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Roger Maris hit 61 home runs. I just hit 61

Roger-MarisNew York Yankee right fielder Roger Maris hit 61 (home runs) in 1961.

I hit 61 today. My 61’s are not home runs. My 61’s are chapters in my life.

Most years I hid my birthdays from friends. There was no reason for it. It is just something I did. I did not want anybody fussing over me.

Today, I don’t mind telling the world because birthdays mean much more to me because every day I live from now on was not promised.

More than three years ago I suffered two strokes and two seizures that me feel weaker, more vulnerable and more emotional about life. After those serious bouts of poor health I changed the way I live.

I thought I was untouchable because I felt so good.

I was not a member of the untouchables. I discovered the path to better health centers around what you put in your mouth. I eat more grilled fish, chicken and vegetables.

I enjoy my cheat days. For instance I enjoyed my first Red Coat burger today in 10 years. I plan on visiting Union Woodshop in Clarkston before the weekend finishes. I drink a lot of water, but I still drink a little beer.

I did not exercise today, but on Thursday I will be back to my twice weekly classes of body pump at the West Bloomfield Power House gym. And later this week I will visit my pals at Planet Fitness for less structured workouts.

However, there is another baseball number I must remember.

3.

Doctors have told me that if I suffer a third stroke that I won’t be so lucky. That could be the end of me or I would probably live the rest of my life as a vegetable. I don’t plan on that happening.

That’s why I eat differently, work out, visit the doctor and take my medication.

I mentioned shortly after I became ill that a third stroke would likely kill me. I heard from a few dick heads who said they were hoping for one more stroke.  It really bothered me at the time because I was still in a fog from my illnesses.

I know I was a public figure. But why would someone say that? Why would someone wish the worst for me or anybody else? It hurt me and made me angry.

Today I have a new attitude. If that is what you wish then fuck you.

People often ask how I am feeling.

Not the same.

My balance is good. But not the same.

My speech is good. But not the same.

Sometimes my blood pressure spikes when I do too much and it scares me. However, doctors warn me about lounging around too much. It could lead to depression.

A stroke is an attack on the brain. Most of my issues are mental. For instance doctors want me to do things that make me happy. Volunteering for a communication class with the Detroit Police Athletic League makes me happy. So does dinner with my friends.

My family makes me happy. Writing this blog and doing podcasts makes me happy.

Going to the Detroit Tigers opening day makes me happy. Hope to see you there.

Physically I am doing well. Mentally it is a struggle many days not to fall into the trap of isolating myself from the world. One of my doctors said it is the worst thing I could do. I cannot give up on life.

I will not give up on life.

I’m certainly not giving up at 61.

 

 

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Founders Tap Room is open. I can’t walk in just yet.

foundersFounders Taproom in Detroit is open again.

That used to be my spot. I enjoyed sitting at bar stools closets to the door laughing with my friends and meeting interesting strangers too. I enjoyed eating the food and sampling the beer.

I know I got on the bartenders’ nerves asking about new beers on the menu. They were patient and told me what I might like.

They hit about 80 percent of the time.

It was my jam.

But Founders closed for three months because of complications surrounding a racial discrimination law suit. A black employee believed he was watched more closely and disciplined differently because he was black.

That was not enough to cause my boycott. I knew this was not the spot for me when a manager told The Metro Times that they did not know whether Michal Jordan or Barack Obama were black because they had not met them.

That told me something was up.

I do not want to give my business to a company that mocks or discriminates against minorities. If you are openly prejudiced I want nothing to do with you. That also applies to companies that treat whites differently.

A white female friend told me about a place in Eastern Market that I absolutely loved. She said she went in there to eat and was treated poorly and called “white girl”. She felt uncomfortable being treated differently.

I have not been there since.

I will eventually forgive Founders and return. I just don’t know when.

I’ve been reading Brian Manzullo in the Free Press who writes columns about breweries and micro brews. He wrote a piece a few weeks ago about Detroit area tap rooms to visit. I am going through his list to see if anybody else sparks the passion I had for Founders.

A friend told me the other day that he hasfounders talked to the managers of Founders. He said the company has a new inclusive strategy and that Founders cleaned house and got rid of the previous offenders.

I also know that the company is giving its profits to Detroit area charities for the next three years. That has me inching toward the front doors again. But I just cannot walk in yet.

Birthday surprise from Detroit PAL and a bunch of other neat stuff

fresh nation4I should have known something was up. My wife Abs insisted on coming to the Detroit Police Athletic League communications class that I help lecture every Saturday morning.

This is my small way of giving back to the community as I hope to see some of these kids fill voids in the media or whatever else they decide to do.

Then my sister in law Big Pretty wanted to come.

It did not dawn on me that they wanted to be present for the first surprise birthday party of my life. I didn’t realize anything was brewing until one of the students appeared with a white sheet cake with red, blue, orange and yellow icing made to look like balloons.

The students sang happy birthday to me the traditional way and then broke into the Stevie Wonder version. Then people began saying nice things about me and the celebration was on.

It meant a lot for this old man who turns 61 this week. I was touched.

My mission and goal is to help produce future sports writers and broadcasters. I’ve been with the program about two years and some of my little chickens are beginning to hatch and get a glimpse of the outside world. Some are graduating high school this year and have been accepted in college.

I even wrote a letter of recommendation for one of the journalism students for a scholarship at Central Michigan University. I called him our Tim Duncan, the Big Fundamental.

My goal is to teach them story telling, an art that is being lost by young writers. Too many writers craft stories like book reports that lack the human touch. They miss the blood, sweat and tears of life and human drama.

I want my kids to remember that sports are a people business no matter how big or small the names.

The art of communication is important even if the kids decide journalism is not for them. Police need to communicate better. Doctors need to communicate better. So do engineers, accountants and pilots.

I want my kids to have fun. The best part about Saturday was not the birthday cake. It was the spirited discussions we had that morning about hair, Kobe Bryant, gang fights, the NBA, the NFL and about each other.

It was loud but that’s OK. That is the way some news rooms work. People disagree and then wrap arms around each other as they leave morning meetings.

I often find that students write around a subject. They don’t attack an issue head on. When they do that I tell them to get Gangsta with it. In other words be strong and be direct.

Most of the students don’t know about my career in journalism and radio. Their parents filled them later. One young man, who is a sophomore in high school, did. He said he listened to me in the car when I co-hosted the Valenti and Foster Show on 97.1 FM. He said I became a hero and he wanted to meet me.

I was once again touched by Omari’s words. He even read some of my old stories in The Detroit News.

PAL Chief Executive Officer Robert Jamerson said a few words as did Youth Development Officer Marcus Norwood.

I am not the hero of this program. Those honors go to WWJ 950 AM news anchor Stephanie Davis who keeps things orderly. And a special shout out goes to Delvis Nixon, who heads our program..

People from Western Michigan University might remember him as Mixin’ Nixon during his days in Kalamazoo.

Thank you to former Oakland University soccer player Jenna Taylor who recruited me for this volunteer position

Saturday mornings are the best times of the week for me. After suffering a stroke three years ago and retiring, I felt useless and forgotten. This program is part of my rehab to better health. One of my doctors said I must continue to use my mind and I must do things that I like.

Well, this program is it.

I thought PAL was just about getting kids off the streets to play football, basketball and baseball. It is more than that. It is also about education and career development.

Most of our kids are from Detroit. But some are from Harper Woods, West Bloomfield, Walled Lake and Bellville. You can sign your children up at DetroitPAL.org. PAL also welcomes volunteer coaches and teachers.

Come join the fun.

 

 

Going down like the Godfather’s Moe Greene?

moe greenI broke one of the cardinal rules of the hood and survived.

Usually when somebody threatens somebody and leaves it means they are coming back to seek revenge with a hand gun. This too often happens on the playground during pickup games of basketball.

Today, it happened while I was in the barber chair getting my beard trimmed.

Let me set this up. One of the dudes that patrols the streets near Puritan and Livernois is a former basketball player who played at Mumford and the University of Hawaii. He played professionally in Australia and used much of his earnings on drugs.

Drugs ate him up and he is no shape mentally to be roaming the streets. But he is. This dude should be tucked away in a mental institution.

The barbers felt sorry for him and have bought him food, boots and socks. Now he feels as if they owe him more. He came in today begging for $5 but the barbers said no.

He went off on a tirade.

“You promised me that money,” he screamed. “You are always fucking me over. I’m going to fuck you up some day.”

That should have been my clue to exit the chair.

This guy once kicked in the front door of the shop and shattered the glass. He threatens them on occasion but has done no harm. I was assured that he was a guy who was out of his mind, but would not return to shoot up the place.

When one of the barbers put a hot towel over my face I thought about Moe Greene who was shot in the eye in the Godfather. Thankfully it did not happen to me.

The rest of my stay was peaceful. The guy even walked past the shop again but went about his business.

Thankfully.

Boy dads are important too

father-son-golfI cannot match the Mamba like athletic moves Kobe Bryant displayed in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform for 20 years.

But I can be a good girl dad or a good boy dad.

Hash tag girl dad radiates across the internet two weeks after the tragic helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Bryant, his daughter Gigi and seven other passengers just north of Los Angeles.

Bryant was headed to his daughter’s travel basketball game. How many of us have piled into a car with our child heading to baseball practice, a big soccer match or basketball game? It is one of the most enjoyable parts of being a parent.

We are watching the growth of our child in the field of competition. However, there are other important aspects of being a girl dad or a boy dad.

My son Brandon is an 18 year old senior at West Bloomfield High School. He is why I am a boy dad. He no longer plays soccer, but our times attending an NCAA tournament basketball game or having lunch at Pei Wei are just as important.

We don’t talk as much over lunch as I’d like. He is quiet around me. But we talk and we laugh and enjoy each other’s company. Being a boy dad does not mean that every minute together entails epic moments. The most important thing is being in his life.

We live in a society where too many men father children and then disappear as a father. I never wanted to be that guy or no show dad.

Being a boy dad is different than being a girl dad. The girl and I embrace more frequently and for longer periods of time. Brandon and I are challenged by this macho barrier that hampers outward displays of affection.

But the love is still there.

I knew of a dad who kissed his children on the lips — both sons and daughters — before sending them off to school. It is something I am not comfortable doing.

We do other things. Currently, we are going over shaving so the boy does not look like a werewolf on his way to school.

I taught him to drive. I am also his writing coach and we spend time together in the basement trying to piece together the written word.

Two weeks ago Brandon got this puzzled look on his face.

“Did Kobe Bryant die in a helicopter crash,?” he asked.

I told him I had not heard that. I hoped it was not true.

TMZ was the first to report it. Although I knew the celebrity web sight has accumulated good sources around the world I refused to believe the news. For the next few days we talked about Kobe. Brandon wanted to know if I met Bryant, had I interviewed him and what I thought of him as a basketball player.

These were great boy dad moments.

Nothing special. We were not talking on top of the Empire State building or walking the Pacific shore as waves crashed behind us. We spoke in his bedroom, the kitchen and in the car.

These were simply good boy dad moments.

You are in the driver’s seat to good health

teacherI’d just finished working out on the treadmill and had moved on to the rowing machine.

The music was blasting on the head phones when I saw a friendly face out of the corner of my eye.

I took off the head phones.

“Are you Terry Foster,?” the man asked.

I told him I was. And he began his story.

“I did not want to bother you while you were working out, but I went to the doctor,” he said. “He said one of two things are going to happen. I am going to die in three years or he is going to have to cut off some of my toes.”

He had my attention.

He was a type 2 diabetic with blood sugar readings in the 400s and an A1C of 10.7. An A1C level of 6.0 and above is bad. It means you have Type 2 diabetes. That’s the bad news. The good news is you can control it and get rid of it.

My new friend was in the gym, eating differently and lowered his A1C to 7.0. He has a little more work to go but he is on his way to good health.

He read about my strokes three years ago and has been following my story ever since. He called me an inspiration, which made me feel good. The best news was hearing about him dropping 30 pounds and being on his way of getting rid of diabetes.

I spoke to a group of doctor who asked me what motivated me to drop my A1C from a 10.2 to a 5.2?

It was a silly little cartoon of a guy driving a convertible with a flag on the antennae. That cartoon stuck with me because the caption said: Diabetes. You are in the drivers seat.

In other words you control your fate. You could continue to eat unhealthy and be a slug and get sicker. Or you could change your lifestyle and rid yourself of the disease. I decided to get rid of it.

People believe once you are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes that’s it. You will eventually die from the disease. That is not true. You are in the driver’s seat. You determine your fate.

I told the doctors group about my cartoon and I drew a lot of smiles. They were last resort doctors who amputated feet, toes and legs. They wanted to find ways to reduce their work load and treat people in different ways.

First doctors placed me on 25 mg of insulin. I was determined to get off insulin. I went to the gym four to five days a week, ate grilled fish,, chicken and vegetables. Doctors reduced my daily insulin intake to 14 mg of insulin and then to 6.

Finally, the big day came. My doctor said my game plan worked. She took me off insulin. Now I was on my own. I was really in the driver’s seat. I have kept my A1C below diabetic levels for more than two years.

In a few years it is estimated that one third of the nation will become Type 2 diabetics. Doctors have told me that once they tell someone that they are Type 2 they often never hear from that person again.

They believe their fate is sealed.

That may not be the case because you are in the driver’s seat.

 

 

Reach out and touch somebody you love

Shaquille O’Neal broke down in tears when talking about the death of Kobe Bryant, his sister and his dad.

He said something very important through his tribute. If you love somebody reach out to them. Joke with them. Have serious conversations with them. You never know when the end is coming.

I just heard from a friend a few minutes ago. He is in the hospital with colon cancer. He is scared and talked about the end being near. I have time to reach out. I will do that by talking to him and visiting him one last time.

When I was diagnosed with a stroke there were people who I thought were close to me who never reached out. I understand it because I used to be the same. If somebody was sick they only needed close family and doctors.

That was what I thought. I was wrong. When I was down and out I needed people. I needed that friendly face and a smile peaking into my hospital room. I needed that “stay strong” phone conversation.

It did a world of good.

We’ve learned that life is fleeting once again after the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi and eight other people. It was stunning to many. And we’ve learned to reach out to those that love us and to those we love.

I regret not doing. I lived in Grand Rapids as a young sports writer with the Grand Rapids Press. I was scheduled to visit my friends Gretchen and Drew who were living outside of Saginaw.

I hopped in the car for the drive across the state. There is a turn off in Lansing where you veer north for Saginaw or continue west to Detroit. I began to feel queasy. A strong presence overcame me. Something was telling me to skip the trip to Saginaw and head to Detroit to visit my family.

This lasted for 15 minutes. But I was returning home the following weekend. I turned north toward Saginaw.

Three days later my grandmother died of a stroke after grocery shopping for my return home. I did not get to hug her one last time.

It still haunts me today.

 

Tears for Kobe the dad and Gigi the daughter

kobe-bryant-gianna-ap-1580078395.webpMy daughter Celine did not cry for Kobe Bryant the basketball player.

She did not weep for Kobe Bryant the Los Angeles Laker or Kobe Bryant the Oscar winning artist.

She wept for Kobe Bryant the father. And Gigi the daughter.

It may have hit home even more because I almost died from a stroke three years ago. We found out how fragile life is.

While most of us talked about Kobe dropping 81 on the Toronto Raptors, winning five NBA titles and averaging 35 points in a season, it was tough for my girl to imagine the horror of dying in a helicopter crash while taking his daughter to one of her travel basketball games.

Celine and I did not travel by helicopter for her travel soccer games. We drove. But there is a bond you develop when you are alone in a car driving to Canton, Columbus and Rockford, Ill.

That was our ritual and I loved seeing my girl play. Mostly I loved spending time with her talking about the world and laughing about our often chaotic weeks during the drives to tournaments.

Kobe loved sharing those moments with his 13 year old daughter Gigi. He gave her advice, coached her middle school team and beamed with pride at her success.  Her goal was to play at women’s basketball power UConn and then the WNBA.

I wanted Celine to play basketball. I believed her athleticism would translate better in hoops than soccer. She played in one basketball tournament for dad. She began playing as a second fiddle on the team, deemed the star player to be soft and took over the team. Her squad finished 5-1 in the tournament.

Afterwards, I thought she’d chose basketball. Instead, Celine said “I did this for you. I’m done with basketball.”

And that was the end of that. However, I appreciate the importance of team sports for women. A few years back a story in Forbes said that every female CEO of a top 500 company played team sports in high school.

Celine played three seasons for her high school team and made All Oakland County her junior season before quitting. Her passion was academics and changing the world.

We’ve had great conversations while on the road. The Kobe-Gianna tragedy brought back memories of those long car rides.

That’s why there were tears for Kobe the dad. And Gigi the daughter.

Kobe Bryant got plenty of love in Detroit

Mavericks Lakers BasketballIt would be the last time I saw Kobe Bryant in person.

He stood outside the visitor’s dressing room at the Palace of Auburn Hills talking to Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay. Both stood with jersey’s dangling from their hands prior to a jersey exchange.

It was a meeting Slay requested because Bryant was both a hero and role model to Slay. Big Play broke into the biggest smile when Bryant said he not only knew who Slay was but admired his work on the field.

“You know who I am,?” Slay asked.

Bryant broke into that famous smile of his.

“Of course,” Bryant said. “I love the NFL. And you can ball.”

As soon as the words came out, Slay beamed.

Today, I write this on a stunning and amazing day. Kobe Bean Bryant is dead at age 41 following a helicopter crash northwest of Los Angeles. He did as much during a work-a-holic post basketball career as he did during his playing career.

Young teammates wanted to work out and keep up with Bryant. He told them to meet him at the gym at 4 o’clock. They thought Bryant meant 4 in the afternoon. No. Bryant wanted them to show up at 4 in the morning.

He won five NBA titles, was the league MVP in 2008 and was one of the most popular athletes of all time. It was the same here in Michigan. The Palace became electric when Bryant rose for a jumper. And television sets in Detroit were more likely tuned into Bryant and his playoff run than the Detroit Red Wings and their playoff run.

The last time I spoke with Bryant was in 2004, a few days before the Lakers faced the Pistons in the NBA Finals. I met with a man who was unfocused and was not mentally prepared for that series. Based on speaking with Bryant and teammate Gary Payton I changed my mind and picked the Pistons to win that series.

They did not take the Pistons seriously. The Pistons won in five.

Bryant struggled against the smothering defense of Tayshaun Prince. But Bryant was reluctant to give it up to another man. He said he was measuring Prince up and the eruption was about to come, he said.

When I saw Kobe speak it appeared to me that he was trying to pattern himself after Michael Jordan. Their speech patterns were similar as were parts of their game.

“He wanted to be like Michael Jordan. He wanted to continue that legacy,” Payton told ESPN.

He was not Michael Jordan though. Bryant at times was a much more selfish player.

This tragedy comes a day after LeBron James passed him for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

He will be remembered around the world as a Los Angeles Laker. However, he was loved in Detroit among Pistons fans and an All Pro cornerback from the Lions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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