Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Again, a Perspective

Friends, I was going to write something witty about my birthday, and how at 38, I don't get too worked up about birthdays because I get let down whenever allow myself to get excited. That can be said about almost everything. It might have been funny; maybe even profound.

Before I get to what's on my mind though, I should spend a moment to talk about the great night I had with the Greenwich Old Timers Athletic Association. I was honored to be on the dais again, where I really don’t feel that I belong. I was sitting next to a man who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers (Mike Sandlock), and he’s sitting next to a former teammate of Maris and Mantle (Zeke Bella – with The Mick in the Bronx, and with the Rajah in Kansas City). Down from them are coaching greats Rich Albonizio, Pete Fujitani and Tom Fujitani, Super Bowl II champ Bob Hyland, former Patriot Cedric Jones, former Ranger and Yankee Billy Sample, and a few other sporting greats from all sports. And that’s just the lower dais. The upper dais included David Cone, George Martin (former Giant) and his teammate Karl Nelson, with Willie Upshaw (a former Toronto Blue Jay) and YES Network TV legend John Fillipelli. Then there’s me. HA!

The speeches were great, both from the lesser known but equally important local honorees and the national guys (Cone and Martin). My WGCH colleague, Mark Yusko, does a superior job of keeping roughly 600 people (99% male) in line, as that room can be flat out rude. They often will not shut up. Personally, it’s an honor to be introduced to that room, and hear a few people yell my name (favorably, I hope) as I received a nice ovation. But more than that, it’s a privilege to have people ask for your autograph (why? I’m not sure), and to receive several beautiful compliments. All makes that moron at Cardinal Stadium from GYFL Day seem…well…like a moron! One more thing – I noticed Cameron and Colin Jones walking through the room, heading toward the dais, where their father was sitting. I described nearly every play of their high school careers (in some cases, in two sports). I thought it would be nice to say hello as they passed by to catch up with some old teammates. Just one thing – it was ME that they were coming to see! They just wanted to say hello and talk football for a few minutes. Thanks, guys. I hope these few words tell you how much that gesture meant to me. I really don’t think what I do on the radio has much of an impact, but moments like that, and The Wife’s firm words when I told her this story, drove the point home that people really do listen. It’s humbling.

I also caught up with old Cardinals (and, dare I say, old friends) Pete Salvatore and Eric Loh. They’re among the best I’ve ever covered, and some of the nicest young men I’ve met. You hear things about athletes sometimes, but these people are all good.

PS – I got to interview both Cone and Martin for WGCH. True gentlemen. I even shared a laugh with Cone after our interview about the start after his perfect game in ’99.

Still, I’ve spent too much time on the dinner, and the fact that I even mentioned it’s my birthday is self-serving. It all came crashing down when my brother rang my cell phone around 4:00. Apparently he was dreading making the call, though I thought he was calling to extend his birthday wishes. Well he was, but there was more. An old family friend committed suicide earlier this week – the result of years of bad luck in jobs and love. When I first met him, he married one of my brother’s ex-sister’s in-law. After that marriage collapsed, he moved on and always seemed to keep his sense of humor. Then it looked like he had settled down with another woman. However she cheated on him. After all the job issues, divorce, child custody issues and who knows what else – this last thing was the last straw. He went home, packed his apartment up, wrote letters for those he wanted to explain things to, and left a detailed phone list of who should be called – including my brother. The he killed himself.

Now I have to be totally, brutally honest here. I haven’t seen him in years, so I’m going to spare you the morose sadness. It would be patently wrong of me. I liked him because I thought he had a good heart, but I didn’t think of him all that often, except when my brother would mention him, or when a memory came along. But once again, I’m reminded that we all need to keep our perspective. Some people just can’t cope, and some truly have it worse than we do. I’m also reminded that only the strong survive, and how sometimes, not to be pithy, but J Giles had it right – “Love Stinks.” Sometimes. It sure as hell can hurt – that’s for sure.

It would be easy to condemn him for quitting on his family, especially his children, but I’ve never walked in his shoes, and don’t know or understand his pain. Therefore I will not put him on trial – especially not here. In short, I hope he’s found a better place. My condolences to his family. It’s especially hard, and must be even harder, as we head into Thanksgiving and the overwrought holiday season..

May you all have a pleasant, peaceful, and Happy Thanksgiving. Take a moment to think of those less fortunate, and save a soft spot for those doing their duty overseas, trying to protect us. Politics and opinions aside - bless them. They deserve it.

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