To Boston, With Love

BostonI don’t know how many times I put my arm up, but it was approaching a countless number. The air was starting to chill, and I wanted to get myself and my girls back to our hotel. My arm went up again, another attempt to hail a cab that had no intention of pulling over. There wasn’t an empty one in sight.

We were still sweating, from the sing and dance-a-thon that was a two hour Coldplay concert at the Boston Garden: a great show featuring staunch musicianship, pyrotechnics, and stunning visual technology. I was with my wife, daughter, and our cousin from Ohio. We were wiped out and needed the comfort of our hotel room.

“Taxi!”

The concert was a cap to an outstanding day in a visit to my favorite American tourist destination – the city of Boston – and I say that as a diehard New York sports fan (rivalry, anyone?). After walking along the harbor, darting in and out of shops in the electric Quincy Market, my wife and I stopped in a Cantina there to have a drink and chat with the locals. And make no mistake: even when I wear my Yankee hat, the people of Boston are some of the friendliest around.

While my daughter and the cousin roamed the landscape, we enjoyed our time at the bar, and had great conversations with those who were just happy to be in this beautiful place – and we were happy to be with them. We segued from Quincy quickly to a North End restaurant, where we enjoyed a tasty slice of Italian America before heading to the Garden to see my daughter’s favorite band.

After the show, we did finally get back to the hotel. A taxi did stop. Persistence pays off.

It all would have been very impressive if that was the first, or one and only, trip to Boston. But, of course. it wasn’t. My first nerve wracking ride on a jet airliner to take an initial romantic weekend getaway with my wife (then girlfriend), more than 20 years ago, was to Boston.

For the purpose of love and romance, we couldn’t have picked a better town.

Trips to Fenway Park, as a Yankee fan, brought me back here many times. Bus rides taken with good friends, enjoying baseball in possibly the most intimate stadium in America. Most of the games the Yankees won. I’ve heard horror stories from others about the dangers of rooting for New York at Fenway, but have never experienced anything but good will and good natured ribbing from the Fenway faithful. I hope to get back there soon.

This past year, we have witnessed events that bring us to question human integrity and sanity. All of us wonder aloud why a bombing would happen at a marathon, how men can be so sick and indifferent to the lives of others. How they can target locations where children run and play.

I’ve been to Boston. Many times. I love it there, and can’t wait to go back. The city will rebound and come back better than ever because of the qualities of the people that live there. I have made memories with family and friends in the place they call “Beantown” that would be hard to forget. I’m thankful for endless hospitality and wish them god speed in repairing their lives and building on the strengths that showed in those harrowing moments that we have become much too familiar with.

We love you, Boston.

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Joe Lied – And Why It Should Matter To You

Courtesy of Wikipedia

The legacy of Joe Paterno was of a football program that molded boys into men, and did so with success for many years. Paterno was the archetype of the term “college football coach”, and a model of the Italian American community.

In that community of sports figures, his name could have easily been mentioned in the same breath as Lombardi, DiMaggio, and Marciano. Legendary in his work.

How sickening it was to learn, this past week, that his legacy will have nothing to do with football – but will have everything to do with his role as a protector of a sexual predator. A predator that preyed on children, ruining their lives.

It was easy to think previously that Paterno knew nothing, or knew little, about the crimes of Jerry Sandusky. That they were beyond his comprehension. But he did know. He knew for years. Lied about it. Did his part to try to cover it up.

He turned his back on the innocent. All in the name of his football program and its “reputation”. He could have stopped the actions of a monster, but he turned his back instead.

Could this have happened under the watch of Lombardi? In the locker room of DiMaggio? In the gym of Marciano?

Before the information from the Penn State investigation came out last week, I would have said “no”. As in hell, no. But no can turn into “who knows?”. Now, you can never be sure. About anything. This is part of what Paterno’s betrayal has done.

The worship of men, no matter the status, is a losing proposition. Can’t do it. It gives power and prestige to those that should never have it. Because they are human. They are flawed. Some of them are evil.

How many parents do you think felt completely confident sending their boys into the Penn State football program? Answer: All of them. How could they have known that they were bringing their children to rapists, molesters, liars?

If you are a parent, you are always on the offensive to begin with. When your kid drives a car. When they get into a car driven by someone else. When they go out with a friend.

Parents, it’s time to get your paranoia on. If you haven’t already. Every time your kids meet a new friend, meet a friend’s family, or go out among strangers, question it. Question everything. Make them give you every bit of information their little brains have.

Go on the offensive.

You’re in a new world now. Where coaches protect criminals, and themselves, in the name of fame, power and money. God forbid if your child is the one in the crossfire.

I admired Joe Paterno. Thought he was one of the good guys, a role model. I was fooled. I won’t get fooled again. The tradition that is the worship of men can no longer continue. Mickey Mantle is a memory, Willie Mays has faded, and “Where have you gone?” is a question that is no longer asked of Joe DiMaggio.

We know where they have gone. What they’ve left behind is a world where human tragedies play out off the field in the business of sports.

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The Fall of an Italian American Icon: A Story Without Heroes

The death of former heavyweight champion “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier was enough bad news in the world of current events last week, another symbol of youth that fades away from all of us.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was a kid watching Frazier battle through his epic trilogy with Muhammad Ali, the epitome of a big heart and soul that went through life with his head down, at full speed.

He died of liver cancer last week, at the fairly young age of 67. He was tough, but eventually the fight ends for all of us.

He was a sporting figure worthy of your admiration, his resilience and tenacity being his greatest qualities. As an undefeated fighter, he took his championship into the ring against George Foreman, and was promptly knocked to the canvas six times en route to his first defeat in the brief bout.

But, Frazier kept getting up after each knockdown. He didn’t give up, and was only stopped by referee Arthur Mercante calling a halt to the bout.

Unfortunately, the Frazier story was overshadowed by the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University. Legendary Nittany Lion coach Joe Paterno was fired from his position as head coach, as he seemed to not do enough to help bring to justice one of his assistants, a dirtball named Jerry Sandusky, who may have abused dozens of young boys.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Paterno’s story is disconcerting because he built a program over 40 years of doing good and helping boys become men not just through football, but also solid principles of every day life.

That doesn’t matter now. Paterno could have used his significant power and influence to alert local police to a sexual deviant on his campus. He chose instead to relay it to the Athletic Director, who dismissively swept it under the rug. With no follow up on his part, Paterno looks like a willing accomplice.

That may not be fair, but it’s how it is in the court of public opinion. That’s life.

This is a story without heroes. It is an American tragedy, committed on her grounds of higher learning. No one tried to help the kids. From the University President, to the AD, assistant coaches, executive directors, all the way to the janitors that may have seen some of these despicable crimes. No one helped the children.

All they cared about was their positions and their paychecks. No one saved the kids.

The question is, how do they get away with it so many times? Like the scandal that plagued the Catholic Church before this, how are these perpetrators able to assault these children with such frequency?

I ask: Isn’t there one vigilante parent out there? Out of all the parents of these kids, isn’t there one defender of our youth? Shouldn’t the long arm of the law be the last thing these criminals have to worry about? Isn’t there one parent who would draw a six iron from his golf bag with the purpose of pulling a “Lee Trevino” on this guy? So he couldn’t hurt any more kids?

Joe Paterno is no longer one of the greatest college football coaches to ever walk a sideline. He has become a symbol.

Joe Paterno is an Italian American icon whose fall from grace will symbolize our country’s failure to always concern itself with the well being of our children. It’s sad that a man who probably did the right things most of his life, couldn’t pull the trigger to do the right thing one more time. To put a sexual predator behind bars. To help protect our kids.

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You Are Like A Hurricane: No “Over Hype” Here

“Can’t happen here, can’t happen here. All that fear they’re telling you, it can’t happen here” – Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow

Once again, nature proves that, no matter what, she’s the boss. As I sat in my house Sunday morning looking out my window at the wind gusts and flooding rains that were Tropical Storm (formerly Hurricane) Irene, I considered my family fortunate to still have electricity, and no tree damage like so many in more southern regions.

As a weather event, there is no finesse to a hurricane. She is pure power.

As an armchair witness to Irene making rain fall history, I’m having a surge of respect for people in the states of Florida and the Carolinas who deal with big time storms on a regular basis.

The only reason I left my house on Sunday was to plug in a lead cord for my next door neighbor to run his sump pump. He had lost power, and wanted to get the two inches of water out of his flooded basement.

Why do people venture outside during a hurricane? A tree can fall and crush you. Such events occurred on more than one occasion in Virginia over the weekend.

Why would you drive your car during a hurricane? If you’re not driving an emergency vehicle, chances are you would not know how to avoid a flooded road that could sweep you away to your end.

Why taunt the power of a lady named Irene? You put yourself in harm’s way without reason. The highways are shutting down, and the malls are closed. You have no reason to go out, really. Reacquaint yourself with the definition of the word

Mess with a hurricane and what she can bring – it’s an act that borders on sheer foolishness.

My dog is a great indicator of bad weather. Not the biggest fan of thunderstorms to begin with, you know if he doesn’t want to go on his “bathroom run” that something sinister is in the air. Dogs are good for this.

New York City was practically shut down by Irene. While residents of this state can be prone to hyperbole and the “worst case” scenario, they had it right by regarding Irene as the monster she had the potential to be.

As a resident of upstate New York, I have only seen the remnants of tropical storms in the past. This storm was an entirely different animal.

There are many that think that the coverage of Irene was overblown, and too excessive in the monies spent to protect.

For those that think this event was “over hyped,” feel free to witness the aftermath of Irene here in upstate New York: devastating flooding, with waters rising and rivers cresting. Roads and entire towns wiped from the map.

In my neck of the woods, they are many, many people suffering from loss of property.

In the right circumstance, fear and over preparation is a very positive thing.

Good riddance, Irene, and let all your sisters and cousins know that they are not welcome  in this part of the world anymore.

Giving All For God And Country

It would be hard not to feel a lump in your throat hearing the grim details of the soldiers that included members of Navy Seal Team 6 killed over the weekend when the helicopter they were being transported in was shot down over a terrorist stronghold in Afghanistan.

(There were also soldiers on that helicopter who were not Navy Seals. Here’s a riveting post about one of them.)

IMG_3904Notable was the story of Aaron Vaughn, husband, father of two, and staunch defender of our country’s freedom as a SEAL.

As I watched the interview with his widow and parents, I learned he epitomized “old school” principles that you hardly ever hear much about in the media, unless an event like this occurs.

Love of God

His father related that Aaron was a person of deep faith, who let that faith guide him to the convictions that he believed in. His father said “He believed…. that he was obliged as a Christian believer to fight fundamental Islamic terrorists around this world because he believed it was a threat to his children and to his wife and to all of our western civilization way of life.”

In an age where some individuals try to take the word “God” out of everything, hearing about this man’s beliefs was a refreshing change.

Love of Country

September 11 was a turning point for Aaron in his desire to become a Navy SEAL, according to his dad. He put his country first simply by making the decision to become a elite member of American special forces, and put his life on the line every day to protect our way of life.

At a time when patriotism is void from our minds, or at best a part time pursuit, men like Aaron prove to be the ultimate patriots.

Love of Family

Vaughn loved his duties as a Navy SEAL. I’m sure the job of being a dad was something he gave his all to as well. Those of us that are with our families on a very regular basis no doubt take that time for granted.

Vaughn was away from his family for hundreds of days at a time. Being a father of two very young children, he had little opportunity to see them grow and took full advantage of the limited time he had with them. He was with his newborn daughter only briefly before returning to combat.

These details make concrete the fact not only are these members of our American military the ultimate fighters, but also ultimate believers: God, country, family. Truly old school stuff we need more of.

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