Sunday, May 28, 2017
My late father was an impeccable dresser and a borderline neat freak. His walk-in closet
looked like the showroom at Brooks Brothers and was home to one very special thing
besides his made-to- measure suits: the American Flag. He kept it there and safely
tucked away until Memorial Day weekend when he'd unfurl and proudly post it outside
of our home on Purchase Street in New York where we grew up.
I learned a lot about the American Flag and how to take care of it from my father. "Paul,
don't ever let the flag hit the ground," I vividly recall him saying to me when I was about
8-years-old. He also told me how we should honor everyone who fought for and died while protecting the country.
Well, I was just a young pup at the time and obviously didn't know anyone who died for
our country, but my father made it clear Memorial Day was about honoring everyone who
spilled their blood to protect our freedom and way of life.
I went through a good chunk of my life without knowing anyone who died during a war,
basically because the United States hadn't engaged in battle with anyone while I was growing
up. Oh, there was that Grenada scuffle, but that was like the Alabama football team battling
C.W. Post college: over before it started and not a fair fight.
That changed on August 6, 2011. 30 Navy SEAL's being transported from a mission by
helicopter, were shot down by the Taliban in Afghanistan. They all died.
I didn't know any of the SEAL's who died that day, but I got to know one of them very well
after his death. It sounds a bit strange, but if you keep reading, you'll understand.
As I was going down the list of those killed that day, I came across the name of a SEAL who
was from Stamford, Connecticut, which bordered New Canaan, where I went to high school
and the town our family moved to and lived in for many years.
BRIAN BILL, 31, Stamford, Connecticut.
I had to know more about Brian Bill. Initially, I thought it was because I worked in the
media as a reporter and anchor for more than 15 years and had a thirst for knowledge and information. But it became more than that. There was something about Brian Bill, Navy SEAL
that really piqued my interest
When I read about Brian Bill and what he had done in his life, I had an "Oh, my God moment."
When I saw a picture of Bill in his military gear, it really moved me. He looked like the poster
man of what a Navy SEAL should look like. Rugged, tough, with Hollywood good looks,
Brian Bill was something straight out of central casting.
I read his bio again and came away thinking this guy, Brian Bill, was not only a great American
but a real American hero. He loved life and loved his country even more. He was a skilled fly-fisherman, skier and skydiver. Bill was an accomplished mountaineer with successful summits of Aconcagua in Argentina and Mount Elbrus in Russia. He had completed several marathons and obtained his commercial pilot’s license. He independently studied Russian and became fluent in French. He taught himself to play the piano and guitar. Bill graduated from Norwich University
with a degree in electrical engineering.
However, from a young age, Bill dreamed of becoming a Navy SEAL, and like most everything
in his life, he accomplished what he set out to do.
In 2003, Brian Bill was awarded his SEAL trident.
In 2011, Brian Bill became one of my heroes.
He was everything right in a country that had gone oh, so wrong. Bill was a man of impeccable
integrity character and integrity. He lived his life the right way and always put others ahead
There is no better proof of this than the actions that earned him the third of his four Bronze Star
Medals with Valor. I read this during a fundraising event for Bill last June and quite honestly,
my jaw dropped.
From the U.S. Department of Defense:
While performing in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Bill was part of a ground force
element during a daring nighttime raid against a heavily armed enemy commander. While
attempting to engage a barricaded fighter hidden inside the target building, one of his teammates
was struck and mortally wounded by enemy fire, causing him to fall directly in front of the barricaded enemy's position.
With complete disregard for his own safety, Bill fought his way into the compound, exchanging
fire with the enemy fighter while maneuvering to his wounded teammate. Within point blank
range of the barricaded enemy, Bill pulled his comrade from the precarious position where he
had fallen as enemy rounds impacted the rock wall around him. He then courageously exposed himself to the enemy fire again, as he pulled his wounded teammate across the open courtyard
to a position behind cover.
By his extraordinary guidance, zealous initiative, and total dedication
to duty, Bill reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United
States Naval Service.
I've been fortunate to meet the family of Brian Bill. As one might expect, they are a family
of impeccable class, character, and integrity. In short, they are beautiful people. I have tried
to honor Brian Bill's legacy through my work in the media and endurance events. He was a
truly remarkable person. I wished I had the opportunity to meet him.
Brian Bill is, was, and always will be an American hero.
Memorial Day means a lot more to me than it ever did because of Brian Bill. To me, this is
unofficially Brian Bill Memorial Day. He deserves it.
If I haven't convinced you of that already, then you should try to comprehend the full list of
his accomplishments as a combat veteran. He received numerous awards, including the Bronze
Star Medal with Valor (4),including one for extraordinary heroism, Purple Heart Medal,
Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor, Navy
and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal,
Combat Action Ribbon (2), Presidential Unit Citation (2), Navy Unit Commendation,
Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War
on Terrorism Service Medal, and numerous other personal and unit decorations.
Amazing. Simply amazing.
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
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.
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.
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.