Category Archives: Health

Colombia Rises Above Violence, Pain, & the loss of Andres Escobar For Redemption.

andres escobar

 

“Life doesn’t end here”.  

Andres Escobar, Colombia footballer

It still hurts today.

When you say the name Andres Escobar to a longtime soccer fan, immediately the smile will come off of their faces and a sadness will be seen.  The pain is still there for the memory of the murder of Colombian soccer star Andres Escobar even 20 years later.

In the 1994 World Cup held in the U.S., there was one team that everyone wanted to see and that was Colombia.  They were like rock stars with the likes of Carlos Valderrama, Carlos Rincon, Andres Escobar and so many others.  From the famous scorpion kick from their goalie, to the fun and amazing way they played, Colombia was definitely the team to watch.  Defensive star Andres Escobar at the age of 26 was ready to sign a large contract after the World Cup with famous Italian team AC Milan.  His dream of marrying his Fiance Pamela Cascardo and living in Italy to play soccer was coming true.

In an amazing 26 international game stretch before the World Cup, Colombia lost ONLY one game.  In the World Cup qualifying matches they gave up an unreal, 2 goals.  They were on fire dominating the World Soccer scene.

To qualify for the World Cup in 1993, they needed to tie Argentina.  Instead they gave what I believe is the worst loss for Argentina in Argentina, 5-0.  What was amazing is video shows as a sign of respect, the Buenos Aires fans giving rounds of applause to the Colombians after the game.  It placed Colombia for the first time on the world stage of soccer.  Pele and many others announced that Colombia would win the World Cup in the U.S.  The country Colombia partied like rock stars and their passion was amazing.  For once they would shed the reputation of being a violent and out of control country, and gain the respect they wanted.

At that time the rise to prominence for Colombian soccer was linked mainly to one thing; drug cartel money.  Colombia had never been a world power.  The three biggest drug Cartels, owned teams in the Colombian soccer league.  Soccer was the perfect way to launder money that they had gained illegally.  With that money they now could afford the great fields and players that were needed to make them a world class power in soccer.  One of the drug Cartel leaders was Pablo Escobar.  He was so powerful and rich that Forbes Magazine had him as one of the richest men on earth.

A house is only as good as it’s foundation and when you have a foundation built on drug money, only pain and violence will follow.  That’s what happened to Colombian soccer.  Colombia was a mess in general with more murders being committed per capita there, than anywhere else in the world.  Public officials and politicians were bought off, and like many players said, you couldn’t trust anyone.

Pablo Escobar ran for office to avoid extradition to the U.S. for his drug running; and he won!  He and the other cartel leaders used Soccer to launder the money by lying about players salaries and bonuses and also about gate receipts and ticket sales.  Pablo Escobar did a lot for the poor, building housing and soccer fields and helping out the little guy. He also had public officials murdered and after one match where he didn’t like a referees call, he had the soccer referee gunned down in a parking lot after a game.  Much like Al Capone did in Chicago, it created a love for him like a modern Robin Hood to cover up for the violence and pain that he created.  Eventually though Escobar was killed and even a few of his family members were slaughtered; in front of their wives and kids in some cases; right before the World Cup would start.  After he was killed Colombia was in a violent chaos.  No more order in the underworld.

The stress on the Colombian players was now overwhelming.  Andres Escobars’ great friend and teammate Chonto Herrera was told the day before their World Cup match that his brother was murdered.  They began to worry about their own families safety.  Some players began saying they now had to win or wonder what would happen back home.  Andres shy smile was now gone.  In an interview he said he finds peace by trying to read at least a little bit from the Bible every day.  He found comfort in having a picture of his late mother and his fiance Pamela Cascardo in his Bible.

Andres was unlike any 26 year old you’d ever know.  While many were party animals, his faith was a foundation in his life.  He also loved his country and the poor.  His family talked about him going to stores and buying toys and driving through the city giving them away in poor neighborhoods.  Even before he signed a big contract, he set up scholarships for poor and needy kids.  His father was a banker and he set up foundations to help the needy.  His whole family had hearts of gold and his heart was no different.  He was handsome, kind, humble and felt for those in need.  Everyone loved him.

In the first game of the World Cup the joy was out of the faces of the players of Colombia.  In a stunning match, Romania beat Colombia 3-1.  The World was shocked.  Their next game was against the U.S. who they had never lost to and who had never been a world power in soccer.  Unfortunately the violence at home was getting worse and so was the stress of playing.  Also there were rumors that the Colombian cartels had lost millions in bets that were placed for Colombia to beat Romania and many were not happy.  There were rumors abound and you could see the fear and the pain in the players faces.

Against the Americans the impossible happened.  On a simple cross by John Harkes of the U.S., Andres tried to stop the ball and he accidentally kicked it into his own goal.  It was a dreaded moment that I will never forget.  I told my friends right then and there, they are going to kill him.  My friend said it’s just a soccer game and I was dumb to think that.  Even when I was a kid I loved history and cultures and I just knew growing up what some cultures could and would do.  A chill goes up my spine right now even writing this.  I still feel the pain of that moment.  I see Andres face on the field knowing what he had done and the possible ramifications.  One of his teammates commented that you could see the fear and the pain in Andres eyes after that moment.  In irony, Andres sister said that the second Andres did the mistake, her 8 year old son became upset and said that they are going to kill Andres.  She said that people loved Andres and that he would be safe.  Young people know more than what adults think.

Andres own goal made it U.S. 1 Colombia 0.  Another goal followed and after a late goal by Colombia the U.S. had stunned the world and beaten them 2-1.  Colombia beat the Swiss 2-0 in their third game but with Romania beating the U.S., it meant Colombia would go home.

There are conflicting reports but there was supposed to be a trip with Andres and his family where they would visit parts of the U.S. Andres didn’t go and he came home.  Friends and teammates say that he was crushed by his mistake but he answered all of the media’s questions.  In time the people of Medellin; his home city; were very supportive and caring.  He began to feel better.

On one night Andres was asked to go to a club.  Many of his teammates begged him not to go but he said he didn’t want to hide and that he would be alright.  In a club in Medillin, the Gallon brothers; notorious Colombian cartel members; began to mock Andres relentlessly. This upset Andres greatly saying he just made a mistake and he was sorry for it.  After a heated argument Andres left the club.  In a chilling video in the parking lot, Andres was gunned down by cartel bodyguard Humberto Castro Munoz with a .38 caliber gun.  His friends saw the shooting and rushed Andres to the hospital where he died 45 minutes later.  Andres girlfriend said that the murderer was laughing and yelling goooooooooaaaaaal when he shot Andres.  The World Cup was still going on and the soccer world was angered and outraged.  Colombia was in turmoil.

Andres death was too much for the country to take.  The grief now was unconsolable.  One famous Colombian writer said, “for the first time in my life, I’m ashamed to be Colombian”.  The country gave bodyguards to players with some having up to 40-50 of them to protect them and their families.  One players child was kidnapped.  The entire country was in pain and hope was hard to find.

The soccer team would never be the same.  Many retired or just played abroad.  Most vowing that they would never play for Colombia ever again for what happened to them and Andres.  It was rumored that after days in jail, the Gallon brothers paid off the courts with 3 million dollars in cash and were set free.  Murderer Humberto Munoz was the fall person and he did only 11 years of his 40 year sentence.  He was let out for being a model prisoner.  Andres Fiance and family were outraged.

Colombian soccer began to fall off the map.  For years it struggled.  Fans stopped coming; the pain was too great.  In 2010 at the owners meeting for the Colombian soccer federation, 14 of the 18 teams were now near bankruptcy.

Fast forward to the last 4 years where there has been a form of redemption.  The Colombian soccer team is now back at the World cup.  With a talented squad, they are now trying to prove again that their reputation for being a violent country based on drug money is wrong.  Their past haunts them.  I have some Colombian friends and they are a very kind and passionate people with great pride.  They long for people and other countries not to judge them and to get to know them.  They are also honest about their past and hopeful for their future.

A statue of Andres is now at a park named after him where soccer fields are.  Andres always dreamed of having soccer fields all over for every kid to enjoy.

Andres’ last written words were published in newspapers everywhere.  They were, “life doesn’t end here”.

Even with the loss of his physical life, Andres is still touching people today.  I hope through his memory, along with the soccer fields and parks made in his honor, that more people will support Colombia’s attempt at becoming the peaceful nation that Andres dreamed of.  I know that for millions of soccer fans in Colombia and all over the world, no one will ever forget the great Andres Escobar.

 

 

“Andy Kaufman: From Wrestling to Hoaxes: He Would Have Broken The Internet”

andy kaufman jerry lawler

Andy Kaufman was not a comedian.

When you ask a comedian what their goal is they will say to make people laugh. Andy Kaufman was different. His goal was to make himself laugh and to make you wonder if what he was doing was real or not. His goal was to watch people squirm in the realm of wonder.

Many people have said that Andy was a trail blazer for comedian’s, but I disagree. When it came to comedy, he saw the darkest and deepest path and took it.   No one then or since has ever followed him and taken that same path.

Andy once said he felt more like a song and dance man, but in reality he was so much more. From the beginning of his career you knew you were watching something unique. I’ve talked to a few people that saw Andy in clubs and the words they use to describe the shows are funny, uncomfortable, and thought provoking,

He stirred the pot and he wanted to mess with your mind by making you wonder if what you were seeing was reality or not. Life was a big prank to him and he would go to any lengths to make it seem real. Andy wanted to make himself laugh and to create a world where nothing was for sure. How many times did he do a routine where he was down and out with a hard luck story and when the crowd laughed he would smirk and say, “you shouldn’t be laughing because I’m being serious”. The crowd would then be quiet and you could feel how uncomfortable they were. Of course he wasn’t serious, and of course Andy loved it.

Some people felt disappointed when he did the television show Taxi, but he did that on the coaxing of his manager George Shapiro. Even though he hated sitcoms, it gave Andy the money and the fame to do what he wanted to do. In an interview with Tony Danza that is online, Danza said that Andy rarely came to the set during weekly rehearsals and that he stayed private. The cast of Taxi was a friendly environment and it brought an heir of animosity when Kaufman would just show up to the final reading, and then the day of tapings. What made the cast even more angry is that Andy never made a mistake.

Andy’s most famous antics to this day are still being debated. In one of his earliest appearances on David Letterman, he showed up saying he was financially strapped and needed help. David asked him what he was working on and Andy said nothing.   Letterman then asked about his bookings and Andy said he had none. He was unshaven and disheveled and had large amounts of mucous under his nose.   Letterman gave him tissue before Kaufman pleaded with the crowd to give him money to help him out. He walked out into the crowd and people started to give him money before security sent him away. Letterman wasn’t laughing.

The character Tony Clifton was pure genius. Andy created a character that was a lounge singer who was below the belt nasty with little to no talent.   In his contract, Andy actually had it written in that Tony was do to a handful of Taxi episodes. Clifton would show up each time to the Taxi set with a hooker on each arm, both being at least 6 feet tall. He then stated that the hookers would now be a part of the show.   Clifton was fired but he would not leave the set. The media; which Andy called; had a field day when Clifton was made to leave.

The first real deep storyline in wrestling history was the famous Andy Kaufman v.s. Jerry Lawler feud. Andy had spent months on Saturday Night Live wrestling women and began calling himself the inter gender champion.   Kaufman said that women were superior in cleaning, washing potatoes and carrots and scrubbing floors. People were incensed.

Andy contacted Vince McMahon Sr. to see if he could get involved in the New York wrestling scene. Mr. McMahon Sr. was very sensitive to bringing anything fake into the wrestling world; the term sports entertainment hadn’t been invented yet; so he declined thinking it would ruin wrestling. Andy had a wrestling photographer friend in Bill Aptos, and he had Andy call Jerry Lawler in Memphis wrestling.

Lawler being a great showman knew this was a huge opportunity. He and Andy conspired to fool the world. Over time Lawler would coach a female wrestler to wrestle Andy. When Andy won, Lawler then challenged Andy.   In the famous first match Lawler did 2 pile drivers; a hold that powers your head into the mat; and Andy looked like he was dead but was only slightly hurt.

In a funny story, after the 2nd pile driver, Andy lay motionless on the mat. His partner in crime, writer and producer and sometimes Tony Clifton character Bob Zmuda, asked Andy if he was ok. Bob was actually the referee during the match. With the crowd roaring their approval, Andy quietly told Bob to call an ambulance. Bob then walked over to Lawler and told Jerry what Andy wanted to do. Lawler who is known for being frugal, said no way because it would cost $300. Zmuda walked over to check on Andy and told him what Lawler said. Andy whispered, “I’ll pay for it”. When Zmuda told him Andy would pay for it, Lawler said go get an ambulance.

Andy also did some very short lived television shows that were not overly supported by the networks due to his unpredictability. In one show Andy actually had the network mess up the vertical hold on the program.   This would make viewers at home think something was wrong with their tv’s.

Andy’s dream was to do a show at Carnegie Hall which he did in 1979. Saturday night live actually did a small story about it on their program that was very touching.

In a tender moment he brought out his “grandmother” who sat on the side of the stage to watch the show. She took a bow. At the end of the show his grandmother got up and clapped and then took off her mask. It was none other than his friend, fellow comedian Robin Williams.

Andy also had an elderly woman die on stage only to have him come back out as an Indian. He did a dance to revive her after the doctors pronounced her dead.  At the end of the show he wanted to thank the crowd and he had 24 busses take them out for milk and cookies and invited anyone who wanted to meet him to come to the Staten Island Ferry the next morning. He did some more bits and met his adoring fans.

Within six months of being diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer, Andy Kaufman sadly died on May 16, 1984.   His friend Jerry Lawler was in attendance. Even then, tabloids, fans and the media wondered if this wasn’t another huge hoax. He had talked about faking his own death for years, but unfortunately this was not a hoax.

He was before my time but he always fascinated me and I loved learning about him.  And with so many nominally talented people being famous for sex tapes, being sleazy or vulgar; or for just being attractive; you wonder what a talented person like Andy would have done to the social media world of today.

Could you imagine all of the twitter discussions or the YouTube videos proving or disproving things he said or did?  With social media he would have reached millions in a blink of an eye in a way no comedian ever could.  He would have had the world scratching it’s head but laughing all the way.  And in true form, nothing would have been more pleasing to the great Andy Kaufman.

Steve Kerr brings toughness to the Warriors Through a Heartbreaking Past:

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Steve Kerr, his 3 siblings and his mom and dad

Whenever change comes to a professional team there are always extremes when it comes to fan reaction. You have some fans who think every move is a good one and all will be great, and you have others that think the sky is about to fall and that all is lost.   Thankfully some fans wait to see what actually happens. The Steve Kerr hiring as the Golden State Warriors coach elicited all of those reactions.

After listening to local talk shows and sportscasters giving their two cents, some have questioned whether the toughness that Mark Jackson seemed to bring will be lost with the more calmer and people oriented Steve Kerr.   In all honesty, there are few tougher than Steve Kerr.

Steve Kerr grew up the son of Malcolm and Ann Kerr; brilliant parents; with Malcolm having an extreme love for the middle east. The Kerr’s were a part of 3 generations of world travelers with Steve actually spending his freshman year in high school in Cairo, Egypt.   Eventually in time, Malcolm finally got his dream job which was president of the American University in Beirut.

Steve through luck, circumstance, and calls from his father to Lute Olson, finally got a scholarship offer from coach Olson and the University of Arizona.   Olson didn’t think much of Kerr as a player, but to have such a great character guy on the team was something he wanted.

Malcolm couldn’t wait to see his son play. When Steve and the family met in Beirut for the Christmas of 1983, Malcolm got to see grainy film of his son play for Arizona. His eyes lit up. It was a dream for him to see Steve play college ball, and you couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face if you tried.

But in the early morning hours of January 18, 1984, Steve got a phone call that would change his life forever. Islamic terrorists had ambushed his father in Beirut and shot him execution style. His crime?   Being American. His mom Ann said, “for us 9/11 started on 1/18/1984.” It ended the life of one of the worlds kindest and most understanding souls and a friend to the Arab world. The rest of his family was thankfully unharmed.

Two days after his fathers death, Steve came off the bench against Arizona St.   His first shot was a long three that hit nothing but net. Lute Olsen and many others in the crowd had tears in their eyes. As Lute Olsen pointed out, “we had so many emotions going on that night that it was hard to keep the feelings inside”. The Arizona fans were so touched by Steve that it was like they held him in their arms. After Steve would make a basket, the P.A. announcer would yell “STEVE KERR” which was always followed by the crowd repeating, “STEVE KERR”.

Steve worked hard and moved up the ladder and helped make the Wildcats one of the best teams in the country. In his senior season though, one of the ugliest things from a college crowd was seen on the road in Tempe against rival Arizona St.  Before the game during warm ups, students started to taunt Steve.  They began chanting “where’s your daddy” and “PLO, PLO”. Some even told him to go see his dad in Beirut.   It was so ugly that some Arizona St. students came down to the bench to apologize to Kerr.

People wondered why the PLO chant was yelled out because the PLO had nothing to do with it, but no one said all college students are very bright. (I think Tempe has more bars per capita than any other city in the country so that tells you something.)

Kerr was overwhelmed. He began to shake and tears filled his eyes. He sat on the bench and his teammates comforted him.   He later said he could not believe people could be so cruel and he became really upset. His teammate Tom Tolbert said it was the only time he ever thought of going into the stands to hit a fan. After regaining his composure, Kerr played his heart out. He was 6-6 from 3 point range and had 20 points at the half and ended with 22 in a 28 point thrashing of their rivals.

When Steve Kerr was chosen in the second round by the Phoenix Suns, few thought Steve would stick with anyone in the NBA. He was considered a journeyman at best who never really found a nitch until he was picked up by the Chicago Bulls. With the Bulls he had a role and he played it well. He was smart, tough, and could shoot in the clutch. In game 2 in the championship series against the Jazz, Kerr missed a 3 pointer but got the rebound and made a great pass to Michael Jordan who made a key 3 point play. In the clinching game, he broke the tie after Michael passed to him as he drained a 3.

At the end of his time with the Bulls, Kerr again found a home at San Antonio. He played the same role that he did in Chicago; make clutch shots and do the little things that win games. After his unlikely career was over, Kerr had 5 titles.   That was 2 more than Larry Bird, and 3 more than Wilt Chamberlain.

He had mixed reviews as a young GM for the Phoenix Suns, including the Shaquille Oneal trade, but he was professional and calm and never shied away from criticism. He later moved into sports casting.

When people talk about Steve Kerr today, they use terms like hard working, winner, and he HATES to lose. Kerr said the only game that he really can’t get over is the final four loss to Oklahoma in the NCAA playoffs when he was only 2 for 12 from 3 point range in an 8 point loss.

Part of his strength is that Steve has his parents charm and heart.   He gets along with people and is honest and caring. He likes to be underestimated by using an aw shucks mentality all the while he is ambitious, smart and competitive to a fault. All his life he’s been told he’s not going to make it but in the end he always seems to succeed and do it with a smile.

The first thing Steve wanted to do before he met with the local media is to meet with the Warriors employees. No not the players; he wanted to meet everyone. He wanted to meet people in marketing, and who worked the ticket sales and the offices. He wanted to meet the people behind the scenes. He also didn’t just call Stephen Curry; he called all of the players and talked to them. He was humble and respectful in a way his dad would be proud of.  He actually is thinking of going to Australia to meet with Andrew Bogut.

Will Steve Kerr be a good coach for the Warriors, especially with the nitpicking type of atmosphere that has been created by the microscope that is social media? I think so. I love the hire.  I know one thing though. The Warriors will be tough, smart, and hard working. They will have a coach that will answer questions and not shy away from criticism. In Kerr they have someone that will demand professionalism and smart play and defense which will take the Warriors to the next level.   I still think they are a player away from doing something special, but adding Steve Kerr as their head coach is a great move.

There hasn’t been this much excitement in Oakland since the Run TMC days.  So go ahead and underestimate Steve Kerr. Go ahead and be fooled by his choir boy demeanor.  In reality this guy is as tough as nails.  And somewhere above you still can’t wipe the smile off of his proud father Malcolm’s face.