Category Archives: Sports

Diana Kuen’s CharityRaggs

Diana Kuen’s blog is called Girl Reinvented.

That’s an apt name. In 2010 she quit her life running a successful publishing business, managing and producing travel sections for the New York Times and Boston Globe — with summers spent in the Hamptons, and winters snowboarding in Vermont — to take a long road trip across America.

She gave up her apartment. For nearly a year, she lived in a camper.

It was the first time she’d ever slowed down, and figured out what really mattered to her.

Diana Kuen, on the road.

The epochal journey helped her rejuvenate the right side of her brain. “It sat pretty dormant for years while I ran in the hamster wheel,” Kuen says.

In the summer of 2016 — still exploring new passions — she learned how to sew. She also took a Brooklyn screen printing workshop (“because, why the hell not?”).

Kuen became so excited, she formed a textile company making whimsical dish towels. Soon her creations were in 120 Camping World stores nationwide.

Faith and risk have carried her far. All the way, in fact, to Westport.

While living with her brother in Fairfield, she found the Saugatuck Rowing Club. She fell in love with the neighborhood and its people.

Now she lives nearby. She rides her bike to the club, where she coaches rowing. She teaches standup paddleboard and runs clambakes for Downunder.

She’s also got her own textile business — 2, actually. There’s DishRaggs, and a charitable brand extension called CharityRaggs. She gives part of her earnings to worthy organizations, including Autism Speaks, animal rights and rescue groups, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and Sandy Hook Promise.

“Each towel is a labor of love, a work of art, and a little piece of me,” Kuen says. “Think of DishRaggs the same way you might hang a framed picture on your wall.”

They’re fun and whimsical, with sayings, photos and logos.

And — because Kuen has just been here a few months, but loves “06880” (both the town and the blog) — there are a few special “06880” DishRaggs too. (With matching gift bag!) Each sale benefits this blog.

Diane Kuen’s “06880” towel.

From now through November 15, Kuen offers 20% off all full-price DishRaggs (CharityRaggs excluded).

Get your holiday shopping done early! Find the perfect hostess gift! Support “06880”!

Just click here for Kuen’s entire collection; click here for the “06880” items. At checkout, use the promo code “06880” (without the quotation marks).

The next time you see the way cool — and very generous — Diana Kuen, be sure to thank her.

And welcome her to “06880.”

Diane Kuen’s “06880” gift bag.

Pic Of The Day #175

Ziggy Hallgarten — on fall break from Cornell University — enjoys a windy day at Compo. 

Staples Soccer Is Etched In Stone

In the nearly 60 years since Staples High School fielded its first boys soccer team, some legendary athletes have laced up their boots.

Plenty more played without achieving fame. But they loved the program, made great friendships and created lifelong memories.

Inevitably, a few of those players died young.

Staples soccer embraces its past. One of the program’s goals is to make sure current players feel a link to those who came before, and become in turn great role models for those who follow. (Full disclosure: I am the head coach — and a former Staples soccer player.)

Yesterday, alumni came from as far as California. They gathered together to see a game between 2 top teams — and to help dedicate Staples soccer’s “Etched in Stone” project.

It’s a permanent memorial to members of the program who died before their time. Their names are now inscribed in the terrace, at the top of The Hill.

Kyle Martino — a 1999 graduate who played on the US men’s national team, and is now a noted NBC Sports Premier League analyst — helped organize the project. His speech yesterday emphasized the importance of the Staples soccer community; the “family” bonds that have been formed across generations, and the feeling of legacy that joins current players with past (and future) Wreckers.

US soccer star and NBC Sports analyst Kyle Martino (with ball) addresses the crowd. At far left is Brad Tursi. His brother Drew’s death last winter sparked Martino and his teammates to create the “Etched in Stone” project. Drew spent many hours on The Hill, watching Brad and his friends play for Staples.

After the brief ceremony, the large crowd enjoyed a crackling match. Stamford eked out a 1-0 win, in a nail-biting finish.

Then the alums took to Loeffler Field, for a classic pick-up match.

Some things never change.

Former players from the 1980s who returned include (from left) Andy Udell, Todd Zucker, Dan Donovan, Mark Noonan, Guy Claveloux, Todd Coleman, Nathan Bird, Rob Sweetnam and Doug Fincher. Fincher’s son Ryan helps anchor the current Staples defense. Donovan and Coleman have brothers whose names are now etched in stone. (Photo/Yvonne Claveloux)

Fred Cantor, Steve McCoy and Neil Brickley — who helped win state and FCIAC championships in 1969 and ’70 — returned to Loeffler Field for the “Etched in Stone” ceremony. (Photo/Robert Brickley)

After the Staples-Stamford match, alumni, fans, family and friends lingered on the terrace at the top of The Hill. (Photo/Sam New)

Pic Of The Day #168

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month — and to raise awareness, the entire Westport PAL 8th grade football team is wearing pink socks, (Photo/Miki Scarfo)

Liz Fry’s Great (Lake) Swim

They don’t call them the Great Lakes for nothing. They’re big.

But Liz Fry is a great long distance swimmer. Earlier this month, the longtime Westporter became one of the few people in history — and the 2nd-oldest — to swim solo across Lake Ontario.

She wore just a swimsuit and goggles. She started at midnight, and finished 15 hours and 46 minutes later.

But the 32.1-mile swim from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto was just one more walk in the park for Fry. She has already completed the “Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming”: the English Channel, California’s Catalina Channel and circumnavigating Manhattan Island.

Twice.

Liz Fry, moments after completing her Lake Ontario swim.

On her Lake Ontario conquest, her coaches — riding in a boat in front of her — fueled her with water bottles and cookies.

She told the Canadian Press, “My only sense of feeling comes in the form of cookies. At some point I need something crunchy because you’re basically on fluids the whole time. I really just zone out and enjoy my environment.”

Fry — who in her other life is a financial services consultant — trained for the event in a pool and Long Island Sound. She said the swim was one of her hardest. She also called it “fun and challenging and cold and bumpy and all those things.”

I call it “great.”

(Hat tip: Debbie Masso)

Chris McKendry: “Best Job At ESPN”

Chris McKendry may have “the best job at ESPN.”

And — according to Sporting News — it may be the start of “a different relationship in the future between on-air talent and TV networks” everywhere.

McKendry — a Westport resident — spent 20 years anchoring “SportsCenter.”

Now she’s a fulltime tennis sportscaster. As Grand Slam host, she travels the world covering the US Open, Wimbledon and Australian Open.

But that leaves plenty of time to raise her 2 sons.

Or — if she wants — to work for another network. (Just not on tennis.)

This summer, the former Drexel University tennis player hosted over 150 hours of US Open Coverage. The 16-hour days — for 2 long weeks — were grueling. But it was worth it. Ratings were up 8% over last year.

Sporting News’ interview with McKendry covered a range of topics. To read the full transcript, click here.

(Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)

Chris McKendry (Photo courtesy of Sporting News)

Pic Of The Day #153

Wakeman Athletic Fields, 6:30 a.m. (Photo/Lisa Hilton)

Skip Lane: From Scab To ESPN Star

Two games into the 1987 NFL season, the Players Association struck. The issue was free agency.

To break the union, team owners hired replacements. For 3 weeks, they played.

One of those substitute athletes — derisively called “scabs” — was Skip Lane.

He was well known in Westport. Lane was a 1979 graduate of Staples High School — where he starred at quarterback for his father, legendary coach Paul Lane — and then at the University of Mississippi.

Yet with only 5 Canadian Football League games behind him – and brief stints with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, after college — he was unknown to much of the football-loving American public.

In 1987 Lane was out of the game, working in commercial real estate in Fairfield County — a job he still holds.

But he excelled as a safety with the replacement Washington Redskins. They went 3-0 during the strike, culminating with a Monday Night Football win over a Dallas Cowboys team filled with veterans who had crossed the picket line.

Some fans wanted familiar players back.

When the 3-game strike was over, the Redskins released Lane. They went on to win the Super Bowl — but neither Lane nor his fellow replacements received a championship ring.

That story is part of an ESPN “30 For 30” documentary that aired Tuesday night. “Year of the Scab” explores the lives of the 1500 replacement players. They were “caught in the crosshairs of media fueled controversy between owners, players and fans alike,” the network says.

Lane is featured frequently in the video. He mentions his “buddies from Westport” who attended the game against the Giants. There were only 9,000 fans that day.

When the documentary premiered at a DC film festival in June, the Washington Post revisited that strange, controversial season.

Skip Lane today.

“I Always Hated Being Called a Scab” got its headline from a quote by Lane.

“I was just trying to get one more year, show people what I could do and even join the union,” he told the paper.

“Over the years, I’ve had no contact with the Redskins. Absolutely nothing.”

But, he says in the film, he has no regrets about playing.

Being a scab was “the easiest decision of my life.”

(Hat tips: Carl Swanson and Fred Cantor. Click here for the full Washington Post story. Click below for the full video.)

Unsung Hero #15

Another summer ends, just like the 56 before it. Dozens of youngsters go back to school with a skill they never had. Thanks to the Longshore Sailing School, they know how to sail. They’re confident on the water — and that confidence extends off it too.

Plenty of adults who never thought they could steer a sailboat went through the school’s courses too.

John Kantor no longer runs Longshore Sailing School. But he was part of it for nearly 50 years. And it still bears his imprint.

Kieran O’Keefe is one of many grateful sailors. That’s why he nominated Kantor as this week’s Unsung Hero.

John Kantor

For almost 5 decades — quietly, efficiently, improving what worked and always changing with the times — Kantor built Longshore Sailing School into the largest such youth program in the country.

In retrospect, getting rejected as a caddy — and hired by the then-nascent town sailing school — was karma.  Kantor grew up on Owenoke — just across Gray’s Creek from Longshore.

“I clammed at low tide, and sailed and raced at high tide,” he recalls.

When the town of Westport bought the failing Longshore Country Club in 1960, it had no idea how to run  a water program.

Kantor got on board in 1965. The rest is history.

With several hundred young students each year — and a program run out of constantly collapsing cabanas near the pool — Kantor made a proposal.  He’d buy a new fleet — at his own expense — provided he could keep any profit.

If there was a loss, he’d absorb it himself.

First selectman Jacqueline Heneage agreed — provided he put his name on the sailing school.

Longshore Sailing School today. (Photo copyright/Stefen Turner)

The program grew exponentially, to 2,000 pupils a summer.

When the program outgrew its makeshift building — but the town was reluctant to pay for a new one — Kantor formed the non-profit Friends of Longshore Sailing School.  Former employees funded a 2-story, $400,000 structure.  The school now has 5 classrooms, plenty of storage space, and an actual office.

Those employees have kept in close contact with Kantor. He mentored them —  — and watched them grow — from high school to college and beyond.

Four couples met at Longshore Sailing School, and got married.

Odds are, their kids will end up learning how to sail there — at John Kantor’s legacy — too.

(PS: John Kantor’s influence extends far beyond Westport. The Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda modeled its sailing school on Longshore’s. According to Westporter Ali Hokin, “John, Longshore Sailing School and The Boat Locker were integral to the success of the sailing program and boats available to guests. The resort was devastated by Hurricane Irma. A relief effort is going on now, in this magical but currently suffering part of paradise.” To help employees, their families and the surrounding community, click here.)

Bob Knoebel’s Dreamer

For 29 years, Bob Knoebel was a revered Westport YMCA Water Rats swim coach and aquatics director. The 1971 Staples High School graduate now enjoys a 2nd career in Idaho, as an equally well-respected fishing guide.

Bob is also the godfather of a young man named Enrique. In the wake of President Trump’s decision to end DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for 800,000 people — he sent along these thoughts:

If you grew up in Westport, you were accustomed to your mom driving you to soccer or swimming practice, making sure you were at your games or meets on time.

Your parents were at every game. They cheered — or better yet, acted as volunteer coaches or officials.

Bob Knoebel

They also made sure you had everything you needed to succeed in school — the proper supplies, a dedicated place to study — and had regular contact with your teachers.

You took music lessons, dance lessons, swimming lessons or became an Eagle Scout. Your parents were probably college educated, and helped you navigate the college process.

Even if you didn’t realize it, they were looking over your shoulder — just to make sure. Lucky you, lucky me for being fortunate enough to grow up in Westport and graduate from Staples.

Imagine for a moment your parents don’t speak English. They have less than a high school education. You live in a trailer.

At 9 years old you missed a soccer game because you had to act as an interpreter/negotiator for your dad when he bought a goat from a local rancher, or needed you to go to the junkyard to do the same for parts for the family truck.

Your most important role in the family is what you can provide in terms of financial support.

To top it off, your mom doesn’t drive.

Imagine if you lived in fear that ICE might show up at your home to deport your mom or dad. Imagine the relief you would feel if you were offered a level of protection that the Obama-era program known as DACA provided you.

You could do the things your schoolmates take for granted, like get a driver’s license or summer job.

I am the “padrino” (godfather) for Enrique, a DACA-protected 17-year-old who is a high school senior here in Idaho.

He has more grit than you came imagine, because of challenges like these. He has completed 5 AP courses, and is taking 3 more this year. He started a tutoring program at the middle school to help other 1st-generation college  hopefuls, and recruited friends to help.

Enrique is a top student.

Enrique works after school, interning at an engineering firm. He plays saxophone in the band, and belongs to the National Honor Society and Key Club.

Trout Unlimited chose him last summer to attend a national leadership conference in Montana.

Bob Knoebel and Enrique.

He is the first Hispanic player on his high school lacrosse team, and was the top-scoring underclassman last year.

Enrique wants to go to college. Not because he hopes to change the world, but for a more humble reason: to help his family.

He’s counting on a scholarship to a private university, because he does not qualify for in-state tuition at Idaho schools.

He never complains, gets stressed or worries about his future, because he believes in the goodness of America and the promises it offers to those who work hard.

He’s not worried that the Trump administration has announced an end to DACA. He believes that Congress will act with compassion when deciding his fture, and that of 800,000 others.

In a senior class of just over 200, there are 14 other DACA-protected students alone.

It’s a world away from Staples.

But it’s Enrique’s reality. He is making the best of it.

Among many other things, Enrique is a star lacrosse player.