Thursday, December 20, 2012


Victor Cruz had never heard of Jack Pinto until last Saturday night. The wide receiver
of the New York Giants learned through Twitter that Pinto, who was killed in the Newton
tragedy, idolized him. The 6-year old boy pretended to be Cruz during football games
in the backyard and even had his own Giants jersey with number 80 plastered on the
front and back of it.

Cruz was clearly moved when he found out that he was Pinto's favorite player. He
wrote, "Jack Pinto, my hero" and "R.I.P." on his cleats for the game against the Atlanta
Falcons on Sunday.  Paying tribute to someone this way has long been vogue with
professional athletes in all sports, but it often brings more attention to themselves than
it does to the people they are memorializing. It doesn't take much effort, either.

But unlike most athletes, Cruz did more. On his off day, the Giants receiver traveled
to Newtown, Ct. from his home in New Jersey to visit Pinto's family. His agent didn't
inform reporters, camera crews, or post information about it on Twitter. When some
athletes do an act of kindness, they are sure to turn it into a photo op that says, "Hey,
look at me, aren't I nice?" Cruz didn't want any part of that.

Cruz traveled up I-95 to I-84 just to offer his condolences. Now, offering condolences
to someone you know is hard enough, try doing it to a family whom you've never met
in a town that has been engulfed in overwhelming sadness. It can be awkward,
uncomfortable, and overall, a real challenge. To do it the day after parents bury a
6-year old child who is wearing a Giants jersey with the number 80 on it, is about as
emotional as it gets. I mean, what do you say after, "I'm sorry for your loss."?

Cruz did more than just say those words before turning around and going home. He
hugged Jack's parents and listened to what Jack was like and how much he adored
Cruz. He also played NFL Madden with some of Pinto's friends and teammates from
the Pop Warner league in town before leaving after a visit that lasted a full hour.

The moment definitely had an impact on Cruz, who told reporters at practice on
Wednesday, "you meet the family, you see people and the things they're going through,
it helps you look at life through a different lens, like I said," Cruz said. "It really
changes your view and the way you used to look at things. It changes your view of it."

Cruz is one athlete who "gets it". He doesn't live a world of self-absorption
and isn't inflicted with the disease of me. He knows there is more to life than running
slant patterns through NFL defenses on Sunday and picking up a game check on

There are some athletes who are living in a vacuum and have absolutely no
sense of reality. After getting traded from the Mets to Toronto, R.A. Dickey
told the media he had to take "time to grieve about leaving New York."

Now, this was just days after tragedy that ripped the heart and soul of the people of
Newtown and Dickey wants to mourn over not playing in New York anymore? Really?
20 innocent children and six caring adults were killed by a deranged gunmen and
Dickey is talking about grieving when he gets traded to a team that actually wants
him and is going to paying him $10 million-a-year. Good Lord, R.A. Dickey, get
some perspective.

I wish more athletes would follow Cruz and his act of kindness. The Giants receiver
could have stayed in bed on Tuesday or spent the day playing NFL Madden like most
players around the league seem to do. But he didn't. Without the cameras following
or posting pictures on Twitter,  Cruz did one great act of kindness. The impact that
he made on a family that he didn't even know, is immeasurable.

Athletes need to do more than just scribble the name of a kid on their shoes. It
doesn't take a lot to give something back to those who are less fortunate or suffering
through an incredible loss. You don't have to move a mountain to do what Cruz did.
I wish more athletes would follow the lead of Cruz and touch a life, heal a soul, and
put a smile on someone's face.

It's not that hard. It really isn't.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


In most cases. pain is temporary. It goes away with treatment, medication, or
just time, which they say,  heals all wounds. But the pain for the people of Newtown
and Sandy Hook will probably stay with them forever. The wounds suffered from
the loss of 20 innocent children and six caring and selfless adults, will never close,
no matter how much time passes.

It was that pain and those wounds that tugged at me this morning, just as it has pulled
at nearly every person around the globe. Newtown seems like a world away to most
people, but for me, it's practically in my backyard, just 25 minutes away from where I

Some of the people, including me, who have traveled to the southwest part of Connecticut,
just wanted to pay tribute to the victims of the unspeakable tragedy in some small way.
We wanted to provide some sort of comfort, albeit just a little, through a gift, words,
or just a hug for the people in this tiny part of New England. But like so many others,
I found the trip to Sandy Hook to be one of the most moving and emotional experiences
I've ever had.

Those who do travel here, are surprised at just how small of a place where this unspeakable
act of violence occurred, really is.

If Newtown is the biggest tree in the area, Sandy Hook, resembles the smallest bud 
on its most fragile of branches. It has one stop light, a few tiny churches, and a row
of mom and pop stores. A Subway shop is the only thing that says commercial in
this quaint, little village.

As you travel into Sandy Hook, there are rows of awe-inspiring angels on the
hillside, representing all the people who were killed on December 14. It quite simply
takes one's breath away.

On this dark and gloomy day, which seemed almost fitting for a place that just had 
its heart and soul ripped out, two more beautiful little children were laid to rest. This
small village is eerily quiet, the only sounds to be heard on the streets are soft whispers and
sobs from those saying prayers for the victims, and the humming of the satellite trucks
from television stations that are parked along the streets.

Memorials to the 26 victims of the massacre continue to grow by the hour. There
are Christmas trees, flowers, candles, and countless Teddy Bears that dominate
the surroundings and have become the symbol of this shrine. There are letters

from children at other elementary schools around the country and stockings with 
the names of the 20 innocent children who were taking from this world far too 
soon, stitched into the top of them.

The elementary school where the tragedy occurred, stands just a short distance
away from the memorials. It is off the main street, fronted by the firehouse
where so many parents came to find out the fate of their children, and camouflaged 
by tall and thick trees, which makes it seem like one of the safest places on earth.
I found myself asking, "How could this ever happen. How could anything like this
happen here?"

Except that it did. Evil penetrated a small town and even a smaller village.
Newtown and Sandy Hook will never be the same. Ever. There isn't enough time
left for the planet to heal the gaping wound that has devastated the people here.
The whole, "everything happens for a reason," thing doesn't seem to stand in this
case. No big plan or "reason" should ever include the violent deaths of innocent children.

It truly is sad that, at a time we are about to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ,
we are mourning the death of 20 beautiful children and loving and giving, adults.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Not many people around the world had ever heard of Newtown, Ct. before Friday's
unimaginable tragedy. It's a small, sleepy town that is neatly tucked away in the
southwest part of the state and a good distance away from the bright lights of New
York City. The people there prefer it that way.

Bruce Jenner, the decathlon champion, put Newtown on the the map in 1976 when
he won a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Montreal. Jenner had moved to Newtown
when he was 16 years old and graduated from the high school there. Shortly after
the gold medal was draped around his neck, the football stadium at Newtown High
School was named in his honor. He brought national and worldwide attention to the
town, made it relevant, and gave its residents a reason to be proud.

But 24 years later, school officials  took Jenner's name on the stadium after they felt
slighted by Jenner during fundraising efforts for improvements to the field.

On December 14, 2012, Newtown became the focus of national and worldwide
attention again. But unlike Jenner's name on the football stadium, they will never
be able to make it go away. There is Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, and now,
unfortunately, Newtown. 20 innocent children and six adults killed by a 20-year
old deranged gunman. Innocence lost forever and Newtown will never be the same.

I went to high school in New Canaan, which is just 35 miles away from Newtown.
We played summer league baseball games there, but I never knew much about
Newtown until two years ago. I worked as a baseball instructor at the Newtown Youth
Academy which is an immaculate, 86,000 square foot facility, much like you'd see on
the campus of a major college with a great football program.

It became the centerpiece of the town and a place where kids from 6 to 18 came
to play baseball, basketball, lacrosse, football, and tennis. It's a source of great pride
for the people of Newtown as there is nothing like it in the state. The towns
along the gold coast of Connecticut such as Greenwich, Westport, New Canaan,
and Fairfield are envious of the magnificent facility.

There is a large, turf-covered surface than is much longer than the length of a football
field on one side. Tennis and basketball courts and a full-track on the other. I had
the chance to work with kids between the ages of 6 and 16 during winter sessions
and spring camps.

However, most of our campers were between the ages of 6 and 10. And anyone who
has ever coached and worked with kids, knows  these are the ages of true
innocence, when they play for the true love of the game, and the pure joy that comes
across their faces when they have just a little bit of success, is priceless.

I remember giving one-on-one instruction to a 6-year old boy who was just so
happy to be playing baseball. His demeanor would change when his dad would arrive.
A stage father through and through, he would ask me why his kid wasn't hitting
the ball the other way. I'd respond, "this is the time for your kid to have fun playing
the game. He's six-years old. He's not going to get a major league contract tomorrow.
I prefer to give the kid a lot of swings. Gain some confidence and have some fun.
If he doesn't have fun and gain some confidence, he will get frustrated and quit."

When I heard about the Newtown tragedy and the ages of the children killed in
the massacre, I got a pit in my stomach. This unspeakable tragedy happened so
close to where I once worked. We have yet to see the names or the faces of the
children who lost their lives. When we do, the pain of this entire nightmare, will
increase by 1,000. To see the faces of those innocent children, so happy, so carefree,
and so special---who are no longer with us for no good reason at all, will be gut-

I know there will be at least one face that I will recognize. I worked with so many
young kids in a town with not a lot of them. It will be sad. It will be heart-wrenching.
It is not fair.

The memory of that little kid I had worked with, walking out of the gym with his
father, glove in hand, bat over his shoulder, and the name, "Pedroia" stitched on a Red Sox
jersey with a number 15, is a memory that I took from my time working in Newtown.
I hope and pray, I don't see his face when the pictures of the victims are soon released.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


We all know the feeling. Somebody takes a picture and you're feeling
pretty good about how you're going to look. Clothes, good. Hair, check.
Then you see the final product and you let out a big, OMG! I look like
I just ate Vince Wolfork.

You thought you had a body by P90x, except that you're diet said all
"Dunkin Donuts". Not very flattering. A lot of people were thinking that
when they saw the New York Post on Sunday with a picture and the
caption, "DEREK EATER". The Yankees captain was looking softer
than the Stay-Puff marshmellow man after Thanksgiving.

How could it be? Jeter out of shape? Yes, he's been in a boot since
undergoing surgery to repair a broken ankle suffered in the post-season,
but Jeter rarely let's himself go or allows himself to be photographed looking
like that.

Is Jeter really that out of shape or did the New York Post take liberties
with the picture and Photoshop. I mean, a Big Apple tabloid would NEVER
do that. (wink, wink). They would never misrepresent the body of the
Yankees captain just to create a buzz and sell a newspaper, would they?
(sarcasm noted). They wouldn't pull out the shirt a little and make it look
larger, would they? Nooooooooo.

Whatever the case, pictures do sometimes lie. A bad angle, bad lighting, and
slight touch up with Photoshop can make anybody look bigger than they appear.
I was none too please during my photo shoot for the cover of "Sports Ilustrated"
swimsuit issue.when the photographer showed me in a bad light with bad lighting
and an awkard camera angle. There was no way I looked this fat. But they
negated any chance of me making the issue by accentuating my belly instead
of my silky smooth chest hair.

Jeter went on the defensive on Monday, with belly sucked in and tongue
firmly planted in cheek. He even had a picture taken with MLB's Harold
Reynolds to show the world, he was still tight and not far off from being
in game shape. Jeter didn't get upset with the New York Post for having
"a little fun" with his picture. It sure did gain a lot of attention and sell a lot
of papers, that's for sure.

Jeter has plenty of reasons to be smiling with Reynolds. Unlike A-Rod, he
will be ready for opening day. And if he ever starts to fret over the picture
of him being overweight, he can just say, "Well, at least I wasn't pictured
like A-Rod doing this."

Now. THIS is bad.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


December 2. My dad would've been 83 years old today. Whether it's the celebration
of his birth or the anniversary of his death, it never get easier. He is gone, and as
much as you hope and pray that he will walk through the door again, or be there to
give you some much needed advice, it's never going to happen. It's part of life and
one of the worst things about death.

Today, a lot of the smiles, laughs, and special moments I shared with my dad, came
to life. They seem so vivid, so real, but also so far away. I want to go back in time
and feel the happiness I always experienced when I was with my father. Unfortunately,
none of us can turn back the clock and make things right again.

Things sure felt right this morning when I turned on my computer and saw an e-mail
from a friend whom my father had mentored in the television business many years
ago. The subject line said: THINKING OF PATRICK J. The body of the letter was
very light, containing only a single sentence, but it carried a lot of weight to me:

                              "He was the best and heaven is lucky to have him."

I'm not embarrassed to say that a silo of tears welled up in my eyes and a lump the
size of Texas settled in my throat. Anyone who has lost a parent knows the feeling.
There is tremendous joy in knowing that others loved your dad, respected him, and
shared many great moments with him just as you did. But there is great sadness that
you can no longer look him in the eye and tell him how much you loved him.

I told everybody how much I loved him when I eulogized Patrick J. Devlin on May
24, 2008. We were best friends who shared an unbelievable bond. I made it through
the eulogy without bursting into tears and I think I did a good job in telling what he
meant to me and our family. But I did have one regret, omitting a story that I think
defined who my father was and the kind of person we lived with every day.

My father died with Alzheimer's disease. Nobody dies from Alzheimer's, they
eventually pass away with the brutal effects that come with the disease. Three weeks
before his death, I stopped home to spend some quality time with him. We were
in the kitchen and he was at the table circling items in the newspaper. I went over
to my dad, put my arm around, and discovered to find that he was checking out
the help wanted ads.

I said, "Dad, why are you looking for a job." He looked at me and said, "I have
to get a job to make sure that mom is taken care of after I'm gone." It was a
terrible time in his battle with Alzheimer's disease and he was thinking not of
himself, but rather, the welfare of my mother. My dad was very successful in his
career and made sure that my mother was taken care of long before this moment,
but he was thinking not of himself, but rather somebody else.

That's who my dad was. He was the most unselfish man I've ever met. He never
asked, "what can you do for me," but rather, "what can I do to make your life

His friend who e-mailed me this morning was right. Heaven is lucky to have him.
He's probably trying to make someone's life better up there right now.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.