Friday, September 6, 2013



That's how I'd describe the new "Tillman Tunnel"  produced by Arizona State inside
Sun Devil Stadium, the place where Pat Tilman became a Pac-10 star. But it was Tillman's
commitment to his country, not his college that made him a hero, and paying the ultimate
price made Tillman a legend.

In a college sports world that has been dripping in scandal from Penn State to Rutgers to
the never-ending saga of Johnny Manziel, the tribute to Tillman is like the industrial cleaner
used to wipe away the grease and grime.

This is so right, so refreshing, and so perfectly done.

The administration at Arizona State made the ultimate tribute to a man who made the ultimate
sacrifice for his country. Tillman was killed by friendly fire during a mission in Afghanistan in
2004. The former undersized linebacker at Arizona State, became a star in the NFL as a safety
with the Arizona Cardinals. He turned his back on multi-million dollar contract that would have
set him up for life, to serve the United States after seeing what the terrorist attacks had done to the
soul of this country.

Tillman was a symbol of heart, courage, and character, which is something that's been sorely
missing in the sports world. He was a free spirit who did things his own way on his own time.

He was a true leader, one that did not crave attention or pound his chest in this "look at me,
aren't I great?" world. Tillman led by example.

Perhaps, that is why Arizona State thought it was appropriate that Tillman lead the Sun Devils
out of the tunnel and onto the field, forever. When the Sun Devils run out to meet their opponent,
they will run through Tillman, touching the image of a man, who was everything good about
college and professional sports, and everything right when it comes to character.

There are other great traditions in college football like the touching of Howard's Rock at
Clemson and the Notre Dame players tapping the sign, "Play Like A Champion Today". But
my new favorite one starts for me this weekend, when Arizona State runs through the new
"Tillman Tunnel" to take on Wisconsin.

Well done, Arizona State, well done.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


I've never heard, read, or seen so many grown-ups, experts, and analysts criticize a
20-year old kid the way they have Johnny Manziel. It's borderline strange and seems to
be more personal than anything else.

After Saturday's game against Rice in which the Texas A & M quarterback was penalized
for unsportsmanlike conduct, several college football analysts got up on their pulpit and
said Manziel had no class, needs to grow up, be more of a leader, and respect the game.
ESPN even ushered out the immortal Mel Kiper, Jr. to tell us how Manziel's character might
effect  his draft status. Lou Holtz even criticized Johnny Football for wearing visor and a
towel around his neck on the sideline. Good, grief.

The critics have become more ridiculous than their criticism of Manziel.

I have a few questions. Why does Johnny Manziel have to be what others want him to be?
Who gives them the right to be judge and jury when it comes to determining how Johnny
Football should act? What right does Jesse Palmer, the former Bachelor who didn't live up
to all the hype at Florida, have in criticizing Manziel, who certainly has and then some?

Do people criticize Manziel because he just looks like a wise-ass or is it because he comes
from a family of great wealth? Are they jealous of him because he's had more fun in the last
six  months than most people have in their entire lives?

Why do the critics focus on the behavior of Manziel, while looking past the questionable
actions of others. Does it all depend on who they are?

Tom Brady of the New England Patriots gets in the face of Ray Lewis and he's considered
tough, a leader, and someone who doesn't back down.

Johnny Manziel talks a little smack to an opponent whose been chirping in his face all
game and he's considered a punk.

Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers flexes his bicep after scoring a touchdown
and he's considered colorful, entertaining, and great for the game.

Johnny Manziel rubs his fingers together, which is the universal sign for money, and he's
immature, doesn't have any class, and disrespects the sport.

The world tweets pictures of themselves at parties and posts them incessantly on Facebook,
yet, when Johnny Manziel does it, he's out of control, narcissistic, and reckless.

Enough is enough. He's a 20-year old kid who has made some mistakes. So what? Were you
a finished product two decades out of the womb? Are you a picture of perfection now?

The criticism of Manziel has gone overboard and is overdone. It's tiresome and old. Beat
that dead horse until it turns into glue. Is that what the critics are trying to do?

Why is everybody so consumed by what he does? Why do people who don't even know
Manziel feel like they have to police him? Do they feel better when they undress him in
front of  the entire country?

The last time I checked, quarterbacks were judged on winning and their productivity, two
things Manziel has done better that just about everybody in college football. He's 11-2
as a starter and last year set an NCAA record with more 5,100 yards of total offense. And
suddenly, it's all about character now? Give me a break. His personality and character are
part of what makes Manziel great. Now, the critics want him to reel that in? Not going
to happen.

Is Manziel acting any differently than the "professionals" that we see on television? You
know, the ones ESPN glorifies by putting their celebrations and boastful acts on SportsCenter
every night. He's just doing what has become the norm in this "look at me, aren't I great"

Perhaps, the criticism should be directed at those professionals who are getting paid millions
to play the game instead of the 20-year old that is making millions for his school, NCAA,
and merchandise hawks everywhere. Perhaps, it should be focused on Kaepernick who
tweeted a picture of himself wearing a Dolphins hat, or Mark Sanchez who showed up on
YouTube dancing like a jack-ass with his ass in plain view for everyone to see.

Manziel is not a professional. He is not getting paid to play the game despite making
everyone else rich. A 20-year old kid doesn't deserve this avalanche of criticism, especially
when he's just living the life he wants to live, not the one somebody else wants him to

Judge not, lest thy be judged.

Monday, September 2, 2013


Almost as soon as Diana Nyad completed her historic swim from Cuba to Florida and
emphatically stated, "You're never too old to chase your dreams," a fitness revolution was
born. People from 60 to 80-years old, inspired by their new hero, headed for swimming
pools across the globe.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Fennis Dembo, general manager of LA Fitness in
New York City. "It was like they said, 'To hell with the family picnics and barbeques. By
4 p.m., this pool was packed with older people."

Charles Wentworth, 71, and a former squash champion at Princeton, felt rejuvenated by
just watching Nyad finish off her 110-mile swim through shark infested waters.

"Open water swimming is where it's at," said Wentworth, a retired hedge fund manager
who spent five years in prison for insider trader. "I'm bored with P90x and CrossFit. I needed
a new challenge. I'll start with something easy, like swimming the English Channel, and then
move on to bigger things such as crossing the Pacific."

Rosemary Davis, Betty Williams, and Pookie Rothstein, all 73, said they haven't excercised
in more than five years, but after seeing the 64-year old Nyad swim 53 hours, they got pumped
as they once did for Olivia Newton-John's music video, "Let's Get Physical."

"Today was the first time I had been in the pool in a long time," sad Davis. "But after swimming
just one lap, I was 'off the chain'. Is that how they say it? I'm not ready for shuffleboard and
early bird specials just yet. I think I'm going to try to swim across the Hudson River next spring.

Swimming merchandise was flying off the shelves at "The Sports Authority" in Shreveport,

"At this time of year, we usually see a spike in gun and ammunition sales," said Billy Joe
Robideaux, sales manager. "But after Ms. Nyad completed that friggin' swim, people came
in for goggles, jelly-fish repellent and Speedos. I tried to steer them older folks from those
tiny swim suit and get into something a little more comfortable for their liking. But they
wanted the thing that offered the least resistance, so I gave them the smallest speedos I
could find. LMAO. Good luck with that."

Billy North, coach of the Masters swim program in Tupolo, Mississippi, was inundated with
thousands of phone calls shortly after Nyad removed the mask that protected her from jelly-fish
stings when she was done.

"Brother, I have not had this much attention in my program for years," said North. "These
people were demanding. They wanted to know when the first practice was in the morning
and how many they could do in a week. They didn't care nothing about the cost. I said, 'Well,
it might be a little early for you because it's at 5:30 a.m" he added. "Them people are camping
outside the door and sleeping there overnight. Un-Bee-Lee-va-bull!"

Diana Nyad sets a record and starts a whole new (and old) fitness revolution.


"It's never too late to be what you might have been"
                                    -George Eliot-

I thought about this quote when I heard that Diana Nyad was attempting to swim from
Cuba to Florida again. Nyad had already failed four times before stepping into the ocean on
Saturday, having been beaten down in the past by paralyzing jelly-fish stings, hypothermia,
and a tongue so swollen, she could hardly breathe. But the 64-year old endurance athlete
refused to give up on her dream of becoming the first person to complete the treacherous
swim without a shark cage.

There were a lot of people who questioned why Nyad would even bother to try it again, after
all, she nearly died during the swim last September. Some felt she was just doing it for attention
and that she needed to "just give it up." I'm sure there are much easier ways to get some
publicity than swimming over 100-miles in shark infested waters and incurring stings that swell
your face to the size of a large pumpkin. Heck, Nyad could've just gone on the set of "Ray
Donavan" and twerked Jon Voight. That would've been a much more comfortable way of
blowing up Twitter and capturing some headlines.

Nyad heard the critics and the whispers that turned into loud roars. She knew everybody in
the world doubted and even laughed at her. She was 64-years old, for crying out loud. That's
an age when most people are thinking about walks on the beach, sunsets, and relaxing on
Golden Pond. Who in their right mind would even consider swimming all that way and for

Nyad thought about and conquered it. There was no medal waiting for her when she swam
ashore in Miami. I'm not sure there's going to be a seven-figure endorsement deal, either.
She did it because she believed in herself. She believed that she wasn't too old, too slow, or
even too soft to be defeated. She didn't care that people doubted and laughed at her. She
didn't listen to those who said it couldn't be done, especially at her age.

It's almost fitting that on Labor Day, while most Americans were enjoying the day off,
Nyad was working relentlessly to fulfill her dream. She achieved that dream and taught every
one of us a lesson.

Too many times we impose limitations on ourselves. Too many times we let others try to
squash our dreams. Too many times we listen to the critics who say it can't be done.
Nyad proved that failure is not final and that people should never give up on accomplishing
their dreams just because it didn't work out once, twice, three, or even four times.

Nyad at 64-freaking-years old swam 103-miles in 53 hours in shark infested waters on
September 2, 2013. That is unreal. That is amazing. That is a great lesson for those who
often say, "I can't", when they really can, but just don't know it.

Sunday, September 1, 2013



Sports fans and the media are a strange bunch, that's for sure.

We want our heroes to be squeaky-clean like Tim Tebow, but when they are, they get
labeled as too boring, too contrived, and too phony.

We want players to act with class and dignity when they get taunted, but when they do,
they aren't tough enough and get criticized for letting others walk all over them.

Johnny Manziel will never be Tim Tebow and is never going to be one who turns the other
cheek. Now, deal with it.

On Saturday, Manziel sat out the first half against Rice because of his suspension by the
NCAA and Texas A & M. When he took the field, it was Johnny Football being Johnny
Football. He beat Rice with his arm and Fred Astaire-like feet. But he was also penalized
for unsportsmanlike conduct for responding to taunts from the opposing team. He made
like he was signing  autographs and rubbed his fingers together, which is the universal
sign for money.

And, of course, the United States roster of Johnny Manziel haters came out in full force.
From those getting paid to analyze football to those who don't, Manziel had no class, has to
grow up, and be a leader.

One thing is certain, Manziel is the biggest lightning rod in the history of college football
and there has never been anyone like him. Ever.

After just one year of being a true Aggie, Manziel is the most influential player in the history
of the program. He has made Texas A & M relevant and no longer the red-headed step
child to the Longhorns in the football-crazed state. He's bigger than Tony Romo and has
made his school millions upon millions of dollars. Without Johnny  Football, Texas A & M
goes back to being just Texas A & M.

Please save the self-righteous and holier-than-thou rhetoric. Big-time college football is all
about two things and two things only: winning and money. Because of Johnny Manziel, Texas
A & M has won a lot of games and made a ton of money. Kevin Sumlin can pull Manziel
out of a game that's long been decided, but he won't do that against Alabama or Texas, that's
for sure. He knows that Manziel is not only his best player, but his ticket to a mega-million
dollar contract extension or a job in the NFL. Plus, he wouldn't be dumb enough to cost his
employer a shot at making the tens of millions of dollars that go with earning a birth in a
BCS game.

Manziel is a true original and a rock star who walks to the beat of his own drummer.

And I love it.

Manziel is who he is. Is that really such a bad thing? He's a 20-year old kid with a Heisman
Trophy who has made some mistakes. How perfect were you at that age? How perfect are
you now? Were you a finished product as a sophomore in college? Are you a finished product

Manziel is living his life the way he wants to live it. Isn't that how you want to live it, the way
you want to and not by somebody else's design or plan? Do people resent the fact that Manziel
is too carefree, too self-absorbed, and having too much fun? Do they want to see him live with
regret, obsess over his missteps, or pay a steeper price for his mistakes than he really should
have to? Seriously? Worry about the person looking back at you in the mirror instead of
worrying about somebody you don't even know.

All these college sports analysts are getting up on their pedestal and saying, "Johnny Football
has to change." No he doesn't. He is GREAT for college football. Executives at ESPN, Fox,
and CBS love Manziel because he is a ratings magnet. They certainly don't want him to
change because Manziel on their networks means more money in their pockets. Love him
or hate him, he's the biggest thing in college football right now.

And Johnny Manziel is his own man. There is nothing wrong with that. Deal with it.