Thursday, July 28, 2011


There are few words in the English language that have the impact
of the word "suicide". The act of it takes away a life, can rip
apart families, and suicide note or not, it always leaves us wondering

If you're a friend of someone or a family member who has to
hear the words, "he killed himself", it feels like Mike Tyson
threw a TNT-packed punch straight to the stomach, instantly
sucking every ounce of air from your body.

There is, and always will be a stigma attached to suicide, because
the words that usually follow it are depression, mental disorder,
or personal problems. And unlike most of the things that seem
to occur on a regular basis, we never really become immune to
the shock that comes with hearing that a person to their own

On Thursday, former major league pitcher Hideki Irabu was found
dead in his Los Angeles home, the victim of an apparent suicide. This
came on the heels of Tuesday's death of Jeret Peterson , a freestyle-
skier who won a silver medal in the Vancouver Olympic Games
just last year. Before that it was Dave Duerson, a former NFL player,
and before that it was Kenny McKinley of the Denver Broncos. 
All ended their lives, killed by their own hand.

Irabu, Jaret, Duerson, and McKinley couldn't overcome their
demons. There were financial troubles and foul-ups with the law
and energy-sapping depression that didn't make life worth living.

I've often heard people wonder out loud, how people, who seemingly
have everything, suddenly take their lives. Depression doesn't
care about money, endorsement deals, or 25,000 square foot
mansions. It's a disease that can napalm jobs, friendships, and
families. There isn't a manual on how to deal with it, and it can
go away and lie dormant until something triggers it to come back
worse than it ever was before.

People who make judgements on those who have committed suicide
are as ignorant as they are callous. It's easy to condemn a man
for being so selfish as to commit suicide and leave a wife and
four kids behind. But there is no way to get an understanding of
the pain that person was in, the nightmares he suffered from,
and the demons that wore him down.

I used to think people who committed suicide were selfish. But I
will never judge again after talking with those who've suffered
from debilitating depression, the kind that keeps you in bed all
day and makes you go days without eating, showering, or even
brushing your teeth.

Does it seem like suicide among athletes and former athletes is
on the rise? Man, it sure appears that way. But its a problem that
is not just occurring in the athletic arena, teen suicide is on the
rise around the country, as well.

My friend, John Trautwein, is on a mission to prevent teen suicide
after discovering that his 15-year old son, Will,  hung himself
in his room while his parents slept. (Please check the "Will-to-Live"
feature I did on the Trautwein's in May)

Will was a high school kid who excelled in the classroom
and athletics and seemingly had everything.

"We just didn't know, there were no signs," said Trautwein.
"Kids today have so much more pressure on them than we did.
"If it can happen to Will and our family, it can happen to anybodies".

I wish the suicide of Hideki Irabu is the last one I'm going to hear
about for awhile, but I highly doubt it. Things have a tendency to
get worse before they get better. But if you have a friend who might
be crying out for help, or getting into patterns of self-destructive
behavior, don't dismiss the warning signs before it's too late.
Be a friend, help them out.


There's nothing like a reunion to shatter your ego and blow your
salad and egg whites diet. On Monday, I played golf and emceed
the New Canaan High School Football Alumni outing at the
beautiful Woodway Country Club in Darien, CT.

I hadn't seen many of my former teammates in more than 25 years,
and while a lot of time has passed, that never puts an end to the
jocularity that comes with playing with your classmates for
four years. The jokes always fly and nothing, and I mean nothing
is of limits.

I had gained forty pounds since last June, and while I thought my
6'3" frame had carried it well, my former teammates thought the only
thing I had been carrying were donuts, Big Mac's, and about two
gallons of Baskin-Robbins ice cream. Do you think they were going
to waste an opportunity to abuse me and my weight? Definitely not.

I heard some softballs, like "Wow, you really filled out!" to "Are you
wearing a XXL or XXXL now?"  XXXL?!!!  Really. I summoned an
old teammate to watch me pound my drive on the final hole and he
replied, "with a belly like that, you should hit it 300 yards." Best
joke of the day: "Did you eat John Daly for breakfast?" Wow,
my chest deflated, my ego was crushed, and I could do nothing but
try to suck in my gut for the rest of the night.

The rest of the night included shrimp cocktails, an open bar, and
3,500 calorie desserts. That was all before we closed down "Uncle
Joe's", a bar and pizza joint in Norwalk. Yep, had to break that Slim-fast
diet for another day. Is there anything worse for your fat cells than
pizza and beer and a lot of it?

I woke up the next morning feeling like Albert Haynesworth ran me
over while I was standing still and eating a Krispy Kreme donut. Not
good. I paid the price. I felt better after 90-minutes of cardio at the
gym, but bottom line, I'm still a fat tub-of-goo. I think I'm Chris Farley's
illegitimate kid. Maybe I should throw down some Hydroxycut to
go along with my workouts.

I ramped up my workout on Wednesday, going for a 56-mile bike ride.
It only took me four hours. In my triathlon next month, that's exactly how
far the bike ride is. Trouble is, there is a 1.2 mile swim before it and a
13.1 mile run after it. Oh, well. I don't think there is a time limit on it.

By the way, I'm down to 242 lbs. Who said muscles weighs more than
fat? I seriously doubt that. Til next time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


The magic carpet ride of Jim Nantz has ascended to a level where
only a few sportscasters have ever gone before. Last week the Pro
Football Hall of Fame announced the long-time voice of CBS Sports
would be the 2011 recipient of the Pete Rozelle Award, which recognizes
exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.

"It's one of the biggest honors of my career," said Nantz, who is a
New Canaan resident. "In our industry it doesn't get any bigger than this.
I wasn't expecting it and when I received the call I was really blindsided."

At 52, Nantz is the youngest person ever to receive the award, launching
him into rarefied air among sportscasters. This honor, along with the Curt
Gowdy Media Award presented to him by the Basketball Hall of Fame in
2002, makes Nantz just one of three sportscasters to be recognized by the
pro football and basketball halls of fame. Gowdy and Dick Enberg are the

"When they told me that, I had to sit down for a minute," said Nantz,
who played golf at the University of Houston. "I feel like I'm still a young
man and to be in the company of legends like Gowdy and Enberg is a
tremendous honor."

Nantz got his start in the business while he was a junior in college.
He'd anchor the weekend sports at the CBS affiliate in Houston. It didn't
take long before Nantz caught the attention of television executives at
headquarters in New York.

"Ted Shaker, who was the executive producer of CBS Sports, took a
giant leap of faith in me," said Nantz. "I was just 26 years old and being
a network anchor at that age was unheard of. Shaker really believed in
me and my ability to do live television on a network. It was risky."

Nantz rewarded Shaker's faith in him by becoming one of the most versatile
and talented sportscasters the industry has ever seen. He makes the seamless
transition from the NFL to college basketball to golf and is a five time
winner of the National Sportscaster of the Year award.

He has worked on the NFL since 1988 and has been part of four Super
Bowls as a studio host and play-by-play man. But when March comes
around, Nantz really shines. He goes from the madness of the NCAA
tournament to the awe-inspiring sights and sounds of the Masters.

"I really pinch myself every year when I go through that stretch," said
Nantz. "People at the Final Four say, 'And after this you go to the Masters?
That's unbelievable', and it really is. I never take it for granted or have
a sense of entitlement. I realize how lucky I am. But I also have worked
really hard and got to where I am through my preparation."

Nantz has experienced a lot of shining moments in his career with CBS
Sports. He was on the dance floor when a Cinderella named Butler almost
beat Duke for the national title. When Tiger Woods burst onto the scene
in 1997 with an earth-shattering performance at the Masters, Nantz was in
the tower calling "it one for the ages."

But it was the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami that holds a special place in
his heart. "When I was eight years old my Dad took me to the Saints first
game in the NFL," said Nantz. "It was the birth of the Saints and to follow
them to their culmination as Super Bowl champs, after all the organization
had been through, was really special. Calling their victory over the Colts
is one of the most prideful moments of my career."

Anyone who has watched golf on CBS, knows how much pride Nantz takes
in his work on the Masters. After 26 years calling the action, he has become
as much a part of Augusta as the Azaleas and Amen Corner.

Nantz had made it known that his goal was to cover 50 Masters tournaments
in his career. But that changed recently, when he was presented with an
 award by broadcasting great, Jack Whitaker.

"Jack was saying that he wanted to see me around for the 100th anniversary
of the Masters. My goal was 50 years but that would take me to the 99th Masters.
I want to be there for the 100th, which will be in the year 2036."

Nantz will be 76 when the Masters celebrates its 100th anniversary,
which is an age when most broadcasters not named Enberg and Mike
Wallace, have long been retired. But Nantz has accomplished everything
 he's set his mind to and fullfiled every dream of his when it comes to
broadcasting. It wouldn't be wise to bet against him on reaching this goal,
which is like the Masters tradition itself: unlike any other.
(Editor's Note: Ted Shaker is married to New Canaan Patch editor Sheryl Shaker.)

Monday, July 18, 2011


I woke up on June 30th of last year in close to the best shape of my life. I was 210 lbs,
which is what I weighed as a seventh-year senior at UNC. A six-pack was never in my
genes, but I no longer had the love handles that woman between the ages of 52 and 67
dreamed of  holding on to. Two weeks earlier, at the age of 45, I completed a half-ironman,
which came on the heels of a 100-mile bike ride to Montauk.

As the calendar prepared to turn over from June to July, I went for a bike ride on a near
perfect, sun-splashed afternoon. I wish the ride was as flawless as the day. I edged a pothole
going downhill, flipped my bike and was nearly road kill. I separated the AC joint in my
shoulder and left three chunks of flesh from my back, hip, and shoulder on that asphalt road
in Connecticut.

The bad news was, I couldn't work out for at least three months. The good news was, I got
introduced to something that would become my new best friend: Vicodin. Vicodin is to people
in pain what Viagara is to men looking for a little somethin', somethin' to perform like Dirk
Diggler and get them through the night. I can see why Brett Favre got addicted to Vicodin. It
makes you feel good and groovy.

Unable to work out, I needed something else to obsess about and get addicted to. I was 37
days from reaching my goal of not drinking for a  year, and that was out anyway, since I
was on Vicodin. Extreme eating become my new sport. What comfort I didn't get out of
Vicodin, I got from stuffing my face like Augustus Gloop in "Wily Wonka's Chocolate Factory."

I had been a workout freak, now I was obsessed with food. If it wasn't tied down, I was eating
it. Weddings and cocktail parties were the best. If there was a buffet, I'd eat half of it. Those
people passing around  hor dourves never had a chance. I'd hijack them and the trays carrying
calorie-packed treats. I became like Joey Chitwood in a hot dog eating contest, chowing down
food fast and furiously.  Perhaps I was having a mid-life crisis. If that was the case, food was
my new Ferrari.

I didn't care, I loved it. I had always been a pretty healthy eater but that went out the window
with my stint on the disabled list. Ring-Dings, Cherry Garcia, and pizza, oh my. I'd go to the
Shell station on my way to work and pick up a Choco-Taco, a Drumstik, and a Good Humor Chocolate Eclair for the ride.

On the way home I'd hit the Wendy's late night drive-thru and order up a chicken sandwich,
a double-cheeseburger, and fries. And I'd do what every overweight, food-obsessed person who
is in denial, does. I'd wash it down with a large diet coke. Like the diet part of the drink matters
after you blasted your body with 1,200 calories of artery-clogging fast food.

Trouble loomed over the horizon with my weight and vanishing Vicodin. My prescription was
just about done and I had to make the decision whether or not to tell my doctor I couldn't tolerate
the pain and ask him to refill my scrip. I had visions of becoming addicted like Favre did and hallucinating all over the place. I passed on the refill figuring my fascination with food would help me overcome the pain. It did.

However, I was paying the price. My waistline was exploding quicker than C.C. Sabathia's and I bypassed a double-chin and went straight to number three. But at 6'3", I could carry the extra
weight, or so I told myself. As for that scale in my bathroom? Well, let's just say it had become
the extra large white elephant in the room, and it was thinner than I was. No way I was getting
on that thing. I didn't want to face reality, even though that came in my failure to get into any
of my dress pants. My jeans were my safe haven, the one thing that  didn't reject me or shout out
that I was turning into a fat tub-of-goo.

But I was. I was getting extra large and wasn't in charge of my eating habits. I was out of control.
On December 1st, I finally stepped on the scale and it wasn't pretty. Remember "Groundhog Day" where the clock turns  over from 5:59 to 6:00 everyday? I stepped on the scale and it was teetering
on 249lbs. 249lbs! The only thing more shocking was seeing it turn over to 250. There it was. 250 pounds. Never in my life did I think I'd see that number below me.

My manager in the minor-leagues, Gary Allenson, bet me $500 that I'd be 250 when I was 40 years old. He was six years off. I went to  the doctor for a physical and the news was not good. My cholesterol shot up to 296.  Even my good cholesterol was bad.

Was it a wake-up call? Absolutely. That and the fact that my mom nicknamed me "Shamu." But for the first time in my life, I had lost some of my drive to work out. I'd lose a few pounds here, a lose
a few pounds there, but I was closer to 250 than 240.

I signed up for a half-ironman on September 11th, hoping it'd be the kick in the butt I need. I'm getting there, but at 47 now, the metabolism rate has slowed down a lot.  There will be no Jenny

I need to do this on my own.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Five years ago, Darren Clarke was a broken man in need of a shoulder
to cry on. He had been at his wife's side as she battled, then succumbed
to cancer.

128 days ago, Japan was a country in need of a world-wide hug. They were
devastated by an earthquake and a tsunami that caused a nuclear
disaster. 22,000 people lost their lives and the country is still in disarray.

Clarke's recovery is just about complete, while Japan is a long way
from being whole again. But on Sunday, they both demonstrated their
resiliency, holding off the heavily favored Americans, showing the
world that no matter how bad things get, there is still reason to hope,
believe, and persevere.

Clarke ranked 111th in the world, had become less significant than
Tiger Woods is in golf right now. He wasn't given much of a chance to
win the British Open, after all, he hadn't finished in the top-10 of a
major since 2001. His game, as well as his body, weren't exactly
a picture of strength. But Clarke still believed that he could win a
major at the ripe old age of 42. He didn't care that he had played
19 times in the Open Championship and had never even sniffed the
Claret Jug.

Battling the elements and a trio of Americans that included Dustin
Johnson, Phil Mickelson, and Ricky Fowler, who were all younger
and more talented than himself, Clarke stuck to his game plan and
waged a fierce battle on his way to winning the British Open.

Japan was playing in the World Cup final for the first time. In fact,
this was the first time they had reached the final in any major tournament.
They had lost to the Americans in their 25 previous meetings. The
task of beating the Americans in the World Cup was akin to a bunch
of college kids trying to upset the Soviet Union in hockey game during
the 1980 Winter Olympics. Japan was the smallest team in the tournament,
but they played with the biggest heart.

They battled back to tie the United States not once, but twice. With
not much left in the tank, they found a way to beat the Stars and Stripes
in penalty kicks and win their first-ever World Cup. As they did throughout
the tournament, they unfurled a banner that read, "Thank you world for
your support." Their win set off a wild celebration back home in Japan
and helped ease its pain, if even for just a few days.

It was easy to be happy for Darren Clarke. He's the everyman,  not
your typical golfer. One who likes his Guinness, and one who likes to
close down the local pubs in the wee hours of the morning. American
player after American went out of their way to congratulate Clarke,
as he is universally loved and respected by everyone on tour. And
after all he's been through, you couldn't blame him for shedding a tear
as he walked down the 18th fairway on his way to history.

Losing the World Cup was shocking for the United States team and
disappointing for all of us who supported and cheered them on. But
it wasn't that hard to be happy for Japan after all that country has been
through. As Hope Solo said, "It was a tough loss for us, but if any
country was going to beat us for the World Cup, I'm kind of glad it
was Japan."