For the Fellas

 

Men. Guys. Dudes. Brothers.

Listen to me right now. If I could, I would grab every single one of you by the lapels on your coat, pull you right to my face, and say, “Pay Attention!!”

Here’s why: There are two professional basketball players who have something very important to say to all of us guys.

So, I want all of you to go straight to The Players’ Tribune, a website where professional athletes connect directly with fans, in their own words. Once you’re there, read Everyone is Going Through Something, by the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love, about the panic attack that woke him up to his mental illness.

Then, read about DeMar DeRozan, of the Toronto Raptors, opening up about his struggles with depression and anxiety.

Go ahead, do it now. I’ll wait here.

 

Done? Good.

Could you identify with some of what you read? I sure could. I think lots of men can.

But nobody ever knows that, because to speak up about it is to admit to a “weakness”, which, of course, no real man can admit, right?

Plus, in our culture, “mental illness” is synonymous with “looney toons”, and it’s time we all get past that way of thinking.

What I hope sticks with you, fellas, from Kevin and DeMar’s stories, is that it’s okay to talk to someone about your mental health. You’re not any less of a man if you have a problem.

You hear me? You’re not any less of a man if you have a problem. And you’re not any less of a man for talking with someone about it. The fact I have to practically shout it to you just shows how much STIGMA is attached to mental illness in America. Especially, with men.

And, the way to make that go away is for more of us to talk openly about it, like Kevin and DeMar, and so many before them, and not just athletes, either. Men from all different walks of life.

Because, the truth is, big boys do cry. We just never see them do it.

Mental illness isn’t something that will just go away with time if you wait it out, and it sure as hell isn’t something you can fix, yourself; I don’t care how badass you think you are.

I’m gonna keep talking about mental illness. My mental illness. My depression. Because it’s something men need to talk about a whole lot more. Not just about sports, or cars, or politics, or women, or our physical health.

Our mental health is as much a part of who we are as the rest of it, guys. So, let’s make it part of the conversation.

I just want to remind you of what Kevin said at the end of his essay:

“So if you’re reading this and you’re having a hard time, no matter how big or small it seems to you, I want to remind you that you’re not weird or different for sharing what you’re going through.

“Just the opposite. It could be the most important thing you do. It was for me.”

It was for me. And, with all my heart, guys, I promise you, it could be for you.

It really is okay.

Spring Hopes Eternal

 

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Getting close to Opening Day. It’s exciting!!

Opening Day of baseball season is one of the best times of the year. If you’re a baseball fan, that is. Nothing like going out to the ballpark to cheer on your team, yell at the umpires, partake of some concessions (peanuts and sodas for me), go wild when one of your guys hits a home run (or one of the opponents strikes out), and just enjoy yourself for a few hours watching this great game.

And Opening Day is great, because every team has the exact same win-loss record. Every team has the same chance of getting all the way to the World Series, and winning a championship.

Anything can happen. In 2016, the Chicago Cubs won for the first time since 1908. A year later, the Houston Astros won for the first time in their team’s history.

Who will it be this year? The fans can’t wait to find out.

 

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Baseball has always been in my life. When I was a kid, we lived close to a minor league ballpark, and went there often during the summer to see a game. I’ll always remember my dad catching a foul ball one time, and handing it to me. I was probably about eight or nine years old. He was about as big a hero to me then as ever.

Then, in the early 1970’s (yes, I’m that old), Major League Baseball came to town, and I have followed the triumphs and travails of the Texas Rangers ever since.

(The 2011 season is still a sore subject. I tell you, we were this close, this close, to our first ever World Series championship, and we blew it. Some heartbreaks, you never get over.)

I had always watched the game, but it wasn’t until 1997 that I came to understand and appreciate the subtle nuances of it, after reading a book called The Baseball Fan’s Companion, by Nick Bakalar. It was that book that taught me the strategy behind pitching, hitting, baserunning, base stealing, signs and all the rest. Turns out, baseball is a much more complicated game than it appears to be.

And that’s what makes it great. It looks simple, but there’s a lot more going on than just scratching and spitting.

 

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One thing that will make this season more interesting is the implementation of some new rules intended to speed up the game. Now, when I first heard about this, I was kinda worried. Speed up the game?, I thought, That’s the beauty of baseball, that it goes at its own pace! What are you guys doing? I mean, there was even discussion about adding a pitch clock, so pitchers would only have so much time between each pitch.

I might have boycotted baseball if they’d gone through with that!

Fortunately, they didn’t, but some other changes will be implemented this season, on a trial basis, to try to make the game move along a little faster.

I guess it’s a good idea; we’ll see. Hardcore baseball fans are very resistant to change. It may take awhile to win ‘em over.

Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining way to spend some time. Even just listening to a game can be entertaining, just to hear the announcer call the game in a language all its own: “One on, one out, here in the top of the seventh. Hamels is trying to get Altuve to hit into a double play, so the Rangers can get out of this inning with no runs scored on them. Hamels sets, here comes the pitch…strike on the inside corner, and the count is now two and two! Hamels froze Altuve with a slider that time…”

There’s just something hypnotic about it. I think so, anyway.

It’s a terrific game. If you’ve never checked it out before, why not give it a try? If you want to get into it a little deeper, I recommend the book I mentioned earlier. And if you’re lucky enough to live near a stadium where a baseball team plays, even a minor league team, go attend a game or two.

And try to catch a foul ball for me.

 

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Go Rangers!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Wendell is Smiling

 

All right, let’s hear it for Darrell Wallace, Jr.

Which is who, you ask?

Oh, he just finished second in Sunday’s NASCAR Daytona 500 stock car race. In only his fifth ever career start, no less.

Second? Big deal, you say.

Well, it is, and here’s why: It’s the highest finish ever at Daytona by an African American driver.

Not that that list is a terribly long one. Anybody know the last black driver in the Daytona 500?

Answer: Wendell Scott, in 1969.

Yep, you read that right. 1969. Forty…nine…years ago.

And Sunday, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr. made a little history in Black History Month.

Congratulations, Mr. Wallace. This is a well-worn cliche, but even though you finished second, you’re definitely a winner.

That’s all I got today. Just wanted to shine a little spotlight on this man.

Take some time this month, or any month, to read up on some important folks whose lives we commemorate during Black History Month. Their history is very much part of ours.

 

A Phabulous Day phor Phootball

 

Well, well. It phinally is sunny in Philadelphia.

Congratulations to the Eagles, sworn enemy of my Dallas Cowboys, on their phirst ever Super Bowl victory, led by their superstar backup quarterback, Nick Pholes, er, Foles.

I did not watch the game. I heard it was pretty good, though. I recorded it, so I can watch all the commercials at my convenience.

Not being a phan of either team, I really didn’t care who won. Phrankly, I was hoping that, by some once in a lifetime miracle, they both lost.

Oh, well, at least, it’s someone besides the New England Patriots this year. Sorry, New Englanders, but the rest of us were getting ph***ing tired of you guys winning all the time. You were becoming the New York Yankees of the NPhL.

But, I’ll give them their due. Since quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill “This IS My Excited Face” Belichick have been a partnership, they have been to eight Super Bowls, counting yesterday, and won phive of them.

Incredible. You’re not likely to see as successful a run as this ever again. And, it will continue, as long as the Brady-Belichick tandem remains intact. So, appreciate the standard of excellence these guys have set.

And then, if you still want to hate ‘em, go ahead.

 

Meantime, phill your glass and toast the Philadelphia Eagles. The top of the mountain rightfully belongs to them, now. They earned that real estate, thanks in large part to the magnificent work of Mr. Foles who, as I mentioned earlier, is the Eagles’ number two quarterback. Their number one, Carson Wentz, had performed at MVP-caliber all season, until an injury in early December put a cruel and abrupt end to that, and everybody counted the Eagles out at that point.

Not so phast, pholks!

Veteran quarterback Foles stepped in and took them the rest of the way, like they never missed a beat. So now, phor the phirst time, the Lombardi Trophy resides in Philadelphia, PA.

Do yourselph a phavor. Eat a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, in their honor.

They’re phantastic!

 

Michael Phelps Earns Another Gold

 

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In the eyes of the world, he was superhuman.

Absolutely nobody owned the Olympics like swimmer Michael Phelps. 28 medals have hung around his neck, 23 of them gold, over the span of five Olympic Games. An athlete for the ages.

But guess what? As Phelps publicly admitted this week, during that astonishing run of championships, he was suffering from depression and thoughts of suicide.

Read Michael’s story at http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/19/health/michael-phelps-depression/index.html  If you think CNN is a bunch of “fake news”, get over it and read this, anyway.

Men, especially, I want you to read this. Pay attention when he says he realized he needed help, and how he now understands the importance of opening up and talking about depression, instead of keeping it to yourself.

Listen to me. I don’t care what you tell yourself; you cannot, you will not beat depression on your own. Believe me, I know. It is far too formidable an opponent. I know us men are supposed to be the strong, silent type, but it’s precisely that silence that could kill you.

Go to http://www.wingofmadness.com to learn about depression. I know, that’s kind of a creepy name for a website, but it’s an excellent resource on the subject. If you think you have it, please call someone for help.

It could very well save your life.

Michael Phelps, thank you. This is your hardest earned, and most deserved, gold medal. I’m glad you got the help you needed. I wish you continued good mental health.

 

 

Drop the Mikes

 

A sad day is approaching for fans of sports radio, like yours truly.

In what is perhaps the most heartrending breakup of a duo since Sonny and Cher (Google it, kids), the morning ESPN Radio tandem of Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic will air its final broadcast on Friday, November 18, 2017.

A moment of silence, please.

As Greenberg, AKA Greeny, AKA The Green Mamba (don’t ask) would say, here’s the thing:

These two fellows have faithfully delivered your morning sports news for the last eighteen years. For that to abruptly end is going to be a serious shock to the system. Like Cal Ripken, Jr. ending his streak of consecutive games played. Or the UConn women’s basketball team ending its streak of consecutive victories. Or Donald Trump ending his streak of indescribably asinine tweets. A guy can hope, right?

We’ve had these two distinct personalities offering us their unique insights on the sports headlines of the day and, as one of their television ads used to say, “What makes them different makes them great.” Greeny gives us the perspective of the fan, the guy plunking down the big money to go and see the athletes play. His reactions to a story are basically our reactions, and he relishes examining every facet of it. Golic, the former pro football player, gives us a glimpse into the psyche of the athlete, the daily preparation undertaken by players and coaches alike, and the toll this business can exact physically, emotionally and, yes, financially.

Together, Mike and Mike give us everything we need to know in sports. And oh, by the way, they have a ton of fun along the way. And it isn’t just their voices we heard. The show has featured thousands of luminaries from sports and entertainment over the years. Players, coaches, managers, general managers, commissioners, actors, singers, comedians, all talkin’ sports with Greeny and Golic.

So, after studying the game film, let’s break each of them down shall we?

 

MIKE GREENBERG

The uberfan. Lifelong devotee of the New York Jets. (bless his heart) Suave, sophisticated, debonair, sharp dresser, neatly coiffed, impeccably groomed beard, stunningly handsome. Am I getting it right so far, Greeny?

Erudite, articulate, eloquent, loquacious, and perspicacious. (Thank you, thesaurus.com) Genius who will never be appreciated in his lifetime. He said so. Several times.

Germaphobe who can’t even eat a sandwich with bare hands, opting instead to use a knife and fork. You read that right.

Open and willing to listen to other side of an argument before adroitly countering with, “Okay, you’re wrong.” Given to exaggeration, as in, “This is the best, worst, greatest, biggest, highest, lowest, fastest, slowest, whateverest in the history of mankind.”

But, enough about him…

 

MIKE GOLIC

The jock. Former standout defensive lineman in the National Football League. Proud alumnus of the University of Notre Dame, as are his three kids and, undoubtably, all subsequent generations of Golics. (I think there’s a contract somewhere.)

Never met a morsel of food he didn’t like, even one dropped on the floor. Characterizes the 5-second rule as too strict. Lover of cakes, donuts, ice creams, burgers, barbecue…well, everything. Except vegetables.

Posed for a nude photo, a la Kim Kardashian, to pay off a bet. If you haven’t seen it, lucky you. Has admitted to sitting naked on the couch at home. (At least, I hope at home.) Greeny, of course, would never do such a thing without first setting out a coaster.

Knowledgeable, personable, humorous, and easy-going. Just don’t get him started on protecting the quarterback.

 

As I alluded to before, these two brought a lot of humor onto their show, fortunately never taking themselves too seriously. They dressed in costume for Halloween. They made wagers for the NCAA Final Four men’s basketball tournament which, to their credit, they always paid off, no matter how humiliating or painful. Or both. My particular favorite is when Greeny had to milk a cow, live on the show. An absolute classic.

Neither of them is leaving the airwaves, mind you. Golic will continue the show with new partner, and fellow Baylor alumnus, Trey Wingo (Sic ‘em, Bears!), while Greeny goes home to New York to host a new morning show from ESPN’s new Manhattan studio. I’m sure they will have much success in their new ventures.

But a beautiful partnership is ending, and I’m sorry to see it go.

I know this has gotten really long, but you have to understand just how much this show has meant to me and to legions of other listeners. These guys have been an institution, as much a part of men’s morning rituals as shaving.

And we’ve loved it.

Thanks, Mike and Mike. It’s been a crazy, hilarious, educational, fantastic trip. We’d be happy to take it again.