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Saturday, December 1, 2012

College basketball loses a great one

It was the fall of 1980 when I first met the legendary Rick Majerus, who died Saturday at the age of 64.

I had two credits to finish my first semester schedule and didn't know what silly class I could take to complete the 18 credits. As I was standing in line in the old Marquette gym for registration (the school had the most ridiculous, antiquated way of registering classes with like 1940's IBM computer punch cards), I saw a class that exploded off the page.

It was called "Theories of Basketball," taught by Professor Rick Majerus, who at the time was also the beloved assistant coach for the Marquette Warriors. It was a class that met twice a week, 11 AM on Mondays and Wednesdays, for an hour, for two credits.

It was clearly the best educational thing I ever took, because Majerus was a joy to be with. We spent about five minutes every Monday talking about some strategy in basketball, and then the rest of the time, we spent talking about Marquette basketball, past, present and future.

The class was phenomenal. We would go over the previous game and talk about what Sam Worthen did right or wrong or what kind of recruits he was pursuing.

"I got this kid in Illinois," Majerus said back then. "I'm pretty sure we're going to get him. If we do, it's a big-time steal."

The kid was named Glenn Rivers. There was no hint of the nickname he goes by now as the coach of the Boston Celtics. He wasn't nearly a "Doc" quite yet. But when Rivers signed his letter to come to Marquette, we celebrated as the only way we knew how. We went to eat.

Majerus loved me because of my knowledge of basketball and basketball history. He loved the fact that I had the heavy New York accent and loved that I knew about all the New York players Al McGuire brought to Marquette, including my man Jimmy Boylan, the point guard on the 1977 National Championship team.

Whenever class was over on Monday mornings, he would say, "See you guys Wednesday," then say to me, "Hey Hague, where are we going to eat?"

I'd climb in his ratty car and we'd go all over Milwaukee in search of the perfect sandwich. My particular favorite was the sub sandwiches at Cousin's, right up the block on 17th and Wisconsin from my dorm room at McCormick Hall.

I must have enjoyed lunch with Majerus about 20 times during my days at Marquette. We would talk and laugh and talk some more. Even after my two credits were over, I remained pretty close to Majerus, through his eventual shortened stint as the head coach at Marquette, to his days at Ball State and later the University of Utah.

I remembered one particular game he had as a Marquette head coach, against Bobby Knight and Indiana, circa 1984 or so, an Indiana team that featured a young Steve Alford and tremendous center Uwe Blab, in the NIT.

Well, Marquette is getting hosed by the referees, so much so that as the game goes into double overtime, Majerus has only four players left. The rest fouled out. He played the second OT with four players, one of whom was fellow Jersey City boy Mandy Johnson.

In this game, Majerus gets so incensed by a call that he literally blew himself out of his sports jacket. It split in half, much like what Chris Farley did to David Spade's jacket in the movie, "Tommy Boy." The late Farley was also a Marquette guy, so maybe he got the idea from seeing Majerus tear his sports jacket to shreds.

And of course, we lost that game. Another heartbreaking MU memory.

He always remembered me. When we would see each other at college basketball events, it wasn't a handshake waiting. It was a big hug and a hearty laugh. He was so happy that I had a career in sports, doing what I love doing. He helped me tremendously when the Nets drafted his player, Keith Van Horn, and even went out of his way to introduce Van Horn to me after he got picked by the Nets, knowing that I covered the Nets.

I spoke to him about a year or so ago, after he asked a mutual friend if it was me who was pissed off at current coach Buzz Williams for keeping the locker room closed long after a game. He heard it was a Marquette guy who was pissed at Buzz and wondered if it was me.

When people find out that I went to Marquette, the first thing they ask is whether I knew Coach McGuire. The second is whether I knew Rick Majerus.

I didn't just know Majerus. I loved him, as did so many other brethren he had in the college basketball world. There isn't a man alive who could say a bad thing about Majerus. He was so totally beloved by everyone and the center of attention at the College Basketball Coaches convention every year at the Final Four.

We're all saddened today that we lost Rick Majerus. We hoped he would take better care of himself when he had countless heart procedures, but instead of rest and recuperation, all he wanted to do was get back to his team and coach basketball.

Rick Majerus was one of a kind and he will be so sorely missed. There's a part of me that died with Coach Majerus today, because I can't pick up the phone or drop an e-mail (HE HATED E-MAILS) to him anymore.

People come and go in our lives all the time. I've had too many funerals and wakes and memorial Masses to go to over the last few years. When someone dies, there's always this moment of reflection and thoughts. Mine for the last hour or so since I heard of Majerus' passing has been climbing into that car and going to have a sandwich.

Rick Majerus was a good man, a Marquette man through and through. We all should "Ring Out Ahoya" tonight in memory of a true basketball legend, a Warrior in every aspect of his life. RIP Coach Majerus. The next really good sandwich I'll have, I'll think of you.


A couple of things have happened since I last blogged and I apologize for the delay. I've been a little busy.

First, I don't get Jason Kidd not even showing up for the Nets-Knicks game last week. I understand back pain very well. But what would have it taken for him to go to the game, sit there in street clothes, and wave to the fans who obviously still love him.

Because without doubt, there's no such thing as the Brooklyn Nets or the Barclays Center for that matter without Jason Kidd. If he wasn't traded to the Nets in 2001 for Stephon Marbury (wow, what a steal), the Nets, as we currently know them, wouldn't have existed. They would have been shipped to Charlotte or Oklahoma City or Las Vegas or Florida, all places that were talked about being moving points before the Nets got Kidd and instantly became the Eastern Conference champs two years running.

He saved the franchise, without question. He's still beloved by Nets fans. He could have attended the game, stood up, waved, and then sat down on his heating pad. Not even showing up for the first-ever New York NBA battle was just wrong.

Finally, I think what Gregg Popovich did the other night against the Heat was ridiculous. Sitting all four down on the same day? Not letting them even travel to Miami? C'mon. If he wanted to rest Tim Duncan, that's one thing. But to rest Tony Parker and Manu Ginoboli on the same day as well? He could have rested just Duncan that night, then gave Parker another night off and Ginoboli another night off. You catch my drift. Giving all four the night off together was basically mailing in a game, even if the Spurs almost overachieved and won the game.

It was a wrong precedent to start and the NBA did the right thing by fining the Spurs $250,000. Can't have this happen again.


Yes, the new Barclays Center is very nice. The drive to Brooklyn has not been that bad. I don't get the location of it or the shape of the building. My buddy Dave D'Alessandro calls it a "rusted bed pan."

But overall, it is an upgrade for the Nets and it has also produced new Net fans that have rocked the building some games, giving the place an atmosphere that never existed in New Jersey ever, even when the Nets were the best team in the Eastern Conference.

However, the seating for the press is ridiculous. It's in the high back of the visiting basket, more than 100 rows off the floor. Sure, I'm spoiled rotted with all those years of sitting courtside at the IZOD or Pru Center.

But this is being put in Never-Never Land. It's dark and you can't see the notes. I can't see the floor. I know I'm getting old and need glasses, but this is up there.

I guess life goes on, as I sit in the press room and watch the games on TV, then run around to get quotes afterwards. I was spoiled. Now, I just can't see.

You can read more of my work at (yes, it's high school football championship time in New Jersey), and This week in the Reporter, you can read about the intense damage that St. Peter's Prep suffered after Hurricane Sandy.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Not the way we're used to seeing Jeter

There was an almost funereal hush that quieted Yankee Stadium Saturday night _ and it had nothing to do with the go-ahead run scoring in the top of the 12th inning, eventually rendering that miraculous ninth inning comeback totally useless.

The eerie silence that enveloped Yankee Stadium in extra innings was caused by an unusual sight. The culprit that turned the Yankee Stadium bedlam into a silent dome was the image of the seemingly unflappable staple of Yankee baseball, the team's captain, Derek Jeter, rolling around on the Yankee Stadium infield, writhing in pain.

You knew by the way the always unsinkable Jeter couldn't get to his feet that he was hurt severely, that this wasn't your average sprain or twist. You could see in the replays with Jeter's mouth wide open in agony that this was a season-ender.

Anyone who has watched Jeter perform brilliantly over the last 17 years knew that this was a major injury, because every other time Jeter has gone down in his career, he got up.

He dove into the stands to catch that foul popup against the Red Sox and popped out of the stands, looking like something out of a John Wayne war epic, with the blood trickling down his cheek, and you knew he was fine.

You've seen Jeter foul pitch after pitch off his feet and shins, watch him hop around a little on the injured foot or leg, strap on a shin guard and head back out to shortstop. Sprained ankles, bum shoulders, banged-up elbows, you have it. Jeter fought all the nagging injuries off and went out to do his job.

Because that's who he is. He's Derek Jeter, the man who personifies being the captain of the most storied and well known franchise in professional sports. George Steinbrenner was brilliant in a lot of ways, but no more of a genius when "The Boss" decided to hand the larger-than-life title of being the Yankee captain over to Jeter a decade ago.

Because Derek Jeter is the Yankees. He's the heart and soul of the team. Now with Steinbrenner gone, he's the face of the franchise. And deservedly so. Jeter handles his enormous celebrity with dignity and class. He does things the right way.

Some other sportswriters think that Jeter is boring, because he's never going to say the words that will end up as the headlines on the back of the tabloids. He's going to utter the company line _ "We have to play hard and work hard"...."We have to come back to the ballpark tomorrow and get back to doing what we do best"... "We'll take them one day at a time." -- Cliche after cliche. But that's who Derek Jeter is. He's not going to instigate with words in the newspaper. He doesn't have to. He does it all on the diamond.

I've always said that there are just a handful of professional athletes who "get it." Who understand just how enormous of a celebrity they are, how they are perceived by everyone from eight to 80, how vital their place in society is. There are only a few who handle their roles and get it. Peyton Manning. Dwyane Wade. I used to think Tiger Woods and LeBron James were in that category, but not now.

And then there's Derek Jeter, who knows he's adored by millions, who undertstands that he personifies what a role model truly is and not what others unfairly pump them up to be and who lives every single day living up to the expectations of his public and is so deserving of their adoration.

That's why seeing Jeter getting carried off the field Saturday night with a broken ankle is so alarming and so different, because you never expect to see that. Our heroes aren't supposed to be fallible. Superman is always supposed to save Lois Lane from disaster. John Wayne always rides off into the sunset having saved the day. "Sully" Sullenberger always lands that plane on the Hudson River and Derek Jeter always leads the Yankees to victory. It's what heroes do.

This morning, Derek Jeter is sitting with a cast on his foot, his season over. The Yankees lost in extra innings after making that implausible and unthinkable comeback in the ninth inning. They're down, 1-0, in the American League Championship Series. It's going to be Eduardo Nunez's chance to be the hero now.

October has had a history of making unknowns into heroes overnight. Just think of some of the Yankee October heroes of the past, guys like Don Larsen, Bucky Dent, Brian Doyle, Chad Curtis, Scott Brosius, just to name a few, guys who were average regular season players that had a chance to shine in the postseason spotlight and performed like heroes.

More than likely, Nunez, who I believe has a world of talent and has a very bright future in this game, gets thrown into that spotlight now. The future is now. Because the captain isn't there to save the day this time.

And there's something wrong with that image. Jeter is supposed to be the one leading the way, not the one on crutches. Life goes on. The Yankees have to somehow find a way without their leader.

But with or without their captain, there are a lot of guys who have to look in the mirror this morning and figure out what in God's name is going wrong, guys like Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano (can a man with all that talent actually go 2-for-29???) and of course, the whipping boy, the $27 million a year part-time player named A-Rod.

They're all too good of players to all go south that quickly, although A-Rod is showing signs with these slow, swooping, lazy swings that he might be done for good.

They all have to take a deep look at themselves as they shave this morning and wonder what in the world is going on, because the next few days are going to be a hell of a lot tougher without their fearless and seemingly inviniceable leader.

Just one last piece on the Lance Armstrong debacle. We're not going to mention any names, but one of the people who gave downright damning testimony against Armstrong to the United States Anti-Doping Association recently, forcing USADA to strip Armstrong of all his championships, including his seven Tour de France titles, was the same guy who admitted to me back in 1998, at the Goodwill Games cycling event at Wagner College (an event I worked at), that Armstrong was involved in blood doping and steroids.

This informant opened up to me during a break in the action (of course, off the record) in Staten Island, telling me that people with cancer don't just recover that quickly to become a dominant force in cycling, that he wouldn't be able to handle the grueling hills of France the way he mastered them, unless he had some sort of illegal assistance pumping through his veins.

For years, I remained steadfast that Armstrong was a cheater, even to the point where it downright angered many people, because they all wanted to believe that Armstrong had beaten cancer the right way and his charitable work with his LIVESTRONG Foundation was the most philantrophic and charitable efforts of anyone in America.

And for the last seven years, all Armstrong has done has denied, denied, denied. Much like Pete Rose denied he bet on baseball after the evidence all said otherwise. Or the way this evil pedophile Jerry Sandusky still insists he did nothing wrong with those little boys, professing in a sick and disgusting way that it was just the media contriving a conspiracy to get him.

Well, the evidence againsty Lance is just too damning now. More and more people are coming out of the woodwork to say Lance did use performance-enhancing drugs, steroids, was involved in blood doping and the rest. The New York Times had an interview with Armstrong's personal masseuse with the U.S. Postal Service cycling team who said that she was basically used as a drug runner and smuggler for Lance.

Armstrong's response? Well, the woman has no credibility and that she's nothing more than a prostitute.

Sure, Lance, that's how we discredit someone. Call them prostitutes. And your 15 other teammates that testified against you? What are they? Pimps?

In the court of public opinion and for the sake of his organization that is in tatters, Armstrong would serve everyone better if he just came clean and admitted his shortcomings now. Just cut the lies and accusations and come clean as a cheater and a liar. If he said he did so to help in his fight against cancer, he might still maintain some of his dignity. But calling an accuser a prostitute? That's just insane.

Finally, the last bit borders on the insane, but then again, considering the source, it really shouldn't shock anyone.

However, here goes.

There was a story that earned national attention last week, all the way to television shows like Inside Edition, that featured the owner of the Newark Bears, the ridiculously dilusional Danielle Dronet, actually posting on the Bears' website that pop sensation Justin Bieber was going to perform a concert at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium later this month.

The website actually was selling tickets or auctioning tickets if a donation of a Halloween costume to the "Bears That Care Foundation." Or if you purchased Bears season tickets in 2013, you got into a raffle to get a chance to see "The BEEBS" at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium.

Now, if anyone had common sense, they would realize that a recording act the size of Bieber would not perform at such a small venue like the Bears' stadium, much less an outdoor facility in late October, when the temperatures are _ how do you say? _ chilly at best.

When Bieber's publicist got wind of the so-called concert, they sent out all denials, saying that the claim of the concert was "pure fiction."

But here's Danielle, who had sent out messages on Facebook and Twitter that "The Beebs" was indeed coming to Newark, insisting that the concert was going to take place and that it was booked, that there was going to be a "meet and greet" with the teen sensation.

When Dronet was reached by reporters from about the hoax and scam, she still insisted that it was going to happen.

"We shall see," she said. "I'm knocking on wood and doing the sign of the cross. We've been burned so many times. We did this through all the right channels."

Bieber is already performing with Carla Mae Jepsen in a sold-out concert at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford with 20,000 screaming teens expected in attendance.

So why would "The BEEBS" be performing at a 6,800-seat stadium when he has a cozy, warm indoor joint with 20,000 seats booked?

The answer: He's not performing in Newark. He never was.

"No such performance was ever confirmed," said Bieber's publicist Melissa Victor in a statement. "His legal team will take legal action against any firm or person holding themselves out as Justin's authorized agent who may have confirmed any such event. AEG (Anshutz Entertainment Group, which basically owns the entire sports and entertainment world these days, even bigger, believe it or not, than ESPN) is the exclusive promoter of Justin's tour in the United States."

When another reporter tried to reach Dronet about the situation, she did what most good, law-abiding former strippers would do. She hung up.

There's no truth to the rumor that Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey is bringing the elephants and clowns to perform at Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium, because the circus has already been headlining at the joint since Dronet and her boyfriend Dr. Doug Spiel took over the franchise.

You can read more of my work at, and Contrary to other reports, there's no truth that Justin Bieber will be performing with me anywhere soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering 9/11 from a survivor's perspective

Of course, we all paused and reflected today on the 11th anniversary of the World Trade Center tragedy, the darkest day in American history. We remembered all those who senselessly lost their lives, all those wonderful people who went to work that morning and never came home. I personally lost 18 friends that day, childhood friends, softball teammates, colleagues. It's a horrific time in all of our lives.

But it also caused me to remember someone who miraculously made it out of the Twin Towers, my good friend Donald Jodice. Here's the story I wrote about Donald's harrowing escape from the WTC.

When the first plane slammed into the World Trade Center's north tower two weeks ago, Port Authority employee Donald Jodice was on the 88th floor talking on the phone about Weehawken Recreation football. What followed was a seven-hour journey home that involved near-escapes, terror, and help from heroes.
"I'll always have that vivid picture in my mind," said Jodice, who will not be able to look at the space where the towers stood for some time. "People are saying that so many people died. They didn't die. They weren't killed. People die of illnesses and are killed in car crashes. These people were murdered."
Jodice, a Weehawken resident who has worked for the Port Authority's real estate department for six years, recounted his escape last week.
"I usually get to work around 7:30," Jodice recalled. "So I was at my desk, on the 88th floor and I was talking to my friend, Joe Light, about Weehawken Recreation football." Jodice has been involved in township recreation programs for some time. "All of a sudden," he said, "I felt this tremendous tremor. You couldn't even imagine how strong of an impact and explosion. It rocked the building. The whole building was bouncing, shaking."
The next few minutes, perhaps a half hour at most, became crucial.
"I was in shock," Jodice said. "I heard people screaming and yelling. Our office was only half full at the time, but we all knew it was some sort of an explosion. My instincts told me that the explosion was above us and that perhaps we should try to get out, but the corridors were full of flames."
Jodice added, "Because I knew the Trade Center pretty well, I knew that most of the materials, the furniture, the carpets, were not flammable. They all had to meet fire-resistance standards. So I knew that everything wasn't going to burn. But I could smell the strong smell of fuel."
Jodice then heard someone yelling in the office.
"They were saying that the stairwells weren't clear," Jodice said. "They said that the stairwells were gone. So about 30 or 40 of us found a corner office and huddled together in that corner office. We put papers and rags under the door to keep the smoke out as best as possible. We didn't panic. We just calmly stayed in that office for about 10 minutes."
Someone managed to open one of the doors just a hair, because he thought he heard something.
"It was one of our secretaries, burned head to toe," Jodice said. "She was burned so bad that I didn't know who she was. I worked with her for six years and I couldn't recognize her. She was in shock. Her hands were so badly burned that they looked like Playtex gloves."
Jodice and two other men pulled the woman into the office and the group remained huddled in the office for about 10 minutes, thinking they were safe and secure, when someone came into the office.
"He told us that he found a stairwell open, but that we had to move fast," Jodice said. "I knew he was a co-worker, but I didn't know his name. He had more than courage to even venture out to look. We all filed out orderly and headed for the stairwell."
On each landing
The woman who was badly burned got up and walked out, without assistance.
"I don't know how she did it, but she did it," said Jodice.
However, the man who found the stairwell for the others didn't make it out of the building safely.
Heading for the stairwells was also a chore for Jodice, who lost his leg to cancer when he was 16 years old and wears an artificial limb.
"Honestly, for me, it's easier to go down stairs than most," Jodice said. "More or less, I use my arms."
Before getting to the stairwell, the group walked through the corridor, avoiding burning debris. They had to avoid an open elevator shaft.
"We all made it safely to the stairwell," Jodice said. "And we proceeded to climb down the stairs."
Jodice said that the group was heading down the stairwell when the second plane hit Tower Two.
"I might have felt a little bit of a rumble, but I honestly don't remember," Jodice said. "I think we were all focused on getting out."
When the group got to the 78th floor, they reached an area where there was a sky lobby, so the stairwell stopped. They had to shift to another stairwell on the other side of the floor.
"As we walked across the 78th floor sky lobby, the area was filled with smoke," Jodice said. "I noticed that one of our friends, Tony, was stuck in the elevator. I ran over to the elevator to try to pry open the door. Two or three other guys also tried. We saw him in the elevator and tried to get the door open, but without tools or anything, we couldn't get it open. I never tried harder to do anything in my life, but we couldn't get it. Some of the PA personnel were yelling that we had to go.
"Tony said, 'The firemen are coming up here, they'll handle it,'" Jodice said. "I didn't want to leave him, but he insisted that we should get out. He was screaming at us, 'Go, go, get out, please.' Reluctantly, we left him there."
Jodice's voice tailed off and began to break.
"Tony's still among the missing," he said.
Logjam on the 40th floor
Jodice said that the group found the other stairwell and made their way down.
"The pace started to pick up a little, but the sprinkler system went off and everything was flooding," Jodice said. "It was like a waterfall coming down. There was plenty of light, so you could see where you were going. And it seemed like the lower we got, the less smoky it was."
Jodice said that they hit the 40th floor when the pace came to a complete stop.
"We hit a logjam of people," Jodice said. "The firemen were coming up the stairs, carrying their hoses and equipment. There had to be 100 firemen who went past us. They were babies. Some of them looked like they were barely out of high school."
Jodice paused again, his voice cracking with emotion.
"You could see they were exhausted coming up the stairs," Jodice said. "They lugged the equipment up 40 floors, but they were great, assuring us that they were going to take care of everything and we were going to get out. They administered oxygen to the elderly. Eventually, we kept moving and we got out."
The journey down took approximately 40 minutes.
When Jodice was outside, "I saw a bunch of pennies on the ground," he said. "And one of them was on heads. So I picked it up and put it in my pocket. You know, for good luck."
In the ensuing minutes, Jodice would need that luck.
"Within the first 30 seconds or so, our group got separated," Jodice said. "But I was walking outside. I was exhausted, but I was relieved. I made it out. I started walking and one minute later, people started screaming and yelling, 'Run, run.' I looked up and saw the tower was falling. I didn't know if it was going to topple over the other way or what, but it looked like it was going to fall on top of us."
The tower was imploding.
"It created such a massive plume of debris, dirt and dust," Jodice said. "I looked over my shoulder and the plume looked like it was traveling 100 miles an hour. I knew it was going to catch up to us. I tried to run out of the way, but it caught me. I felt the debris hitting me on the back and head. It was like a million pebbles hitting you. Right there and then, I thought I was going to die. I was all alone."
Added Jodice, "I couldn't see anything. It was pitch black. It was darker than midnight. I couldn't breathe. There was soot all over my face. I couldn't see, but I kept walking. I kept bumping into things, walls, cars. I knew I was walking east [along Vesey Street, next to the Trinity Church cemetery]. I was feeling my way up the block."
At that point, Jodice had only one thought in mind.
"I just wanted to see my kids," Jodice cried. "The whole time, that was all I thought about. If I could see them again, just for one minute. That's all I wanted. I knew that they were watching this unfold and were worried about me."
Jodice has three children with his wife, Rosemarie - daughter Rianne (16), son Chris (15) and daughter, Sheana (10).
Jodice said that the conditions were so bad that he almost gave up.
"I stopped walking for a second," Jodice said. "I thought that was it. I was going to die. I was ready to quit. I couldn't breathe. I figured I had maybe 30 seconds left before I dropped and I was going to fight like hell for those 30 seconds. I put my head down and walked, feeling the walls, looking for a door. The first door I knocked on, no one answered. I knocked on the second door and someone opened it and pulled me inside."
It was a clothing store on Vesey Street. Jodice stumbled through the door.
"The people inside were brushing me off and telling me to cough it up," Jodice said. "I was then able to breathe. They were very helpful. I was in there for about 10 minutes when someone else banged on the door and they let him in."
It seemed as if Jodice had a safe haven, but without electricity or a phone, the clothing store wasn't useful to him.
"All I wanted to do was call home and tell Rosie than I was okay," Jodice said. "I peeked out the window and it looked fine. I had new life. I was ready to move on and find a phone. I already thought I died twice. I had to keep moving."
Jodice said that he continued to move east, toward Broadway. However, more obstacles ensued.
"The other tower was falling," Jodice said. "I took maybe 20 steps and here comes the other tower and another plume. I had no strength left, but I figured I could make it to the corner [of Broadway and Vesey]. If I could make it to the corner, then I could hide behind a building. I made it to the corner and made a sharp right. And the plume flew past me. I didn't want to move. I didn't know how long the plume was going to rumble and I figured I was out of lives."
The plume of debris stopped and Jodice began to walk north, but not completely knowing where.
"It was complete madness," Jodice said. "You couldn't imagine what it was like. Everyone was running everywhere. I had one thing in mind, that if I could get to the Lincoln Tunnel somehow, that right outside the Lincoln Tunnel is little old Weehawken. I didn't care how I got there, but I had to get there."
Dazed, confused and totally stunned, walking on one good leg, Donald Jodice maneuvered his way north, trying desperately to get home.
"I kept on picturing my wife and kids," Jodice said. "I was so worried for them, because they had to be watching this, knowing that their daddy works on the 88th floor and that he's probably gone."
Jodice stopped and let out a sigh. Recalling the incident and his focus at that point was getting to him a little.
"I never turned back to look," Jodice said. "I didn't want to. By that point, I had heard that two planes had hit the Twin Towers. And I heard the jet fighters flying overhead and I didn't know if they were theirs or ours. It was like a dream, like out of the movies. I was hoping that I would wake up from it. But I was very determined to get home. The further north I got, the more determined I became."
Added Jodice, "Then, reality was setting in. I was starting to get mad, very angry, very upset. How could this have happened? I had to see my family."
Jodice said that he was asking people to use their cell phone, so he could call his wife. Because he was the first person to wander that far north, people looked at him very peculiarly.
"They asked me, 'Where did you come from?'" Jodice said. "I looked like a homeless guy who walked out of a flour factory. I was white, head to toe. I realized I was at 8th Street and 6th Avenue. I don't know how I got there. I saw a woman speaking on a cell phone and I was in tears, frustrated, tired, mad. I said, 'Please can I call my family?' She wanted to know how I got there. I told her that I walked."
Within seconds, Jodice said, the woman called a bunch of people over to help him.
"They all couldn't believe that I made it out," Jodice said. "No one had come that far north, so they had no idea."
The woman dialed the phone for Jodice and it was ringing. The woman handed Jodice the phone.
"Of course, you know what I got, right? Rosie was on the phone," Jodice laughed.
The message at the Jodice household says that if someone is on the phone, to leave a message and they will return the call.
"Someone's always on the phone," Jodice chuckled. It was refreshing to hear him laugh.
"I said, 'Rosie, it's me, I'm okay. Don't worry about me. I got out of the building and I'll be home as soon as I could."
Drove him toward the tunnel
The woman then grabbed her boss' van and told Jodice that she would drive him to wherever he wanted to go. She drove him to the Lincoln Tunnel.
"Of course, it was closed," Jodice said. "I thanked the woman and told her that I would get home from there. I heard someone say that the ferry was running, so I started walking toward the water. But some police officers saw me and stopped me. They sat me down and told me that they could provide medical attention."
Added Jodice, "I explained to them that I was fine and I just wanted to get home. I told them that my wife might still be worrying, that she might not have received the message. I asked them to call Weehawken police headquarters, because my brother is a Weehawken cop and my father is a retired captain. The police officers were great, tremendous. They washed the white stuff off me and made me blow my nose about 100 times. When we got to the ferry, there were 50,000 people on line, but the cops moved me to the front of the line."
Soon after, Jodice was standing on the NY Waterway ferry, heading back to his hometown.
"Once I was on the ferry, I kept looking ahead at Weehawken," Jodice said. "I started to think back to what I went through and realized that I shouldn't be on that boat."
Jodice's voice cracked a final time.
"So many of my friends died over there," Jodice said. "I should have died as well."
Jodice said that all the people on the ferry just looked at him in amazement.
"There were 500, 600 people staring at me," Jodice said. "I was a mess. But I could never look back. I was only looking up at the Boulevard [East]."
Jodice climbed off the ferry and was recognized by his next door neighbor.
"She looked at me and said, 'Donald, you made it,'" Jodice said. "She was crying."
Jodice found three Weehawken police officers who gave him a ride back to his home. By that time, the Jodice family knew that Donald was on his way. It was 4 p.m., easily the longest and most difficult commute home Jodice ever experienced.
"When we pulled up in front of the house, my son came running to me," Jodice said. "And it was the best thing I've ever seen in my entire life."
Young Chris ran to his father and picked him up off the ground, giving him the hug of a lifetime.
"My boy is getting a bit too big, when he can pick up the old man off the ground like that," Jodice laughed. "Rosie was there and my daughters were there. Everyone was waiting for me."
Calls from colleagues
Since 4 p.m. Tuesday, when Jodice made his way up the walkway to his family, he has tried his best to put the incident behind him. Many friends and colleagues have called, offering good wishes.
"They all thought I was dead," Jodice said.
Donald Jodice was asked if he felt lucky that he was able to endure so much in the face of tragedy.
"I feel more guilt than I feel luck," Jodice said. "How was I able to make it and others weren't? Every time I look at my wife and my kids, I have a different outlook. I am fortunate and they're fortunate."
Jodice said that he doesn't know where he goes from here. Of course, the Port Authority, which has lost approximately 250 workers due to the tragedy, will try to move on. The PA already was making for provisions for its survivors to return to work sometime last week, either in Elizabeth or Jersey City.
"They'll set up offices somewhere in Jersey and I'll be there, if there ever will be a sense of normalcy again," Jodice said. "I know I have a great appreciation for the firemen who are over there. There hasn't been a word invented to best describe their courage."
Added Jodice, "Will I forget it? I don't think so. I will always have certain pictures in my mind and I'll never lose that. So many people I knew were murdered. That I'll never forget."

I did that phone interview with Donald while I was vacationing on Martha's Vineyard that year. We didn't have long distance phone service in the house where we stayed, so I had to charge the call third party to my home number. The bill for the call was $64. I got paid $65 for the article. It remains the best dollar I've ever earned. Here's to all those, like my friend Donald, who survived that horrific day. And we will never ever forget those who perished 11 years ago.


You can read more of my work at, and


Thursday, August 30, 2012

The tale of two Armstrongs

I know this is a little late coming, but I've been absolutely swallowed (yes, this whale had a very big mouth to swallow me) by doing high school football previews for the last 10 days or so. If you want to know what's going on in Hudson, Essex, Bergen and Morris County football in New Jersey, just ask me, because I've practically spoken to every coach imaginable and written about thousands of kids.

Anyway, last week brought about headlines involving two Armstrongs, both in the matter of days.

Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, died. Lance Armstrong, the winner of seven Tour de France cycling races, saw his once-pristine and impeccable reputation die.

I was eight years old on July 20, 1969, when my father woke me up in the middle of the night to watch history. I mean, it had to be like 2 a.m. or so, when Armstrong made his first steps on the moon and uttered the historic phrase, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

I probably was cranky when my Dad woke me up to watch, but I was glad he did, because I did witness history and remember it clearly.

It also led to an absolute obsession I had with NASA and the pursuit of going into space. I remember watching all of CBS coverage with Walter Cronkite and Wally Sciarra like I was watching the World Series. I was mesmorized by astronauts. I had all the little models of the lunar modules. I learned about torque and speed out of the Earth's atmosphere. The astronauts were heroes. True born and bred American heroes. I had posters on my wall of the astronauts, knew all their names and where they were from, just like my baseball heroes. I watched the Apollo 13 disaster in fifth grade and prayed for their safe return.

And yes, people like Frank Borman, Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell were heroes. Especially Neil Armstrong. He was a hero in the finest sense, going where no man ever had been.

A few years ago, I heard a story that I thought was true, but has now been debunked by the late Armstrong himself.

He apparently uttered "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky," when he was on the moon and no one knew what it meant. However, in the world of viral information and the Internet, it was passed around that Mr. Gorsky was a next door neighbor of the Armstrongs, who once yelled at his wife that he was not going to have sex with his wife until the "Armstrong kid next door goes to the moon."

Cute story. Not true.

The other Armstrong, the bicycle-riding one, was also a hero. A big-time hero. He was good, pure, a standout athlete, a good looking guy with a rock-star girlfriend (although he dumped his wife for Cheryl Crow and has since knocked up another woman). He was on the Wheaties box, on commercials, on talk shows. Hero in the truest sense.

In 1998, I worked at the cycling event of the Goodwill Games at Wagner College on Staten Island. I was there for a week with all the top cyclists who didn't compete in road races like the Tour de France, but in the velodrome form of track cycling.

For the entire week, Armstrong's victory at the Tour de France was discussed by the competitors. And they all said the same thing, that Armstrong was involved heavily in blood doping. That after a day's competition, he would go to a doctor who would take out his tired blood and give a transfusion of stronger blood, complete with nutrients and such. That would allow Armstrong to start fresh the next day, not feeling tired after riding the hills of France for hundreds of miles.

The cyclists at the Goodwill Games were all amazed how Armstrong had the strength and stamina to handle those hills day after day. It was even more remarkable that Armstrong was just 18 months removed from a battle with stage-four testicular cancer. Most people don't survive that strain of cancer, yet here was Armstrong, less than two years later, winning the Tour de France?

So I've been professing to everyone I know since 1998 that Armstrong was indeed a cheater.

But no one wanted to believe it, because of his work with LIVESTRONG and giving millions of people with cancer hope. Christ, everyone knows that people stricken with cancer should have the right to be called cancer survivors. We all hope and pray for that.

Armstrong's organization, complete with the yellow wristbands, gave people suffering with cancer major hope. I read the other day that LIVESTRONG has raised more than $400 million through Armstrong's efforts. That's astounding philantrophic work. It's almost as amazing as the work of Paul Newman and Jerry Lewis.

But Armstrong, the head of this organization, was an athletic cheater, like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Michael Johnson, Marion Jones and on and on. Regardless of what he did outside of his athletic field, which was remarkable, he still cheated to win those races.

And Armstrong proved that it was true by backing off his appeal with the United States Anti-Doping Association last week, enabling USADA to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour titles.

I'm one of those who truly believes that if I'm not guilty of something, I'll fight it until the bitter end, at all cost, until the last option has been exhausted. Armstrong gave up his fight last week and in essence, he admitted his guilt.

With that, Armstrong's hero status went right out the window. LIVESTRONG is convinced it will survive this indescretion, but I don't see how it can't be hurt by this.

Two Armstrongs gained headlines last week. One dies a hero, the other loses his hero status in a heartbeat.


Incredibly, this is the 30th year that I'm writing high school football previews. Three full decades of high school football. Amazing.

It reminded me of one of the first years I wrote them. I was working for the Daily Record of Morristown, the same paper I'm doing most of the work for now. What goes around, comes around.

Anyway, I was writing about one team that had three consecutive 1-8 seasons and if they didn't improve, "there would be wholesale changes in the coaching staff."

The copy editor, the late and great Bob Handler, who I learned more from than any journalism class anywhere, called me to his desk.

In his typically dry humor, Handler said, "Er, Hague, want to explain this drivel? Wholesale changes? They're teachers first, big guy, teachers."

What did I know? I was 22 years old. I've learned better now.

Here's to you, Bob, as I write this year's version of the previews, I think of you.

You can read more of my work at, where there are football previews,, where there are football previews, and, where soon, in a special pullout section next week, there will be previews. At least I'm consistent.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Remembering the 1972 Olympics

Everyone has watched and marveled about the events in these 2012 Olympic Games in London. There are cheers for American athletes like the wonderful Gabby Douglas, the sensational Michael Phelps and the heart-warming 15-year-old Katie Ladecky, with the tears rolling down her cheeks as the National Anthem played as she wore her gold medal with pride.

Despite NBC's horrific coverage of these games (I wish the late Jim McKay was still around to bring us to the events instead of Bob Costas), the Olympics have been quite uplifting. Nothing brings out our patriotic pride like the Olympics. We want to wave the flag and stand to sing the Star Spangled Banner right along with the American gold medal winners.

The adorable Ladecky tried to sing, but she was overcome with the emotion of being an Olympic champion before she begins her sophomore year of high school in Maryland. Can you fathom that idea? She's going to be a sophomore!! Imagine being in her geometry class. "Hey, Katie, what did you do this summer?" That idea is beyond mind boggling.

But as we watch the current Olympics, it was reason for me to pause and reflect on the first Olympics that I can fully remember.

I have faint memories of Mexico City in 1968. I remember a little about the controversial maneuver by American sprinters, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raising fists in the air as a sign of Black Power on the gold medal stand. But that's about it.

I watched the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, every ounce of it. I was glued to the television. I remember the Olympics were held a little later that year, wrapped around Labor Day and the start of a new school year. I was 11, heading into sixth grade.

I remember being excited about the United States basketball team, watching the games featuring Doug Collins of Illinois State, a player I admired because he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated earlier that year.

I remember being excited about the track and field events, because ABC's Wide World of Sports did a feature on Steve Prefontaine before the Olympics and I found him to be fascinating. Just what was he looking at while he ran?

The 1972 Olympics were a historic event. You have to encapsle everything that took place in Munich to realize just how historic those games were.

There was an American Jewish swimmer named Mark Spitz, who shattered every Olympic record by winning an astounding seven gold medals. Seven gold medals!!! Everyone has to remember the famous posters of the lean and handsome Spitz with the seven shiny gold medals around his neck on his bare chest. It made it very interesting politically that a Jewish man could be so successful in Germany, a country that still had its idiotic prejudices some three decades after World War II.

There was a Russian gymnast named Olga Korbut, who was not even considered to be a top contender for medals, but stole everyone's heart with her impish smile and impeccable style, winning her share of medals and instantly becoming a world superstar.

It was historic because the United States and the Soviet Union were smack in the middle of their Cold War. The two countries were intense enemies in practically every aspect imaginable. But this little pixie jumped and vaulted and danced on the balance beam right into American living rooms and no one even flinched about her wearing the colors of the old USSR.

There was the performance of Australian swimmer Shane Gould, who captured three medals at the age of 15 _ the same age as Katie Ladecky.

There were the embarrassing actions of American track sprinters Vincent Matthews and Wayne Collett, who clowned around, laughed and twirled their medals, Matthews the gold, Collett the silver, while on the medal stand. They didn't turn to stand at attention for the National Anthem. Some reported that it was the same sort of protest that Smith and Carlos did in Mexico City. In any case, the actions of Matthews and Collett enfuriated Americans all over and the two were banned from competing in any other Olympics in the future.

There was the performance of American Frank Shorter in the marathon, becoming the first American to capture gold in the event in some 70 years.

And what about Dave Wottle, the gold medal winner in the 800-meter run who wore a golf cap while he ran _ then forgot to take the cap off during his gold medal moment?

We watched Finland's Lasse Viren shock the world by beating Prefontaine in the 1,500-meter run. Prefontaine remained America's best distance runner, holding seven different national records at one point. He was a favorite to win gold in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, but he was tragically killed in a car accident in 1975.

We were first introduced to wrestling superstar Dan Gable at the 1972 Olympics, as he won the gold medal and became an American hero.

As for the American basketball team, who can ever forget the ridiculous ending to their gold medal game against the Soviet Union? It was a closely contested game throughout and the aforementioned Collins calmly sank two free throws with three seconds left that seemed to give the U.S. a 50-49 win.

However, there was confusion at the scoring table and the final three seconds of the game was played twice. Yes, like two do-overs. The USSR scored a basket on the second do-over to escape with a 51-50 win. USA Basketball's website does not even recognize the silver medal in the 1972 Olympics and the entire team refused to show up for the ceremony to receive the silver medals. Forty years later, those silver medals remain in a vault somewhere in Switzerland.

Imagine all those events taking place in one Olympics?

But the biggest story to come out of Munich was the horrific tragedy now known and remembered as the Munich Massacre.

A group of Palestinian terrorists made their way into the Olympic Village and took a group of athletes from Israel as hostages. Two of the Israeli athletes were killed as they initially resisted. It led to a standoff between the heavily armed terrorists and police that lasted more than a day. The images of the armed terrorists outside the Village balcony were shown readily by the ABC cameras.

A day later, the terrorists demanded that they could leave Germany with the hostages. At the airport, there was a bad attempt to storm the helicopter and rescue the athletes. But it backfired and the terrorists killed all 11 Israeli athletes and coaches.

Late that night, sportcaster McKay, who was immediately transformed into a news anchor during the entire crisis ordeal, broke into regular coverage with his sad report of the deaths of the Israeli athletes and coaches.

"They're all gone," McKay said in his now legendary report.

Many thought that the Olympics should have ended immediately. But IOC chairman Avery Brundage stated that "the Games must go on." So they did. There was a memorial service a day later, but the Olympics continued.

It's almost too unbelievable for words that all that happened in a two-week span in Munich in 1972. Next month, it will be 40 years.

There's no question that the 1972 Olympic Games will be forever remembered for all the different events that took place, both the good and the bad, the storied and the tragic. As we watch these Olympics, we should pause and reflect to that time as well. It's a shame that the current IOC didn't do anything to remember those athletes and coaches who perished at an Olympics. Not a moment of silence, a lowering of the Israeli team flag to half mast, even a slight recognition.

But I remember and reflect. I was a very impressionable 11-year-old who soaked up those Olympic Games and experienced every emotion just like those athletes did competing.

And nothing can ever compare to that wide range of emotions experienced during those Olympics.


You can read more of my work at, and The Hudson Reporter this week has a fascinating feature on a man who helped 53 kids from Hudson County go to the University of Vermont on athletic scholarships. Check out the Scoreboard column on Nick "Whizzer" Mastorelli.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Stick a fork in the Mets

Most Mets fans probably knew that this day would eventually come sometime during the 2012 season. Some probably even thought that the day would arrive even before the season began. I was one of those. I thought it was a useless and hopeless situation from the day spring training opened in February, to idiot lying owner Freddie Coupon waving money around, saying that "I have fives," flashing green pictures of Lincoln around Port St. Lucie.

But then Mets fans were treated to their annual tease. The Mets won the first four games of the season, had a spectacular April, followed by a competitive May into a steady June.

We were treated to the incredible exploits of knuckleball sensation R.A. Dickey. We were amazed at the play of David Wright, who bounced back to the status of an elite player in MLB. Hey, we finally even got a no-hitter from Johan Santana after more than 8,000 games in the history of the franchise.

We had young players to get excited about, like Kirk Niewenhuis and Ruben Tejada, guys who gave us hope for the future. We saw the development of Jonathon Niese and believed that maybe he could be the next Jon Matlack.

For three months, while the Mets maintained their position over .500 and remained in contention for either the NL East title or a possible wild card berth, we all collectively drank the Mets' Kool-Aid. We believed that they were a decent club, a possible contender, even though deep down inside, we looked at the roster, looked out at the field, gazed out at the bullpen and said, "How in the world is this team winning?"

Then, the All-Star break came and the Mets finally looked in the mirror and realized that they were simply weren't good. They were staying above water miraculously and they finally fell into the water and sunk.

Because the Mets are now dead in the water. They've lost 13 of their last 15 games. They are 4-15 in July. The solid starting pitching they had in the first three months is now matching the horrendous work of the bullpen. The hitting, other than Wright and David Murphy, has disappeared. Malcontent Lucas Duda, who was expected to produce like Carlos Beltran (dream on) but became more like Mike Vail, was sent pouting off to Buffalo.

They've become what they were expected to be _ a less-than-average team with a bunch of holes throughout.

So the first few months were what the Mets are best at doing _ a big tease. A bigger tease than Darla Hood was on the "Little Rascals" when she would shake and shimmy for Spanky, Alfalfa and Butch, show them all a little shoulder and produce nothing.

They've teased us every year since 2006. They won the division that year and then lost in the NLCS. In 2007 and 2008, they were the biggest chokers known to man, worse than Greg Norman and Jan Vande Velde combined. Over the last three years, more of the same. They'd provide a little glimpse of hope, then collapse like a house of cards in a stiff wind.

Only this year, the collapse came earlier. We all were led to believe that they could stay in the race until September, especially with all their great starting pitching.

That's all gone. They're under .500 now and playing lousy baseball. Stick a fork in them. They're done, like the last hamburger left on the grill for five hours after the barbecue is long over. The only hope comes from young Matt Harvey. The rest of the team and the season is nothing more than a facade.

Incredibly, I've learned from a very good and respected baseball writer than the Mets' problems with the Bernie Madoff situation are not gone like what we've been led to believe. That Freddie Coupon has instructed stooge Sandy Alderson not to spend a dime in salary for improvements to the team, that they have to dance with the horrendous bullpen that brought them.

So in essence, Alderson has learned to lie as bad as Freddie Coupon, because he said all along that the Mets were buyers, when in fact, they did absolutely nothing to improve the worst bullpen in the game. Lie, lie, lie. It's the Mets' way now.

That's a shame. I'd give Coupon, Coupon, Jr. and the rest of the liars more credit if they just admitted they sucked and were doing nothing to improve the team, rather than try to pull off this charade that they've been doing all season.

They want people to come to CitiField to see REO Speedwagon, Daughtry and the Sugar Hill Express and the Trammps (just kidding about the last two), not to see a competitive baseball team.

They had a chance to do something when the season was still within reach, when the Mets were living out the facade and actually staying in the race. They did nothing. The Mets collapsed and now it's over.

So what do we have left? A chance to maybe see Zach Wheeler before the season is over? Or more starts from the immortal Jeremy Hefner or Hugh Hefner or Hugh Jackman or Baby Huey?

But the Coupons truly believe that Met fans will continue to come, even though it's a seriously inferior product? Dream on, Freddie the Liar. Your team stinks. We don't want no stinkin' team.

Unfortunately, we got one. We have no catchers. We have an underachieving first baseman. We have no outfielders whatsoever. I'm not drinking the Jordany Valdespin Kool-Aid just yet. We have the worst outfielder in the team's history making $16 million, when all Jason Bay does is strike out and ground out to shortstop. Enough already with Bay. Put him on EBay and see if we can get about nine bucks for him.

We have no other players in the outfield. Andres Torres is completely useless. Punky Brewster has a better arm than Torres.

It's a bad baseball team. Meanwhile, the team in the Bronx is running away with the division. They need a spare outfielder. They go get a Hall of Famer. We have Andres Torres. Need I say more?

To those who continue to show incredible blind allegiance to Joe Paterno, who believe that the formerly iconic Penn State coach did nothing wrong in the Sandusky scandal, take a peek at either the Freeh report or the emails that Paterno received.

The man was not a nice man. He turned his back on his pedophiliac assistant coach, allowed him to maim little boys simply because he didn't want to cause embarrassment to his revered football program.

As soon as Paterno had proof that Sandusky was doing those things to little boys, he should have called the police and had him removed from the campus, instead of welcoming him back like nothing happened.

Paterno wanted to sweep everything under the rug and pretend that nothing happened. He truly thought that it would all eventually just go away. Only problem was it didn't. He then had a chance to come clean before he died and he lied about it, then said "I wish I could have done more" to stop it.

If he truly believed it, he would have blown the whistle on Sandusky when he first received word of his horrific deeds in 1998. Guess what? If Paterno did that, he would have been considered a hero, instead of the villian he's portrayed as now, even in death.

And as for the NCAA's ruling, I'm all for it. The penalty was severe enough. The death penalty would have damaged the kids who are on the current roster. One current player said it best when he said, "We were all watching Barney and the Teletubbies when these things took place." He's right. The current team did nothing wrong. They don't deserve to have football taken away from them.

But the $60 million fine, the elimination of 10 scholarships per year and denying the team the right to play in bowl games for four years is sufficient enough of a penalty.

Now, let's see the NCAA take the $60 million and donate it to a child violence and abuse advocacy group, much like the Big Ten did with Penn State's $11 million revenue from the Big Ten Network. The fines should not go to the already rich NCAA. The fine has to do some good to society.

But to the Paterno allies. The statue had to come down. This is not a man who deserves to be revered and adored. He's a rotten man, even now that he's dead. Rotten to the core, because all he cared about was his own legacy, wins and losses, the image of his so-called pristine program and his place in the college football society. When Paterno turned his back and pretended it all didn't happen on his watch, he truly became an evil man and he's now getting his just rewards.

You can read more of my work at, and The Daily Record has a feature on Boonton's Travis Tripucka trying to make the St. Louis Rams as a long snapper. Check it out.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Not so Happy Valley anymore

For almost six decades, he was a beacon of football excellence. He was the one coach you wanted your kid to play for. He was the father figure and eventually the grandfather figure of the sport.

Joe Paterno was Penn State football. With the Coke-bottle glasses, the windbreaker and tie and referee shoes, Paterno had an image that was larger than life. He represented everything that was good about college football. He wasn't a blowhard. He wasn't a braggart. He never had a single NCAA violation and never even a hint of impropriety in a sport that has been filled with cheaters, liars and basically bad guys.

Now, even in death, Paterno's image is forever tarnished, even ruined. The findings of an extensive report, compiled by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, brought down all the good, shot down all the victories and the all-time coaching victory record. The 267-page report, which is available online and is downright sickening, took Paterno's 61-year career and flushed it right down the toilet.

It was learned Thursday that Paterno did know about the horrific actions of his assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, knew that Sandusky was indeed a distgusting pedophile since 1998 and turned his back on the incidents, hoping it would all just simply go away.

The report finds that Paterno "followed Sandusky's actions closely and failed to take action." It continued to say that Paterno and three of his hierarcy at Penn State also failed to report Sandusky to the authorities.

It certainly gives some credence to the fact that Sandusky was actually forced into retirement as an assistant coach after they received news of his disgusting actions. But if that's the case, why wasn't he banished forever? How in the world could these people allow Sandusky to continue his predatory stance on the Penn State campus, bringing victims to practices and bowl games, holding his camp, which was basically a breeding ground for his newest prey, right there, right under their noses?

I understand that Paterno is now deceased and cannot answer for his actions. But the release of this report today is so totally damning _ not just to Paterno's lasting legacy, but to the other three school officials who are still around and will eventually have to face the music, either in criminal or civil court.

The liability that the school now has with these victims is unreal. The civil suits will eventually cost the school _ and the state of Pennsylvania, meaning the state's taxpayers _ hundreds of millions of dollars.

And for what? To protect a sick pedophile? Was it done so Paterno could keep his job and keep on winning, pretending that nothing ever happened? How could the remaining three look at themselves in the mirror, knowing they fully well knew something in 1998, allowed it to continue, and then heard horrific stories about Sandusky continuing to prey upon little boys?

It is clearly the sickest story I've ever heard in sports anywhere. I've heard of cases of sexual child abuse, where a coach was found to do something wrong or act in an inappropriate manner and the incident is addressed and handled right away.

But in this case, where it was totally ignored? And ignored by the winningest coach in the history of the sport?
There are some things that have to happen right now. Jay Paterno has to stay off television, defending his father, because he looks like a complete fool now, calling his father "Joe" and saying that his father clearly didn't intentionally do anything wrong. It doesn't work. JoePa's legacy is trash now. Nothing can save it.

Secondly, Matt Millen has completely embarrassed himself, defending JoePa all day on ESPN. Millen cannot continue to defend Paterno's legacy anymore. It's downright sickening. Millen has to read Freeh's report, word for word, and then realize that the approach he's taken is making him look like a clown. The less said, the better.

It's amazing how a legend and an icon can fall so quickly. It happened to Pete Rose. It happened, of course, to O.J. Simpson. Those two are still around to see, hear and feel their disgrace. Sure, we're not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but you can't ignore what Paterno did the way that Paterno ignored what Sandusky did. It's never going to go away. Never.

So Dwight Howard isn't going to be a member of the Brooklyn Nets anytime soon. I've never been more disgusted with a story that never happened like this one. This selfish clown, who used to also have a pristine image, has held an entire league hostage _ and the people who make a living from the NBA for that matter _ worse than the Iranians held those Americans hostage in 1979-80.

Howard is certainly not a Superman any more, after he demanded the Orlando Magic to trade him to the Nets and only the Nets. This comes after playing this same charade for the past year, then pulling back the idea that he wanted to get traded in order to play out his contract, then renegging on that idea by demanding a trade again. This is the same guy who demanded that a good basketball man like Stan Van Gundy get fired, then has held five teams, countless team officials, hundreds of sportswriters and mankind in general hostage to meet his whims and demands.

Howard is still with the Magic. As Derrick Coleman once said, "Whoop-de-damn-doo." Who cares right now? But every day, we're totally saturated with the latest Howard rumor going here or there, reading about a five-team deal involving more players than the Octomom has kids, then it all goes away.

Enough of it already. It's beyond the point of annoyance.

As for the ESPYs, if anyone thinks that Tim Tebow's touchdown pass was a better moment than the last day of the baseball regular season last year or that the Miami Heat had a better team effort than that of the New York Giants, please just get Dr. Kevorkian's IV drip ready for me, because I'm ready to cash in the chips.

The show used to be entertaining at least. But it's evident that ESPN is obsessed these days with Tebow and LeBron James to the point where you can't go 15 minutes without hearing one's name or the other.

The voters? No, it was the network.

However, the tributes to Pat Summitt and my man Eric LeGrand were downright heartwrenching and brought tears to my eye. If there's ever been a kid who will beat this paralysis, it's Eric, whose personality has not changed one iota despite his horrific injury. His body may have changed, but his mind, spirit and impeccable smile has not. It was fitting that he received an award that was named after another famous Rutgers alum, Jim Valvano.

God bless Eric and BELIEVE52 for making us all believe and feel better about ourselves and our lives. He's truly an inspiration to everyone on this planet.

You can read more of my work at, and