Our winner is …

I’m very pleased to announce the winner of my family’s fourth scholarship in honor of our parents — the Theodore and Dorothy Robinson Memorial Scholarship for volunteer service at Interboro High in suburban Philadelphia. It is given to a graduating senior active in the community — in the mold of Dorie and Dottie, for whom volunteer work was long part of their lives.

This year’s winner is Kimberly Nguyen. Kimberly is a top student at Interboro and is extremely involved in her local community. She is very deserving and will be attending Yale University in the fall. Very impressive!

Congratulations, Kimberly. We are proud and blessed to be able to provide this award each year.

Links to our lives

I just learned the young lady to whom my family gave our first college scholarship has earned her degree. I got chills at the news. The best kind.

It isn’t like we funded her education, only a small part of it. Very small. But the thought that drove our modest gesture was to honor our father and mother, who lived and worked and contributed to the same little suburban-Philadelphia town their whole lives. My sister, brother and I, and our spouses, four years ago started a memorial fund in their names – Theodore and Dorothy. Dorie and Dottie. And each June we have awarded it to a student at our old high school who volunteers in some fashion and who, in a short essay, best explains how community service has impacted or otherwise changed their life.

We’ll get about 10 or 12 essays every spring. It is an honor to know those 10 or 12 have read a bit about my parents and their numerous contributions to their hometown. American Legion commander. July 4th committee president. Election official. Church choir singer and board secretary. Youth club founder. On and on. Each has been gone more than a decade, but their lives remain a local presence still with a bit of influence.

That’s gratifying, as it is to be able to help a young person in my parents’ mold to extend their own influence while tending to their own aspirations.

Our fifth winner will be announced Thursday night at the school’s awards assembly. We don’t yet know their identity, only their impressive credentials. But we do know the skip in our hearts, and the touch of moisture in our eyes, we will feel when that name is revealed.

It happens every year. For me, it heralds the bond that instantly forms, a lasting link from my life’s heroes to a young life full of hope and promise.

Truly, a chilly moment. The best kind.

Sifting through turned pages


  • The year my late father would have hit 100. We lost him 15 years ago, but most days something about him pops into my head – an image or a favorite phrase or a memory of a moment. My late mom turns up in there, too — she’d be 95 in May. That’s a great thing the way I see it. It means good memories from a strong, loving relationship. I know the latter where parents and kids are concerned is pretty much case by case, so I count myself very fortunate.
  • 40 years now since I took my first real job, as a sports writer in Norfolk. Actually, the first assignment kept me 10 months in Suffolk, covering high school sports, tractor pulls, recreation softball and who-knows-what-all. Rural is as rural does. No doubt it was a great education for a total know-nothing from the Philly burbs. I owe a couple of people big-time for the job. They know who they are. Went on and on at that paper for 31 years. Much of it was flush times, amazing to think about in today’s distressed terrain of “legacy” media. We had money, we did things, I got to do my own column and travel and call most of my own shots for a long while, for a wage liveable enough to raise two kids. A pretty good way to go.
  • Five years since I lucked into marrying the spectacular Deelyn. We met through a friend, as we were dealing with a bunch of stuff we’ve helped each other through. She said “Yes” in the Eiffel Tower. My, how we’ve grown. My, the things we’ve been blessed to do together – travel, pursue running and life-changing fitness, create a warm home with dogs and cats and laughter and chaos. And to enjoy improved physical and mental health unquestionably through eliminating meat from our diet. Forgive my few seconds here on the soapbox. I know going veg and/or vegan isn’t for everybody – though you don’t know till you try – but for us it has been magic. Happy fifth right around the corner, my dear.
  • The 32nd year for my oldest, the 29th for my youngest. Which makes their dad, well, we’ll get to that. These kids are the damn best; how’s that for original dad-praise? The girl became a loyal Californian — San Francisco, to be exact — almost a decade ago; the boy a mountains-loving Coloradan not long after. You raise them to fly and they flew; what’s to be sad about that? I like to think an image, a favorite phrase or a memory of a moment with me pops into their heads from time to time. Maybe even daily. That would make heading into my 65th year an even more wonderful thing.

The grace of “that little dog”

We were so nervous, afraid even. Our dogs, bless them, were not. That made all the difference.

My old yellow lab Ollie, and Dee’s Atticus, a handsome Aussie shepherd-collie mix, had never met until five years ago. She and I were moving toward combined lives, though – three years married this March — so bringing together our loyal paw pals as well was a necessity. One small problem. As a rule, those boys abided few other dogs. It was just their nature. It seemed their meeting, whenever it came, would not be good.

So we prepared. We picked a free Sunday afternoon, a neutral site – no “turf” to defend that way – and hired a trainer to supervise the little meet-and-greet. We parked on different sides of the lot, leashed up our dogs and, like gunslingers to the duel, slowly walked toward each other. Feigning calm and confidence, we met the trainer, still with the boys at a safe remove.

But a strange thing happened. Nothing.

Ollie and Atticus barely looked at each other, each content to just be. The trainer suggested we take a walk. And so we did, gently merging our steps to where first Dee and I were side by side, and then so were our dogs.

And that was that. Peace in the kingdom, friends then and friends always. Until Ollie wore out two years ago and left us with the one sweet, sweet boy who reunited with Ollie a week ago today.

It had been a tough year for Attie, who hit 10 years (or so) at healthy speed before a downhill out of nowhere. First came a serious bout with pancreatitis, followed by chronic bronchitis that gave him a hacking cough. Arthritis flared up, a slow-growing tumor appeared, and his lab work showed significant degrees of kidney and liver distress. Various meds were tried, then others. Energy waned, lethargy grew. Recently Attie’s paw pads began to blister so badly – liver disease can do that – that even simple walks in the backyard were out, let alone our usual twice-daily adventures.

Merciful goodbyes are still wrenching goodbyes.

Our solace is the happy place in the world Atticus came to occupy against ridiculous odds. Neglected and abused in his first home – what is wrong with people? – Atticus was salvaged by Deelyn and her kids, who refused to hear it when the vet incorrectly diagnosed terminal cancer at Attie’s first exam! Aside from an, um, often-uncomfortable instinct to protect his house and people, Atticus matured into a perfect pup, a loyal watchman, the most unflagging of friends.

It is a gnawing emptiness. We listen for the shake of Attie’s collar in the morning, my cue to get moving, let’s go, time to eat. We look for him in Dee’s dressing closet, comfy warm and nap-cozy. No one harrumphs at the nettlesome cats anymore. Attie did that job well. You can tell they don’t know what to do, either.

Time will heal, just not yet.

Atticus and Tom Robinson, protagonists of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” linked again, how great is that? Fittingly, Attie came into the room and put his head in my lap the day we let Ollie go. He just knew. “That little dog,” as Dee always called him, gave me one of the most indelible moments of my life.

It’s often said that humans don’t deserve dogs. We’re forever blessed that Atticus – eyes bright, spirit strong – gave us his grace anyway.

Learning late, at least

I was sorry to hear about the actor Chadwick Boseman’s death. Especially as all of these incredible tributes to his life and work poured in over the weekend, I was sorry to hear that I’d never really heard of Chadwick Boseman.

I’ll explain. I’d seen Boseman in his first breakout role, as Jackie Robinson in “42” when that movie came out in 2013. He was very compelling as Robinson, a difficult role about a monumental man. So I’m sure I was aware of his name at that time.

But days move on, we have our lives and pursuits, we are of certain generations and we (well, some of us, probably to our loss) pay zero attention to the Marvel movie franchise, which of course is where Boseman made his greatest impact in “Black Panther.”

Now after learning the kind of intense and gentle soul Boseman was, of his talent and humanity, hearing of the incredible warrior within that allowed him to battle colon cancer off the grid for years while still contributing major, impactful work and deeds, well, I feel as though I dully napped through a giant walking in my midst.

Boseman, only 43 at his death, seems more than an African American and movie hero, but a cultural — even societal — rock in a teetering country and world so desperate for stability, consistency, love.

I want to continue to learn about what I missed out on Boseman while he lived. I want to find and watch his movies, appreciate his talent, and read more about why and how he influenced lives.

I want to be more aware as a person, more awake, more grateful for the depth of passion and genius around me.

I’m sorry to hear of Chadwick Boseman’s death. I’m hopeful his footprints — much like his characters Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall — will lead us all to more dignified days.

When we were (baseball) kings

It’s been fun for me to peruse the Norfolk newspaper – that sadly isn’t located in Norfolk anymore as you might know – this week. Burdened with next-to no live sports to report on, the section for the last little while has turned to its archives for stories to run under a “Our Greatest Hits” banner. A few pieces I did years ago, quite a few years actually, have been pulled from the cobwebs this week, timed with the June 10 major league baseball draft.

I don’t look back a great deal, but reading the stories again was a cool reminder of what a ridiculously fertile baseball breeding ground I was fortunate to write about, particularly in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, where year-round travel ball clubs first took root — to huge effect — in Tidewater.

The stories I’ve linked to below chronicle a staggering blip in time when first-round draft picks seemed to grow on trees on the so-called Southside, and even national reporters showed up to try to figure out what the heck was going on.

  • Ryan Zimmerman, (also linked above) picked No. 4 just a few minutes after Justin Upton 15 years ago. Think about that.
  • In between them, in 2001, another first-rounder cropped up out of Chesapeake’s Hickory High. Fellow named David Wright. (No link – but man, what a great player and charming guy.)


All of the above went on to log long big-league careers – Justin Upton and Zimmerman are still going, assuming baseball gets off its road to implosion — except for Curtice, a pitcher who barely got off the ground in pro ball because of arm trouble. The paper also re-ran his “whatever happened to” story from 2013 here.

Tidewater remains a strong baseball area, but for nearly a decade, a couple of decades ago, it was as hot as any California, Florida or Texas hotbed. 

Truly amazing times. Enjoy the memories.

Fair winds, old friends

This is a difficult day in the life of local media and in the life of many former colleagues. They have met their fate, as did I five-plus years ago, in the form of a buyout from a once-great newspaper cut and slashed to not even a husk of its recognizable self.

An empty office, on an empty day . . .

I share their ache as they pass bittersweet texts and photos along a digital chain of tears on their day of departure.

For many, probably most, there is pain certainly, especially for those to whom it was suggested leaving was in their best interest. But somewhere buried there — and they slowly show their faces over time — are the best memories of working lives that paid for homes and college educations, careers that nurtured and thrilled, and of relationships formed and solidified, indelible to all forces.

It was the very best of times; in its prime, our mothership had money, abundant and staggering talent, ambition, local, state and national reputation, creativity, empathy and bottomless fortitude.

It has become the worst of times; skeletal resources, thin reserves, ceaselessly spinning exit doors, dreaded goodbyes.

It’s empty, I’m well aware, but I wish my friends fair seas — even as their brains are a clutter of emotion, trepidation, hope, fear, excitement and gratitude. It’s a hell of a combo platter. The business is in their blood. The rush of grinding today and seeing the fruit of their labor anchored in print first thing tomorrow — or ok, immediately online — remains in all of them. It is like few others they have known, and that they will ever know again.

They have served themselves and their families and their community well beyond words. Damn those who seek to sully their life’s work with rabid attacks and false narratives. Damn the tides, and derelict vision of leadership, that have created the roiling sea changes that continue unabated.

This is a difficult day. But know, my friends, that there are great things for you all ahead, because ambition, intelligence, diligence, humanity and grace are perennials. They travel well. They are in short supply.

So count your blessings. Look forward. And be well-pleased with the footprint you’ve left with your collective years, because it is true. It is real. And it is permanent.

Reading not even the fine print

Team of Rivals cover.jpg

This is a fine book about Abraham Lincoln and the political competitors he employed in his cabinet as our 16th president. And Doris Kearns Goodwin is a great historian, a Pulitzer Prize winner for another book about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

But I’ve cracked it open at least twice, put it down, picked it back up, fished around at different ends looking for an interesting bite, and ultimately shut it up and put it back down.

Embarrassed to say it, I can’t get into its 757-page travels, not including a voluminous index.

This bothers me, though. I like to think I am attracted to and can absorb this kind of dive into U.S. history. I like to think I want to know more about Lincoln, the civil war, all the challenges of his life and times. I like to think all that, but when eyeball meets page with this one, it just hasn’t stayed there long.

Which I’ve determined is really nothing against the book and everything about my scattershot and depressing reading habits. Because now that I come to think of it, a biography of Truman bought long ago sits in a box somewhere, barely touched. Same, I think, for the aforementioned Roosevelt book by the same author, No Ordinary Time, although I might have tossed that one in the move, I don’t remember.

Sigh. I chalk it up to too much stimulation, too many options, of course, and too much life in the way — not lack of interest or motivation, oh noooo. Too much to read and rabbit holes to explore on the infernal YouTube. So much within such easy access now, so many newspapers and magazines and web stories — long reads, deep dives, New Yorker profiles that go on and on for days — to scramble a brain and scrap every good intention to, classically, be better well read.

It’s enough for me to just get through a skim of the Wall Street Journal during breakfast many days, maybe follow an interesting Twitter link for a quick sports, entertainment or politics read later on, and if I’m lucky knock out a few pages of whatever actual printed book I might have designs on “finishing,” haha.

I don’t like it, but it seems it’s the current state of Laissez-faire that not even the starburst of a New Year’s resolution is up to reversing. That is to say, honest, earnest, team-inspiring Abe is heading back to the library tomorrow.

In my heart, I believe I’ll catch up with him another time, although the big fella shouldn’t call me. I’ll call him.

A Stern moment in time

It was easy to start recollecting when the news came Wednesday of David Stern’s death following a recent brain hemorrhage. Commissioner of the NBA for 30 years, Stern in 1984 took over a flagging league whose playoff games were broadcast on tape delay, for goodness sake — you can hardly even comprehend that scenario — and turned it into an international obsession.

He was a clearly a great commissioner, and as I heard one commentator say Wednesday, his demeanor and governing philosophy was such that he was probably the most approachable sports commissioner ever.

He was a powerful star, but you could actually talk to him — and don’t fall over, but you could actually joke with him, all casual-like.

I discovered this in my only dealing with him, some 20 or more years ago, when then-Norfolk mayor Paul Fraim was courting an NBA expansion team. As a local sports scribe, I attended a presser where Stern — I believe in New York — was commenting on NBA expansion and other hoops issues.

I wish I had clearer recall of the time and place. What I definitely remember is cornering Stern after the official news conference for a brief chat. That is, Stern made himself available for anyone afterward to answer questions in an informal setting, which seems pretty remarkable today.

So after standing by till he was through with others, I cautiously approached and introduced myself as being from Norfolk. He replied with a smile and a quick joke referencing Norfolk’s aborted ABA experience in the ’70s, which immediately let me know he very much knew Norfolk — and that he very much knew Norfolk had no shot in the world to get an NBA team.

The larger point, though, is we continued to talk a couple more minutes, and he seemed fine with it. That gave me enough comfort and confidence that I eventually leaned in and, oddly emboldened, gently poked the lapel of his jacket with my index finger while asking a question.

What the … ?

Security should have swept in, ear-pieces blazing, wrestled me to the ground and turfed me out, a la the bruising ouster of Jimmy Stewart and Clarence from Nick’s in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Believe me, I would have less-than zero shot at poking current NBA commissioner Adam Silver in the lapel, nor would I think to even attempt it. But Stern showed no consternation over my impromptu nonchalance, made his last comment, and I was on my way.

It’s a cool memory and a true fact regarding Stern’s overall persona. No doubt he was as tough and unyielding as you can get in business, which is why the modern NBA is what it is. But yep, he was poke-the-lapel approachable, which is one other small piece to consider when mulling the historic legacy of David Stern’s life and heady times in the NBA.

Many questions

I enjoy the hell out of watching Tom Hanks as David S. Pumpkins, his SNL character from three Halloweens ago. Now, if you can tell me why I enjoy this skewed skit so much — other than being a notoriously easy audience, of course — I’d love to know.

So there’s one of my many questions.

Happy Halloween.