Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

More Than Just A Good Player


Champs

I must state for objectivity reasons, a conflict of interest that I have in this post.  I am a die-hard Seattle Seahawk fan.  And I have always been so, since the Seahawks drafted Curt Warner (the running back, not the quarterback), in the 1980’s.  I have put in many sufferable a season with less than spectacular football seasons, with rare playoff appearances.  That changed in the new millennium, and a reward for my dedication, and not being a band-wagon jumper, my team is now a regular contender for the championship.  As a team, they are great.  They are also quite young, and this should bode well for many seasons.

But as the saying goes, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”  When I refer to a weak link on this team, I am not making reference to performance on the field.  This team still plays with all its heart weak after weak.  But earlier this season, the Seahawks let a player go, who was clearly quite divisive to the team where it mattered most, on the field.  While I hated to see Percy Harvin be traded, it was understandable just as many other players who have had selfish issues have had to be dealt with.

The latest controversy however, is one being fanned by news reporters all over, a story that does not exist, so one is being manufactured.

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Clearly one of the best running backs in the NFL, and will get the notoriety that many other Seahawk running backs have not been able to garnish because he was part of a Super Bowl Champion team, Marshawn Lynch is under fire because he does not want to talk to reporters following games.

I am not rabid enough of a fan that I need to hear week after week, “did you play hard?”, “how tough was the defense to play against?”, and other questions like that.  I saw the game.  I can see how the game was played, and where the strengths were.  But for someone who is mostly likely exhausted, and just wants to get out of there and go home, there is nothing productive that comes from those interviews.

This past weekend however, after a hard fought game with division title implications, Lynch broke with his usual “silent” stance.  After all, the big, bad NFL had just fined him $50,000 twice for not talking to reporters (I will get to this issue in a second, but right now I want to talk about just how petty this whole non-issue is).  When questioned by reporters about aspects of the game, Lynch responded with one-word answers of “yeah” to the majority of questions.  He turned the annoyance on the reporters.  You can see the interview here:

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/marshawn-lynch-fulfills-media-duty-by-saying–yeah–12-times-024054557.html

Now clearly, the reporters are pushing for “injury” status on Lynch, as he remained on the field during half-time due to “soreness.”  Knowing that no coach likes to disclose any injury information before anything certain, Lynch also does have rights not to talk about his health.  And when Lynch tries to talk about his charity work (about one minute into the video clip), the reporters do not take the opportunity to take advantage of a great story.  So I will.

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Marshawn Lynch was telling the reporter about a fundraiser that he was involved with, along with NFL great Joe Montana for youth in the Oakland, California area.  Their mission and vision is stated here, from their web site:

“Mission Statement

Fam 1st Family Foundation is dedicated to uplifting and empowering youth in the Bay Area and throughout the United States. The foundation’s mission is one of empowerment and education, aiming to build self-esteem and academic learning skills in underprivileged youth.

Vision

To provide a one stop shop, where the center’s programming will include developing workshops for vulnerable communities to promote literacy, athletic training, financial training, after school tutoring, art programs, vocational training, a media center, law and order program, and much more.

Bridging athleticism with academia will be the framework for serving at-risk youth across diverse populations. Joshua Johnson and Marshawn Lynch will be at the helm of this collaborative effort, to produce the future leaders of tomorrow.”

But of course, no responsible journalist wants to focus on a story like this.  It is not like the stories we saw earlier in the year of NFL players facing charges of domestic abuse which of course were non-football stories that were made headline stories.

And to be fair, Lynch has had his share of run-ins with bad news on and off the field.  He was a “troubling” player when he played for the Buffalo Bills, but the Seahawks gave him a chance to turn his life around.  He had a serious and legal auto accident in 2008 which led to a woman being hurt.  Since then, reporters have been fascinated trying to make stories out of nothing.  One of the big ones, was when Lynch was caught eating the candy “Skittles” on the sideline.  OH MY GOD!!!  How could he?!?  Okay, not since former Seahawk quarterback Rick Mirer was caught eating a hot dog on the sideline, or Philadelphia Eagles drinking pickle juice, had a food made such a controversy.

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Is Lynch innocent in the controversy?  No.  Trying to make a point?  Possibly.  Being careful not to say the wrong thing to an opportunistic media that has a history of taking things out of context?  Absolutely.  But worth a story that now editorializes the subliminal encouragement to Seahawks management that it should be seriously a consideration in unloading one of the best running backs in the NFL?  That is completely out of line.

Anyone who has seen Lynch play, knows all too well, just as his teammates know, Lynch gives everything he can on the football field.  Injury free for the most part of his career, who can forget the impossible touchdown run against the New Orleans Saints to eliminate the Super Bowl champions from the playoffs, when Lynch first got his nick name really publicized and well earned, “Beast Mode.”

Yes, his contract with the NFL requires he talks to reporters, whether there is any value or not.  And it was right to fine him, though the amount is excessive.  But the NFL is running a business, and after all the bad publicity the NFL got earlier this year, the will make an example of Lynch.  And if there are internal matters such as Lynch not wanting to attend a celebration of the Super Bowl at the White House, or holding out during training camp, like hundreds of players do over the decades, or whether he was in too much pain to head into the locker room, that is a matter between the Seahawks and Lynch and the media is wrong for making more of this than there is.

Lynch’s teammates stand by their teammate, as well they should.  Together, they will hopefully make another playoff run, and hopefully to the Super Bowl.  I will stay a Seahawk fan, no matter where Lynch plays in 2015, in spite of the media urging the Seahawks to get rid of Lynch.  Yes, he is long in the tooth as far as running backs go, but he still has years ahead of him.

Back off ESPN.  Talk about the good stuff Lynch does.  NFL, you want to improve your thug reputation, urge reporters to ask at least one question pertaining to their philanthropic endeavors and not just the usual “fluff” questions like “how did it feel to take that hit from the defensive back?” or “what was going through your mind as you were crossing the goal line?”

Hawks

A Year Gone


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It has been a year now since I made the humane decision to say goodbye to my best friend Pollo.  It had been a decision that I dreaded for nearly three years as his health began its slow decline.  But I had promised my friend that I would never let him suffer.

I bought Pollo as a puppy from a store called “Pets Plus.”

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The pet store had done its job well.  The store was clean.  The puppies in their little windows all looked cute and not overly playful.  I had it in my mind that I wanted to purchase a Golden Retriever.  And there was this little fourteen pound bundle of fur.  He was coming with AKC papers so that if I decided to breed him or show him, I would be able to prove his being a pure bred Golden Retriever.  Of course I bought all the necessary supplies, large dog cage, food, toys, and a sign that the store insisted I had to buy and said, “Beware Of Dog.”

I expect anyone who is an animal lover is probably screaming at their laptop or Ipad right now, “YOU DON’T BUY DOGS OR CATS FROM PET STORES!!!  THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER WAYS TO GET A PET!!!”.  What I uncovered just months after Pollo’s purchase, taught me one of the most valuable lessons when it comes to pets, NEVER, NEVER buy a pet from a pet store.

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Goldens are a natural water dog, and Pollo was no exception.  I had taken Pollo to a family members inground swimming pool, and he had a blast.  On our way back home, Pollo was sitting next to me in the front seat, looked up at me, and let out a whimper of distress that I had never heard in my life before, and collapsed.  I pulled the car over, and immediately looked at him to see what was happening.  His eyes had rolled into the back of his head, and his tongue was fading into a whitish color, and he was not breathing.

I raced to the first vet hospital that I could find, and carried his lifeless body inside.  I could not believe this was happening.  I was told to wait outside of the exam room in the waiting room.  About a half an hour later, the exam room door opened, and out came Pollo, tail wagging, huge smile on his face, prancing on over to me as if nothing had happened.  While I was happy to see my young friend recover, I was also confused.

The vet had explained to me that it was quite possible that it had been some sort of cardiac episode.  That if it would happen again, she was going to recommend putting a heart monitor on him to see if they could determine what was causing the problem.

Being an animal caretaker myself, as well as a detail-oriented patient myself, I knew that the more information that was available, the easier it would be to find a cause of this episode.  My lesson began.

I went back to Pets Plus for one thing.  I had not received Pollo’s AKC paperwork yet, which would have had the names of his parents on it.  It was simple, I wanted to find the health records of the sire and bitch (dad and mom) of Pollo to see if there was any kind of health history.  Long story short, the pet store fought me on this, objecting, saying that they would not do so.  At that point, they handed me the AKC paperwork also.  But the paperwork had glaring omissions and errors.  I now realized something was seriously going on with this poor puppy, and the pet store was hiding whatever it was.

There is a line in Stephen King’s movie “Storm Of The Century” where the lead character and villain repeats the same line, explaining to everyone his simple request, “Give me what I want, and I will go away.”  That best describes my personality.  I was not being unreasonable up until that point.  I was just looking for information as to the health background of my little fur friend Pollo.  It would not have cost one penny to give me this information.  Instead, what I discovered, only raised my ire and brought on a new cause for me.

Pollo was purchased from Pets Plus pet store.  Pollo was purchased from a puppy mill in Lancaster county Pennsylvania.  Pets Plus denies this adamantly, as most all pet stores who sell puppies will deny, but they are doing so with a technicality.  Most pet stores buy their puppies from a broker who drives to the various puppy mills where the broker buys the puppies.  Bottom line, most puppies sold from pet stores come from puppy mills.  Eventually, I would unleash the USDA, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, and many more agencies on this pet store chain, as well as the Stoltzfus family where Pollo came from.  Eventually, as I decided to pursue legal options against Pets Plus, an unusual invitation came to me from Warner Brothers Studios in Manhattan.  It was an offer from the “People’s Court” to appear and have my case settled in front of Judge Marilyn Millian.  I was actually shocked that the pet store would agree to appearing on television with all of the evidence I had against them, but the did.  And so, Pollo and I travelled to Manhattan, by Warner’s request for his attendance, and I won my case against Pets Plus.  You can see the summary of the case at the following link:

http://articles.mcall.com/2002-07-31/news/3422019_1_puppy-pollo-pets

I have a videotape of the episode, but nothing digital was available to place in this blog (sorry).

But while the story occurs to have a sad origin, and clearly I will never condone buying any pet from a pet store, I have learned that there are so many other pets in need of homes.  For those that want “pure bred” pets, even they are available through animal shelters and other breed specific rescue organizations.  And they all need homes.  I bring this up, because the holidays are right around the corner.  There are plenty of animals that need homes without continuing the practice of overbreeding worn out mothers who are eventually just thrown away when they can have no more litters.  Many pets bought from pet stores end up being abandoned during the holiday season, often to end up in shelters, and unless adopted, end up with a worse fate than their origins.

But for being a “puppy mill” dog, and I consider him having been rescued, he gave me nearly one third of my life with memories and loyalty.  I allowed Pollo to simply be my friend.  I did not “show” or breed him as I would have had he been a AKC registered dog.  I did not compete with him in agility competitions as many goldens are known for their intelligence.  I just let him be “him.”  And he was happy, always happy.  And that is exactly how I will always remember him.  I gave him nearly fifteen years, (unheard of for a golden retriever), but the life he gave me can never be put into words.

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Pollo, I hope you are having a great time up in heaven.  I know you will be waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge.  I will see you there.

rainbow

Comic Relief Just When It Is Needed


November 2010 - 37

“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”  Mark Twain.

With that, I want to introduce you to one of the most “powerful weapons” in the human race, my youngest daughter, Emmalie.

Typically, a biologically born child will have inherited characteristics of either parent.  But with Emmalie (and my oldest daughter Madison) being adopted, any traits that either daughter share with me, are purely coincidence.  Yes, there is what they have learned from me as they have grown.  Prior to the divorce we spent a lot of time together, doing homework, playing games, and my favorite, holding them in my arms when they were younger.  But their personalities were determined long before I had even met either one.

Through the adoption process, one of the things that I had to supply, was an autobiography about myself.  This would cover everything from my hobbies, employment, family history, and such.  Once all of the personal and legal information had been gathered and organized, the paperwork was then sent to the country of China’s Adoption Affairs office where the adoption process would continue through their end.

My dossier would go into a department those of us in the adoption world know as the “matching room.”   Where by some magic, dossiers are compared with profiles of at least ten children, most of them toddlers and babies.  At this point, a child is “matched” up with their parent.  The result is pure magic.

Both of my daughters share many of the characteristics and interests that I possess.  Only one characteristic either daughter have that I do not, but their adoptive mother does have, and that it artistic hands.

But Emmalie possesses one of the most important traits that I have, a sense of humor.  This child is notorious for causing an outburst of laughter at just the right moment.  She is a goofy and quirky little girl.  The smile that follows resembles the young child dinosaur in the 1980’s television show who regularly blurts out “gotta love me.”

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I had taken the girls to see Shrek 3 (all three movies were great and entertaining).  At one point during movie #3, spoiler alert, Fiona’s father dies.  However, prior to his demise, he had been turned into a frog.  And of course the punch-line that followed… here it comes… “he croaked.”  Well of course, everyone the theater had sat in silence at the king’s passing, in spite of the symbolic comment.  Everyone except for Emmalie, who immediately burst out laughing at the joke itself.

But that is who Emmalie is.

It should come as no surprise that during one of the more difficult times in all our lives, that once again, she would provide her patented comic relief.  During one of our recent nightly conversations, her spontaneous humor knocked me off my “chair.”

Emmalie routinely asks me questions that have nothing to do with nothing, and though she claims there was no motivation behind her next question, I actually do believe her to a degree.  The divorce has been difficult for all of us, but my estranged wife and I are doing what we are able to keep the impact on the girls to as minimal as possible.  And though I believe Emmalie felt she was just throwing out one of her zinger questions as me, there is a part of me that knows in my heart, perhaps there was more to her question than she was letting on.

“Daddy.  I have a question.  Are you going to get married?”

Besides the legally obvious situation, that my divorce is yet to be final, marriage is the last thing on my mind, if ever again.  This was my second marriage to have failed, and clearly, the process has left me with no desire to ever share that commitment ever again.

But I am in a relationship again, and so is my estranged wife.  All four of us, seem happy in these new relationships.  So I could not help but wonder, if perhaps my youngest had overheard conversation from my ex and her boyfriend about getting married.  I know I have never brought up marriage.

“No… Emmalie, Daddy is not going to get married.  Why do you ask that?  Is mommy talking about me getting married or is she thinking about it”

“I was just wondering Daddy.  It seems like you are really happy.  And it would only make sense that if you were happy, then you would get married again.”

December 2009 - 35

If only it were that simple my precious little angel.  But as I thought about her question, I realized that there was more to it than just Emmalie seeing her daddy happy with someone else, or her mother happy with someone else.  Emmalie is more wise than what she realizes, and for those who receive the gift of her wisdom, we are truly blessed.

It has been so long since Emmalie or Madison have seen either of their parents smile.  And now our daughters are seeing bother their father and mother smiling again.  Emmalie has let me know that she is glad to see me smile again.  But the smiles do not have as much to do with what it happen currently, but rather what we were dealing with in recent years, and the effect it had on our girls.

I love you both so much Madison and Emmalie.

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