I miss my tennis road dogs

burwellWe were drenched in sweat as we trudged into an Atlanta Buckhead restaurant with tennis rackets in hand for lunch and a refreshing drink.

We’d just completed a couple seats of doubles tennis in the Georgia heat during an off day during the opening round of the 1991 playoff series between the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks.

I was enjoying an afternoon with my road dogs at the time. Later that night we’d create some devilish times also. Free Press sports writer Drew Sharp and Washington Post columnist Mike Wilbon sat across the table from Detroit News columnist Byron Burwell and myself.

I must have loved these guys because I never called any of them by their given names. Wilbon was “Bubbles” for reasons I can’t remember. I called Burwell Home Box Head because he had a gigantic head and appeared on HBO. Drew was Boodini.

We swapped NBA and newspaper stories and I’m sure Wilbon told Charles Barkley tale or two, which always cracked us up. Wilbon and Chuck were boys and worked on a couple books together. I’d had my funny moments with Barkley, including the time he allowed me to stay in the dressing room after the media was kicked out before a game at the Palace.

And there was the time Barkley went on a 20 minute filibuster on Manute Bol’s feet and ashy legs. I bent over in laughter as Bol, who stood a helpless 7-foot-7, tried to get Barkley to stop.

Between every joke Bol would raise his arms and say: “Come on Chuck. Stop it Chuck. Oh Charlie. You are not funny.”

He was.

Back to lunch. Wilbon, Sharp, Burwell and I ordered lunch and cold, refreshing home made lemonade. This was not Country Time or powdered lemonade. This was the real stuff with real pulp and real taste just like momma made.

The real lemonade was $1.25 a glass, which was worth every penny. After we sucked down our first glass Wilbon asked if we wanted refills. We all shook our head yes.

We flagged down the waitress and told here we wanted four refills. A petrified look flooded her face before she nervously told us it would cost 75 cents for a refill. We thought her reaction was strange but Wilbon quipped: “I think we got the money so fill us up.”

The Washington Post, Free Press and News were paying for these meals and lemonade.

“She probably thought four brothers were going to riot over a 75 cent glass of lemonade,” Burwell quipped.

That might have been the case. She later apologized for her reaction and said we seemed like good guys. If only she knew.

I miss those days of hanging with my boys on the road. And I miss my boys period. We could never recreate that championship doubles match. Burwell died at age 59 of skin cancer. Drew died at age 56 of a heart attack.

Wilbon is alive but suffered a heart attack in 2008 and I was downed by a stroke in 2016. We all had major health setbacks before the age of 60.

Being a sports writer is an exciting and rewarding profession. But the lifestyle is hazardless to your health. The food is too good, the drinks too plentiful and you don’t feel like working out at a Seattle hotel after flying in from Los Angeles that morning. Wilbon is still on the road for ESPN and admitted during the NABJ conference in Detroit that he has not been able to take care of himself like he wants because of it.

I miss my friends. I miss my life.  However, I am grateful because I am alive, walking and talking without assistance. I want to write again but you can have the road.

I’m just fine here in Detroit.

Tennis anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to lend my services

teacher.jpgI have a story to tell and life experiences to share.

And I believe that I am at a stage of my recovery from a stroke to do both.

Here are my goals.

Next fall I want to mentor a high school or college news organization.

I want to mentor stroke and heart attack victims also. I have talked to my speech therapists who is trying to pave roads through the Henry Ford Health system. All we need is a room and time for people to join us.

I have life experiences in both and believe I can assist young and old alike.

I have run like a chicken with my head cut off for most of my 59 years on the planet. Now that I’ve slowed down in retirement it is time for me to help others. I still have a lot in the tank and I want to share.

If you know of an organization or school that can use my services leave a message on my blog, on twitter at TerryFoster971 or shoot me an email at TerryFoster74@comcast.net.

I want to help.

Why can’t Detroit become the next Music City?

Nashville — They are dressed in colorful shorts, cowboy boots and daisy dukes. They add flavor to the West End and Broadway Street.

They boost the economy in Music City. And they are nice to look at. They are the brides maids and brides that make this the Bridle Party capital of the United States.

They come for the food, but they mostly come for the country music and the endless booze on Broadway Street.

I love the atmosphere here in Music City. My question is why can’t this happen in Motown?

A few years ago I couldn’t find anyone interested in coming to Nashville for vacation. Now folks from all around come here.

Downtown Detroit is enjoying a rebirth. We have new buildings, new hotels, new stadiums and new people. What downtown Detroit lacks is the old school identity that put us on the map.

Would a street or section that pays homage to Motown music and cars work the same way that Beale Street in Memphis and Broadway in Nashville work. In Memphis bars and restaurants are lined up blazing the blues. In Nashville there are dozens of bars with country music dominating the air. There are also hotels, gift shops, coffee shops and ice cream parlors.

Where is Detroit’s Motown Blvd? Motown Museum isn’t even a part of Detroit’s destination highway. It is tucked away on West Grand Blvd in an area that people don’t otherwise travel. I grew up with three miles of the Motown Museum and have never been.

We need a street downtown lined with the Motown Museum, the Motown Cafe, the Old 20 Grand Night Club, Motown Coffee, Motown pastries, Motown auto museum and the Motown hotel. It would be Greek Town with a motor city feel.

If Nashville and Memphis can do it, why not Detroit?

 

 

 

Lomas Brown prepared to rip Lions offense

lomas brownLomas Brown knows his relationship with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter won’t be as friendly because he is prepared to criticize the offense, if need be, as the new color man on WJR’s Lions broadcast.

“I know it’s going to be tricky with Matthew Stafford,” Brown said Tuesday night. “I am not sold on the offense. I hope its a case where Jim Caldwell had the handcuffs on Cooter and it will be different this season. I am not impressed with the offense.”

Brown admits that he is in a tough spot replacing Jim Brandstatter as the color commentator for Lions broadcast, a man he considers a good friend. But he thought the wheels were in motion for change last season when he did weekly Lions segments on the station.

“I think they were auditioning me to see if I could do it,” Brown said.

Still Brown was as shocked as anybody when told he was replacing Brandstatter, who was fired on earlier this week. He thought WJR was going to a three-man booth with Miller, Brandstatter and Brown. About 2-3 weeks ago the conversations with WJR changed and Brown believed he might replace Brandstatter.

Brown said the move was made by WJR because the station wanted someone affiliated with the Lions in the booth. Brandstatter is viewed as a Michigan man because he played for the Wolverines and is the play by play man for their broadcast.  Dan Miller is viewed as a Fox 2 man because he is their sports anchor. Brown played left tackle for the Lions for 11 seasons and lasted 18 seasons total in the NFL. He also played for the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns and New York Giants. He won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Bucs before retiring.

He wanted to return to the Lions as an offensive line coach. Brown was even fitted with a coaches shirt by the team but the club did not hire him. Instead Brown mentored young linemen for the New York Giants.

Brown promises not to parrot the company line in the broadcast booth.

“I am going to try to tell people what I am seeing and with my 18 years of NFL experience” Brown said. “I think my 18 years of playing will give me credibility with the (players) when I am criticizing them. I hope they view it as constructive criticism rather than just ripping them. If I don’t tell the truth the fans will see right through that. My relationship might not be the same with the team or with some of the players but I have to call it like I see it.”

Brown will give up his duties on WDIV’s Sunday Sports Final Edition sports show with Jamie Edmonds in a dispute over money.  Brown said the new job comes with mixed emotions because of his strong relationship with Brandstatter.

“That’s my man,” Brown said. “When they first told me about getting the job I was more in shock. I consider Jim to be a great broadcaster. And Jim and his wife Robbie Timmons are dear friends. Those  are some huge shoes to fill. I thought he did a very good job. I am putting a lot of pressure to not be at his standard but to keep the standard going.”

 

 

 

 

WJR fumbles another broadcast firing

brandyJim Brandstatter  is one of us.
And I thought someone should stand up for him. He is a Detroit sports fan. He wore the maize and blue of Michigan football and he is every bit a key fabric of Detroit as anybody. He is so Detroit that I used to go to my local super market and purchase a chicken salad named after him. What WJR did to the man was unnecessary and uncalled for.
The station fired one of us for the sake of “going in a different direction.” In other words the people that run the station did not have a good reason to fire him. Their thinking is he’s done it long enough so let’s try new juice for the hell of it.
He’s old (68) so people will understand.

Isn’t this the same station that fired Ernie Harwell? I guess Brady should not feel so bad. He is in good company.
They will pump up Brandstatter’s replacement Lomas Brown, but my guess is Lomas will be no better than Brandstatter. He will just be a different voice.  He’s not going to give us exciting insight when the team goes sour because that is not what local broadcasters do in Detroit.
Case in point came earlier this week when Nick Castellanos, who is a butcher in the outfield, received no criticism on FS Detroit when he lost a fly ball in the roof of  Tropicana Field. He didn’t even get a light tap on the wrist for costing the Tigers four runs during a 10-9 10th inning defeat.
I liked Brandstatter in the booth for Lions games. What I didn’t like were the apologetic post game interviews with coaches and players.  I doubt that we will get hard hitting post game interviews from Brown either.

I liked Jim Brandstatter as color man for Michigan football, but his play by play calls are not compelling or captivating.
Everybody who knows him will tell you that Brandstatter is a good man with a good heart. But that’s not the issue here. Was he a good broadcaster? The answer is yes.
Were fans clamoring to have him fired? The  answer is no.
Brandstatter took the high road and did not thrown flames at WJR after his firing. He was blind sided like the rest of us. Now he can enjoy his Sunday’s and does not have to catch ungodly early morning flights after Saturday Michigan football games to catch up  with the Lions on Sunday. This could turn out to be a blessing for him.

Somewhere under the rainbow

double rainbow.jpgTRAVERSE CITY — Many of the ribs and beef brisket were consumed and our lips dripped with bar be-que sauce when strange clouds began to billow over the horizon.

I was part of a family outing on Grand Traverse Bay when the sky turned menacing. We didn’t run. We didn’t panic when it looked like one of those space ship hiding clouds from the movie Independence Day hovered in the distance. Instead of running for cover we all gazed at the sky.

I was waiting for a bright ray to zap us from the sky.

It was Big Pretty, the DK Broiler, Big Ralph, Abs, Brandon, Sarah Boo and other family members enjoying the Cherry Festival and other festivities surrounding it.

I should have known something was up when a family of nine ducks high tailed for cover. I’ve always heard that the animals are the first to go when the weather is about to turn bad.

It was 96 degrees and sunny but that was all about to change. We could see a layer of black clouds I’d never seen before. They looked like the waves off the Pacific crashing into boulders off the Hawaii or California.

Suddenly the calm sky turned windy with gusts of about 50-60 miles an hour.

“Maybe we should get inside,” somebody shouted.

I didn’t need a second warning and disappeared with the ducks and scampered inside room 104 of the Brio Beach Front Inn. This storm was moving and it was moving fast. It struck quickly. By the time I reached the room the monsoon hit.

The wooden deck we enjoyed lunch on was soaking wet and the family of ducks were huddled under a wooden boat deck.

I heard thunder and saw lightning as the storm pounded the area. About an hour later I poked my head outside and two surprises await. The temperature was 20 degrees cooler and a double rainbow played across the eastern horizon.

I’ve never seen a double rainbow before, especially one you could see from start to end. It sat in front off a white house on the Eastern shore about two miles away. I don’t know much about rainbows but wondered if we ventured to the white house would we be looking up at the rainbow or would it disappear?

 

 

Grosse Pointe North should rehire Frank Sumbera

frank sumbera2My first sports writing job in Detroit was with the Detroit Free Press. The paper wanted to develop young talent that would go on to bigger and better things.

I was one of those people and my first assignment was covering prep sports in Macomb County, Harper Woods and Grosse Pointe. That is where I met Frank Sumbera, who was one of the nicest and most successful football and baseball coaches I’d encounter.

He always greeted you with an hand shake, smile and a story. He loved his job. He loved his kids and he loved to shoot the breeze. I made it to a number of Grosse Pointe North baseball and football games because the teams were good and the coach knew what he was doing.

Now Frank Sumbera is no longer employed at North although he is the third winningest baseball coach in state history (1,097 wins) and has more than 200 victories in football . He was fired although administrators want you to believe he walked away on his own.

One of two things happened. This gentle giant turned into a troll over the years or parents bitched about little Johnny not getting enough playing time or complained that Sumbera turned evil while trying to get the best out of his kids.

I don’t usually sign petitions, but I signed an online petition asking Grosse Pointe North administrators to rehire Sumbera. This man coached with class and had the respect of fellow coaches in the area.

Sumbera told Dave Goricki of The Detroit News that he was fired after administrators received complaints from parents who said he caused mental anguish to athletes and basically turned into a monster.

I just don’t believe it. That is not the man I knew. I knew Frank Sumbera, the kind gentleman. Did he get on players if they did not meet expectations? Yep. That’s what I would expect a great coach to do.

Varsity athletics are not rec leagues.

I am not going to dog parents that have problems with coaches. I was one of those parents when my daughter Celine played soccer at West Bloomfield High School. The coach said she was not one of his top 12 players and wasn’t even close. He made her a reserve. I knew in my heart that she was the best player on the team and if she started West Bloomfield was a much better team.

Despite being the second leading scorer her freshman season and outscoring both starters combined, she was benched. So I bitched and told the coach and administrators that if Celine started then West Bloomfield would win its division.

She finally got her chance to start her junior year only because four starters were injured. But Celine was upset. As soon as the injuries healed the plan was to bench her again.

I told her they could not bench her if she were the leading scorer on the team. She scored the first goal of the season and the game-winning goal in the championship game against Birmingham Seaholm, which WBHS won. She made All League, All District and All County. She scored 14 goals. The second highest scorer tallied five goals.

So coaches make mistakes and I believe parents have a right to complain. GPN parents are being portrayed as people who want their precious kids to be treated with kid gloves.

If they have legitimate concerns they should be heard. Sumbera should also be heard and his accusers should have to face him in an open forum. Let’s get it all out in the open.

Don’t stab the man in the heart in a dark back ally.

 

 

 

 

The small things make for a great Father’s Day

dime storeI grew tired of watching my shiny bald head in the mirror when I worked out in the morning at my health club. So I bought a couple of bandanas to wrap around my head.

The other day I drove to a graduation party in Detroit with my wife Abs. My children Brandon and Celine drove separately. Afterwards, Abs said she knew a cool place that sold bandanas of every color and design for my shiny, bald head. She suggested we stop there so she could buy a couple for me for Fathers Day.

We drove into the parking lot and were surprised to see Brandon walking toward us demanding that we get out of there as quickly as possible. Celine shopped for bandanas inside. We took off so we would not spoil the surprise.

I was thrilled that my family thought about me.

But that wasn’t the best part about Fathers Day. Celine wanted to hold my hand as we walked inside the Chrysler House for an hour long wait to enjoy brunch at The Dime Store. When I went for a walk downtown in the heat Brandon insisted on going with me, so we could visit without the ladies and talk.

We went to Avalon Bakery, Under Armor and a couple other shops before making it back to the Dime Store.

The gang bought me a flowered shirt that drew two compliments in one day and some shorts and T shirts. The gifts were not the best part of the day.

I received love and that meant more than anything. Celine wanted to hold hands and Brandon wanted to spend a few minutes alone with dad. Those are special moments that might sound corny to non dads, but I really appreciated it.

When I was young one of my goals was to make life better for my children than it was for me. We are on our way. Celine completed her freshman year at Stanford University,  made the deans list, is an officer in a women’s business group and is president of the sophomore class. Brandon carries a B averaged in high school and has his eye on helping children when he is an adult.

I am proud of both of them.

It is important for men to be good husbands. I believe it is even more important to be a great dad.

Detroit’s Mariners Park has good fishing and is safe

MyfishingMariner’s Park is not the best known of Detroit’s parks, but fisherman Sid swears that it is Detroit’s safest area.

It is tucked in the Northeast corner of the city abutted by Grosse Pointe Park and the mouth of the Detroit River as it meets Lake St. Clair. There are parts of Mariner’s Park which are typical Detroit. It is kind of dirty because people don’t pick up their litter. There are a couple of worn soccer goals that have not been score upon in years.

None of that matters to Sid who says he comes here to fish every day — weekend and week day. He’s got three poles poking in the river in search of silver bass and green bass,  cat fish and walleye.

You can catch anything in here,” said fisherman Sid, a retired Detroit auto worker. “We are not having a lot of luck today but sometimes you get a hit on your first line before you can get the second in the water. And it is like pop, pop, bam, bam all day long.”

My Golden State Warriors T-shirt draws his attention and ire.

“Hey man. I don’t like your shirt,” he said. “I was rooting for LeBron and the Cavs.”

I explain that I have a daughter who lives in the Bay area and she brings me back shirts with Golden State, Stanford and 49ers logos on them. That seems to satisfy Sid and we move on to other things.

We look out over the water. Belle Isle is just across the pale blue river. About a quarter mile to our left the water turns a deeper blue. That is the beginning of Lake St. Clair and its deeper, rougher waters.

“I’d rather sit out here than be in my back yard,” Sid says. “This is the safest place in the city. All the Detroit police come out here on their days off. There are some right over there.”

He points to a picnic table filled with laughing men and women playing cards. Two children sell bags of candy for a dollar a bag. A woman braids a young girls hair and people sit in their cars marveling at the open water and fresh air.

But mostly people fish. A woman pulled a Walleye out of a white bucket. The three foot monster is still flopping as she takes it home to cook.

Sid turns his attention to two other women who struggle bait their hooks. He laughs.

“Those girls got bells on their lines,” Sid says. “I’ve been coming out here for more than seven years and I ain’t ever used a bell in my life.”

One of the women turns our way.

“I know y’all talking bout us and our bells,” she said. “Tell that old man we gonna catch more fish than him.”

We share a laugh and I leave this budding fishing rivalry.

As I leave about a half dozen men debate where LeBron James will end up after free agency. By the way LeBron if you ever read this, the brothers out there don’t want you to end up in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform.

I am nearly in my car when a man stops me to talk.
‘What’s your boy Trump up to,” he asks.

I can tell a joke is coming but he wants to make a political statement at the same time.

“He’s rough on them Muslims and Hispanics,” he said. “We not gonna have none of them in our country after a while. You know we are next. So watch out”

I argue that Donald Trump will not begin randomly shipping black people to Africa.

“OK,” the man said chuckling. “I want you to remember what I told you after he ships your ass to Wakanda.”

I will make sure to keep my papers updated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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