams in the batting cages at the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox where
I was a minor-league catcher. 

In the spring of 1988, the greatest hitter who has ever lived was giving me one-on-one instruction
on the art of hitting. At 6'4", Williams was a towering man with a booming voice. I said to
myself, "This has to be God in disguise." Williams talked to me for about 15 minutes and
I'm not sure I remembered a thing he had to say. I was in awe of him. But it wasn't just

the Hall of Fame accomplishments that moved me. The man was a true American hero, having
served not one but two tours of duty in the military. I vividly remembered a picture of him
in his fighter plane and it blitzed through my mind when he was talking to me. Williams flew
39 missions in the Korean War. Incredible.

Some 30 years later, I experienced that same feeling of awe. Last June, I was assigned
to produce a feature on astronaut Anne McClain at NASA in Houston. First of all, being
at the space center was akin to being on the hallowed grounds of  old Yankee Stadium.
It wreaked of history and there was little doubt it was truly something special.

When I was doing my research on McClain, I had several, "Holy Sh%t, OMG" moments.
Her lists of accomplishments were beyond incredible.

*West Point graduate earning a degree in mechanical engineering.
*University of Bath (United Kingdom) Master's degree in aerospace engineering.
*Master's degree in international security from the University of Bristol (UK)
*Played for USA Rugby, a national team.

But the part that made my jaw drop was this:

McClain qualified to be a Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot and was deployed to the Gulf
where she flew 1600 hours and 216 combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

216 combat missions!

Are. You. Kidding. Me?

I have tremendous respect for anyone who spends a day in battle, much less 216 combat
missions flying an attack helicopter. Absolutely amazing.

After her service in Iraq and qualifying as a flight instructor, McClain beat out 8,000 other
candidates for a spot in  NASA's astronaut training program which she completed in 2015.

Yes, there are high-achievers, and then there is Anne McClain.

I thought about her incredible background when I spoke with her on the deck of the training
pool at NASA. In many ways, it was like listening to Ted Williams talk about hitting. She, like
Williams, is an American hero - someone who served the country by fighting in a real war.
To me, it doesn't get much bigger than that. It was an honor to talk with her, especially when
she was wearing her astronaut suit and helmet.

I mean, how many times, do you get to interview an astronaut in their space suit on the
deck at the NASA Space Center? I knew how lucky I was in the moment.

And I was in awe of Anne McClain.

McClain lifted off from Russia with two other astronauts last December. It fulfilled a dream
for McClain, who said she wanted to be an astronaut since she was 4-years-old. Talk about
knowing what you want and getting after it. She outlined everything she had to do to get in
position to be an astronaut and accomplished them all.

I've been following McClain's mission at the International Space Station which ends in June.
The pictures are truly incredible, the accomplishment - even greater.

I faced a dilemma before that trip to Houston. I had the chance to go to North Carolina to
attend the 30th anniversary of "Bull Durham", the movie that became an important part of my
life and the people who were going to be there were pretty special to me.

But I felt going to NASA to interview an astronaut was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Re-hashing all the memories from the movie could wait for another time.

I made the right decision. Anne McClain is a true American hero and there just aren't very
many of them in our society today.

Saturday, February 9, 2019


Dear Ironman:

I've thoroughly enjoyed the five Ironman events I've completed. From Boulder to Lake
Placid to Mont-Tremblant,  the events were well-organized and well-run, making for a truly
memorable experience.

There's not much you can do about the pain one endures over the course of an 140-mile event,
but when it's all said and done, there is nothing quite like hearing Mike Reilly say, "You are
an Ironman" as competitors cross the finish line. It's a nice touch for an incredible event.

However, I really believe there is one thing the Ironman can do without: calling the bags
we use during the race "special needs" ones. Whenever I hear volunteers at check-in say,
"These are your "special needs bags",  I cringe. It just doesn't sound right. In fact, it sounds
 awful. The "special needs" bags in an Ironman event are used by competitors to put their
'goodies' in to help them get through the race. Power Bars, gels, goos, Swedish fish, aspirin,
band-aids, socks, Vaseline, sandwiches - if it can get a competitor through the endurance race,
chances are it will be in the "special needs" bag.

When I hear "special needs", I think about what most people do: those special kids who are
sometimes referred to as ones with "special needs." They are ones who need a little (or a lot) of
help just to get through the day.

Wikipedia defines special needs as people with autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome,
dyslexia, blindness, ADHD, and cystic fibrosis. However, there are a lot of children born
with many other things that make them children with special needs.

When I hear someone talk about those "special needs" bags at an Ironman event, I feel
uncomfortable. If I was a parent of a child with special needs, I would certainly find it, um,
awkward, if not offensive. It's just not right and I think the Ironman franchise should find
a way to change the name of the bags.  Call them Fuel and Recovery bags, but please don't
call them "special needs" bags. Call them S.O.S bags - anything but 'special needs' bags.

Major League Baseball recently made a big change when it came to how they described 
the list where injured players land. Almost since its inception, baseball had a "disabled list." 
Because of their sensitivity to others, it will simply be called the "injured list"

"The principal concern is that using the term "disabled for players who are injured supports the
misconception that people with disabilities are injured and therefore not able to participate or
compete in sports," said Jeff Pfeifer, MLB's senior director of league economics and operations.

Despite the change being long overdue, it was a great move by Major League Baseball. 

There is nothing special about those bags,  But there is certainly a lot that is special about
the kids who have to overcome a lot just to get through the day. Same goes for the parents.
It is extremely tough, both mentally and physically, for the parents and kids with 'special
needs' to deal with the cards they've been dealt. It's heart-wrenching for those who watch
them try to overcome the challenges they face every single day, 24/7.

When I'm swimming 2.4 miles in a beautiful lake or riding 112-miles on courses with
spectacular scenery, I find myself counting my blessing on just how lucky I am to compete
in an Ironman event, especially in my mid-50's. I am thankful that I'm able to run, bike, and
swim and enjoy everything an Ironman event has to offer.

I just don't like to see "special needs" slapped across the bags that contain fuel and
recovery items. I don't think it qualifies as being in good taste. Competitors really are not
special. Special should be used on those kids who didn't have luck on their side when they
came into this world. They are the ones who have incredible character and tremendous will.

The "special needs" bags need to go away in the Ironman events. Call them Fuel and Recovery
bags. The "special" part needs to always be used when describing those special little kids.

Thank you.

Paul Devlin