Wednesday, August 5, 2015


August 6, 2019

That was the eighth anniversary of Brian Bill's death. He was one of 31 SEAL's
killed  in Afghanistan when the helicopter they were traveling in was shot down by a
rocket-propelled grenade fired by the Taliban.

I didn't know Bill personally and our only connection was a trivial one. He was from
Stamford, CT which borders New Canaan, where I went to high school. But after I
learned of his death while fighting for our country, I became fascinated with him for
what he accomplished in his 31-years and grew to admire him for the true hero that
he will always will be.

Brian Bill had a big personality, big smile, and big dreams. After he fulfilled his
military commitment, Bill wanted to be an astronaut. After reading about everything
he did in his life from being a mountaineer, triathlete, earning his pilot's license, and
serving as a SEAL, I have little doubt he would've done something remarkable in space.

As I mentioned, I never even met Bill, but I felt like I knew him. As a reporter and
a managing editor of a news web site at the time of his death, I wrote several articles
about his heroics in the military, earning a Bronze Star medal with valor and a Purple
Heart, among other commendations.

The more I learned of Bill, the more I believed he was the epitome of a true American
hero.  Yeah, like the real thing. He embodied character, courage, and believed  the good of
our country was more important than anything else, including himself.

His sister, Amy, posted a letter Brian wrote to a friend while he was overseas fighting
for the country, on Facebook several months ago. She graciously granted me permission
to use it for this article. I think the letter captures the spirit of Bill and the kind of person he

      "The truth is I want you to live a life of fun and excitement. I want you to travel
       and to go to music festivals and arts shows and all of that fun stuff. I want you
       to live a life of freedom and spontaneity. That is why I work where I work. That
       is why I love what I do. I do it because I know that people are out there free
       enjoying the things they love to do. When I come home and I see people out and
       about living their life with a big smile on there face I get excited and I have a smile
       on my face.”… (Brian Bill, 2008)

That's who Brian Bill was: caring, thoughtful, and unselfish. He was thinking of others
as he was battling faceless enemies on foreign soil, far away from his friends and hometown.

Bill didn't just talk the talk, he indeed, walked the walk. During a dangerous mission
where he and his SEAL teammates were battling the enemy at night in the forest, Bill
saw his best friend, Adam Brown, gunned down. This scene was featured in the best-selling
book, "Fearless." Bill saw Brown was down and mortally wounded and went back to
get him. He carried Brown to the get-away helicopter where his best friend would die.

That's the definition of a hero.

I've tried to honor Bill and help spread the story of heroism over the past four years.
I dedicated my performance in a half-Ironman event to him and have authored several
articles of him. I think about him often.

As the years passed,  I found a connection to Bill through his cousin, Kerry Nagle,
whom I went to high school with. His aunt came up to me at a swimming meet in
Wilton two years ago and introduced herself and told me more stories about Brian.

Most rewarding of all, I got to meet Brian's wonderful mother, Patricia, and sister,
Amy, this past Winter. His father, Scott, also connected with me on Facebook and
wrote me a heartfelt note. These are moments I will never forget.

It has been really special to meet Brian's family. They are beautiful people.

I will continue to honor Brian for the rest of my life in  any way that I can. He was
a special person and a true American hero.

I realize every anniversary of his death is a sad one for his family, but every August
6, is also a time to realize that Brian Bill represents everything a hero really is.

Reading about the kind of person Bill was, I often get the feeling that he would have
come back alive if he controlled his own destiny, fighting on the rugged terrain of
Afghanistan, depending on his smarts, savvy, and courage.

However, he, like the rest of his SEAL teammates were in the air, depending on the
helicopter pilots to get them safely through the mission. Unfortunately, it was shot down
out of the sky and the 31 SEAL's didn't have a chance.

I also get the feeling that if Bill was going to die, he'd want it no other way than
to pass away with his brothers and the teammates he battled with side-by-side with,
forming an unbreakable bond.

That's just the kind of person Bill was.

Never forget Brian Bill and everything he did for this country.

Sunday, August 2, 2015


"What the hell am I doing?"

I muttered that to myself at just past 4 a.m. as I was waiting for my ham, egg, and cheese
sandwich at a convenient store just outside of Lake Placid, N.Y. In two and-a-half hours
I'd be starting a 140.6 mile journey through the breathtaking Adirondack region.

I'm sure the clerk muttered to herself, "What the hell is this guy doing?" as I stood there
in spandex shorts, fire-engine red tank-top, and a pack of gummy bears in my hand.

Yes, at the age of 51, I was fueling up for the iconic Ironman, an event I successfully
completed nearly a year ago to the day. I was back to test myself for more than 12
hours in ways that only Ironman know. The race is more a battle of the will and the
mind than physical talent.

And it's amazing what can go through the mind during such a long and arduous journey.

It all begins with a 2.4 mile swim that is kind of like Black Friday at Best Buy. Competitors
are all lined-up 10 deep and as soon as the green flag drops, it's absolutely mayhem.
Mirror Lake is a mile long and a half-mile wide and everybody wants to swim in a 10-yard
lane but there are no iPads, iPhones, or big screen television to buy. Just a 2-plus mile
swim in a blender of feet, hands, arms, and legs.

Some of these people try to make like it's water polo where a lot of sinister things take
place below the surface. "Oh, thanks for that foot to the mouth, buddy. And that elbow
to the cranium really felt great!" It can be quite insane, really.

After completing the swim, the sprint to the transition area nearly 600 yards away begins.
The heart is pounding and you're almost a bit dizzy as if someone spun you around five
times and told to run a straight line. Not happening.

I'm amazed at the effort of some people make to get to the bike for the 112-mile portion
of the event. What the hell is the rush? Are those 35 seconds you saved really going
to make a difference?

I just kind of chill, relax, and get mentally ready for the mind-numbing ride through
the challenging, but absolutely breathtaking ride through the Adirondacks. You can get
a high off the scenery, but it's still an absolute bear, bitch, or whatever nasty adjective
you care to use to describe a ride that burns your legs and sucks almost all the
oxygen out of your lungs.

But it's also a great time to people watch and figure out their story is. You see riders
with these $1,000 helmets and wonder if it's really worth it to pay so much to shave
a few minutes off your time. With their Oakley glasses, arm sleeves, and tear-drop
helmets, they kind of look like aliens in search of a new planet.

Everyone has their age marked on their right calf before the race, but seriously, what
I'm trying to figure out is why the organizers do it. I mean, it's not like the spectators
have a program to match the number with the competitor. If a competitor drops dead,
will it be easier for the EMT's to blurt out, "Man, this dude was 72. At least he had a full

Perhaps, it's because they want everyone to know the age of the person you just
dusted or got dusted by. I love it simply because when I say to myself, "Aren't I too
old for this crap?", somebody who is 17 years older than me passes me and I get my

Near the 100-mile mark when I started seeing double, I heard feet behind me pedaling
furiously, followed by a soft but experienced voice that barked out, "Keep it up, Paul." 
My bib number with my name affixed to it, was on my back so I was not surprised my
name was blurted out. This little old lady with the number "61" on her right calf staring
back at me, was passing me by.

She might've said, "Keep it up, Paul", but what she really meant was, "I'm
61-years-old and I'm kicking your ass, bitch"  Yeah, I even got a chuckle out of
it especially when I battled back to pass her. I didn't get any satisfaction out of
it, though, just a sense of relief.

I got relief when I finished the 112-mile without popping a tire. That's what
every biker dreads. Heart pounding through chest, sweat coming out of every
pore in the body, mind lost in space--yes, changing a tire under those conditions
is only slightly less than water-boarding torture.

Going from the bike to the run was torture as well. Your legs burn and
feel like 100-pound bags of concrete---and now you have to run 26.2 miles?

What the hell am I doing?

I was determined to run a good marathon, but that went out the window at mile 3.
After 112-miles on the bike and baking under the hot sun, I was cooked.Totally cooked.
Every competitor goes through trials, tribulations, aches, and crazy-type of pains, but
nobody wants to hear any excuses. I realize that, but I knew was cooked---but I kept on
moving forward.

The Ironman is just a microcosm of life, really. It's an ultra-marathon, not a sprint. You
face immense obstacles, great challenges, and things don't always seem fair, but you just
keep plugging away and moving forward. If you stop, life, not to mention, other competitors
just pass you by.

And as Hall of Fame football coach Lou Holtz famously said, "20 percent of the
people don't care about your problems, the other 80 percent are glad you have them."

The only thing you can do is fight on and tell the mind you are going to finish
no matter what. There was no way I was going to see a "DNF" posted after my
name. DID NOT FINISH. That was not an option.

I really didn't get my legs under me until mile 13 and it was already a long day by then.
I just kept picturing in my mind what it was going to be like when I could stop and not feel
bad about it.

My mother, sister, brother-in-law, and all their beautiful kids were there cheering
me on and they inspired me. And just like the year before, they were at the finish
line when I completed the 140.6 miles required to be called an Ironman last Sunday.

When I came down the finishing chute looking like death warmed over, I got a final burst
of energy and a big smile washed over my face. Through all the miles, aches, and pains,
 there is nothing better than sharing the moment with the family.

My time was 14:16 which was two hours off my time from last year.

It did not matter. It was all about finishing this time around.

The finish, the family, well, it was jut spectacular.

Less than 12 hours finishing the race, I signed up to do it all over again next year.

What the hell am I doing?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Last February, Pete Bock lay motionless on the ground outside his home in North Carolina.
His yard morphed into a thick patch of ice thanks to a wicked storm that put the region
in a deep freeze.

Bock slipped, and as anyone who has had their feet pulled out from under them knows,
that moment of being helpless in the air, turns into a conglomeration of danger, fear,
anxiety,  and the uncertainly that comes when gravity pulls you back to something that
doesn't give an inch, no matter the opponent's size, shape, and in Bock's case, impeccable

Bock hit his head on the ice-covered ground. His wife, Cindy, rushed to his side, only to
slip and fall, breaking her hip.  If this was a test by someone of a higher-power, it was a
hard and cruel one for two wonderful people who are deeply religious.

Cindy shattered her hip in the fall,  suffered a traumatic head injury, leaving him paralyzed
below the waist . His injury left him so debilitated, it wasn't certain that he'd live, much
less walk again.

But through his faith, family, and small miracle, Bock battled through his injury and survived.
He went through surgery, setbacks, and a tough rehabilitation program to get a good part
of his health back. But the man considered to be the "Mr. Baseball" in North Carolina, was
still bound to a wheelchair, the feeling in his lower extremities yet to return.

However, in late May, Bock returned to the game he so dearly loves. He showed up for
the opening game of the Holly Springs Salamanders, the team he owns in the Coastal
Plain League, which just happens to be the one he founded and brought to life.

“We’ve got a long way to go, but I think God that I’m here today and able to see this," 
 Bock told a North Carolina television station. "It was one of my goals from the time I
woke up in the hospital.”

A bad thing happened to a truly good person, but that good person, through his faith
and an iron-strong family, helped Bock overcome a horrific thing. He may still have
a long way to go, but he is certainly headed in the right direction. Anybody who knows
Pete Bock, knows he is a beautiful person and a man of great character. If you don't
like Pete Bock, then you probably just don't like good people.

The rest of the journey will be a challenging one with changes to Bock's normal everyday
routine. A ramp for his wheelchair was built to make things more a little more convenient
for him.  There is more rehabilitation ahead and with it, comes expenses that will be sure
to accumulate at a mind-boggling rate. His daughter, Clara Grace, and son, Jeff, set up a
GoFundMe account to help out with expenses.

Clara Grace noted in her in on-line journal, "We still know and believe that God has a
big plan for all of this even if right now it is so unclear. We are weary, but our God
never grows weary, never sleeps, never lets go of his children. Our prayer is for
endurance and wisdom."

I met Pete Bock on the set of "Bull Durham" where he was the baseball coordinator.
We became friends for life that day and I consider him one of the best ones I have.
It's great to see him back in the game and doing the thing he that he loves dearly.

Yes, he has a long way to go, but he bulldozed his way through a big test and has a
big smile on his face to prove it.

And that's a beautiful thing.


Sunday, June 14, 2015


Few things instill as much pride in our country as Old Glory.  With 50 stars, 13 stripes, and
the best-looking color combination in the spectrum, she is nearly perfect and quite powerful
It is raised for Olympic champions and a staple of nearly every college and professional
sporting event in the country.

Today, we celebrate Old Glory and the 238th birthday of it with flag day. It will always
be considered sacred and everyone who has one is responsible for taking care of it, protecting
everything that it represents.

However, that wasn't the case during a baseball game on April 25, 1976 between the
Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs. A father and his 11-year-old son ran onto the
field and attempted to set it on fire as a protest to the United States, which was reeling
in crisis. Rick Monday, a centerfielder for the Cubs as the time, sprinted toward the duo
and snatched it before they could torch it.

It was a great moment for our national pride, baseball, and Rick Monday, who became
somewhat of a hero for doing the right thing at the right time, preserving a piece of

After the game, Monday said, "If you're going to burn the flag, don't do it around me.
I've been to too many veterans' hospitals and seen too many broken bodies of guys
who tried to protect it."

With the social media, talk radio, and 24-hour new channels the way they are today,
I'm fairly certainly Rick Monday would be a household name if he saved that flag in
2015 instead of 1976.

Ironically, Monday was traded to the Dodgers the following Winter and Los Angeles
had a real hero to celebrate and honor.

Happy Birthday, American Flag, and thank you, Rick Monday.

Friday, June 5, 2015



Throwback Thursday floods Facebook with pictures of the past, most of them showing
styles that are out of style and big smiles that seem to last forever. When I was browsing
through the news feed yesterday, I noticed a picture of a former co-worker, face beaming
while embracing a friend.

The caption was written by her friend: "Good times with Alissa. I miss her everyday.
I know she's smiling up there."

My heart sank and jaw hit the floor. The words "smiling up there." could only mean
one thing. I quickly went to her Facebook page and saw other phrases that confirmed
what I was thinking.

"Lord knows how many angels are celebrating up there with you."

"I picture you eating red velvet cake and smiling down on us." 

I couldn't believe it. I quickly Googled her name and up came the headline in the Boston
Globe that drove a stake into my heart.

                                 Alissa Bigelow, 38; hosted cooking show, taught yoga.

Sweet, beautiful, funny, and bubbly Alissa Bigelow was gone at the age of 38. She was
tiny in size but big in personality. We worked together at NESN in Boston where she
was loved by everybody. She edited many of the features I wrote, produced, and reported
on. We spent countless hours in the editing bay laughing hysterically while trying to
make deadline every single night.

She always had a great story to tell and it often came before finishing up our work. One
night Alissa failed to complete a three-minute feature another reporter had done on the
Celtics and I was forced to ad-lib as an anchor for three-minutes, which in television
seems like three hours. But how could I get mad at Alissa, she was the sweetest girl
in the building.

Through our long hours in the editing bay, we discovered we had more in common
than the place we worked. She was from Darien, CT., which bordered my hometown
of New Canaan. They are virtually the same type of town with the same type of people.
There's only a border there to separate the BMW's from the Mercedes'. She also
graduated from the University of Southern California where my sister attended.

As I continued to read her obituary, I saw the words I feared searing. "She took her
own life."

Alissa Bigalow seemed to have it all. She was smart, beautiful, funny, and as bubbly
as the champagne uncorked on New Year's Eve. Alissa also had a precious young
daughter that is a carbon copy of her. Her then-husband Ned, is a man's man who looks
like something on the cover of "Men's Health" magazine.

Behind that pretty face and effervescent smile was the type of pain that became too
unbearable to endure. We are all shocked when a person so young with a brilliant
personality takes their own life, but we can't see the inferno and chaos that tears
a person up inside. We see the mile-wide smile and figure everything is all

It wasn't for Alissa.

She just couldn't overcome her personal demons.

In this day and age with social media and instant information, I was surprised I
missed the news of her passing. The NESN family is a strong one that is connected
strongly on Facebook and nobody had mentioned it. I asked several former co-workers
and they didn't know about Alissa's passing, either.

The date of the article on Alissa's death said November 2013.

How did we all miss it? I feel terribly that I couldn't say good-bye to her.

I do know this: I will miss her dearly. She is the type of person you meet once
and remember her forever.

Alissa Bigelow was a wonderful person. I know she is up there free from her demons,
smiling down on all us.  Alissa, I just wish you knew how much you were truly loved.