Thursday, July 11, 2013


The morning after Nik Wallenda walked a tightrope across the Grand Canyon before a
world-wide television audience, Jason Yost performed his daredevil act in front of an audience
of three, including me. who accepted his offer of working on his crew for a couple of days.
What I  witnessed over the next eight hours left me in awe of his talent and vocation, which in layman's terms, is a tree surgeon.

On a sizzling, 90-degree morning in North Stamford, CT., Yost, who was a drummer in my
brother's band during their days at New Canaan High School, had the mission of trying to bring
down a 100-foot tree that was sandwiched between two multi-million dollar homes. With all
the extreme weather in the area over the last two years, the client was worried the tree would
fall on her neighbors home, causing major damage, and with it, a potential lawsuit.

Yost, who is 5 feet and a smidge, and not more than 125 pounds when soaking wet, has been
an arborist for more than 25 years. He is old school, learning the business by trial and error,
and works with equipment that has long been outdated. Think flip-phone versus iPhone.
Imagine the wooden racket of Bjorn Borg against the graphite bazooka employed by Rafeal
Nadal. There is nothing fancy about his operation like hydraulic machines his competition uses
that hoist a surgeon up to his destination in a safe and comfortable bucket.

Nope, Yost scales the tree himself  with a heavy belt strapped around his waist with enough
clips, ropes, and chains to sink a small ship. With a tree that seemed to touch the clouds, standing
not more than five yards from the neighbors yard and a meticulous garden larger than most
people's backyards in his clients, there was absolutely no margin for error. I know what you're
wondering: how the heck do you bring down a tree that size and in that spot without causing
mayhem? The answer is simple: piece by piece and branch by branch.

Yost was like spiderman and a lumberjack rolled into the one. The athleticism and precision
he showed while baking the blistering sun, was simply incredible. The job might be best
described as a controlled demolition or dismantling. Yost would rope a large 'segment' of a
tree then have a worker hoist up a chainsaw on a rope. He'd unfasten it and then slice part of
the tree, and,  because it had been roped already, Yost would control its descent so it wouldn't
go crashing into the neighbor's yard or the client garden. He'd then turn off the chainsaw and
fasten it to his belt.

This process went on for the next four hours straight. No breaks or relief. Rope, chainsaw,
release, and repeat. It may seem boring but it was truly fascinating. Like the speed of the
athletes can't truly be appreciated by watching on television, one can't fully comprehend the athleticism, focus, and dexterity of Yost until seeing him do his thing in person. As someone
who has competed in sports, covered them, and appreciates great athletes, I can say that Yost
was electric when doing his job.

He'd take a break for lunch, remove 25 pounds of  gear, then relax for a little while before
suiting back up and scaling the tree once again. It's kind of like doing a marathon, having a
break to re-group, then going out to run another one. The work of Yost was that tough and

Yost single-handedly took down a tree that measured almost 100 feet in two, eight hour
days that were so hot, you were dripping in sweat after blinking twice. I'm not in awe of
many things these days, but I marveled at the work of Yost. It was simply incredible.

If  it had been broadcast to the world, many people would've found it a lot more compelling
and demanding than Wallenda's walk across the Grand Canyon.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


I turned 49 today. 49 is really not a sexy number or significant milestone like 40 or
50. It's just kind of there. In sports, the number 49 is pretty boring and  never worn by
anybody spectacular. Oh, it's kind of unique in baseball because great knuckleball pitchers
like Hoyt Wilhem, Tom Candiotti, Charlie Hough, and Tim Wakefield all wore the number.

49 meant nothing to me until last week when I reported on a woman bartender who is
exactly twice my age. Yep, double up 49 and you get 98-year old Angie McClean. She works
eight hours a day, six days a week at a bar located on the mean streets of  Bridgeport, CT.

When I arrived with my photographer, there she was in all her glory. And McLean looked like
Old Glory, dressed in red, white, and blue from head-to-toe. She had more than 30 miniature
American flags dotting her perfectly coiffed hair. McLean, is a star, who, after living nearly
a century, has more than earned her stripes. As I got set to interview her, I watched her buzz
around the bar, mixing drinks and serving customers with a smile on her face, and just wondered
to myself all the things she has experienced in her life, one that begin on April 6, 1915

I also said to myself, "This woman is living life. Retirement is a four-letter word to her. She
is 98-years old, working six days a week and has a smile on her face. I love this person."

As McClean settled in behind the bar for her interview, she seemed ready for my first question,
as if she knew it was coming.

"Why are you still bartending at 98-years old?", I asked.

"Because I'm not the type of person to sit around and watch TV. That's not for me," she

Great answer and one that left me saying, "Wow", to myself. I'm just praying I'm still
above ground and playing shuffleboard with my friends at 98, and this woman is loving
life as a bartender, slinging drinks six days a week. Take time to think about that for a second.......

McLean lives by herself and is picked up by her bosses who take her to work and drive her
home after work every night. She dresses up for every holiday. On July 4th, McLean is an
American flag. On Christmas, she morphs into a Christmas tree with all the ornaments.

"Do you ever get tired from working six days a week," I asked her.

"Of course not. You have to keep moving. Life waits for no one. If you stop, it passes
you by," she said matter-of-factly.

Amazing. Perhaps, I was really talking to the sister of Norman Vincent Peale or the
grandmother of Anthony Robbins. She was so positive, so full of life and her energy
was rubbing off on me. I knew I was in the presence of someone truly special. No, she
wasn't a great athlete, movie star, or politician. Angie McLean is just a normal person
who has lived an extraordinary life exactly how she wants to live it.

Less than a week before my 49th birthday, McLean gave me a special gift without even
knowing it. She inspired, motivated, and educated me. Today, I am 49-years old, exactly
half the age of McLean. There is so much of life left to live, so much left to accomplish.

If I become a bartender for the rest of my life that won't be a bad thing, just as long as I
do it with a smile on my face like McLean has on hers every single day. Thank you
for the gift, Angie McLean.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


I haven't kept up with the Oakland A's this season and when I saw this long-haired, long-bearded
guy circle the bases the other night, I wondered if general manager Billy Beane had signed one
the ZZ Top guys to a contract in the off-season. Upon a Google search, I discovered it was
outfielder Josh Reddick, who was once a clean-shaven member of the Boston Red Sox.

It seems like beards are in this season in baseball. Not neatly trimmed beards, but those that
haven't seen a clipper, scissor, or razor since Christmas. They are like Chia Pets on steroids, out
of control, but still kind of cool. Perhaps, baseball players are tying to channel their inner NHL players, who follow tradition by never shaving during the playoffs.

Maybe they are just hiding behind their own type of mask, one that allows to play the role of a
character other than themselves. When I see Nats outfielder Jayson Werth, I think Ted Kacynski.
Can you blame me?


During the 1970', A's owner Charlie O. Finley paid all of his players to grow mustaches.
Rolle Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, and the rest of the swingin' A's
all sporting them. The mustaches set the A's apart from every other team in baseball. There
isn't an owner in today's game that would pay any of his players to grow full beards, but it
would kind of be cool, wouldn't it?

The Red Sox might be the closest team to pulling it off with Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli,
and Johnny Gomes leading the way. Gomes is one of those guys who have more hair of on their
face than they do on their head. Classic

Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson had the greatest beard in the history of
baseball until injuries forced him from the game. The all-star closer was known simply as
"The Beard". It kept growing and growing, taking on a life of its own, so to speak. If you're
a hitter, how the heck can you concentrate when see all kinds of weird things flying out of
that beard?
But as they say, "Beard today, gone tomorrow." It seems like since Wilson has been gone
from the game, the aforementioned players are battling to take the title of best beard in baseball.
Heck, even Wilson's former teammate Sergio Romo has grown one that rivals that of Wilson.

One thing is certain, on 95 degree days, those fury beards can't be all that comfortable. But
as far as style goes, they are pretty cool.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


I never knew Marin Morrison, but her father, Matt, saved my life. We were co-anchors at
Fox Sports Net in Atlanta when I began choking on a large chunk of grapefruit. As panic
gripped me and my face turned a deep shade of purple, Matt, without hesitation, calmly
got up from his chair and gave me the Heimlich maneuver and out came the grapefruit.

In three seconds, Matt showed the kind of person he was. Smart, selfless, and strong. He is
the kind of person you want as your best friend, one you could trust and always count on,
no matter what.

Several years later after we had gone our separate ways in television, I learned about the type
of person his daughter, Marin, was. I was flipping through Sports Illustrated when I saw a
picture of Matt and Marin. I was riveted by the headline:

                         "As swimmer Marin Morrison and sailor Nice Scandone fought a
                          deadly disease, they mustered all their strength and courage to
                          fulfill a final dream: to compete in the Beijing Paralympics"

The article detailed the trials and tribulations of Marin and the Morrison family on their
way to competing in Beijing. Marin, a national record holder, had been battling brain
cancer, which left her paralyzed on the right side of her body after doctors had damaged
a nerve during a tricky and delicate operation. As wet as my eyes had become, I couldn't take
them off this article.

The world got a glimpse of what Matt and his family witnessed up close and personal. Marin
Morrison was the definition of courage. She had gone from a swimmer with real dreams of
making the Olympics to a teenage girl battling for her life. She stared down adversity and
continued to do the thing she loved the most. It didn't matter that Marin had to swim without
the use of the right side of her body or without the vision in her right eye. She fought on.

I was truly inspired by the article  about Marin and the courage she demonstrated. The media
likes to heap praise on athletes for having the "courage" to go over the middle of a defense
and make a tough catch. Give me a break. That's not courage, that's just doing what you get
paid for to do. The media thought courage was Michael Jordan playing with the flu during the
NBA Finals. What a joke. Marin Morrison's battle against brain cancer is the definition of
courage. She knew the end was near as cancer attacked her brain and body, but she fought on
and got in the pool in Beijing to compete in the Olympics. Now, THAT is courage.

I have to admit that when I was reading the article, I thought there was going to be a storybook
ending. Marin would've beaten cancer and gone on to compete in the real Olympics. Again,
I was truly inspired. But the article ended with the sentence: "Marin Morrison died on January
2, 2009." She was just 18-years old.

My heart went through the floor and the tears followed. I was devastated for Matt
and his family. I hadn't even known. Matt had never said anything.

But that's the type of guy, Matt is. He did not ask for sympathy and didn't want others feeling
sorry for Marin or his family. I know that Matt tried to do everything possible to save his
daughter's life. He gave her the best care and best doctors, and most of all, the love and support
Marin needed to face the unthinkable.

Now, Matt is telling the inspirational story of Marin and wants the whole world to know about
the person Marin was and the courage she demonstrated. He's made a documentary, but he
needs your support to help it come to fruition. I owe Matt a great deal, he saved my life. If
I had the money, I'd  foot the entire bill. Unfortunately, I don't. But you can help him achieve
his goal. Follow this link to read about an amazing story.

Please take 10 minutes to read the story about Marin Morrison. It will change the way you
think about adversity and the challenges in your life.


Monday, July 1, 2013


19 men are gone. A raging inferno in Arizona shifted with the winds and snuffed out the
lives of those who were trying to protect others. They were husbands, fathers, sons, but
most of all, firefighters. Outside of their friends and family members, few had ever heard
of these men that made up the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite unit within the Prescott
Fire Department.

Today, a nation is mourning the loss of 19 men who tried desperately to slow down and
extinguish a fire that had destroyed more than 6,000 acres in Arizona. It was the worst day
for firefighters since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. We never seem to appreciate what firefighters
do and the sacrifices they make until tragedy strikes and they are gone. It is sad really, really,
really sad.

We live in a country that pays more attention to the Kardashians than to the people who
put their lives on the line for the rest of us. We deify athletes because they can run fast,
jump high, or slam a ball through a hoop, yet, we take for granted the people who fight
fires for a living. The media makes an athlete who murders someone the lead story, but
ignores the firefighter who saves a life as a building collapses around them.

The Granite Mountain Hotshots knew what they were getting into when they tried to
contain a monster blaze that couldn't be contained. They trained for this mission like
Navy SEALS prepare for a covert operation in the Middle East. The were taught how to
slow down and extinguish a wild fire, but nobody except a higher power can control
the direction of the wind.

I've never been a believer in the whole, "everything happens for a reason" thing. I'm just
not. The Newtown tragedy erased any thought of that for me. There's nobody anywhere who
can tell me the execution of 20 small children and six adults happened "for a reason." How
can the brutal way in which 19 men perished, have happened "for a reason"? There was
no good reason for it.

Everyone of the firefighters who entered that fiery arena in Arizona realized this job was
unlike any they had battled before. They knew that mission had the potential to be their end
game. Most people on this planet would never think about fighting fires as a career. It's just
like being a Navy SEAL where the odds of coming home alive are stacked against you. The
odds were stacked  heavily against those 19 firefighters, and when the wind changed, they
had no chance.

There is something called The Firefighter's Prayer, which contains the lines, "And if, according
to my fate, I am to lose my life/Please bless with your protecting hand my children and my wife."

There are a lot of children in Arizona who no longer have a father. There are a lot of woman
out there who no longer have a husband. It's a truly a sad day for firefighters and America.
I hope we not only mourn the lives of these 19 men, but appreciate what they, and all firefighters
around the country do for the rest of us.