Monday, May 21, 2012

J-Speaks: A Legend of The Disco Era Passes Away

She had the most unique voice that defined an era of music. Her songs were symbol of amazing passionate nights of romance and love. At some of her concerts, people in the audience would wear symbols of that era on their ears and around their necks. Her music garnered her many awards and her songs have stood the test of time. She started her amazing journey in the church and it led her to superstardom across the world. This past week however, this legendary artist that defined an era had her “Last Dance.”

This past Thursday, Donna Summer, the five-time Grammy Award winner and woman who defined the era of Disco passed away from lung cancer at her home in Naples, FL. She was 63 years old.

Summer had been diagnosed as having lung cancer despite reports of being a non-smoker. The cancer was in no relation to smoking.

She is survived by her husband of 32 years to Brooklyn Dreams member Bruce Sudano and her three children Mimi Sommer, who she had with ex-husband Helmuth Sommer, Brooklyn Sudano and Amanda Sudano.

In a statement from the Summer family, “While we grieve her passing, we are at piece celebrating her extraordinary life and legacy.”

Many in the music industry expressed their feelings about Summer’s passing on Thursday.

Via Twitter Kylie Minogue said that Summer was “one of my earliest musical inspirations. R.I.P. Donna Summer #BadGirlsForEver.”

Quincy Jones said of Summer, “Your voice was the heartbeat and soundtrack of a decade.”

“Few singers have impacted music & the world like Donna Summer! It is the end of an era.”

To fully understand the kind of career Donna Summer had and what made her one of the very best to hear these two facts.

She was the first artist to have three straight double albums reach No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard chart as well as chart four No. 1 singles in the country within a span of 13 months. She also had 19 No. 1 dance hits over her legendary career.

Summer, whose real name is LaDonna Adrian Gaines was born on Dec. 31, 1948 in Boston, MA to Andrew Gaines a butcher and his wife Mary, who was a schoolteacher. She was one of seven children raised in a Boston’s Dorchester. The family lived on the first floor of a three-decker home.

Mary recalls that from the first time her daughter could speak, she loved to sing. She would often go through the house singing. So much so that she sang for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Summer first performance came at age 10 when she replaced a vocalist who failed to show up.

“I opened up my mouth and this voice just shot out of me. It shocked me and it shocked everyone in the room and I started crying and everyone in the room started crying,” Summer said once about that moment.

“I heard the voice of God saying to me you got to be famous. This is your power and your never to abuse this power.”

She used that power to become a popular figure in performing in school musicals at Boston’s Jeremiah e. Burke High School.

In 1967 just weeks before her graduation, Summer left for New York where she became a member of the blues-rock band Crow. The group unfortunately did not get signed to a record label and they broke up.

Summer stayed in New York and auditioned for a role in the counterculture musical Hair. She agreed to take the role in the Munich, Germany production of the show and moved there after getting the blessing of her parents.

Four years later she released her first single, a cover of The Jaynetts’ “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses,” from one-off European deal with Decca Records.

In 1975, Summer was approached by legendary music producer Giorgio Moroder with the idea for a song that she and Pete Bellotte were working on for another singer. She had come up with the lyric, “love to love you, baby.”

Summer said that she wanted her voice to sound like Marilyn Monroe cooing the words.

To get into the mood of recording the song, she requested that Moroder turn the lights off while they sat on a sofa with inducing her moans and groans.

After hearing the playback of the song, Moroder felt that Summer’s song should be released.

The song was sent to Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart in hopes of getting it released in the U.S. He informed Summer and Moroder that he would release the song, but he requested that it needed to be a longer version with discotheques. They returned with a 17 minute version and Summer was signed and the song was released in November of 1975. The shorter version of the “Love To Love You Baby” was promoted to radio stations while clubs regularly played the longer version.

By early 1976 “Love To Love You Baby” had reached No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

Two years later Summer acted in the film Thank God It’s Friday, playing a singer determined to perform in at a hot disco club. The film had modest success, but the song from the film, “Last Dance” reached No. 3 on the Hot 100 and resulted in Summer winning her first of five Grammy awards. The writer of the song Paul Jabara won an Academy Award for the composition.

“A lot of clubs had disco balls and being sort of ‘The Queen of Disco,’ made me that synonymous sort of with me and people would come to the show with disco ball earrings and disco ball necklaces,” Summer once said.

Summer followed with the album Bad Girls. The album was so successful that it spawned the number one hits “Hot Stuff” and title track and the number two “Dim All the Lights,” With the songs “MacArthur Park,” “Hot Stuff,” “Bad Girls” and the duet with Barbara Streisand “No More Tears (Enough is Enough),” Summer achieved four No. 1 hits in a 13-month span.

"I loved doing the duet with her. She had an amazing voice and was so talented,” Streisand said last Thursday.

In 1979 Summer released On the Radio; Greatest Hits Volume I & II, her first (international) greatest album. It reached No. 1 in the U.S. becoming her third straight No. 1 album. The new song from the compilation, “On the Radio,” reached the top in the U.S. selling over a million copies in the states alone.

Wanting to branch out from disco, Summer signed with Geffen Records, a new label started by David Geffen and her first album released was The Wanderer. The album which had more of the burgeoning New Wave sound and some elements of rock achieved gold status in the U.S. and the title track, which was released as the first single peaked at No. 3 in the U.S. but subsequent singles only became moderate hits.

Summer’s second Geffen release I’m a Rainbow was shelved by the label, although two of the album’s songs would be on soundtracks of the films Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Flashdance.

After parting ways with Moroder after seven years of working together, Geffen recruited super music producer Quincy Jones to produce Summer’s 1982 album Donna Summer. The album’s single “Love is in Control (Finger on the Trigger) was an top 10 hit on the American Hot 100, followed by moderate hits “State of Independence,” which reached No. 41 on the pop charts and “The Woman in Me,” which was at No. 33.

Her landmark album of the decade came in 1983 when she delivered the album She Works Hard for the Money, which Polygram Records released on its Mercury imprint. The title song reached No. 3 on the U.S. Hot 100 and would provide Summer with a Grammy nomination.

You would think with the talent and ability that Summer has that the title song from this album came out of thin air, but it actually came from the most inopportune place.

“I was at the Grammy’s Party and I went to the ladies room and on my way in I saw the bathroom attendant and my first thought was she works hard for the money and I ran in the room and I got my manager and we back into the bathroom, got some toilet paper and we wrote ‘She Works Hard for the Money,’ and started writing the concept on a piece of toilet paper.”

I guess sometimes the best inspirations come from in the simplest forms and they turn into anthems.

This anthem has stood the test of time so much so that in my exercise class that I attend on Tuesdays and Thursday in the fall and spring the last two years when we jog that song is played most of the time.

In the years that followed Summer would continue to create solid music like the compilation The Best of Donna Summer, which was released on Warner Bros. Records (1990); a new jack swing style album Mistaken Identity (1991); The Donna Summer Anthology (1993); a gospel-influenced Christmas album entitled Christmas Spirit (1994) that included classic songs like “O Holy Night,” “Joy To The World“ and “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

Along with her album in 1994, Summer was offered a guest role on the sitcom Family Matters, which was on ABC at the time. She played the role of Steve Urkel’s (Jaleel White) Aunt Oona. She made a second appearance on the show in 1997

In 1998, Summer received a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording for the remixed version of her 1992 collaboration with Moroder, “Carry On,” which was released one year ago.

In 1999 Summer taped a live special for VH1 titled Donna Summer-Live and More Encore. It produced the second highest rating that year for the network, after their annual Divas special. Epic Records produced a CD of the event and the two featured studio recordings, “I Will Go with You (Con te partiro)” and “Love Is The Healer” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Charts.

In 2004 Summer was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame alongside the Bee Gees and Barry Gibb. Her classic song “I Feel Love” was also inducted that night.

Four years ago Summer released her first studio album of full original material entitled Crayons, which was released on the Sony BMG label Burgundy Records. The album peaked at No. 17 on the US Top 200 Album Chart, which was Summer’s highest placing since 1983. The album itself achieved modest international success and the songs “I’m a Fire,” “Stamp Your Feet” and “Fame (The Game)” reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Dance Chart.

On Dec. 11, 2009 backed by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, Summer performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway in honor of our U.S. President Barack Obama. One of the songs she performed was the classic “Last Dance.”

While on the stage or in the studio Summer seemed she could never do anything wrong, that was not always the case.

At the height of her success in the 1970s, Summer suffered through anxiety and depression.

“The more successful I became, the less I slept and it just kept getting worse and worse to the point that I just felt like I was never really awake or never really sleeping. Like I was dreaming all the time,” she told Entertainment Tonight (ET) back in 2003.

She also told ET that on one occasion in New York she was so out of it that she wanted to commit suicide. She was going to fall out from a window. Her foot got caught on the curtain of the window and just before she was about to fall the made came into the room and saved her.

“Thank God that lady came because I’d be gone today,” Summer said about that moment.

For a two-year period she was on medication. She was able to get off of it and never went back.

Summer addressed all of this in her 2003 memoir “Ordinary Girl The Journey.”

She told back then current WCBS entertainment reporter Katie McGee, “I’m a very private person by nature and so just talking about all of that stuff wasn’t easy, but I think that part of the reason for writing the book I just wanted it to be like a mirror. A reflection to them that they can see their own lives in my life and different things that I’ve been through. Maybe their going through and they know they can overcome it and they can go on.”

In the mid 1980s she was embroiled in controversy having allegedly making anti-gay remarks regarding the then relatively new disease AIDS. Summer, who by then had become a born-again Christian was alleged to have said that AIDS God’s way of punishing the lifestyle of homosexuals.

Summer denies ever making such s comment and in a letter that she wrote to the AIDS campaign group ACT UP in 1989, she said that it was “A terrible misunderstanding. I was unknowingly protected by those around me from the bad press and hate letters… If I caused you pain forgive me.”

In that same year, she also told The Advocate magazine that “A couple of the people that I write with are gay, and they have been ever since I met them. What people want to do with their bodies is their personal preference.”

She was “The Queen of Disco” who gave us songs that made us feel good and made us groove unlike any other. Her style and how she performed were second to none. She showed individuality and allure while at the same time showing off a unique voice that touch all those that watched her.

“Her music sounds as good as it ever did,” Sir Elton John said last Thursday.

Information and quotations are courtesy of 5/17/12 4 p.m. edition of WABC’s “Eyewitness News First at 4” with David Navarro and Liz Cho, report from Entertainment reporter Sandy Kenyon; 5/17/12 5 p.m. edition of WABC’s “Eyewitness News at 5” with Diana Williams and Sade Baderinwa, report from Entertainment reporter Sandy Kenyon; 5/17/12 6 p.m. edition of WCBS “2 News at 6” with Chris Wragge and Dana Tyler, report from Entertainment reporter Katie McGee; 5/17/12 6:30 p.m. edition of ABC “World News” with Diane Sawyer, report from David Wright; 5/18/12 7:30 p.m. edition of “Entertainment Tonight” with Mark Steines and Nancy O’Dell on WCBS;

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

J-Speaks: A Pioneer and Brooklyn Native Passes

Back in 1979, four young men set off on a musical journey in which they became pioneers in breaking down barriers in Hip Hop and Rap. These three young men from Brooklyn, NY made music videos that when you saw them seemed like out of control mayhem, but they made them into an art form that built them a legion of fans that made them one of the finest groups of all-time. Together drummer Michael Diamond, also known as (a.k.a) Mike D; guitarist Adam Horovitz a.k.a Ad-Rock and leader Adam Yauch a.k.a MCA who played bass recorded formed the group The Beastie Boys. They recorded eight albums and they received many Grammy, MTV Video Music and MTV Europe Music Award nominations and they won a few of those. Last month they became just third Rap group to receive greatest honor of all. This past Friday however, the leader who formed this group that put their names into Hip Hop lure lost his life.

Yauch passed away on Friday from cancer. He was just 47 years old.

Back in 2009, Yauch was diagnosed and treated for a cancerous parotid gland and lymph node in his neck.

“It’s only localized in this one area and it’s not in the place that effects my voice. So that‘s nice,” Yauch said back then.

He became a vegan under the recommendation of his Tibetan doctors, meaning he abstained from eating any food that came from an animal.

While Yauch fought the cancer with great bravery, it did not allow him to appear in music videos for the album “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two” and the subsequent music tour. It also delayed the release of the aforementioned album.

The biggest disappointment though was that the cancer did not allow Yauch to be with his band mates when they were inducted into the Rock “N” Roll Hall of Fame on Apr. 14. They joined “Run-D.M.C.” (2009) and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (2007) as the only groups to be inducted into the Hall.

Yauch leaves behind his wife Dechen Wangdu and their 13-year-old daughter Tenzin Losel.

The news of his passing rocked the music world and many shared their feelings about this major loss.

Via Twitter, actor Ben Stiller called Yauch, “A truly great musician and filmmaker. He stood for integrity as an artist.”

Former gangster rapper and actor Ice-T of NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit” said on Twitter, “I’m going twitter silent today in honor of MCA. Rest in peace homie.”

Musician Lenny Kravitz also said on twitter, “ Rest in peace MCA. You are a legend. No Sleep till Brooklyn. ”

Yauch was born and raised in aforementioned Brooklyn, the son of Frances, a social worker and Noel Yauch, a painter and architect. Yauch’s father had been raised a Catholic and his mother was Jewish and he received a non-religious upbringing.

While attending Edward R. Murrow High School in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn, Yauch taught himself how to play the bass guitar. He then formed the group the “Beastie Boys with John Berry, Kate Shellenbach and Mike D.

Their first performance was played on Yauch’s 17th birthday.

After dropping out of Bard College in Annandale-on -Hudson, NY after two years, he formed the group the Beastie Boys in 1979 as a hardcore punk band. They supported Bad Brains, the Dead Kennedys, the Misfits and Reagan Youth at venues that included Country BlueGrass and Blues, A7, Trudy Hellers Place and Max’s Kansas City, playing at the latter venue on its closing night.

After Berry left the group in 1983 and was replaced by guitarist of “The Young and the Useless,” the band recorded and then performed its first Hip Hop track “Cooky Puss,” which is based on a prank cal the group made to Carvel Ice Cream that year. The song was a major hit in New York underground dance clubs and night clubs upon its release.

The groups big break came in 1986 when they recorded their first album Licensed to Ill, which was well-received becoming the best selling rap album of the 1980s and the first rap album to reach No. 1 on the Billborad album chart, where it stayed for 35 days. It also reached No. 2 on the Urban album charts. The album also was Def Jam Records fastest selling debut record to date and sold over five million copies.

The first single from the album (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!), reached the No. 7 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and the music video became a staple on MTV.

Another hit from the album was one that Kravitz mentioned in his tweet to the passing of Yauch, which was No Sleep till Brooklyn.

In the years that followed, the Beastie Boys would record seven more albums Paul’s Boutique in 1988, Check Your Head in 1992, Ill Communication in 1994, Hello Nasty in 1997, To the 5 Boroughs in 2004, The Mix-up in 2007 and Hot Sauce Committee in 2009.

The amazing work by the Beastie Boys earned them 10 Grammy nominations winning two in 1999 and one in 2008. They won three MTV Video Music Awards (1998, 1999 and 2011) in eight tries and one MTV Europe Music Award in nine tries (1998).

Over the course of that span, they had four No. 1 albums and sold more than 40 million records and counting.

A big part of the Beastie Boys rise is to the all-time greatness, according to “Rolling Stone” magazine writer Simon Vozick-Levinson.

“That chemistry wouldn’t been complete without Adam Yauch. Without that sort of gravely raspy voice that he had,” Vozick-Levinson said.

“He had really just a incomparable energy. He had a really great sort of offbeat sense of humor.”

That incomparable energy allowed Yauch to have a second career as a filmmaker by building a recording studio called Oscilloscope Laboratories in New York City where he started an independent film distributing company called Oscilloscope Pictures.

In 2006 Yauch directed the 2006 Beastie Boys concert film, “Awesome; I ‘F-’ Shot That!,” although in the DVD extras for the film, its title character in “ A Day in the life of Nathanial Hornblower is played by actor David Cross.

Two years later, Yauch directed the 2008 film “Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot.” It was a film about eight high school basketball prospect at the Boost Mobile Elite 24 Hoops Classic at Rucker Park in Harlem, NY.

Yauch also produced Build A Nation, the comeback album from hardcore/punk band “Bad Brains.”

A year ago, Yauch received the Charles Flint Kellogg Award in Arts and Letters from Bard College, the place he attended for two years.

Besides being a great an all-time great artist and a solid filmmaker, Yauch was a practicing Buddhist. His involvement in his religion gave solid credibility in the Tibetan independence movement, which is one for independence of Tibet and the political separation of Tibet from the People’s Republic of China.

He created the Milarepa Fund, a non-profit organization that is devoted to Tibetan independence. It also an organization that puts together several concerts in support of the cause, which includes the Tibetan Freedom Concert, a series of rock festivals held in North America, Europe and Asia between 1996 and 2001 that took place from April to September.

The Beastie Boys were a music group that took their talents from Brooklyn, NY to the entire United States and beyond. Along the way they never forgot their roots.

Rolling Stone once said in headlining their early success from their first album License to Ill simply, “Three idiots create a masterpiece and what had begun in small clubs lead to a tour of arenas and a run that lasted more than a quarter or a century.”

They among all artists back then had the major benefit from the era of music videos.

The Beastie Boys became so popular that many years ago WABC use to have a show called “Hot Tracks” that aired from 1983-89 that was once hosted by former actors Darnell Williams and Debbi Morgan who portrayed super couple Angie and Jesse Hubbard on ABC’s “All My Children” from 1986-89, The Beastie Boys had their music videos showed regularly on the show.

Together they had seven platinum albums or better in an 18-year span. Worldwide they sold an aforementioned 40 million albums, “the biggest-selling rap group” since 1991. Their leader Adam Yauch created a group that made it cool to express yourself in a way that can be erratic, but exciting and something that fans, especially in the New York area gravitated toward. Along with that, he brought his creative imagination to the film industry and gave us a chance to see something different.

What the Beastie Boys and Yauch did more than anything is that they gave credibility to the rap music as well as the labels like Def Jam, Capitol and Oscilloscope, which allowed other acts like RUN DMC, Q-Tip, The Roots and Biz Markie to name a few to rise to stardom behind their own sound and lyrics.

“R.I.P. MCA from the Beastie Boys. He was an integral part of building Def Jam label that I am part of today. Condolences to the Fam [family],” Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, rapper and co-founder of Disturbing tha Peace, an imprint distributed by Def Jam Recordings.

Information and quotations are courtesy of 5/4/12 4 p.m. edition of WABC’s “Eyewitness News First at 4” with David Navarro and Liz Cho, report entertainment reporter Sandy Kenyon; 5/4/12 6:30 p.m. edition of “NBC Nightly News” with Brian Williams; 5/5/12 7 a.m. edition of “CBS This Morning” with Jeff Glor and Rebecca Jarvis, report from Brian Rooney;;;

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

J-Speaks: Yankees Lose Their Closer

By his career numbers, he is not just one of the best relief pitchers of all-time, he is the true definition of what a closer is. He has done in the regular season and the postseason. More than anything is the fact that the greatest ability that he has is his availability. That is the reason he has been able to put together numbers that has been a major reason he has helped his team win a high number of games to get to the postseason as well as win in the postseason. Unfortunately on Thursday night in an instant doing something that he has done his entire career ended his season and possibly his Hall of Fame career.

On Thursday prior to their contest at the Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees relief closer Mariano Rivera while shagging fly balls in the outfield hit his right leg on the warning track tearing the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and meniscus in his right leg.

Rivera, 42 will be lost for the rest of the season and likely his career could be over as well.

“Yeah this is bad. There’s no question about it. This is not what you come to Kansas City for to hear,” Yankees skipper Joe Girardi said on Thursday.

“It happened for a reason and just have to deal with it,” Rivera said on Thursday.

As to whether he can come back from this injury considering the fact that he is at the end of his long career Rivera said, “At this point I don’t. We have to face this first. All of that depends on how the rehab is going to happen. From there we see.”

By the numbers the “Bronx Bombers” are losing a major weapon that they have come to count on to win close games.

In 15 consecutive years, Rivera has recorded at least 20 saves, the longest streak in the major leagues and this season he has five saves in six tries. His 2.21 earned run average (ERA) is the lowest since 1920 among pitchers who have thrown at least 1,000 pitches and it is even better in the postseason with a 0.70 ERA in 141 innings pitched. In the postseason, his record is 8-1. He holds the record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched with 34 1/3 and most save opportunities converted with 23. His 608 career saves are the most in MLB history and are exactly twice as many as the next closet to all come with one team. His record is 76-58 recording 1,119 strikeouts. He has made 12 all-star games and has helped the Yankees win five World Series titles (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009) and was the named World Series MVP in 1999.

An interesting fact about Rivera is the No. 42 jersey that he has worn in his 16-year career is not just the number of his age, it is also the number of saves he has recorded in the postseason, which is a MLB record.

ESPN NFL color analyst Jon Gruden has said that the best ability for a football player is their availability. You do not put up the kind of numbers that Rivera has in his Hall of Fame career without being very durable. In his career, he has appeared in 1,051 games in the regular season, the most by any pitcher in major league history. He also has finished a MLB record 892 games.

With those amazing stats and the fact that he has won five rings, why would Rivera consider coming back.

He answered that question via Twitter saying, “I’m coming back. Write it down in big letters. I’m not going out like this.”

He elaborated on his plans for a comeback with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez on Friday before Game 2 of the Yankees’ series with the Royals by saying, “I don’t want to go out because I hurt myself shagging fly balls. I just want to know that I ended it because I don’t want to do it anymore.”

Rivera also told Gomez that he believes that he can make a comeback at his age because of his “trust in the lord” and that he trust in his ability.

Boston Globe sports writer Bob Ryan echoed those same feelings when he said on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” on Friday, “If there is a 42-year-old guy who be able to rehab properly, be fit and determined it would be Mariano Rivera.”

That rehab that Rivera will take on first begin with arthroscopic surgery to repair the ACL and meniscus and then rehab that will consist of physical therapy.

For those of you that are not aware of what the meniscus is, it is according to WABC Eyewitness News First at 4 medical reporter Dr. Sapna Parikh it is the shock absorbing cartilage in the knee.

According to Dr. Robert Gotlin New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center that 30 to 35 percent of people that have a tear in the meniscus do very well with pure old exercise, avoiding that which hurts. At Beth Israel, they try to heal their patients who have torn their meniscus with physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and injections that cushion the joint first. If that does work after a couple of months, then you may need surgery.

Another major factor in rehabilitating a tear in the meniscus is the individuals lifestyle, in particular the one of a professional athlete in which Rivera is.

Dr. Robert G. Marx, MD, a Sports Medicine Surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York says that “Arthroscopic surgery can be extremely effective at relieving symptoms from a torn meniscus.”

Arthroscopic surgery though is not all black and white, especially if you have severe arthritis in your knee, which is when cartilage on the end of the bone is worn down and eventually there is no cartilage left at the end of the bone. It ends up being bone on bone and then the results of the surgery is unpredictable.

“That’s why its always worth it to get a second opinion and if you are a professional athlete like Mariano Rivera a doctor usually tries to be much more aggressive,” Dr. Parikh said on Friday.

“There more likely to operate sooner, but only if they think its worth it if it could save someone’s career.”

When a team loses a vital piece like Rivera, you find out very quickly how the team will respond. After dropping the first of the four-game set to the Royals 4-3 on Thursday, they came back to win on Friday 6-2. The team knows that not having Rivera for the remainder of the season will be tough, but they have to figure it out if they want to win another title.

“Mo is Mo. There’s never been anyone like him. There won’t be anyone like him,” Yankees’ Captain Derek Jeter said on Thursday.

“You can’t go out there and try to compare yourself to him. You just go out there and try to get outs and do your job.”

“Good teams find a way to overcome things and if we want to play in October were gonna have to find a way to overcome it,” Girardi said on Thursday.

Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of;; 5/5/12 edition of Daily News page 45; 5/4/12 4 p.m. edition of WABC’s “Eyewitness News First at 4” with Liz Cho and David Navarro, report from sports anchor Rob Powers and Dr. Sapna Parikh; 5/4/12 5:30 p.m. edition of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” with Michael Wilbon and Boston Globe sports writer Bob Ryan 5/4/12 6 p.m. edition of ESPN’s “Sportscenter” with Briam Weinstein and John Anderson.

Friday, May 4, 2012

J-Speaks: The Unexpected Passing of An NFL Legend

He was hailed as one of the finest football players at his position. Too many this player was the heart beat of both the National Football League (NFL) franchise he played 13 of his 20 years for. A pillar of the community that he played for. An inspiration to his teammates and other players past and present. A shoe in as a first ballot Hall of Famer. On Wednesday however this great competitor on the field and great person off of it left us unexpectedly.

On Wednesday, former NFL great linebacker Tiaina Baul “Junior” Seau, Jr. passed away at the age of 43. He was found dead by his girlfriend at his Oceanside, CA.

A 911 call was made to the Oceanside police at 10 a.m. West Coast time and it is believed that a housekeeper found Seau with a gunshot wound to his chest.

Oceanside Police Chief Frank McCoy said that the housekeeper indicated that she returned to the residence to find Mr. Seau unconscious suffering from the aforementioned gunshot wound to the chest, that according to reports was self-inflicted.

Police have been at the scene since responding to the 911 call and the number of people who have come to the scene has grown since Wednesday.

According to Oceanside Police Chief Frank McCoy Seau’s death is being investigated as a suicide, even though a suicide note was never found, but Seau’s ex-wife Gina, according to a report from the Associated Press said she received a text message saying simply, “I love you,” to her and their daughter and two sons.

Seau is survived by his aforementioned ex-wife who he married in 1991 and divorced in 2002 and their three kids. He is also survived by his father Tiaina Seau, Sr. and his mother Luisa who showed all of her emotion of the loss of her son to reporters on Wednesday.

“Thank you, I appreciate everybody’s over here show your love to my son,” Mrs. Seau said as she cried tears of unquestionable pain about the death of her son.

I don’t understand who do this to my son, but I pray to God, ‘Please take me. Take me, leave my son alone, but its too late.”

On the field, Seau was a fierce competitor who had a high motor that made him had an impact each and every game he was on the field.

In his 20-year NFL career in which he played with the San Diego Chargers for 13 of those years, which followed three years with the Miami Dolphins and his last four with the New England Patriots he recorded 1,849 tackles, had 56.5 sacks, 18 interceptions, three forced fumbles and 21 pass deflections.

He was voted to 12 consecutive Pro Bowls, 10 All-Pro teams. He played in two Super Bowls; Super Bowl XXIX in which they lost 49-26 to the San Francisco 49ers and in XLII to the New York Giants 17-14. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1992; Named NFL Alumni Linebacker of the Year in 2003; Selected to the 1990s NFL All-Decade Team. On Nov. 27, 2011 in a game versus the Chargers’ American Football Conference (AFC) West Division rival the Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium, Seau was inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame being introduced by former fellow Charger and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts before a crowd of close to 71,000 people. Two years earlier, Seau received another great honor by the Chargers organization when the team selected him and 52 other players and coaches as a part of their 50th Anniversary team.

Over the past two days since Seau’s passing many of his former teammates, many in the Chargers organization as well as many current players, coaches and many others associated with the NFL have come out and shared their feelings about what Junior Seau meant to them.

“Clearly he was the heart and soul of our franchise for 12, 13 years he played here,” Chargers President Dean Spanos said on Wednesday.”

“I heard somebody say no coach had to give any inspirational speeches because he clearly was the leader in that locker room.”

“Junior wanted to make sure when you saw him, he was at full strength,” former Charger teammate and current ESPN NFL analyst Marcellus Wiley said Wednesday.

“You didn’t want to see him in his weakest moments, but now I translate that to his personal life and I’m like, ‘We were there for you man. We knew you were a superstar. We knew you were a super person , but come out and tell us you needed us.’ ”

Via Twitter, New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis said he watched Seau as a kid and that “he represented a lot of great things.

Wide receiver Victor Cruz of the cross town rival Giants said, “Not Junior Seau! He was my idol growing up. True professional and role model to all.”

“No one had more passion for the game of football than Junior Seau,” Denver Broncos new quarterback Peyton Manning said.

“I was honored to call Junior a friend and I was deeply saddened by the news of his passing.”

ESPN’s Michael Smith said, “It’s terrible that I got to talk about part of my childhood as an NFL fan in this way. It’s really a tough day in the sports world cause a guy I grew up watching and everybody grew up enjoying watch play Junior Seau. The future Hall of Fame linebacker for the Chargers, the Dolphins and Patriots. We all know from the Chargers found dead in his home of an apparent gunshot wound. Just tragic for whatever the reasons are. Our hearts and sympathy go out to his three children, his ex-wife, all of his millions of fans everywhere, especially in the San Diego community. The teammates he leaves behind. Didn’t live long enough to see himself inducted into the Hall of Fame. Just sad.”

There are many asking how can this happen. How can someone who had everything going for them end it all just like that. Were their any signs.

One sign might be that two years ago, just a year after retiring from pro football, he was involved in a suspicious car accident in which he drove off a cliff and survived a 100-foot fall. He later said that the accident happened because he fell asleep at the wheel. It was reported that this incident happened after a domestic violence incident in his home.

What also makes the passing of Seau so unthinkable is that he became the eighth player from the 1994 Charger team that went to Super Bowl XXIX to pass away way too soon.

On Feb. 26, 2011 former Chargers defensive tackle Shawn Lee died from cardiac arrest brought on by double pneumonia at age 44. On Dec. 8, 2011 former Chargers outside linebacker Lewis Bush died of a heart attack at age 42. An enlarged heart is what claimed the life of former Chargers’ defensive end Chris Mims who was 38 years old at the time. Former center Curtis Whitley passed away on May 11, 2008 from a drug overdose in Texas. He was only 39 years of age. Back in 1998, backup linebacker Doug Miller, just 28 years old died after being struck by lighting. On May 11, 1996 backup tailback Rodney Culver died in a plane crash at just age 26 and just five months after the Chargers loss in Super Bowl XXIX starting linebacker David Griggs at just age 28 had his life taken in a car accident.

In the case of Seau’s passing his passing comes on the heels of the suicide of two former NFL players and the links to those comes from the numbers of hits those players have taken while playing in the NFL.

Back on Feb. 11, 2011 former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson passed away from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, which was found when a Miami-Dade County medical examiner reported. In a text message to his family, he wanted his brain to be used for research at the Boston University School of Medicine, which is now conducting research into Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (C.T.E.), a disease linked to memory loss, depression and dementia.

Two days ago researcher neurologists at the aforementioned Boston U. confirmed that Duerson, who played in the NFL for 10 seasons for the Bears, Giants and the then Phoenix Cardinals suffered from a neurodegenerative disease linked to concussions.

Last month, former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, who played for the team from 1972-79 committed suicide. The 62-year-old was suffering from dementia.

Other former players who have passed on due to the effects from their career on the professional gridiron include former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Terry Long, who passed away seven years ago from drinking antifreeze and former Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals safety Andre Waters committee suicide on Nov. 20, 2006. According to a report from the Hillsborough County Florida Sheriff’s Office, Waters died from a gunshot to his head. He was found at his home by his then girlfriend. No suicide note was found.

Right now more than 1,500 former players are now suing the league claiming that for years they have been ignoring evidence that shows how repeated blows to the head trigger C.T.E.

According to ABC News consultant Ret. U.S. Army General Peter Chiarell that in some instances that head trauma could be related to depression and depression at times can be a cause of suicide, but that is something that is not definitive.

“There’s some who say that the lag time between the damage that is done goes anywhere from 40 to 60 years,” Gen. Chiarell said on Wednesday.

Studies also show that high school football players are at risk for the effects of C.T.E. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, two million brain injuries occur per year among teens playing football.

While Junior Seau really never showed any signs of having a concussion while he played in the NFL or even after former NFL offensive tackle Kyle Turley who knew Seau speculates that he may have paid a price for being a football great.

“He played hard, tough and there’s no doubt that the toile his brain took at the position he played it will most undoubtedly show that this is a factor,” Turley said.

Seau ex-wife Gina told the Associated Press that she didn’t know the effects from concussions contributed to her ex-husband’s death.

“We have no clues whatsoever. We’re as stunned and shocked as anyone else,” she said.

“We’re horribly saddened. We miss him and we’ll always love him.”

On top of that Seau’s neighbor Taylor Twellman revealed something from a conversation they had in 2008 that gave some very important incite.

Twellman told Seau that back in the aforementioned 2008 he suffered a serious concussion playing soccer when he was punched in the head by the opposing team’s goal keeper. When he met up with Seau four weeks later after the incident he mentioned that he had a real bad headache and that Seau tried to make him feel better by laughing about it and that he told him that he had so many concussions that he could not tell how many.

“ I didn’t put two and two together at the time, but when I heard the reports in 2010, I did my best two or three times to reach out because what I know about head injuries. What I know about concussions. Why I started a foundation,” Twellman said.

“He needed help, he just didn’t know how to get it.”

While it might have been too late to the life of Seau and those that passed on before him and after him, the NFL has taken a proactive approach to make the game safer.

It is why you have seen players in the last couple of years be fined a great deal for excessive hits on the field and even suspended.

The greatest example of that is what Commissioner Roger Goodell did to the New Orleans Saints suspending head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season and his former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely for their roles in the bounty scandal. Saints assistant coach Joe Vitt, the interim head coach for the 2012 season with the Saints will be suspended for the first six games of the upcoming season and General Manager Mickey Loomis received a suspension for the end of the 2012 preseason and the first eight games of 2012.

The NFL also suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire 2012 season. Saints defensive end Will Smith got a four-game suspension and former Saints’ linebacker, now with the Cleveland Browns got a three-game suspension and defensive end Anthony Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers received an eight-game suspension.

The NFL also fined the Saints $500,000 and stripped the team of this year’s pick in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft and in 2013.

“It was too harsh because this was the perfect thing for Roger Goodell to show everyone how serious he is about cleaning up violence,” Dan Le Batard said on his Dan Le Batard is Highly Questionable on Wednesday.

“So the penalty had to be echoing. It’s extreme. It’s unfair… but he’s making a symbolic statement to keep him and his league away from liability because the only thing that derails the NFL, this billion dollar money making machine is a billion dollar lawsuit from limping players walking through a courtroom.”

What also hurts the NFL name is kids who are fans of watching the game not playing because they see what can occur.

Going back to Seau, the NFL family just did not lose a great player, it lost the greatest representation of philanthropy off the field.

In his third season in the NFL Seau created the Junior Seau Foundation with its mission to educate and build confidence in young people through the support of preventing child abuse, drug and alcohol awareness, opportunities to participate in recreational activities, programs in education and efforts to battle juvenile delinquency.

The foundation since 2000 has given out an annual award to individuals that exemplify the mission of the Junior Seau Foundation.

The first 11 people to receive this great award are Sid Brooks (2000), former Charger wideout and Hall of Famer Lance Alworth (2001), former Chargers’ head coach Sid Gillman (2002), former Chargers head coach Don Coryell (2003), Hall of Fame tailback Marcus Allen (2004), Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones (2005), National Champion head coach of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets of 1990 Bobby Ross (2006), Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon (2007) , NFL Network analyst Marshall Faulk (2008), Hall of Fame wideout Charlie Joiner (2009), FOX Sports NFL color analyst and Super Bowl champion John Lynch (2010) and NBA champion, Basketball Hall of Famer and NBA color analyst Bill Walton (2011).

“As talented as he was… a sure fire Hall of Famer, he was just as excellent off the field with his foundation activities, that principally benefited children,” said CBS Special Correspondent James Brown.

Brown also said how blessed he was to give Seau a JB Award that he does in conjunction with the NFL Players Association, which is given to players who commit significantly to building stronger communities and stronger families.

Former Chargers fullback Lorenzo Neal told ESPN’s Tom Friend on Thursday that at a recent event Seau raised $500,000.

“This guy was a pillar in San Diego…He was doing so many good things,” Neal said.

Patriots CEO and chairman Robert Kraft felt that Seau was also pillar in the Boston community as well.

Kraft called Seau “a true Patriot,” and he remembers one time that he sent him a letter within a few weeks after the passing of his wife Myra on July 20, 2011 from cancer.

The letter said, “I’m so sorry about the passing of Mrs. Kraft. She was an inspiration to me. I’ve so much respect for all she did to help people lead better lives. I will always be there for you and your family. Junior Seau. Love you buddy.”

Kraft said on Thursday that Seau would always say “love you buddy,” to him and in the letter he enclosed a check to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund.

Neal also revealed about how Seau and so many other great players sometimes reach the end of their rope after retiring from the NFL.

“People don’t understand its still 60 minutes. That four hours that your on the field and being around your guys and around that locker room,” Neal said.

“That’s your sanctuary. Once your not in that locker room and you don’t have that, a part of you dies. That was the highlight of your life.”

When someone like Junior Seau’s life ends, in this case way too soon, one of the questions that is asked what is his legacy and how will he be remembered?

James Brown says of Seau, “He was a competitor supreme on the football field. Highly respected, but just as revered off the field.”

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said, “Of all the players I have coached, nobody was more full of energy and vitality than Junior Seau. He respected and inspired every single person he came in contact with-players, coaches and support staff. He’s defied the odds by playing two decades in the NFL at a level and with a youthful spirit rarely seen but appreciated by everyone. Junior will always be remembered as an intense Hall of Fame player from the old school.”

The NFL community lost a great player who competed like no other. The city of San Diego lost a local hero that gave back to those that made their life just a little better on the field and off of it. More than anything a mother and father lost a son. Their four children lost a sibling and a son lost a family.

On Thursday, Seau’s son Tyler, one of his cousins and one of Junior’s best friends did something that his father did almost everyday. They went to the ocean across the street where Tyler’s father lived and they jumped into the cold water without wetsuits and they body surfed and paddle boarded. Earlier in the day the cousins ran on the strand, something that Seau also did everyday.

The family plans to have a memorial service in honor of Junior Seau at his home on Sunday at 12 p.m. West Coast time. They will have what is called a paddle out because Seau was called a water man.

“My brother was a loving brother. A caring citizen” Seau’s sister said on Wednesday.

“So I would appreciate if you guys would just please honor his last day and give us some kind of peace and privacy.”

Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of 5/2/12 4 p.m. edition of ESPN 2’s Bottom Line Breaking News report during the edition of “Numbers Never Lie” with Charissa Thompson, Michael Smith and Jemele Hill; 5/2/12 4:30 p.m. edition of “Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable” with Dan Le Batard and his father Gonzalo Le Batard; 5/2/12 4 p.m. edition of WABC “Eyewitness News First at 4” with David Navarro and Liz Cho-report from Sandra Bookman; 5/2/12 5 p.m. edition of WABC “Eyewitness News at 5” with Diana William and Sade Baderinwa-report from Jim Dolan; 5/2/12 6:30 p.m. edition of ABC’s “World News” with Diane Sawyer-report from David Wright; 5/2/12 5 p.m. edition of ESPN’s “Around The Horn,” with Toni Reali; 5/3/12 6 a.m. edition of Headline News’ “Morning Express” with Robin Meade-report from sports anchor Carlos Diaz; 5/3/12 7 a.m. edition of “CBS This Morning” with Charlie Rose, Erica Hill and Gayle King-report from John Blackstone and special correspondent James Brown; 5/3/12 6 p.m. edition of ESPN’s “Sportscenter” with Kevin Connors and John Anderson;;;