Sunday, August 6, 2017

CATCHING UP WITH JOHN MARTIN


11 years.

That may seem like a long time, but I found that once I turned 40-years-old, life seems to
morph into a frenetic sprint to finish what was started in the 1960's. A year goes by like a summer,
a month goes by like a week, and a week is over before a rooster can see the sun rise in the east.

Some days I feel like screaming, "Whoa, slow the heck down! What the heck is the rush?!"

It had been 11 years since I had seen John Martin. We were co-workers at NESN in Boston
and often paired together in that dream world of covering sports in the one of the greatest cities
on the planet.

We weren't best friends but we shared some amazing, if not hilarious moments during our
assignments covering the New England Patriots. There were road trips to Pittsburgh, Denver,
Charlotte, and many other places along the way. John was a true professional as a videographer.
He didn't work by the clock or for the paycheck, but rather for the love of the job and the amount
of pride he took in it.

We never looked for the approval of a higher-ups at the station, but rather each other. We had
very high standards and knew when our product was damn good or just good. We sugarcoated
nothing and never looked for a pat on the back from others.

I'm not sure we ever said good-bye when I departed NESN in the late summer of 2006.
Perhaps, it was because there was an understanding that our paths would someday cross again
in the business. It happens more often than not in the world of sports television.

Except that it didn't.

There was the occasional text, tweet, or phone call out of nowhere. But other than that Martin
may as well has been in Bangkok. I may as well have been in Anchorage. Our paths didn't come
close to intersecting. But we were still friends through and through.


Over the course of those 11 years since we last saw each other, things changed. A lot. There
were new jobs and moves to new cities for me. And life changed in the blink of an eye for
Martin in the cruelest of ways.

Last October, Martin was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gerhig's disease.  He stepped away
from a career that he loved and where he was universally respected. His life as he knew it,
was put on pause. Martin, with an amazing wife, Adrienne, and two beautiful girls, Kaia and
Gabby, have to battle a disease that has never lost.

Life is not fair. Anyone who has lived on this earth long enough knows bad things often
happen to the best of people. John Martin is the very best of people. And as I've told others,
he's as solid in character as the 150-year-old oak tree that stands strong and proudly in the
middle of the forest.

Very few people escape the world without dealing with some form of hardship or tragedy. I
realize diseases don't discriminate, but this just didn't seem fair.


I planned on being in Boston during the weekend of August 4-6 and reached out to Martin
as I wanted to see my former co-worker whom I enjoyed so many great times with. It was
extremely important to me.

When my girlfriend, Kim, and I pulled up to his home in Newton, nothing at all really
seemed to change. There was John in his baseball hat and sunglasses with that trademark
mile-wide grin on his face. That was the JPM I knew.

We never embraced when we worked together. There was no time for any kind of man-love
on the job. We were too busy and besides, we weren't in to the Roger Goodell hug-a-draft
pick kind of thing anyway.

But that changed when I saw him. I gave him a long embrace hoping it would take away
just a little bit of the overwhelming pain that he's been dealing with it. We shared a lot of
stories and some good laughs over the next 90 minutes.

However, the effects of the wretched disease has started to take its toll. Martin said there
is weakness on the left side of his body. He now wears a brace to stabilize his left leg. JPM
can no longer stand for long periods of time. It is heartbreaking

The entire Boston sports and television community has rallied around JPM to make things
a little better for him and his family. Financial contributions continue to come in after his
diagnosis in October.

Several weeks ago, Steve Buckley, the longtime sportswriter for the Boston Herald and
founder of a long-running Old-Timers game, announced this year's event would benefit
Martin in his battle against ALS. It's a wonderful gesture by Buckley to honor and help
out a wonderful person in Martin.

John showed me the old-time uniform he'll be wearing on August 17, the date of the game.
It's retro Los Angeles Angels uniform, which Martin requested since the Angels are
the name of the youth baseball team he has coached in Dorchester for the last 30 years.

Even better, Pedro Martinez, the baseball hall of famer and Red Sox great who will be
pitching in the game, has stated that he will pick up Martin at his home in Newton and
take him to the game.

How cool is that?

Martin deserves it. He is a great man who happens to be battling a terrible disease. The
game on August 17 may feature Pedro Martinez, but it will be all about John Martin. It's
his day to get the recognition he deserves. He earned it during his 19 years as a videographer
for NESN.

There aren't many people like John Martin.

I realized that when we worked together and it was reinforced as we embraced again
before I headed back to Connecticut . He is truly a special person.

There are moments when I wish time would just stand still so we can give the people we
love and care for all the help they need to get through difficult times. But I know life doesn't
work that way as it waits for no one.

I hope the great people of New England and beyond continue to help out Martin and his
family by providing some financial assistance to Martin. The tough times will only get tougher.

He needs our support.

He deserves our support.

Please contribute. A little goes a long way for Martin and his family.

https://www.gofundme.com/jmartinfund

Thursday, August 3, 2017

TOM BRADY TURNS 40 AND MEDIA GOES CRAZY


August 3.

Tom Brady turned 40 and the media goes bat shit crazy. There are tributes, memes, videos, and
just about anything else that can be posted on Facebook and Twitter to mark the milestone for
the quarterback of the New England Patriots.

I get it.

LaVar Ball says something stupid and the media falls all over themselves trying to cover and
dispense it. Total insanity. Total ignorance. Oh, sure, it's great click bait in the Kardashian-loving society we live in,  but seriously, at what point does the media stop covering stupid? At what
point do we stop making a big deal about everything?

Never.

Brady is an incredible athlete with amazing drive, dedication, and commitment. You know the
big stat: 5-time Super Bowl champion. And if you've been on the Internet over the past year, then
you know about him eating avocado ice cream, drinking gallon after gallon of water everyday,
and working with his personal training guru. That's awesome. Truly.


I respect Brady more than any athlete on the planet. I respect the work ethic and total
commitment to his craft, mind, and body. But please don't call me a "fan" or even a "supporter."
I stopped doing that kind of stuff a long, long time ago. I don't root for teams or even have
a favorite one. However, after covering Brady and the Patriots during every practice and
every game for a two-year period, I have a colossal amount of respect for the franchise
quarterback and the franchise itself.

However, I wasn't doing cartwheels or going gaga over Brady as he turned 40 simply
because a few others have already been there and done that while doing some great things.

Brett Favre, who at one time was more of a poster boy for partying rather than physical fitness,
had a great year at the age of 40. He started all 16 games and led the Minnesota Vikings to
a 12-4 record and the NFC Championship. His stat line was pretty impressive, too. 
Favre at 40: 33 TD passes against only seven interceptions. And he completed 68 percent of his passes.  I don't remember anybody mentioning Favre eating avocado ice cream, much less
celebrating his 40th birthday like everyone seems to be doing with Brady.


Warren Moon started at quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks at 42. Back then, I marveled
at Moon's physical fitness level and success. He didn't lead his team to the Super Bowl,
but he was still slinging passes effectively at that age.

Perhaps everyone is making a big deal about Brady turning 40 is because he's considered
the greatest of all-time. I get it.

But many people consider Gordie Howe to be the best all-around hockey player of all-time and
Mr. Hockey played in the NHL at age 51 where he racked up 45 points. When he was a young
pup at the age of 40, Howe posted 103 points for the Detroit Red Wings.


Jaromir Jagr finished last season for the Florida Panthers as a 45-year-old stud.

Nolan Ryan was still throwing heat at the age of 44.

Brady is truly incredible. I get that. But playing quarterback at 40 has been done before in
the NFL. Playing at 40 and having success has been done in just about every other sport,
as well.

Barriers that have been broken for the first time usually get a great deal of attention. After
that, it's usually, been there seen that.

Happy Birthday, Tom Brady. 40 is a great number, but it's been reached before and people
have been successful at that age. I'm sure you get it. Too bad most of the media
doesn't.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

DAVID PRICE AND THINGS MONEY CAN'T BUY HIM


In 2015, David Price signed a mind-blowing 7-year, $217 million contract with the Boston Red
Sox to be the ace of their staff. Despite a post-season record that is only slightly better than most
of President Trump's staffers, the left-handed pitcher was given the second-largest contract ever
handed out to a pitcher.

That kind of money can buy a lot of things like mansions, luxury cars, extravagant diamond earrings
(see Julio Jones), yachts, and just about any other materialistic thing this world has to offer.

However, with the recent behavior of Price, who after being insulated from criticism in places
like Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Toronto, it's easy to see what exactly money CANNOT buy him
His childish act of dressing down Dennis Eckersley, a Hall of Fame pitcher and Red Sox analyst
for NESN, on a team plane exposed the type of person he is and the character he lacks.

He can say he was sticking up for a teammate by telling Eck to "get the f*&k out of here" and mocking his hair, making it all too personal, but anybody can be real tough when he's surrounded
by teammates who have his back. And the Red Sox aren't paying Price to be the modern day John Wayne. They gave him everything inside the Brinks truck to win damn baseball games----and win
a lot of them, especially in the post-season.

Price didn't like Eck's comment about a teammate's stat line in a minor-league rehab start. Really?
That's it? Talk about being paper-thin skinned The rest of Red Sox nation sees the same stat line
and 99.9 percent of them probably said a lot worse than that. How is Eck supposed to sugarcoat
a brutal performance that is backed up by  facts? It's not even worth the time arguing or space on
this blog arguing about it.

After hiding behind the Red Sox curtain, Price finally came out and discussed the confrontation
with Eckersley with the media Saturday. I can't say for certainty, but I'm willing to bet the ranch
Red Sox ownership persuaded Price to face the music and the media before the story rips apart
their season.

Price admitted he could've handled the situation differently. Ya think?! Because ambushing
a respected Hall of Fame pitcher on a team plane is a great way of doing things. The manly
and professional thing to do would've been to approach Eckersley after everybody is settled
in on the flight and ask if he could talk with him in private. Perhaps, in this day and age of the
lack of personal communication, he could have even sent him a few direct messages on
Twitter. (wink, wink)

Price went on to say that he wants Eckersley to "show his face in the clubhouse." Seriously?
David, you wouldn't have the sack to approach Eckersley unless you were surrounded by
your teammates. We've all seen how you deal with pressure in the post-season, so it's safe
to say you wouldn't confront Eck in the clubhouse (unless you had a gang of applauding
teammates around you.)

Why does Eck have to be in the clubhouse? To backslap, tell jokes, and heap praise on all
the fragile egos on the team? If he did that and then criticized the team's play, he'd then be
considered two-faced in your fragile world. Eck gets paid to analyze what's happening on the
field,  not to be the team  cheerleader. If he knew that was part of the job, he would not have
signed up for it. That's not who Eck is. He tells it like it is and every fan in New England
respects that.

And then for Price to say that Eck has been more positive with him comments about the team
since the incident is beyond ridiculous. That's right, David, you started the "Be more positive to us movement." Are you happy now?

Why the hell is Price spending so much time with rabbit ears on trying to sensor everything
anybody says about the Red Sox? Does he DVR the games and critique them when he goes home
at night? Or does he just read his texts from his buddies after the game and make his judgements based on that?

Either way, why is Price so consumed with what people are saying about the Red Sox? Good
grief. Dude, you are paid $30 million-a-year to pitch! Get a clue. This ain't the Kardashians!
Oh, wait, a minute, it's the Red Sox, so it could be an episode of the K-family.

Sadly, money cannot buy the things that David Price needs the most. It cannot buy him class.
It can't buy the respect he needs to have for others. It can't buy him a coating on his skin that
toughens it up and protects him from criticism. It can't buy him a magic potion that will soothe
his feelings when they get hurt. And while Price may think he's a tough guy to embarrass
Eck in front of his teammates, money can't buy him toughness when it's truly needed---in the
post-season.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

MIKE VITI: TRUE WARRIOR AND AMERICAN HERO


15 seconds into my interview with Mike Viti, I knew it was going to be one of the best ones
I've ever conducted. Viti isn't a household name, doesn't have a multi-million dollar contract in
his back pocket or rank as the most followed person in the Twittersphere.

No, he's none of that. Mike Viti is a true warrior and American hero. There aren't many of those
in this "look at me and my selfie" world we live in.

Viti is a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan. He was a military captain and earned a
Bronze Star for his courage and character in the global war on terror. Viti was also a four-year
letterman and captain of the Army football team during his senior year.


As we sat down on the West Point campus, which wreaks of history, honor, and tradition, I
expected something really special and I got it. In preparation for the interview, I scoured articles
and videos to get a better understanding of Viti. I knew that a disciplined, everything-close-to-the-
vest veteran wasn't going to warm up quickly to some reporter he had never seen or even
talked to before this afternoon. I surmised he'd have little time for someone who was unprepared, either.

My television feature story on Viti is going include the symbiotic relationship between sports
and service and how they might parallel each other when it comes to discipline, teamwork, commitment, sacrifice, and doing things the right way.

I am intrigued and in awe of anyone who has fought for this country. I admire all
those who have the courage to leave so much behind at home to fight against faceless enemies
a world away. To me, they are all heroes. Forever.

Mike Viti, center, military captain

After we settled into our seats, our eyes locked on one another. I figured Viti would have no
interest in opening up to someone who had shifty-eyes and couldn't stay engaged. I was engaged.
This was a war hero. The adrenaline was flowing.

"What does it mean to you to have fought for and served your country?"  was the first question
I asked. There was a pause and his steely-eye stare could've bore a hole through my forehead.
This question was right in his wheelhouse. This is what he lived for. This is what he wanted to
tell the world about.

"It was the greatest experience and honor of my life," Viti said in a strong, deliberate tone.

I got chills and could see the goose bumps stand at attention on my forearms.

Viti talked about honor, courage, country, sacrifice, and commitment. He never looked down
and didn't blink for what seemed like 10 minutes. This was his life, his world, his reality. I
was fully engrossed.

After we talked about his military and football experience and the collision of the two worlds,
we moved onto a subject that was spectacular and close to unbelievable.


In 2014, Viti walked from Seattle to San Diego then across the country to Georgia and finished
up in Baltimore. He wanted to bring awareness not to himself, but rather Gold Star families and
the more than 6,000 people who lost their lives in the global war on terror since 9/11.

4,400 miles on foot.

During his journey, Viti met with 67 Gold Star families. He often stayed at their homes overnight
and listened to parents, brothers and sisters, and children who lost a hero in the war. When he
wasn't taken in by a Gold Star family, Viti camped out under the stars. He walked through
Yuma, Arizona where the temperature reached 120 degrees. And sorry, while it may be dry heat,
temperatures that high can kill a person.

Viti started the journey at 240 pounds which was close to his playing weight and finished the
cross-country walk weighing about 185 pounds. Viti told me he got on a scale once during
the 232 day event and cringed when it read, 188. 


"It made me feel weak," Viti said. "I haven't been on a scale since then," he said. Viti is a
chiseled 195-pounds or so today. He doesn't have an ounce of fat on him.

Viti ended his journey at the Army-Navy game in Baltimore that year. Today, he's back at
West Point coaching fullbacks, the position he played for Army. I asked him about his future
aspirations.

"I want to be a head coach. I want to be a leader of men," he said. 

What an honor to be in the presence of a former military captain and Bronze Star recipient.
That doesn't happen everyday and I was grateful for the opportunity to talk with and interview
someone who has given so much to this country.

Mike Viti is a true patriot, true warrior, and most of all, an American hero.




Friday, July 14, 2017

GOOD-BYE, BIG HUGH DONOHUE


There are people you meet once that you'll remember for the rest of your life.

Hugh Donohue was like that.

There are people you spend time with, get to know, and come away saying, "I'd fall on a
sword for that guy."

Hugh Donohue was like that, too.

If there was a food label on him it would read: 100 percent natural. No artificial flavors or
preservatives added. He was as pure and genuine as a person could possible be. Huge Donohue
was real--plain and simple.

Donohue died on July 13. He lived a full and spectacular life, leaving an indelible impression
on a countless number of people, including me and so many student-athletes who passed
through the University of North Carolina. He enriched the Carolina experience like few ever
have on the tree-lined campus in Chapel Hill.


At 6'8" with a barrel-chest, Donohue was a mountain of a man blessed with a big heart, warm personality, and an unforgettable booming voice. He played basketball for Dean Smith and the
Tar Heels, which automatically made him royalty in the eyes of many of the young athletes at
UNC. He shared the court with  basketball legends like Larry Brown and Donnie Walsh and
was good friends with others such as Billy Cunningham, George Karl, and Bobby Jones.

If you loved Carolina, history, and sports, and needed a good story about all three, few could
weave it and make it come to life like Hugh Donohue. The New York native held court many
times as the owner of "Four Corners", a bar and restaurant that became a Franklin Street landmark
and hangout for just about every baseball player on what seemed like every night of the week.

We soaked up all of his stories and Carolina basketball memories. They were pure gold

Long before "Cheers" came along, "Four Corners" was a place where everyone knew your name.
It was  a home away from home, a stadium, or the challenges that we all faced trying to balance books and baseball. Huge Donohue made it that way.


He let most of us drink for free and would often turn the other way if he caught us raiding
the refrigerator for a late night snack. I'm sure his profit margin went down significantly during
our years there, but I don't think Donohue cared one bit. He was putting smiles on a lot of faces
and that was important to him.

Mr. D. was like a best friend who never judged and went out of his way to help no matter what
your status on the baseball team was. He treated everyone the same: beautifully.


Several years ago, I ran into Mr. D in Westchester Country, New York, not far from where he
grew up in Yonkers. He was the same man I met 25 years earlier in Chapel Hill with just a little
more gray in his hair. We shared a lot of laughs then went our separate ways. It would be the
last time I'd ever see him.

I was saddened by the news of his death. Anytime a great man passes on it is hard for his
family and friends. But the sadness was followed by a mile-wide grin on my face. Hugh Donohue
was a beautiful man. One who provided some great laughs and helped connect Carolina athletes
from all walks of life forever.

Rest in peace, Mr. D. We will never forget you.



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

I AM AN UNNAMED SOURCE


I am an unnamed source.

I'm often like Manti Te'os old girlfriend: you've heard of me but I don't really exist.

I'm like the fuel in the gossip section of your old high school cafeteria. I can ignite fires, bring
you down, and pretty much destroy your career if I want to. But you'll never catch me. I can
give a rumor validity even if it's not even close to being the truth. However, in this 140-character
or less, rush-to-judgement world we live in, does the truth really matter all that much anymore?
Sure doesn't seem that way.

I am an unnamed source.

I get used by members of the media like a fake I.D. on a college campus: a lot. They know
it's wrong but they just keep doing it until they get busted, which is very rare. These so-called
journalists slip me into their story, hoping to give it legs and some credibility. Oh, I can be a
reporter's mailman, milkman, or personal trainer, but just as long as Joe Live-from-the courthouse tags me as an unnamed source, I might as well be the head of the CIA.


I am an unnamed source.

One of the best things about being me is that nobody ever keeps track of my record. Seriously,
did you ever hear Wolf Blitzer say, "Our unnamed source was wrong. It's losing streak now stands
at seven when it comes to misinformation." It's like I'm playing with house money.

I am an unnamed source.

I am the shield for the weak and cowardly who want to talk a big game but aren't man enough
to attach their name to the nuclear missile they launched on a person's reputation or career.

I am an unnamed source.

I am the crutch shady reporters use when they don't want to prepare, dig deep, or go the
extra mile to strengthen a story with integrity and honor. No, with the media today, it's all about
getting it first, getting it fast, and going viral. Damn the facts.



You see what Mike Barnicle did? He tried to disguise me as "a family friend" for a significant
story. Man, did he get burned. Barnicle, a convicted plagiarist, reported the death of Pete Frates,
who wasn't actually dead. Then Barnicle tried to steer the blame towards that "family friend."
Ouch. What a dope!

I am an unnamed source.

Most decent journalists toe the unnamed source line because it protects them. If their unnamed
source turns out to be correct, then they can celebrate their scoop and pat themselves on the back
They might even get a thousand likes on Facebook after they post their big scoop. But if they are wrong, they can just blame it on the unnamed source and wash their hands of it.


With all the "Fake News" out there today, I'm getting used like never before. If I had a dollar
for every time I heard a reporter or anchor say my name, I'd be, according to an unnamed source,
far more wealthy than our nation's president.






Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A VERY SPECIAL FOURTH OF JULY


July 4. Independence Day. A celebration of the birth of our country. There will be fireworks,
hot dogs, parties, and most likely, a lot of alcohol consumed. It's a Federal holiday and one that
most Americans can fully enjoy without having to think about work.

Four years ago, I had to think about work because I had to. I drew the short straw and punched
the clock on the Fourth of July. It's usually one of the worst days in the television business
because the rest of the world is celebrating while you're covering parades, fender-benders, and
the rescue of some fat cat in a tree. In other words, B-O-R-I-N-G. About the only benefit to
working on the Fourth is the free food management usually orders for you. The food usually
sucks, but it tastes better only because you didn't have to pay for it.

On this day in 2013, however, the assignment I got was totally priceless and made working on
a holiday a special experience. There would be no parades, fender-benders, or the rescue of
some fat cat in a tree. I had to do a feature on a 98-year-old woman who tends bar on the
mean streets of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

When I arrived with my photographer, there she was in all her glory. Angie McLean looked like
Old Glory, dressed in red, white, and blue from head-to-toe. She had more than 30 miniature
American flags dotting her perfectly coiffed hair. McLean, is a star, who, after living nearly
a century, has more than earned her stripes. As I got set to interview her, I watched her buzz
around the bar, mixing drinks and serving customers with a smile on her face, and just wondered
to myself all the things she has experienced in her life, one that begin on April 6, 1915
.

I also said to myself, "This woman is living life. Retirement is a four-letter word to her. She
is 98-years old, working six days a week and has a smile on her face. I love this person."

As McClean settled in behind the bar for her interview, she seemed ready for my first question,
as if she knew it was coming.

"Why are you still bartending at 98-years old?", I asked.

"Because I'm not the type of person to sit around and watch TV. That's not for me," she
responded.

Great answer and one that left me saying, "Wow", to myself. I'm just praying I'm still
above ground and playing shuffleboard with my friends at 98, and this woman is loving
life as a bartender, slinging drinks six days a week. Take time to think about that for a second.......
incredible.


McLean lives by herself and is picked up by her bosses who take her to work and drive her
home after work every night. She dresses up for every holiday. On July 4th, McLean is an
American flag. On Christmas, she morphs into a Christmas tree with all the ornaments.

"Do you ever get tired from working six days a week," I asked her.

"Of course not. You have to keep moving. Life waits for no one. If you stop, it passes
you by," she said matter-of-factly.

Amazing. Perhaps, I was really talking to the sister of Norman Vincent Peale or the
grandmother of Anthony Robbins. She was so positive, so full of life and her energy
was rubbing off on me. I knew I was in the presence of someone truly special. No, she
wasn't a great athlete, movie star, or politician. Angie McLean is just a normal person
who has lived an extraordinary life exactly how she wants to live it.


McLean gave me a special gift without even knowing it. She inspired, motivated, and educated me. Today, I am 52-years old, exactly There is so much of life left to live, so much left to accomplish.

If I become a bartender for the rest of my life that won't be a bad thing, just as long as I
do it with a smile on my face like McLean has on hers every single day. Thank you
for the gift, Angie McLean.

Monday, July 3, 2017

PETE FRATES, HERO, DIES OF ALS


I never met Pete Frates, but like millions of Americans, I felt like I knew him. Through the
Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014, Frates helped raised more than $100 million  to help find a
cure for ALS. He became the face of the insidious disease. He let people into his home to show
them the brutal battle people inflicted with ALS face every single day.

On July 3, 2017,  Frates lost his five-year battle with ALS. He was just 32 years old.

Pete Frates was courage defined. A former college baseball star at Boston College who was
relentless in a fight against a disease that has yet to lose. He never quit, never asked, "why me?"
and never lost his incredible spirit.

Frates is, was, and always will be the definition of Boston Strong. He knew what the end game was,
yet, was incredibly resilient, positive, and stout in his fight against ALS. He became a hero in
a city that where that status must truly be earned.

Frates deserves a statue out outside of Fenway Park right next to Ted Williams. No, Frates
never played for the Red Sox, but he belted a home run there while playing with Boston
College and had as much of an impact on Boston as the Splendid Splinter did.

Frates was a special person who leaves an indelible mark on a college, a city, and an entire
country. He touched and moved so many lives with his courageous fight and an amazing spirit.
His legacy  will live on in America's battle against ALS in the same way Lou Gerhig's has.

Never forget Pete Frates. Never

Friday, June 30, 2017

INSPIRATION: KATY SULLIVAN, BLADE RUNNER


Katy Sullivan's entry into this world was rough. She was born without the lower part of her
legs and the doctor who delivered her tried to say the right thing in comforting Mrs. Sullivan,
but turned his words into a natural disaster.

“The world doesn’t need another athlete. But she will find plenty of other things to enjoy and
be good at.”

Young Katy would grow up to be actress, and a pretty good one. However, when Sullivan
was 25-years-old she discovered that it's never too late to be what you might have. She was
fitted with carbon-fiber prosthetics and started to run. Sullivan didn't stop running until she
reached her goal of making the U.S. Paralympic team that competed in the 2012 Games in London.


"As an actress, I tried to play the role of an athlete," Sullivan said from her high-rise apartment
in Manhattan. "I knew I had to get up at 5 a.m., eat right, train hard, and be really dedicated. I
wasn't an athlete growing up, so I had to learn how to become one pretty quick."

Sullivan became a world-class Paralympic athlete in something quicker than a New York City minute. She became a four-time national champion and set the American record for the 100 meter event in the 2012 London Games.

"To be there in front of 80,000 people was truly incredible," she said.


Sullivan returned after the Games, but NBC Sports chose her to provide commentary for
the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. That was after taking a break from an acting career that
saw her land roles in  Nip/Tuck, My Name Is Earl, and Last Man Standing.

"Can't is a four-letter word to me," she said. "You should never let anyone tell you 'no' or that
you can't do something. Live your dreams, not someone else's. "

As for that doctor who said, "The world doesn't need another athlete," upon her arrival to
this world.

"I would love to find him and show him the athlete I became," Sullivan said with an ear-to-ear
grin on her face.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

THE FREEZE HEATS UP MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL


Forget about being like Mike,  I want to be The Freeze. Yeah, you know the superhero in
Atlanta who has managed to juice up major league baseball without taking a single PED.

This guy, dressed in a sleek aqua spandex suit complete with goggles that makes him look like
an Ooompa Loompa all stretched out, is the best promotion in sports since the chicken was hatched
in San Diego during the late 70's.

As he bursts from foul line-to-foul line like he's shot out of a cannon at Sun Trust Park, the
new home of the Atlanta Braves, I thought for sure Terrell Owens had finally found his true
calling and was in a place where he was truly happy. But it wasn't T.O.

This guy runs so fast and so effortlessly, I was almost certain the Braved hired a former
professional athlete to pull off a promotion that has captivated not only fans, but the players
as well. Just who the heck was this guy? Chad Ochocinco? Randy Moss? Perhaps, it was
Atlanta resident and Olympic champion Edwin Moses running some sprints to keep in shape
Or just maybe Falcons star receiver Julio Jones is just getting in some work before he has to
report to training camp.


Well, in this Facebook, Twitter, iPhone world we live in, there's no secret than can ever be
kept and the Braves were pretty forthcoming in revealing the identity of The Freeze. It's
a guy named Nigel Talton, a 26-year-old security guard and member of the Braves' grounds
crew.

According to news outlets with more credibility than CNN, which is a Bubba Watson drive
from Sun Trust Park, Talton was a sprinter, (no kidding) at Iowa Wesleyan and Shorter University. He ran a sub-10.5 second 100-meters, which is smokin'.

The Braves hired Talton to help promote frozen drinks at RaceTrac gas stations (It's a southern
thing)  He would be called The Freeze. And fans would try to Beat The Freeze--and they'd
get about a 200-foot head start.


The Freeze has lost a few times---that I know of. But this little promotion has sparked ny
interest in sports. Well, honestly, I don't care about scores and highlights anymore and baseball
on television absolutely bores me. The only thing I really care about in the sports world today
is whether or not The Freeze wins his race. I anxiously await to see highlights of The Freeze
splashed across the Internet.  I wish he raced every night instead of the 81 times when the
Braves play at home. Man, I hope he doesn't pull a hammy or show up on the police blotter
anytime soon. That would be a total bummer.

The Freeze is so awesome. I want to be him for a day...or an hour....or for just those 25 seconds
it takes him to run from foul line-to-foul line. I was a plodder, a Clydesdale, a true slow poke.
To be able to run like the Freeze would be so cool.


The Freeze has become way cooler than the original Dos Equis ever was. Stay fast, my
friend.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

BULL DURHAM AT 29: A TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY


In the fall of 1987, the cast and crew for a low-budget baseball movie began filming at
Durham Athletic Park, an old stadium located in the heart of Tobacco Road. The DAP, as it
was known, had some of the charm of Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, with its short porch
in right field, a warehouse as a backdrop, and seats so close to the action you could almost smell the breath of the fans sitting in them. It was the perfect setting for "Bull Durham", which was made
for just $7 million dollars.

Nobody really knew what this baseball movie was about when production began. The local
paper did a story in advance of its filming and had a quote from a Hollywood producer who
read the script, but who was not affiliated with the movie in any way. He predicted that it would
not only be "the worst baseball movie ever made, but quite possibly the worst movie ever created."


Many could see where that producer was coming from, after all, most sports movies, with
the exception of "Slapshot" and "Caddyshack" had bombed at the box office.  Most directors
found it difficult to make  the action believable with actors who had no athletic ability
whatsoever. In some cases, like "Bang the Drum Slowly," the baseball scenes were
downright laughable.

When I was asked to work on the movie, I honestly didn't care whether it was going to
win an Oscar for Best Picture or go straight to Blockbuster video stores. As a Radio, TV,
and Movie Production major at UNC, I was interested in getting some experience in seeing
how a movie was made. Little did I know that it would end up as all-time classic and
become part of my life forever.

First of all, filming "Bull Durham" was like 30 days of "Animal House" and "Comedy Central" mixed together. It was a laugh a minute, and in between. there was some work on the actual production of the movie.  The cast that included Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins,
and Robert Wuhl knew how to have a great time while making the movie, and they helped
make it an unforgettable experience. There were long days, lots of drinking, plenty of sex, and
too many laugh-until-you-can't-breath jokes to count.


Coming off two wildly successful movies, "No Way Out" and "The Untouchables",
Costner was the perfect guy to play Crash Davis because he could act and play baseball.
Costner was a terrific person during the 30 days of filming in Durham. He picked up every
tab and treated everyone from the grips to Sarandon, the same way and that was with great
respect.. Costner didn't have that big Hollywood ego just yet. I heard a lot  of unflattering things about Costner after "Bull Durham", but he was great to everybody during the filming of
it.

Costner pulled off the best prank of "Bull Durham" when he made an secret arrangement
with a Durham Police officer. Tom Gagliardi, who played the Bulls second basemen, was
bragging one day how he hooked up with a woman who looked like she was 16-years old.

The following day, Costner convinced the police officer to come onto the field during filming
and arrest Gagliardi for statutory rape. The officer broke out his hand-cuffs and told the actor
he had the right to remain silent. Gagliardi freaked out and started running around shouting,
"I didn't do anything, this is a big mistake.The girl said she was 21!". The officer led Gagliardi
away in handcuffs until everyone started cracking up. I must admit it was pretty hilarious.



There were scenes that were just as funny as that incident, but ended up on the cutting room
floor. Danny Gans, who played the third baseman  for the Bulls and was later a star in Vegas
as an impressionist, did a national anthem that included Michael Jackson and a moon walk,
Kermit the Frog, Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis, Jr., all performed to a T by
Gans. It was a showstopper and made everyone roar with laughter. Unfortunately, it didn't
make the final cut.

People always ask me how I got to be in "Bull Durham" and the home run scene with Costner.
I'd like to say I was walking down the street and the director discovered me, kind of like the
episode of the "Brady Bunch", where a Hollywood-type director wanted them to be the subject
of a series. I was in the right place and the right time. That's it, that's all.

I  played baseball at UNC and was just finishing up my course work to get my degree.
Someone called UNC and gave them my name. I showed up and did what I always did, I just
played ball.

The first scene I was in, called for me to hit a double as a right-handed hitter. Tim Robbins,
who played "Nuke LaLoosh" actually had to throw it to me because the camera was behind
him  filming the scene. He was the  worst athlete any actor could possibly be. The guy was all
over the place.  Crash Davis was right when he said Nuke couldn't hit water if he fell out of
a boat. Before the scene, Ron Shelton, who wrote and directed the movie, told me to try to
hit a line-drive between shortstop and third base. I said to myself, "If I could do that, I'd probably
be playing in the big leagues."


What made that even harder was the fact that Robbins couldn't throw the ball over the plate, or
within a mile of it. He was throwing it behind me, over my head, five feet in front of the plate,
and he hit me twice in the back. It took 17 takes to get the scene right. When I finally hit one,
I was so stunned that I didn't even move. Costner got up and yelled at me, "Run!". In the
movie, the radio man back in Durham hits a piece of wood and says, "there's a line drive to
left-center field."

I was catching when Costner had his first at-bat for the Durham Bulls, but we traded places
later in the movie. Costner was behind the plate when I got up in the 9th inning, while Nuke
was working on a shut out. During this scene, which was filmed with the cameras directly
in front of Costner and a minor-league pitcher replaced Robbins (Nuke) on the mound. I had
to a curveball even though the most ardent baseball observer couldn't tell the difference
between the fastball and curveball when it appears on screen for 1/100th of  second.

Shelton told me to hit the ball and then "give it your best Reggie Jackson in watching the
ball go out."  That meant I should act like the ball had been hit so far "it should've had a damn stewardess on it."  I must admit, I didn't have a lot of experience in that since I only
hit four home runs in my career at UNC.

After Nuke kept shaking Crash Davis (Costner) off, he stood up and said, "Charlie, here
comes the duece. When you speak of me, speak well." I just gave some cheesy smile and
got back into the box. I wished they had let me say, "thanks" or something because if I had a
line, I'd still be getting paid today.

I cranked the ball out on the fourth take and did like Shelton asked me to and gave it my
best Reggie Jackson-pose. They said cut, that's a wrap, and I was gone. I didn't hold my
breath for any of the scenes that I was in to make the final cut. I was superstitious, so I
really didn't say anything to anyone. I chalked the whole thing up to one great experience.

A month later, in December,  the Boston Red Sox organization called and offered me a
free-agent contract. Six months later, on June 13th, 1988, I just happened to be back at the
same park playing against the real-life Durham Bulls. And it just happened to be "Bull Durham Night". I was like, what were the chances of all this happening. We were scheduled to see the premiere of the movie the next day.


In the eighth-inning of our game against the Bulls, I came up to bat with the bases loaded. Two months into my minor-league career, I had yet to hit a home run. And since I had only been
hitting left-handed for two years, I had never hit a home run from that side of the plate. I hit a
ball which I thought was going to be a routine fly ball to right field. Somehow, someway, the
ball carried and cleared the fence by about a half-an-inch. It must've been divine intervention
or something because I hit the ball in the same spot as I did in the movie. It was all so surreal.

I hit two more home runs against the Bulls in that same park later that year. I often said that
I hit .420 in that park and .091 everywhere else. There was something really magical for me
when I played at Durham Athletic Park.



In the off-season that year, I received a big package from UPS. It was from Kevin Costner.
He had purchased a letterman-type jacket for everyone who worked on "Bull Durham", which
was over 200 people. On the back of the jacket read, "Bull Durham-The Greatest Show on Dirt". Production crew 1987. It was a great gesture by Costner.


I never really thought much of my home run scene in "Bull Durham" because I just hit a ball,
which didn't take any great talent or ability. I thought of the movie as a great experience and
that was about it. But 29 years later, it continues to follow me around. People call, email, or text me
every time they see my home run on the countless number of times "Bull Durham" is re-run on
various networks.

Friends introduce me to acquaintances as the "guy who hit a home run in "Bull Durham'. Or
they start with, "hey, do you remember the guy in Bull Durham...?" I honestly get embarrassed
about it. It was a long, long time ago.

But man, it was helluva an experience.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

THE NIGHT I KICKED LAVAR BALL'S ASS


In this social media driven and addicted-to-attention world we live in, LaVar Ball has managed
to rise above even the best self-promoters. With his mouth and very little else, he has succeeded
in securing millions upon millions of dollars in free publicity for his fledging sports apparel
company and the signature shoes of his son, Lonzo. I applaud him for being a semi-marketing
genius.

Ball has morphed into the pied piper with the media--no matter how outrageous, stupid, and
foolish the things that come out of his mouth are, they continue to report on, not to mention,
cater to him. He talks smack about Barkley, Jordan, and says his kid is going to be better than
Magic. If LaVar talks, the media will listen and be sure to make it front page news. If he says something close to being controversial, he will be "trending" or go "viral." Simply amazing.

The America media gave Ball a soap box and he's using it, and them, brilliantly.

Listening to him preach and talk stupid, joggled my memory and brought me back to the time I
met LaVarr Ball. In 1995, I was in Clemson, South Carolina visiting a former classmate from
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We decided to play some hoop at a semi-inner
city basketball court before going out on the town.


When we arrived at the court, one that had chain-linked hoops and was surrounded by fencing that
had seen better days, there was a game of 2-on-2 going on. A rather large man wearing a gray Carolina Panthers T-shirt that was completely drenched with sweat, dominated the court with
his mouth and body. He stood about 6'5" and weighed about 260 pounds or so. He was talking
trash to everyone and anyone. Nobody seemed to be listening.


I asked someone sitting in the small set of stands near courtside who the trash-talking
dude on the court was. I vividly remember him saying, "Some guy who plays on the Panthers
practice squad." I replied, "If he's a practice player on an expansion team, he can't be all that
good. And he has no business talking all that smack."

It was LaVar Ball.

In their inaugural season in the NFL, the Panthers played all their home games at Clemson
University before their new stadium in Charlotte was ready. Ball was a defensive end who
never got off the practice squad. Never played a down for the Panthers, but he could play a little basketball. A little.

Ball played one season at Washington State where he averaged a not-so-robust 2.2 points-per
game. Despite his less-than distinguished career, Ball claimed he could beat Michael Jordan and
Charles Barkley in a game of one-on-one.


Back on that hardcourt near Clemson in 1995, Ball challenged my friend, who happened
to be a darn good basketball player at UNC, starting all but two games during his 4-year career.
He was cut after being drafted by the NBA in the second round and spent nearly five years
playing in  Europe. However, he was wearing a Carolina football t-shirt and when Ball asked
him what position he played at Carolina, my friend, without hesitation, said "wide receiver."

Ball laughed and said, "Come, on. How much you got?" My friend said, "Me and my friend
will play you for $200. Pick your teammate and let's do it."

Ball thought he was about to pull off the biggest heist since the Italian Job. He picked his
teammate and my friend, the former UNC hoops star, dragged me onto the court. I was a
decent-to-good athlete, having played baseball at UNC and in the Red Sox system as a catcher.
I could fill up some space on the court and get out of the way when needed.


My friend and teammate brought his 'A' game and then some. Spin moves, crossover dribbles,
windmill dunks--he packed and used his entire arsenal. LaVar Ball knew he'd been had. The
game wasn't even close as the UNC boys walked away with the 10-2 victory.

Ball was livid. "I'm not giving you a dime. You are a ringer. Total B.S. Not cool. No dice
and no money."

The Big Baller tried to bail on paying up. He was running off the court and headed for his
car. He was talking smack on his way out, jawing back and forth with my friend. LaVar
forgot about me as I was lurking by the exit of the court. He walked right into the close-line
I learned to hang from watching "The Longest Yard."


Ball went down in a thud on the pavement. In the fetal position, Ball was crying like
a baby. There was a wad of bills sticking out of the waste band of his gym shorts, which I
helped myself to. The UNC boys split up the cash and laughed our way off the court. That's
the last I heard of LaVar Ball until he opened his mouth a few months ago.

Is this story true? Of course not. It's just a figment of my imagination, kind of like the stuff that
passes from the cranium of Big Daddy Ball through his mouth. I just wanted to see what it's
like to talk smack, say  outlandish things, and be totally delusional like Big Daddy Ball. I figured
if I talked and wrote stupid like Big Daddy Ball, I might go viral or have sports talk radio argue
over me all day. I wanted to see if Stephen A. Smith would invite me on 'First Take' just to yell
and scream about nothing in particular.

Man, that was easy.

Just stretch the truth and totally make things up and you have a compelling story that has the
media eating right out of your hand. I'm sure the media  would've believed the story, forgetting to check the facts, just as they did with the Manti Te'o extravaganza. However, I made it easy for them and tapped out early.

The media. They think its LaVar Ball's world and they are just living in it. Good for LaVar
Ball.