Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hockey And Stuff

The Brunswick play-by-play ream (Photo courtesy Joe Early)

It's been a rather hectic past couple of months around the Exit 55 lair.

Wait. There's no need to go into details.

No. Really.

So much of my life isn't on Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Instagram. Or Snapchat (I don't really "snap" a lot).

Really, it's not on the blog either. Guess I do keep a few things to myself after all.

Maybe one day I can tell the stories. Maybe by the time I do, they won't matter.

Maybe I'd like to get paid to tell them.

Paid. Hmm.

I digress.

I called two hockey games sandwiched around a recent weekend. On Friday, I handled the call as The Gunnery came to Brunswick. Then on Monday, I called Greenwich and Northwest Catholic.

For the record, Brunswick won on Friday in a good, but otherwise normal game. In the Monday tilt, NWC came back to tie the Cardinals in the third, before their legit star Alex Mozian gave Big Red a 4-3 overtime win.

It was a joy to call the game at Dorothy Hamill Rink. For starters, Greenwich hockey was back on WGCH Radio. Beyond that, I got to laugh and call a game with Paul Silverfarb. Paul and I had much bigger plans for more calls, so now we relish the ones we actually get to do.

Again. Perhaps another blog post for another time.

But it was more. It was being back in our old corner -- right above the office at the Dorothy Hamill Rink. I always enjoy seeing friendly faces, and I was treated well by the Hamill staff, not to mention the people that I know.

Teams evolve, and faces change. What might have been a consistent for 20 years can easily be replaced. It's just how it is. One voice evolves into another, without ever knowing that it happened.

Well this voice -- the one that called Greenwich hockey in regular season games, playoff games, a state championship game, and a few FCIAC championship games -- enjoyed being back in the drivers seat.

"Don't take money. Don't take fame. Don't need no credit card to ride this train." -- said a wise man (OK, so it's Huey Lewis, Chris Hayes, and Johnny Colla).

Now back to Friday. If you follow me on social media, I promoted that I'd have a special guest on the broadcast, and he was indeed special.

Mike Richter. Stanley Cup Champion. New York Rangers goalie.

Mike is a father of a Brunswick player (Tom Richter) and is often at games. However, no matter how many times I saw him (or Martin St. Louis or even Mark Messier), I've left him alone.

Sure, it's cool and all, but I'm just not into harassing these people. They want to see their kids play. Their guards are up (rightfully so). They just want to be dads.

So I would nod or smile or say hello if we caught eyes. Otherwise, that was it. Then the idea was hatched to have Mike and/or Martin join me on the air for a senior day interview.

My friend Joe Early (Brunswick communications guru and all-around good dude) along with athletic director/hockey coach Ron VanBelle made it happen, and the next thing I knew, I was supposed to reach out to Mike Richter.

I emailed him, and the response was immediate.


While it was no average broadcast, it became average. It had to. OK, there were times I thought my heart would explode because of the respect I have for his knowledge of the game. My own self-doubt said, "Dude. This guys games were called by Sam Rosen. Marv Albert. Gary Thorne.

"And Doc...freaking...Emrick.

"Let's face I'm a schlub."

Yes. I used those words.

He couldn't have been kinder. He was complimentary of my skills (just as I later reminded Messier also once said the same).

Well, in the end, with lots of prep work, stringing of cables for the Local Live video feed to link with our audio, and the support of good people, we did it.

We laughed, and he seemed to enjoy it. I became "Robbo."

Joe: "You picked up a nickname from a former NHL goalie."

It's just another game. But it was cool.

Cool. That's why I still love calling these games.

Whether it's Brunswick, Greenwich High, Fairfield Prep, Fairfield Ludlowe, Cal Ripken League baseball for the OGRCC, Babe Ruth baseball for Trumbull, the Renegades, Sound Tigers, or anyone else, I love doing it.

Surprisingly, we're just over a year away from the 20th anniversary of my first call as a "paid" sports broadcaster.

Ah, the stories.

We can add this one to the list.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Two Of Us

Somehow -- in the blink of an eye -- my son turned 16.

Yes, Sean is of driving age (here in New York) as of this morning.

I've written countless words about him, and I continue to be impressed and proud as he grows up. No matter the flub or triumph, he has stayed grounded. I only hope it continues into a wonderful adulthood.

Not that I'm in any rush.

Let's go back in time. It was 2007, and I had just taken a new job in White Plains (it lasted six weeks. Longer story).

Before the job, I decided to spend a day getting away with Sean. Just father/son time. We were -- of all things -- going to go to Middletown, NY where there was a Krispy Kreme shop.

Yes, we've always had this unique bond for such silliness. He wanted a donut, and to watch them get made. We'd pal around and head back home.

We got to Middletown, and I prepared to turn off Route 211 into the side road that would lead to the parking lot.

"Where is the Krispy Kreme," I thought.

Uh oh. It was gone. Out of business.

Cue the tears. A flood, to be exact.

My mind raced. OK, we'll go to the nearby mall and walk around. I think there's a Dunkin Donuts there.

Sure enough, after finding a donut (and coffee for me), we resumed our day, but the wound remained.

On the way home, we listened to the Let It Be (Naked) album by The Beatles that stripped off all of Phil Spector's production efforts.

Among the songs on this occasionally-maligned (by Beatles standards) album is "Two of Us." While it comes off playfully as a Lennon and McCartney tune, it's actually a Paul ode to his Linda about their travels together.

Still, as I heard the lyrics, I found myself thinking about my travels with Sean.

Two of us riding nowhere
Spending someone's
Hard earned pay
Two of us Sunday driving
Not arriving
On our way back home
We're on our way home
We're on our way home
We're going home

And so on.

The song became an important bond with me for Sean, a la Cats in the Cradle, I suppose. As life would change through the balance of 2007-2009, the importance of the song would deepen for me.

One morning, I caught the movie I Am Sam, which features Sean Penn as a man with a disability, fighting for custody of his daughter. The movie uses a collection of Beatles tunes performed by different artists.

Enter "Two of Us."

If you know where I was in that stretch of my life, you can understand my emotions.

Flash forward several years to lunch with a friend. With the jukebox playing, we chatted about whatever it is we were chatting about.

Enter "Two of Us." Again.

I couldn't speak. Tried to nod. I felt awful for the raw emotions that poured from me.

Not every listen to the song makes me feel like that.

Something tells me when I listen to it today, I'll need a minute to myself.

This kid -- boy, man, guy, dude, "bruh" -- has been one my true constant since February 23, 2002.

You and I have memories, longer than the road that stretches out ahead.

I apologize if this comes off as "being about me," but it truly isn't. It's about a bond, and an admiration for a son from his dad.

We've walked too many highways together. We've hashed out a lot of life. He's dealt with "big boy" things that he often shouldn't have to, but so was -- and is -- the very nature of our relationship.

I love watching him evolve. I hope you will also.

Everyone says they have "the best kid." I don't worry about that.

I have the best kid.

For me.