Monday, January 11, 2016
It took only one moment to rinse away the stink from Saturday's night's game between
the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals. When Bud Grant walked to mid-field
for the coin toss of the Seattle-Minnesota playoff game Sunday, all was good again
in the NFL.
Grant is the former Vikings coaching legend who drove his teams to four Super Bowls.
He looked like a coach out of central casting with a chiseled face, steely-blue eyes, and
the demeanor of a bad ass.
Grant retired from coaching in 1985 after 18 seasons with the Vikings. The all-time wins
leader in team history hasn't been seen much since then, and there were even many who
actually thought he had passed away.
On Sunday, Grant was 'The Revenant', making his return after a long time away from
the game and national spotlight. The return Grant made was the stuff of Hollywood
The 88-year-old Minnesota icon was the honorary captain for the Vikings, showing up
for the third coldest game in NFL history. At -6 degrees and with a wind-chill factor
of -25, the sell-out crowd showed up in five layers and Parkas. There may have been
a flask or two of Jack Daniels buried underneath all the clothing, as well.
Yet, there was Bud Grant in a polo shirt. Yep, just a thin shirt to protect him from the
bone-chilling temperatures. How tough is he? How great is that?
Grant has always been tough as nails and expected his players to be the same. When he coached
the Vikings and Old Man Winter took up residence in the Land of 10,000 lakes, Grant
didn't allow heaters on the sidelines for his team. Man up, he told his players, those who
are mentally tough don't let the weather affect them.
Grant knew how to deal with the antartic-like conditions, that's for sure. He coached
the Winnipeg Bombers of the Canadian Football League for 10 years, winning the title
four times before landing a job with the Vikings.
Sunday was a return of sorts for Grant, who went to the University of Minnesota where he
played three sports. After college, Grant played in the NBA for the Minnesota Lakers
and in the NFL with Philadelphia Eagles. He is the only person to play in the NFL
and NBA. When the Winnipeg Bombers opened a new stadium in 2014, they unveiled
a statue of him. Bud Grant is a god.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars in 'The Revenant", which means a return from a long absence.
During filming, DiCaprio and the crew were in Calgary with sub-zero temperatures, going
take-after-take in some brutally tough scenes.
When I saw Grant come out in a -25 wind chill factor in a polo shirt, I thought for sure
he could've played DiCaprio's character in "The Revenant" because Bud Grant is just
that kind of tough.
They certainly don't make them like Bud Grant anymore.
Thursday, January 7, 2016
She was one of the first girls I met when I walked into Deerpath Junior High School
in the fall of 1977. Our family had moved to Lake Forest, Illinois and as a 13-year-old kid,
I was starting over in a new town, a new school, and challenged to make new friends.
Maureen was one of my first friends in my new school. She was one of the prettiest girls
in Lake Forest who seemed wise beyond her years. She was smart, sweet, and seemed to
have the beginning of real life figured out well before the rest of us.
I had a mad crush on Maureen Sloan, too. She didn't return the crush. As I mentioned,
she was wise beyond her years. :)
Maureen was one of the truly incredible people I met during my short stay in Lake
Forest. Our family moved back East after just two years. It was an amazing place
where I forged friendships that still remain strong today.
Thanks to Facebook, I reconnected with Maureen nearly 38 years after first meeting
her. Man, when I write "38 years" it doesn't seem real. Has life gone by this quickly?
Despite the time that accumulated between our last conversation, Maureen and I had
an easy time picking up right where we left off.
She seemed happy in her first year of life after 50. There had been demons that many
of us face through this journey of life, but it seemed as though she had overcome
them and enjoying herself. That was evident in a text she wrote to former
classmate and good friend, Lisa Pharris.
As I was browsing through Facebook a few days ago, a short blurb caught my eye:
Maureen Sloan R.I.P.
I was hoping against hope it wasn't the Maureen Sloan I knew from Lake Forest in 8th
grade. I went to her Facebook and I read posts confirming that it was.
Maureen Sloan, 51, was hit by a car on New Year's Eve while crossing a busy
street in Sarasota, Florida. Gone tragically and way too early. She was loved and
had an impact on many of her friends, as many posts on her Facebook page indicated.
"I LOVED Maureen Sloan...I am so incredibly sad to hear of this horrible news...
My First friend at LFHS...A TRULY dear and gorgeous soul...You will be missed.
CANNOT believe this....! " --Maria Salidas.
"RIP Maureen Sloan you truly impacted my life, many serious chats we shared
and how often you comforted me.... I will never forgot you or that beautiful smile....
Such a genuine, strong woman. Say hello to my brother up there!" ---Julie Hilliker
Maureen Sloan, you were truly loved. Anyone who met you, admired and respected
you. Good-bye, Maureen, you will be missed.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
As Dave Henderson grew into a man and major league baseball player, the little boy in
him never left him. His gap-toothed smile that seemingly stretched from Seattle to Boston,
two of the cities that adored him, expressed a love for a game that often disappears in
others once they make it to the big-time.
The pressure of performing under a magnifying glass can make a smile vanish, the love for
the game can disappear with the expectations that come with a multi-million dollar contract.
That never happened to Dave Henderson, who always made it appear like he was the luckiest
guy in the world. His expression screamed out to the world, "Do you mean they are actually
paying me tons of money to play this game? Who is fooling who?"
I watched him play many times and don't ever recall a helmet thrown or bat shattered. If
he struck out, Henderson always seemed to have a look on his face that said, "Oh, well.
I gave it my best shot. I'll get him next time."
In the 1986 ALCS against the California Angels, there was a next pitch for Henderson
who was playing for the Boston Red Sox at the time, acquired in a late season trade with
the Seattle Mariners. Badly fooled by Angels closer Donnie Moore, Henderson and the
Red Sox were down to their last strike in the game and the series.
Moore hung a split-fingered fastball just enough for Henderson to get the fat part of
the bat on the ball. As it sailed towards the left-field fence, Henderson watched in both
excitement and anticipation. He was like the kid and Little League staring at what could
be his first-ever home run. Henderson knew it had a chance. He skipped, hopped, and
landed awkwardly as the ball cleared the fence. I said to myself, 'man, that looked like
It very well may have, but there's no way Henderson felt any pain. The adrenaline took care
of it. He all of a sudden became that little kid who just did the greatest thing he could've
ever imagined with his parents and all his friends watching. He became a somebody.
The home run helped win the game and made Henderson a hero in Boston forever.
Henderson played in the World Series four times, winning once with the Oakland A's
in 1989. Few people can rattle of the career stats of Henderson, but many remember his
fu Manchu and mega-watt smile. Dave Henderson loved the game every single day whether
he was on a hot streak or a dreadful slump. With Henderson, you could never tell which
one he was in the midst of.
Henderson made every fly ball hit to him in the outfield, not an adventure, but rather
unique. When he camped under it, he gave it half of Rickey Henderson with a little style.
The other half appeared as if he was playing hide-n-seek with the ball, with a squint and a
little flex in his knees.
If he caught a ball that ended an inning, Henderson ran in from the outfield with a smile
on his face looking as if his parents just told him they were taking him to Carvel after
the game for some ice cream.
The little boy in Dave Henderson had a great run, but he died on Sunday. He gave everything
he had and those who followed the game, a lot of joy. Somehow, someway, I pictured
a smile on the face of Dave Henderson as he passed away from a heart attack at the age
Nothing in the game could wash the smile off his face. Nothing in life seemed to affect it
either. It wouldn't be all that surprising if death failed at it, too.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Almost as soon as I posted a picture of me fishing in a dress shirt and slacks, I received
an avalanche of comments.
"Who goes fishing in an outfit like that?"
"That doesn't look right."
"Are you modeling or something? Who goes fishing in a button-down shirt?"
All comments were spot on. Nobody goes fishing in clean clothes, much less a button-down
shirts. It's usually shorts, a wrinkled t-shirt from 1998, and a baseball hat, right?
Truth be told, I didn't expect to be fishing that day, which was November 6th. As a general
assignment reporter, you don't know your assignment until you get to work and I always
dress in a coat and tie or business suit.
On November 6th, it was 78 degrees in Westchester County, breaking a record that stood
since 1930-something. I was told to go find out how people were taking advantage of the
My photographer and I went down to the Hudson River in Nyack, New York which had
turned into a wonderland of sporting activity. People were biking, roller blading, and
fishing. After interviewing the man with the fishing pole, I asked if I could cast a line
for "tv purposes".
The man obliged and I got my stand-up for the story. As I was a doing it, a professional
photographer just happened to be shooting the event----and then I hooked a catfish. Now,
that was luck. It was pretty funny moment, so I took advantage of it figuring it would
make for good television, especially in my casual attire. I'm just thankful I took off the
tie or I'd have really heard it from my friends.
It wasn't the first time I was pictured fishing in the great outdoors with unsuitable
attire. While working for NESN and covering the Patriots in 2005, I went fishing in
a 3/4 length leather jacket. Not exactly a good look.
The Patriots were playing a Monday night game against the Miami Dolphins and I didn't
want to sit around in my room all day. Sun bathing on Ocean Drive in Miami was out,
the weather was unseasonably cold. With the high-winds, the temperature dipped into
My photographer and I booked ourselves on a deep-sea fishing charter. Forget about
the frigid temperatures, we were going fishing for some trophies. Trouble was, I didn't
pack for the cold weather, so I hopped aboard in my leather jacket. Hey, man, you have
to do whatever you have to do to deal with the conditions with what you have.
About an hour into our trip, I hooked a big ole' golden Amberjack. In my leather
Kenneth Cole jacket, I felt like Jimmy Houston reeling in that sucker. He put up
a good fight, but I was empowered by the leather jacket, kind of like Fonzie in
I didn't look cool, but I felt cool. That made my trip until I flew back to Boston
sitting next to Bridgette Moynihan, Tom Brady's girlfriend at the time. Now, you
talk about a story! I'll save that for another blog.
As for my attire, so what? One can't always dress for the part. If you hook a big
one, it doesn't matter what you wear, leather jacket or button down shirt.
Monday, December 21, 2015
"I've been everywhere", but if the music legend was alive today, you can bet he'd buy
the New York native a beer or two just to hear about his journey.
Alexander is the human passport, getting stamped in 33 countries from Chile to Ireland
to Morocco to Fiji.
He's been everywhere, man.
"I love to travel because at a young age my parents exposed me to many new places and
things,"said the 51-year-old golf professional. "It has always inspired me to see more."
Alexander has seen more of this country than most people can only dream of. He's been to
every state except Alaska and in 2014, made the journey from coast-to-coast, spending
90 days camping out in the wilderness in addition to taking in so many of the breathtaking
sights this great nation has to offer.
Crossed the desert's bare, man
Breathed the mountain air, man.
He's been everywhere, man....
Single with no kids, Alexander can get up and go just about whenever he wants, and
wherever he goes, that place usually has a ton of golf courses. Alexander has teed it up on
more courses around the world than the number of times you've changed your status on
Facebook in the last five years. In addition to golf, he skis on spectacular mountains
and fishes in the most exotic places from sea to shining sea.
Baraboo, Waterloo, Kalamazoo, Kansas City,
Sioux City, Cedar City, Dodge City, what a pity.
He's been everywhere, man.
Alexander and I have been lifelong friends and while talking over breakfast one day
in November, I casually asked what his plans for the weekend were.
"I'm just going to Morocco with Carl (his brother) and we're going to play golf with
some guys who invited us over there," Alexander said with all the emotion of a mortician
at the end of double-shift. I guess that can happen to someone who has been everywhere,
The man's motto is one you might expect from a person who sees the world as his personal
"Mark Twain summed it up best." Alexander said. "Twenty years from now you will be
more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the ones you did do."
Alexander hopes to cross Thailand, Patagonia, Alaska, and Prague off his Bucket List
in the very near future, which for the PGA golf professional, probably means sometime
My father affectionately dubbed Alexander, "007" because he is calm, cool, and has an
aura of mystery and intrigue about him. He is always here today, gone somewhere else
tomorrow. That's Paul Alexander.
He's been everywhere, man.