Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Boston will always be a part of me. When I was set to start a job working for the Red Sox
over-the-air station in 1997, my late father said, "Paul, you are going to a world-class city.
There are few places in the country like Boston. Enjoy it."
As usual, my father was correct.
After four years working at Fox Sports Net in Atlanta, I moved back to Boston in 2004 to work
for NESN, the goliath of regional networks which is now owned by the Red Sox and Bruins.
Besides being a world-class city and the best sports one in the country, I found New Englanders
to be passionate, smart, and pretty darn tough.
Oh, sure, they often get mocked on 'SNL' for their accents, loyalty to the Red Sox, Tom
Brady, and Bobby Orr, but if they like you, they will stand behind you. If they love you, they
will not only give you the David Ortiz jersey off their backs, but they will pretty much drop everything if you are experiencing tough times.
John Martin is loved. He was a great videographer for NESN, following the Red Sox, Bruins,
Patriots, and Celtics on one of the most incredibly wicked (Boston term) successful runs
the sports world has ever seen. We worked together for two years and shared many laughs
and a lot of great times.
As good as Martin was as a videographer, he is a far better person. He is loved by everyone
in the tight-knit media community and is as solid as the 150-year-old oak trees that line property
in nearby Brookline. When the unfathomable news broke several weeks ago that Martin was
diagnosed with ALS, the entire region rallied around Martin. A GoFundMe page set up by his
friends saw donations come in fast and furiously, going over the $80,000 mark in
less than two weeks.
It seemed like everyone who lived in Boston or had ties to the professional sports teams there,
was stepping up for John Martin, a husband and father to a pair of beautiful young girls.
John Farrell, the Red Sox manager, made a very generous donation, sending in $1,000.
Mike Hazen, the former Sox GM now holding the same title with Arizona, also contributed
$1,000, as did longtime sportswriter, Ron Borges. Former Bruin Johnny Boychuk, who loves
Martin, also made a sizeable donation.
As I looked down the list of contributors, many of whom I had known when I worked there,
I was amazed by the support and felt good in knowing that Boston is taking care of one of its
own. It was truly heartwarming and renewed my faith there are still many people with great
character in this world.
There were also donations coming in from people who wanted to remain anonymous,
chipping in with $5, $10, and $20. This was after Christmas season where many people racked
up a lot of credit card debt in a time when money is tight.
It's a beautiful thing to see.
However, we cannot stop with the support. John Martin and his family are facing some
tough times ahead. That is incredibly sad. He, his wife, Adrienne, and two children are really an
amazing family. They need our continued love and support. They deserve it.
Please help in the fight against ALS. $5 may seem like a little, but a lot of five dollar bills
can go a long way in his battle. Please continue to help out John Martin. Please donate to
his fund. GoFundme/jmartin.
Saturday, January 7, 2017
before could possibly be true. It was just too cruel, so unfair, and just so wrong. I lay in bed
praying to God that it was all just one of those out-of-body experiences that plays with
the mind and blurs reality in a world that has been drowning in death, destruction, and
After getting up, I fired up my computer and searched Facebook for the news that jolted
my mind, body, and soul less than eight hours before. There was just no way it could be true. Nobody, especially this guy, deserved a fate like this.
And there it was. A picture that made my heart jump into my throat, tears welling up in
my ears. A happy and beautiful family. A familiar face I knew and loved followed by
the words that will be seared into my consciousness forever: "Click here to support the
John Martin ALS Fund."
My friend, John Martin, was diagnosed with ALS, the insidious disease with no cure. It's
the one that inspired the ice bucket challenge thanks to the story of Pete Frates, who played
baseball at Boston College right in Martin's backyard at NESN, his place of employment
for the last 19 years.
As a supremely talented photographer, Martin covered the story of Frates and his
battle against ALS. Now he has it.
No! Not John Martin! It's just not fair and just not right. It had to be a mistake. Martin is
one of the best people I've ever met, not only in television, but in life. Hundreds of other people
who've met Martin will tell you the same thing. Forget about his talent as a videographer,
Martin is the type of guy who puts a smile on your face as soon as he walks into a room
He has a heart of gold, a quick wit, and a personality that can brighten up the darkest of
days. Martin loved his job covering the professional teams in the greatest sports town in
the country. He was lucky and he knew it. Whenever I'd greet him and ask him how he was
doing, Martin always responded with a mile-wide grin on face by saying, "Just living the
Martin's colleagues adored him and the athletes he came to know, loved and respected
him. Many times I'd show up for an assignment and a coach or player would ask,
"Where's Johnny Martin?", often disappointed he wasn't there to shoot the interview and
shoot the bull afterward.
There was never a dull moment with Martin, and I got to share many of them during my
time at NESN, which he helped make two of the best years in my career and life. We were
paired many times covering the Patriots beat, traveling to all the road games, while making
countless trips to Foxborough.
We had a blast traveling from great city to great city, covering the Patriots during their
incredible championship run. They never lost and we always had a hilarious time. I remember
a time we flew into Charlotte a day ahead of the game against the Panthers. There
weren't many rental cars left and the agent asked us which of the remaining cars we wanted
and Martin quipped, "How bout the coolest one?"
We ended up with a Plymouth Cruiser. It was more ugly than cool, but god dang it, we
loved it as we roamed around Charlotte laughing are asses off. That's how all our trips
to Denver, Pittsburgh, Miami, Phoenix, and New York were. We worked hard, laughed
John and I loved our jobs. We didn't work by a time clock, paycheck, and didn't need
anyone else's approval. If we did a great job, we knew it. It we tried hard, but came up
short of our standard, we knew it, as well. Through rain, sleet, and snow, Martin always
did his best. He was a gamer, never complaining and always determined to get a shot
that made a difference.
One of his favorite ones, occurred after a Patriots game while I was doing a stand-up long
after the game had ended. There were very few people around, but Martin noticed a group of
people playing touch football in the background of our shot. It was Bill Belichick playing
a game with his family. Yes, Bill Belichick, Mr. Grim, running around like a little kid with
a smile on his face, playing with the same passion of the players he coaches. Martin captured
it all. It was classic John Martin.
During our time as co-workers, I saw first hand the love he had for his wife and family.
He was so proud and so happy as he checked in with them after every safe flight and every
trip to Foxborough. He was just as enthusiastic about his other 'job' as a coach of a Little
League baseball team. It was a passion of his and there were many times he'd cut off
talk about the Patriots and Red Sox to talk about his kids and the games they played.
I love John Martin. Always have, always will. He is one of the best guys I've ever met.
I love his wife, Adriane. She is a beautiful, vibrant, and funny woman. I can't imagine the
pain they are in, and the challenge ahead of them.
It is my hope the entire Boston community rallies around him and his battle against ALS.
His friends and the great people at NESN will be there for him, all the teams that he covered
like the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins, should be there for him, too.
He is Johnny Martin. He is a beautiful man. He deserves all our love, compassion, and help
in his battle against ALS. https://www.gofundme.com/jmartinfund
Friday, December 30, 2016
2016 has seemingly been defined by it. Perhaps, it's because a lot of famous people died
in a country that's obsessed with both celebrity and social media.
David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Prince, Arnold Palmer,Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson,
Alan Thicke, Craig Sager, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds were among those from the entertainment and sports world that passed away, most of them suddenly, drawing shock and
awe from a majority of a society that never knew, much less even met any of them.
But we mourned them all as if they were somehow connected to us. And that's OK. Death is
not easy and there isn't a manual on how to handle it, even if you didn't know the departed,
personally. We all do it in our own way. For those like me, who are on the other side of 50,
there are far more funerals to attend these days than weddings or christenings. It's just
part of the cycle of life.
I will be attending another funeral very soon. My Uncle Jack passed away this morning,
shortly before the door slams shut on 2016, the year of death. Jack Devlin. 78-years-old.
The youngest of four children who all died with Alzheimer's disease. The Devlin curse.
Nobody dies of Alzheimer's disease, though, it's usually something else that robs them of
their last breath. Alzheimer's disease just makes the ending cruel, very cruel.
Jack was more than just an uncle to me, he was my godfather and really good friend. Jack, like
my father and his other siblings, was extremely Irish and very Catholic. I'm not sure he ever
missed Sunday Mass before suffering his cruel fate that was Alzheimer's disease. He was
successful in his career of television advertising sales and was blessed with the same sense of
humor my father and his brother, Jimmy, had.
Uncle Jack also had a heart of gold, willing to do anything for anybody at anytime. However,
he was quite blunt, and often lacked a filter. But that's one of the things that made
Uncle Jack who he was. He told it like it was, never sugar coating a thing, or steering anyone
in a direction other than the one he felt they should go. (wink, wink)
That was Jack Devlin.
He laughed like Arnold Horshack, was sarcastic in an Archie Bunker kind-of-way,
but harmless as a Teddy Bear.
Uncle Jack had some tough times recently, but my cousin and his niece, Tara, was simply
remarkable in her care for him. A pure angel and godsend, she rescued him from Wisconsin
where he lived alone and took him back to San Diego where he received tremendous care.
Thank you Tara Blackburn for all you did in taking care of Uncle Jack. You are amazing.
Jack is at peace now and in a much better place along with his brothers Pat, Jim, and sister
Mary. I am truly thankful for that and thankful that 2016 is almost over.
Good-bye, Uncle Jack. You were one-of-a-kind and will be truly missed.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Ralph Branca will be always be remembered as the guy who gave up one of the most iconic
home runs in baseball history. Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants crushed a fastball
off the Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher for a walk-off win in the 1951 playoffs, making it "The
Shot Heard 'Round The World."
I will always remember Branca for so much more
Branca died Wednesday morning at the age of 90. He was a great friend and golfing
buddy of my father, who passed away eight years ago. They had a special friendship which I
benefitted from greatly.
I was addicted to baseball as a little kid, often playing from sun up to sundown with my
neighborhood friends. Branca would come over to our house and we'd have a catch in the
backyard. He saw my passion for the game and helped take it to an entirely different level.
In 1974, when I was just 10-years-old, Branca, who married into the O'Malley family, whi
owned the Dodgers at the time, took me down to Shea Stadium to meet the team. Growing
up in Westchester county, New York, I was a die-hard Mets fan, but that all changed when
Branca took me under his wing on a hot summer night in July.
He ushered me into the clubhouse of the Dodgers, one that was filled with the likes of Steve
Garvey, Ron Cey, Don Sutton, and Reggie Smith. Most kids are in awe when they go
to Disneyworld to see Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. I was in fantasyland that day
meeting major league players in a real clubhouse. Not a locker room, but a clubhouse which
was filled with buckets of bubblegum, sunflower seeds, and the greatest players in the world.
After introductions to all the players, Branca led me through out through the tunnel and
onto the field at Shea Stadium. Forget about being as happy as a kid in a candy store, I
was walking on cloud nine with the biggest smile the world has even seen.
I was on a big league field meeting all these players I had seen on television. There was
Tom Seaver and Rusty Staub of the Mets. Hey, there goes Tommy John and Davey Lopes.
Oh, my god, are you kidding me?!
Branca then took me back to the dugout to meet this coach who had an audience all his
own. He was loud when he talked, even louder when he laughed. The man had a bit of
a gut that was hanging over his leather belt as he sat on the green padded bench.
At the time, I thought everybody in baseball was in shape, but I guess coaches were a
It was Tommy Lasorda, who was the third base coach at the time. Branca introduced me
to Lasorda and he was very friendly, taking care of me like I was Branca's own little kid.
He said to me, "Paul, if you think I'm going to be the next manager of the Los Angeles
Dodgers, I will give you this hat." That hat had number 52 written under the brim. It looked
brand-spanking new as if it just came out of the box. It was Dodger blue with "LA" stitched in
white across the front of it.
Lasorda said the hat would be mine. All I had to do was say I believed he'd be the
next manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and he'd hand it over. I did. And he did.
This was the greatest day of my young life.
From that point on, I became a Dodgers fan, following them religiously while pretending
I was Steve Garvey, who became my favorite player. The hat Lasorda gifted me allowed
me to be the coolest kid in the school for a day. Of course, I wore it around even though
it didn't come close to fitting.
|Wearing the Dodgers hat Tommy Lasorda gave me.|
However, good 'ole Ralph Branca wasn't done being good to me. A few years later, while
our family was vacationing in Florida, the Dodgers legend suggested to my father he go
to the team's spring training site in Vero Beach.
My father got me in the car and we traveled a few hours to see the Dodgers play a spring
training game. Vero Beach was baseball paradise. A field of dreams lined with palm trees.
It might as well have been heaven to me.
We approached the clubhouse of the Dodgers and met a Japanese man named Nobe Kiwano,
who turned out to be the team's clubhouse man. My father said to him, "We are here as
guests of Ralph Branca." I looked around and didn't see any sign of Branca and wondered
what was going on.
Kiwano then said, "Come this way." He led me into the Dodgers spring training clubhouse.
My father stayed behind. I was like, "This is unbelievable."
That's pretty much the same thing I said when I entered the clubhouse and saw Steve
Yeager and Pedro Guerrero sitting side-by-side at their lockers smoking cigarettes.
I couldn't believe it. I didn't think any professional athlete smoked cigarettes and here
were two players I admired taking drags off butts like they were in a big hurry.
I was in a bit of a shock for a second, but was quickly re-set by the sight of Garvey
strolling through the clubhouse. He was the MVP in 1974 and my favorite player. Kiwano
saw my eyes, which had to be as big as half dollars, and he took me by the arm and
introduced me to Garvey.
The Dodgers first baseman asked me where I was from, how old I was, and what position
I played. I by-passed answering the first two questions and immediately told him I
was a first baseman just like him.
Man, that was awesome.
I went out on the spring training field, making like I was a seasoned veteran, even
though I was just 12-years-old. I was still wearing the hat that Lasorda and I was hoping
to say hello to him. However, he did indeed become the manager of the Dodgers and
every reporter was gathered around him asking him a bunch of questions.
I was lucky. Real lucky, thanks to Ralph Branca.
I saw Branca many times after that and played golf with him several times over the
years. He always took the time to ask about my baseball career and offered advice to
improve my game.
When I heard the news that Branca died today, I lost a bit of my breath. He was
a wonderful man who was a great friend to my father and a person who brought me
so much joy and happiness by taking me to meet the Los Angeles Dodgers. News
of his death brought a tinge of sadness to my day, knowing it came just before
I am so very thankful to have met Ralph Branca. I was lucky enough to have played
catch with a baseball star and soak in the advice he gave me along the way.
Rest in peace Uncle Ralph, you will be missed.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
During his lacrosse career, Graham Harden was assigned to defend against the opponent’s most skilled attackman, those trying to penetrate the zone and fire the ball on net. Harden, a New Canaan, Connecticut native, was incredibly gifted with physical tools, smarts, savvy, and unquestioned toughness.
Harden weaved all that talent into an incredible legacy which he cemented at the University of North Carolina. He was named the National Defenseman of the Year in 1991, earning All-American honors in the process. Harden also captured ACC Player of the Year honors that same season and led the Tar Heels to a national championship.
In 2012, Harden was voted to the ACC’s list of the Top 50 players of all-time, capping a lacrosse career very few have ever matched.
Today, Harden, who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, is defending against another powerful opponent.
Graham Harden has ALS.
Harden received the devastating diagnosis in August after experiencing weakness in one of his legs. A team of physicians concluded Harden had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
ALS is a progression neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Those afflicted with the disease eventually lose all motor skills throughout their entire body.
There is no cure or effective treatment for ALS. The average time a person has left to live after being diagnosed with the disease is just three-to-five years.
Life is not fair and it can be downright cruel. One only has to remember what happened on December 14, 2012 to realize that. 20 innocent children at the Sandy Hook Elementary school were slaughtered by a deranged gunman who had no regard for human life. It made me question hard the “everything happens for a reason” statement many of us like to lean when bad things happen.
I thought about life being so unfair and so cruel when I learned of Harden’s ALS diagnosis. Graham is one of the most wonderful human beings you could possibly meet. Forget about his legendary lacrosse career, Harden is about as solid of a person as a 150-year-old Oak tree in Waveny Park.
He’s been a pillar of his community in Cincinnati, volunteering as a firefighter and EMS member. He also lends his time and expertise as a volunteer coach at a local high school. Everybody loves Graham Harden and anyone who grew up in New Canaan and knew his family, loved and respected them, as well.
Lucy Gail, the mother of four wonderful children who all grew up to be amazing people, could be one of the nicest human beings ever to walk this earth. That's not hyperbole. Anyone who has met Lucy Gail will tell you the same thing.
Just as Graham did to his opponents during his brilliant career, he is taking the insidious disease that is ALS, head on. He and his brothers, Boyd and Holmes, both of whom were also All-Americans in lacrosse at UNC, and sister, Shea, have formed Team Harden, coming together to battle ALS.
They have started “Game On! Graham Harden and G-Force against ALS.” The foundation raises money for research and medical care for those afflicted with ALS.The Cincinnati community where the Harden family resides is also giving back.
Knowing there are three children and a wife to be taken care of, friends have initiated fundraisers to help with the financial burdens that will mount in the coming years.
As of November 1st, just over $78,000 has been raised through the G-Force campaign. The goal is $300,000.
It is my hope the New Canaan community comes together to take help take care of one of its own. Graham Harden is a special person who made New Canaan proud. His entire family is part of the fabric of the small Connecticut town.
The road ahead is a tough one for Graham. He needs our help.
If you’d like contribute and help make a difference in the lives of Graham, the entire Harden family and others afflicted with ALS, you can donate via www.youcaring.com/graham-harden-ii-family-trust-660908/donate#wp