Friday, December 24, 2010

Hey Santa Claus - NORAD Is Tracking You!

Children wrote letters to Santa back in the day. These days young people post, text, and tweet the big guy. In whatever manner the message below got to him, my hope is that when you read it images of family members, friends, or even yourself, will be found between the lines.

Dear Santa,

(I used spell-check and had a high school friend look this over before I posted it on your page. Cool profile pic of you and Mrs. Claus by the way.)

Last week my elementary school teacher taught us about the NORAD Santa Tracker. As I'm typing this, I'm looking at the notes I took in class to make sure that I get everything right. Anyway, my teacher said that NORAD stands for the North American Aerospace Defense Command. She said that NORAD allows the United States and Canada to work together to protect our skies. Canada is where my cousin Danny lives now, but you already knew that.

I wasn't sure if you knew this, but our teacher said that NORAD tracks you on Christmas Eve! The day after we learned that, my friend Jake told us that his Dad thinks Mrs. Claus is probably using NORAD to keep an eye on you. I later asked Dave's Dad why he thought that, but he wouldn't say. If Mrs. Claus is using NORAD, maybe she just wants to know that you're safe. Sometimes my Mom sends me a text message, when I'm at my friend Amy's house, to see if I'm okay and to tell me what time dinner is.

Mrs. Kevelson said that this all started in 1955, after the wrong phone number was printed in a Sears and Roebuck Christmas advertisement. Instead of reaching Santa, kids actually got through to the Continental Defense Command. After getting tons of calls, Colonel Harry Shoup had his staff use radar to tell kids where Santa was. Mistakes happen with phones all the time. A few weeks ago I called my friend Kelly, instead of my friend Jenny, because I hit the wrong speed dial number on my cell. Kelly talks a lot, so it took awhile to get off the phone with her.
I hope I'm not prying, but who was Santa before you? I'm thinking maybe your Dad owned the family business before you took over for him. My friend Keith's parents own a restaurant. If I'm right, then you must have a son named Nick who is going to take over for you someday. How old is he?

Lying in bed, waiting to hear your sled on my roof are the longest hours of the year. Hopefully, Mom and Dad let you know about all of the good things I did this year Santa. Oh yeah, about your sled, my friend Mike and I want to know how your reindeer stay in shape when they only work one day a year?

Last week in class Mrs. Kevelson taught us about the history of Christmas. In the fourth century, since there was no evidence about the date Jesus was born on, Pope Julius (I) had his staff check into things. After they did that, he was told that December 25th could be set as Jesus' birthday and he decided to make it a holiday. When is your birthday? If you let me know, I'll send you a gift.

Mrs. Kevelson taught us that Christmas wasn't originally celebrated in America. It was outlawed in Boston from 1659 through 1681. But, in Jamestown, Captain John Smith said that it was celebrated by everyone. Later, after we beat England in the Revolutionary War, many new people came to this country. So many of them began to celebrate Christmas each year, that the government declared it a Federal holiday in 1870.

I did some research on the internet about you after learning about Christmas. Just like George Washington, you are THE MAN! I typed a story on the laptop in my classroom and posted it on my school web page if you want to see it. Kelly was aside of me, so it took awhile.

When I did that research, I found illustrations of a whole bunch of guys who look just like you. I think that is because they are related to you, on your Dad's side of the family, way back in time.

Odin was a German god who rode an eight-legged horse through the sky, kind of like your reindeer. Nicholas of Myra, a bishop in 4th century Greece, was famous for his gifts to the poor. He was later named Saint Nicholas. Plus, there was a man in the Netherlands and Belgium called Sinter Klass. If I'm right, your family really moved around a lot.

Well, take care Santa. It's late and you know why I have to get to bed tonight. Thank you for always remembering my family, my friends, and me. We will never forget you.

Your friend,

The letter above, from and old “friend” of mine, was to Santa. The message below is to all of you from me.

Auld Lang Syne (One translation – Days Gone By)
We should be happy when everyone can celebrate their own holidays, because that likely means our own beliefs are being respected. When we are opposed to other people, for whatever our reasons, we should not be surprised when others stand against us.

I have celebrated Christmas with many different types of people over the course of my entire life. All people, of any background, are not naïve for adhering to their philosophies. By tracking and later sharing the tradition of common sense values, we all move together through the anxious night and into an anticipated new morning.

Best wishes to everyone, everywhere.

My article was published by on 12/23/10

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cliff Lee: Another Former Phillie Returns To Ignite Winter's Hot Stove

The reacquisition of Cliff Lee this week was the latest in a series of moves the Philadelphia Phillies have made this offseason that brought former players back to the fold.
Ryne Sandberg, Juan Samuel, and Mickey Morandini, all retired players, have returned after long absences from the team.
Lee, of course, returns to South Philadelphia to expand upon his legendary 2009 season in pinstripes.
Ruben Amaro's admission that introspection played a role in Lee's return should slam the book shut on all past speculation about why Lee left.
Basically the club was unwilling to commit to him long-term last year, saw how the 2010 season ended and decided that they needed him after all.
It is always good when people acknowledge being human.
Carlos Ruiz
Amaro does need to make sure that the outfield and bench are solid, because the team does need to score runs.  While many crooked numbers might not be needed on most nights, Werth's offensive production needs to be accounted for.  Carlos Ruiz has shown every sign that he will fill some of this production void and could be a candidate to move up in the batting order in 2011.
The level of excellence that Pat Gillick inspired in everyone changed the culture of the Phillies brain trust and clearly has influenced his best student, the Phillies current GM.  He deserves credit for being both bold and humble.

Mickey Morandini is the Phillies new Single A manager in Williamsport.
The second baseman on the famed 1993 “Macho Row” team is actually returning for his third tour of duty. He had two stints as a player from 1990-1997 and in 2000.
This fan favorite always exhibited a professional demeanor on and off the field. His depth of character should add to an already strong farm system and help to produce future stars who will play at Citizens Bank Park.
Two former second basemen also returned to the Phillies recently. Ryne Sandberg and Juan Samuel were promising prospects in a rich minor league system.
One that helped the big club to produce numerous summer blockbuster seasons, the sequels to which have not been seen until just recently.
Sandberg played the remainder of his career with the Cubs and retired in 1997. Samuel went on to play with six other teams and retired in 1998.
Both men were key figures in the Phillies fortunes, or lack thereof.
Sandberg, the 2005 Hall of Fame inductee, was involved in a seminal 1980's trade.
The 10-time All Star and 1984 National League MVP was hired to manage the Phils triple A team, possibly preparing for a future role in Philadelphia.
Juan Samuel, the new third base coach, was a dynamic young player who got his chance to play during that same era, in part, because of Sandberg's departure.
Ryne Sandberg
"Ryno" was a minor league infielder, coveted by Dallas Green, himself a former Phillies pitching farmhand in the 1960's. Sandberg only played a handful of games in red pinstripes, before he was sent on a plane to Wrigley Field.
His efforts in the windy city allowed him to write HOF under his signature, because he became one of the greatest second baseman of all-time.
So, why was his vast potential discarded?

Bill Giles
Phillies Chairman Bill Giles provides answers to that question in his excellent book, Pouring Six Beers at a Time.
Giles took a lot of heat during the period when Sandberg and Samuel were Phillies. His group purchased the team in 1981. Fans referenced him as a key source responsible for years of losing seasons.
However, he shares significant credit with a management group that is responsible for four World Series appearances and the 2008 champions; he was also one of the principle visionaries who enabled Citizens Bank Park to become Phillies fan newest friend.
This son of former National League president Warren Giles is an honest guy, whose heart was always in the right place. His sincerity and passion for the game is undeniable.
Like any baseball season, every long reign has its down times. So, any retrospective about his overall legacy deserves to be filled with positive words.

Sandberg's career statistics (1981-1997):
Games: 2,164
Batting Average: .285
Home runs: 282
Runs Batted In: 1,061
Stolen Bases: 344
Fielding Percentage: .989

Dallas Green
Ryne Sandberg was traded with Larry Bowa after the 1981 season. They were acquired by former 1980 World Series champion manager Dallas Green, who had left Philadelphia to become the Chicago Cubs Executive Vice President and General Manager.
He took so many Phillies personnel with him and acquired so many Phillies players, that his Cubs team became known as “Phillies-West.”
Green's exit signaled a new era—one where the Phillies developed little new talent. His departure was one in a series of blows to an organization that was at the tail end of its greatest era.
It set in motion the decline of the team, the Vet and the Eagles rise to prominence.
While the Phillies did appear in the 1983 World Series, their glory was dazed. Gassed after winning Game 1 against the Orioles, the Phillies then lost four straight.
The team failed to reach the playoffs again until 1993. Of course, that was “Macho Row's” one year of wonder.
As Sandberg's career was moving towards its twilight, Mickey Morandini was manning second by then.
Sandberg became a Hall of Famer, in one of the most referenced trades sports fans in this area still talk about. Coming full circle, the 51 year old Sandberg returns to the team where his baseball career was born.
He is also a natural selection to eventually join the major league staff, be mentored by and then succeed Charlie Manuel.
He won the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year award this past season, but was not picked to take over for the retiring Lou Pinella.
So, in a reversal of fortune come full circle, the Phillies now have re-acquired him 28 years after his infamous trade. Pat Gillick used to speak of restocking inventory and this move helps replenish the Phillies future coaching or managerial supply.
Since he was not chosen to replace Lopes on the coaching staff, it would seem reasonable to believe that the organization has placed him on a future managerial path.
Would the organization let him get away again, as it did in the past? With the situations are not comparable, it seems likely that he was specifically chosen with a plan in mind.

Juan Samuel
So, with Sandberg gone, Samuel's position in the 80's infield was set. He starred at second base for the Phillies in the 1980's, earning two of his three All Star appearances.
“Sammy” was eventually involved in a 1989 trade that landed Lenny “Nails” Dykstra.
The San Pedro de Macoris native transitioned into coaching after retiring in 1999. He managed in the minor leagues and was an interim manager for the Orioles this past season.
Samuel, now 49 years old, was inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame in 2008.
If Samuel were somehow a part of today's team, he would fit in well. Personable, possessing a smile that belies a kind-heart, he made the best of his time and was well-liked because of it.

Samuel's career statistics (1983-1998):
Games: 1,720
Batting Average: .259
Home runs: 161
Runs Batted In: 703
Stolen Bases: 396
Fielding Percentage: .973

Samuel's time starts with the new season. That third base coaching position has proven to be challenging for many, so he will need to remain sharp.
His approach to coaching and overall loyalty are big pluses, so hopefully he fits right in.
With whatever the future holds, it would be great to also see Sandberg in our uniform at some point. Charlie Manuel may have a future opening on his staff, which Sandberg could fill.
He would likely prove to be as strong a coaching mentor for Ryno, as he has proven to be for his players.
This Hall of Famer could, eventually, lead this talented squad.
During the offseason, these are the type of recipes that all of us sports fans enjoy cooking on that old hot stove.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Jason Werth Signs With The Nationals

He got 7 years and over $120 million.  Apparently the Phils offered 3 years at around $16 million, with a fourth year option.  Understandable that the Nats would want him, as they need to add power.  Interesting that Werth only wanted the money, as there had to be other suitors who had a better chance of winning more quickly than the DC bunch and may have given him enough $$$ to be happy.

Now, expect Amaro and his staff to get a productive bat who might not be a flashy name.  Jeff Francouer, Matt Diaz, and other names are out there to be had. 

It could be that the Phils mix and match in RF with Dom Brown and do almost as well offensively as they did with Werth, though defensively they "might" take a hit.  Winter Meetings are all this week, which is just the time that things get interesting.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

An interview with Philadelphia Flyers' legend Bernie Parent

(Text version that includes my personal notes.)

Today, my philosophy has changed tremendously. Everything comes from what you think about. Whatever you are thinking, you are going to attract. When you are happy, good things will come to you, ” Bernard Marcel Parent.

A week prior to his participation in the Spectrum's demolition ceremonies, I had the chance to discuss hockey, business, and philosophy with Bernie Parent. In doing so, I learned about the man who was a steady rock on those Flyers 1970's Stanley Cup teams. The former goaltender's candor and warm demeanor revealed how he has transitioned from a Hall of Fame sports career to life after the game.

The last time I was in the Spectrum, I went down to the floor and stood where the holes for the net used to be. I was there for about 10 to15 minutes looking at the whole building. I relived the memories one last time. It was a beautiful thing,” Parent said.

Parent, who will be honored by the Flyers on December 8th at “Bernie Parent night”, has remained a member of the Flyers' family, serving as an ambassador for the team.

New book to be released

He also is the author of a forthcoming book, My Journey Through Fear and Risk, which was developed through his experiences, conversations, and motivational speeches that he has given since his playing career ended. The book will be available to corporations, schools, non-profits, and individuals. In it, he discusses life after hockey and how each person can develop a proper philosophy. It also contains a menu of 15 topics to select from which facilitates Parent's in-person presentations.

In addition to authoring a book, he has continued to represent a number of different corporations, and make public relations appearances around the country and in Canada.

Business requests can be made through his manager, Dean Smith, who can be contacted at:
856-988-0001 and through Parent's website.

When I talk with people, I tell them to find out what their purpose is. They need to find what they love to do and dedicate their lives to it. That's when you get involved in fear and risk. You may have to change everything in your life, but risk is a beautiful thing. That is when things happen. All successful people have taken risks,” Parent said.

Learning from the master

Parent's hockey career was partly inspired by Hall of Fame goaltender Jacques Plante, whose sister lived aside of his family home.

I was a shy kid, so when Plante would come to visit his sister I would always watch him. I can see in my mind exactly what his sister's house looked like, how he got out of his car, stood in front of the house smoking a cigar, and how he walked up the steps,” Parent fondly recalled.

My goal as a little leaguer was to get to the National Hockey League and then to win the Stanley Cup. When I was a kid I might have had 200 people telling me that I wasn't going to make it. They said I
wasn't big enough, or strong enough. But, when you have passion and are good enough, the obstacles fade away,” Parent said.

After playing in the junior leagues for the Niagara Falls Flyers, he was drafted by the Boston Bruins in the mid-1960's. Later he was selected in the 1967 NHL expansion draft by the Flyers and played in Philadelphia until he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1971. Their starting goalie at the time was none other than Jacques Plante.

When I was traded to Toronto, I had some doubts at first. That was a low point in my career because I wasn't looking at the right side of the coin. I was thinking about the Flyers not wanting me, rather than the fact that the Leaf's did want me. Plus, the person who I admired as a child, Plante, was their goalie. I learned a great lesson from that whole experience,” Parent said.

I was there (in Toronto) for two years. I watched Plante play from the bench. He was incredible! You don't want to copy someone, but take what they have an add it to your own style. So, one day, I said to him, 'Jacques, can you teach me?', Parent said.

In 1972, Parent took a risk and jumped to a rival league called the World Hockey Association. While playing for the Philadelphia Blazers during that 1972-73 season, he faced an average of 55 shots per game, but used that as an opportunity to apply what he had learned from Plante. When the Blazers moved to Vancouver at season's end, he decided to go back to the NHL. Toronto then traded his rights to the Flyers.

Fred Shero

Newspapers heralded his return as a move that could help the team to win the Cup in 1973-74.

The first time I met Fred Shero he came up to me and said that he believed in team work, but didn't know anything about goaltending, so I was on my own. As soon as he said that, I knew I had the right coach,” Parent recalled.

I got a standing ovation when I stepped onto the ice at the Spectrum during our first pre-season game that year. But, ten minutes into the game, the Rangers had scored eight goals against me. I heard a lot of boos and Freddy (Shero) pulled me out. That was my reintroduction to the city. But, when you think you have hit your lowest moments, it doesn't mean it's over. You are just being sent in a different direction,” Parent said.

A few weeks after that Rangers game, Shero had Parent start in goal for the regular season opener against Toronto. He shut them out 2-0. As we know, the Broad Street Bullies went on to famously win their first Stanley Cup that season and have “walked together forever”, just as Shero's locker room chalkboard message had encouraged them to do.

Parent earned many awards after his return to Philadelphia, including winning both the Vezina (an award given annually to the league's best goalie) and the Conn Smythe (an award given annually to the league's best playoff performance) trophies in 1973-74 and 1974-75.

Post-hockey career

A five-time All-Star, he was the toast of the town in the 1970's, adding another Cup win in 1974-75.
But, after a career-ending eye injury against the Rangers, in 1979, his life changed dramatically.

After retirement, the problem is that you can't perform in front of large crowds anymore. That is the biggest adjustment that you have to make. Money is separate adjustment,” Parent said.

He joined a self-help program that he credits with turning his life around.

In your greatest despair, you can have your greatest victory. As long as I was the hockey player, I had a purpose. Once that stopped, that purpose was gone. I went in circles. I wasn't happy and I hung around people who had a similar outlook. I have learned that you become what you attract. So, I like to share what I went through because I want to help people to learn through my experiences,” Parent said.

During that time period he also was a goaltending coach and scout for the Flyers. Neil Little, drafted on Parent's recommendation, went on to win two Calder Cups for the Flyers AHL affiliate and today is the Flyers worldwide goalie scout.

In 1998, he was willing to let a doctor perform a new procedure on his damaged right eye. The procedure worked, restoring his vision to 20/20.

Pelle Lindbergh

Thomas Tynander and Bill Meltzer's book Behind the White Mask, contains a sharply detailed description of Lindbergh's life, career, and the father-son type relationship that he had with Parent. We discussed the book and his remembrances of Lindbergh.

Pelle was here on Earth for a brief moment that was cut a little bit short. We are spiritual people and
I believe that when someone passes away they move onto a new place in their eternal life,” Parent reflected.

During the 1981-82 season, Lindbergh was struggling. When he was sent to the Flyers minor league team in Maine, Parent suggested that he go with him. Through his guidance, Lindbergh returned to the Flyers during that season. He went on to win the Vezina trophy in 1984-85, which Parent presented to him at the awards ceremony.

I opened the envelope and his name was listed as the winner. He came up on stage and gave me hug. It was a big moment,” Parent fondly recalled.

I was very grateful that I was a part of his life. A paradigm was passed from Plante, the master, to me and then I passed what I had learned on to Pelle. He had a lot of good qualities that could benefit us today,” Parent said of his former protege.

Recent pursuits

He has remained an avid hunter, fisherman, and golfer. He values family greatly, having two sons, a daughter, and six grandchildren.

It is a different phase that I'm going into now. I love children. When you watch a child, you are seeing happiness. Watch them for a half of an hour and you will learn a lot,” Parent said.

A few years ago one of Parent's sons gave him a popular DVD. He credits what he learned from it (along with it's related book) as helping him to gain a deeper understanding of life.

The Secret helped me to see that we attract good and the bad things in life by how we think. When you have a positive view of life, good things happen to you. The greatest power on Earth is the power to choose. Once you understand the process, you can create anything that you want,” Parent said.

Ed Snider

I believe that he is one of the best owners in professional sports and has built his own economy. He is wise enough to realize that he needs a team. He is involved with his company, but allows people to have confidence in themselves and lets his team perform. Back in 1967-68 (the team's first year) he was sitting at the kitchen table with his wife, trying to determine how they would meet payroll. Now, he is one of the most successful individuals in the Delaware Valley,” Parent said.

Flyers 2010-2011

I think this team has the whole package. They have a great coach (Peter Laviolette) who I really like. They have great forwards and great defenseman. They also have three good goalies, who understand the game. It's exciting because the Flyers have their deepest team in a long time. They aren't hoping to win, they know they can win. If they stay healthy, they have a good chance to win the whole thing,” Parent enthusiastically said.


I consider myself to be a wolf, because I like the freedom of choice. Choice is very, very important to me. A wolf works in packs. So, everyone doesn't have to be like me, because people all have different talents,” Parent said.

He has employed the same strategy in his current pursuits that he did when he studied Plante's goaltending techniques. He studied successful business people for five years, so that he could begin to build his own business pack.

Parent concluded by saying, “Material possessions, like us, will come and go. I am grateful for what I have been able to attract. Life is a wonderful journey.”


Growing up in the 1970's, I was naturally a Flyers fan and spent many great days playing street hockey with cousins and elementary school friends. My uncle created cool foam goalie pads that my cousin wore during our games in his garage. Every Sunday, while my Mom was making dinner, I would put my Bernie-style mask on and fend off shots from my Dad in our own basement rink.

After completing the interview, I began my journey back through the roads that I had traveled on a few hours earlier. As I did so, I could see in my memories that we all wanted to be who Bernie was back then. I also knew that I had just spoken with someone who enjoys being who he is today.

(Thank you to Dan Morroni, who is a custom tailor in the Philadelphia region.)
(My interview was initially provided to

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