Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Tim Tebow Effect

Few diehard NFL fans have an indifferent attitude towards Tim Tebow.   They either love him or hate him.  How has Tebow become one of the most polarizing figures in sports?  You’d be hard pressed to find a more compassionate, upbeat human being.  Never a disparaging word has come out of his mouth, at least not in public.  I’ve never so much as seen him frown.  He embodies positivity and goodwill, yet he’s continually scrutinized and criticized. 

My daughters and I were introduced to Tebow a few months ago by a good friend of mine as we were leaving church.  He couldn’t have been more sincerely warm and engaging.  I had heard about Tebow sightings in Arizona, but wasn’t sure why he was in town.  As it turned out Tim has been working out with my friend’s husband, Ian Danney, who trains several NFL players in Scottsdale.

Previously Ian had told me about one of his unique training methods called “Danneyball.”  It’s basically a version of beach volleyball only played with a 10-pound heavy ball and no passing is allowed.  It’s a grueling total body workout especially when played in triple digit heat.  I was instantly intrigued and asked if I could do a sports feature for FOX 10 when Ian had his off-season training finale Danneyball Tournament.  When the day came around to do the story, Ian casually mentioned that Tim would be out there playing.  Bonus!

That’s how I ended up being the only reporter to interview Tebow in the past several months.  He’s been off the public radar except for a quick TMZ sighting as he dined in Los Angeles last month.   

Tebow turned out to be one of the best Danneyball players out there in spite of it being his first tournament.  I stood in the shade, but was tired just watching them play in the 105-degree heat.  He was polite and gracious when I interviewed him.  I asked him about his training and his future.  As I listened to his responses, I cringed inside knowing he would get criticized for continuing to follow his NFL dreams.  Knowing the video and subsequent interview would eventually go viral gave me mixed emotions.  I would get kudos at work for getting an exclusive with Tim Tebow, but I also wanted to be respectful of his ongoing football aspirations.

It took a few days after my story aired locally before it took off.  By weeks end the You Tube version of my feature had well over 350,000 hits.  Top sites embedded the video including: Yahoo, the NFL, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, the Denver Post, and the Washington Post. 

Footage of my story was also aired on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption.  Co-host, Tony Kornheiser, called Tebow “delusional.”  Other media members gave him no chance of getting picked up by an NFL team.  Most of the viewer comments were positive with words of encouragement.  However, there was a fair share of “bitter” comments from those who make it a hobby to spew hatred while hiding behind their computers.

Here’s a guy who won the Heisman Trophy, won two college national championships, lead his team to an NFL playoff victory and would never, ever do anything to embarrass an organization.  How many guys with a fraction of his resume are still out there training for a chance to play in the NFL… waiting for a phone call?  They aren’t chastised for chasing their dreams.  Would he really be the only backup in the league who doesn’t have the strongest arm?

Jacksonville would have been a great for him.  Florida football fans would love to have him back in the Sunshine State.  And Jacksonville could use the distraction and attention that follows Tebow around like a puppy.  That franchise barely makes a blip on the NFL radar.  And then there’s the $1.4 million dollar house Tebow just purchased there.  Unfortunately for Tebow, the Jaguars already have quarterback Chad Henne and also drafted a quarterback with the number three overall pick in the 2014 draft, Blake Bortles.

Tebow has all of the intangibles… determination, leadership, work ethic and heart.  He’s a proven winner.  His college coach, Urban Meyer, knows a thing or two about football.  Meyer was quoted recently  saying he was having a hard time understanding why Tebow doesn’t have a job in the NFL.  Tebow has been working hard to improve his weaknesses and deserves at least an invitation to a training camp.  All it takes is one more team willing to give him a chance.


Monday, April 28, 2014



The only shocking thing about the racism controversy surrounding Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is why it’s taken so long for him to be thought of as controversial.  In case you haven’t heard, yesterday TMZ Sports released an audiotape reportedly of Sterling making derogatory comments about African-Americans to his girlfriend.  To say it went viral is an understatement.

Should this come as a surprise?  Sterling has been sued several times for racial discrimination.  In two separate lawsuits, Sterling has had to pay large settlements to numerous tenants for racially discriminating against them.  Even Clippers former General Manager and NBA Great, Elgin Baylor, sued Sterling for racial and age discrimination.

I doubt you could find one person who has worked for Sterling who is stunned by the latest allegation.  I can safely say this because I worked for the Clippers for two years in the mid 1990’s, first as a receptionist then as a marketing assistant.  While I never personally heard him spew racial remarks, my impression of him was he was a bizarre man wildly out of touch with reality.   

Me at L.A. Clippers Christmas Party
During my tenure with the team, Sterling threw a “White Party” to kick off each season at one of his homes.  Attendees were required to wear white from head to toe or they wouldn’t be admitted.  To me there seemed to be a hidden message in the party’s weird vibe.  Sterling always hired about twenty scantily clad women to mingle and socialize with the guests.

The league has long known Sterling was a potential grease fire, but largely ignored him.  Now it’s up to new Commissioner Adam Silver to douse the flames with a heavy-duty fire extinguisher.   Numerous high profile players, former players, and even President Obama have shared their disgust with Sterling, some calling for him to be forced to sell the team.  Silver’s reaction must be swift and heavy handed… in the neighborhood of at least a one year suspension and a minimum of a $1-million dollar fine.  An NBA press conference is scheduled for tomorrow.

Unfortunately, it may impossible for the NBA to force Sterling to sell his team.  The bylaws of the league are confidential, but presumably have their limits. Other NBA owners may be reluctant to set a precedent where a team can be taken away because of bad behavior.

It’s worth mentioning that the girlfriend, V. Stiviano, is being sued by Donald Sterling’s wife, Shelly, for fraud and for sleeping with her husband.  It’s obvious Stiviano was setting Sterling up when she recorded him.  Regardless of her motives, Sterling foolishly fell right into her trap by simply being his ignorant, bigot self.

Whatever penalty Silver comes it up, it will pale in comparison to the long-term damage Sterling has cast upon his team.  His players didn’t waste time letting their displeasure be known.   Clippers point guard, Chris Paul, who also happens to be the President of the NBA Players Association, told a reporter the team considered boycotting Game Four of their playoff series with Golden State.  Instead, they piled up their warm-ups at center court and had their shirts inside out so that the Clippers logo was not visible.  Players on the bench wore black wrist and headbands similar to the protest at the Olympics in Mexico City.

If Sterling refuses to sell the team, which is likely, the Clippers will be on the fast track back down to the league’s cellar.  A place they are all too familiar with. 
It will now be impossible to attract any African-American free agents.  Current Clippers players will be looking for the first exit door they can find, whether it be free agency or demanding a trade.

As a mother of bi-racial children, it is distressing that this racist attitude still exists. If more parents raised their children like I was raised, the world would be a much better place... treating everyone with respect and only judging people based on their actions.  I can only hope our new generation will be different and the old bigots will die off sooner rather than later. 

Key words; Donald Sterling, NBA, Racism, Lawsuits, NBA Playoffs, V Stiviano, Adam Silver

Sunday, April 20, 2014


I ran down the hospital corridor, the doctor’s words echoing in my mind—“You need to get back to the hospital right away.  We’re losing her.” When my husband Bert and I arrived back at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, we stopped short.  Two of my babies clung to life, and the third was slipping away. Several doctors stood around little Abby’s incubator, their faces drawn. The nurses who’d tended to her for weeks choked back tears. I had no reason left to hope. This is goodbye.
Critical Abby in early stages of E-Coli Infection
Not so long before, I’d given up hope of becoming a mother. My first marriage had ended when I was in my mid-20's.  It was nearly twenty years later by the time I remarried.  A fertility doctor told Bert and I that we only had a two percent chance of getting pregnant naturally, so I decided to undergo in vitro fertilization. Surprisingly, it worked the first time around.
Then came the sonogram. I was pregnant with identical triplet girls! After the initial shock, I began picturing my family walking on the beach, the five of us hand in hand. The girls dressed in white sundresses, kicking at the surf. As if God was helping me make up for lost time.
Less than five months into my pregnancy, I collapsed at work. As I was being rushed to the hospital, I started to bleed heavily. The bad news kept coming. I had a placental abruption where my placenta had separated from my uterine wall. Then the triplets contracted fetofetal transfusion syndrome and weren’t getting the same amount of nutrients. Later I developed gestational diabetes.  I prayed that I’d make it to seven months so the girls would have a better chance at life. But by six months, they were ready to come out. Two days after Valentine’s Day, Abby, Bella and Simone were born 15 weeks premature. They weighed less than 4 1/2 pounds… combined!  Abby was the smallest at 1 pound, 5 ounces.
Abby and Bella underwent surgery for perforated intestines, followed by heart surgery. Simone’s lungs were collapsing. Abby needed three blood transfusions. Each procedure produced new complications. Bert and I practically lived at the hospital, praying non-stop by their incubators and watching helplessly while the nurses administered rounds of painkillers, steroids and antibiotics. At one month old, Bella and Simone were critical, but stable. It was Abby who we were losing. On top of everything else, she’d contracted an E. coli blood infection through her central I.V. line that sent her body into septic shock.
Abby in Septic Shock
Now I had to ask the one question I didn’t think I could endure hearing. The doctor on call was a visiting neonatologist—he practiced at the hospital only one week out of the month, but he’d been following my girls’ case closely.  
“Isn’t there anything else we can do?” I said.
 “Medically speaking, no,” he said. “We’ve done everything.”
“So that’s it?”
He hesitated. "I think you should do Kangaroo Care."
I’d spent enough time around the maternity ward to have done kangaroo care many times—holding each girl skin-to-skin. I figured he was just giving me a chance to say goodbye.  But the doctor insisted that wasn't the case. “We don’t fully understand kangaroo care,” the doctor admitted. “When we've done all we can medically, sometimes a baby just needs to know someone loves them so they know there's something worth fighting for." 
I looked down at Abby. What we needed was a miracle. The slightest intake of breath was a struggle for her. Her entire right arm was an open wound, burned by the sodium bicarbonate she’d been given to balance her toxic levels. Her fragile skin looked ready to burst.  She had ballooned to twice her size from all the fluids pumped into her fragile little body. It hurt to look at her. She was dying before my eyes.   
Maybe kangaroo care wouldn’t heal her. It seemed so basic after all the doctors had done, all that technology and knowledge. But it was a chance to say good-bye. I’d hold her close so she’d know I loved her. One last time.

The nurse placed Abby in my arms and wrapped a blanket around us. I was afraid I might hurt her. I held her gently against the warmth of my skin, and sang to her “You Are My Sunshine."  It’s okay, Abby. If it's too hard you don’t have to hold on any longer.

My tears flowed as I said goodbye.  But suddenly a voice inside me said, tell her to fight.  I whispered to her, You are so loved.  Your sisters need you.  Your papa needs you. I need you. Don’t go, my sweet girl, fight. I felt my words go through me to her.  I held her for an hour, feeling the tiny thump, thump against my chest.  Next it was Bert’s turn.  He closed his eyes, cradling her close.  She looked so small against his bare chest.  “Stay with us, Abby,” he whispered.

The nurse put Abby back into her incubator. We huddled around and watched her vitals. Come on, Abby. Her blood pressure started to rise. Her oxygen levels were stabilizing. Her heart rate was too. You can do it, Abby!
It took several days before Abby was completely out of the woods.  Several nurses confessed to us that Abby was the sickest baby they'd ever seen survive. 
We continued doing Kangaroo Care as often as we could.  After more than thirteen weeks in the intensive care unit, we brought the girls home—all three of them.  The doctors couldn’t explain Abby’s recovery. “You do all you can medically. Sometimes, though, it takes a different power,” one of the neonatologists said.  
Love is that power. I have no doubt whatsoever that love brought Abby back from the very brink of death when all else failed and all hope was gone. It was love that gave my daughter life. 
Abby at 20 months old with her papa

Thursday, April 17, 2014



The stress of my life was beginning to overwhelm me, so I made a decision.  For the last four and a half years it had been all about my triplet daughters, my husband and my work.  It was time for me. 

Lack of sleep or any form of relaxation was draining the life out of me.  I realized if I didn’t take better care of myself I might not be around for my children when they needed me later in life.  I liken it to the announcement they make on airplanes… “Please put on your oxygen mask first before assisting your children.”  For me it was a survival decision.  If I became incapacitated my family would suffer too.  A start to this new attitude was letting my BFF, Sherry, whisk me away for a girl’s weekend getaway last weekend to Sabino Canyon in Tucson, Arizona.  Little did I know at the time that I would also re-discover part of my heritage.

My mother was born and raised in Tucson before being swept off her feet by my father and moving to California. My maternal grandparents settled in the small dusty town in 1920, just eight years after Arizona became a state.  They were true pioneers. 

My grandfather, Al Sterns, was a chiropractor… the first ever licensed in the state of Arizona.  Back then most people thought chiropractors were quacks.  His patients were always grateful for his treatments, but they couldn’t always pay.  So my grandfather was often paid in chickens, eggs or vegetables.  Al and my grandmother, Eunice, had seven children, two boys and five girls.  My mom was the youngest girl.  After having their first child their young family lived in a tent while they built their first house by themselves… rock by rock. 

In the 1940’s when my mother was 11 years old, her family purchased a small piece of land on Mt. Lemmon, just north of Tucson.  Over the years they hauled up rock and sand from the riverbeds down in the valley.  The government was clearing land to widen the road, which provided them logs.  With the help of the Sterns kids and various relatives they eventually finished their small summer cabin made of rocks and logs.  I vaguely remember visiting the cabin a couple of times as a small child.

My mom as a young girl
However, none of this was on my mind as Sherry drove us south from Phoenix to Tucson.  She had planned everything including booking a lovely two-bedroom guesthouse.  And it was Sherry who suggested a day trip up Mount Lemmon the day after we arrived.  It wasn’t until we were nearly to the top of the mountain that I thought of my grandparents cabin.  I called my mother but she wasn’t much help with directions.  However, my aunt who still lived in Tucson gave us a general idea of where it was located. 

Off the main highway we bounced along a dirt road for several minutes.  I recognized the cabin right away.  It looked medieval up on a hill amongst the pine trees… like a small rock castle.  

It had a For Sale sign out front.  The windows were boarded up.  It had been neglected for some time.  However, I was impressed with how sturdy it was.  Nothing was knocking this cabin down.  The walls were made up of large, smooth river rock, beautiful quartz rock and a few logs.  A large heart shaped rock sat in the center of the fireplace wall. 

I called the realtor on the sign.  Only two people had ever owned the cabin, my grandfather and the current owner.  Up in Mount Lemmon they still called it “Doc Sterns Cabin.”  
Doc Stern's Cabin back in the day
I was enchanted by this strong symbol of my descendants.  I had long admired my mom’s incredible strength and work ethic.  Now I imagined her as a pre-teen hard at work slapping cement between the rocks, scraping the bark off of the logs, attaching tiles to the roof.  She had passed this strength onto me. 

Doc Stern's cabin today
Even though at times my life seems like more than I can handle, I knew right then I would find the strength to stay strong... with the help of God’s grace and power, my inherited fortitude and by keeping a big heart in the middle of it all.