Tag Archives: Friends of Jaclyn

Another Friends of Jaclyn “Angel Walk” makes me so grateful. Federer/Nadal playing doubles together was awesome. And NFL Week 3 was bananas and unpredictable (the Jets even won!)

Sunday was a glorious and sad day, at the same time for me. The day my family and I participate in the Friends of Jaclyn Angel Walk always is.

I’ve written a lot about the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation here, because it is the No.1 charitable cause near and dear to my heart. Pairing up high school and college sports teams with children suffering from pediatric brain tumors and other deadly cancers, FOJ is an incredible beacon of light for thousands of sick children, and for the athletes on teams who adopt them. (All my stories on FOJ’s kids and teams can be found here, if you’re interested.) It is run by wonderful, kind-hearted people who work so hard to make so many lives better.

Every year FOJ holds an “Angel Walk,” to honor those children who have died at some point after being adopted by a team. While thousands of children are thriving and beating cancer, way too many others bravely lost their battle (we’ve lost 144 children overall, since FOJ’s founding. And so every year, teams, athletes, families and others involved in FOJ meet at the Bridge over the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to keep memories alive.

There are speeches given by players and coaches, and by founders Denis and Jaclyn Murphy. We walk across the bridge, bagpipes are played, and at the end of the ceremonies, white doves are released into the sky, as a symbol of those who we lost.

It’s a glorious day because we come together and show our support for so many, for such a good cause. But it’s a sad day because of all we have lost.

My favorite comment every year in a speech came Sunday from a University of Hartford basketball coach named Matt Mihalich, who said “I can’t wait until FOJ becomes obsolete. Because that means there’ll be no more pediatric cancers.”

Amen to that. But while there still is, this beautiful ceremony every year makes me realize how important FOJ’s work is.

**Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have done so many amazing things in their careers; they are two of the 5 or 6 best male players ever, they’ve made more money than small countries take in in a year, and they have absolutely nothing left to prove.

But what they’d never done, not in any real competition, is play doubles together. It’s so unusual to even think about, the two best players of an era teaming up on the same side of the court. Did Borg and McEnroe ever play as a team? Sampras and Agassi? Navratilova and Evert? Nope.

But at a newfangled tennis competition this past weekend called the Laver Cup, Federer and Nadal actually teamed up. The competition is Europe vs. the World, so once again the best rivalry in the sport were oddly on the same team.

And it was … jarring to watch. But so much fun. I knew they were the same height, even with such different body types, but seeing them standing next to each other was great. They made mistakes as a team, seemed to constantly be smiling, and it was just a joy to watch.

Highlights above. Who says tennis season has to end after the U.S. Open?

**After a couple of really drab weeks of NFL football, Sunday was filled with fabulous games, none of which I saw since (see above) I was out all day. But lots to catch up on…

— J-E-T-… wait, what??? They WON? Don’t they realize they’re supposed to tank, go 0-16, and draft No.1? Can’t even do the “losing on purpose” thing right.
No, I’m kidding. I knew they were going to win at least 2-3 games this year, because it’s really really hard to go 0-16. Sunday the Dolphins helpfully decided to roll over and play dead, the Jets defense decided to show up (what, you’re allowed to tackle before the end zone?), and Josh McCown at quarterback actually played pretty damn well. 4-12 here we come, baby!

— The Jets have more wins the Giants. Never thought I’d say that this year. A 61-yard field goal at the buzzer by the Eagles’ rookie kicker, Jake Elliott to win the game?  Crazy.

— Also, Odell Beckham Jr. made ridiculously impressive TD catches for the Giants. Then somehow decided it was a good idea to pantomime a dog peeing in the end zone for one celebration, drawing a flag. So, you know, business as usual for him.

— Go ahead, bet on the NFL: Saints crush Panthers. Bears beat Steelers. Jets dominate Dolphins. Yeah, I’m sure everyone predicted that Sunday morning.

— NFL referees are still horrible. Just thought I’d let you know that. Lions got totally screwed Sunday on that TD at the end of the game, not being called a TD.

— Never underestimate our current President’s ability to make new enemies. During a rambling, mostly incoherent 9o-minute speech in Alabama Friday night, the Orange Grifter managed to piss off both NFL players AND owners, not an easy task. The owners in particular, nearly all of whom are wealthy white men who are Republicans, came out strongly against Trump’s idiotic comments, releasing all kinds of strong statements like this one from Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch.

This is all well and good, these owners making statements condemning Trump. But I guarantee you most of them gave money to the RNC or Trump personally last year; suddenly they are realizing what he is, because he’s attacking football? They didn’t know he was a sexual abusing, racist arrogant a-hole in 2016?
Still, it was good to see some owners standing with their players, and even better to see SO many players either kneeling, or in the Steelers, Titans and Seahawks’ cases, refuse to even come out on the field for the national anthem.

–One more time, for the people who still think, like our President does, that this is about “disrespecting the flag.” It’s not. It’s never been. It’s been about protesting the racial injustices in our society, that see African-Americans and other minorities get the short end of the stick on everything, and white police officers never, ever getting made to pay the price for their deeds. That’s it.d That’s what this is about.

Of course these players love America. They just hate how unequal things are now, not as bad as they’ve ever been of course, but still pretty bad.

Everybody into the (NCAA Tournament) Pool! I give some early thoughts on a strange bracket. And Friends of Jaclyn gala is another beautiful, moving event

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Sing it with me… It’s, the most wonderful time, of the year!

And a Happy Monday boys and girls, and welcome to a college basketball fan’s version of Christmas. Last night was Selection Sunday, when the 68 teams comprising this year’s NCAA Tournament were announced.

As usual, there was controversy over who got in (Tulsa? Syracuse?) and who got snubbed (Monmouth and St. Bonaventure have 100 percent legitimate gripes), but we’ll forget about that in a day or two once the games start.

As always, yours truly is here to help you break down the bracket and maybe win your office pool; finally last year after many years of finishing badly, I won an office pool for the first time. Which means I’ll probably finish 28th this year 🙂

I won’t give you my Final Four picks until Wednesday, not out of any sense of drama but because I like to take a few days to decide.

But I have lots of first-look thoughts on the bracket, and the Selection show.

— First of all, screw you, CBS, for taking a perfectly wonderful show and process and messing it up. They stretched the bracket selection show to two hours this year, and took forever in unveiling the teams and matchups. Happily, this awful experiment likely won’t be repeated, since someone on Twitter leaked the complete and accurate bracket about 30 minutes in. Gotta love the Internet.

— Toughest region to me looks like the South. Kansas is the No.1 overall seed, but they’ve got to deal with Villanova, Cal, Maryland and a very good Miami team. Brutal. The East is no picnic, either, for top seed UNC.

— Easiest region looks like the West. I know Oregon’s on a big winning streak, but I’m not sure they deserve a No.1 seed from a league that wasn’t great. Oklahoma has struggled, my Duke team isn’t playing great, and the No. 3 seed, Texas A&M, has had a breakthrough year but has little Tournament success in recent years. That region is wide open.

— Forgetting about the horrific snubs the Committee made (there are bad snubs every year), I thought the seeding was pretty strong. Maryland should’ve been higher than a 5 seed, and I think Iowa State got a very generous 4 seed, and I think Michigan State and star Denzel Valentine (that’s him, above) should’ve gotten a 1 seed, but nothing too egregious.

— I don’t expect much out of my Duke Blue Devils this year, but I’m a little torn on their first-round matchup against UNC-Wilmington. I lived in Wilmington for three years in the late 1990s when I worked for the Star-News and covered many of their games, so I still have a little soft spot for them. Lot of great friends I made then are still pals today. Still, I think Duke wins and then falls to a big, strong Baylor team in Round 2.

— Every year I hope and pray for a 16 seed to beat a 1 seed for the first time ever. I don’t see any 16’s capable this year, but Hampton might be able to give Virginia a game.

— As always, there are some fabulous possible 2nd-round matchups: Cal vs. Maryland would be superb, as would Kentucky-Indiana, and in a matchup destined to get huge ratings in Philly, Villanova could play St. Joseph’s.

— Looking for sleepers? Of course you are. I like Stephen F. Austin to upset West Virginia, I like Northern Iowa to maybe win two games, and watch out for Iona, they’ve got some solid NBA-level players and could absolutely beat Iowa State.

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**Finally today, Saturday night my wife and I got to experience one of the highlights of our year, every year: I’ve written in this space several times before about the incredible organization called The Friends of Jaclyn, a group that pairs up children suffering from pediatric brain tumors with college sports teams across the U.S. It’s a wonderful charity filled with warm, loving people like the Murphy family (above), whose daughter Jaclyn is the namesake of the organization.

Saturday night, in front of hundreds of guests, we heard from children who’ve been fighting tumors from years, like the very brave Andrea Wojciechowski; from coaches who movingly talked about how the adoption process has changed the lives of their teams, and from the indefatigable Denis Murphy, Jaclyn’s Dad and the emotional heartbeat of FOJ.

As I’ve mentioned before, I write a weekly story for the group called “The FOJ Experience,” where I talk to adoptees and their teams about how FOJ has impacted them. Check it out here if you can.

FOJ is a wonderful, life-changing organization, and I couldn’t be prouder to support them with our time and money. Led by the fantastic, warm-hearted Executive Director Erin Perkins, FOJ has given hundreds of children happy experiences in times of such stress and pain, and seeing so many smiling faces Saturday night made me realize even more how important their mission is.

I wouldn’t ever tell my readers how to spend their money, but if you’re interested in helping FOJ or learning more about them, click here.

A night out celebrating a worthy cause, Friends of Jaclyn. John Oliver defends the IRS, with help from Michael Bolton. And the Stanley Cup playoffs begin!

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Last Saturday night my wife and I had the supreme pleasure of attending the annual Friends of Jaclyn Benefit gala for the first time, and it was an experience I won’t forget.

I’ve written about FOJ a few times before on the blog, and wrote a story for the sadly-deceased sports website Thrivesports.com about the organization last year.

If you don’t have time to click through, FOJ was founded 10 years ago by a little girl named Jaclyn Murphy, who had been diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor. During a treatment session, her father Denis pointed out a women’s lacrosse poster hanging on the hospital’s walls and told Jaclyn, a budding player, to use that woman as inspiration.

Turns out that woman was Kelly Amonte, the lacrosse coach at Northwestern, and through a mutual friend Jaclyn started talking to Amonte, and her Northwestern team “adopted” Jaclyn, sending her encouraging letters, making videos and inviting her to games near her New York home.

So moved by the experience, and getting healthier, Jaclyn told her Dad that they need to get other kids with brain tumors adopted by college teams, and 10 years later, there are hundreds of pediatric brain tumor patients matched up with teams all across America (That’s the Penn football team, above, with 4-year-old Vhito, their new teammate).

It’s a wonderful charity filled with warm, generous people, and my wife and I are proud to be supporters.

At the benefit Saturday, we heard moving speeches from coaches whose teams had adopted children, including one whose team unfortunately saw their adoptee pass away.
We heard from parents of kids cruelly afflicted, like Cindy Bachman, whose son Sterling was diagnosed at 18 months, and has now reached 13 years old, helped along in spirit by the Yale lacrosse team.

And we met some of the FOJ kids themselves, beaming from ear to ear while sitting with some of the teams that came to the event (Shout-out to UConn women’s soccer, who literally brought the whole team).

FOJ doesn’t just match kids up with teams and walk away; they send care packages to kids with upcoming MRIs, make phone calls, email, and basically “adopt” each new kid in the program.

Tears were shed throughout the night Saturday; I’m a softie anyway, but this would’ve made the most hardened cynic cry.
It was a wonderful night for a wonderful organization, and if you’re looking to get involved with a charitable cause that’s a little off the beaten path, and doesn’t get the support of the “big guys,” I wholeheartedly endorse checking out Friends of Jaclyn.

I wouldn’t dream of telling people how to spend their money; all I ask is, spend a couple minutes checking out what FOJ does. Thanks.

**Next up today, John Oliver has once again been killing it in Season 2 of his HBO show “Last Week Tonight,” but this Sunday’s episode was maybe the best yet.
Today of course is Tax Day, and Oliver had a segment about the much-loathed Internal Revenue Service. But in a delightful twist, he defends the IRS, and does it with the help of, naturally, talented 1980s balladeer Michael Bolton.

**In the words of the great Jim Mora, playoffs? Playoffs!
The Stanley Cup playoffs begin tonight, by far the most exciting and fun of the four major sports postseasons (I may be biased since I love hockey so much I’m part-Canadian).

For many reasons, I’m more pumped up than usual this year (and that clip above, showing the insane dedication of NHL players to win the Cup, gets me going every time. You can be sure I’ll be throwing some of the awesome Hockey Night in Canada playoff montages on the blog over the next few months).

For one, the Rangers have a great shot to win the Cup, as the top seed in the East (which of course makes me nervous, my team being the favorite). Second, a whole buncha Canadian teams (five) qualified this year, and Canadian teams always make the playoffs more fun, since their fans are so rabid and loud.)

And third, we’ve got lots of fresh blood this year, seven teams who didn’t make it last year are in it this year.

It all starts tonight. For what it’s worth, I’m picking a Tampa Bay vs. Chicago Stanley Cup Final, with the Bolts winning it.

I of course hope I’m wrong, and get to attend a parade in Lower Manhattan in June.

“Friends of Jaclyn” moves me to tears again, “Adventureland” was great, and fantastic football finishes

HBO’s “Real Sports” show never fails to get to me, on an emotional level. Just about every episode of this superb show, there’s some segment that makes you think, laugh or cry. Most of the time, I forget them after a day or two.

Others, though, like this great story by Frank Deford on “Friends of Jaclyn,” (scroll down to 3rd headline), well, that’s still with me.  And makes me get emotional watching it all over again.

And since another great media outlet, NPR, just picked up on her story, too (at the same link as above), I wanted to share it with you.

I don’t want to spoil the piece, since I want you to watch it, too, but here are the basics: 8-year-old Jaclyn Murphy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2004. A great kid with an outgoing personality, Jaclyn was cruelly forced to go through horrors no child should live with.

Jaclyn’s favorite sport is lacrosse, and through a friend of hers, she was introduced to some members of the powerhouse Northwestern University lacrosse team, the best team in the nation (they’ve won five straight national titles)

Soon, the players became Jaclyn’s biggest fans, texting her, emailing and calling, you name it. Seeing the kind of effect they had on his little girl, Denis Murphy started a wonderful foundation called “Friends of Jaclyn.” College teams all across the nation are now paired up with kids suffering from brain cancer, bringing a little bit of joy to the lives of all involved. Kids who see nothing but MRI machines and hospital walls 90 percent of the time get to run out into huge stadiums and lead a powerful, healthy group of young men do what the boys and girls can only dream of.

Sports gets such a bad rap, deservedly so sometimes, for being too important in our society. But watch that “Real Sports” piece and tell me you’re not moved by what sports can sometimes do for good.

**So the wife and I On Demanded “Adventureland” last night, which is one of those movies we always meant to see in the theater but never did. We were both very interested in it because it’s based on director Greg Mottola’s memories of working at the Adventureland theme park on Long Island, where Julie and I both spent many fun days of our childhood.

Good flick. Enjoyed it quite a bit. It was funny, it had the great Martin Starr in it (the famous Bill Haverchuk from “Freaks and Greeks,” maybe the best show ever cancelled), and the writing and acting were quite good. Kristen Stewart, the female lead, was particularly good. She’s like Anne Hathaway to me: I can’t tell if I think she’s pretty or not. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Anyway, as the locale was fun (I always knew those amusement park games were fixed!) and the killer 1980s soundtrack was awesome (with Crowded House and The Outfield, how could you go wrong?), I recommend this flick.

**Finally, sometimes sports on TV gives you five great minutes out of nowhere. After the movie I got to see two great college football finishes back to back; Texas and QB Colt McCoy (the greatest name for a football QB from Texas ever; I mean, could you see someone with that name as an accountant?) rallied to beat Nebraska on a 46-yard field goal at the gun, and then Georgia Tech held off Clemson, 39-34 in the final seconds of the ACC title game.

Not a big college football guy, but this was great stuff.