Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pep Talk: "Fortitude"

The Target clerk and your aging jock-journalist were chuckling about the preceding customer. An attentive mom was juggling paying for items and caring for toddler. The daughter was fascinated with the keypad most of us, with debit or credit, acquire the stuff we need to survive. The darling young girl wanted a sticker from the clerk, who readily agreed, handing the satisfied lass a prized possession. “Sticker.” said the human in the early stages of speech. Very cute.

So the clerk and I are giggling about this young girl’s cuteness. Then the mood changed quickly. It was my fault. “How’s business this morning?” Beautiful eyes bored into me, “It’s been kinda slow.”

It was the day after the Denver Broncos shocking double-overtime playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The Mile High City mood was somber. The unexpected and unwanted had happened. Those united behind the orange and blue were quite blue.
Heck, while walking around the retail giant’s Glendale, Colorado store, I had separate phone conversations with mother and sister about the game. Two ladies living in Kansas City, Kansas were talking about a thriller that left the Bronco Nation wondering, “What the heck just happened?

Played in bitterly cold temperatures on the Bronco’s home turf, the game reminded me of the 1971 Christmas Day playoff battle in Kansas City between the home-town Chiefs and visiting Miami Dolphins. I was a young man in attendance at that game. In what became the longest playoff game in NFL history, Miami kicker Yaro Yepremian ended the drama with a field goal in the second overtime. It had taken 22 minutes and 40 seconds of extra play to decide matters. In comparison, the recent Ravens/Broncos’ game took 16 minutes and 42 seconds. Close.

During these conversations with family members I kept telling them, “Hey, you gotta call our radio show, The Odd Couple, and talk about this” while they poured heart and soul into excellent narrative’s describing the emotional roller coaster ending with Baltimore’s 47-yard field goal. It was an epic game that left most emotionally drained, happy or heartbroken.

A question from sister Sue struck me like a Mack Truck. “Who’s to blame?”

It would be easy to point out the Broncos safety who allowed a ball to float over his head; a veteran quarterback who turned the ball over three times costing his team 17 points; an equally veteran cornerback allowing a young wide receiver to have too many big plays; a talented young linebacker who did not wreak havoc as expected on the opposition’s quarterback; conservative play calling on offense; the officiating. The point is this: the 70,000-plus who gathered, and shivered, inside Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High, witnessed the Broncos underachieving and falling short of their goal.

The odds, of Denver’s victory, before the miracle bomb from Raven’s quarterback Joe Flacco to wide receiver Jacoby Jones, were 98%. That’s what the television screen at the gym the next morning, courtesy of ESPN, reported. The hay was almost in the barn when disaster struck.

Who’s to blame? Just my opinion, but it was collective. Many could have done better to prevent a sudden end to what most thought, for the Broncos, was a great shot of reaching the Super Bowl and securing the franchise’s third NFL championship. Destiny was calling with Manning at the helm and the Super Bowl in the future Hall of Famer’s hometown of New Orleans. There were many great story lines developing before disaster struck.

Kinda like life ain’t it? Things look damn good. The track ahead looks free of debris and full of hope. Then stuff happens and the dream train derails. The aftermath can be ugly. It’s easy to ask, “Who’s to blame?” It might be a marriage collapsing, a job disappearing an illness reappearing. Life throws us curveballs, expected outcomes fade from reality and we’re left with a question. “What are we going to do about it?”

Blame each other? I’m just a simple dude from Missouri but it seems a far more effective strategy would be to rally around each other and try like heck to learn from, not become a victim of, the experience. The venues may change but the strategy is the same. Yeah, whether we’re talking about securing success in sports, life or business, when disaster strikes we gotta rally around each other and encourage one another to move on in productive, not destructive, ways.

It will be interesting to watch how the Broncos react to this adversity. Back in 1996, after the shocking playoff upset loss to Jacksonville, the John Elway-led teams won back-to-back Super Bowls. What about us? No doubt there’s issues in our lives right now challenging our fortitude. Defined as, “strength of mind that allows one to endure pain or adversity with courage.” The noun is easy to say, except for young kiddos like the one at Target, far more challenging to execute.

Fortitude. Let’s live it this week!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pep Talk: "Healing Be Done"

I don’t know if it’s just me, perhaps others feel the same, but revelations - ever had one? - can be frightening.

Ya know, those moments in life where it becomes crystal clear what needs to be done? It might concern a relationship, profession, habit or whatever. While certainly the venues vary the reaction to the revelation should, there are exceptions to every rule, rarely diversify. We need to take action.

This aging jock is in the middle of one of those “revelatory” moments in life. It’s become crystal clear the mission of Victory Productions: to encourage others to achieve goals and overcome challenges. I have few skills, just ask my kids or Eric Goodman, my co-host of The Odd Couple: Afternoon Drive with Mac and Goodman. I can’t sing, dress fashionably or sit still very long. But I do believe, based upon life’s experiences, this simple dude from Missouri can encourage others to achieve goals and overcome challenges. Now the trick is learning how to make a living from a calling.

Part of that process involves Victory providing small businesses, through partnerships with Mile High Sports, CBS4 Denver and its own networks, platforms to market and promote good products, services and service to community. It’s Victory’s mission to help businesses achieve their goals. In addition, it’s our mission to help these hard-working men and women deal with the unexpected and unwanted challenges life throws our way in pursuit of goals. Illness, injury, relationship meltdown, child sickness and other unwanted and unexpected experiences tend to foil our best laid plans, right?

I’ve got one right now when it comes to relationship meltdown. It’s frustrating and sad. Christmas morning I left another voice message on my buddy’s phone. Used to be such effort would trigger, if he didn’t pick it up immediately, a return call shortly thereafter. Not anymore.

What makes this situation so frustrating and sad is, I don’t know why. This is a middle-aged man who become a “brother from another mother” during our undergraduate days at Mizzou. Man, did we have some fun, what we remember, in one of America’s great college towns, Columbia, Missouri. Digressing a bit here, but for folks reading this musing who have young kids you like to sing songs with? The University of Missouri fight song is kinda long but real fun to sing. It’s one of the first songs my kids learned to sing at an early age. Same for a neighbor’s daughter who would usually sing with them. That young lady now attends Mizzou and is studying journalism. Sure makes Uncle Mac proud.

Anyway, back to the point of the Pep Talk. There is pain from a fractured relationship with a dude near and dear to my heart. Occasionally, there is a voice or email message, in an apologetic tone, stating “I’ll call you soon and explain.” I’m waiting and occasionally reach out to him with “I hope we can talk soon.”

I’m grieving for a cherished relationship. We’ve all been there haven’t we? Those times from life - home, work and elsewhere - leaving us wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?”

This is where your humble correspondent must practice what he preaches: understand we’re not alone. That’s why I’m sharing this with you. I know there are many of you in challenging situations right now. Things ain’t going as planned and it sucks. We need to rally around one another. We need to give hope and confidence to one another that as former CU basketball coach Ricardo Patton loved to say, “This too shall pass.”

As we rally around one another and encourage each other to turn life’s lemons into - heck with lemonade - sweet and savory margaritas, perhaps we could focus on this: In our desire to help each other, keep good thoughts in noggin’ those who are the focus of our attention can experience healing despite the challenge.

We know the challenges will call. As Frank Sinatra sang so famously “That’s Life. “ But as the rock group Journey also sang famously, “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Relationships become fractured, that’s life. They can be healed, don’t stop believing. It’s true. The big question for us, at least my opinion, is this: Will we have strength for the journey? Strength to continue to believe there’s hope for thawing relations stuck in deep freeze? 

It doesn’t take much effort to dial a cell phone and call someone in Prairie Village, Kansas but it’s my constant effort to answer the above question in the affirmative. This week make it yours and let’s encourage one another that healing be done.

Have a good week!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pep Talk: "Miss Ya Pops"

Were he still alive, Marvin Walter McIntosh, Jr., would have turned 82 years young recently, January 9th to be exact. Something happened recently in the world of your correspondent drawing this aging jock’s reticular activating system toward the man, who along with the alive-and-feisty Patsy Perry, created me.

I hope this Pep Talk encourages you to reach out and connect with someone else and do one thing: mentor them.

This tale began innocently with the idea of son Kyle appearing on our radio show, The Odd Couple: Afternoon Drive with Mac and Goodman. The 23-year-old comedy writer lives and works in Los Angeles but was in town for the holidays. He’s a big sports fan, has great stories from working in the entertainment industry, is funny and does a great impersonation of British actor/comedian Russell Brand. Kyle has worked on Brand’s variety show among many interesting stops during his early years in the business. Next stop for K-Man is a Comedy Central endeavor, The Nick Kroll Show debuting January 16th. The New York University trained lad’s a hard-working and talented young man with a bright future. I’m proud to be his father and try to let him know without letting him know. Know what I mean? Kids in early adulthood, becoming themselves. As parents, we cheer from the sidelines and hope we’re not perceived as too weird in doing so.

Kyle yukked it up with us on Mile High Sports Radio, we’re on weekdays from 3-6pm, for about 12 minutes. It was a blast. At least for this simple dude from Missouri. The dad. Does it get any better than doing something you love and having those you love along for the ride? We know those moments are precious and few, despite best intentions.

That darn thing called life gets in the way doesn’t it? Yeah, those unexpected and unwanted challenges appear when least expected and most unfortunate. Who wouldn’t want to spend time talking and having fun with loved ones? I know, some would raise their hands insisting, “I like being alone” but most, my opinion, would jump at the chance to spend as much time as possible engaged with those we enjoy. But physical, emotional and financial challenges get in the way. Unfortunate.

Which takes me back to a guy golfing buddies called, “Hacker Mac.” As I sat in studio,  engulfed in joy and banter, with son and friend, co-host Goodman, for whatever reason mind wandered toward my father. He loved to play golf, especially with his sons. Our winter golf trips to Arizona were a blast and have produced great stories I love to share when allowed. Wonderful memories.

If we had the opportunity, considering schedules and health, we would have been on a golf course somewhere to celebrate another year of the journey. The former sales executive, who worked for everything earned in life, would have struck most shots, not long, but right down the middle, while yours truly, trying to crush the ball, would have been erratic off the tee. Later, over beers and surrender of a few bucks, left to wonder, “How in the heck did that happen?”

My father grew up poor, did not have a college degree and suffered a heart attack when just 42-years-old. The father of four battled heart disease but remained active with golf and other stuff, before lung cancer took him almost six years ago at 76.

I learned many things from a man who grew up fast as the oldest boy in a poor family challenged by its father’s abandonment and mother’s death before any of the six kids had graduated from high school. A few things stand out, including, but not limited too: life is rarely fair, keep working hard, be friendly to others and no complaining. Deal with whatever ails you. Be a student, not victim, of life’s experiences.

Miss ya Pops. I hope and pray your grandson, as he grows into his own man, will learn from me what I learned from you. It was a great lesson. Not always easy to follow but so valuable. 

This week, let’s be mentors to someone - home, work or elsewhere - like my old man mentored me. I can guarantee this: we’ll be better for it and, most likely, if the mentoring is productive not destructive, so will the recipients.

Have a great week!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Pep Talk: "Priceless Gifts"

I can only speak for myself in this regard but there was a recent “aha” moment reminding this simple dude from Missouri to the power of an encouraging word.

First, let me say, the word “encourage” has always been a favorite. It’s defined as “to give hope and confidence to. Whenever blessed to have the opportunity to present a live Pep Talk message to a group of folks, we always discuss the importance of gathering with like-minded people and giving hope and confidence to one another. Can you imagine? What with this world look like if we all - despite challenges present - kept an attitude focused on hope and confidence? Bartender, a round for everybody at the bar - twice!

On the first day back from the recent holidays, on our radio show, The Odd Couple: Afternoon Drive with Mac and Goodman we were discussing what kept us busy while away from Mile High Sports Radio each weekday from 3-6pm. A highlight for yours truly was helping out Santa.

There is a tradition within family in the Chicago-area where every Christmas, at the family party, Santa Claus makes an appearance, when available. There are some years - party’s been going strong for more than four decades - where Santa, because of his hectic schedule, can’t fit the Kilgallon bash into the social calendar. Thus, with Santa’s approval, a “Santa Helper” is designated to don the resplendent red suit and shower the kids with gifts.

This recent opportunity to serve Santa was my second fill-in role for the jolly old man. I cherish being asked to substitute. However, as I talked about the experience days later on Odd Couple, something crashed hard into cranium: I could have done much better.

I realized afterward, opportunity was missed to have taken time, before donning the Santa suit, quizzing the parents about their kids. So, when the child came to sit on the lap of Santa’s helper - me - the knucklehead sweating profusely inside that warm garb could have known a bit about the child and offered an encouraging word. I knew a few of the kids pretty well and was able to, as they nestled on my lap, brag about them a bit. But not all of them. Darn it.

The look on the faces of the kids who received encouragement like, “Best darn trumpet player in the history of OLPH!” or “the future goalie of the Chicago Blackhawks!” was priceless and you could tell they loved the gathered throng cheering them on.

The power of an encouraging word. It can change a life.

A very powerful reminder to the power of giving hope and confidence to others was burrowed into my marrow long ago. A high school football coach, after his young quarterback made a terrible mistake in his first varsity game, had a choice to rip into the kid or coach him up a bit. Vance Morris chose the latter and I benefited greatly from it. 

It was the opening game of the 1973 season for the Raytown South Cardinals. Raytown is a Kansas City, MO., suburb, just south of Arrowhead and Kaufmann stadiums on the city’s near east side. The Cards were starting a sophomore at quarterback against the North Kansas City Hornets. On the game’s opening drive, the southpaw is leading the Cards down the field and deep into opponent territory. Disaster struck. Pressured, the inexperienced rookie threw an ill-advised pass into the flat, it was intercepted and returned 100 yards for a touchdown.

What’s the old saying, “It’s a quick trip from the penthouse to the outhouse?” Well, I was living it then. While running off the field in shame and looking for a place to hide, instead I was greeted by a coach who had walked several steps onto the field. Mentor wanted to chat with pupil before downtrodden soul reached the bench. “You know what you did wrong don’t you?” I nodded in agreement. He then finished powerfully with, “I know it will never happen again.”

Vance Morris, when I really needed it, encouraged - offered hope and confidence - me! I had a chance, as Santa’s helper, to encourage all those kids and not just a few. No doubt this week, at home, work or elsewhere, there will be an opportunity for us to encourage others.

Let’s keep our reticular activating systems, thanks Billy Mac from Hackensack, on high alert this week for a chance to give hope and confidence to one another. Perhaps it’s a loved one battling illness, a friend with relationship struggles, a co-worker in financial hardship or other ailments. I met a homeless military veteran this week who is trying like heck to get back on his feet. Victory is trying like heck to help him. Consternation knows no boundaries and comes when, and where, least expected.

This much we do know, an encouraging word can, no guarantees, help someone ride the storm out. It’s a gift far more valuable than anything Santa, or one of his helpers, can deliver. 

Shower others with encouraging words this week. They’re priceless gifts!

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