Dr. Kim Playfoot walked into my hospital room like a breath of fresh air. She was tall and blonde, full of jokes but was no nonsense at the same time. She introduced herself and sat at the end of my uncomfortable hospital bed. “You are lucky,” she said. “You have suffered what we call a minor stroke, but in my mind there is no such thing as a minor stroke. A stroke is a stroke. Here is what we’re going to do. We are going to take care of you and I know you are going to do everything you can to get better. I know you will. I believe in you. This is a team effort. Our joy is going to be the day you walk out of here and go home to your family.” She then turned to my wife Abs. “I know you are worried about him. I know you are strong. But I need a favor from you. No looking back. Do not rehash what he did or did not do in the past. We are looking at today and toward the future.” I loved this woman. I wasn’t being lectured by a doctor. I thought I was getting a game plan from Vince Lombardi. So I gave her the nickname “Coach.” I suffered an ischemic stroke which restricted blood flow to the brain. It is similar to a heart attack. In fact back in the day they called strokes brain attacks. She said it was a close call between life and death. She showed me a 3-D image of all the vessels and veins inside my brain. They were all healthy and free flowing, sort of like the Lodge at three in the morning. But there was a weak broken down vein on the left side. The blood flow in this vein became sluggish like I-94 during rush hour. I lost my ability to speak and my fine motor skills which made it difficult to type or wash myself. This vein has probably been like this since childhood. It was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Here is where luck came in. If that vein became clogged instead of sluggish I’d be dead or paralyzed. A few days ago we suffered a horrific loss in sports media world when Jamie Samuelsen died at the tender age of 48 of colon cancer. Jamie sent a message to all. Get a colonoscopy. It is not that bad. I come with a message also. Watch your sodium or salt intake. That is what landed me in the hospital. Read the labels at the super market. If something has 800 milligrams or 1,000 milligrams of sodium you should probably leave it in the store. Order the small fries instead of the jumbo fries. Or ask the restaurant to lightly salt your fries. Sometimes we ask for no seasoning. I have a new side chick. Her name is Ms. Dash – a no salt seasoning that I put on chicken, beef and vegetables. I even found a low sodium Memphis style rub when I smoke ribs or pulled pork. I found it at the Eastern Market and it is just as delicious. I used to believe that most strokes were caused by high stress. That is not true. Sodium is the main culprit. So watch it. Do you know what one of the more dangerous meals are? Soup. Soup is loaded with sodium. Coach also told me I needed to lose weight. She said people who walk around with big bellies are more prone to sickness. I lost 46 pounds. I do not have a wash board stomach but it went from puffy to a little pouch. So let’s lose the stomachs too gang. Coach got up to continue her rounds. There were other patients to see. She’d be back the next day to check up on me and monitor my treatment. Thank you Coach.
Welcome to the second episode of Boombayey Podcast with Terry Foster. Joining Terry for this show is Ryan, E.Lund, and special guests Rhonda Moss, and Rico Beard.
Segment 1: Too hot for radio storytime with Terry. Why are you not watching ESPN? Do play by play crews add anything to the game?
Segment 2: Michigan and MSU seasons so far and where they’re headed.
Bonus segment: Mt. Rushmore of professional wrestling
Another podcast coming Thursday!
My name is Terry Foster and I am the guy that used to write for the news paper in Detroit and did sports talk radio.
My life was on a roll until I suffered a stroke last year and my life has changed. I blame myself for not monitoring my blood pressure better. A doctor has since told me that I may have been dealt a bad set of veins inside my brain and they were ticking time bombs ready to clog up.
I was lucky. The veins became sluggish, but not clogged. So I lived another day.
I am a new man and I want to share my thoughts with old friends in this blog and through podcasting. I will talk about my new life, my old life, Detroit sports, or whatever else crosses my mind. It will be personal at times. And I will rap on real life and real issues.
In other words I want to be a voice, no matter how small it may be now.
I also need your help. I want to pay the people helping me and donate to charities I’ve worked with. Heart to Hart passes out food, blankets, clothing and personal items to the homeless while the Enchanted Barn saves and houses mistreated animals and has inner city kids come out and learn to take care of them.
My pal Melissa runs the Enchanted Barn and needs our help.
I got involved with Heart to Hart after seeing people huddle near steam pipes on cold winter days after leaving Lion games at night. My heart sank seeing this.
Selfishly I still want to get my word out and entertain even though I am retired. And why not tryet to help those that help others?
I will continue my blog also. I plan to peck out a few words that I hope entertain you, and move you to action, tears or laughter. If you don’t care what I have to say I won’t be offended. Move on. Nothing to see here.
I will try to help you lose weight.
I will try to help you get healthy.
And I will do the impossible. I will try to get you to understand the Detroit Lions.
And I will eventually pick up a note pad and try to break a story or two. I need to talk to my league people first.
I hope you enjoy. I do believe there is room to praise me or rip me. Go ahead. We are friends.
I will not comment about Donald Trump because pro Trump and anti Trump people are like roaches. They never go away and they keep barking the same nonsense for weeks at a time.
How am I feeling since quitting radio? Good but not great. Doctors say I won’t fully recover until the fall. But I no longer get evening headaches and am not exhausted at the end of the day.
Thanks for dropping by. I hope you return again.
Andrea Kramer worked for ESPN when Detroit Lions head coach Wayne Fontes’ future teetered on the brink in the mid 1990s.
She’d check in to tell me who the NFL believed to be the next set of hot head coaching prospects. One name she kept mentioning was the Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Tony Dungy.
There was a caveat. Dungy not only wanted to become a head coach in the NFL. The Jackson native wanted to be a hero in his home state and coach the Lions. But he could not come out and say it out of respect for Fontes who still remained head coach.
Kramer urged me to push for Dungy in my columns in the mid 1990s. Here is how it works sometimes. Coaching candidates have their people reach out to media members to pump up someone who wants a job. The tough part for the media person is that candidate often has to deny they are interested even though they really want the job.
So you write and say one thing while the candidate says another.
Also the candidate is truthful when a media member asks if they reached out to a team about a vacancy. Technically they did not. But they let their interest be known.
I’ve been the go between person twice in my career and neither happened. Dungy to the Lions. And Les Miles to the University of Michigan.
Instead of hiring Dungy the Lions picked Bobby Ross to run the team. He immediately discovered that it takes someone special to handle the soft Lions culture where Fontes sometimes gave players popsicle breaks during practice. Ross wanted a tougher culture, but ran a fowl of players who were accustomed to a softer touch. He reluctantly gave players more control, let his foot off the gas and ran the team in a way that conflicted with his values.
Ross finished 27-37 in four seasons and made the playoffs his final year with an 8-8 record.
I thought it was a good hire at the time because Ross won an AFC Championship with the San Diego Chargers and advanced to the Super Bowl. Dungy, who was hired by Tampa Bay, may have been a better fit for the Lions because he refused to coach with an iron claw. He forced his assistant coaches to leave work at 6 p.m. some nights to be with their families. He allowed players and coaches to bring their wives and children to the Tampa Bay practice facility once a week to play and eat on the expansive practice fields and facilities.
Dungy helped turn around a Tampa franchise that was in worse tatters than the Lions. He was fired because the Bucs did not win enough playoff games to suit management. He was credited with putting together the team that finally won a Super Bowl under John Gruden.
Dungy also won Super Bowl XLI with the Indianapolis Colts with a historic win over the Chicago Bears and Lovie Smith. It was the first time two black head coaches faced one another in the Super Bowl.
Although the Lions did not hire Dungy most of the blow back I received was from Lions fans who wrote and told me I was promoting him simply because he was black, that he did not interview well and that if he was such a great head coaching prospect that he would have already been hired.
Miles wanted to coach at Michigan even as he was having success at LSU. He reached out to one of his Detroit area coaching friends who in turn kept me abreast of Miles’ thinking.
He wanted the Michigan job in 2007, but Kirk Herbstreit incorrectly reported that Miles had accepted the job to replace Lloyd Carr. Then too much noise got in the way and Miles was forced to profess his love and loyalty to LSU. As far as I know Miles was never officially offered the job because of scandals between coaches and wives when he served as coordinator at Michigan.
My guess is Dearborn native and San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is using cornerback Richard Sherman to tell the world he is interested in the Lions job. My league people are telling me that Kansas City Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy is interested in the Lions and would strongly consider hiring Clemson University OC Tony Elliott as his offensive coordinator.
There was a Miss Bunny in my life. If you don’t know who Miss Bunny is then you need to listen to the Eddie Murphy skit about his aunt, Miss Bunny, who came over to the house every year and promptly fell down the steps.
His father used to get mad every time Aunt Bunny fell. It struck a chord with me because I witnessed his skit years before as a child.
Eddie Murphy’s Miss Bunny was fat and whenever she fell down the steps, she somehow did it in slow motion screaming: “Oh Lord Jesus Christ. God help me. I am falling.”
Every year my grandmother and aunt forced me to go to a fashion show in the Boston-Edison Mansion of State Representative David S. Holmes. Sharply dressed men and women slowly walked down a beautiful carpeted staircase in high heel shoes and newly released dress shoes.
Every year somebody stumbled down the stairs, sending a gasp through the crowd. One year it was Aunt Charity’s turn to fall. And I got slapped for it.
Over weight Aunt Charity sported a regal look as she emerged from one of the upstairs bedrooms that were used as a staging area for the models. I was nine years old at the time. When I saw her walk to the staircase I thought how good she looked.
She knew she was smoking. Aunt Charity turned up her nose and began her descent down the stairs. I think her ankle buckled. Aunt Charity disappeared from my view as she went tumbling down the stairs. Like Aunt Bunny it took Aunt Charity forever to fall down the 15 steps to the bottom.
“Oh my God. Lord in heaven. I am falling,” Aunt Charity screamed. “God help me. Jesus help me. I am going to die.”
And she kept falling and falling and tumbling and tumbling down the stairs. It seemed like a half hour of tumbling and calling for the Lord before she reached the bottom of the stairs.
The audience gasped. I laughed. My grandmother stormed over to me and slapped me.
“What’s so funny boy,?” she said. “Your Aunt Charity could of died.”
First of all Aunt Charity was not a blood relative. We called every elder Aunt or Uncle. Secondly, I told my grandmother that you cannot die falling down a flight of stairs. She said that wasn’t true and spent the next month sending me articles of people who died while falling down the steps.
That was quite the accomplishment considering we did not have the Internet back then. But we had Jet magazine which had every bizarre story imaginable along with the beauty of the week.
Grand mom was really mad. I think she was more embarrassed than angry because Aunt Charity was her girl and I laughed at her.
“Why did you laugh,?” she demanded to know. “That’s not funny.”
I remained silent for a while. Finally I mustered up the nerve to say: “Cause it was funny.”
I got slapped again.
These words will probably come back to haunt me. But that’s OK. I am an aggressive commentator.
I believe in Detroit Lions majority owner Sheila Ford Hamp. I believe she is different and competitive and is just as pissed off about the last 60 years of Detroit Lions failures as the rest of us. She is different from her father because she cleaned house over the weekend firing both coach Matt Patricia and General Manager Bob Quinn.
Many of you won’t give her credit for that because it seemed like a no-brainer. However, her father, William Clay Ford Sr, may have fired Patricia because he lost the dressing room, but he would have found lame excuses to keep Quinn. We only have to look back at Matt Millen. His first five years as team president were the worst in sports history. People in the organization told him that Millen was in over his head and needed to go. So what does the old man do? He gives Millen a contract extension because “the front office was better organized.”
Ford Hamp pulled the plug at the right time and I applaud her for that. Maybe it’ll take a woman’s touch to turn this embarrassment around.
There are concerns however. It is troubling that non football man Rod Wood remains part of the decision making process and is the de facto General Manager. Why do the Lions continue to allow bean counters to be in on the final decision?
At the very least the Lions should hire a consultant to help during the hiring process.
I was also disturbed when Ford Hamp said she wanted to turn the Lions into a winning franchise. Screw that. I have yet to hear anybody say they want to turn the Lions into a championship franchise. When you’ve been this bad for this long just winning more games than you lose is a only start. It should not be the goal.
Other than that Ford Hamp seems different, seems different than her old man and seems to care. If she makes mistakes she is not afraid to correct them.
And if I’m wrong you are allowed to make fun of me.
Darius Slay spoke up and spoke out. And he was shipped out.
Safety Glover Quinn knew the Lions were headed in the wrong direction and said his piece to teammates. Instead of listening to the man, the Lions shipped him out of town.
The Lions did not like what Golden Tate had to say to teammates about the team also. He gone.
There is a pattern here. And it must stop.
They were cast as bad seeds and malcontents. Their objective was not to rock the boat, but to row the boat and make it run smoother.
Now that the Lions are starting over after the firing of coach Matt Patricia and General Manager Bob Quinn, they should also start over in player-management relationships. These are not just employees. These are partners.
Drew Brees is a partner with the New Orleans Saints and he has a Super Bowl ring.
Aaron Rodgers does not always get his way, but he is a partner with the ownership of the Green Bay Packers.
Does LeBron James have too much power? Yes. But do you know what else he has? Four NBA championship rings with three different franchises.
Did Isiah Thomas have too much power with the Detroit Pistons? Yeah probably. But his iron fist turned a franchise from one that wanted to win games into a franchise that demanded to win championships.
The Pistons often backed Ben Wallace when he did not like the way things were going.
Do the Fords have to listen to every player that walks through the doors in Allen Park? No. But don’t turn your back on key players who speak their minds. Listen. Evaluate. Sometimes players educate.
A player that speaks his mind is not necessarily a cancer that needs to be cut from the body.
Owner Sheila Ford Hamp was asked if it bothered her that players criticized Patricia during his stay.
“You know players are going to have different ideas. Some players are going to think one way, some are going to think another,” she said. “Not really, no. (We were) hoping that it was going to pull all together, and I think in many ways, we’ve got a really talented team, or a talented team. And I think we should have come together better than we have.”
Players have more power and knowledge than back in the day. Why break them down with an iron fist? Why not tap into that knowledge and power and use it to your advantage?
Slay and Quinn tipped us off on Patricia’s flaws. We ignored them. So what has been the result? Slay and Quinn are gone and the Lions finally realized that Patricia was a bad fit here.
“I was the problem tho,” Slay said.
Most players care. They are not in it just for a paycheck. When they see flaws are they supposed to shut up and just play? I guess that worked in the 1960s. If I were coach of a team I’d tap into every resource I could. That would include assistant coaches and key players.
More eyes on the prize can only make you better.
Former player Joe Dumars put together a championship team as general manager of the Detroit Pistons.
Former player Steve Yzerman is being asked to do the same for the Detroit Red Wings.
This week former Lion players will ask the Lions to promote one of their own to the front office in a letter to owner Sheila Ford Hamp. The main target is former Lions offensive lineman Larry Lee who worked in the Lions front office for nine years and is now a member of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an organization that looks to bridge the racial divide in coaching and front office positions in the NFL.
“We want somebody who wore the colors and has the passion,” said former player Allen Hughes.
They want Lee as General Manager or to be in an advisory role for the troubled franchise as it tries to figure out its next step after the Lions cleaned house Saturday by firing coach Matt Patricia and General Manager Bob Quinn.
The Lions (4-7 this season) are 13-29-1 under Quinn and Patricia the last three seasons and are coming off a 41-25 Thanksgiving Day loss to the Houston Texans — their fourth loss in the last five games.
Public pressure became unbearable and the Lions made the right move in moving on from the two men. Things were getting worse on the field and there was no way Patricia could show considerable improvement which was demanded by Ford Hamp. I’ll admit I did not expect it to happen based on past history and based on the Lions almost always making the wrong move.
Now the Lions can begin the process of looking for another coach. My choice is Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. You cannot officially approach him, but the Lions can send out feelers and decide if he is indeed the right guy.
Quinn tried to distance himself from Patricia and stand on his own accord. The ploy did not work. Now I’m wondering if President Rod Wood is safe.
The Lions contacted firm Heidrix and Struggles, which helps organizations connect with CEOs. However, the company does not specialize in identifying sports executives. Could the Lions be looking to replace Wood, who admits he is not a football man and said in his opening press conference he was not qualified to be president of 31 of the 32 NFL teams?
Who knows with this team?
Lee would like to advise the Ford family during these tumultuous times. He worked in the front office before as vice president of football operations, but was fired by President Matt Millen after he took over in 2001. That might be a feather in Lee’s cap because Millen went on to become one of the worse management hires in professional sports history. Lee has been out of the game since but has advised a number of NFL teams.
Lee, 61, was selected in the fifth round of the 1981 draft out of UCLA by the Lions and played here for five seasons before being released. He was claimed the next day by the Miami Dolphins. He has worked in the team’s front office before and butted heads with management. Former players may also push for former linebacker Chris Spielman mostly because of his competitive nature and link with brother Rick Spielman, who has served the last eight years as the Minnesota Vikings general manager.
A third alumni candidate that makes more sense is former cornerback Bruce McNorton, who has worked the last two decades as a college scout with the Pittsburgh Steelers under GM Kevin Colbert. McNorton sits in on meetings with Colbert and knows the Steelers system. He remains connected with Detroit and wants to see the Lions succeed. The franchise has made three Super Bowls and won two under Colbert.
Colbert would be an interesting name also although it might be difficult to pry him from the Steelers, an annual Super Bowl contender. The Lions are the only NFC team to play in every year of the Super Bowl era not to make the championship game.
There could be an opening with Colbert, who has decided to work under a series of one-year contracts, and is a former Lions employee.
The Lions alumni want to push for a former player because it has worked in this town before. Also former players are embarrassed by the product the Lions have placed on the field and believe one of the alumni would view turning the Lions around as a passion and not just a job.
Their belief is that outsiders do not understand Lions culture, the community or care as deeply as a former player would.
The push now is for Lee.
“If he (Lee) gets a shot I am more than happy to support that,” said Hughes.
Spielman is supported by former teammate Lomas Brown. However, Spielman’s strength could be his weakness.
“He will call people out,” Hughes said. “He won’t bite his tongue.”
That is something the Lions are not big fans of in their front office.
On Sunday “The Tips for Chips” podcast will be released. And the subject of my most important story came up on the show.
I want to share that with you. It was a column on a high school girl that caused me to deal with anxiety and depression for a long period of time. It triggered unexplained happenings in my life. And through it all it might have saved another girl’s life.
In 1987 I wrote a column in The Detroit Free Press about teenage suicide. It was penned as a letter to Lisa Gunn, a bright, witty girl who attended Harper Woods Regina High School. I met Lisa on the sidelines of Warren De La Salle football games. She knew most of the players and gave me inside tips that I used in game stories.
She told me she wanted to attend Michigan State University and someday become president of the United States. I believed her and was prepared to vote some day for her.
After her senior year in high school she enrolled at MSU. But things did not work out. She returned home after her first semester and killed herself in the family garage. It deeply affected me.
I wrote a column about giving life a second chance. It was penned as a letter to Lisa, but was directed at teenagers who struggled because of a bad breakup, a slump in the class room or battles with their parents. I asked Lisa to reach out to me because I refused to believe such a bright kid would end it all.
After writing the column I began to suffer from recurrent sleep paralysis. I felt the sensation of somebody giving me a warm hug. I attempted to turn around to see who this intruder was. However, I could not move.
My arms, legs and upper torso were paralyzed.
This happened so often that I was afraid to fall asleep. But eventually I’d nod off and the hugs began again in the wee hours of the morning.
After a while I became convinced that it was Lisa reaching out to me like I asked her to do in the column. She conveyed to me that she made a mistake. She wishes she were still alive. This went on for months.
One chilly fall morning it happened again. The warm embrace. My eyes opened and I could see exhaust fumes from running cars and my parrot Charlie playing in his cage. Once again I tried to turn around but could not move.
Then the hug became more intense and more loving. It was a goodbye hug from Lisa. I knew this was the final hug and I’d never experience this sensation again. The embrace stopped and I turned around quickly in time to see a flash leave my room.
I was totally exhausted. It was as if I took the red eye home from California or ran a marathon. I worked at the Mt. Clemens office of the Free Press and after an hour of laying in the bed because of exhaustion I got ready and dragged myself to work.
I checked on Charlie and gave him food and water. On the bottom of his cage the Lisa Gunn column faced me.
I wanted to tell the reporters of my experience, but who would believe this bizarre story? I finally told a reporter I named The Duke. I could tell he wanted to believe the story. But it was just so out of left field.
I felt like I was losing my mind.
Word got around the newspaper of my troubles and the Free Press found me a psychologist to talk to in Troy. I only went once because it seemed like most of the questions centered around drug use. I drank beer and have smoked weed fewer than a dozen times in my life. I have never used cocaine, heroine or any other hard drug.
If this guy thought I was a drug addict, I was done. I never returned.
High school counselors began reaching out to me. The column made an impact in the community and they said they spoke to several students who realized suicide wasn’t the answer to their troubles.
I spoke at a career day at Macomb Community College where I noticed a girl with black eye shadow, dressed in all black. She appeared and disappeared over and over again. After wrapping up my final talk she approached.
“Are you Terry Foster?” she asked.
I told her yes.
“I read your column on Lisa Gunn,” she said. “I have problems in my life. I thought about suicide but decided to give life a second chance.”
Chills ran rampant up and down my spine. I was happy and scared at the same time. I wanted to talk more to this girl, but she disappeared.
I’ve always wondered what happened to her. Did she keep giving life a second chance?
I sure hope so.
The toughest Thanksgiving for me began with early morning whispers. That usually signaled bad news in my west Detroit home as a boy. The old ladies whispered the night my father was murdered. They whispered the morning my Aunt Margo got the dreaded diagnosis of breast cancer, a disease she fought for 25 years before dying at age 84.
I heard the whispers again on a Thanksgiving morning as a 12 year old. Oh my God my holiday was ruined. I crawled out of bed to and walked to my grandmother’s bedroom. My cousin Miss Boots laid on the bed as my aunt and grandmother bathed her back with a thick milky liquid.
Red welts boiled off her back. The night before she got into an argument with her live in boyfriend Curtis. She’d argued with boyfriends before. Usually she cut men apart with her sharp tongue and wit. And they fired back with insults.
But this fight was different. Curtis grabbed a belt and beat my cousin to a pulp. The welts were still fresh and they rose from her back like tiny hills across the South Dakota landscape. He not only beat her with the leather part of the belt, but hit her with the belt buckle.
My Thanksgiving was ruined. I did not want to eat. I did not want to be nice to anybody. I wanted revenge upon this man who beat my cousin the night before. I was confused. How does this work? You are making macaroni and cheese and then you decide to kick your woman’s ass?
I knew Curtis liked to drink Beefeater gin because I remembered the man on the bottle in his red suit carrying a spear as if he was on patrol. When Curtis drank he got aggressive. I never knew why Curtis took a belt to my cousin and decided to beat her this badly, but I assume alcohol was involved.
Most women who endure intimate spousal abuse are beaten by men who abuse alcohol or are unemployed. About 2 million women and 800,000 men a year are abused physically by their intimate partner. About 50 percent of women murdered in the United States are slayed by a sexual partner.
Here was the tough part for me. Thanksgiving was still on and it was still set to be hosted by Curtis and Miss Boots. Tougher yet I was instructed not to bring up the incident. Miss Boots still loved Curtis and wanted to make their relationship work. She said she played a role in the beating, blah, blah, blah.
I tuned her out because no one deserved this. Miss Boots rationalized with my grandmother and aunt why she should remain with Curtis. My aunt was a fire ball who had a gun and wanted to “kill this motherfucker.” She carried a gun in her purse and placed the pistol in her nightstand every night for protection. I knew never to sneak into her bedroom at night for fear she’d believe me to be a prowler and bust a cap in my ass.
My aunt wanted to remain home and whip up Thanksgiving on the fly, which was possible. My family had a knack of creating great meals out of thin air. Miss Boots maintained that Curtis was remorseful for his actions and that we should come over to her house for Thanksgiving dinner with him.
I was told not to bring up the incident. We had to get through Thanksgiving as if nothing happened. And that’s what we did although there were anxious moments.
In my 61 years of life I’ve never hit a girlfriend or wife. I never even thought about it. Yeah, I get pissed. I’ve cussed women out. Walked away from them and smashed things because I’m angry. But I’ve never hit a woman. It is not something I brag about. It is one of those things you are supposed to do.
It’s simple. Do not kick your woman’s ass.
Spousal abuse became a common occurrence in my neighborhood. Women would leave the house with black eyes, broken arms and busted mouths. The initial story was usually false. They slipped on a piece of ice, fell out the bed or ran into a door knob. Later we’d discover they were beaten by their husband or boyfriend.
Older boys used to brag about kicking their women’s ass as if it were a rite of passage, like it made you a real man.
After her bath Miss Boot left the house to help finish Thanksgiving dinner. We’d arrive a few hours later. Curtis opened the door and was the nicest guy in the world. He kissed my aunt and grandmother and gave me a big hug that I recoiled from.
There is no way this guy took a belt to my cousins back. I put the incident out of my mind as dinner was served. But an uneasy time hit me when Curtis grabbed a knife to carve the turkey. I had the urge to grab that knife and stab him in the chest. But I didn’t. Instead I smiled and asked him to pass me a mixture of turkey breast and dark meat.
His smile and sweet demeanor began to piss me off. But I held it together and Thanksgiving dinner went off without incident.
Time heals all wounds. My cousin’s back healed. And our anger subsided. My family even began to joke about the beating. We never called Curtis by his given name again. We called him The Belt.
A few years ago I sat on top of a convertible in the Grosse Pointe South High School home coming parade.
I never attended South High School. I never taught there. However, as a young sports writer I wrote about the accomplishment’s of South girls tennis team which won a then record 11 consecutive state titles from 1976 to 1986.
The school honored the women for their accomplishments. They dug up some of my articles and invited me to the parade and a pre game reception. They insisted that I ride along with them in the parade because I remained a part of their history. I accepted although I felt funny about it.
I did not coach them to victory. I did not hit one cross court winner for them. But I helped preserve memories and it meant a lot to them.
I began my Detroit sports writing career as a prep writer for The Detroit Free Press. The Freep produced weekly sections in Western Wayne County, Oakland County and in the Eastern suburbs of Grosse Pointe, Harper Woods and Macomb County.
I served as sports editor of the east side edition and they were some of the most enjoyable days of my career. Covering preps is the only time athletes are happy to see you. The other day I connected with Anne E Macintyre, who was a stand out in basketball, volleyball and tennis at Warren Cousino.
“When you came to our games it was a really big deal,” she wrote. “You were 7-foot tall. You are still 7 foot tall in my eyes.”
Those days were special. It allowed me to get my feet wet as a sports writer. It provided me the base to become the Detroit Pistons beat writer during the Bad Boys era and later a columnist with The Detroit News. Former Free Press publisher Neal Shine wrote a column on me and the athletes I covered about how we were breaking down racial barriers in mostly white Macomb County.
I did not view myself as a trailblazer or a hero. I was just having fun and doing my job.
I wrote about Aaron Krickstein who became a world ranked professional tennis player, Derrick Stevenson who now owns the D Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas and Kim Grodus who quarterbacked the Detroit Demolition to a national women’s football championship.
We had a satellite office in Mt. Clemens across from the high school. It was a small nine person staff that fed the Thursday weekly and the main paper if the story was big enough. My Friday nights were booked covering football games at Sterling Heights Stevenson, Warren De LaSalle, Grosse Pointe North and Utica Ford among other places.
I wrote the most important column of my life because my words may have saved a life. After my column on teenage suicide was published I was approached by a girl during a career day at Macomb Community College. She said she had problems in her life, but after reading the column decided to give life another chance.
Goose bumps ran up and down my body. And I always wondered what happened to her.
My first stories were on 6-foot-8 forward Bonner Upshaw who played at Mt. Clemens and 6-4 guard Jeff McCool (Sterling Heights Stevenson). I was pleasantly surprised to see Upshaw in a Trion Solutions television commercial. He is the founder and CEO of the company.
As a 7-foot tall sports writer this was a fun and rewarding time of my life. I met new people, saw exciting games and was even humbled and a little embarrassed to hear my name chanted at De LaSalle football games and South basketball games.
I enjoyed conversations with legendary football coaches Rick Bye (Sterling Heights Stevenson), Bob Lantzy (Utica Eisenhower) and John Maronto ( De LaSalle) who left the school to become head football coach at Massillion (Ohio) High School.
Maronto played a part in one of my most embarrassing moments. De LaSalle beat rival Birmingham Brother Rice in a big Friday night game. I covered the game for the Saturday Free Press. John’s daughters were dancing in the middle of the field and ran over to give me a big hug.
I told them I had to act impartial because I am a journalist. I cannot show favorites.
“Yeah,” Monica Maronto said. “But you know deep down you are happy for us.”
I was. But this 7-foot sports writer could not show it.
Covid-19 is actually doing the Detroit Lions a favor. It is keeping the media out of the dressing room and preventing it from finding out the truth about the Lions.
Following Sunday’s 20-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers it looks like an old but deadly disease has hit this team again. It’s not the corona virus or Covid-19. It’s called I-75 eyes. At this point of the season players admitted to my media brothers and sisters that they already had boxes and bags packed to make their exit from Detroit to their home towns or old college towns.
They were not focused as much on football as they were at getting the heck out of town.
But you don’t get stories like that on zoom calls or during press conferences. You get those stories by being in the dressing room and building up the trust of players.
Do you know who looks like they have I-75 eyes? Quarterback Matthew Stafford. All you have to do is look at Mama Stafford’s Instagram account. It looks like Kelly Stafford wants out. And if Momma wants out you know she is in daddy’s ear.
Next look at Stafford’s play on the field. He is excellent the final two minutes of the half and games. The meat of the game? Not so much.
Players get excited when coaches call gadget plays. The Lions worked one to perfection when Stafford fired a 51-yard flea flicker touchdown to Marvin Jones. The problem is someone lined up in the wrong spot and the play was called back because of penalty.
When you stop an opponent on fourth and five and a half yards to go, then jump offsides twice to give it a first down, that’s I-75 eyes.
When you allow at XFL reject named RJ Walker to carve you up, that’s I-75 eyes.
When you get shut out, which rarely happens in the NFL, that’s I-75 eyes.
It’s a deadly disease.
Fans and media want to ship coach Matt Patricia and General Manager Bob Quinn south down I-75. I do too. But that might not solve the problem. The Ford family and its backward thinking remains. And they will continue to get bad advice from Team President Rod Wood, who pushed to have coach Jim Caldwell fired when Martha Firestone Ford wanted to keep him. Wood insisted that the Quintricia experiment would work.
We need to ship them all down I-75 to Boca Raton.
Who wants in? Who wants out? We will never get the truth when the media gets its information via zoom calls. The team is watching. The coaches are watching. You don’t get the truth during zoom calls or press conferences. You get the truth when you put your note pads and tape recorders down and talk to players like human beings.
If you build up enough of a relationship some of them will let you in. Instead you get Stafford telling the world that players are absolutely responding to Patricia.
“We got to go out there and play better than we’re playing,” Stafford said. “I don’t care who you are as a coach, if we don’t go out there and play better it doesn’t matter.”
Yes, it does.