Sunday, August 31, 2014

DRIVING THE GOVERNOR, JERRY BROWN


A few years ago, while channel surfing, I came across Bill O'Reilly on Fox in the midst of a
flammable diatribe on California Governor Jerry Brown, whom O'Reilly accused of creating
a "state sanctuary" because he did not support federal law concerning immigration.

Ok, whatever. It was late and I wasn't interested in O'Reilly getting on his pulpit and
attacking somebody else. I wanted to be entertained, which really didn't take that much at
that very moment. As soon as O'Reilly spoke of Brown as "insane", I chuckled hard and
thought back to the time I had a close and comical encounter with Brown whose political
career stands at forty-one years and counting.

The year was 1991 and Brown was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination to face
off against George H. Bush. I had to just moved to Erie, Pa to start my career in television
working for the  CBS affiliate, WSEE-TV. I was the new, wet-behind-the-ears television
wannabe and I was  assigned to pick up Brown, who was in town on his grass roots campaign speaking to a few  hundred union workers at a Holiday Inn about 8 miles from the station.

Scott Baker Anchorman
Scott Baker, our lead anchor and managing editor, gave me strict instructions on what to do.
Baker was a whiz-kid and hardcore news junkie who often read about eight newspapers
before his shift even started. His ear was always glued to the police scanner hoping to
report on an event and overdramatize it, something Baker was an expert in. He could
make a local bake sale seem as dramatic and significant as the capture and execution of
Saddam Hussein. (Baker is currently the editor-in-chief of The Blaze.com)

A few weeks earlier, Baker, new to the market, was hosting a town hall meeting when he
suddenly collapsed and hit the floor like Apollo Creed fell to the canvas in "Rocky IV".
People thought Baker had died right there on local TV. Talk about a grand entrance! If
Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook had been around back then, Baker would've been "trending"
and an internet sensation. (see video: collapse at :12)


He said he was dehyrdrated from the flu, but as I got to know Baker and his flair for the
dramatic and theatrics, I think it might have all been an act to get some attention and a few
more ratings points.

On this night, Baker pulled me aside and with a stern look on his face, gave me instructions.
"When Jerry Brown is done with his speech, you need to go on stage, get him to the car,
and bring him to the station. He's live on the set as our lead story. Don't mess it up."

I wanted to say, "Dude, if this is so big, why don't you get him a car service and bring
him here in style. After all, the guy is running for president of the United States." But then
I remembered that most of the equipment in the building and parts of the building itself,
were held together by duct tape. I don't think the car service was in the budget.

As I drove to pick up Brown on that brutally cold night in February a lot of things went
through my mind, the most prevailing one being, "what the hell am I doing in Erie, Pa.
picking up a guy whose chances of winning the presidency were only slightly better than
mine?" I wanted to cover sports, not be the station chauffeur.

What happened next was straight out of a "Seinfeld" episode. After Brown finished his
speech and started to shake hands with members of the audience, I tried to get his
attention. He was operating on a shoe-string budget and didn't even have a media
relations person on his campaign. I approached him and hoped to introduce myself as
the guy from the station who was supposed to drive him there. As I walked toward Brown,
a fierce looking man wearing a navy beret got between me and the Brown.


The man was Jacques Barzaghi, Brown's longtime associate and bodyguard. "Can I help
you with something?," he asked. With my eyes as big as half-dollars and heart racing,
I told him I was there to bring Brown back to our television station.

I found out later that Barzaghi  was a patriot of the French Foreign Legion in Algeria-Morocco,
North Africa during the Algerian Conflict. He certainly looked the part. I don't know how
he and Brown ever got hooked up. I seriously wanted to give someone my personal
information and let them know who I was with just in case I disappeared mysteriously.

Jacque Barzaghi

I directed Brown and Barzaghi to the news van which I had parked in front of the Holiday
Inn. After I got in and buckled up, I thought of asking Brown how he liked Erie, but
then I remembered a co-worker, Rudy Yovich, asked that same question  to Dr. J when
the NBA legend came into town for an appearance at a local supermarket.

I was shooting the interview with a camera over my shoulder and as I zoomed in on Dr.
J,  I could see a perturbed look wash across his face that said, "What the f#*K kind of
question is that?"

So, I thought better of it and didn't say anything to Brown or Barzaghi, who I caught
giving me an evil glare in the rearview mirror.


The clock read 10:43 p.m which gave me plenty of time to get Brown back to the station
and on the set for WSEE-TV's big "exclusive".  But something happened on the way to
the station. I got lost.

There was no GPS or mapquest back then, so I was relying on memory and a few notes
scribbled down on a pad. I had no trouble getting to the Holiday Inn, so getting back to
the station shouldn't have been a problem or so I thought.

Erie was an economically depressed town at the time and a very, very dark place at night.
It had one street light every 4-5 miles and even then, it seemed like they were powered
by 60 watt light bulbs.

I made a wrong turn down a street that looked like something out of Baghdad. Most of
the buildings were rundown, empty, or both It was clear this wasn't the street I was supposed
to be on. Sweat started to build on my forehead. I was having one of those holy shit moments.
I knew I was lost. So did Brown and the scary looking dude in the navy beret.



Brown asked me, "Hey, do you know where you're going?"

I quickly answered yes, even though I didn't have a clue. I hadn't been in town for more
than a few weeks and had never been in this area. The clock read 10:48 p.m. and I thought
was screwed.

I picked up the two-way radio and sheepishly said, "Paul to base. Paul to base"....

Barzaghi pounced on me, "You don't know where the hell you are, do you?"

Just then, our assignment editor responded, "Come in, Paul."  I didn't want to say that
I was completely lost but we all knew that I was

Brown put another two cents into this sitcom on wheels. "It's now 10:51 p.m. Are we
going to make it?"

My mouth was now like a field of cotton on a summer day in Georgia: hot and dry as
hell. I had visions of the news director firing me on the spot. Three weeks into the job
and I'm gone. Talk about getting your career off on the wrong foot.

I told Brown we were going to make it, but I knew we'd need some kind of miracle for
that to happen. I had to deal with Brown and his buddy yelling at me like I stole their
toys at Christmas.

I wanted to blurt out, "You're no good, you're no good, baby you're no good." which were
some of the lyrics from Linda Ronstadt's hit song in the 1970's. Ronstadt was the ex-girlfriend
of Brown, who ran for president on three different occasions.  I passed on that, fearing
Barzaghi would put me in a choke hold and snap my neck.

Just as I was giving up all hope of getting Brown to the station on time, I turned down
a side street that brought me to one of the few roads in Erie that I was familiar with.
There was a glimmer of hope. I found the way, albeit  roundabout one, back to the station.
We pulled into the parking lot which was adjacent to an Arby's franchise an made
a sprint for the station's backdoor.

Yep, me, Jerry Brown, and Jacque in the navy beret, in an all-out sprint to get through
the doors, into the studio, and on the set in time.

At 10:59:40 Brown made it to the chair. He was a little winded but he recovered nicely
and was ready to face all of Erie when the red light went on at 11:00 p.m.

Only in television, baby, only in television.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

JOSH SHAW IS 'BREAKING BAD'


If HBO needs a creative genius to produce their next hit series, Josh Shaw might just be
their guy. The USC team captain has such a fertile imagination, there's little doubt he could
produce something that would rival AMC's "Breaking Bad".

The defensive back of Trojans, who transferred from the University of Florida, which recently
gave society such upstanding citizens like Aaron Hernandez, Riley Cooper, and the 38 other
players with criminal records, spun a story so grand that even Vince Gilligan would've been
in awe.

Shaw walked into the football offices at USC limping badly. He told his coaches that he
sprained not one, but BOTH ankles jumping from a second-floor balcony to save his
7-year-old nephew who was drowning in a swimming pool. Only fitting that this heroic
act occurred near the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, which is also known as the city
of big dreams.
 
Shaw was dreaming all right---and lying. Turns out the story he concocted was one big lie.
Instead of being the hero a lot of people were making him out to be, Shaw turned out to be
one big zero.

He could've told his coaches that he tripped down the stairs escorting a little  old lady to a
cab waiting outside of her apartment and that would've been believable. Shaw could've said
he did a 360, windmill dunk on Blake Griffin in a pick-up game at the park and that probably would've flown with everybody.

Nope, Shaw went big, really big. He made himself a real-life action hero, jumping off
a balcony like Tom Cruise in "Mission Impossible". But he didn't stop there. He found
his nephew flailing in the water and on death's doorstop. Shaw made like Superman and
pulled his nephew out of the water and save his life. I don't think he even got wet.


What a story!

Oprah, Dr. Phil, and the Today Show would've been falling all over themselves to get
the exclusive on this one. Sports Illustrated could've bumped another cover story on
Mo'Ne Davis for the USC captain and made him out to be braver and more unbroken
than Louis Zamperini, war hero and former USC star athlete.

Thankfully for Shaw and all of us, it never got to that point.

Shaw's story was a fraud. He made the entire thing up. Egg on the face, scarlett 'L' forever,
and a suspension from the USC football team.

There hasn't been a story this creative since Toronto Blue Jays manager Tim Johnson
kept telling everybody  he fought in Vietnam. He didn't. Johnson hasn't been heard
from since.

Shaw's story becomes more interesting because TMZ reported that he was allegedly
involved in a burglary and was seen "shimmying down" a second-floor apartment where
his girlfriend lived. I'm sure the reason Shaw was "shimmying down" might just turn
out to be just as entertaining as his, "I saved my nephew story".  It will be a classic.

Great story, Josh Shaw. Manti Teo is officially off the hook.

Give this man an Emmy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

MARK REARICK 2.0



New Canaan High School just wasn't the same when classes began Wednesday morning. For
the first time in 41 years, Mark Rearick wasn't around. The former student, coach, and Godfather
of the cafeteria, who was not only part of the fabric of the tony town on Connecticut's gold coast,
but its foundation and infrastructure as well, retired last June.

Filling the void created by his departure would be like putting a garden hose in the Grand
Canyon and turning on the faucet. It would eventually happen, but not in your or my lifetime.

2-5-0 packed everything up with his lovely wife Diane and put New Canaan in the rearview
mirror, heading to the beaches of North Carolina where they've had a summer home for
many years.



It seemed like 2-5-0 headed into retirement like Joey Chestnut's b-line to Coney Island every
July: fast and furious. After seeing all of his pictures posted on Facebook, I must say that
retirement looks fabulous on 2-5-0 and few people are more deserving of it.

Rearick got a special thrill in the first weeks of retirement when Curt Casali, who
played for 2-5-0 at New Canaan High School, made his Major League debut in July.
2-5-0 boarded a plane to Minnesota and got to the game on time to see Casali, who catches
for Tampa Bay, get a hit in his first big league at-bat.



The man looks happy. Damn happy and it's a great thing. And it's a great thing that 2-5-0
is finally on Facebook. Before June, 2-5-0 was perhaps the only man on the planet who
wasn't on any social media network, let alone the grand daddy of them all.

He didn't know Instagram from Instant Replay, and he's not the kind of guy who would
waste his time telling people that he's "checking-in" at Dairy Queen or post pictures of
his feet by the sea.


2-5-0, albeit reluctantly, got on the social media super highway after a ton of people tried
to reach out to him after I posted the blog, "Mark Rearick and the end of an era" in June.
The response he got was both heartwarming and amazing. Rearick has more friends than
"Breaking Bad" has viewers and through the power of Facebook, we are all connected
to 2-5-0 like never before.

There are some people from high school that you hope you never see on Facebook. 2-5-0
is not one of them. And the pictures that have been showing up are ones of total happiness,
deserving of a man who gave so much to the New Canaan community.



The opening picture is classic. It's worth far more than 1,000 words. A  total gem. 2-5-0,
with two relatives, looks both proud and like a bit of royalty. To me, the Dos Equis Guy
 is out and 2-5-0 has taken his place as the most interesting man in the world.

Keep enjoying retirement, 2-5-0, you deserve it!.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

WHAT IF YOU HAD ALS?


What if you were diagnosed with ALS?

What if your doctor told you there was nothing they could do to help you or
slow down the runaway freight train that has never lost a battle?

What if you knew that the only thing you could control during your battle with
ALS was your mind. Everything else, your ability to walk, talk, eat, and dress
yourself would be lost forever.


What would you do? How would you act?

The Ice Bucket challenge has brought ALS to the forefront of our society and
people who didn't have a clue what the disease was, or even worse, didn't care
about it, certainly are dialed in now.

ALS is the most insidious disease on the planet. I realize and sympathize with
all those who've battled cancer and had to watch loved ones die from it. But with
cancer, at least there is a chance. It might not be that big, but at least there is one.
Miracles happen. Many people have beaten it.


There are no miracles with ALS. Nobody has ever beaten it. It's undefeated.

Can you imagine the feeling Pete Frates had when the doctor said, "Peter, I don't
know how to tell a 27-year old kid this, but you have ALS. There is nothing we
can do."

Can you imagine what was going through the mind of Tim Shaw, a 7-year NFL
veteran whose body was a finely-tuned machine that had withstood years of
violent collisions, when he was recently told that he had ALS at the age of 31.


ALS is a death sentence that is horrific and complete. What goes through the mind
of someone who is so young, vibrant, and strong, when they know that the rest of
their life will be filled with so much pain and torture?

And we complain about what again? The bills, the bad work situation, the house
that isn't big enough, they don't seem too bad now do they?

I admire the guys like Pete Frates, Dick Kelly, and  Tim Shaw and all the ALS
victims who stand strong when the world around them is falling apart. They know
the end game and yet, they are so brave, so valiant, and so inspiring.


And we bitch about what again? Our weight, the loss of our youth, the crows feet
that have become deep grooves around our eyes? Seriously?

The Ice Bucket challenge has raised not only awareness for ALS, but more importantly,
cash. Cold, hard cash, which is exactly what is needed to research a cold, harsh disease
and find a cure for it, or at least slow it down

And the critics are complaining about what? Wasting water? Silly videos on Facebook?
Really? Get a life and a clue while you're at it.

Our society has a tendency to complain about everything under the sun. I guess it's just
human nature and the way we are.

But if you knew you were going to get ALS would you complain about how you're life
really is?

It's not that bad, is it?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE IS PRETTY DAMN COOL


It can be silly, self-serving, and sophomoric, but the Ice Bucket challenge has become the
greatest fundraising vehicle since Milton Berle hosted the first telethon for cancer research
in 1949.

What started as a tiny snowball, has now become an unstoppable avalanche on social
media. Facebook, once littered with pictures of food on a plate, feet by the sea, and every
second of a newborn's life, is now smothered with videos of people getting doused with
buckets of ice and freezing water.


And you know what, it's all good, so very good.

The Ice Bucket challenge has done what so many people and fundraisers couldn't before,
no matter the celebrity, type of event, or the relentless, tireless effort that millions of
activists put in. It has raised not only awareness of ALS, the most horrific disease known
to  man, but significant money for research

As of Saturday August 23, the ALS Association has received $62.5 million in donations
compared to $2.4 million during the same time period last year -- July 29 to Aug. 23.


$62.5 million dollars in less than a month! The Ice Bucket challenge is working! But of
course, there are haters out there who want to criticize it. They are the ones who author
articles to be "controversial" so they can get on a lame talk show and become "trending"
in the social media world. Some have gone so far as to say it's a waste of one of our
greatest natural resources. Pure nonsense.

Just as Pete Frates has become the face of the fight against ALS, the Ice Bucket challenge
has become a symbol of hope and a reminder of what a truly insidious disease ALS is.


Are you ever going to look at an ice bucket the same way? Can you pick one up without
thinking about ALS and the millions of victims who've fought so valiantly against a
disease that has NEVER lost?

I'm not sure why the Ice Bucket challenge has become such a phenomenon. Perhaps, it's
a moment where we can unleash the little kid in all of us and not feel bad about it. Maybe
it's the cathartic effect that comes from rinsing away the dirty grime that has built up in a
society that sometimes seems to ooze with negativity. It doesn't really matter, does it?


What does is the message and everyone except the haters seem to be getting it loud and
clear. ALS is a brutal disease. I realize cancer is bad and has destroyed so many people
and lives. But with cancer, at least a person. has a chance. With ALS, there is none. The
disease in undefeated.

I think of the moment when the doctor said to Pete Frates, "I don't know how to tell this
to a 27-year old kid, but you have ALS." It's a death sentence. There isn't really even
a drug to slow it down. A person loses everything but their mind. They have to die a slow,
painful, horrific death. I hate to be morbid. But these are the facts


I realize the Ice Bucket challenge may grow old, which happens quite easily in our
A.D.D and social media driven world. But I hope it never goes away. I hope it shows
up on the Facebook newsfeed 1,000 times a day. I hope it continues to make people
open up their wallets and donate to the ALS foundation.

It is so good, so clean, so powerful, and right, so very right. How often have we've
been able to say that about anything these days?

Friday, August 22, 2014

REMEMBER DICK KELLY IN ALS CRUSADE


He went to Boston College, was a big part of the sports program, and earned accolades and
respect for what he did for the Eagles. He also was diagnosed with ALC.

I'm not talking about Pete Frates, who has become the face of the crusade against ALS, but
rather Dick Kelly.

Kelly spent 22 years in the media relations department promoting student-athletes like Frates
and trying to put a shining light on the entire Boston College athletic program, In 2011, his
world went dark when he was diagnosed with ALS.


The long-time employee of Boston College died February 2014, just months before the
Ice Bucket challenge took social media by storm. Unless you lived in Boston, you probably
didn't hear of his death or his incredible and valiant fight about the insidious disease. There
wasn't an avalanche of videos storming the Internet, nor features on SportsCenter about
Kelly and his battle against ALS as he continued to work for BC until his final breaths on
this earth.

It  just doesn't seem right that Boston College has had to endure two members of its beloved
family being inflicted with the disease concurrently. It's mind-boggling and downright unfair.
Oh, I now there's nothing fair about this world. The parents of those killed in the Newtown
massacre will tell you the same thing. So will those who've had to watch their little children
succumb to cancer.


The Ice Bucket challenge and the courage of Frates has helped do what couldn't be done
before and that's bring ALS to the forefront of society. There were millions of victims like
Kelly and New Orleans Saints football player Steve Gleason who tried to capture America's
undivided attention about how harsh ALS is without great success. Curt Schilling
has been waging a war against the disease for nearly 20 years, donating as much as a million
dollars of his own money for research and awareness. It still didn't make a dent in our
country's consciousness.

Pete Frates and the Ice Bucket challenge certainly has and that's a beautiful thing. The
wave of momentum against ALS doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon. To see most
of the country on board to not only to raise money and awareness, but honor the victims
of the disease is really, really touching and refreshing. The glut of negative news about
St. Louis, the decapitation of an American journalist, and our economy, can wear everybody
down. This ALS fight is so good and so right.


But as Frates continues his crusade on the national stage to bring awareness to the disease
and America's infatuation with posting videos of the Ice Bucket challenge, please remember
those like Kelly and millions of others who suffered greatly in the shadows far away from
the media spotlight. Please remember all those caretakers, family members, and volunteers
who not only saw the effects of the disease up, close, and personal, but tried to raise money
for research and awareness.

For every Curt Schilling, there are thousands like Phil Gormley who work relentlessly in
a battle of a disease that is undefeated. Gormley, a childhood friend of mine, worked
tirelessly to raise money for research and the care that his sister, Claire, who lost her
fight against the disease several years ago. I was in awe of his dedication, passion, and
commitment. There are thousands of people like Gormley fighting the good fight without
getting any type of recognition.
.

As the fight against ALS continues with the Ice Bucket challenge as one of its biggest
weapons, please remember all those like Dick Kelly and so many others who fought
valiantly against a disease that never loses.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I WILL RE-CAPTURE MY DREAM



Impossible is nothing.

Joe Moglia proved that when he was named head football coach of Coastal Carolina at
the age of 62. He had built TD Ameritrade into a multi-billion dollar company and then
walked away to re-capture his dream of being a college football coach. In three years
at Coastal Carolina, the the team has compiled a 20-8 record. Imagine that, somebody
took a chance on a man in his 60's who believed he had the formula to make a college
program successful.


At 50-years old, I'm looking to recapture my dream of being a sports anchor. I worked
in the business for 17 years, making stops at such places as Fox Sports Net, NESN, and
MLB.com. I had many great opportunities in the business including the beat covering
the New England Patriots on a daily basis.

Sportscasting is my passion. I took the same work ethic that earned me a baseball
scholarship to UNC and landed me a free-agent contract with the Boston Red Sox
organization, into the field of broadcasting. As those who worked with me can attest,
I'm creative and often think outside the box. I am also good at working under pressure.
Long before the Ice Bucket challenge became a phenomenon, I took a celebration
show with Evan Longoria and the Tampa Bay Rays.


That beer was cold enough to cause a serious brain freeze but I somehow managed to keep
my thoughts in-sync with my mouth. During my career in television I found ways to make
something out of nothing. While covering the Patriots, there were some dry days when the
players didn't feel much like talking so I did a piece about those bad haircuts the rookies get
in training camp.

I loved my job and was passionate about it not only every single day, but every single
show and feature I produced. I had the same all-out, all-the-time attitude whether I was
making $18,000 in Erie, Pa. or six figures for Fox Sports Net in Atlanta. I never considered
it a job, but a love. I vowed to never be outworked or outhustled. Sure, I got beat on a
story, but it wasn't for a lack of effort. You can't win them all, but you sure as heck can
be happy and love your job no matter where you are. Don't believe me? Check this out.

 
 
Ok, so I'm not a great dancer, but I do know sports and how to tell a story. Did you every
wonder what it's like to be Tom Brady? I told that story a few years ago while covering the
Patriots.
 
 
One more thing I bring to the table that may set me apart from other candidates, is that
I've been on the silver screen standing side-by-side with Kevin Costner before he gave me
the tip of lifetime. "Charlie, here comes the deuce, and when you speak of me, speak well."
 
 
 
I am an athlete through and through. I played baseball at UNC and in the Red Sox organization
before covering sports for the last  17 years. And I haven't stopped. I'm a triathlete who recently
completed the Ironman in Lake Placid.
 
 
I'm a lot like Joe Moglia: driven, passionate, hard-working, and driven. He recaptured his
dream. I fully intend to do the same. E-mail me pjdevlin27@gmail.com





Tuesday, August 19, 2014

THE BEAUTY OF COACH MAC



A baseball man.

We heard that phrase pinned to Don Zimmer after he died in 2014.  Zimmer, a
long-time bench coach for Joe Torre, was in baseball for a long, long time. 65 years
to be exact. Zimmer was a player, coach, manager, and consultant for many
different teams during his marathon career in professional baseball.

Howard McCullough is a "baseball man" through and through. He might not have
reached the heights of Zimmer, but his impact on the game and the people in and
around it, is just as significant.

McCullough has been a scout in professional baseball for almost 30 years, but
his contribution to the game spans a lot longer than that. He was a catcher at
East Carolina before becoming a highly-respected pitching coach at UNC in the
early 1980's.


"Coach Mac", as he's still affectionately known as to those who played for him in
Chapel Hill, grew up and went to high school in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
However, if he told us that he was from Mayberry and was best friends with Opie,
we would've believed him, no questions asked. He was, as our scrap iron second
basemen Mike Jedziniak, liked to say, "a Southern dude."

Coach Mac was really mature for his age but he certainly didn't move like someone
who hadn't even reached 30-years old yet. If he went out to the mound to talk to one
of his pitchers on a Monday night, he wouldn't get back to the dugout until sometime
early Tuesday morning. When he paused to put a wad of Red Man tobacco in his
mouth, the entire team could shower, change, and head for the training table by
the time he was done.

But Mac was loved and respected by everyone who played for him. You could 
scout the country much like Coach  Mac does today, and you'll never find a person
who says one bad thing about him. Ever.


The players on our team put the "North" in North Carolina baseball. All but a handful
of players on the team were from states far above the Mason-Dixon Line. New York,
New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts flooded the roster in the program and
most of the players came with  brash attitudes, with a lot of cockiness that bordered
on arrogance. We talked fast, weren't afraid of much, and acted like we had
everything figured. We didn't, but Mac surely did.

It seemed like he started every sentence with "I reckon" or "Well, shug" or "Son", the
last of which you really didn't want to hear because you knew that Mac knew that you
really screwed up. Everyone wanted to get things done in New York City minute, but
there was Mac taking his time, all slow and methodical. In a baseball program that was
pretty damn crazy at times, Mac was always the steady and calm force who could
extinguish any mutiny on the ship in a hurry. He gave great advice and treated all
the players the same, whether you were a top recruit or a walk-on just trying to get
out of their own way.


Coach Mac left the program far sooner than any of the players wanted him to. He
was one of the people that made the North Carolina baseball program so special and
great. Coach Mac is a salt-of-the-earth type of person who we all wanted to be around
not only for his baseball knowledge, but for all his stories. We were all kids from
the North who had never been around a guy like Mac who talked slow, moved
even slower, and told great stories with a unique southern accent.

After a long and hard days work in the blistering North Carolina sun, Mac would
always find time to play with his young son, a bundle of exuberance, a great head of
blonde hair, and an even better nickname. He was known as "Clayton the Ram". It was
never just Clayton, but "Clayton the Ram."

Mac went on to scout for the Boston Red Sox for 10 years and then to the Arizona
Diamonbacks, and Seattle Mariner where he's still employed today. He's been awarded
several honors, including Major League Baseball Scout of the Year. He's very talented, but
I'm sure he received the award in part because he is so well-liked and respected by everybody
in the game. And perhaps, a small part of the award went to him because all of his
great stories.


Legend has it that when Josh Hamilton was a phenom in North Carolina, McCullough
had been asked by his supervisors to track pretty much his every move leading up to
the draft. Coach Mac was scouting a game in which Hamilton got the start on the
mound. Hamilton was a man among boys, blessed with lightning in his left arm and
thunder in his bat.

Hamilton was scheduled to pitch the day Coach Mac was scouting him and his
advisers told him to call back to Phoenix with a report after every inning. In the
top of the first, Hamilton struck out the side and Coach Mac scurried to get out of
earshot of his fellow scouts and phoned his bosses. "This boy struck out the side.
His last three pitches were 93, 93, and 95 miles per hour." Mac then paused and
said he had to hurry back to his seat behind the backstop to see Hamilton, who
was hitting third in the line-up, hit.

Hamilton gets up and hits a 450-foot tape measure shot deep into the pine trees
over the right-field fence. Coach Mac rose quickly from his chair and called his
boss in Arizona before Hamilton touched home plate.

"Well, I think this kid is legit. He throws 95 miles an hour and just hit a bomb
over these dang pine trees in right field."

His bosses quickly asked Coach Mac which professional player Hamilton had
reminded him of.

"Well, I don't know," responded Coach Mac, "I've never seen anyone like him."

Bosses: "There has to be some player. Albert Pujols. Barry Bonds...who is he like?"

Coach Mac paused,  "Well, heck, I don't know, Babe Ruth, maybe."

Anyone who knows Coach Mac, knows that is him to a tee. Beautiful.


Coach Mac has stayed around the game long enough to see his son, "Clayton the Ram"
become a manager in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. I see pictures of Clayton now
and I see Coach Mac nearly 30 years ago coaching us in Chapel Hill. Awesome.

Coach Mac is awesome. He hit a grand slam by marrying his wife Eva, who was
liked by the North Carolina family as much as Coach Mac.

They are beautiful people and who make you thankful they crossed your path in life.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A BRAVE NEW SPORTS WORLD


Records weren't broken, mega-million dollar deals weren't signed, and not one salacious
scandal broke out, but a three-day stretch in mid-August made a lot of us say, "Wow."

On Wednesday, Arizona State lineman Chip Sarafin announced that he is gay.

Thursday, WNBA stars Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson were engaged.

Friday, 13-year old Mo'ne Davis became a household name in the sports world by
authoring a dominating performance in the Little League World Series. Yes, a girl fires
a two-hit shut out against the boys on national television. 

Three days, three eye-opening stories. A man comes out, two women get engaged, and
a girl dazzles at the Little League World Series. Awesome, simply awesome.

Yes, it's a brave new sports world and no matter what side of the fence you are on when it
comes to homosexuality and gender equality, these four athletes made a major statement
And you know what? It's pretty damn cool and very, very brave.


Perhaps, Serafin felt free to announce his sexual orientation to the world after Michael
Sam blazed the trail when he became the first major college football player to come out
to the world last February.

I often think the media makes a helluva lot more about athletes coming out than the players
and teammates do. Sam told his teammates at Missouri last summer that he was gay and
the Tigers went on to have one of the best seasons in school history. No distractions, no
hostility, no ugly stories of teammates mocking or abusing Sam.

Was everybody on the Missouri Tigers comfortable playing with an openly gay player?
Probably not. But that's just the world we live in. People don't like others just because of
the way they look, where they come from, and how much money they make. Sad, but true.
Everybody doesn't love everybody, that's for sure.

There's no doubting the love Griner and Johnson have for each other. They are long-time
lesbians and opponents in the WNBA who got engaged  last Thursday. I realize not many
people, including myself, care much for the women's league, but this women's union is
a bold statement in society that doesn't always appreciate bold ones.



I know there are self-righteous people out there who oppose gays and gay marriage.
You know, the ones who all of a sudden act like they were at the Last Supper of Jesus
Christ who think know every verse of the Bible and their meanings. They say homosexuality
and gay marriage are sins. Yeah, so is stealing, killing, and coveting thy neighbors wife.
That doesn't happen in today's society, does it? Yeah, right.

Judge not, lest thy be judged.

Every one of us wants to live life the way WE want to live it, not how others want us to.
And really, does it matter to you if Serafin, Griner, and Johnson are gay? Do you think
it's affecting your job, your relationships, and your way of living? I think not.

Once those players cross the lines or step on the court, they are should be judged on their
athletic ability and performance. Nothing else. It just doesn't matter.


It certainly mattered though, when Mo'ne Davis stepped on the mound at the Little League
World Series and fired a two-hit shutout against the boys. She was on the national stage
and shined brightly. Now, there are young girls everywhere whose dreams are a little bigger
today than they were yesterday, thanks to Davis.

There is a saying, "He throws like a girl". I'm not sure we can say it like that anymore.
Now, it will be a compliment if a boy (or man) is told that he throws like Mo'ne
Davis and that's great.

Davis may not have broken a color barrier, but she is brave and certainly has opened a lot
of doors for young girls who have been told "it can't be done"

.
A female player won't make it to the major leagues in my lifetime, but it will happen.
Trust me. In 50 years, somewhere, somehow, a female will play in the big leagues with
the big boys.

And that will be a beautiful thing, just as this three-day stretch in mid-August was.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

TOM HANNY & THE WORLD'S BEST SELFIES


In the land of a billion selfies, Tom Hanny might just be the king of them. No, he doesn't take
selfies in a car at a stop light or in a parking lot or just because he has nothing better to do than
snap a mundane photo like the thousands of ones we see on Facebook every single day. (Yes,
the new haircut in your selfie looks really nice, by the way.)

Nope, Hanny takes the selfie to a whole different level. He dropped the kid's stuff a long, long
time ago and went for the spectacular and the ones you could only dream of posting on Twitter,
Facebook, Instgram, and texting to the hottest girl on the planet. His stuff is amazing.


 
Hanny's background, naturally, is in photography and video production. His resume includes
stops at Fox Sports Net, NFL.com, and the Arizona Cardinals where he was the executive
producer and director of broadcasting. As former NBA Tim Hardaway used to say,
"He's got skills". Hanny has a great eye, is meticulous, creative, and thinks outside the box.
Way, way, way outside the box.

 
Photography is his craft, but it's outdoor sports, and more specifically, those on the water, that
are hispassion. Stand-up paddleboard, wind-surfing, or just plain surfing, Hanny is at home
in the water. I've often told him that his home should be as the host of an adventure show on
one of those outdoor channels He just looks the part.


 
 
 

Hanny has been living in Seattle for sometime and certainly has taken advantage of what the
Emerald City and Great Northwest has to offer. His pictures are both stunning and just
flat-out cool. I've joked with him  the only reason I stay on Facebook is to see his pictures
and what is coming next.

Even his pictures with his bulldog are cool. Like most of us, Hanny is a dog-lover and borderline
obsessed. OK, I'll be honest. I sometimes think he's just a little more than obsessed with his
dog. But all his pictures on are amazing and memorable.




Hanny uses a Go-Pro camera for his selfies. Oh, sure, anybody can buy one at a camera
shop or purchase one on-line, but they don't know have a clue on how to use them. Hanny
is a master of it. I love action shots but there are very few people who can take them like
Hanny can, especially when he is the subject.

 
 
 

In the water, under the water, or with the water engulfing him, Hanny always seems to get that
"money shot", you know, the one that makes you look, stare, and wish that it was you that
everybody is looking at.

Awesome, simply awesome. How do you like your selfies now?