BIG NIGHT IN MY PARENT’S HOMETOWN…

This past week in the small town of Whitehall, New York, the town where my parents grew up, something very inspirational took place at the local High School. The Whitehall Railroaders varsity basketball team took the court Friday night in front of a packed hometown crowd to play what would certainly be the most memorable game of the season. During the game, one of the players, a young man by the name of Evan St Clair, reached the special milestone of scoring the 1,000th point of his high school career. Evan is a very talented player who comes from a gifted athletic family, and myself and the rest of the Fredettes want to congratulate him on his wonderful achievement. He definitely has a very bright future as a talented athlete, and we wish him the best of luck with the rest of his career!

As special as Evan’s 1000 point achievement was, it wasn’t the only exciting moment of Friday night’s game. Evan’s teammate and first cousin, another talented St Clair named Danny, also gave the Railroader enthusiasts reason to get up out of their seats and cheer. Danny’s presence on that court alone Friday night was cause for a standing ovation. Just by stepping out on that gym floor, sporting that maroon and white Whitehall jersey, Danny provided everyone in attendance a true moment of heart warming inspiration.  His fight for that very moment, to be able to be back on that court with his childhood friends, representing his school and his community with pride, was one of unwavering determination and bravery. A fight that no kid should ever have to endure, but one that Danny proved to be strong enough to take on.

For awhile now, Danny StClair has been battling a very challenging bout of cancer. I can only imagine the obstacles that stood in his way as he literally fought for his life. . . but Danny showed everyone this past week, that fighting for his life meant that he was fighting for more than just his survival. He was fighting to get back the same life that he had before he was diagnosed with cancer.  He was fighting for that moment when he could lace up his sneakers, throw on his warm ups, and run out on to that court with his teammates once again. . . and this past Friday night, after months of grueling adversity, that’s exactly what he did.  All the pain, all the tribulation, and all the moments of doubt, had finally been overcome when he touched the ball for the first time during Friday night’s game.  His story has certainly inspired me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been uplifted by Danny’s courage and resilience.

What an amazing night it was in the little town of Whitehall. I know that my grandfather, a man who devoted his whole life to Whitehall athletics and working with young athletes to help mold them into successful people on and off the playing field, was certainly looking down from heaven with pride as Evan and Danny represented the town in such a monumental way. So I just wanted to say  Congratulations guys! You boys really put on a show.  It was an inspiring performance that so many of us, will surely never forget.

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Recap on Jimmer’s All-Star weekend

Sunday night, with the spotlight shining brightly upon them, the superstars of the CBA put on a show for the wide-eyed Beijing crowd. The CBA All-Star weekend was well underway, and Jimmer was honored and excited to be a part of it. It turned out to be a really big weekend for Jimmer. In front of swarms of media, thousands of excited fans, and even some fellow former NBA colleagues, such as Stephon Marbury, Andre Blatch, and Marshon Brooks. . . Jimmer was able to capitalize on this wonderful opportunity.

He started out the weekend by unveiling his new shoe to the Chinese public as well as the world of social media. His shoe deal with 361 is now official, and for the rest of the season he will be sporting his sharp new shark blue sneakers. A lot of people have been asking us where they can get his shoe, and I promise as soon as that information is available we will be sure to make an immediate announcement!

Jimmer went on from unveiling his new shoe, to shooting his way into the finals of the 3-point shooting contest which was held Sunday night at halftime of the main event. If you haven’t heard by now, I’m proud to announce that Jimmer came away the 3-point king, winning the competition with a high of 22 points in the championship round! His 3-point prowess was on full display as he dazzled the crowd with a barrage of beyond the ark bombs, and in the end was rewarded with the CBA 3-point contest trophy.

From there Jimmer went on to have a very successful All-Star game, where he lead all scorers with a 32 point performance, knocking down a team high 6 treys. Unfortunately he fell just short of MVP honors due to his team losing a nail biter that went right down to the wire.

On the bright side however, during the All-Star game Jimmer was able record his first overseas dunk, rising up and throwing it down off of a steal that he got near half court in the 3rd quarter. His teammates rose up with smiles and excitement upon seeing Jimmer catch his first CBA jam. Even Marbury, who was on the opposing team, couldn’t help but run up to Jimmer with a big smile and give him a hug. At mid court Jimmer and Marbury, the former high school legend from Coney Island, who Jimmer had eagerly watched play in the Glens Falls Civic Center when he was only 7 years old, embraced with smiles as Steph said to him. . . “I didn’t know you could dunk?!” It was a special moment to cap off a very special weekend.

Jimmer said he had a wonderful time at the CBA All-Star festivities and he was shown a lot of love and support by coaches, players, media, and the fans.  He enjoyed his time in Beijing, but now it’s back to business! The home-stretch of the season is now upon the Shanghai Sharks. Having lost 2 straight for the first time of the season coming into All-Star break, can they re-group and get back on the dominating track where they had been throughout most of the season? With a big target on their back, it won’t be easy. It will, without a doubt, be a tough fight to the finish for the Sharks as they continue to determinedly push forward on their quest for a CBA title. Stay tuned to see how the rest of this exciting season unfolds!

Here are some great behind the scene’s pictures of Jimmer this weekend, along with some footage of him catching his dunk courtesy of Jimmerwatch.

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JIMMER SELECTED AS ALL-STAR! NEW PICTURES FROM SHANGHAI

I have to admit, this past holiday weekend I certainly did receive some pretty exciting Christmas gifts. On Christmas Eve, my New York Giants clinched their first playoff birth in four years, on Christmas Day, my little brother blessed us with a 43 point performance, leading his Shanghai Sharks to another important victory in his Christmas debut, and then just today, the news broke that Jimmer was selected to represent the sharks in the CBA All-Star game this coming month! Add those 3 amazing gifts in with the wonderful presents my gracious family left under the Christmas tree for me, and I have to say this was a banner Christmas season!

On Christmas Eve when I was getting ready for bed, Jimmer was just returning to his hotel room from his afternoon shoot around (keep in mind the Shanghai region in China is a 13 hour time difference from NY). So before I went to bed, I text Jimmer to wish him a Merry Christmas, as well as good luck in his game that night. Jimmer text me back within a matter of minutes to wish me a Merry Christmas in return, and he also told me that he had just experienced something that he had never before experienced in all his days of professional basketball. He told me that he had just participated in his first ever shoot around where he was forced to practice his pull up jump shots in a thick winter jacket. For some reason the heat in this very unique stadium was not on, and as a result, the gym was set at a very festive 32 degrees. In other words, the temperature in the arena was set at a level where if clouds could form indoors,  Jimmer and his teammates could have essentially been battling snowflakes with every shot they put up. Luckily, later that evening when the game began, Jimmer and the Sharks would heat things up with their white hot shooting, and the cold would be a non-factor.

The Sharks are now a league best 19-2! It’s looking like nothing can stop their continued hot streak… not even a 32 degree gym.

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JIMMER UPDATE – PICTURES

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The hot streak for Jimmer and the Shanghai Sharks continues! Over the past four days the sharks have pulled out two close wins, both of which were hard fought, down to the wire slugfests. Yesterday, Jimmer had a 42 point showing in a game that looked like it might slip away from the sharks, when they fell behind by 5 points late in the 4th quarter. However, the squad was able to dig deep, work together, and gut their way to another important victory, bringing themselves to a 15 and 1 record on the season! The game prior to last nights game was an overtime thriller. . . one in which Jimmer and former Sharks player, A.J Price, embarked in a 3 point shootout in the final minutes of the overtime period. Jimmer, as in many case this season, was able to have the last word, hitting a quintessential Jimmer Range dagger from 30 feet to seal the grind out W.    Jimmer’s final stat-line for the game was video game worthy, as he put 47 points, and more impressively a career high 17 rebounds! In my typical corny, light-hearted, one-liner fashion, I joked with him after the game that we’d have to start calling him “the carpenter” for the way he’s hitting the boards!

Jimmer’s on the court successes in Shanghai have certainly been praise worthy. Unfortunately, when it comes to buying milk, that same level of success was not obtained this past week. While Jimmer and my father were recently grocery shopping, they purchased a carton of what looked like milk. Later on that night, when Jimmer opened up the carton, hoping to pour some milk on to his cereal, he was surprisingly treated to a thick plop of yogurt splashing down into his bowl instead.

So the next day my father returns to the store on a mission to this time actually purchase milk. With none of the cartons in the cooler aisle being see-through, combined with my fathers inability to read Chinese, finding milk was much more of a challenging task that you might think. Determined to walk out of that store with a carton of milk, my father then began to ask all of the store clerks if they had milk. This turned out to be another challenging task, as the language barrier proved to be impenetrable. However, after many frustrating, failing attempts to communicate with the various clerks in the store, finally one lady came up to my father, and in a thick accent says to him, “milk?” Thrilled to hear the word milk finally coming out of one of the worker’s mouths, with a big smile my Dad cheerfully replies, “MILK yes MILK.” The lady then proceeds to point to a specific carton in the aisle. Now feeling triumphant, my father repeatedly thanks the woman as he grabs the carton she pointed to from the shelf. He then purchases the item with his Chinese currency, walks out of the store, and heads back to the apartment, feeling like a million bucks.

That night, when Jimmer is ready once again to have a bowl of cereal for a snack, my father eagerly says to him that he finally was able to buy some real milk. Jimmer is delighted as he pours his cereal into a bowl. He then proceeds to grab the milk carton from the refrigerator and opens it up to pour it on to his cereal. This time Jimmer is pleasantly treated to a liquid pouring down on his cereal, as opposed to the thick yogurt substance that funneled down on it the last time.  Unfortunately, much to his chagrin, that liquid was also not milk, it was just a more drinkable form of yogurt.

In closing, I would say that Jimmer and my father have so far done very well overall in China. They have been able to accomplish a lot for two American guys who don’t speak a lick of Chinese. I guess that if having an overly abundant supply of drinkable yogurt is the harshest result of not being able to communicate with others in their community, then it’s fair to say that things could be worse.

Here are some pictures from Jimmer:

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Jimmer in front of beautifully colored buildings in a district called “The Bund.”

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Yup they got a Best Buy over there too. This is the entrance to a beautiful mall.

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Beautiful sunset…they are 12 hours ahead of us normally but with the time change it’s 13 hours ahead now.

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We didn’t think there would be any signs of Christmas over there but look what they found! Beautiful decorations just for those that celebrate it. Nice scene.

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Our Dad, Al, with the girlfriend of the other import on the team and the wife of the Australian assistant coach. “G”  is from France and not sure if his girlfriend is or not. Nice people too.

JIMMER UPDATE – new pictures

I guess at this point to say that things have started out well for Jimmer with his basketball career in China would be a pretty big understatement. Within the first 10 days of Jimmer’s arrival across the Pacific, he lead his Sharks to victory in a tournament championship in Singapore, sealing the deal with a 43 point performance that included 3 clutch game winning free throws with zero time left on the clock, and in the process receiving MVP honors. Now here we are, 14 games in, and Jimmer has helped propel the Sharks, a team who didn’t make the playoffs last season, to the number 1 ranked team in the CBA with a 13 – 1 record! Along the way, Jimmer has teetered at and around a 40 point per game average. He’s consistently gone back and forth as the leading scorer in a league that hosts a barrage of American talent, such as former NBA All-Stars Carlos Boozer and Josh Smith. . . just to name a couple. It has been a thrilling experience for my family and I, watching Jimmer wow crowds all over China with thrilling performances from the YouTube setting of our Apple TV. In his last two games, Jimmer was on the road, first putting up a 44 point showing against one of the leagues top teams… a performance which I would argue is his best so far, shooting an outstanding 18 of 27 from the field. He then followed that game up with a 36 point game Sunday night, an outing where Jimmer only played half of the game due to CBA rules involving imported players (players who are not Chinese citizens).

In my first Jimmer update, I ended my blog by saying, “Could this be the beginning of Jimmermania in China?”  Now, 14 games into the season, I would say that it looks like that could very possibly end up being the case. Jimmer has begun being recognized readily on the streets of Shanghai, being stopped frequently by eager fans for autographs and selfies. Jimmer also just recenlty signed a shoe deal with a company called 361! More to come on that soon. . .

The excitement is well underway in Shanghai, and the Sharks prolific owner, Yao Ming, has certainly become a strong believer in the potential of his red hot ball club. Recently my father, who is now back over in China with Jimmer, was asked by an acquaintance if he could deliver a book to Yao on his behalf. Without knowing the details of the book or what it is all about, my father obliged, and when he encountered Yao the other day, he tried to give him the book. Yao looked at my father and said, “A book? No sorry, I can’t take a book.” My father was kind of puzzled by Yao’s response. Yao then elaborated on why he couldn’t take the book. You see, in the Chinese language, the way that you say words, can at times be just as important as what words you actually say. The tone and voice inflection that you use when reciting a word can be very crucial. So Yao politely explained to my father that the word “BOOK”, is enunciated in the same tone and inflection as the word “LOSE,”and as a result, it would be bad luck for Yao to accept a book during the season. Not wanting to jinx his squad, Yao respectfully declined, but said he would gladly accept the book when the season is over. This says to me that the great Yao is all in! He wants his team to reach it’s full potential, and he’s not willing to do ANYTHING to gamble with that in anyway! I must say, I absolutely loved hearing that story. I’ve always loved and respected Yao Ming, but the more I hear about him, the more and more I like him!

The Sharks are on a roll! Can they take this momentum all the way to the CBA finals? Could Yao have just constructed the team, with his superstar American import (Jimmer), that will bring a CBA title to Shanghai? I certainly don’t want to make any predictions or get too far ahead of myself, but I must say, with the way the Sharks are playing right now, they are gonna be ONE TOUGH TEAM TO BEAT. So let’s keep it rolling Sharks!! You’re certainly doing Shanghai very proud.

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GLENS FALLS STATE CHAMPS!

This past Saturday, the Glens Falls Indians – my high school alma mater in upstate New York – became the Class B New York State High School Football Champions for the first time in our school’s history! Glens Falls is a proud program that has been enriched with an abundance of football talent throughout the years, and although we’ve been close, Glens Falls unfortunately was never able to take home a state title…  that is until now!  I want to congratulate this years team on an inspiring season and a historical accomplishment. We in Glens Falls are all so proud of you guys! Here are my thoughts on your amazing achievement.

To me, football is the ultimate team sport. It’s a sport where you have to put an unlimited amount of trust in each teammate who you take to the field with. With 11 teammates on the field at the same time, all trying to do their own individual jobs, it only takes one out of that 11 to come up short, for the whole team to see failure. It’s similar to the way a car works. Under the hood of each car is an engine, and that engine has to do numerous different things simultaneously in order for that car to successfully get you to your destination. If just one function of that engine fails, the car could have a serious problem. Each player on the football field is like a different function of that engine, and when you combine all of the players together, that makes up the team – which is the equivalent of the car as a whole.  In football, in some cases players even depend on their teammates to keep them physically safe. This is a tremendous responsibility, and it is crucial for every football player to know that each one of their teammates has their back on every single play. In my experiences, the camaraderie and brotherhood that is formed on the football field is one of the strongest bonds you will ever be apart of in all of sports.  That’s why I know that when the Glens Falls Indians won the state Championship this past Saturday, they did it for more than just themselves as individuals. They did for their trainers, coaches, and teammates, who have been intensely battling along side of them from day one. But what I want to tell the Glens Falls Football team right now, is that winning that state title, meant much more than they might even realize.

To all the players and coaches on this special 2016 team – I want you guys to know, that what you guys just did this season, you did for every player who ever laced up their cleats, strapped on their helmets, and took to the field with the pride of wearing that Glens Falls red and black. You guys did it for every kid who got up at 6 A.M. to climb into their filthy, sticky practice uniform, in the unbearable scorching August heat and humidity, sweating their way through those grueling two-a-days preseason training sessions. You guys did it for all the kids who were forced to watch from the sidelines with crutches under their armpits, casts around their legs, and slings gripped to their shoulders, due to injuries they suffered, grinding it out on the gridiron. You guys did it for those Friday night and Saturday afternoon victories, disappointments, and unforgettable moments… those Sunday morning aches and pains…and those inspiring team speeches and emotional senior night games. You guys did it for those young children who just put on pads for their very first time this season – who came to your games, decked out in their P.A.L jerseys and watched you guys play with stars in their eyes, cheering their little hearts out every single time you made a big play. You guys did it for the kids, myself and my little brother included, who fought, strived, and sacrificed, all for the illustrious honor of being able put on that Glens Falls Football Jersey and wear it with the utmost pride. You guys did it for the fans, you did it for the city, you did it for the region… and you did it for every single player who ever put on the Glens Falls uniform – and for that, we sincerely thank you. So hold your heads up high fellas. You’re State Champions! And no matter what, that’s something that NO ONE… EVER… EVER… CAN TAKE AWAY FROM YOU!

THANKSGIVING INSPIRATION

It took being locked away from the world, hidden behind four concrete walls, to be able to finally see things clearly.

Now… why in the world would I start out a blog about THANKSGIVING, with a statement like that? I mean, how is this random quote relevant to this wonderful holiday where we get together with our families each November to celebrate and give thanks?  To be honest, this statement on it’s own probably has very little to zero meaning for most of us. However, once I tell you this short story that I’m about to tell you, and give you the opportunity to look at life from a very different perspective, I believe that this statement will take on a very powerful meaning. A meaning that every single one of us can certainly learn from – and maybe more importantly, use as everyday inspiration.

A couple years ago I was watching a documentary about a man who was serving a life sentence in a United States Penitentiary. I don’t remember exactly what the man was in prison for, but what I do remember, is that as the cameras rolled it became disturbingly apparent to me how dreadful this forgotten man’s existence truly was. Now as I watched this documentary unfold, I understood that this was not an innocent man, and that his miserable life in prison had been thrust upon him as a result of his own bad decisions. He did not deny his guilt, and due to his criminal acts on the street, his punishment surely seemed just – but even still – as I continued watching, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sympathy for this man.  His days consisted of being locked up in a narrow cage – made up of steel bars and concrete walls – for 23 hours a day, with zero contact with the outside world. The only time he ever left his cell was for one hour of exercise each day, where he would aimlessly roam around a concrete yard (reminiscent of the yard in Alcatraz) surrounded by giant walls way too high to even attempt seeing over. The man had no living family – no children, no wife, no mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle or friend on the outside to call, write, or receive a visit from. Inside his cell, he had very little to occupy his mind with. Aside from his minimal toiletries, he had nothing more than a pencil, some paper, and a couple of books. I can remember trying to put myself in this man’s shoes. To me, it sadly seemed like his life was comparable to being buried alive in a grim, dark grave, just slowly waiting to die. He had no joy, he had no hope, he had no love… he had nothing to look forward to, nothing to strive for, nothing to be happy about… he had no place to go, no way to escape, and no break from the daily torment. His life was truly a living hell, and I don’t know how any human being could survive such harsh conditions. Can you imagine waking up everyday from an agonizing nightmare, and then being forced to come to grips with the fact that that very nightmare, is in actuality your real life?? I know that I for one can’t even imagine it – nor would I ever want to.

So as I continued watching this depressing documentary, I was nearly ready to turn the channel when suddenly the interview portion of the show started up. The individual filming the show asked this incarcerated man a wide variety of questions, mostly about his former life on the street, and the crime that had landed him in prison. Although I don’t have much recollection of the answers the man gave, what I do remember very clearly is the tone in which the man gave them. Instead of speaking in a hopeless tone, he spoke in a very upbeat manner. He surprisingly spoke in a very congenial, likeable way. His demeanor also came across as very positive and upbeat. Certainly not what you would expect from a man living under the circumstances he was forced to live under. His eyes looked like the eyes of a man at peace, instead of looking like the eyes of a beaten down soul – the way that you might expect them to look. His personality was friendly and cheerful – not dead and dreadful, the way you might expect. His optimistic conduct was shocking to say the least, and the individual filming, took notice. After hitting the man with a barrage of various questions, finally the interviewer paused for a moment – taken back by this man’s positive vibe. Then in a very surprising and curious tone, the interviewer said to the man… “You seem to be at peace. Are you actually happy?” Then in a moment that I’ll never forget, the lowly man stares deeply into the interviewers eyes with a big smile and says… “Of course I’m happy. I have my health… I have my bible… and I know God loves me. I’m very blessed and thankful to have those things. What more could I ask for?” How amazing is that?? This takes us back to the first statement I made up at the top of the blog. Although it wasn’t a direct quote, throughout the rest of the interview this man discussed how it was the humbling experience of going to prison that truly opened his mind and his heart – so he could finally see clearly – and now for the first time in his life, he was truly thankful.

I’m not ashamed to say that this man’s response brought a tear to my eye. Here I go through my life always focusing on what I don’t have – whether it’s material things, talents, or money. I’m very often consumed by the negative, and I forget to focus on the many positives.  So after watching that documentary, I made a vow to myself, that I would make a consistent effort to try and remain thankful everyday for all of my incredible blessings. If this poor man, who lives in a cage everyday of his life, without friends, without family, without any material things, and without the daily freedoms that I take for granted, can be happy and be at peace in his life – then I certainly can be happy and be at peace with mine.

So today, on this day we set aside to give thanks, I want to wish you all a very special holiday. May we all remain thankful for all of our many wonderful blessings – and remember to focus on what we have, instead of what we don’t. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!