Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Read this and weep
It was just a summer job
for me; a minimum wage existence to partially fill both the time and the
savings account during the summer while I was home from college.
It was at a shop that made
parts for the auto industry. Truthfully, it was so long ago, I do not even
recollect what kind of parts we made.
But one day I was heading
to the garbage bin when I ran into an older guy who wasn’t part of the summer
crew. He was a full-time employee and he was a welder.
“Hey pal, can you tell me
what this says?” he asked, pointing to some writing on a nearby acetylene tank.
The letters spelled `Empty.’
When I told him what was
written, he nodded in affirmation. “That’s what I thought.”
I did not say anything,
but I left quietly shaking my head. I was probably only 19 or 20 years old and
all these years later, I still remember it vividly.
I felt bad for the guy. He
obviously could not read and possibly not write. Did you know that in this
country 63 million adults – 29 percent of the adult population – over age 16
don’t read well enough to understand a newspaper story written at an eighth
I guess this really isn’t
a sports story, not until you figure plenty of folks cannot even pick up a
newspaper or click on a computer and competently read the words presented.
Can you imagine that? We
take Twitter for granted. We take headlines for granted. We figure everyone can
grasp everything on www.miprepzone.com,
www.dailytribune.com, www.theoaklandpress.com, and www.macombdaily.com. That is obviously
not the case.
Same goes with reading the
ingredients on the back of a box of Wheaties or on a pack of Ball Park Franks. What
about the instructions for putting together a new train set late Christmas Eve
or trying to adequately fill out a job application?
My mom was a teacher and
later, a principal. She was a reading specialist and I remember her tutoring
kids at our dining room table. When I was hardly more than an infant, I
remember sitting on the edge of her bed every morning while she got ready to go
to school and just spitting out strings of letters. Say an A, a B, a D and a Q.
“Is that a word?” I would
No, she would patiently
I would keep it up. Pouring
out cup after cup of verbal alphabet soup. I’m sure it drove her crazy. But
every once in a long while, I’d spit out a combination of letters in the proper
order and mom would say “yes.”
I would be ecstatic.
While the written word was
unchartered territory then, it was one I would conquer, just like most kids.
But not all kids.
Apparently, not even all adults.
So I get into the
newspaper business. I got into sports writing. I love chronicling the
accomplishments of student-athletes. The kid who knocks down the three-point
bucket at the buzzer. The runner who gets to the line in little more than a
fleeting thought. Believe me; what you read in the newspaper is not Leo Tolstoy
or even J.K. Rowling. It is all who, what, when, where, why and how come there
are more than three syllables in the words that you write sometimes?
We keep it simple, but not
simple enough. That is so, so sad.
What can we do to combat
The Oakland Literacy Council
provides basic literacy and English language instruction to
adults in order to facilitate lifelong learning, employment skills and personal
well-being. Literate students are able to achieve both personal and educational
goals. They can do things like vote, increase their workplace productivity, and
pass on the gift of reading to their children. The most important benefit is
the improvement in the overall quality of life. For more information, visit www.oaklandliteracy.com
Macomb Literacy Partners
is a group of dedicated individuals responding to
the needs of adults reading below a level of functional literacy. Such
individuals have difficulty reading a newspaper, understanding simple
directions on a prescription, taking a written test for their driver’s license,
or are English as Second Language learners. Since 1984, Macomb Literacy
Partners has helped thousands become better readers, writers, and speakers. For
more information, visit www.macombliteracy.org
illiterate has to be a horribly empty feeling. Just like it said on the side of
that acetylene tank all those years ago.
Monday, January 5, 2015
For a doggone good cause
nothing more unconditional than a dog’s love.
biggest louse in the world can walk through the door and he is greeted like a
king by his waiting mutt. The tail wags and the fanny follows suit. If the
owner allows, the dog then unleashes more French kisses than are seen on a
weekend of Cinemax.
ask for little more in return other than food, water, shelter and hopefully,
Jacopelli of Hawkeye & Friends Dog Rescue & Sanctuary in Imlay City provides
all of the above, thank you very much.
is the biggest dog house in the world,” said Jacopelli, chuckling.
dogs live in a 3,000 square-foot pole barn that comes with heat, electricity,
rugs to rest on, furniture to recline on and everything a dog could want.
also have a fenced-in, five-acre site that is great for a dog’s Three Rs; Romping,
Rollicking and Roughhousing.
constant companion is Jacopelli, a 1980 Troy High grad who went on to attend
both Oakland University and Michigan State University.
get the wrong idea; Jacopelli’s no-kill facility is not for the upper crust of
dogdom, either. These are not primped and pampered purebreds getting ready for
the pinky up Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Mostly they are older dogs.
Mostly they are bigger dogs. Mostly they are dogs that were going to be
euthanized at other shelters because nobody wanted to adopt them.
or “Homie,” typifies the more than 100 dogs at the sanctuary.
the pit bull was dropped off on a road adjacent to Hawkeye & Friends nearly
three years ago, said Jacopelli.
off is a genteel way to describe what really happened.
was pushed out of a pickup truck. They just threw him out. He was right in the
middle of the street, and the mail lady pulled her jeep sideways so nobody
would hit him. Homer took one look at me and I could tell he was just
heartbroken. He didn’t know what was going on,” said Jacopelli.
is part of the family now.
call him Homie the Snuggler,” said Jacopelli.
too long ago, a passerby stopped and talked to Jacopelli for quite a while.
Before he left, he called the sanctuary “doggie heaven.”
name of the sanctuary has significance.
was a dog that Jacopelli befriended when he was a student in East Lansing. Hawkeye
lived in the house where Jacopelli and some pals resided. Every one of them ran,
and Hawkeye would accompany each of them on their daily runs.
Sunday morning, Jacopelli went out onto the porch to grab the newspaper and a
man came jogging up to the porch. Next to him was Hawkeye. The man explained
that he’d run by the house about 30 minutes earlier, and Hawkeye just joined
him for some exercise.
loved people,” said Jacopelli. “Young, old, big or small. Hawkeye was your
is a might apt description of most dogs. Especially the ones at the sanctuary
named after Hawkeye.
always loved dogs. When we were kids, we always had dogs,” he said.
he got out of college, he lived in Ferndale for a while. He had three dogs, and
while playing with them in a nearby school yard, a fourth just showed up.
“I didn’t know where he came from. I took that dog up and down the street and
nobody knew whose dog it was. I took it to the police station, and then to the
city’s animal shelter.”
next thing he knew, Jacopelli was volunteering at the shelter. Before you can
say kibbles and bits, he soon had 13 dogs. The animal control officer, who
lived nearby, would stop on occasion and ask how many dogs he had. Jacopelli’s
typical response was to ask how many he was allowed to have in Ferndale. When
told four, that is the number that Jacopelli claimed to own.
better not get any complaints,” said the animal control officer, rolling his
was time to move. A stop or two later, Jacopelli finds himself in what could be
the perfect location.
a 24-hour a day, seven days a week job,” he said. “There’s no going to the
movies or out to dinner; not with all of these dogs.”
needs some help, though. There is not much money in the dog sanctuary business.
dog does not ask for much. Just the aforementioned food, water, shelter and
affection. All but affection come with a price tag.
more information on how to help out, visit www.hawkeyeandfriends.org
Monday, December 15, 2014
No news is good news
in the news business, and sometimes I can hardly stand it. Too much death. Too
much destruction. Too much chaos. Beheadings in the Middle East. Chokeholds in
New York City. Murder in Grosse Pointe.
have to put down the newspaper. I shut down the computer and turn off the
television. Or at least turn it to Family Guy or the Cartoon Network.
is why I am glad I am in the sports department.
was at a high school wrestling match at Rochester High School earlier in the
week. Three other teams joined the Falcons; Anchor Bay, Eisenhower and
came into the double dual meet ranked fourth in the state. The Tars from Anchor
Bay were seventh ranked. Those teams met in the second round of the night.
Anchor Bay had defeated Eisenhower and Hartland beat Rochester.
was an incredibly dramatic match for this early in the season. It came down to
a pin by Anchor Bay’s Joey Dombrowski at 135 pounds to clinch the victory over
Hartland for the Tars.
went in a back room before I wrestled and visualized what I had to do,” said
Dombrowski, a senior.
is why I like sports. It’s all aimed at visualizing the positive. There is way,
way too much of the negative at our disposal everywhere else.
out these recent headlines:
teacher pleads no contest to sexual contact with student.”
schools issuing mid-year layoffs after $1.2 million budget shortfall.”
woman charged with murder in deaths of son, granddaughter.”
delayed for teen accused of trying to kill family.”
was at Cousino High School last week to see Sterling Heights and the host
Patriots play a girls basketball game. Cousino is coming off a fine season, and
so are the Stallions. The last time these teams met, coach Rick Repicky’s
Sterling Heights squad knocked Cousino out of the state playoffs.
kids have had eight months to think about that loss,” said Mike Lee, the
Patriots dismantled Sterling Heights by 20 to at least partially exorcise those
demons from last March.
there you go. Accentuating the positive results, at least for one team.
about sports, especially high school sports, helps keep your perspective. It
keeps things optimistic in a world too often beset by pessimism. Good kids on
the basketball court or the softball diamond. Hard working kids playing
football or running cross country. Nice kids serving as team managers. Nice
kids in the bleachers watching the games.
is not crime. It is not mayhem. It is not an ongoing war in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan
or the Ukraine.
is your kids. It is their achievements. It is win and losses, but mostly it is
about giving an honest effort.
love sports and what they stand for at the high school level. Sometimes that is
all the news I can handle.
Friday, December 12, 2014
An old buddy rides off into the sunset
A buddy of mine is retiring.
Rick Freeman, Walled Lake Western Class of 1972, is leaving Gage Products in Ferndale after 39 years on the job.
That is a long time in the workplace. After a while, calluses are just part of the dress code.
I haven’t talked to Rick for a while, so I don’t know what his plans are.
I know he has a Harley, and loves to ride, so I can hear that Bob Seger song in the background …
"Took a look down a westbound road right away I made my choice
Headed out to my big two wheeler I was tired of my own voice
Took a bead on the northern plains and just rolled that power on."
So maybe Rick plans on taking a long motorcycle ride.
He deserves it. I know that 39 years does not account for all of his pay stubs.
When he was in high school, he worked with owner Don Bridges at a pizza place on Maple Road near Pontiac Trail in Walled Lake.
Rick and Don doled out real pizzas. There was no corporate crust, or mozzarella and sauce that came delivered via 18-wheelers.
They made the dough. They made the sauce. Their ingredients were fresh as a 15-year-old on his first date. Getting a pizza was a big deal back then. They didn’t sell slices at gas stations, convenience stores and concession stands.
Rick even had his own place for a while on Grand River in Farmington Hills. He was doing well enough but opted to get out when a customer with a gun came by to pick up not just an extra large with pepperoni, bacon and mushrooms, but the contents of the cash register.
There’s no holding up Rick and his retirement.
We’ve known each other since grade school.
Rick played the drums, and I played the trumpet, and if we didn’t make some god-awful racket in the Decker Elementary School band, then Mick Jagger never shimmied across the stage and Led Zeppelin did all Mel Torme songs.
We went to junior high and high school together and played sports all the way through. Rick was a very tough offensive lineman/linebacker with bum knees, and I was more of the delicate sort at running back and defensive back.
I remember one game where I undercut a kid who was going up for a pass and he did a nice somersault before thudding to the ground. Apparently, that kid didn’t take kindly to the hit, and he started coming after me.
Since my back was turned, I didn’t realize I was about to get mugged. All I remember is hearing Rick’s cries of agony and when I turned, he had already crumpled to the turf and was holding his knee. Apparently, Rick was playing the part of my protector, and when the guy shoved him, Rick fell awkwardly on his already bum knee.
Still, the huddle was hardly the only place we saw one another. We dated sisters while we were in high school.
Rick had a Camaro back in the day, and he had it custom painted. It wasn’t quite lime green but it was awfully close. Every time we drove around in it, it was like a Sprite commercial.
I am looking forward to toasting Rick’s retirement even though I’m not great with friendships.
Friendships take work, just like any relationship, and I have not punched in much in that regard over the years.
Rick is retiring. He’ll also be marrying long-time friend Laurie Whisnant in the coming months.
I told Rick I’d buy him lunch at Woody’s diner on Pontiac Trail in Walled Lake. Either that, or we would convene at the nearby Copper Mug.
Maybe I’ll get my chopped ’74 Honda CB 750 on the road again. Maybe we’ll roll away together for a while.
There’s a lot to catch up on. Good friends don’t care if their smiles come complete with bugs in their teeth.
Monday, December 1, 2014
A coach's kid
A coach's kid.
Grows up learning X's and O's before the ABCs.
Forget Bambi, Snow White and Frozen. Disney and
Pixar take a back seat to game films.
Daycare looks suspiciously like practice.
Babysitters, the rare time they are called for, look just like the high school
quarterback or the point guard on the basketball team or the star pitcher.
Tim Conley knows the drill.
He's the head football coach at Southfield High
School. His father, Tom, has been a coach for 45 years and is a member of the
Michigan High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame. He's also on the Blue Jays'
A teacher's kid.
Homework is never an option.
The dog never eats the aforementioned homework.
Bad grades are his or her doing, and not blamed
on someone else.
Tim Conley knows the drill.
His dad taught social studies and was a school
counselor for 35 years. His mom was an English teacher for 20.
"As you know, my mom and dad are the main
influences that have guided me into teaching," said Tim Conley, who is
also the head of the social studies department at Southfield.
A coach's wife.
Years ago, dinners used to be wrapped up in
aluminum foil to be reheated.
These days, since microwaves and metal don't
mix, they are left in Tupperware to be reheated.
It's the same drill. Family dinners are a
misnomer. Practice and games and watching film often leave eating a solitary
"When we started football practice this
year, day two of practice was my mom and dad's 45th wedding anniversary and my
dad was at practice. I asked him how many anniversaries he missed because of
football practice and he responded `All 45,'" recalled Tom Conley's son,
The Conley boys, Tim and Joe, both played
football at Troy High. Joe was the MVP of Colts' state championship game in
"Coach Griff (Gary Griffith) was a constant
fixture in my life for many years. My dad and he were watching reel to reel
football game film at my house since the mid 1970's. Being coached by him and
coaching alongside of him at Troy High are real highlights for me.
"TC (Tom Conley) and Griff embody
everything great coaches have; exceptional organizational and technical skills.
They know how and when to bring out the emotions in their players and when
execution is paramount; they also build strong bonds with their players. When I
played and coached with them at Troy I saw how they inspired their teams, and
we had winning teams with great confidence because the players knew that TC and
Griff had their backs," said Tim Conley. “There has always been a quality
of toughness in their personalities and in the way they coach.”
A coach's kid now has kids of his own. Tim
Conley is married to Chantal and they have a son, Miguel.
Coach Tom Conley has grandkids.
That is the way it often works.
Tim Conley and Tom Conley were at Novi High
School as the Blue Jays fell to De La Salle 31-7 in a Division 2 state
semifinal game Saturday.
More game film to watch. More bonding between a
father and a son.
Monday, November 17, 2014
The circle of life with turkey and stuffing
you have kids.
the pages of the calendar start to whirl and eventually your kids have kids.
are grandparents. Those are your grandkids.
circle of life. It’s not just a song from Disney’s “Lion King.”
was raking a lot of leaves in the fall of 2009.
was a nagging ache in my chest, but I knew it wasn’t a heart problem.
ignored it for as long as I could before my wife, Kim, convinced me to go to
whole bunch of tests later, the doctors discovered a tumor.
was kidney cancer but apparently of the restless variety. It had spread to my
bones. Shortly thereafter, they found it in my brain and a lung.
figured I was a goner. Goodbye George Thorogood, hello Taps. So long, Kid Rock.
Hello, How Great Thou Art.
were shed and I thought about stuff that I would be missing.
years and three grandkids later, I haven’t missed a thing.
feel great, thanks to a lot of kneeling on Sunday mornings; a saint of a wife;
and some absolute heaven-sent docs from the Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne
past Monday morning, our third grandchild was added to the family roster.
Emerson Rye Holloway busted onto the Christmas list sometime around 8.
is the second child of our oldest daughter, Brittany, and her husband, Chris.
She was beaten to the dinner table by their son, Julian, who is nearly 2 ½
our oldest son, has a daughter, Josie. She is about a year older than Julian.
circle of life. Hello to Simba, Timon, Pumbaa and the grandkids. I did not
think I would be around to see the birth of one grandchild, much less three.
all will be gathering at my moms’s house once again for Thanksgiving. Mom has eight
grandkids and eight great grandkids. She is coming off a busted hip sustained
in a fall back in April and if you had taken bets early on during her recovery
if she’d be toting 20-pound turkeys around ever again, the odds would have been
Jimmy the Greek woeful.
might be in her mid 80s, but she is determined. She has more guts than the rest
of the family combined. Me, if I had fractured a hip, I would have been happy
spending Thanksgiving eating a Banquet turkey pot pie in a reclining chair
watching the Lions on television.
pass those tater tots.
mom. She’s doing the turkey. She is doing the mashed potatoes. She is doing her
will say grace before we eat. We will miss the lost some family members. We will
welcome those we have gained, too.
circle of life, you know.
is still too young for most of the food. Maybe she can gum the Jello with
the gravy please. The turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing, too. I’ll put the
pumpkin pie on hold. For a maxiumum of 45 minutes or so.
oncologist said that is fine. The cardiologist would probably have a different
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
It's not just hockey for the MC Monarchs
Team owner Mark Gilman shares a laugh with MC Monarchs coach Jason McCrimmon (Photo courtesy of John Corzine/Hockey Weekly)
“He’s part hockey coach, part Father Flanagan.”
That short summation by team owner Mark Gilman described Macomb
County Monarchs head coach Jason McCrimmon.
Following a recent practice at Fraser Hockeyland, McCrimmon
gathered a handful of players in his office and closed the door.
“They have developed big heads,” he explained later,
Who can blame the upstart Monarchs for their confidence?
The team opened the season by winning its first six games. Those wins included
sweeping a three-game series against the third-ranked Tier 3 Junior team in the
country, the Soo Firehawks, as well as a victory over the previously undefeated
Detroit Fighting Irish.
The Monarchs were in Traverse City last weekend to play the
“Jason is a very well-respected as a coach,” said Gilman.
“He can be tough on the players, but he also knows when to laugh. He is not a
The Monarchs are a first-year Junior A (Tier 3) team that
plays out of Fraser. They are a member of the Midwest Junior Hockey League. The
Macomb County team joined the Alpena Flyers, Berkley Bruins, Decataur Blaze,
Michigan Ice Dogs, Soo Firehawks and Traverse City Hounds.
The MJHL is an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) sanctioned
Tier III league. Its stated primary goal is to develop its players on and off
the ice for higher levels of junior hockey and to be able to play college
After the MWJHL’s inaugural season, more than 30 players
had secured college hockey offers at the NCAA Division III level and at all
three levels of ACHA hockey. That number was similar after the 2013-14 season.
Still, the Monarchs seem to be about much more than wins
and losses. A look at the unique resume on the back of McCrimmon’s hockey trading
card might provide a clue.
McCrimmon was born and raised in Detroit. He’s from the
city and even though Detroit is called Hockey Town by some that is hardly the
“My mom was a social worker. She made me try hockey when
I was three years old. I hated it. Why did I want to stand around on some ice
and freeze to death? None of my friends were playing,” he said, laughing.
But McCrimmon kept playing, more out of obligation to his
mom than anything else. When he was 10, he moved on and played with some teams
in Grosse Pointe and then later with Belle Tire.
At 16 he quit. Other priorities beckoned, just like they
do for plenty of teens. He did not play again until he was 20 years old.
“I didn’t have any passion for the game,” he explained. “I
had other priorities.”
An opportunity presented itself at Northland College in
Ashland, Wisconsin. After two years there, he moved on to the University of
Massachusetts Boston. He later played for Muskegon and Flint of the IHL, as
well as other teams.
McCrimmon had just returned from a multi-year stint as
the captain of the Hela-Kiekko professional team in Finland when he met with
Gilman, who was intrigued by the 6-4, 260-pound McCrimmon’s story.
“I knew he had a lot of fights in his career and wanted
to see the toll that was paid on his knuckles. He made me laugh when he said
the worst part about hockey fights was not broken bones in the hand, but that
you never get used to being hit in the face. He wanted out,” said Gilman.
Scar tissue doesn’t negate compassion.
The Monarchs have formed partnerships with the Hope
Center in Fraser as well as with McCrimmon’s Ice Dreams hockey program in
The Hope Center is a non-profit, Christian-based,
human-services organization whose purpose is to address the hunger crisis and
respond to the needs of county residents. Ice Dreams is designed to introduce
ice skating and hockey to kids in Detroit.
“We want these players to be productive citizens. Not only
do we want them to get better on the ice but off the ice as well. We are not
only building players, but young men, too,” said McCrimmon.
The majority of the players are from Macomb County.
Several are Oakland County residents. There are also two on the roster from the
Cape Cod area and one from the Czech Republic.
The team will play 46 regular-season games. The playoffs
follow the regular season.
“I love hockey. Jason and I are really good friends and
he deserves this chance. I’ve seen so much bad coaching and situations where
the kids aren’t treated right. We wanted to start a team that would do right by
the kids. We’ll follow through on our promises,” said Gilman.
Gilman is the owner of Decus Strategic Consulting and Communications,
a marketing and public relations firm in Waterford. He resides in Clarkston
with his wife, Patti. They have five children in their blended family. Three of
them either played or are playing hockey.
“I’m just a hockey geek,” said Gilman.
Edward J. Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town, was a kids
geek. The Irish priest believed there were no bad boys. McCrimmon seems to
espouse that same belief.
Even those boys who occasionally get big heads.