Monday, May 23, 2011


Image is everything. Isn't that what Andre Agassi had us believe
while he was pimping cameras for Cannon in the late 80's? He was
the rebel, the anti-establishment tennis player who dressed up in
acid-washed shorts, neon-trimmed clothing, and had that punk
rocker-type hair.

Despite never having won much of anything early in his career,
sponsors and the public bought into that image, which helped Agassi
become an instant millionaire. It wasn't until years later that we learned
everything about that image was fraudulent, right down to the hair,
which was really a wig.

Tiger Woods? He had the perfect image that helped him become the
richest athlete on the planet. He was just about universally loved and
respected. Remember those staged photos Tiger sent out of his family
and dog? Aw, they were so cute. We all bought into them. Tiger was
the ultimate husband  and father. Little did we know that as soon as the
 photographer said,  "That's a wrap", Tiger was headed down to Perkins
for a grand slam breakfast and a side order of waitress.

The list of great athletes gone bad goes on and on. Arnold Schwarzenegger?
We admired him for his rags to riches story. A world-class bodybuilder who
could hardly speak two words of English when he arrived in this country,
rose to prominence as a blockbuster actor and a politician. Turns out he
isn't much different than Tiger Woods.

Rick Pitino? He was the coach in the Armani suit who wrote
best-selling books, commanded big money for speaking engagements, and
was considered a basketball messiah and good family man. That image
was shattered when Slick Rick had a sexual tryst with a woman not his
wife on the floor of a restaurant after hours.

The Pinocchio Hall of Fame is getting crowded with the recent inductions
of Jim Tressel and Bruce Pearl. These men of "integrity" who demanded
that their players be honest and forthcoming, couldn't do as they said, and
turned out to be frauds. The jury is still out on Lance Armstrong.

The media, the sponsors, the public...we are all guilty of putting these
athletes on pedestals. We worship, deify, and admire these people just
because they are blessed by god with jaw-dropping talent. Our kids idolize
them because they can throw a ball 98 miles an hour or can hit a ball out
of Yellowstone Park.

The majority of these athletes and coaches are not the people we
thought they were.  Most are self-centered, self-absorbed people,
who feel the world owes them something. Some of them like Tressel,
manufacture squeaky clean, holier than thou images. The Ohio State
football coach was impeccably dressed and always said the right thing.
Turns out, Tressel and his sweater-vest are not bullet proof. He got
caught lying and was exposed as a fraud.

We thought they were different from the rest of us because they were blessed
with talent most of us can only dream about having. But they are not special.
They are no different than all of us with faults, blemishes, and susceptible
to making life-altering mistakes.

It's time that we stop building these athletes up, knowing full well they
will be torn down at some point. We want to have our heroes, players like
Derek Jeter, who so far, is who we thought he is. We had our heroes in the
past, players who were built up to mythical like figures, like Mickey Mantle.
It turned out he was not the guy we thought he was. Sadly, not many of the
athletes we admire, adore, and idolize, ever are.

Monday, May 16, 2011


It was a spectacular afternoon in May of 2008. The sky was a perfect shade of blue, void of
any clouds. The air was crisp, clean, and  intoxicating, thanks to the cool breeze off the Long
Island sound  which intersected with the fragrance from the Augusta-like flowers that lined
the walking paths at the Westchester Country Club.

My Dad and I had made the 500-yard trek from the driving range to the first tee a million
times before. As a child, I used to be in awe of my hero hitting balls on the range, before walking down this  path as he held my hand, ensuring both a priceless moment and his tee time.

But this day would be different, unlike any other my father and I had experienced during our
time together. The effects of Alzheimer's disease, had stolen some of his memory and his
ability to play really good golf. However, the disease couldn't touch his love for the game or
chip away at his happiness. Nothing could. His will was as strong as a blue ox, his desire as impenetrable as Fort Knox.

But my father could no longer find his way from the driving range to the first tee without some
help.  On this day, I was holding his hand, leading him to the first tee, realizing this was a moment that was priceless and to be cherished. The look on his face, mirrored the the one I must've
had as a child going to play golf for the very first time. Excitement danced in his eyes, a mile-
wide grin was splashed across his face.

That look vanished momentarily when we came to the fork-in-the road near the gateway to
golfing heaven. Westchester Country Club had two meticulously kept and challenging courses
for the adults and a par-3 course for the little kids. For nearly 30 years my Dad had teed it up
with me and his good friends on the "big boy courses", which had become his personal playground.

As a kid who didn't have two nickels to rub together growing up on the south side of Chicago,
I don't think my Dad could ever have imagined being a member at a club like this. He had nothing but a desire to give his family the things that he never had, and an undying belief that
he could be anything he wanted to be. It was through hard work and diligence that he got this opportunity and he would squeeze everything out of it that he possible could.

As we came to the fork in the golf roads, my dad saw many of his good friends and former
playing partners that he had known for more than three decades. There were plenty of laughs and meaningful hugs.In many ways, they were long good-byes, as my Dad and his friends
knew the end of a truly wonderful life was about to come to an end.

Instead of going down the path to one of the big boy courses, my Dad and I veered to the road
that led us to the "Little 9".  Although still in great physical shape, my Dad's game was no
longer suited for a course that was more than 7,200 yards long. We had no choice but to play
the kid's course. It was a par-3 layout where all the dad's took their kids  for their first round of
golf. It's where they taught their children how to play, while burning the memories into their
personal computer chips. It's where my Dad took me by the hand, showed me the direction
to hit the ball, and where a good walk was never spoiled.

On this day, I was teeing the ball up for my Dad, much like he had done for me forty years
earlier. I was showing him where to hit the ball and encouraging him, much like he had
encouraged me when I golfed for the very first time. After he'd hit the ball, I'd pick up
his clubs, then hold his hand as we walked to his ball for his next shot.

The moment wasn't lost on me. I remembered how much my Dad loved  taking me out for
a round of golf on this course before graduating to the big boy tracks. It was a special time for
him. He liked nothing more than to play golf with his son. He had never so much as played
catch with his father, much less takes swings on  a golf course. It was always priceless for
my Dad. And the memory floodgates started to open for me as we navigated our way
through the "Little 9".

My Dad and I had laughed so much over the years while we played  golf. We had  exchanged booming drives, traded barbs,argued like best friends sometimes do, thrown more than a few
clubs, and high-fived each other after good shots. I never realized it at  the time, but playing
golf with me  was one his favorite things to do. And I sadly discovered, this would be the final
time we'd ever play a round of golf together.

As our final nine holes progressed, there were plenty of laughs, bad shots, and a few thrown
clubs. My Dad was still very competitive and that Irish-fueled temper didn't leave with the part
of his memory hijacked by Alzheimer's. He loved to compete and even on this par-3 course,
he loved to score well. There were grounders,  flubs, and shanks, but I still encouraged Dad as
if he was on his way to a record finish.

We approached the final hole, hand-in-hand, which gave way to an arm around the shoulder,
then a wish-it-could last forever hug. I wanted my Dad to know that he was truly loved, as his
time on earth drew near. I wanted him to know that our bond could never be broken, no matter
what happened. We were best friends and  I wanted to make this last hole,the best one we'd
ever play.

The ninth hole was only 90 yards, and with a solid swing, my  Dad somehow, someway saw
his ball roll up to the edge of the green. We almost sprinted down the fairway, like young kids
on their way to a big Easter egg hunt. It was only a short distance to the hole, but  I really wanted
to make it last forever as we smiled, laughed, and  chuckled our way down the alley of luscious
green real estate.

Dad would chunk his second shot but it still trickled onto the  green, stopping about five feet
short of the hole. He lined-up his putt as he had done so many times before, studying it as if
there was big money on line, and a green jacket to be won. With a laser-like focus and his
tongue tightly wedged between his lips and teeth, a la Michael Jordan, Dad, who was always
a great putter, stroked the five-footer with surgeon-like precision. The ball seemed to roll
endlessly before clanking the iron at the bottom of the cup.

It was just a par for my Dad, but it might as well have been a Masters-winning birdie. We
celebrated as if he had won the biggest tournament of his life. The smile on his face was
genuine. The tear in his eye, priceless. We embraced like a pitcher and catcher do after
clinching a perfect game. This was our perfect game, our perfect moment, our perfect final

As we broke away from our hug,  I saw the smile on his face and the tear in his eye. The
only thing I could say was, "Dad, I love you. This  was great." He responded by saying,
"I love you, too."

My Dad passed away just over a week later on May 17, 2008. I have never played golf
on that course or at the club again. It's  hard to top the perfect final round.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Perhaps the only thing more devastating than having to bury your own
child, is knowing that child took his own life. On October 15th of
last year, John and Susan Trautwein of Johns Creek, Georgia had their
lives changed forever when they found their 15-year old son, Will,
dead from suicide in their home.

"It was devastating to us," said Trautwein. who pitched in the major
leagues with the Boston Red Sox in 1988. "We had no idea that Will
was suffering on the inside. Up until the day he died he was talking about
the fun stuff on his plate. He was going to get his driving permit literally
the next day and his braces off next week. His band (Will was a guitar player)
was playing their first gig in two weeks. He was very excited about all
three of those."

The emotions for Trautwein and his family are still very raw. The pain
of losing their son will never go away. Will was a good-looking kid who
was popular in school, and excelled as an athlete and musician. He appeared
to have it all. But he was depressed, something the Trautwein's didn't
know about until it was too late. John admits there is some guilt and often
wonders if he could've saved Will.

"But we truly are not sure what we could've done," said Trautwein. "He
lived in a happy home. He was so loved and he was told and shown how much
he was loved every single day. We now know, after being a bit more educated
on depression and suicide that we could have done more. Yet, he's now gone.
If it can happen to a young man like Will, it truly can happen to anyone."

Trautwein wants to help make sure the tragedy he and his family suffered,
doesn't happen to anyone else. With teenage suicide in the country on the rise,
that may seem like an impossible task, but Trautwein, who played baseball
at Northwestern, is going to do his best to help teenagers in Georgia, as much
as he possibly can. He and his wife recently established "The Will to Live
Foundation", in their son's honor.

"We feel that Will's hand along with God's hand is on our back saying, 'do this
mom, do this dad, this is good.' If we can get kids and families and the
communities to understand that depression is everywhere, even in the most
popular kids like my son, and to understand that these kids are dealing with
the pressures that are more intense than what we went through, then it's a great
step forward."

In this day and age of Facebook, Twitter, and everything else that comes
with the Internet, the social pressure that teens endure has intensified. Trautwein
knows it can have a dramatic effect on them.

"Absolutely. If they have a bad day or make a mistake or take a bad picture,
within seconds it's 'Nationwide'-unlike anything we ever had. So it truly adds
to the pressures they face and put on themselves."

Trautwein realizes that he'll never be able to bring Will back or have the tough
questions on why he committed suicide answered. But he is certain that
establishing the foundation was the right thing to do.

"We know Will would've been in the front row of a foundation like this
had the circumstances been different," Trautwein said. "We are making
something positive out of a tragic story. Something positive out of our
son's legacy. This foundation is promoting all the things Will stood for
and it gives up so much comfort and strength."

For more on Will and the foundation and the ways you can help out,
please view

Saturday, May 7, 2011



Whether prepared or not, we sometimes get into situations or circumstances that not only test us,
but in many ways, define who we are. It may be God's way of challenging our  faith, commitment, and resiliency. Whatever the reason, no one goes through life on the  good ship lollipop, void of trials, tribulations, and tragedy.

My mother, Charlene Devlin, had her character set in stone a long time ago, and those who know
her, know what I'm talking about. The only child of blue-collar parents from the south side of Chicago, she is an unselfish and generous woman, who has never been in a bad mood or said a bad thing about anyone in her life. Ok, so she had some harsh  words about my ex-girlfriend, but they were more than well-deserved.

Mom was the one who woke up at 4:30 every morning to make my sister breakfast and drive her to swim practice before school. She did the same after school, taking Kara, who turned into a world-class swimmer, for more mind-numbing workouts, encouraging  her only daughter to just do her best, that's all.

Mom was the one who would go to my brother's head-banging, blow-your-eardrums out, rock
band performances with a smile on her face, not quite understanding the words my brother, Pat,
was screaming into a microphone or knowing if the music he was playing, was any good. She
was the one who always had my baseball uniform cleaned, and offered  words of encouragement when I was struggling, which was quite often in my college and minor-league years. Nobody did more and asked for less than good ole, Mom. She lived by the phrase, "It's better to give, than
it is to receive."

However, Mom was really put to the test in 2003, when my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The mental deterioration of Dad, who was smart, funny, and witty, was shocking and devastating to all of us. He was our hero. To know that he had no chance against a disease that
would eventually steal his mind, was heart-wrenching and deflating. But Mom became the beacon who guided us through the storm. She became the captain who righted the ship when it appeared it was about to capsize.

My Dad had treated my mother like a queen, cherishing her every day, taking care of  everything: The  money, the bills, and everything else that goes with being a great patriarch and provider.

When Dad could no longer handle his every day tasks, Mom was thrust into the role of both
mother and father. All of a sudden, it was her that was paying all the bills, taking care of the taxes, and managing everything else that came her way. And boy, a lot came her way. There was an explosion in the furnace that caused the dispersion of soot that infiltrated every piece of furniture
and clothing in the house. She took care of everything with no complaints.

Every piece of clothing had to be sent out to get cleaned, every wall had to be repainted,  and
every piece of furniture had to be cleansed refreshed. Then it started to pour. Cats and dogs, and
in huge buckets.

While I was working in Boston, I received a call from a neighbor saying that my Mom had a
bad accident. She had fallen down the stairs outside and suffered a 6-inch gash to the forehead
and a cracked sternum. A neighbor went into my parents and tracked down my number.

I made the three-hour trek home from Boston to find my Mom  resting on the couch, big
bandage on her forehead, and still wearing a blood-soaked t-shirt. But she was more concerned
about my father's welfare than her own. She diligently gave him his medication fed him dinner,
and showered him before he went to bed. I was in awe. Here was a woman who suffered serious
injuries and all she cared about was making sure our father was OK.

She also made sure that Dad lived his normal life as his mental health started to go in a steep
decline. Mom wanted  to make sure that Dad kept doing the things he loved to do. She'd shower
and clothe him, take him to church every day, bring him to the driving range to hit balls that
never went very far, drove him to the club to work out, then back home for dinner.

This was her routine EVERY DAY, weather permitting, of course For five years, Mom took
care of Dad  24/7. She had her moments when it looked like she would come unglued, but never
did. She had her days when it appeared like she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs, but
she refused to let that happen. Dad had given her a wonderful life, and she wanted to be there for
him "in sickness and in health".

Dad died on May 17th of 2008. Mom was so strong, so loving, and  so dedicated to him and the entire family. I always appreciated my mother for what she had done for all of us, but she went to
a whole new level in all of our books for the way she took care of Dad through the tough times.

Mom never complained and after Dad was gone, she put even more of her energy into her kids
and grandchildren. She has always been there for my sister and brother when they want to take
their spouses out for a night or go on vacation. Mom is always there to help out in  a pinch and
at a moment's notice. Pick up the grand kids, take them here, there, and everywhere across four counties in Connecticut. Mom has always been there for me through the tough times when my
world seemed to be falling apart. She has always been there for everyone of us.

She has never asked, "what about me?",  even though she should. She has never asked for
anything but our unconditional love. That's it, that's all. Charlene Devlin is one amazing person.

I have to admit, this time of year is always tough for me. I mean, what do you get for a mother
who has everything, never wants anything, and anything you give her will never equal to what
she has given you.

Mom, all I can say is, "I love you." You are one amazing person and all of the Devlin's are
thankful that God blessed us with such a great mother.

Happy Mother's Day.