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“Part 2 of my Interview with Discovery Channel’s Yukon Men’s star Stan Zuray; Behind the Scenes; His New Book!”

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Here is PART 2 of my interview with Yukon Men star Stan Zuray.  Please follow Stan on social media, and buy his book (the link is above) on Amazon.  It’s amazing and gives an insight into his journey through life into Alaska.  (below is the link to Part 1)

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/my-interview-with-discovery-channels-macguyver-yukon-mens-stan-zuray/

 Jim Jax:  What are you most proud of in your life?

Stan Zuray: I ‘d have to say after some  thought that I’m most proud of the possibility that I may have done more good than harm to people and things I have come across in life. On a more specific note I’d have to say most proud of our kids who are now adults.

Jim Jax: Did you ever think in your life you would touch so many people as you have on the show? 

Stan Zuray: I never considered that ever.  Even when it was happening it only seemed like a fleeting possibility.  I try to recognize it as a good chance to do something right as I can, and not get to high on it. There is that saying (and I fully believe) what goes up can and will come down even easier.

stan and friends

Jim Jax:  When you are out on a hunt or other excursion, do you sleep and eat with the crew? do they eat the same food?  Sleep in the same cabin/tent?

 Stan Zuray:  Yes, Just like being out with any other friend. It’s no different.  Very few shows are made like ours and the relationship between crew and cast is extremely close.  There is no big production stuff; just real quality tv with a good touch of drama to make good compelling viewing.

stan and dog

Jim Jax:  I like the honesty of many of the Alaskan shows; as you’ve said, the network has to spice it up a bit for television; was there anything that you have said no to or insisted on changing a scene? 

Stan Zuray:  We aren’t the editors at all but the crew and production guys do rely on us to say yes and no all the time. We are the ones who know what we are doing. Also sometimes there are understandings of what we did in a scene and we have to straighten people out all the time so it doesn’t get explained by the narrator the wrong way.  It’s important to get it right.

Jim Jax: What aspects of your life in Alaska would you like to talk about that the show didn’t cover.

Stan Zuray:  Probably the side of our existence where we really don’t worry about life all the time (but that might be boring).  The other thing that is real hard to show on TV; but I would think is cool; is how hard some things really are. Many of the best dramatic moments don’t come close at all to showing true harsh reality of things. Like how do you “show” 40 below and a full day of hard travel/trapping.  It’s easy to show that wolf in the trap but it’s not easy to show the great work that it takes to get to that point.

Stan the minister
Stan has been an ordained minister for over 30 years.

Jim Jax:  We all feel the wear and tear to our bodies as we get older, are you ever fearful that you will not be able to do all you want to do and would you ever leave Tanana? 

Stan Zuray: I Got it all figured out.  I Just got an operation to a worn out knee (motorcycle crash, bear bite etc.) made worse because of all the no snow this winter and rough ground. So I’ll keep fixing those things till I really mess myself up and then I have to quit.  I’ll enjoy some lazy time till it gets boring and then I’ll entertain ideas without much concern.  You never know, it may not even get that far.  I might not make it through one of them wind storms someday. My mother used to sing “Whatever will be will be” all the time while working and I do it to my dogs.

Jim Jax:  I read where thousands are now trying to live off of the grid around the U.S. and leaving their city lifestyles.  Many are failing miserably and losing everything they have.  What advice would you give them in regards to preparations and even if they should do it or not? 

Stan Zuray:  First thought is maybe losing everything is just on the path to finding something of more value.  There are no guarantees but you need to keep trying because it can be done.

Also every step towards civilization insulates you from the crueler realities of nature. Each step you give up puts you closer to what animals feel all the time.  You might confuse failure with that “being one with nature” you have been looking for.  Maybe it is not for some. You have to soul search maybe. There is a reason we have built the civilizations we have as people. Wish I could help more.

Jim Jax:  You and Joey got most of the attention but Kate and your wife are obviously huge parts of your life.  I really enjoyed Kate.  She was tough, sweet, caring and very responsible.  Alaska is a special place and creates special people.  I want to interview her in the future; what would you like people to know about Kate?

SZ – Kate is a loving, strong-minded, hard-working, accomplished woman. I am proud of her.  We will get her on some time.  She’d love to talk I’m sure.  She helps me do my YouTube videos and social media organization.  She is my manager.

stan kathleen and joey

Jim Jax:  Have you heard of Dick Proenneke?  He was the man who the documentary “Alone in the Wilderness” was about. 

He was a videographer, carpenter/wood craftsman, and bush pilot.  He lived at Twin Lakes (west of Anchorage) for almost 30 years; mostly alone.  He was the one that got me into loving Alaska.  Explain your emotions when you are in the wilderness and things are going great with hunting, trapping, fishing and you seem one with the land. 

http://www.aloneinthewilderness.com/index.html

Stan Zuray:  Hunting, fishing, and trapping when done as a job are just like any other job. Most of it is often a lot of hard work, or steady work with problems along the way or things that don’t go as smoothly as one would like.  Then one day the trails are not to blown in and the injured dogs are over their sore muscles and I’m feeling okay and everything is clicking along well including a good catch of fur.  Those are the days we live for.  I think it’s like climbing mountains.  A lot of work and every now and then you make another peak.  The only thing is it never ends.  There is always another day and that’s not a problem at all.

stans wife kathleen
Stan’s Wife Kathleen

Jim Jax:  Many have called you MacGyver.  You always seem to get things to work and people are still talking about the franken truck.  In the states people just buy a new item but in Alaska you have to make things work.  What is your favorite Stan Zuray MacGuyver story?

Stan Zuray:  When we run fish wheels we use this big fence thing we call a lead to direct fish into the catching baskets.  Some are small but we use monster leads that no way can be manhandled much. When I first started fishing around people on the Yukon River I had one of these leads flip on its belly on the wrong side.  Eventually I figured an easy way to get it set in the current again using the current to do it.  Fast forward years and one day on my wheel with another elder fisherman I flipped my lead again and he almost came unglued and said “Oh no!  I’m so sorry.  I’ll go get everyone and we’ll help you winch it out of the water and flip in on its side manually on the beach.” (they are huge, water soaked, heavy things).  I said no big deal and I used the current and showed him how to do it.  He said he’s been running wheels all over Alaska for many years and he’d never seen anyone do it like that. Now everyone does it like that!  We all think up of ideas though.  Our lives are an accumulation of all those who thought up good ways to do things.  This one was cool though because it saved everyone so much time.

Jim Jax:  Decades from now, how would you like to be remembered?

Stan Zuray:  As someone who did a little more good in his life than he did harm.

Jim Jax:  One thing that frustrates me with Networks is their lack of communication on whether shows are cancelled or renewed. 

Have they contacted you about doing another season or told you that the show will be cancelled?  What is your feeling on whether there will be another season. 

Stan Zuray:  We seem to be doing a little better than some years. We never know though and will never know until right when we get picked to run again or get cancelled.  In all fairness to the Networks I don’t think they know much more about the future of the show than us.  The TV world is brutal and competitive and unsure. Whatever will be will be.

Jim Jax:  If the show is cancelled, what would you like to say to the fans of Yukon Men.   

Stan Zuray:  We will still be here living and putting out good pictures on Facebook and videos on YouTube about the life.  We are not going anywhere even if someone else may.

Jim Jax:  What is the best way for people to connect with you Stan.  

Stan Zuray:  Facebook is maybe the best. I rarely miss any comments made to my Facebook posts in the few days after I posted.  I try to answer all questions I can. On Twitter I read every one but because of the shortness allowed don’t try to answer often.  I don’t check YouTube as much but I do answer all of the comments eventually. All media gets put aside for days or more when traveling so it’s all off and on.

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“FROM KEN STABLER TO CHARLIE SUMNER; A YEAR OF LOSS FOR THE OAKLAND RAIDERS & REMEMBERING THEM DURING THE HOLIDAYS”

 

ken stabler gene upshaw
Gene Upshaw showing some love to Ken Stabler

Pastor: I promise James, in time the pain will lessen and it will get easier.

Me: With all due respect Pastor, that is crap. The pain never gets better. Time just makes it a little easier to deal with.

If you want to know how important history is, just look at the half time ceremony when the Packers put Brett Favre’s name in their ring of honor at Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night. An 81 year old 5 time Champion Bart Starr worked hard for 3 months during extremely poor health just to make the trip to welcome Brett Favre on his special night. There wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium; including Brett Favre’s; when Bart Starr walked up and hugged him. The emotions linked generations of fans who stood up proudly as one.  Brett Favre said, “No offense to anyone, but I was so happy to see Bart Starr and in a way the night was also for him. I was more excited seeing him smiling and happy than what I was there for”.

The Christmas holidays are my favorite time of year. People are nicer and there is much more of a kind spirit of good will floating around. Unfortunately all of us have lost people that we love and it can also be a time of great internal pain and longing. I get that because our family has known a lot of tragedy. This year has been grinding and hard. It’s also been that way for the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have lost many that were linked to their greatness.

I could see it in his eyes. Upon the passing of the great Ken Stabler, George Atkinson seemed inconsolable.   “It seems that every month we lose someone close to the Raiders. There are fewer of us and it’s very difficult to hear of the passing of Kenny.”

My dad once said that getting older isn’t the hard part. He said the hard part is watching family members that were once strong and vital getting old and passing away. It’s also hard to see athletes who you grew up watching, doing the same.

I think one of the nicest things ever said to me was after I wrote an article for a paid Philadelphia Eagles site. I wrote about a couple of the Eagles who had passed. One Philly fan thanked me for the article and said, “You are the keeper of their memory. You made me remember how great of players these were and how they touched the community. I’ll now never forget them and I was touched like they were my own. Thank you.”

History is a huge deal in our family. It’s always been instilled in us by my parents and relatives, to keep people’s memories alive. We should never forget people and appreciate their talents and their input in people’s lives. Our society has become much more shallow than in the past, with us being obsessed with youthful looks, being cool and in, and keeping in the know with the latest. We forget so easily. The word great is handed out like Halloween candy and our memory is short.   For me, I will never be that way and for those that read me, they will always see a sense of appreciation of those from the past along with their families.

The Raiders have lost some key people from their past this year. Let us remember them.

art powellOakland Raider great WR Art Powell

Art Powell:

Wide Receiver Art Powell was one of the first and great stars of the AFL.   He was big and fast and was known for some amazing catches. He was a 4 time AFL all star and was voted onto the all time AFL team. He amazingly had 81 touchdown passes during a time when defensive backs could do whatever they wanted to WR.

People forget that it was his character that shined the most. Powell, along with teammates Bo Roberson, Clem Daniels and Fred Williamson, refused to play in an exhibition game against his old team the New York Jets because of segregated seating in Mobile Alabama’s Ladd Stadium.

al loCasale
Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis and Executive Assistant Al LoCasale

Al LoCasale:

“I first started working for the Raiders in 1985. I complained about a bad call in the press box and one of the NFL officials heard me. He angrily went up to Al LoCasale to complain about me. Mr. LoCasale got angry and ripped the stadium credentials from his shirt. It was then that I knew I was a Raider and what loyalty meant. He backed me just because I was a Raider.”

Former Raider Executive Amy Trask.

He was called a pitbull, a hitman, a thug, and many other things that I can’t write. For 3 decades Al LoCasale was the Executive Assistant and loyal heavy for Mr. Al Davis.   If Mr. Davis felt someone wronged the Raiders, LoCasale was the one you had to answer to. He was gruff and had a Napoleonic mentality about him. He demanded respect, loyalty and excellence.   He loved the Raiders and Al Davis.   He was the main figure that helped NFL films capture the Raiders great moments and he insisted on as many Raider players being mentioned as possible. He respected everyone; from the star players to the practice players.   You can’t say Oakland Raiders without saying Al LoCaSale.

dick romanski raider equipment manager
Oakland Raider equipment manager Dick Romanski

Dick Romanski, Equipment Manager:

The Raiders have only had 2 equipment managers in their history.   Dick Romanski and his son Bob.

Dick was an army buddy of Al Davis and a good athlete. He actually coached on Davis military teams. He had been with the Raiders for over 50 years until his son took over. There are stories that Dick was the one that came up with the shield logo of the Raiders.

Dick also was important because he was the one that introduced stickum to the Raiders. He said he got the idea from hitters in major league baseball.

Beloved by players and executives alike, even after retiring he would show up to help on Raider home games. One of the staples of the Raiders lore.

 

charlie sumner
Oakland Raiders Defensive Coordinator Charlie Sumner having a fun moment with Ken Stabler

Charlie Sumner:

“Charlie took me out of the game and I was pissed. I came off the field screaming at him. He put in backup Jack Squirek and told him to “not drop” the pass. I was out of my mind. Then I saw Squirek intercept Joe Theisman’s pass and score. I picked Charlie up and was going crazy. I had immense joy and almost killed him in the process. What a great coach.”

Raiders MLB Matt Millen

Some Raider players thanked him at their Hall of Fame speeches. Charlie Sumner was the greatest defensive coach in the history of the Oakland Raiders and it’s not close. He was the defensive coordinator for 2 Super Bowl wins. He was also a coach that helped create the famous Steel Curtain in Pittsburgh and he was the one that created the great defenses of the Patriots in the mid to late 70’s that almost lead them to a Super Bowl. The Raider offenses got all the credit but if you look at the Super Bowl wins, it was the defenses that dominated.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/the-passing-of-an-oakland-raiders-legend-defensive-icon-charlie-sumner-dies-tom-flores-comments/

 

marv-hubbard
Oakland Raider great Fullback Marv Hubbard

Marv Hubbard:

“Some players like to be physical but no one was as tough as Marv.   I’ve never seen a player that would go out of their way to hit people. He also demanded to play special teams because he liked the collisions.”

John Madden

Take it to the cupboard Hubbard was one of the catch phrases of the 1970’s for the Oakland Raiders. In both end zones posters with that saying was the norm. He was all pro 3 times and helped lead the Raiders to 4 consecutive Western Division Championships. He ranks 4th all time in yards per carry as a fullback (4.8 yards) and is 13th overall in NFL history.

Hubbard was a fan favorite and lived in Northern California. He got into music and released 2 albums. He was a scratch golfer and was an entrepreneur and CEO of his own company and he was often seen around town driving his beloved muscle cars which he would restore. Like most Raiders, he lived life to the fullest.

Ken Stabler:

The death of Ken Stabler sent a shockwave around the country and to be honest the world. I remember writing about Ken’s passing and the article was read by people in over 26 countries. I received many messages from people who said they don’t really like the Raiders but that they loved Ken Stabler. I’ve written a lot about Ken and you can check it out here along with Ken’s family website where you can donate to his XOXO Foundation.

http://kenstabler.com/

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/the-passing-of-legendary-raider-ken-stabler-shocks-a-nation/#comments

How to Deal With Loss:

First off there is no formula. The key is to talk to people you respect and love and let the pain out.   Cry, scream or get mad. Pain like that is like poison and if you don’t get rid of it, it can eat you alive.

The holidays can be really hard so keep busy. Kid’s and young people always help when they are around due to their great personalities and wonder around the holidays. Remember that there will be times that the pain will come over you in waves and you just need to let yourself get rid of it. If you are a person of faith, rely on it often.   Personally, without my faith I would have not come through things very well.

The most important thing is to remember that the people that are gone would be heartbroken to see you in pain. This poem is a great one to remember that:

“Remember me with smiles and laughter because that’s how I will remember you. If you can only remember me with tears and sorrow, then don’t remember me at all.”

May all of the friends and families of these great people; as well as the fans of the Raiders; find a healing peace and joy this Christmas season.   I pray that they will never be lost in history and that their memories will be passed on to the children of NFL and Raider fans everywhere. And as long as I have breath, I will never let people forget them either.

Colombia & Soccer 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.