Saturday, May 27, 2017


Pat Tillman didn't die on 9/11, but like thousands upon thousands of Americans, he died
because of it. Tillman, who was playing with the Arizona Cardinals, was so deeply affected
by the terrorist strikes on our home soil, he gave up his NFL career to enlist in the service
and fight for his country.

"Football's not important to me, serving my country is," Tillman said in 2002. It may not
have been important to Tillman, but it had been what defined him. He went to Arizona
State and was the 1997 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year as an undersized linebacker.
Tillman didn't have  a need for change of address cards as the Cardinals, who shared Sun
Devil Stadium with ASU, drafted him in 1998.

A free-spirit, Tillman was converted to free safety by the Cardinals and earned a reputation
as one of the fiercest hitters in the NFL. At one point in his career, Tillman turned down a
5-year, $9 million offer from the St. Louis Rams out of loyalty to the Cardinals.

But that show of loyalty was nothing compared to Tillman's belief that he should fight for
his country. There have been other professional athletes who had their careers interrupted
by a military obligation, but few chose to join the service under their own volition.

Tillman turned his back on a life that most people can only dream of. He was playing in
the NFL and making a good living at. He had the glory, the adulation, and a great future.
9/11 changed all that for Tillman. Despite getting a 3-year, $9 million offer from the Cardinals,
Tillman turned in his football gear for that of an Army Ranger.

How many people would even think about doing that? People say they love our country but
if there was a poll taken, that would probably rank after our love for money, power, sex,
Facebook, and the iPad. And if 10,000 people were asked if they'd give up all that Tillman did
to serve our country, every one of them would've said, "Hell, no! Are you crazy, because
I'm not."

Tillman sacrificed everything. His job, his career, and even his marriage. He got married
to his longtime girlfriend just two months before enlisting in the military in May of 2002.

Along with his brother, Kevin,  Tillman became a Ranger and went on a few missions before
he was killed by his own battalion in a dangerous canyon in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004.
It was sad, tragic, and made even worse because the government lied to everybody at first,
saying that Tillman  was a hero and killed by enemy forces. But what Tilman did, giving up
the riches and the good life of the NFL, to serve our country should be admired. He should be remembered  along with the others who fought and died in wars that tried to rid evil and

Nobody at Arizona State has forgotten Tillman. They have constructed the Tillman Tunnel
where he will be the last thing players see before going onto the field to take on an opponent.
It's a breathtaking tribute to a man who made the ultimate sacrifice.

As much as people want to make sports bigger than life, it's not. I often shake my head in
disbelief when I here an announcer call a player a "hero" because he threw a game-winning
touchdown pass. I shake my head when they describe a player as having "courage" because
he went over the middle and took a big hit from an opponent. I laugh when they say that
a team has to play "like there is no tomorrow." It's just a bunch of guys playing a kids game,
for crying out loud. Nobody dies.

Pat Tillman is the definition of a true hero, one who showed unbelievable courage in not
only giving up the good life, but in fighting for our country. Unfortunately, there never would
be a tomorrow for him. Tillman's life ended tragically in Afghanistan 13 years ago.

Tillman, as well as those who lost their lives fighting for our country, should always been remembered. Not just on Memorial Day, but every single day.

Monday, May 1, 2017


Everybody who has met Bobby Troup, loves Bobby Troup. Void of ego, malice, pettiness, and
greed, Troup is the salt and the earth in the phrase, "He's a salt-of-the-earth type of a guy." Those
who truly know him would tell others that don't that Bobby is simply. "the best."

Troup lives in Boulder, Colorado, which is truly his element. He is care-free and a true
outdoorsmen, one who appreciates nature and everything the  Rocky Mountains have
to offer. Yes, he is far, far away from New Canaan, Connecticut, a place where he grew
up and made too many great friends to count.

Troup is old-school New Canaan and part of a well-known family that is simply wonderful.
Bob Sr., passed away several years ago. He was the patriarch of the family and forever woven
into the fabric of the tonie little town 40 miles outside of New York City. He was that guy with
the giant and colorful personality, known as "the colonel" who was often seen zipping around
town in a convertible with his long white hair and scarf flowing in the wind. There was mom
and daughter, Kristen, both bright lights in the community, as well

Bobby Troup is as kind, gentle, and likable of a person as you will ever meet. He has no
enemies and you'd have to search long and hard to find someone to say a bad thing about
him. He is so pure, unaffected, and genuine. Bobby and my brother, Patrick, were friends
in high school, but lost touch with time and distance. But every time I'd see Bobby, the first
thing he'd always ask about was my brother, which put a smile on my face.

Unfortunately, bad things sometimes happen to great people. It's life. It is not fair, and sometimes,
it can be downright cruel. Near the end of April, Bobby was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer.
According to his family, doctors say the cancer likely has spread into his lymph nodes. He is
scheduled to have surgery May 2.

There are tough times ahead.

New Canaan is a lot different today than the town a lot of us grew up in. One thing I am certain
of, is that all those who helped make it great, will rally for Bobby Troup. He is old-school New
Canaan through and through. He also has a heart of gold, helping out many people in

Bobby Troup needs our help now and it's time to step up for a great guy from a wonderful
family. Follow the link and donate. No donation is too small. It all adds up and goes a long
way to helping the Troup beat this insidious disease.

Go Trouper!

Saturday, April 8, 2017


It's a selfie-obsessed world and I'm just living in it. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have
become a haven for the self-absorbed who can't refrain from posting multiple self-portraits every
single day. The astonishing number of car selfies I see on my daily news feed makes me wonder
if a lot of people bought vehicles equipped with a mechanism that won't allow you to start it unless you take a selfie and post it.

Boring. Bland. Nauseating.

If you're going to take self-portraits, you may want to check out Bryan Brennan, who in my
mind, is still the undisputed selfie king. Brennan is a sports videographer for NESN, although
few at the  mother of all regional networks have ever seen him really work.

That was a joke. Kind of.

Brennan, like many of us in this social media-driven world, takes a ton of selfies. That's cool, I reckon, but everybody needs to take a few pointers from Brennan. He doesn't take himself too
seriously and according sources close to SportsRip, isn't obsessed with the almighty 'likes'.

The kid just has the uncanny touch of taking selfies that are unique, funny, and very creative.
When I see Brennan in his furry ear-flap hat, I can't help but be reminded of Peter Stormare's   character in the movie, "Fargo."

Brennan isn't as sinister as Stormare but he is a showman. Many, including myself, wonder
why executives at NESN haven't given him his own show yet. The guy has style, creativity, and
is a ratings magnet with women between the ages of 54-72 in New England. Dear Sean McGrail:
Please give Bryan his own show. Now!

Brennan travels with the Bruins and Red Sox throughout the season and, remarkably, none
of the players have beaten him up or thrown him in a trash can. They've actually grown to
like his free spirit and entertaining nature. I have little doubt that if Brennan covered the Patriots,
he'd become the first member of the media to ever snap daily selfies with Bill Belichick--he
is just that good.

With all the political experts obsessed with bashing and trashing Donald Trump combined with
the tsunami of selfies, deactivating my Facebook account seems like the thing to do---until I
see another selfie from Brennan and get a good chuckle. Laughing is healthy. Brennan's selfies
make that happen.

Yeah, that's Brennan with Barry Bonds in the background. And yes, that's Brennan with a guy
whose pot belly is as big as Barry's head used to be when Bonds was on the bean. Does Brennan make light of others? Sure, but not as much as he makes fun of himself. He's an entertainer. The guy has to do what he has to do.

Keep it up, Bry-Guy, you are the undisputed selfie king. You keep it fun, real, maybe not always
so clean, but you are one helluva funny guy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


Watching Luke Maye on television hit the shot that sent North Carolina to the Final Four
is one thing, seeing a picture of the former walk-on practicing jumpers with his father, Mark,
is quite another.

The photograph was captured by Andrew Carter of the News & Observer last year in late
February after a regular-season game. The clock said it was close to midnight. The empty seats
tell you everybody's long gone and probably resting comfortably in bed. A little used player,
craving meaningful minutes, knows he has to get better. A father who knows about sacrifice, commitment, and the fine line between success and failure in big-time college sports, is going
to help him get there.

Yes, the picture is worth far more than 1,000 words.

Oh, I reckon the conversation on the floor that night didn't add up to 10 words, much less 1,000.
There were maybe a few, "good shots", or "keep your elbow up", but nothing else really needed
to be said between father and son. They knew. They both knew what it was going to take to be
more than an end-of-the-bench type of player at Carolina.

Hard work.

Luke Maye didn't go from reserve forward to an important player in the NCAA tournament by
accident. He put in the hard work and earned it.

Roy Williams didn't put his trust in a player in the biggest game of the year just because that
player's father used to be the quarterback of the football team. Luke invested a lot of sweat
equity when nobody was watching and secured it.

It wasn't by a stroke of luck that Luke hit the biggest shot of his life and one of the biggest in
the storied history of North Carolina basketball.

He was ready for it.

Thanks to his father who was feeding Luke ball after ball on that February night a year ago,
Luke made the most of his opportunity. Mark didn't need to push or pressure a kid who bet on himself to walk-on at North Carolina team after bypassing scholarship offers to other schools,
but he knew.

He knew that behind every great shot there are usually thousands of others that clanked
off the rim, backboard, or missed everything, altogether. But he kept feeding Luke and fueling
his desire to get better.

He knew about the doubts, lonely moments, and failures that would cause many athletes to
pack it in and quit. But he encouraged Luke to keep believing in himself as he sat on the

Luke Maye's jersey may not go up in the rafter alongside Michael Jordan, James Worthy,
Sam Perkins, and countless other North Carolina All-Americans, but he is a basketball legend
throughout the state. No Tar Heel will ever forget him or his shot that beat Kentucky.

Hard work, persistence, and a father who knew better, helped make it happen.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


Just over a year ago, I ran into Mark Maye, one of my old roommates at UNC during a
football game. We hadn't seen each other since I left Chapel Hill after graduating in 1987, but
we had reconnected recently, thanks to one of our other roommates, Brett Rudolph, who was a standout linebacker on the football team.

Coming out of high school in 1983, Maye was North Carolina royalty. He was the top-rated
quarterback in the country after a spectacular career at Charlotte's Independence High School.
Maye was a 6'5" pro-style quarterback who threw lightning bolts. He was Peyton Manning before Peyton Manning.

Maye was also pretty darn smart, too.

After getting the full-court press by every coach in the country, Maye told everyone to keep
the full-ride they were offering. He was going to UNC on the prestigious Morehead Scholarship,
the highest-academic award given by the university.

Maye was also one of the nicest guys on the planet, void of ego, full of manners, and very
genuine If you didn't know better, you'd have thought he was the last walk-on allowed to dress
on Saturdays instead of a quarterback who was the object of every college coaches desire.

On a spectacular football Saturday in 2015 at Kenan Stadium, the same place Mark
called signals for the Tar Heels, we connected in person for the first time in more than three
decades. I had talked to him on the phone, trying to prank him by saying I was a fundraiser
for North Carolina and asked him if he could donate $50,000.  The conversation went on for
about five minutes before he figured out he'd been had.

We made small talk and I asked about his kids. Someone in the Carolina network told me
he had a son who was a pretty good basketball player in Charlotte. Mark was about as perfect
as a guy could get, but he did have a slight stutter going all the way back to his Carolina days.
He said, "Paul, he, he, he, he's a pretty good player. He, he, he got some scholarship offers but
he wanted to walk-on at Carolina."

6'8" white kids have as much of a chance of walking-on at Carolina as Donald Trump does. It
just doesn't happen very often, and if it does, they will get limited seconds of playing time
and a start on senior day. That's about it.

Mark and I shook hands, wished each other luck, and went our separate ways. A blast from the
past vaporized into the Carolina blue sky.

I am not a Carolina die-hard fan these days. I don't wave the pom-poms or get emotionally
involved in games anymore. Well, that was before Sunday's game against Kentucky. This was
for the chance to go to the Final Four. I missed the entire first half as I was traveling from out of town.  Basketball games don't really get going until the last 12 minutes, so I wasn't too upset
about joining the game in progress.

As the game went into crunch time, a player named Luke Maye stepped up for Carolina. Yes,
this was the son of my old roommate. Damn, I was feeling old. Like his father, Luke is tall,
very tall. He stands 6'8".  He is a spitting image of the old man: dark hair, sleepy eyes, great

Mark's career at Carolina never lived  up to the huge expectations thrust upon him. He had
rotator cuff surgery as a sophomore and was never quite  the same. One of the most sought
after players in the country out of high school, he blended in with so many other football
players in college.

It happens.

Sunday, I was watching his clone, a player who fits in perfectly to the system of Roy Williams.
He is a smart player and one who hustles his ass off. When Luke went to the foul line, I saw
his father, Mark, talking to me at the dinner table in our old apartment. When Luke dove for
a loose ball near the end of the game, I imagined Mark giving his son a big fist pump from the
stands and then recoiling, hoping no one saw his emotion. And when Luke hit the shot that beat Kentucky and sent UNC to the Final Four, a huge huge smile washed over my face.

How great was that? A walk-on, playing on the same floor with a slew of NBA lottery picks,
hitting a game-winning shot to send the school he grew up rooting for, to the Final Four.

Luke Maye, an unheralded player unlike his father, etches his name in the annals of Carolina basketball. Everyone who ever went to UNC and even those in North Carolina who didn't, will  remember that shot forever.

I will remember that shot forever, not because my school is still alive and has a chance to
win the national championship. I will remember it because my old roommate, Mark Maye, who
battled through injury and unfulfilled expectations at North Carolina, enjoyed his greatest
moment as part of the Tar Heels family.

Any top-rated recruit in the country who gets injured and has to live with unfulfilled
expectations, may always wonder, "what if?" It can eat at a person for a long, long time.

Mark Maye waited a long time to experience a moment like Sunday. His son, Luke, a walk-on,
nailing a basketball that is now part of Carolina history. How sweet is that?

That was so awesome. That's what makes sports so great.