Author Archives: Leann

If I Could Write A Letter To Me

On Friday night, I attended the Moxie Matters Tour featuring Jen Hatmaker and Nichole Nordeman. Nichole challenged us to write a letter to our younger selves as a sort of reflection on life. At first, I was skeptical because we all know Doc Brown said no one should know too much about their own future, but since I don’t own a DeLorean, I think we’re good. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how therapeutic it would be.  Also, since turning 40, I’ve been doing a lot of introspection. I’m writing this letter to me around the last time I let a guy break my heart. I picked that moment in time because it was a major turning point, both good and bad, in my life. So, here goes.

Dear Me,

I need you to sit up for a minute and dry your eyes because you need to read this. I am not promising it will help, but hopefully, you’ll take a moment to breathe and maybe laugh a bit and most of all be reminded just how strong you are.

I need you to prepare yourself for the loneliness. It is real and painful, and she is one hell of an ugly mistress. You will battle that demon at different times the rest of your life, but what’s important to note is that you win every single one of those battles. So, I know right now you feel like the world is blurry and gray, but you’re going to get through this. In fact, you’re going to get over it in the most you way there is…a road trip. Now, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Even in the present day, there are times when that pain you feel will creep back in at the strangest and most inopportune times. It won’t be as intense or crippling, but the truth is that just like a broken vase glued back together is never completely fixed, a broken heart is never really the same, again.

Which leads me to this: it’s going to be WAAAAAAAYYYYY more than a minute before you are willing to offer your heart to someone else. This experience changes you…not who you are at your core, but it changes how you trust. Sure, there will be little opportunities from time to time that will make you consider going down the rabbit hole, but you’re going to resist those and strengthen the fortress around your heart even more. Then, one day someone will cross your path who will make you trust, again, and you’ll open the gate and…nope…I’m invoking Doc Brown on this one…you’re not ready for how that turns out.

Outside of matters of the heart, I want to remind you to dream. Dreams can and will change throughout your life, and they’re not all going to come true, but I think you know that. You’ve got a good, practical head on your shoulders, but one of my favorite things about you is that you’re not afraid to dream. So, no matter how bleak things ever get in your life, never stop dreaming. The hope that comes with dreams is one of the last few pure things in this world.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this life we’ve been given, you and I, isn’t easy. In the grand scheme of things, it’s easier still than most, but adulting is hard no matter how you slice it. Remember this though, nothing worth doing is EVER easy. You have to take risks, and you have to step out on faith. You have to believe that God is with you always even when you want to shake your fists at Him. And OH BOY…will you ever shake your fists at Him! Don’t worry. He can take it. He made you exactly who you are, so truthfully, He knew what He was getting into. Never stop talking to Him. Let me say that, again…NEVER stop talking to Him. There will be hard conversations, but the important part will be to have them because at least you’re still talking to Him.

In the midst of all this, He will bless you richly with the greatest set of family and friends ever assembled. These people will hold your hand in the bad times, laugh with you in the good times, and keep you grounded. And you will do the same for them. They won’t always have the right words to say, but then, again, neither will you. You will love each other fiercely and forgive greatly and not a day will go by when you don’t need every single one of them in your life.

Life is going to hand you a great many gifts, but the greatest of all will be your nephew. That’s right…not only does that crazy brother of yours get married, but he has a kid, too! Being an aunt will be the greatest, most rewarding job you will ever have. Cherish it because that little boy will grab you by your cracked heart and never, ever let go. It is in that moment, you will understand your purpose in life. He’s going to storm into this world a fighter from his very first breath. He is funny and goofy and smart…my word…is he smart! His face lights up every time he sees you, and he gives the absolute best hugs. You’re going to love it!

I know this may come as a shock to you, but I’ve left a lot out. Some things you have to experience as they happen, but I hope you can find comfort in the fact that you’re still here. You’re still kicking. Life may have been rough over the years, but you stood back up one more time than it knocked you down…always. You’re stronger than you think. I promise.

Love,
Me

P.S. Alabama wins the national championship, again…a lot! Roll Tide!

Advertisements

Coming Soon

Last week, television networks had their upfronts premiering their schedules and trailers for the 2018-19 season.  Usually, I can see a theme like that one year all the shows were about vampires or when they were all about military operations.  I didn’t quite see a theme this time around, but I may need to look more deeply, or perhaps, the networks are trying to give us a variety of options.  What a concept?!

Nevertheless, here are the planned schedules for ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, and NBC.  This pdf version has live links.  The call sign of each network open to an article with show descriptions, while the links attached to individual new shows lead to YouTube for the trailer.  Personally, I’m most excited about Murphy Brown returning.  I watched all these trailers, except one because I’m not a fan of the actress, so I already know I’m not watching that show. But the Murphy Brown trailer is not really even a trailer, and I got the most excited watching it.  I can’t wait!

Which show are you most excited for this fall?

Sleeping Through Miracles

Let me begin by congratulating Georgia on an incredible season, and regardless of what happened last night, I would’ve still congratulated y’all for that today. College football in general should be proud of the way in which you all carry yourselves with class and respectfulness to your fellow opponents. It was an absolute honor to have my team play this game against you. If I could’ve found a way to share the victory, I would’ve done it in a heartbeat. I’d have even let y’all take sole custody of that hideous trophy they made us take home. From the perspective of a fan, I have been where you are today. It was just last year, in fact. It’s a sucker punch to the gut that makes you question everything around you, but I promise you this: it too shall pass and you’ll get yourselves geared up for next season. I guarantee you’ll be back in this game, again, multiple times. What Kirby is building there isn’t a passing thought. It is changing the whole program for the better, and I look forward to watching it all unfold.

That being said…the halftime bedtime mojo strikes, again. I have no control over HOW it works or WHEN it works or even IF it works. I just know that I have gone to bed multiple times in my life at halftime for whatever reason: disgust with how a team is playing, obligations for the next day, etc. (#AdultingIsHard) with the team I want to win not winning and have woken up the next day to discover they found a way. It only worked once for Peyton. It has never worked for Carolina basketball. It randomly works for Rose Bowl games between a red team and an orange team. And, it has worked a few times for my Tide. Even though I was absolutely certain I would wake up to Georgia having won, somehow, there was just enough mojo left in the tank. Sure, we can debate about mojo not being real and that if I’d stayed up we’d have gotten the same outcome, but consider this, I have ZERO way of finding out if the mojo really works. 🙂 And don’t pretend for a minute you don’t have your own version of the rally cap because you know you do.

I haven’t watched the second half, yet. It’s on the DVR. I’ve seen a few highlights, and right before I turned out the lights last night, I got the ESPN alert saying Tua was starting the 3rd quarter. I almost…ALMOST…turned it back on. I hated it for Jalen because he worked so hard to get us there, but the way I hear he handled the whole situation should be a lesson to us all, including those of us much older than that 19-year-old. I look forward to seeing all the things I saw tweets and posts about this morning, and as I watch, I’ll be counting up the years I did NOT lose off my life because I went to bed and skipped the coronary.

I will be honest. This wasn’t supposed to be our year. I just didn’t believe we were playing like a championship team. The scores might not have indicated that, but I saw a team playing because they had to, not because they wanted to. That is, until last Monday night against Clemson. I’m not sure where that version of Alabama Football 2017 came from, but maybe turning the page to 2018 sparked something. Still I wondered if we had worked all season just to get revenge against Clemson, and when we did, maybe we’d accomplished all our goals for the season.  As Monday night turned into Tuesday morning, it seemed our team still had one more goal.  Regardless, I’m proud of my guys for pulling together as a team and focusing on what was best for the unit as a whole and not the individual (except I understand one of our players should still be sitting in the timeout chair. Coach Saban will deal with you later, young man.).  I had more doubts this season than any other season since Coach Saban joined our tribe, but one thing always holds true with my Alabama boys: they like to prove me wrong.

And so we close the books on the 2017 college football season. All our teams started the season hoping they would have an opportunity to play on the last day, and while plenty of people don’t like this outcome, the beauty in that is there’s another season coming in the Fall when maybe the team they want to see taking home that hideous trophy will find a way to win after I go to bed at halftime.

Set Your DVRs

Stay tuned and set your DVRs when the time comes for the 2017-2018 Network Television season.

PDF version of photo

Clickable links in PDF
Network Call Letters ~ Show Descriptions
New Show Names ~ Trailers on YouTube

Click photo to enlarge

Christmas 2016

Center: The whole family after Lincoln’s birthday weekend. Clockwise from top left: (1) Andy, Lincoln, & Janet at Lincoln’s honor roll ceremony. (2) Andy & Leann during Spring Break visit. (3) Leann, Mom, & Dad during their Summer visit. (4) Leann & Lincoln at Lincoln’s birthday. (5) Leann, Janet, & Mom on Black Friday. (6) Leann at Rocky Mountain National Park. (7) Stefanie & Leann decked out for the Ugly Sweater Party. (8) Visiting with the Leonards & Schwambs in Colorado Springs for Broncos Training Camp 2016. (9) College roommates/friends Leann, Stefanie, & Angela together again after 17 years. (10) Leann & Jessica at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction. (11) Broncos Super Bowl 50 Championship Ring. (12) 3 Generations: Andy, Lincoln, & Dad.

 

Dear Family and Friends,

Each year, when I compose this letter, I always go back and read last year’s Christmas letter to get myself in the mood to write the next one. This year, I decided to write this letter a little differently, organized in more of a compartmentalized format. I’m hoping it will keep me from rambling too much. Probably not, but we’ll see. Let’s start off easy.

Sports: When I left you last December, Alabama was headed for the college football playoffs as the #2 team in the nation. They won their playoff game against Michigan State 38-0 and went on to win a very hard fought and stressful game against Clemson 45-40 and be crowned the National Champions for the 16th time in school history. They are currently the #1 team in the country and slated for a playoff game vs. Washington on New Year’s Eve with a potential championship game vs. either Clemson or Ohio State on January 9th. Fingers crossed and Roll Tide! In other football news, Peyton Manning returned from his injuries at the end of last season and the Broncos marched their way right to San Francisco for Super Bowl 50, which they won in stellar defensive fashion against the Carolina Panthers. This proved to be the perfect ending to Peyton’s incredible football career as he decided to retire on March 7th. There were tears, but he got through it and so did I. In April, the North Carolina Tar Heels, after an up and down season, made it all the way to the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship game but unfortunately, lost on a last second shot. I couldn’t have been more proud of how they fought their way tooth and nail to that game. I even got to attend their ACC Tournament semi-final game as it was being played here in DC.

Travels: In May, I visited my college roommate Stefanie and her family in Georgia for about a week. We took a little side trip to Alabama to meet up with my bestie and college friend Angela. The three of us hadn’t been in the same room together in 17 years, so we thought it was time. Keeping up with each other through texts, social media, and phone calls just aren’t the same as being able to visit with someone in person. In summer, I returned to Colorado to visit with my friends the Leonard’s and Schwamb’s and attend Broncos Training Camp. I wasn’t sure how Peyton’s retirement would affect my passion for the game of football, but through training camp and the start of the season, I discovered that by being a fan of his, he taught me to love the game in general. While there, we got to explore Rocky Mountain National Park, and I attended the wedding of a fellow Broncos fan and former co-worker. In August, my friend Jessica and I went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony to see Coach Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison receive their gold jackets. This was our trial run for 5 years from now when Peyton is sure to receive his. We also decided we need to go back when it isn’t enshrinement weekend with thousands of people so we can see everything. In September, I traveled home for Lincoln’s birthday. He turned 9, and I’m still trying to figure out how we got to the last single digit birthday so quickly. I was home in November for Thanksgiving and also went to Georgia earlier this

month for Stefanie’s Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. I went to NYC a few more times this year to visit with my friend John and his husband Justin and to see a few more Broadway shows including the final performances of 4 original cast members of Something Rotten. The tour of that show starts in January. I highly recommend it if it makes it to a city near you. During one trip, I even got to see the planting of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.

Visitors: In January, my sweet friend Anita came for a weekend visit. We did a little sightseeing, watched Hallmark movies, and shopped til we dropped. In March, Andy, Janet, and Lincoln visited me during their spring break. We went to the National Geographic Museum, National Zoo, the Natural History Museum, the Lincoln Memorial, and every cupcake shop we could find! We also saw a motorcade and walked by the FBI building. In June, Mom and Dad came for a visit. It had been a long time since they’d been able to come up because of dad’s chemo treatments last year. Plus, they needed to see our new baby panda, Bei Bei. We celebrated mom’s birthday, father’s day, and my birthday all in one night since we wouldn’t be together on the actual dates.

Health: Dad’s leukemia has remained in remission at each of his follow up appointments and scans, the most recent of which was this month. My doctor has reduced my diabetes medication to a ½ pill each day as I continue to move towards managing the disease without medication. One day I hope to be able to type that I’m no longer on the medication, and I really hope one day I can say I no longer have diabetes because they found a cure. By all accounts though, we are all in good health.

Family: Mom’s big news this year was she finally got to see Barbra Streisand in concert. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so excited about something. Even days afterwards she was telling me that every time she thought about the concert it made her smile. Lincoln competed in swimming, engrossed himself in Pokémon, finished 2nd grade, and took 3rd grade by storm at a new school. He even sang in the chorus program a couple weeks ago. Janet is now working as an Instructional Mentor for Hillsborough County Schools to help new teachers get acclimated to their job. Andy finished all his post-graduation requirements with Hillsborough County to be eligible for an Assistant Principal position, and he was hired in the summer as the Assistant Principal at Benito Middle School, the same school where he was teaching.

Next Year: As I sat down to write this letter I found myself grateful we are just a few days away from closing the books on this year. Despite what you have just read, 2016 has not been easy emotionally. We lost a lot of good people to cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart attacks, AIDS, diabetes, and unspeakable violence. We watched a man stand at numerous podiums and give a voice to hate, racism, intolerance, assault, and general disrespectfulness. It has made my heart grow weary because I was raised in a home where those thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors were unacceptable. I was taught that we, as human beings, are basically good people and that in good times and bad, we take care of each other. However, this past year challenged that teaching and made me question how much I really know the people in my life as I watched people I love be persecuted. There’s a lady who stands in a harbor with her arm raised high lighting America with the lamp in her hand and teaching us from her tablet which states, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Those words are not unlike Jesus’s words in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” On my office wall at work hangs a quote from the late Coach Dean Smith that reads, “There is a point in every contest when sitting on the sidelines is not an option.” So, as the new year begins, I am grasping at hope that love, kindness, and understanding will rule over hate and fear. I pray we will learn to trust each other again by showing compassion and care to rid our country and this world of the pain it has known in 2016. Despite the potentially damaging decisions that may be made in the coming years by our country’s leadership, I pray our society will continue to progress and not regress in human and civil rights for all people, and if we do regress, I pray we all live to see us find a better way as I am determined to always shine a light in the darkness. I hope you will join me in this prayer.

Happy Holidays, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Season’s Greetings, Feliz Navidad, and Merry Christmas!

Leann

Once More…With All The Feelings

IMG_20160718_132930[1]

(Clockwise from top left) Me with Beth Nicely, Christian Borle, John Cariani, Heidi Blickenstaff, and Rob McClure

Just over a year ago, the “little show that could” rolled into my life like a runaway freight train via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.  Something Rotten! performed a couple of songs from their show, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.  A couple months later, I traveled to New York to see this show I couldn’t get out of my head and proceeded to spend three straight performances with them taking it all in.  I was hooked.  I’ve been back several times since to see the show, again and again.  It’s just that good, in my opinion.  I spend my days crunching numbers and telling people what they can and cannot do, which does not lend itself to the creative process in any way, so spending those two and a half hours inside the St. James Theatre watching these talented people spread the creative process all over the place while bringing this hilarious and heartfelt story to life fills my heart with joy.  I have been to see it just because, and I have been to see it because an understudy (or two) was performing for one of the principle cast.  Seeing different takes on the characters keeps the story fluid and provides new perspective.

As is the standard with a hit Broadway show, actors depart their roles for new adventures even when the show is not closing immediately.  This was the case on Saturday night when four of the original cast took their final bows in Something Rotten!.  I am eternally grateful to the creative masterminds Karey Kirkpatrick, Wayne Kirkpatrick, and John O’Farrell, who I finally got to meet that night, for the beautiful words, lyrics, and music of this show.  They are the reason I know who Nigel Bottom, Bea Bottom, and Portia are as well as a very different side of William Shakespeare.  Beyond that though, Heidi Blickenstaff, Christian Borle, John Cariani, and Kate Reinders are the reason I know what those characters look like and sound like; what makes them laugh and cry and sing; why they get mad and what they do when they get mad. These characters and the people who played them have become a beacon for me.  Something I could point to and say, “You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Heidi Blickenstaff belt Right Hand Man live and in person.” Or, “Boy do I understand how Kate Reinders feels when she swoons and falls at Christian Borle’s feet the first time she meets Shakespeare.”  Plus, “I cannot even explain how difficult it is to get through To Thine Own Self and its reprise without crying because of John Cariani and Brian d’Arcy James’s (before he departed in May) heartfelt portrayals.”  And, “Can we please talk about Christian Borle’s voice as he sings the lines from the balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet?” I can’t. It leaves me speechless.  These are my memories…the ones I will carry with me when someone asks, “what do you remember from the first original Broadway cast you ever saw?”  Because that’s what they are.  This is the first show for which I had the privilege to experience the original cast.  They have set the bar mighty high, and I’m not sure anything will ever be able to top it.

Because they have brought me so much joy, I felt the only thing I could do in return was to be there for their final performances.  I could tell during the show it was an emotional night for all of them.  Not just the ones leaving, but the rest of the cast as well.  It was bittersweet for me.  I tried to take in every second knowing this was the last time I would see these actors perform these extraordinary roles that have, from the beginning, seemed like they were written for them intentionally.  And, having seen the show a number of times, I was even more emotional as each person’s final scenes were played out.  That last walk off stage is a hard one to accept even for an average audience member such as myself.  In a crazy way, I (or anyone who bought a ticket to this show over the last 16 months) have shared something with those four.  We’ve shared the irreplaceable beauty of live theatre together, and we’ve shared moments at the stage door that have meant the world to me even if they were only brief seconds.  In fact, on Saturday night, I finally had the opportunity to meet Jordan Roth, president of Jujamcyn Theaters who owns the St. James.  He shook my hand, told me he recognized me from “the Twitter,” and talked to me about his baby that is due this week.  Mazel Tov, Jordan!

It is not a simple thing for the actors to walk out of the theatre, sign a few autographs, smile for pictures, and listen to us ramble on about how amazing they are.  They’ve just completed a two and a half hour high intensity, cardio workout all while singing, dancing, acting, and entertaining us.  They are not obligated to stop.  We are not entitled to their presence, but I’ve learned so much from spending time at the stage door after shows, particularly this one, as I’ve watched them in their interactions with other fans in line with me.  I continue to be stunned when one of them recognizes me and even remembers my name. (Looking at you, Beth and John.) Their kindness, generosity, and patience with everyone speaks volumes no more so than on Saturday night.

The line stretched the length of the front of the theatre, which is at least 100 feet, if not more.  One by one, the cast members walked out and took their time with every single person who wanted an autograph, a picture, or simply to tell them “you were fantastic.”  It took a solid 90 minutes from the time the show concluded until the last fan had seen the last cast member, and not once did any of them get flustered or impatient with the crowd.

Christian was the last one to exit and by the time he had reached the end of the barricades, which only stretched about halfway through the crowd, the security guard (one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met) told Christian to stay where he was and directed all of us to keep moving up for our turn.  As I stood in line chatting with Jim, my favorite usher at the theatre, I watched Christian not try to move everyone through as quickly as possible, but to give each person his full attention for just those few moments he would have with them.  No one person was more or less important than the next.  Everyone received the same respect and appreciation from him.  It was a masterclass in how to treat the stage door from both the actor and the fans.  When the last person had their time with him, he stopped to give the security guard and Jim each a hug and take pictures with them, and then he was off to what I’m sure was a cast party to end all cast parties.

By all accounts, the show is in good hands with the replacements.  I had the privilege to see one of them Saturday night.  Rob McClure who replaced Brian d’Arcy James in May was utterly phenomenal.  I wasn’t sure what to expect because I have such adoration for Brian and his portrayal of Nick Bottom, but Rob took that character and made it his own.  He showed me things about Nick that hadn’t occurred to me, and I laughed harder than I’ve laughed in a really long time.  Rob is this little nugget of joy that I didn’t know was missing in my life until Saturday night, and I cannot wait to go back and see him in this role, again, and to take in all the other new cast members.

As I’ve tried many times over the last year in conversations with people to explain just what this show means to me and why I keep going back, there’s this little quote from an episode of the television show Designing Women that comes to mind every time and sums it up better than I ever could:

It [is] a rip-roaring firecracking, roller coaster of a ride — and we are all better for having bought a ticket.

Farewell, Christian, Heidi, John, and Kate. Thank you for the ride of a lifetime and for making those tickets worth every penny.

#DontEVERGiveUp #LaughThinkCry

Today is the day when I remind you all that our battle is not over. Cancer still exists. It’s still an enemy, it still devastates lives, and it still takes our loved ones from us far too soon. It does not discriminate. It affects your grandmother, grandfather, mother, father, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, husband, wife, children, and friends.

Every year on the day of the ESPY awards (tonight), ESPN dedicates their broadcasts to raising money for The V Foundation for Cancer Research.

EVERY SINGLE PENNY donated goes towards cancer research. Their administrative costs are fully funded. Nothing you donate goes towards paying their CEO or the person answering their phones. It goes towards the fight. They have had one goal for over 20 years: to put themselves out of business by finding a cure for EVERY cancer.

In 1993, a month before he left us, Jimmy V stood on a stage to accept the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage Award (video below) and started his foundation with these words: “We need your help. I need your help. We need money for research. It may not save my life. It may save my children’s lives. It may save someone you love.”

20 years later, Robin Roberts, another beloved individual, stood on a stage and gave a speech accepting that same Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs and said these words: “Because of everyone who has responded to his challenge, because of all the donations, research, and support, mine is one of the lives that’s been saved.”

And just last year, Stuart Scott left us after a 7 year battle with cancer less than a year after receiving the Jimmy V Perseverance Award. He remains a very public reminder that we still have work to do. “When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live. So, live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, then lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you.”

Together we can save lives.

Donate
ESPN Ebay Auctions
ESPN Sweepstakes Opportunities

Here We Go, Again

Network Upfronts were this week, unveiling the fall/winter/spring schedules for the 2016-17 television season.  Here We Go, Again seemed like an appropriate title given the number of space-time continuum themed shows in the works.  This is what the plan looks like for now (click on the picture for a larger view).  The PDF version of the chart includes links to synopses (click on the network call letters) and trailers for all the new shows (click on the name of the show).  Enjoy! Happy Fall!

Fall 2016-17 TV Schedule

#DearPeyton

Over the course of his football career and endorsement partnership with Gatorade, Gatorade has released a number of incredible advertisements with Peyton, but the best ones are always the ones not trying to sell you their product or tell you how this new formula will help restore your electrolytes faster after a workout.  The ones where they have congratulated him on a major accomplishment like breaking touchdown records or winning super bowls are the best.  Here, as he begins his post-football career, Gatorade has released a series of videos with Family, Friends, and Teammates discussing his kindness and thoughtfulness in recognizing them and the impact they had on his life and the game of football.  Here is the entire series of YouTube videos for your viewing pleasure.  The truest of friends will need a box of tissues next to them as they watch.

This is the main composite video.

This one makes me wonder how many of his Broncos teammates he wrote a note to the night before the Super Bowl, and I do agree. He could work on his handwriting. He’s got some time now.

His dedication to the children’s hospital patients always leaves a lump in my throat. Tyler lost his battle, but Peyton made sure his time here was memorable.

I barely made it through this one. Peyton and I share a similar respect and appreciation for the integrity Mort embodies, and I always knew he called Mort directly to give him the retirement news.

Is there any greater gift to a parent than to say, “thank you for all you did for me”? Or for a sibling to know how much his brother loves and is proud of him?

When Tony says he never knew another more thoughtful person in the NFL than Peyton, it was too much.

He’s always watching. Remember that. He recognizes when someone treats the game with the reverence it deserves. Always do your best. You never know who might be watching.

This was a late addition and might very well be my favorite.

To Heels, With Love

12473946_10156845685585193_2564465567905626595_o

There are no words to describe how I feel about what happened Monday night, so I won’t even try. I’ll simply say, “Congrats, Villanova” and move on.

I do have words to describe how proud I am of this team, from top to bottom, upperclassmen to underclassmen, scholarship players to walk-ons.

I remember 1998 being the first team I really followed and not just because my mom was watching them. I loved that team. I cried the night they lost in the final four in San Antonio, and after tonight, I truly believe the state of Texas is cursed for Carolina teams.

I loved the 2005 team because it was Roy’s first championship and that squad had been through so much.

I loved the 2009 senior class. That group of guys who didn’t even have to speak to each other. They knew what each of them was thinking from a look.

But this team…THIS TEAM…this team knew. They knew what it meant to wear that jersey, to play in that dome, to fight for each other, to BE a Tar Heel. They just made me proud to cheer for them every day. They entered every single game with one thought in mind…win or lose…you gotta take us outta here kicking and screaming. This team didn’t need rings or trophies or hats and shirts or pieces of nets to solidify or determine their worth. They demonstrated it in every way they represented Carolina on and off the court. They did it by doing the unthinkable: they made me love Carolina basketball more than I already did. I didn’t think that was possible.

uncbb-1459833219736

I am grateful for Marcus and Brice and Joel and Kennedy and Isaiah and Justin and Nate and Joel (II) and Theo (I didn’t forget you, Theo “where’s my chair at” Pinson). I loved this ride they took us on…the ups and downs and twists and turns were worth it…every bit of it. Just like Marcus, I wouldn’t change a thing or give back any of the losses to change tonight. Well, maybe I’d give back that one in Chapel Hill against that team from 8 miles away, but whatever. It’s all part of the story. It’s all part of the journey. It’s all part of what makes Carolina Basketball great. Vince Carter and Phil Ford who don’t have national championship rings are just as important to The Family as Michael Jordan and James Worthy who do. Now, this 2016 team will be folded into that canvas. A lot is said about that Carolina family, but this group made their own family within it. The rest of the Family could be seen in grand display behind the Carolina bench Monday night as I saw all of them stand in unison, unprompted, to cheer for their own. No one has that. No one ever will.

So maybe it didn’t end the way we hoped. So maybe they aren’t hanging a national championship banner in the rafters. Sure, it would’ve been great to win that game, to see Marcus and the rest of the guys cut down the nets. But, do you know how many Carolina teams in my lifetime alone I have watched who flat-out had the talent to win it all and didn’t or the ones who had the heart to win it all and didn’t or the ones who had both and still didn’t win it all? I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count that high. For crying out loud, that 2009 senior class could’ve walked away with 3 instead of 1 easily in their 4 years, but they didn’t. Even Coach Smith used to say to win a championship you have to have a lot of luck.

Luck. It’s a funny word when you look at it, but when I look back on this year and all the years that came before them, I’m reminded just how lucky I am to be a fan of a program that is consistently considered to make a deep tournament run every year. There are four, maybe five programs in the country you can set your watch to for that. So much pressure is placed on the shoulders of 18-22-year-olds to carry not only the expectations of the current season, but the entirety of a historically successful program as well. The comparisons alone are enough to make anyone crack underneath it all, and no one would’ve blamed them. They didn’t. Instead, this team brushed off those expectations, pulled on those jerseys that represent so much, and fought every damn day for a program, for a school, for a coach, for a fan base, but most importantly for each other. Make no mistake, this Carolina team will be remembered for years to come, but the way they came together to create their little family, to scratch and claw for each other, is remarkably unmatched in Carolina basketball’s over 100-year history. So, when I think of Carolina basketball, this 2016 group is one I will remember with great pride and admiration.

And so, I fight for and with them every season…for The Family…for my Heels, with love.

CfQK8s7WQAACmwl