Thursday, May 31, 2012


Can someone please explain the zen of gardening to me, because I just don't get it.

In the span of a week I've planted flowers, mulched, replanted flowers, and made a dozen trips to Home Depot.  I spent money that could have gone for at least one really cute floral dress that I would have enjoyed more than the previously mentioned real flowers.  I got dirty, well that part wasn't bad. I got sweaty, again not bad for the workout value. However, when all was said and done, I just don't get it.

I've heard people talk about how digging in the dirt brings them to a zen place, that they feel one with nature.  I just wanted to get the damn flowers in the ground and have it look pretty.  There was no zen.  

Running brings me to a zen place with its repetition and ability to free your mind.  Gardening?  I had to concentrate on the soil mixture and water and making sure that the flowers were appropriately spaced. I was lifting bags without bending my knees, trying to fix leaks in the hose, and frankly getting annoyed.  That's not zen, that's work. 

Oh, and you can forget any zen place after the flowers were planted, then it's upkeep and worry.  Watering those flowers to keep them alive was like having a second pet.  If only my dog Chewy could take care of them for me instead of trying to sleep in them.  Why was I worrying anyway?  My colorfully flowered and freshly mulched front yard took like 2 days before it lost that "new glow."  Shouldn't I get at least a week's worth from 2 extra large trays of flowers and 8 bags of mulch, I'm sorry  make that 12 after the return trip to Home Depot (don't even get me started on that stuff.)

New clothes give me several wearings if not an entire season's worth of "new glow."  So again I ask where's the joy?  Where's the zen?  What am I missing?  

Now in fairness, one of the joys my dad always had was planting and replanting, building decks and beautifying.  He was a physician and educator by trade but a gardener and handyman by hobby.  In fact 10 years ago he had a heart attack replanting bushes for the umpteenth time at my parent's house in 90 degree Florida heat.  Thankfully, a double bypass surgery later, he was fine and for a decade continued his gardening, roof climbing, fixing everything lifestyle.  He'd have it no other way. 

This past fall, as you may know, my dad died.  It was an accidental death, quite sudden, and took him from us long before we were ready.  So maybe part of the zen I wasn't finding in the garden was due to missing him, wanting him to be there in his familiar beautifying role.  

He always got the pleasure of planting, the zen feeling I couldn't find.  In that familiar parent-child role, I simply accepted the benefits and got the joy of taking it all in. Though, even then it bothered me that 2 days later the "new glow" was gone.

Writing about this now, I'm wondering if I'll eventually find that zen in the garden like he did?  You know connect with him, once time passes and has the dulling impact I hope it will.  Sounds like a storybook ending right?  Peace and zen in the garden with my dad?  

Oh who am I kidding?  That's a nice thought and for many people that probably would be the case.  Thing is that just doesn't fit me, it's not my zen.  I'm a product of my family but no doubt a unique individual.  I can honestly say there's no shot I'll ever find that gardening zen that my dad did.  As I famously announced at a young age: "you're not the boss of me, I'm the boss of me."

You know what, my dad's probably somewhere laughing right now at my mere mention of gardening zen and his favorite "Dana quote."

Now the thought of him laughing, I can find the zen place in that and it's something I also share with him, my whole family in fact.  Best part there's no trip to Home Depot required, no digging in the dirt or shelling out cash, and that "new glow" from laughter, never goes away.


Saturday, May 26, 2012


Sorry to have introduced you to this blog and then left it unattended for so long.  I promise some new original thoughts coming soon but first I wanted to share something that I read that moved me to tears.

Last weekend in Ann Arbor once again my eyes were opened to the power of a child's spirit and the true meaning of a hero.  As some of you may for the past 3 years I've been honored to participate in the Griese Hutchinson Woodson Champions for Children's Hearts weekend.  The annual fundraiser at the University of Michigan is spearheaded by members of the '97 National Championship football team: Brian Griese, Steve Hutchinson, and Charles Woodson with a great deal of inspiration from their coach Lloyd Carr.  It's the usual fundraising type weekend: a reunion of sorts with parties and dinners, auctions and golf.  Of course all the fun is to raise funds and they've done a great job at that.  Over a million dollars has been donated each year to Mott Children's Hospital and Woodson's Research fund from the weekend.  The best part for those of us representing Michigan there, a chance to see the money put to use in a visit to the hospital.  And while I had intended to tell you about my time there, my account is nothing compared to what one mother wrote.  Once again GHW opened my eyes to the power of a child's spirit and the generosity of some of the athletes I've come to know. 

One more thing, this may be a "Michigan" event but this story isn't even about a Michigan Man.  It is about someone who whether he knows it or not, understands what being a Michigan Man is all about.  Hope you enjoy.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I didn't know Junior Seau the way his former teammates did or even some other members of the media.   Come to think of it, whenever we spoke we were either rushing off a field, standing among a sea of reporters or talking via satellite, not exactly ways to build a personal bond.  Still his suicide last week really stuck with me and it goes way beyond Seau himself.

We may never know why he took his life but I can't help but wonder what would have happened if he had just reached out for help instead of that gun.

In 9 and a half years at ESPN, I met a lot of former athletes.  One question I'm pretty sure I always asked them at some point was about how they were adjusting to life away from the game.  I can't think of a single one that didn't mention missing the "routine."  That's probably not even a strong enough word for it.  I mean this is a schedule of life that's been ingrained in most of them since childhood, at the very least from high school on.  Imagine after all those years it's gone.  How lost would you feel?  I miss a couple days of my morning workouts or flip flop the time I'm on air for a week and it's like the life's been sucked out of me.

So if I'm aware of how big an adjustment leaving can be for these guys, don't you think the leagues they play for are aware too?  A better question: what can they do about it?

The NFL and other pro sports leagues do their best to welcome the rookies in.  From financial planning to warning guys about people who see them as prey, at the very least leagues offer advice and resources to their newest.  What about the veterans?  Why aren't there more resources for athletes who are leaving behind the only life they've ever known? There are no more OTAs or 2 a days, no play books to learn or team meetings to attend.  The sport that's loomed larger than anything else in their lives, even family sometimes, is now just something they used to do to earn a living.  I have to believe even the strongest man out there feels the impact of that.

I'm not saying this was the case for Seau.  Again, I didn't really know him.  I have heard speculation from some guys who did and we've all seen athletes struggle to varying degrees after leaving their sports behind. So why not help them make the transition? During collective bargaining we heard some talk about taking care of the veterans from a financial health standpoint and even physical health.  What about mental health?

Yes it may be a taboo topic, but I'm going there.  In a world full of strong men both physically and mentally, some may need help coping and that doesn't make them weak.  Now as a gender, men seem to have a harder time asking for help than women.  (Don't argue, just think about the pre-GPS days and who was more willing to ask for directions.  Enough said.)  So take that generalized male trait, add the machismo that goes with playing a sport like football and asking for help is not going to come easily.  Help that is needed.  Help leagues need to encourage, make accessible and destigmatize.

I know there's been lot of talk about how concussions may have played a role in this.  They may have, I'm not a doctor.  My dad was and the brain was his specialty so I can't help but think of what he used to say about the impact of head trauma, quite simply "the brain doesn't like to get messed with."  My understanding is that Junior Seau's family is still considering donating his brain to be looked at as it relates to concussions in the NFL.  While it may not be an easy decision, if it can help any of Seau's football peers, perhaps his family can find some peace in that.

As for his football family, the decision seems easier.  Under Commissioner Roger Goodell the NFL has done a lot to protect its players from harm on the field, seems like it may be time now to try and do the same even when they're off it for good.


Sunday, May 6, 2012


I didn't forget about this blog,  I'm just enjoying some time off with my dog, watching playoff basketball and hockey, catching up on all those shows on DVR, and trying to sleep past 6am.   I'll be writing again soon.  


Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Life isn't fair.

That's a sentence I've said, make that screamed, more times than I'd care to admit. In fact today as I watched big sports story after big sports story break, knowing I wanted to take some down time before diving into blogging, I'm quite sure I muttered to Chewy (that's my 13 year old dog for those who don't know) "life's not fair."

Here's the thing.  It isn't.  My dad always told me that whenever I came to him with some injustice.  It wasn't because he didn't care about my feelings, he just knew the sooner I accepted that life isn't fair, the sooner I could actually start to do something about it.

So here I am, doing something about it.  In this case, writing.

To those who say Jonathan Vilma's punishment, a season long suspension, for his role in the bounty program isn't fair, what would be?  How do you put a number on repeatedly breaking a rule BUT doing so under the guidance of your coordinator not to mention awareness by your head coach?  Don't even bother trying to answer.  You can't quantify that.  Here's the thing "life isn't fair," move on from that.  Look at the bigger issue.  Commissioner Roger Goodell is trying to end programs like this.  All the players I've talked with say they've existed to varying degrees from Pop Warner on up.  If a year long suspension for a captain like Vilma doesn't make the rest of the league take notice, nothing will.  Punishment is supposed to deter and this will deter. Should those in the coaching ranks and front office like head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis have fared even worse than Vilma?  They are "in charge,"  so I could make that argument, but don't forget this is pro sports.  How many times have we seen players determine if a coach or GM stays?  I've always heard "it's easier to change the coach than the player."  To me, that means no matter who's higher up in title or job description, there's an awful lot of power in the player ranks.  Power which brings responsibility with it and accountability. Doesn't seem right to you?

Like I said, life isn't fair.

You don't need to tell Junior Seau's family that.  Not on a day when it's believed he took his own life leaving his mother weeping in front of camera's knowing she'll have to bury her son.  

Life isn't fair.

You don't have to tell Eric LeGrand that either.  

You know LeGrand, he's the former Rutgers star defensive lineman who back in 2010 was paralyzed while playing in college.  I mean if anyone has reason to say life isn't fair, it would be that kid.  From all accounts, he never even did.  He did something about it: refocused himself instead of pitying himself. His positive attitude and endless energy a reminder of what you can do when you leave behind the "life's not fair" whine. Today LeGrand's former head coach, Greg Schiano, now head coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs did his part in undoing the "unfair," at least in a symbolic sense.  Schiano announced LeGrand is joining the Bucs.  In what would have been his draft year, LeGrand's being signed as a free agent, filling Tampa Bays final roster spot.  Eric LeGrand has made it to the NFL, just as he'd once dreamed. It may not be the way he'd hoped to get into the league, he can't play, and other than keeping his already high spirits high this won't help him walk again.  But it will do some good.  From the interviews I saw, LeGrand plans on talking with his new teammates about his attitude, effort, and basically sharing his story as he has with so many others.  If that doesn't have an impact on at least one of them, I'd be shocked.  So LeGrand will be helping the Bucs, the way HE can.  He will be a part of the team and any success they have as a team he can take some pride in.

I know these stories aren't related but I'm glad that on a day that had such large scale negative and sad news in sports, with the bounty punishments and the death of Junior Seau,  we were reminded of the good.  Life may not be fair but that doesn't mean it isn't full of reasons to be optimistic.