HAPPY “KNEW” YEAR

As soon as that extravagantly bright, world renowned, giant crystal ball dropped in the mecca of New York on Saturday night, I knew that I was ready to make 2017 the greatest year of my life. However, yesterday (New Years Day) I took some time to reflect on 2016, and as I did, something fairly profound struck me.

Well before 2017 rang in, I already KNEW that there were things in my life that I really needed to work on.  I KNEW that I needed to work harder on trying to reach my goals. I KNEW that I had to get rid of the unnecessary negative thinking that plagued me at times. I KNEW that I needed to make a better effort at keeping in touch with the people who I care about the most. I KNEW that I needed to continue to strengthen my faith everyday, and that I had to keep on working towards being a more positive person. I KNEW that I needed to cut back on sweets and improve my diet. I KNEW that I needed to work on being a more tolerant person, and that I had to try to stop being judgemental.  I KNEW all of these things and more! So now the question becomes, if I already knew of these crucial changes I needed to make, then why in the world would I wait until January 1st to try and make them?

Unfortunately, every year as the New Year gets closer, we use our New Year’s resolutions as excuses to procrastinate doing the things we know we need to do.  It’s very easy to fall into the, “I’ll start doing this, or I’ll stop doing that after New Year’s” mentality. In all honesty, these are our lives. We know what we have to do. . . we KNEW it all along. From this point on, I believe we should make a vow to ourselves, that we will do our very best every single day to try and be better people in every aspect of our lives. So that means that when early December rolls around in 2017, and we notice we’re coming up short in some way, we won’t wait until January 1st to start making the improvements we need to make.  It also means that any shortcomings we vowed to work on when 2017 struck, we must continue working on as 2017 progresses and eventually comes to an end.

Life is a never ending quest for perfection, and even though we may not ever fully get there, it certainly doesn’t mean we should ever stop trying.  I hope you all have an amazing 2017. . . and remember, if you catch yourself slipping in any way, don’t wait until the New Year to fix it. . . you can always add in something new to work on once January 1st hits.

So Happy New Year to all, and whatever you want out of you life for 2017. . . start going after it now, and don’t stop unil you get it!!

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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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MEETING CRAIG SAGER

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This past week, the late great legendary NBA sideline reporter, Craig Sager, sadly passed away after a long hard fought battle with cancer. This was a very special man, who literally and figuratively lit up NBA sidelines for years with his magnetic personality and outlandish, bright, neon-colored suits, which would eventually become synonymous with his name. His job was not an easy one, but as far as I’m concerned, there was no one better.  When coaches and players would approach him, angrily at times, to give their mandatory halftime interviews, Craig had the uncanny ability of being able to bring levity to those tense-filled situations.  I’m honored to say that in 2011, I had the incredible opportunity to meet Craig Sager at The Westin Hotel in Manhattan, the night of the NBA Draft.  Now. . . just simply the occurrence of meeting Craig Sager is certainly an impressive story in itself.  However, the unique way in which my family and I were able to meet him, makes the story all the more interesting, as the experience ended up hitting very close to home.

The night of the 2011 NBA Draft, my family and I were hanging out in the lobby of the Westin Hotel in midtown Manhattan, hobnobbing with the Who’s Who of the National Basketball Association. As we hung around the fancy lobby, enjoying the surreal experience of preparing for Jimmer to be drafted into the world’s most prominent basketball league, suddenly we saw a very familiar face approaching us. To our pleasant surprise, it was the world renowned sports reporter, Craig Sager. He introduced himself, telling us that he was a big fan of Jimmer, and that he had been looking forward to meeting him. We were thrilled to meet him as well, as we had always thoroughly enjoyed Craig and the entertaining ways in which he conducted his infamous sideline interviews. Then after a couple minutes of getting to know him a little bit, he hit us with a shocker, revealing to us that one of his best friends was actually from Glens Falls, NY – our hometown. We obviously thought that that was pretty cool, and it opened up the conversation to some nostalgia as we discussed his experiences with our small town, such as the lifechanging moment when he had the privilege of enjoying a Dirty John’s hotdog (anyone from the Glens Falls area knows what that’s all about). Then what Craig Sager did next, would surely become the favorite of my Jimmer draft night stories. He told us that he had a surprise for us, and that if we could wait right where we were for a moment, he would be right back with the surprise. Well, of course the opportunity to receive a surprise from Craig Sager was reason enough for us to stay put. So we anxiously waited for Craig to return with this mysterious surprise. After waiting for a while, it got to the point where Jimmer was becoming crunched for time, as he had a very strict schedule to keep. Jimmer told us that he was gonna have to leave, but that we should tell Craig it was great meeting him and he was sorry he couldn’t stick around for the surprise. Then right as Jimmer was about to take off, suddenly we hear this loud chant coming from down the hallway…  JIM-MER! JIM-MER! JIM-MER! Stunned by the unusual turn of events, all eyes in the lobby were immediately fixated on the long string of red-shirted Jimmer fans, chanting his name as they made their way towards him. But the best thing about this forever memorable moment, was when we realized who it was that was leading this spirited charge. As we looked on collectively with the rest of the crowded lobby, we suddenly came to the realization that it was Craig Sager himself, chanting Jimmer’s name as he sported a bright red Glens Falls Nation T-shirt. He had met up with his good friend and the large Glens Falls contingency to show Jimmer support on his big day.

What a phenomenal memory Craig Sager left us with on that special night. He was such a kind-hearted man, and to me, his amazing display of support for my little brother, who he had never met before, spoke volumes about his character. With this very kind act, he surely forever etched a special place in my heart. He was an incredible man, and he will definitely be greatly missed. So I just wanted to take this time to share this wonderful memory that Craig left me and my family with, and also offer my sincere condolences to the Sager family. Rest in peace Craig, we all love ya. Thank you so much for the memories.

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!