“The Paterno Story: A tragic fall from grace”

The first motivation for my blog came in November 2011 as I watched the evening news and heard that the legendary Joe Paterno had been fired as the Head Coach of the Penn State Football team.  My response to that shocking news was to write Jo Pa a letter via my newly instated blog.  It is now August, not quite a year from that first post and the Philadelphia Inquirer’s lead story of the Sports Section is once again dedicated to the Paterno topic.  This time due to a biography which went on sale on Tuesday this week chronicling Paterno’s life, much of which came from personal interviews with the man himself.  The Paterno story: A tragic fall from grace by sports writer Joe Posnanski might help to shed some light for the many fans of the man who is Paterno as to why he didn’t do more and to why the situation became what it did.

From the Inquirer article, Posnanski, appears to give a heartfelt interpretation of the events that transpired in both leading up to the incident and how the man coped in the months before his death to lung cancer in January of this year.

My instant reaction once again was to write when I had read Frank Fitzpatrick’s Inquirer article.  And once again I was instantly sadden; for Joe, his family, Penn State, the victims, the athletes who knew him and the community at large.

Often as humans we don’t realize how much is expected of us.  The Zeus like status that Joe Paterno had meant he was expected to not only be perfect on the football field, but he was expected to “do more.”  We have witnessed many individuals in high-powered positions “fall from grace” for not doing enough.  Unfortunately, Joe’s ability to be singularly focused on the football field of excellence led it all to be taken from him.  This is an unfortunate reminder that if we are going to take on the responsiblity to lead many, manage many or speak on the behalf of others our roll is never singular but multiple.  We are not given the luxury to only be a stellar athlete and judged purely on that regard, but one is judged on much more.  In all honesty I find that I have mixed feelings about this.  I have an ability to compartmentalize, which meant when the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal hit; I felt it was a personal matter for their families to handle and as long as it did not affect his ability to successfully do his job than it was none of my business.  Knowing that Paterno should have done more is agreed, even from his own lips, but where does the line fall on his multi-tiered responsibilities?

Given my Italian family interactions over the years I somehow can understand and see my Great Uncle Carmen acting in a very similar way to Paterno, not because of any maliciousness or lack of wanting to do more, but out of a disbelief that it was even occurring in the first place.  The world was a very different place when they grew up.  People did not know that things like this took place because they were not out in the open.  The scandals of their day involved Marilyn Monroe and President Kennedy.  Not children.  In the public domain the words “child abuse” did not exist until the post 60s era and has changed largely in the last 30 years.  This in no way makes it ok or foregiveable, but needs to be taken into consideration when you’re thinking about the man and how it happened in the first place.

As a coach, former athlete and all around fan of Paterno’s I’m whole heartedly sadden by everything that has occurred.  I have a difficult time understanding the NCAA’s roll and right in punishing the current and future athletes, coaches, fans and one of the best all around Division I athletic programs in the country for an act that none of them had any participation in.  I’m in fact enraged at the NCAA for further tarnishing what has already been torn apart.  Shouldn’t the NCAA be trying to rebuild the program from the Hurricane Katrina like damage that has already befallen it rather than make it worse?

To the athletes and coaches, I’m so sorry!  I know how I remember so many of the wins and losses over my career. Through the tears from loss and the elation from the double overtime wins they create who we are.  Despite what the NCAA has done, do not forget these, keep them with you and remember that if you let them your careers can span further than you thought they ever could.  Keep playing and keep coaching!

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Trying to have it all

Today I read an article that was started in a linkedin stream by Brandy Lynn Houser, Co-Founder of De La Femme.  The topic of the article is one that I hold very dear as it discusses the ability and inability of women to truly have it all: the high powered job and happy family life.

Dana Theus wrote the article in response to the recent post by Anne-Marie Slaughter, Princeton Professor and former State Department Policy Director, entitled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”. I do not have a family yet, but one day will and I am striving today to create the life that I want in order to attempt to down the road “have it all”.  I 100% agree with the point that Theus so poignantly and importantly raises; “having it all” isn’t really about the high powered/family combo but about having the power in the choices we make.  The reality is that we have power in each choice we make, whether that is to have a family or not, to climb the corporate ladder or not, or to give up one thing to get another.  Anyone that has ever truly been successful or accomplished a large feat whether it be an Olmypic Athlete, Prime Minister, or Forbes 400 Wealthiest has had to give up something along the way, more than likely many things along the way.  Making a sacrifice to “have it all” has nothing to do with being a female or a male.  I know countless males that also want to see their children grow up and would love to have the opportunity to be the stay at home father.  Previous societal roles have placed this topic into a gender issue however I want to take the gender side out of this discussion as it truly is a individual person discussion and not one which is changed by being a female or a male.

The Olympic athlete spent thousands of hours on the training field or course to achieve the elite athlete status that allowed them to get to the Olympics.  With that came sacrifice and tremedous ones.  It meant not getting to go to the parties with your friends at 15 because you had 5am training the next day before school.  It meant saying “no” to countless invitations.  It meant not spending Thanksgiving with your family to play or run in a meet in another country.  The same is true for the Prime Minister, Orchestra conductor or Forbes 400 list.  Unless you are handed it, which in my opinion is never rewarding and as such I wouldn’t want it, success doesn’t come easily.  Success and the ability to have it all comes with sacrifice.  The beauty of this however is in the power of choice.

We, more times than we realize, choose to go down the path we do.  We choose to stop working the full-time job to stay at home and raise our children as we know that no one would be able to do a better job than we can.  We choose to fight the political battles in the corporate world to inch our way to the top giving up precious time with the family and friends that we love.  We choose to spend Thanksgiving away from home in hopes of perfecting our athletic skill set.  I couldn’t be happier that we have these choices.  Others as Theus comments are intrical in our ability to fully live out these dreams and choose with a healthy conscience.  To know that if we do not stay at home someone just as wonderful will be looking after our children, to know that we are the role model that the new 23 year old female in the office is looking up to for guidance as she figures out what her role will be in the corporate world and to know that our athletic triumph on the parallel bars lead to a revolution in the sport of gymnastics, which inspired a generation of female athletes.  The power to make these choices came from the support of those around us and the confidence in knowing that we were walking down the right path which was deserving of the sacrifices we would inevitably make.

The people around me so often hear me say that a lot of life is a mindset.  We choose how we view the situation we are in, what we take away from an event and the responses we give that have a trickle down impact on those around us.  I never have been one to let someone really tell me what to do.  That does not mean I do not take advice from others or try to really listen to the words of those that care about me, but as I’m not good at hearing someone regardless of status or previous experience tell me that I can’t have it all.  Well, that just doesn’t fly!  Because we create it in the choices we make and we create the definition of “having it all”.  What it looks like to me will be completely different than what it looks like to you.  I know that people that I strive to emulate and how there “having it all” looks like.  For me it involves the flexibility and control over how I spend my time while still having a positive impact on many of the lives around me and all the while making a paycheck.  Yes, I do want it all and yes at 31 I have yet to be persuaded that it isn’t achievable.  I am positive that I can create my “having it all” and am working right now to do just that.

So to Theus and Slaughter, thank you for the articles.  And thank you for continuing to set a blaze in my path, because as many of us are, we’re sometimes more ignited by being told we can’t do something than by being told we can.

http://www.inpowerwomen.com/work-life-power-why-sandburg-slaughter-have-it-all-wrong/?goback=%2Egde_147283_member_128570052

Rhiannon Hull

In March, Sports Illustrated printed an article about distance runner Rhiannon Hull.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1195703/index.htm

My uncle gets a SI subscription and had read the article.  He thought it would be something I would connect with having been a runner and an athlete.  Given my busy schedule in the final months of finishing my MBA I saved the article; looking forward to reading it when I had a moment to myself.  Well that moment finally arrived on this rainy day in Moorestown, NJ.  I grabbed a coffee and sat in the leather armchair at my parent’s house.  I read about Rhiannon’s past and how she became an elite athlete.  How she became dedicated to yoga, her running and the teachings of the Waldorf School which I had previously never heard of.  I read about how she met her husband Norm and how they fell in love in Oregon while she attended the University of Oregon.  I learned how she didn’t want her running to be the only thing that defined her and made a point of having many things in her life.  I loved that she traveled and lived in Spain; continuously running and pushing her physical limitations.

In 2011, she decided to take up a position as the kindergarten teacher at the Waldorf school in Costa Rica.  She and her son moved there with the expectation that her husband and other son would join them shortly thereafter.  After 6 weeks, Rhiannon and her son Julian went swimming in what was a tumultuous sea. They got caught in a terrible ripe tide which took them roughly 130 feet from the safety of the sandy shores.  After approximately 30 minutes of battle two surfers saw them and attempted to rescue them.  They got to them and Rhiannon was able to pass her son Julian to one of the surfers.  Within seconds of securing Julian on their surf board Rhiannon had disappeared into the murky waters.  Despite numerous dives and attempts to find her she never surfaced.  Three days later her body was found by the Coast Guard.

Stories like Rhiannon’s make us pause, think and breath.  They remind us how grateful we are to live each day.  They strike at the heart and the soul.  This story in particular touched me for several reasons; she was roughly my age, she was an athlete that knew her body and strength incredibly well through her years of running, yoga and other physical feats, she was passionate and seemed to truly appreciate life’s simple pleasures.  Writers David Epstein and L. Jon Wertheim did a wonderful job of describing Rhiannon in a way that, I, as the reader could connect to her.  As I read, I wanted to connect to her.  I wanted to hangout with her, to have a conversation with her.  These are the successes of powerful writing and communication.  I am truly sadden by the loss of Rhiannon to her family, friends and the community. Norm, Rhiannon’s husband has started a foundation in her honor in Healdsburg, CA where they lived before Costa Rica and at present.  www.rjhf.org The Rhiannon Joy Hull Foundation stages road races and aid families in sending their children to alternative schools as well as local track programs.

Encyclopedia Britannica

For those of us older than say 27 we grew up without having the Internet as the instant port of call to do our homework, research papers and fact searches.  We had places like the library to go to and were required to read books to learn the primary facts of knowledge to base our hypothesis and conclusions on.  In today’s Boston Globe the Opinion section talks about the slow and eventual death of Encyclopedia Britannica as we (those above the age of 27) know it.

As a youth, the Internet and computer weren’t a source for the many elementary, middle school or high school assignments due each week and month.  Books and people were the main resources.  I remember as a kid asking my father if we could get the Encyclopedia Britannica.  Their commercials were on TV and my friends often had it to help them with their assignments.  My father said “no” as it cost too much.  One year we bought us a huge, single book encyclopedia to get us to stop asking for an encyclopedia.  However, it lacked the officialness and depth of the “real” encyclopedia.  I was still jealous of my friends who had the real deal.  Those that could find much more information on a topic – say the walrus – then I could given the breath of its and their knowledge. I somehow miraculously survived my childhood without an Encyclopedia Britannica.  However, the mystic of the Encyclopedia Britannica has never left and reading this morning that its era which began in 1768 in Scotland has come to an end deeply sadden me.

My instant urge was to run out to a garage sale or flea market to pick up one of the dying breeds.  James Carroll the author of today’s article did a fabulous job of capturing my sadness, but was able to better than myself, move to the positive notion that the end of this era implies.  He ends the article by saying, “If the founding of the printed Encyclopedia Britannica was a milestone of human improvement, its passing is even more so.”  My nostalgia hasn’t allowed me to yet feel the way James Carroll does about its passing, but I’m working on it.

My favorite quote from his article is one that is bigger than just talking about an encyclopedia.  One that my little brain is still trying to grasp.  He starts by saying, “The end of this printed resource, and of the theory of knowledge it represents, has implications for the cultural divide that shows up in arguments over evolution, sexuality, and “values”.  Truth is not a timeless absolute before which the mind must bow, but an ever-receding horizon toward which humans move through discovery and invention both.”  Holy crap, James.  Where did you pool that out from?  That sentence will have my head spinning for a week! But thank you, because truth is a concept that most of us don’t spend enough time looking at and analyzing.

Adieu our dear Encyclopedia Britannica, you will be missed.  I’m sure that I will one day pick up a complete set at a garage sale as i want my children to know what books are and the difference in getting information from black and white and not just our amazing and highly stimulating computers.

To read the original opinion piece click here:http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2012/03/18/era-shelved/bcGQoH5wUMRUNqB1Vb5HiO/story.html

Natural Talents

The tears have a way of forming under my eyes more regularly these days.  I often blame my mother’s genetics for that.  Here is a video that as many others have brought tears of joy to my eyes.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Natural talents exist all around us.  Humans are amazing creatures! Please watch! I bring you Chooka Parker.

The healthy food crusade

When I’m back in Moorestown, NJ visiting my parents, my father often likes to sit me down and share the links he finds on a website called www.wimp.com.  It’s a website of YouTube and other video links from around the world.  It’s a little way of knowing what is going on around us.  5 new videos are posted a day.  Today was the first time I went to this website without my father’s initiative.  And today I watched a video by Robyn O’Brien talk about the U.S. food industry. 

Those that have known me for a long time know that I have always been interested and curious about the health properties of food.  What is in the food I’m eating?  What nutritional values does it have?  I have gone through a few food phases as well starting when I was in college.  As a Division I athlete I was very conscious about how food energizes the body to allow it to perform not only the mental feats for the day but also the physical ones.  I learned a lot about the relationship between how we treat our bodies with food, sleep, etc. and how this directly translates into how are bodies treat us in return.  During this college period I read a book by Marilu Henner, 30-Day Total Health Makeover, which opened my eyes to the hormones, pesticides and genetically modified food that was on our shelves each day at the grocery store.  I stopped eating dairy and red meat and shopped at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, limiting my frequency in the mainstream grocery stores.  I attempted to change my families eating habits as well.  After graduation, I took a course with a holistic health coach learning even more about the various nutritional properties that exist in the food we eat.  I learned that an average sized apple is around 80 calories and high in Vitamin C and fiber.  I memorized that a slice of bread on average is about 100 calories.  The effects of college peer pressure and my own competitiveness meant that my thoughts around my own image and those of food were not always healthy.  In certain ways this compelled my learning about food.

In 2007 I traveled to Argentina and Brazil.  Argentina is known around the world for its steak.  How could I go and not eat steak while I’m there?  I had to try it.  What comforted me was the knowledge that food regulations were different in Argentina and many places around the world to that of the United States.  I knew that the cows weren’t being feed hormones to grow or eating genetically modified grains.  I trusted the food that I was going to eat there more than in my own country.  I ate healthy quantities of meat the entire 4 1/2 months I was in Argentina and Brazil.  I came back and realized that I really enjoyed eating meat and I hated that I felt I had to limit that due to the regulations in my own country.  For how forward thinking and progressive the United States is, it upset me greatly that we modified our food more than any other.

I moved to England in 2008 and knew that the food on the shelves there was by and large healthier then the food on the shelves in the United States based on the research I had done over the years.  I stopped restricting myself and began to eat dairy, red meat and really whatever I wanted.  I became an overall healthier individual.

Thanks to my father, I just watched the clip of Robyn O’Brien http://www.robynobrien.com/ on wimp.com at the Ted conference in Austin, Texas in 2011.  It was a very important reminder of the realization that I have to think about what I ingest while I’m back in the United States.  It made me instantly want to live back in Europe for the pure fact that I would be able to worry less about the food I purchase in a normal grocery store due to the difference in our regulations.  I have long thought about the connections between food and cancer.  If you have 18 mins. I urge you to watch her video and learn some of the fearful facts about food, cancer and our country’s ties to exorbitant healthcare costs.

Thank you Robyn for being a much-needed reminder.  It is so incredibly unfortunate that I have a cautionary stance on food in my own country which so naturally fuels the fire to live in a place where I don’t have to.  I urge you all to ask questions about what is in the food you eat, about how you live your lives, and why you get sick.  When we actually stop and start to think about them they are more connected than we often realize.

http://www.wimp.com/realfood/

Andrew Zimmern – A great reminder

http://www.andrewzimmern.com/

I followed my friends in business school to go and see Andrew Zimmern speak. I had tons of work to catch up on and prepare and had never heard of him.  Should I really be spending my time hearing someone speak that I’ve never even heard of before? Well, Andrew Zimmern pleasantly surprised me.  He is the host of Bizarre foods with Andrew Zimmern on the Travel network.  This of course I only learned via his talk and through my friends afterward.  Here is a link to his website where you can find more information on him and his TV show.

He is the new Entrepreneur in residence at Babson college where I’m currently getting my MBA.  He was incredibly humble and said he was thrilled to be able to be around like minded people.  I couldn’t have agreed more and it was a wonderful reminder of how lucky I am to be around these very like minded individuals here at Babson.  I, like many of my classmates, want to change the world.  I want to help the world connect.  I want to help tie people, experiences and help everyone realize that we are so similar. We all want our children to be safe, eat food that is healthy for our bodies and minds to grow and to laugh with our friends and family.  The world is a simple place and yet we make it very complicated.  Andrew this afternoon helped to remind me why I came to Babson in the first place.  I came here to start an infectious positive change, not particularly in my own life but in those around me (hopefully all over the world).  I believe I’m doing this on some level but I know I have so much more to give and so much more to do.  “Entrepreneurship in action” is Babson’s matra.  It is difficult to know exactly how to do this when the world is both big and small at the same time.  The living and acting in the living, not allowing yourself to be only on the ride but creating the ride.  Thank you Andrew for reminding me that the life experiences, people we meet and stories we are able to share with others help to connect this very big and small world and make it one.