Pistons Hall of Fame guard Isiah Thomas averaged 19.2 points a game for his career and is considered by many to be the second greatest point guard in NBA history behind Magic Johnson.
People who never saw him play often ask me why he did not average 25 or 2 6 points a game like Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
I give you two words.
Will Robinson is a legendary coach who worked as a consultant and scout for the Pistons when Thomas played. He stayed in Thomas’ ear, advising him.
Whenever I dropped by the Pistons practice facility I ducked my head into Robinson’s office for life lessons and lessons on basketball. Robinson often said Thomas had the talent to average 27 points a game.
But the goal here was not to put up gaudy numbers. Thomas came to Detroit to win championships.
“I always tell Isiah that your job is not to make yourself look good,” Robinson told me. “Your job is to make John Salley look good. Your job is to make Joe Dumars look good. You have to make Bill Laimbeer look good.”
Robinson’s word infiltrated my writings as beat writer for the Pistons and I often judged Thomas on how well he was involving teammates ahead of his breaking somebody down and taking him to the hole. It led to frustration on his part.
“What am I doing wrong here,” he said. “I think I have the right balance between scoring and assisting. What am I supposed to do?”
Thomas and I never talked about numbers and stats. It was always about titles and victory parades. Michael Jordan came into the NBA as a scoring machine but did not win titles until he made teammates better.
Chauncey Billups went through a similar transformation under coach Larry Brown in leading the Pistons to the 2004 NBA title. Brown came here and had tough, uncomfortable discussions and training sessions with Billups. The Pistons could not win that title without the addition of power forward Rasheed Wallace. Brown also knew that they could not win without unselfish point guard play from Billups.
So the two men burned the midnight oil and often argued about “playing the right way.” Brown, a former point guard at North Carolina and in the ABA, pushed Billups in ways nobody else did.
The year before the Pistons title run Billups averaged 3.9 assists per game. He boosted that to 5.7 assists during their championship year and 5.8 assists the following year when they lost in the NBA Finals to San Antonio.
James Harding averages 25.2 career points a game and has no titles. Westbrook 23.2 points a game. He also has yet to win a title. Isiah Thomas had the shake and bake and talent to do the same. But once again, why didn’t he do it?
I woke up the sound of sobs the other night and brushed it off as 2020 biting us in the ass again.
I was right. The sobs came from my daughter Celine’s bedroom as she mourned the death of actor Chadwick Boseman. Down goes the Black Panther and that was terrible news in our household.
A few minutes later I peeked into my girl’s bedroom and lectured her about the importance of getting a Colonoscopy to check for Colon cancer. That’s what Boseman died of at the tender age of 43. A few weeks ago our pal Jamie Samuelsen died at age 48 of the same vicious disease.
Doctors recommended that we begin Colonoscopy checkups at age 50. But something is happening in our country and now we are told to begin checkups at age 45 by the American Cancer Society. I don’t know if it is diet or lifestyle. About 10 percent of people who die from colon cancer die in their 40’s. I told Celine to get tested when she turns 45. I will tell my son Brandon the same.
I’ve had two in my life time and both test came up negative. My doctor said he sniped a couple tiny polyps and sent me on my way. The medical community recommends follow up treatment every 10 years. I’ve been put on the five year plan and I’m OK with that.
Colon cancer is vicious, random and deadly. We’ve already lost The Black Panther and Jam Sam 22. I don’t want to add you to the list.
Black Panther remains one of my favorite movies and Boseman gave an all-time great performance. He also played Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall and James Brown.
However, if you want to shed tears over Chadwick Boseman one more time, do a search on his appearance on Saturday Night Lives Black Jeopardy. He brought me to tears because I laughed so hard.
During a break in action during the 1994 Gus Macker 3 v 3 basketball tournament at Eastern Michigan University I glanced at the scoreboard and my Detroit News team trailed the Free Press 18-10.
Our rivals were three points from victory and advancing to the championship game of the toilet bowl media division. Things looked bleak. I had just left the Freep for a job at The News and my former buddies were rubbing it in pretty good during this ass kicking.
I was exhausted and ready to give up.
A Free Press pal named Bernie leaned in and said: “We are going to kick your ass.”
Stop the presses. That really pissed me off and I turned into something I’ve never been able to duplicate. I called time out, told my teammates what was said and screamed “We are not going down like this. We are going to win this game.”
If you are going to say something about kicking ass do it when its 0-0, not when you are on the verge of victory.
My News teammates had a dumb founded look on their faces as I spoke. They thought we were done too.
We broke from the huddle and I must have a crazed look on my face. Departed journalist, PR man and talk show host Cliff Russell was with his team and said: “Watch this. T is about to go off.”
We could not lose this game. I knew this was my last chance at winning a Macker trophy and I wanted to take some hardware home even if was a Toilet Bowl trophy in the media division. I didn’t care. I thought I was a decent back yard player, but I had a major flaw. I could not shoot. Former Freep sports writer Perry Ferrell used to call me Truck Robinson because my game was penetrating the lane for layups in a crowd.
After the time out I became Vinnie Johnson rolling off screens and hitting low line drive jumpers.
I became Isiah Thomas disappearing in the lane and hitting twisting layups in the lane.
I became Michael Jordan dunking and hanging on the rim. OK. Let’s stop the presses again. That did not happen. The only thing I could dunk at age 35 was an Oreo cookie into a glass of milk.
But we rallied and everybody played inspired defense and got me the ball. I hit a jumper in the lane to tie the score at 20 all. We were essentially in overtime. The first team to take a two point lead won.
The next time we got the ball the Freep players were exhausted. They left me alone at the top of the key at the three-point line. Each basket counted one point but shots from the three-point line counted two.
I let fly with the game-winning attempt and did something I’ve never done in my life. I began to celebrate when the shot was half way to the basket. I knew it was going in that’s how hot I was.
By the time the ball went into the basket we were celebrating, rolling around on the pavement as victors.
I saw Bernie after the game and said: “You should have kept your mouth shut.”
That put us in the championship game against the Observe and Eccentric and my good friend Box who watched my miracle from the sidelines. Steve Kowalski was a fellow CMU Chip and I played against him and with him hundreds of times during pickup games at Schoolcraft Community College. He was a better player than I and somehow his team also ended up in the losers bracket. I thought they had a shot to win it all.
The magic continued. I could not miss and we broke into an early lead. Then something strange happen. That special feeling left just like that. It was if my Ferry God Mother waved a magical wand and said “Enough. Bring him back to Earth.”
I called time out again and spoke to my team.
“You guys are going to have to carry us the rest of the way,” I said. “I’m done.”
I hit a few baskets now and then, but I became John Stockton getting the ball to Karl Malone. Prep sports writer Jim Spadafore became the star of the show. We hung on and became the 1994 Gus Macker All-World Tour Toilet Bowl champs.
I am going to put a lot on LeBron James’ plate today. It might be unfair and it might be a burden too heavy for him to carry.
But he is the king of sports, the king of the hill. James is highly respected in every league and in every dressing room across sports. He should call up the power broker players in Major League Baseball, the NFL, NHL and NBA and shut down all of professional sports for at least the rest of the year.
The year 2020 has already been a wacky one. Why not one more shocker?
Tell the world you are really sick and tired of watching police mow down brothers and sisters in the streets, their bedrooms and back yards. Enough is enough. You’ve had it.
Shut it down.
Athletes were outraged at the George Floyd murder a few months ago. So was society who took to the streets in just about every major city in the country, including Detroit. You would think that would be the end of it. But the shootings continued, including the incident in Kenosha, Wisc where a police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back in front of his children.
That caused the shut down of the NBA as fed up players from the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play a playoff game against the Orlando Magic. A number of opening round series were discontinued. Some games in baseball were shut down. I applaud the Detroit Lions for cancelling practice for a day.
Former NBA player and basketball analyst Kenny Smith walked off the set of TNT Wednesday night in disgust.
At the very least NBA players should not return to finish the playoffs. If they return what have they really accomplished? All the Game 5’s that were delayed will be played along with the rest of the playoffs.
“This is tough. I mean right now my head is ready to explode,” Smith said. “Like just in the thoughts of what’s going on. I don’t even know if I am even appropriate enough to say it, what the players are feeling and how they are feeling. I haven’t talked to any of the players. Coming in and even driving here, getting into the studio, hearing calls and people talking …
“And for me, I think the biggest thing now as a Black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight.”
And he then walked off the set.
Athletes are sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’m fed up also. So are many in the black community.
Let me go through your litany of counter arguments. The men killed were resisting arrest. They had a criminal past. They are not good people. None of these excuses are excuses for execution.
You may not be upset. Black people are. Black athletes are. Shut it down.
“It’s amazing we keep loving this country,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers told the media. “And this country does not love us back.”
Why play for a fan base that does not care about you? It is a fan base that only applauds you when you are entertaining them and often tells athletes to shut up and dribble the basketball. Shut it down.
Kneeling does not work. T-shirts do not work. Black Lives Matter chants do not work. Maybe shutting down all leagues will.
It’s worth a try in order to finally wake America up.
My Aunt Margo pulled out a pack of the worst tasting cinnamon rolls and poured a glass of milk inside her second story kitchen on Detroit’s west side.
Then she called me to meet her. During big moments in my life Aunt Margo called me up to her kitchen to lecture me. Sometimes it was about girls, sometimes about money. She even gave me a lecture before beginning a summer job as a heavy cleaner at The Detroit Free Press.
I was confused why I was getting a lecture this day. I was 13, had no job, no girl friend that she knew of and nothing important was coming up.
This was the lecture every kid in my neighborhood got.
How to survive a police stop 101. Even in the 1970’s we feared that a police stop might be our last one in life. Margo wanted to make sure I knew what to do so that I would return home safely.
The issue of police shooting an unarmed black male came up again this week as Kenosha, Wis. police shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back leaving him paralyzed. Our country was all but shut down following the George Floyd murder at the hands of Minneapolis police.
During my youth police shot unarmed black males more often than they do today. My aunt did not want the same thing to happen to me. So she told me to sit down, shut up and listen as if my life depended on it.
I began munching on the nasty tasting cinnamon rolls and drank my milk.
“The police don’t really want to shoot and kill you. But they will. Your life is not as valuable as a white kids. If you get stopped I want you to treat it as a job interview. Your job is to get out of that situation as quickly and as safely as possible. That officer wants to go home to his wife and kids as badly as you want to return to our house.
“And do you know why y’all get shot? Fear. The police and black men are natural enemies. They fear black men. Black men fear the police. For whatever reason y’all start acting a fool around each other. I want you to do me a favor. Remain calm. Do not yell. This is a job interview. Even when they are wrong, they are right. Yeah, they might call you a nigger, but you got to let that roll off your back. Do you want to swallow your pride or be put in a wooden box?”
I got the lecture because gun violence ran in the family. My father was shot and killed by a white police officer. An uncle was gunned down and seriously wounded. Aunt Margo wanted the streak to end with me and my children. She even lectured me about not hanging out with the wrong crowd and how to wiggle out of the clutches of a neighborhood thug who’d bust a cap in my ass as easily as a cop.
These are Aunt Margo’s rules of engagement with the police. Warning. Some of these might be outdated. I got my lectures 45-50 years ago.
Treat it like a job interview.
Cooperate even if the police ask you to do something demeaning. If he says lay face down in mud, do it. If he asks you to juggle four baseballs, do it.
Do not yell. Talk as calm as possible. Yelling gets everybody excited. Violence is more likely to happen when everybody is on edge. The police don’t stop you with the intent of harming you. But they are more likely to do so when they are nervous.
Humanize yourself. Many in society view black people as sub human. Tell them what church you attend, what school you go to. Tell them about our family, what your future dreams are. It is more difficult to shoot somebody you know than a total stranger.
Do not reach for something in your car without permission. And if you do tell the officer what you are trying to obtain and assure him there is no weapon in the car.
Do not point at the police. They can always say they thought you had a weapon even if you didn’t.
Do not run or walk away from the police. It is a move that agitates.
Do not show fear.
If you are outside a vehicle do not attempt to go back inside.
Find a way to lighten the mood. No one will shoot you if they are having a good day.
My moment of truth came at age 18 as I walked to work on West Fort Street toward the Detroit Free Press River Front printing plant where I worked summers as a heavy cleaner.
I noticed a police cruiser slow down and two police officers eyeing me as I approached the main post office. A few hours earlier a black male robbed a downtown bank and escaped. I was waking down the street with a canvas money bag my grandmother used to pack my lunch in.
The short burst from the sirens startled me, but I quickly got it together as I approached the police cruiser. The officer on the passenger side got out of the car and asked me to step inside.
They told me about the bank robbery and I they noticed my bank bags.
“What’s inside the bag,” one officer asked.
“I have two honey loaf sandwiches, chips and a chocolate chip cookie,” I said. “You can have one of my sandwiches if you let me go.”
The men laughed.
We spoke for a few minutes longer. I told them I was going to work as a heavy cleaner, but one day I was going to work at the Free Press in the sports department as a writer.
They laughed again.
“No,” I said. “I’m serious. You will be reading me in the paper some day.”
They wished me luck and told me to have a nice day as they released me to finish my walk to work. They even showed me a photo of the suspect. One guy asked my name again so he’d know what by line to look for in the paper.
“You do know this is racial profiling,” I told them. “I look way better than this guy. Besides, he’s really fat.”
I knew I was safe when they laughed again.
“Hey what about that sandwich,” one of the officers said.
“I was just kidding,” I said. “I get hungry at my job. I’m keeping the sandwiches.”
My Aunt Margo was a tough old gal. She battled breast cancer for 25 years.
But at age 84 the end was near.
I knew she was dying and I wanted to visit her every day until her death. I got a phone call from an editor at The Detroit News. He wanted me to go out of town for a few days for an assignment.
I told him I did not want to go. I explained the pain I was going through watching my aunt die. I told him how much she meant to me, how much I loved her. He listened patiently.
I thought he’d show some compassion. After I finished my piece there was an awkward moment of silence. He pushed one more time for me to leave my family.
“Well she’s not dead yet,” he said.
I wanted to kill the man — like for real.
“Are you fucking kidding me,” I said.
Later he said “it’s not like its your mother.”
He didn’t understand our relationship. I lived with this women until I became an adult. She was my mother, father and Yoda all rolled into one. She took me to Tigers and Pistons games. She gave me the black man lecture on how to deal with the police. And she took me on trips that she could not afford.
I loved this woman so much.
Before I said something to the editor I really regretted, I hung up the phone.
Those words hurt. This man obviously had no compassion for me or my family. A story meant more than my family. I was both pissed and devastated.
The day I was supposed to leave on the trip my cousin Miss Boots called. She said I needed to visit Aunt Margo that day because she was quickly deteriorating. And she told me to bring her “grand babies.” That is what Margo called my kids. Celine, 5, and Brandon, almost 3 were her grand babies.
Celine had school that day so I dressed Brandon and we drove to my aunt’s house. We climbed the stairs to her second story flat and walked to her bedroom. She lay motionless in the bed. Her skin was a pale gray. I thought I made it too late to say good bye.
“Oh honey bun,” I said.
Her eyes opened. She saw Brandon and her face lit up the room. She appeared to come back to life. Brandon was a little stand offish as a kid. He allowed Margo to hug him and then stood at the foot of the bed while we talked.
I knew this was it. I asked if she were afraid of death. She said she lived a full life and seeing me do well as a journalist made her proud. She was not afraid. She was also appreciative of her “grand babies.”
We talked for nearly two hours. I was so happy that I was not on some plane flying across the country. This is where I belonged.
Brandon was getting antsy. The boy needed to be fed. I told my aunt how much I loved her and appreciated her tough love that helped guide me through turbulent times in my life.
Brandon and I stood by the entrance of her bedroom as I said my final good byes. Then it happened. Brandon raced toward her for one final hug. I don’t know where this came from. But this gesture meant so much to me and it meant the world for a dying woman. She hugged and kissed Brandon and told him he was going to make us all proud of him some day.
I was already proud of him. It was a touching scene — one that brought me to tears in the car.
“Well she’s not dead yet.”
I could not erase those words from my mind. If I went on that road trip this moment never happens. I never get to say so-long to my aunt.
The next morning Boots called me early in the morning. Margo was gasping for air. She was leaving us.
I took a quick shower and rushed to be by her side one more time. By the time I arrived to the house on Vancouver Street the coroner’s wagon was already there. I raced up the stairs just in time to see two men wrap her up in a blanket and sling her onto a gurney.
It was upsetting to see this. However, I had that tiny ray of sunshine that I could hang on to. I thought about how happy she was when Brandon ran back for that final hug. Then my mind clouded again.
There were two incidents upon my failed return to 97.1 FM in 2017 where I should have rode away into the sunset and called it a career. I was clearly still recovering from two strokes that changed me into a different person.
The first incident happened when a black caller called me an Uncle Tom. That happens from time to time when I am not calling for the brothers to revolt and bust a couple crackers upside the head. I had the audacity to disagree with this guy. He said I was a Tom.
Usually that incites me to riot. I might talk about the guys momma and tell him to crawl back to his east side rib shack while I continue to speak to thousands on this 97.1 blow torch.
This time I lacked the energy, wit and desire to fire back. I took the ass whuppin in silence. I could see Valenti and Sully urging me to go after the guy. I let it slide.
That wasn’t me.
The second incident occurred the day after a Michigan State-Wisconsin basketball game. I watched a NASCAR event that day also and was accused of watching the race and not the more important Big Ten basketball game.
Mike and Mike decided to ask me a series of questions to determine if I watched the game. The thing I discovered that day is I could not remember things when under stress. I felt very challenged and stressed at the moment and flubbed ever question.
Again, that was not me. Why did I not walk away then?
Doing radio wasn’t the toughest part of the day for me. It was facing my wife Abs. She’d watch me return home sick and defeated. And she’d cry because this was not the guy she married. I became this new quiet introverted guy.
“You are not a bad guy,” she said to me. “This is just a new guy.”
I felt that I let everybody down and there was no way to make it up. I felt unwanted, unproductive and washed up in radio. I had no business on a high energy, high profile radio show. I let my family down because I’d come home from work most nights as the class clown bragging how I got under Mike’s skin that day. Now I came home as a modern day mummy. I needed a job wearing a shirt and tie typing up reports or writing blogs.
No one was hiring though.
I needed an exit strategy.
I no longer cared that the Detroit Lions have not been to a Super Bowl. I didn’t care about Detroit Tiger losing streaks or about bad draft picks by the Pistons. That is not a good mentality if you are doing talk radio in Detroit.
Here is what kept me going. I had a family and I had kids who I promised a college education even before they were born. I was too young (58) to retire and I needed to push them along financially.
I worked at The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, WDFN and 97.1 because I loved it. Now I was working for money and it felt different. I hated my job because I mostly hated myself.
I tried to come back too soon. None of us at the station knew how to deal with a stroke victim. Me included. My mind was in a different place. I felt disrespected, unwanted and standing in the way of progress at the station.
Valenti asked if I wanted him to treat me differently because of the strokes. I said no. Treat me the same. It was a mistake on my part. I thought he was less tolerant of me and became meaner after my return. That may not have been the case, but that’s the way I felt. Like I said my mind was in a different place — perhaps a darkened place.
I got sick after every show, sometimes fighting the urge to throw up in the car.
I woke up every morning energized and ready to tackle the day. By noon I wanted to crawl up in a shell and hide from society. I was afraid to face callers. I was afraid of my radio partners. I was afraid to look at Ticket Text. I was afraid of me because I didn’t know who this new guy was.
I noticed that most times we made pre-show decisions it came down to a 3-1 vote. Hatchet, Sully and Mike voted one way. I was always the lone wolf.
I was a radio talk show host who didn’t want to talk. How does that work?
Dr. Eislander warned me this would happen, but he allowed me on the air against his better judgement. He knew I’d bug him for the rest of his life about going back to radio. I had to see for myself.
The way he explained it was my brain was rewiring and figuring out how to get my thoughts moving along a new pathway.
In a previous post I wrote that I never want to be on the airwaves at 97.1 and I never want to step foot in that building. That remains true, but it has nothing to do with Mike Valenti, Mike Sullivan or David Hull. It has nothing to do with my exit either. I will keep the real reason to myself.
Even four years later I am not my old self. I believe I can do anything in the world until I actually try to do it. Then I see my short comings and it pains me. I get frustrated and want to scream. But I don’t. Doctors tell me to take it a day at a time. I am still recovering. What they fear is depression. If I sink into a depressed state then its a wrap.
I don’t know what would happen.
I am getting blow back from some in the public who want me to discontinue this blog. They say I am only doing it for the attention.
I do it because its fun. And I do it because of Dr. Eislander. He wants as much joy in my life as possible. He knows I love to write. And since I cannot get a newspaper job he wants me to duplicate my previous life as closely as I can.
Since I cannot perform a daily four hour radio show he advised me to do a couple podcasts a week.
Every day I fight the urge to disappear. Some days I don’t want to talk to anybody. That includes wife, kids. I even stop talking to myself.
There were big docs and little docs. Black docs and white docs. Asian docs and Indian docs. Men docs and women docs.
There were a room full of doctors. About 100 in all. And then there was me.
They spoke a language I did not understand. They were doctors who treated extreme cases of Type 2 diabetes. I was not there to learn from them. They were stuffed inside a ball room at the Detroit MGM Hotel to listen to me talk.
My story had gotten around their circles. I was a guy who was a Type 2 diabetic who got rid of the disease. How did I do it?
Type 2 diabetes can become a very serious disease. According to the American Diabetes Association more than 270,000 people died of diabetes in 2017. That’s more people than Covid-19 has claimed in the United States. In a few years one third of the United States will have the disease because of sitting on the couch and making poor food choices.
Once you get it, that’s it people are told. This is the way you will die eventually. These doctors wanted to know how I did it. They said when they first diagnose someone with Type 2 diabetes that half of their patients do not return. They see no way to fight the disease and give up.
As a last resort to save the patient these doctors perform amputations. They cut off legs and feet. It is a procedure they no longer want to perform. How do they get patients to return so they can be treated in other ways without amputation?
Diabetes is measured by the sugar in your blood. Or A1C. If your A1C is 5.8 or 5.9 you are pre diabetic. My A1C came in at 10.8. That’s bad. A friend of mine had an A1C of 14.0 and sometimes blacked out.
I changed my lifestyle and during my last exam my A1C checked in at 5.2
“You know that you are no longer diabetic,” one of the doctors told me.
How did I do it? How can they get their patients to fight the disease rather than give up?
In front of all these important people I held up a cartoon. It showed a bald-headed man driving through the country side buying fruits and vegetables. And the caption read “You are in the driver’s seat to good health.”
I took that cartoon to heart. I had control of this. My doctors would show me the path to good health, but I needed to take some responsibility also. I treated it like a game. I would set weekly goals with the ultimate one to be diabetes free.
I’d never heard of anybody doing it. But I was going to be the one.
I cut down on carbs, ate more fish, chicken and gave up pop.
More importantly I exercised for at least an hour four to five times a week and drank lots of water whether I was thirsty or not. One doctor told me that an hour of exercise was like taking a shot of insulin. Water is a medicine nobody knows about. During this pandemic I walk and walk and walk. I walk twice a day for at least two miles. Twice a week I do my big walks around Union Lake — a journey of 6.5 miles.
I have music blasting in my head phones to allow the time to pass more quickly.
My journey began by doctors prescribing 20 units of insulin. So every morning after breakfast I grabbed a needle and shot myself in the stomach or leg. I was assigned to Dr. Mahalakshmi Honasoge of the endocrinology department at Henry Ford Health System in Novi who advised me through my journey.
We met every six months. On my second visit after being diagnosed with Type 2 she reduced my insulin to eight units. Then we reduced it to six units six months later. Despite the reduction in units I was taking too much insulin and got sick because of low blood sugar.
Six months after that she asked a lot of questions. She wanted to know what I was eating, how often I was exercising. We spoke for nearly an hour.
“We are going to take you off insulin because you are doing so well,” she said.
She prescribed Metformin. I don’t know what this stuff does, but I completely lost my appetite. I had no interest in food. After complaining of the side affects I was placed on Januvia.
“Talk to your endocrinologist first, but I think we can take you off Januvia,” said my primary care physician Lisa Elconin.
My last visit with Dr. Honasage came during the pandemic. So we had a virtual visit. She asked the same questions. Before I logged off she looked into the camera and said: “You don’t need to visit me any longer. I think we are done here. You can come by just to visit if you want. But we are done.”
She wanted to see if I could manage my A1C for three years. I did. My A1C hovered between 4.6 and 5.4 for the most part during the three years.
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.