Sunday, December 28, 2014

Pep Talk: "Three Wise Men"

Darling wife had waded into the sea of shoppers on the final Sunday before Christmas. NFL football’s in the background, crooner Aaron Neville’s singing and this knucklehead starts thinking about three men.

Each has bored into my marrow with their passion for team. They come from different walks of life but share a similar spirit. They understand the importance of being on the same page with others. One Heart Beat. Yoked. United. Call if whatever the heck you wanna call it. There are exceptions to every rule, but most of the time when speaking of successful teams from athletics, business, non-profit, civic or wherever, folks talk about a bond. A cord that is not easily broken. These three men exude that belief. It’s infectious. Just my opinion, but, admirable. Wise to emulate. From baseball, when talking about these dudes, the announcer might suggest, “Here’s the batting order.”

Leading off? John Ware. What a guy. He’s a chaplain at the Denver Rescue Mission. He works with the same guys as the “A Stronger Cord” project works with. Fellow knuckleheads trying to overcome life’s challenges. A graduate of the Mission’s New Life Program (NLP), the 63-year-old dove right into ASC’s warm up, workout and hang out philosophy. Good dude. Makes things happen. The kind of guy buddy Billy Mac from Hackensack likes to bellow, “Would charge from the fox hole with ya!” Got your back.

Batting second is Lester Fisher. Not surprisingly, I was introduced to the church deacon through Ware. A fellow NLP graduate encouraged Denver’s oldest African-American church to throw open its gym for ASC. The workouts at the Crossing, a nearby Mission facility where Ware works, had outgrown space reserved for indoor exercise during cold weather. Union Baptist said, “Come on over, boys.” 

Next year, in partnership with the church, ASC is launching a neighborhood outreach campaign targeted at isolated men and fatherless boys. There are plenty of each. Les Fisher is yoked in trying to reduce their numbers. A valued comrade.

Batting third is Denver Police Chief Robert White. Along with a fellow knucklehead, your scribe attended the city of Denver’s recent gathering on race. It was held at the Colorado History Museum. It was productive. Obviously, residents of the Mile High City - I’m one of them - have room for improvement. We all do, right? There’s always room for improvement. Every time I’ve heard Chief White speak the message has focused on the importance of community and police force being yoked. It requires everybody to check egos and agendas at the door and work for something greater than ourselves. Simple, not easy. Home. Work. Elsewhere. The three-year chief gets that and, at least when I’ve been present, implores others, “We gotta work together.”

All these men get that elusive quest. Right on.

It’s amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit. The question becomes, will we believe it? Three wise men do. I hope you do, too.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Pep Talk: "Ask!"

Patsy Sue was in a pickle. A predicament. 

With a moving date drawing near and prior obligations precluding family members from assisting, the almost-octogenarian needed help packing beloved belongings for the next frontier.

What follows could spark a debate between divine intervention enthusiasts and those who believe in random luck. One thing is indisputable: we control our destiny, including the necessity to ask for what we need. The irony? Often, when least expected, we reap a harvest more plentiful than originally thought or desired.

Mom was looking for a moving assistant. However, in one of the greatest holidays gifts ever, was presented with far more. My feisty mother had reached out to an employee at the assisted living facility she was departing. “Know anybody looking for work helping an old lady pack?” The concerned worker did. Her sister. Here’s where the debate begins. Blind luck or a God thing?

Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, birth place of Elvis Presley, the magnificence that is Mable moved north to the Midwest with family, eventually settling into a long career working for Pepsi Cola at one of its bottling plants in Kansas City, Missouri. “Missed less than two weeks of work because of illness in more than 28 years.” Mable is dependable.

What started innocently with helping Patsy Sue pack for yet another move has turned into a modern-day version of “Thelma and Louise.” Mom’s original destination suddenly was not available. What to do? In less than 48 hours the grandma to eight had to vacate her current residence. Moving is tough on anybody, regardless of age, but this was the second move in less than a year for a woman nearing her eighth decade of life. Those caring for aging parents know the drill. Stress was high. “Where is mom going to go?”

Mable is resourceful. A long-time resident of Kansas City, Kansas, the mother of a military man knew of another nearby senior-living facility. The crisis passed. Mom had a new home, providing comfort and safety, not too far from her former nesting ground.

Two women thrown together. One who had somewhat grudgingly asked for help. The other, it would be later discovered, who in retirement, had been seeking a chance to help. Mable has a special spirit. A servant’s heart.

The dynamic duo now spend many hours a week together. They run errands, shop, attend church, pour love toward others, converse about life and, yes, bicker on occasion. Companions. We all need companions, right? This roller coaster we call life was not meant to be traveled solo. It’s too hard. We need to connect.

Kudos to mom. She asked and received. Mable. The best Christmas gift possible for children concerned about the welfare of an aging, but still quite able mother. This week, don’t hesitate to bury pride, anger, resentment or whatever stuff is preventing you from asking for what you need.

Mom asked for a moving assistant. An entire family got a miracle. You might too. Ask!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pep Talk: "Tombstone Talk"

The black man who’s like a brother bellowed, “We have got to figure out a way to come together!” Your scribe was sitting right next to this passionate man in a room full of knuckleheads. 

The conversation this Friday morning had turned to Ferguson and New York City. Men killing one another for what most would suggest are silly and insane reasons. What the heck is going on around here?

With fire in his eyes and saliva on his lips, the man boomed a question deep into the hearts and souls of those gathered. “Come on dudes, what are we afraid of?” To that, my fox hole buddy, I shout to the mountaintops, “Damn good question!”

What are we afraid of? Is anybody else tired of the status quo? Protests in the streets, isolated men and women on the streets and a widening inequality on the financial sheets. Just three of many ailments hampering American society today.

I go back to my buddy’s first question, about figuring out a way to come together. Victory’s got one. A Stronger Cord. Yep. How about “Figuring out a way to come together“ starts with a workout? Warm up. Work out. Hang out. Sweat. Bond. Grow. We challenge one another to become more fitness-minded, dependable and productive human beings because we believe it will help us build a stronger cord to families, jobs and communities?

Could it be that if we convene, lather up a bit, kick the ol’ endorphins into motion and THEN hang out it could provide a glimmer of hope? Work the body then the brain in the quest to prevail against what ails? We have an obesity problem in this country too. At the very least, those who participate in ASC workouts get in better physical shape. Who knows, with a little luck, we might make progress growing closer in mind and spirit as well. It’s just an idea. Why not give it a shot? Any other ideas? Fire away!

This much I do know: this aging jock is grateful for the men and women sharing a similar passion for ASC. Thanks to all showing up for workouts, hang outs, community meetings and other stuff associated with ASC’s rollout. We’re on a mission to reduce  isolation and obesity. We have far too much of each. They’re dragging us down physically, emotionally and financially.

So ASC is our dream. What’s yours? To steal my buddy’s words, “What will it take to bring folks together in support of those dreams? What are you afraid of?”

At the end of the day, perhaps, it comes down to this: What do we want those responsible, if pressured to decide, to write on our tombstones? Do we want someone to carve into granite that we lived powered by the destructive duo of fear and self doubt? Or the dynamic duo of courage and wonderment?

This week, if talk ever turns to tombstones, make the latter come alive!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Pep Talk: "Let's Give It A Shot!"

The man sitting next to me in the noisy room leaned close, smiled wide and pronounced, “I am so proud of her.”

What a difference a few months make. It speaks to the power of a group to influence thoughts, words and actions. It can be incredibly productive or destructive. In this man’s case, association with a team helped keep him sane during an insane moment. A teenage daughter, legally an adult, had met a man online, fallen in love and moved across the country to live with the fellow young adult and his family.

Every Friday morning, this gentle soul would not hold back the anguish felt for a wayward child. Who meets a dude on the Internet, forgoes college, packs bags and ventures into a future fraught with peril? Crazy.

Many of us are certainly guilty of similar stupidity, right? Each week this man would seek strength and guidance from a bunch of knuckleheads, many with similar tales of woe concerning a child’s illogical thinking. Veterans of such harrowing moments implored the health-care worker to persevere, pray and believe, “This too shall pass.”

It did. To no one’s surprise the relationship soured. The child moved back to Colorado, is now enrolled in college, paying for it and living independently. A brain-cramp moment has led a young woman to march forward on the maturity meter. It has brought peace to a father’s soul, and a smile to his face.

Challenges. We all have ‘em, right? Don’t face them alone. Teamwork is the key to success!

My mind wanders to our nation’s turmoil. Racial and social justice protests in the streets, mostly peaceful, but some violent and tragic. Will the demonstrations bring about positive change? How can we harness this energy, tension and frustration in an attempt to build bridges over barriers dividing us?

It’s one of the attributes of Victory’s “A Stronger Cord” project. Barriers are removed. Interested folks stare at a picture of sweaty dudes. “Who are the homeless, and who are the lawyers, doctors, salesmen and trainers?” It’s difficult to correctly identify, via the labels offered, the pictured men.

Exercise is an equalizer. A connector. It provides an opportunity to build the bridges and span the divides. All ASC asks of others is to gather. Warm up. Work out. Hang out. Sweat. Bond. Grow.

At the very least, in a country plagued by obesity, ASC participants will become more physically fit.  Who knows? With some luck, given the project’s emphasis on becoming fitness-minded, dependable and productive, we can build a stronger cord to families, jobs and communities.

It starts with uniting. It helps us ride out the storms. A wayward child, an addiction, illness, divorce, job loss or whatever. It helps create solutions where, before, there was conflict. Teamwork. It requires sacrifice of self.

This week, dive into a group determined to make a difference. One heart beat. It will make you proud and us better. Let’s give it a shot!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pep Talk: "Not Afraid To Be Brave!"

The featured speaker walked confidently toward the podium, stepped upon a box to elevate her diminutive stature and began to share. The words flowed as the attentive crowd listened and learned. A first-grader. An LSU Tiger fan. A young lady with big dreams.

The remarks came at the Seeds of Hope gala in downtown Denver. The annual event  raises money to provide scholarships for Catholic school education. Poised and pretty, Noelle Carrington concluded with this zinger: “I’m not afraid to be brave and let my light shine.”

I wanted to jump from my chair and shout, “You go girl!”

A six-year-old’s words have been resonating inside the noggin’ of a simple dude from Missouri ever since. Especially in the wake of a nation in turmoil. The decision came down in Ferguson, Missouri. The debate is nationwide. It is marred by violence. It’s visible evidence that, as a nation, we have much work to do in achieving goals and overcoming challenges in areas concerning race, representation and responsibility. Division. To steal a sports term, describing a team in trouble, “Not on the same page.”

Where is it time for something different? Not just concerning race, representation and responsibility, but for whatever ails? Home? Work? Elsewhere?

Help me understand a few things. How does a community allow a police force to become so misrepresentative of its citizenry? Tragically, a young man’s life was terminated but what if, when the officer asked the deceased and friend to quit walking down the middle of the street, the answer was, “Sure officer.”

Would we be having a different conversation? And, what if, an 18-year-old and buddy had not put police on high alert after the irresponsible act of stealing cigars and other stuff from a nearby convenience store?

There’s plenty of room for improvement on each side of these divisive issues. There usually is whenever blame games are played. Opportunity is knocking for a powerful and productive force to “not be afraid to be brave and let its light shine.” 

Victory Productions is trying. The “A Stronger Cord” project is calling out the men of America. Let’s come together. Warm up. Work out. Hang out. Sweat. Bond. Grow. ASC challenges men to grow stronger body, mind and spirit. It encourages participants to become fitness-minded, dependable and productive dudes. ASC believes that type of spirit helps us build stronger cords with families, workforces and communities. It starts with the workout.

Things must change. Tensions must lessen. Exercise reduces tension, fosters teamwork and is a great equalizer. Men of all colors working together. It reminds me of successful sports teams. Brothers. Yoked. One Heart Beat. Over the years, this knucklehead has played, reported and coached on a few.

We need to heed Noelle’s words. A first-grader at St. Francis De Sales is the shining light. Where can we make a difference? Where are the Ferguson’s? This week, do not be afraid to be brave!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pep Talk: "Travel Advisory"

“I have been deprived of peace and have forgotten what prosperity is.”

It was a cool November evening along Colorado’s Front Range when those words were muttered. They came from a reserved young man - early 20‘s - living at The Crossing, a facility run by the Denver Rescue Mission. Heartfelt words. Delivered to an aging ol’ jock, in a dimly-lit area near where, in a few minutes, a bunch of knuckleheads, from all walks of life, would workout together. A Stronger Cord. It starts the workout. Sweating, bonding and challenging one another to grow stronger body, mind and spirt.

A tender soul was sharing from deep within. I was blessed to be witnessing it. Can you imagine, being deprived of peace and to have forgotten what prosperity is? Sure you can. Stuff. It happens. Rocks our world. The depravation of peace might arrive via illness, divorce, poor choices or whatever else ails us. Life. A roller coaster.

Anyway, hours later, I awoke early the next morning thinking of this dude’s words and remembered, “I’ve got laundry in the dryer.”

So it’s about 2:30am on a Friday. Sleepily shuffling from bedroom to laundry area on the second floor of our home, the trek takes this simple dude from Missouri right past pictures of the kids. One of them taken long ago. It’s a family shot. A single father and his two wonderful children. The kids are now 24 and 17 respectively. This photograph has to be at least a decade old.

I walk past it all the time. But it was different this time. I looked at me. Flanked by a son and daughter. The words, “I have been deprived of peace and have forgotten was prosperity is” seemed to be etched on my face. A quick check of the facts at the time a friend and talented photographer shot the portrait: recently divorced for the second time, long-held and cherished Denver television sports position as the “Buff Guy” eliminated. Self esteem lower than whale dung. A terrible trio.

I’m smiling in the picture but trust me folks, inside? I was deprived of peace and was struggling to remember what prosperity is. We all have been there and, in all likelihood, will continue to have moments threatening to take us there. Isolated in misery. Solitary confinement of the mind. It sucks.

What to do about it? We can’t buy into the lie that we’re alone in suffering. There’s many folks experiencing similar crap. Go find them. Engage. Rally around each other. Encourage. Give hope and confidence to one another. Set sail on a new journey.

Travel advisory: Don’t make the trek solo. These days it seems many disdain group travel. Not for this voyage. Be ready, willing and able to hunker down in a cabin with others. It might be bumpy. Deck chairs may fly. But once the storms pass, the sun will come out. Rough seas shall calm. Peace and prosperity can return!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pep Talk: "Mike's Cap"

“Hey dude. Is it okay if I keep my Royals’ cap on?”

The question came from a guy I have always admired. The successful lawyer happens to be my older brother. The dude has always had my back. For that I will be forever grateful.

One of my greatest honors in high school was being asked by the then pre-law student at Central Missouri State in Warrensberg, Missouri, to make the 45-mile drive from our hometown of Raytown to the CMSU campus. Older bro and buddies needed a quarterback for their intramural football team. Four years younger, a southpaw from Ray-South was more than eager to oblige. Along with buddy “Stump” we’d hit the road for some football and fun. You kidding me? A chance to fling the football around and then hang with the college guys and gals. Once, the brakes went out on our beat-up truck we drove to the games. Other that, memories exude - they are good.

Anyway, older brother, devoted wife Jana and their three boys made the trek from Kansas City to Denver for our recent wedding. This wonderful event happened to correspond with the Kansas City Royals’ first post-season and World Series’ appearance in almost 30 years. Long-suffering fans jubilant. The once-proud franchise, with many great players including Hall of Famer George Brett, had fallen on hard-times for a long time. I grew up a Royals’ fan.

It was a time to celebrate. I could understand why brother wanted to keep his cap on during family wedding photos. Without hesitation, darling wife Kathy and I responded, “Heck ya!” It’s one of the many reasons I love the darling Chicago-born bride so dearly. We make a good team on that kind of stuff. I’m blessed.

So recently the wedding photos came back and we’ve been looking at them. So many cool pictures. Shameless plugs here for wedding planner Rami Carter and photographer  Casey Wigotow. If you’re looking for either for nuptials, they’re talented and fun to work with. One of the most anticipated “wanting to see” pictures was of Michael Chester McIntosh. In a shot of groom and siblings. My mentor of many things, grinning like a Cheshire cat with the beautifully-inscriptive “KC” cap atop cranium. The four of us: younger brother Matt, sister Sue, the knucklehead sharing this tale and the Royals’ biggest fan. Cool shot. Might make a nice Christmas gift to the clan.

Mike’s cap makes it even cooler. “Be Royal!” was the battle cry coming from the Midwest this summer as the Royals caught fire and swept into the World Series. As a long-time sports dude here in the Mile High City, it was eerily similar of the 2007 Colorado Rockies improbable run to the Fall Classic, The teams couldn’t lose. They just had a spirit about them. Losing was not an option. Amazing to watch.

Royalmania was feverish. Infected many. Everybody had jumped on the band wagon. The mood of the city lifted by a baseball team. A small-market team showing the big boys it can be done. The players, coaches and fans, united as one. You see that happen all the time in sports. At all levels. A team united and achieving success. Many get swept up in its euphoric tide.

Communities rally around their prep, college and professional sports. Folks get caught up in the hoopla of dreams being realized. You hear all this talk about teamwork being the key to success. Sacrifice. Hard Work. Overcoming Adversity. You hear the same message from most successful endeavors, right? That victory, in whatever pursued, will take a commitment to something bigger than us. As a television and radio sports guy, it was my job to cover those types of teams over the years. Trust me folks, few players, coaches, general managers, owners or athletic directors talk about anything but team when surviving long into the championship chase. 

For those fortunate enough to have experienced such a buzz, sports or elsewhere, wise folks realize it’s a united effort. One of those “together everyone achieves more” moments that, eternally, burrow into marrow. Experiences proving, dreams can become reality.

Just a simple dude from Missouri’s opinion, but, the key is we have to realize the importance of life being about something bigger than us. It’s true for the Royals. It’s true for the McIntosh family. It’s true for you. Your family. Any team, business, non profit, church or whatever. The venue changes but the strategy is the same. We gotta work as a team, learn from our experiences, understand it will not go according to plan, adjust and fight to the finish. Simple. Not easy.

It certainly worked for the Royals who took San Francisco to seven games before losing the 2014 World Series to the Giants’ and superlative pitcher Madison Bumgarner. It will work for everybody involved with Victory’s A Stronger Cord project. It will work for anything we’re involved in - home, work and elsewhere.

It takes sacrifice of self for something bigger than us. A team. A cause. A family. A school. A - fill in the blank.

I love our wedding pictures. One of the most cherished will be the shot of yours truly with siblings. Mike’s cap. Blue and white. Forever a reminder of that age-old truth, “It’s amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit.”

It ain’t about us. It’s about something bigger.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Pep Talk: "What A Competitor!"

Seeing her tears triggered my own.

The Denver East High Angel volleyball team had just lost. But this was no ordinary defeat. It was a heartbreaking end to a wonderful season. The final season and game for a senior setter who happens to be the daughter of the knucklehead writing this Pep Talk.

As is customary, the teams lined up, shook hands and acknowledged one another in the spirit of respect for the game and competition. I could see daughter Rachel wiping away tears between shaking hands. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but parenthood often ain’t easy. It’s tough to see your kids hurting.

Under their terrific coach Tarah Sponenberg, the Angels had big dreams. Before the campaign began, their feisty mentor declared in front of the team and parents, “This will be the greatest season in East volleyball history!”

I admire folks who have the guts to take a stand. Sponenberg stuck her neck out. The team, parents and student body bought into it. Never in school history had the Angels advanced beyond regionals and qualified for Colorado’s state tourney. Their opportunity to advance started well against Pine Creek from Colorado Springs, but ended in sadness and disappointment. The favored Eagles, playing on their home floor, senior-laden and talented, rallied to advance and terminate East’s season and dreams.

So an aging ol’ man was in the stands crying, too. Watching intently as my flesh and blood and her teammates displayed sportswomanship in congratulating their opponents. My mind began racing through all the years of hard work, discipline and sacrifice this blue-eyed beauty had devoted to mastering her craft - one damn fine setter. Now it was over.

I will terribly miss watching Rachel Nicole McIntosh compete in volleyball. It began long ago, in elementary school, when just getting the ball over the net with an underhand serve was considered a real milestone. The memories roll on to the college-bound young lady – who just learned of acceptance to both Oregon and Oregon State universities - participating in club volleyball. The long hours of practice, long drives to games all along Colorado’s Front Range and beyond. In a quiet manner, always going about her business. Rarely complaining, at least not to her old man.

Always competing. Dependable. Talented. Willing to pay the price. Willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team. In watching a daughter play competitive volleyball all these years those wonderful skills permeated from her performance. I can only hope and pray, as she prepares for college and the next chapter of life, she never forgets those valuable traits lie within and can be transferred from success in athletics to success in whatever she chooses as her next passion.

Team sports are such a wonderful laboratory for life. We learn the importance of working well with others; realize there will be setbacks that must be overcome; marinate in the truth of “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Triumphs. Tragedies. The moments that make us shout “Wow!” and the moments leaving us with a gut wrenching, “Oww!.”

Competitive volleyball is over, but the game of life rolls on. Down the road, whether it’s struggles with college studies, a relationship issue or whatever challenges will surely appear on the horizon, may one of the greatest setters in East High history never forget the intangibles submerged in her marrow to deal with the unexpected and unwanted.

The venues change, but the strategies are the same. We gotta compete. We gotta keep showing up. We gotta keep pushing forward. We’re gonna get kicked around a bit, but have to rise to fight again. We must learn from, not become a victim of, experiences on our journey. With that type of attitude, we will win more than we lose. We gotta believe, “And so it is!”

Those truths are emphasized in team sports and manifested in the spirit in which we play the games wherever we roam - in athletics, business, at home or elsewhere.

All those crazy thoughts were flashing through my brain as I watched an incredible human being emotionally suffer on the floor below. My vision was completely blurred because of the flow of teardrops. I tried to shift thoughts toward the future and collegiate opportunities that include an academic scholarship in the land of the Ducks. So much good stuff on the horizon.

I kept watching and the cranium just kept coming back to, “What a great competitor is this beautiful young woman!” The volleyball career is over. It was not always easy. It was not always fun. It did reveal what lies inside her soul: A competitor who is not afraid of hard work and sacrifice. A competitor willing to risk failure in the pursuit of success.

We can all learn from her example. I hope she never forgets it. A devotion to hard work, sacrifice and risk taking. It’s a winning formula wherever she shall roam. Us, too.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Pep Talk: "Provoke Good Works!"

One of my favorite pals, an ol’ college buddy named Chester, once muttered something that permeated deep within the marrow. It’s been a philosophy that has driven quite a successful life as a businessman, husband, father and friend. Here it is:

“Hang out with the Positrons, avoid the Negatoids and recruit the Tweeners!”

That powerful truth was bouncing around in my brain recently as I sat in the audience and listened to a man share his testimony with New Life Program candidates at the Denver Rescue Mission. Each Thursday, I lead the chapel services there. But this day, this simple dude from Missouri was listening and learning, not speaking and encouraging.

The man being real with the dudes is an employee of Phoenix MultiSport. A cherished partner in providing transformational services, through Victory’s “A Stronger Cord” project, to sub-populations of men suffering substance abuse, criminal record and military fatigue experiences. We have too many of them in America today. Isolated. Struggling.

As a country, we’ve reached a crossroads. We have a choice to make. We have to decide to reach down and try to lift them up or allow their challenges to drag us down. All involved with ASC are proclaiming, “Let’s try like heck to lift ‘em up!”

Anyway, this great guy, originally from the Boston area, was sharing about struggles with addiction. They started early, with drinking beer and smoking pot at 11 years of age. About 30 men were present in the room. All could relate. Through more than a decade of abuse, the downward spiral ended with incarceration for drug trafficking offenses. But time in the Grey Bar Motel brought an unexpected blessing. Because of a leg injury, the skilled craftsman was forced to attend physical therapy, which led to working out, which led to a devotion to fitness, which led to associating with a different group of folks, which led to Phoenix, a sober active community with a special spirit and commitment to fitness being a critical piece of recovery.

Which leads to the question for all of us. Who are we hanging out with? Are they raising us up? Or dragging us down? We can flip the questions around too. Who are we raising up? Dragging down? I think it was the legendary Earl Nightingale who once bellowed, “We become what we think about.” We also, usually, adopt behaviors and attitudes of those we associate with and vice versa.

Another cherished friend has a family situation that is a good illustration. An aging parent and a grown child have struggled for years to establish a peaceful co-existence. It has been a roller coaster ride. Most families - “We put the fun in dysfunction” - have such a tale to tell, right? From what is described, each party has suffered considerable emotional damage. Why do we cling to relationships, behaviors and beliefs we know are counterproductive? We’re human.

As I sat in admiration while listening to a man describe his past and the lessons learned from it, my eyes wandered around the room. Was the message permeating?

The struggles in life come in many forms. They might be physical, emotional or financial. Where they originate is unexpected. This much we know. Those “What the heck is going on around here?” moments will appear. We’re gonna get knocked down, kicked in the teeth, call if whatever you want. The journey rarely goes as WE plan. Anybody who tries to convince you otherwise is lying. Victim or student of life? Our choice.

The ability to effectively deal with life’s lemons is greatly enhanced if we have a solid support base. It gets us back to the question, “Who are we hanging out with?”

Life a struggle right now? Illness? Addiction? Relationship breakdown? Employment woes? Perhaps the smartest thing we can do is to understand a few realities: we have a choice about attitude, we’re not alone in suffering and the best darn thing we can do is seek, with a vengeance, like-minded folks. Rally with them. Become a team. My mind wanders to long ago, college undergrad days. Bummed about the loss of athletic dreams and a relationship breakup, I filled the void with lots of booze and bad decisions. Dark times. Working out with buddies on the Mizzou track team - thanks Chris Tremblay - helped lift my spirits! Encourage one another. Give hope and confidence to one another to prevail against what ails.

Who are we hanging out with? Go find the Positrons, be a Positron. If you’re really gutsy, or maybe crazy, dive into the Negatoid pool and spread some goodwill. Who knows, it might be infectious. As a buddy at Platoon said profoundly the other day, “Go provoke someone to good works.”

Amen buddy. Let’s charge from the foxhole united and do it this week!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pep Talk: "When A Man Loves A Woman"

It’s a Friday morning in the Mile High City, and the Broncos had looked very impressive the night before in pounding the Chargers at home. The mood of the city? Good. I’m driving to the regular Friday gathering of a bunch of knuckleheads known as Platoon and listening to music. Loud. Singing to it.

A wonderful hit from the mid 1960s, “When A Man Loves A Woman” has this simple dude from Raytown, Missouri fired up. Powerfully sung by Percy Sledge, the song about a man’s heart being captured was America’s most popular long ago. Rolling Stone Magazine calls it the 54th best song ever in its top 500. A Michael Bolton remake in 1991 rose to number one as well. Great song. While bellowing it out, alone in the car, quite easily, this ol’ jock’s cranium wandered to the absolutely fabulous Kathy Gans. I married her recently.

As we prepared for wedding day, our charge to one another had been to share with those attending, through our vows, why we love one another. The Chicago native went first and just blew me away. Then it was my turn.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” is the opening salvo of the famous poem written long ago, back in the 1800s, by a woman named Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Why do I love my amazing bride so dearly? There are many reasons. As daughter Rachel pointed out in her outstanding wedding toast, “Dad usually finds a life lesson in everything.” The high school senior is right. Here’s this week’s: we have a choice in life. Yep. We have a choice to operate from fear or wonderment. Choose wisely. It sure helped me, as one buddy said, “Hit the jackpot.” A bilingual friend taught me, “Me case con mi muneca!” If I didn’t butcher the translation: “I married my sweetie pie!”

It took awhile.

More than a decade ago, the staffing executive and I were sitting in a popular Denver eatery. It’s known for its tasty Mexican food and lively atmosphere. If memory serves me correctly, it was our second date. A twice-divorced sportscaster with a darling child from each union and a never-been-married business leader in the very early stages of getting to know one another.

As we settled into our chairs a waiter zipped by and plopped menus, chips and salsa before us while heading to serve others in the crowded restaurant. I can’t remember exactly what the brown-eyed girl and yours truly were discussing but, as usual, the conversation was lively.

A short while later the waiter returned, ready to take our order. I instantly blurted out that my date had not had a chance to look over the menu. I was quickly corrected. “I know what I want. Tacos al carbon.” Well, that statement made a guy trying to forget the past a little nervous, considering that’s exactly the food item, and manner, the first former spouse and devoted mother to my son would order when we visited the popular establishment long ago.

Things got even more interesting a few minutes later when, as is customary in the early rounds of dating, the topic of conversation turned to birthdays. “Mine is May 10th,” announced the wonderful spirit. At that moment primal instincts were conflicted. Time to flee? Within the first ten minutes of our second date it had been discovered that this attractive and intriguing woman shared the same palate preferences as the first former and the same birthday as the second former and mother to my daughter. Was it a sign? What to do? Was I going to allow fear or wonderment rule the day?

I’m so darn glad to have chosen the latter. What man in his right mind would run from such a beautiful, fun and smart woman? More than a decade later, what has become so apparent about this darling human being is a powerful fourth trait that takes a back seat to none: a gigantic and compassionate heart for others. In practicing vows before the ceremony, many times I would burst into grateful tears that she opened that heart to me. I’m a lucky guy.

Our wedding. What an absolutely magical evening. It ended with being surrounded by an overwhelming outpouring of support. Loved ones who stayed till the end, as the band played its final song, Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon,” would move in unison toward us on the dance floor. The rush of people began gently but eventually, in good-natured fashion, turned into a version of an old folks’ mosh pit. It was incredible.

So too my love for her. This wasn’t in the lyrics of the hit song recorded a half century ago at Norela Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama, but when a man loves a woman he’s smart to allow wonderment, not fear, reign. What about you? Home? Work? Elsewhere? Sitting on the fence pondering your next move? Go for it. Take that leap into the great unknown.

It sure worked for this blessed knucklehead and might work for you, too.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pep Talk: "The Wonder That Is Them"

“The kids were absolutely awesome.”

Never has there been a more truthful statement muttered. They came from a beloved, and now official, brother-in-law describing wedding toasts delivered by two amazing human beings. They happen to be the son and daughter of this simple dude from Missouri.

An almost 25-year-old young man and an almost 18-year-old young woman held court in captivating fashion. The scene was the wedding to the woman of your scribe’s dreams that unfolded in a beautifully decorated ballroom in downtown Denver. It was a magical moment from start to finish. But Kyle and Rachel just flat knocked it out of the park.

Parenting is an interesting journey, ain’t it? That was one of many emotions being  absorbed while standing among the gathered throng and listening to the warm, honest and incredibly entertaining words flow from the lips and hearts of children who have weathered plenty.

Their father’s marriages to each of their mothers had ended in disappointment and divorce. Painful. But those setbacks create space for an equally awesome woman to walk into their old man’s life - the beautiful, fun, smart and big-hearted Kathy Gans. Over a period of more than a decade, a dynamo who advanced from sexy girl friend, to darling fiancee to, what a lucky guy am I, sexy darling wife.

When it came to the toasts, Kyle was the leadoff hitter. Given his background and talents - on the comedic writing team for NBC’s Late Night With Seth Myers - it was not too surprising to observe his oration comfort and skill. It can be a blessing and a curse, but the handsome dude, like his old man, never met a microphone he didn’t like.

His younger sister? Holy cow. I never knew.

Anybody else out there have a teenage daughter? One on the cusp of taking flight and heading off to college in the near future? Communicating with parents, especially their dads, is far down the list of priorities. Perhaps just above, maybe, making their beds.

Words are limited. Scarce. Responses to inquisitive statements like, “How’s life?” met with a shrug of shoulders and, if lucky, a softly-spoken, “Fine.”

Admittedly, it’s been a struggle for me. Curious by nature, I like to know the news in my daughter’s life. Son’s life too. But each is at an age where inquiries about “What’s going on?” are most times unwelcome. At least, from my perspective. The men who gather each Friday morning in an office building and challenge one another to grow stronger spiritually know too well. So often, in response to my bemoaning, these knuckleheads cajole and challenge me to keep showing up in a loving fashion and get over myself and believe, “This too shall pass.”

Holding notes but rarely looking at them the volleyball setter extraordinaire captivated the audience. Remarks about the role new stepmother has played in mentoring drew roars of approval from the crowd. So did many other comments too. On a night designed to officially stamp the love mutually shared and cherished between two middle-aged people, it was the next generation that shined so brightly.

Quite a  proud moment for their pop. A moment that will forever be cherished.

Just this simple dude from Missouri’s opinion, but, first and foremost, wishes are for our children to be healthy. Right behind that constant prayer is one that they will embrace a passion to, as Thoreau wisely stated long ago, “Advance confidently in the direction of their dreams and live the life they imagine.”

Like all of us, life will throw curveballs at them. My two kids didn’t deserve to have their worlds rocked by parents divorcing in their early years. The hassle of living under two roofs. The uncertainty of their futures as parents moved on to new relationships with others.

Those of us who created them have not made it easy. However, as Rachel joked toward the end of her remarks, “Dad has a way of turning everything into a life lesson.”

Guilty as charged.

Kids grow up so fast. Before you know it, poof, they’re moving on to new frontiers. This much I know, from what was observed in listening to son and daughter share intimate thoughts with confidence and pizzaz, their future is limitless.

When the sun sets on each and every day, about the only thing we control, when it comes to the creatures we create, is our willingness to get the heck out of their way and allow the wonder that is them to blossom.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pep Talk: "Gallop With Gusto!"

“There was a much different perception to this visit.”

That thought came crashing into cranium while visiting with a buddy on a cool and overcast Centennial State Friday morning. Another way to look at what follows in this Pep Talk might be, “throw off what hinders and entangles, cast fear aside, allow wonderment to win and run, with perseverance, the race before us.”

It was the weekly Platoon meeting. A group of knuckleheads gathered to blast away at one another in the belief that iron sharpens iron. Collectively, in a nondescript conference room in Aurora, Colorado, we challenge one another to grow stronger spiritually. Your scribe was responding to a question from a companion about a recent visit to the University of Missouri-Columbia, my alma mater.

Along with darling fiancĂ©e, we made the trek into the rolling hills of central Missouri to visit a young lady who is studying journalism at Mizzou. She’s the cherished daughter of dear friends and calls me “Uncle Mac.” It was the first trip back to campus in quite some time. Bravo to all who have turned what used to be a concrete jungle-type campus into a botanic garden. Mizzou’s looking good these days.

In an earlier life as a sportscaster, I had made many trips back to Columbia to cover battles between the Colorado Buffaloes and Missouri Tigers. However, those trips were quick and focused on the football stadium, not the campus. Each visit was bittersweet. I enjoyed duties as the “Buff Guy” for Denver’s CBS-owned television station KCNC-TV. But admittedly, each return was also a reminder of an athletic career that ended in disappointing fashion.

Covering football games inside Memorial Stadium between the Buffs and Tigers always reminded me that I was supposed to play on Faurot Field. It was impossible for my mind not to wander to “What might have been.”

But this visit was different. It was focused on campus, not sports. On visiting a dynamic and adventurous girl loved like a child of my own. With the love of my life who will soon be my bride. With a perception of self as a long-time journalist, small business owner and servant to Victory’s “A Stronger Cord” project and its mission to call men out, starting with the workout.

Only because of a different mindset did strolling the grounds of Mizzou bring a sense of wonder and excitement, not a tinge of sorrow for unfulfilled dreams and ambitions. I was sharing those thoughts with a buddy before the dudes of Platoon dug into the message of the day. Talking about it made me think of another: the woman who gave me life, Patsy Sue Perry.

Almost 80 but still as feisty as ever, she’s on the move again. The town of St. Joseph, Missouri is calling Patsy Sue home. We’ve had a lot of discussions about what this move means for the mother of four and grandma to eight: returning to a senior living facility where friends greet her like a rock star; having important resources - senior citizen’s center, medical care, churches, library, schools, bars - all within one block of home.

Also, the two residences where she grew up are within a few blocks. Lively chats about the pending move focus on it being the “Alpha and the Omega” for a news junkie who, cognitively, is still sharp as a tack. What a blessing. It’s the fourth quarter of life for Patsy Sue. Heading home to where it all began. We’ve talked a lot about “finishing strong.”

But that will require a change in perception of self for her, too. It will require a woman to somehow, someway, muster the courage to let go of the past. To be gentle and forgiving and not hold grudges, especially against herself. Yep. Forgiving self. Ever been there? Sure you have. Simple but not easy, right? How to focus on the future, not the past, with a sense of wonder, not sorrow, for what might, or should, have been?

It’s a constant theme in working with homeless men and encouraging them to become fitness-minded, dependable and productive members of families, workforces and communities. The past? WE GOTTA LET IT GO!

It’s my prayer for Patsy Sue. For you, too. We must drop that bag of dung that is the past. We have to lighten our load. It will help us run, with perseverance and success, the race before us.

Within the shadow of mom’s new high-rise home sits an impressive statue of a Pony Express rider. The late 1800’s mail service started in this town nestled against the mighty Missouri River just north of Kansas City. The dude depicted in the statue is in full gallop, pointed westward, toward California.

This week, let’s do the same. Drop the sack of regret about the past, jump on our horses and gallop with gusto toward the future with wonder, not sorrow, as our guide!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Pep Talk: "Winslow Wanted Lousy Passes"

“Throw ‘em everywhere but at my chest” was the directive.

It was a statement uttered almost 40 years ago. However, for whatever reason, it vividly returned while savoring tasty cheeseburgers at Booches, the legendary burger joint in Columbia, Missouri, home to the University of MIssouri.

I was sitting with an old college friend. It was a reunion of sorts. We hadn’t seen each other in almost four decades, since our college days at Mizzou. While recently visiting campus, we randomly ran into one another. Over burgers and beers, we reflected back on Tiger football of that time. Specifically, the 1976 season under coach Al Onofrio.

The request to “throw ‘em everywhere but at my chest” came from a player who would go on to football stardom collegiately and professionally. It was addressed toward me. At the time, a wounded and confused freshman member of the Tiger team.

Kellen Winslow was a sophomore that season. Despite not playing football until his senior year in high school, the East St. Louis, Illinois native was a rising star. A big man with soft hands, immense athletic ability and great intelligence, the tight end had minor injuries keeping him from practice.

Meanwhile, your scribe was waiting for doctor approval, or disapproval, to continue playing football after suffering a skull fracture, major concussion, breakage of cochlear bones and loss of hearing from a freak injury suffered on a high-school basketball court a few months prior. We were comrades, sidelined and looking for something productive to accomplish.

We would lift weights together. As a quarterback and tight end, the workouts led to throwing the football around. It led to a man, later on, named to the NFL’s All-Century team commanding me to throw passes above his head, at his feet, to the far left and right. The mission was to help the 6’5” athlete become comfortable catching passes, wherever thrown.

One of the most memorable games in NFL history went down in Miami, Florida in the early 1980’s. The visiting San Diego Chargers, led by quarterback Dan Fouts, taking on Dan Marino and the Dolphins. It became known as the “Epic in Miami.” Winslow was spectacular, catching a playoff record 13 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown, blocking a Miami field-goal attempt and fighting through dehydration, a busted lip requiring three stitches and severe cramps. After the battle, video of teammates helping an exhausted Winslow from the field is one of NFL lore.

Now the athletic director at Florida A & M University, Winslow was a transformational player. Current New England head coach Bill Belichick says he redefined the tight end position. Before the 13th overall selection in the 1979 draft came along most professional tight ends were “block first and catch second.” Winslow changed all that.

A quick check of Wikipedia reveals his NFL accolades: After being drafted in the first round Winslow’s entire career was spent with the Chargers; five times an All Pro; elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and, according to the Sporting News, one of the top 100 players in NFL history. A stud.

What still burns bright in my mind about the soft-spoken man is a desire, despite great talent, for more. On a windy, cool but sunny Saturday afternoon in one of Mizzou’s great hangout places, during an accidental encounter with a long-time friend on the first visit back to campus in ages, memories of that time quickly, and surprisingly, surfaced.

Whenever I see highlights of Winslow’s career, or see him interviewed, it always takes me back to our time together. A star and a scrub. Each sidelined. One with big dreams of the future and one with uncertainty ahead. We had our moment. He probably doesn’t remember it. I do. It has served as a wonderful example of something important. At least for me. I hope it’s for you too.

Here it is: There is always room for improvement and we’re best when assisting others. Kellen Winslow showed me that before I even knew what it meant. Here was a man destined for big things who, while sidelined, kept thinking, “What can I do to get better?”

It takes my brain to “There’s nothing noble is being superior to somebody else. True nobility lies in becoming superior to our former selves.” A minor knee injury was keeping a future star from practicing but it didn’t mean the now 56-year-old was not seeking ways to fine-tune his game.

The meaning of what I was witnessing firsthand was lost at the time. 18 years old and wondering about my own future, its message certainly resonates powerfully today. The game plan will, in all likelihood, need revision along the way. We get injured - physically, emotionally and financially - and are challenged to adapt. Don’t let the temporary setbacks derail the dreams, don’t hesitate to ask for help or be ready to respond when assistance is requested. 

Winslow wanted lousy passes. Someone you know may have an equally strange request. Don’t hesitate to deliver. Over burgers and beers with a buddy, a great reminder: We’re best when serving others.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pep Talk: "All The Way For This?"

Two decades have expired, but the clock has not run out. Kids not born at the time know about it. Historic. Most remember this moment for the catch, but a simple dude from Missouri who was present remembers, just as vividly, the drop.

It was an absolutely splendid late September day. Long shadows had begun to creep across the vast terrain of chewed up turf that was the scene of an epic battle. It’s known as the “Big House.” It sits on the University of Michigan campus. One of America’s great football venues.  Since expanded to more than 109,000 seats, at the time in 1994, if recollection serves, it held 105,000 football fanatics. On this day, most of them were cheering on the hometown Wolverines, who were seconds away from a fortuitous victory over the visiting University of Colorado Buffaloes. It had been a frustrating day for the talented team from the foot of the Flatirons. Opportunities squandered. Defeat appeared imminent.

The conclusion was one of the most dramatic in college football history. Six seconds remained in the contest; Colorado was down five and was 64 yards from the Wolverine goal line. There was time for only one more play.

Covering the game as the “Buff Guy” for Denver’s KCNC-TV, your scribe was standing near the goal line during a television timeout, I heard a female voice calling my name from the stands: “McIntosh!” screamed the woman dressed head-to-toe in Buffs black and gold, “I drove all the way from Colorado to watch this crap?”

The 1994 Colorado Buffaloes were really good. Maybe the most talented of the almost 20 teams I had the pleasure to hang around. In Bill McCartney’s final season before leaving the coaching profession to care for his wife and family, the Buffs finished 11-1, including a resounding thumping of a Lou Holtz-led Notre Dame team in the Fiesta Bowl. The only blemish? A bad performance in Lincoln against the Huskers. More than 20 players from a team that had the talent to win a national championship went on to play in the National Football League. One of them was quarterback Kordell Stewart.

Back to the point of all this. After empathetically shrugging shoulders toward the frustrated, and perhaps slightly inebriated, CU fan, attention returned to the field as play resumed after the television timeout. Everyone jammed into the fabled stadium knew what was going to happen. The strong-armed Stewart was going to drop back and heave the pigskin as far as the Louisiana native’s strength would allow. CU needed a miracle.

It’s one of my favorite moments from almost 30 years as a sportscaster. I never tire of sharing what it was like to experience an incredible moment at ground zero: Getting the protection necessary, including an excellent “chip block” from Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam, the future NFL star known as “The Slash” launched a missile into the warm Michigan air. It refused to surrender air space as it arrived at the Michigan goal line, not 20 feet from where I was standing. As the hurtling football began its final descent, CU backup wide receiver Blake Anderson did an excellent job of tipping the ball toward the middle section of the end zone and into the waiting arms of a future first -round NFL pick, talented wideout Michael Westbrook. Touchdown Buffs! The Miracle in Michigan was born in CU’s improbable and quite dramatic 27-26 win over the Wolverines.

It was the catch heard ‘round the college football world and still ranks as one of the greatest ever. As the madness unfolded before me, I quickly turned toward the stands and looked for the woman who, seconds earlier, had vented angst in my direction. Where was she? Wow. There she was! She had dropped from the stands about five feet, and was lying on her back, unhurt and absolutely joyful, flopping around like a fish out of water on the stadium floor.

Ever heard 105,000 screaming fans go silent in a split second? That’s what happened in Ann Arbor, Michigan on September 24, 1994. Everyone talks about the catch. I will carry it to my grave. So too, the drop. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat is cool.

Recently, I had the pleasure to speak to the Buffalo Belles. It’s an all-female booster club for University of Colorado athletics founded in 1970. These fun ladies are still going strong. I shared this story and joked, “I know that woman must have been a Buff Belle!” They laughed and didn’t disagree.

The catch and the drop.

It’s a good reminder about life. It can often seem quite frustrating, right? Things just aren’t going the way we planned? We’re getting poked in the eye and it sucks. We are tempted to throw in the towel and surrender cherished dreams and aspirations. Don’t.

Let what transpired long ago in the south end zone of one of America’s legendary college football stadiums serve as a constant reminder of the importance and value of fighting to the finish. Life takes detours. We know that. The journey has its fair share of unexpected twists and turns. Don’t give up. Persevere. Fight to the finish. While there are no guarantees such an attitude will ensure success, rarely do we achieve goals and overcome challenges without it.

On this roller coaster ride disguised as life, there will be moments of despair. There will be moments when we wonder, “I came all the way for this?”

A pile of sweat-soaked Colorado Buffaloes in an end zone. Nearby, one of their zealous fans deliriously down on the stadium floor, too. The catch and the drop. Personally, forever a reminder of the truth and power of fighting to the finish in every endeavor we hold near and dear to our hearts.

I hope it becomes one for you, too!

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