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.