Category Archives: Sports

Horace Staples’ Fantasy

Forget CTE, millionaire athletes behaving badly, and debates about kneeling during the national anthem.

The NFL is alive and well. Just ask anyone who plays fantasy football.

The pretend game draws fanatical players (mostly male). It’s as popular as Fortnite among teenage boys. But plenty of adults draft, follow and obsess over their fantasy teams too.

Maxx Reiner

Maxx Reiner’s league has been together for a decade. It began at Staples High School, with members of the classes of 2009 and ’10. They’ve kept playing — and kept it alumni-only.

Despite being all over the country — for example, Maxx lives in San Francisco, works at a software startup and sells vintage watches on the sides; Alec Abed works in sales n New York and moonlights as a New York Yankees promoter — they’ve forged bonds that may last a lifetime.

Their fantasy football league lacked only one thing: a trophy.

Jason Shapiro — who lives in California, works in marketing and is an Instagram influencer — stepped up to help. But he did not want a generic, old-school stiff-armed running back atop the award.

Jason wanted to commemorate the man who brought the league together.

We’re talking Horace Staples.

The high school founder died in 1897 — 8 years before Teddy Roosevelt proposed a ban on football (too many players were dying).

Jason found a photo online (probably from “06880”). Fantasy football participant Alec contacted a vendor. But the Staples alums were appalled at the Pez dispenser-like version of the trophy that the company proposed.

So Jason spent even more time researching manufacturers than he did moving players around. He found a firm in California. They took months to get it right.

Now, finally, Horace Staples’ fantasy football league has a trophy worthy of its namesake.

The Horace trophy. A portrait of the Staples High School founder hangs on the wall.

The trophy —  called “The Horace” — will be inscribed with the name of each year’s winner.

It will be shipped every year to the champ. There is just 1 league rule: It must be the first item a visitor sees when they enter that home or apartment.

“We consider Horace Staples an icon,” Maxx says. “We wanted to honor a man of such character and integrity. And we wanted to rep Staples: the greatest high school in the USA.”

Ultimately, 50 Years

2018 marks the 60th anniversary of some legendary Westport institutions:

Mitchells. Earthplace. Staples Orphenians. And the Staples High School boys soccer program (click here for details on this Saturday’s Wreckers event!).

Checking in at a mere 50 years old is Ultimate Frisbee. But — like those other local icons — it too has a special Westport connection.

Ultimate began in 1968 at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. A 1960 alum was teaching math at Staples. When Al Jolley heard of the game — non-contact, free-flowing, like a traditional “goal” sport but with a unique culture — he vowed to bring it to Westport.

The group played on an unkempt field behind the old 9 Building, at the east end of Staples. (Field hockey players chased them away, with sticks.) With no other teams in the area, they scrimmaged themselves.

An early Ultimate team. Alan Jolley is at far left.

They encouraged Weston High to form a team, and played them on April 5, 1973. Staples won 24-9, in the 1st interscholastic Frisbee game in Connecticut. It was also the 1st known coed interscholastic sports event. 

On April 14, Staples hosted Columbia High, in the 1st known interstate coed match. Staples beat the sport’s inventors, 18-8. (To be fair, the guests were missing several players.)

But Staples — in fun — declared themselves “National Champions.” The  National Observer sent a reporter from Washington to write about the team.

The Ultimate Frisbee Hall of Fame has honored 29″Johnny Appleseeds” of the sport. Four — Jolley and 1974 graduates Ed Davis, Ron Kaufman and Dan Buckley — are among them.

Dan Buckley, Alan Jolley and Ed Davis, at a Staples Ultimate Frisbee reunion several years ago.

From October 18-21, a grand celebration of Ultimate will be held in San Diego. Kaufman will fly in from Singapore.

The following month, Columbia High honors Jolley as a “Hometown Ultimate Hero.” For the 49th year in a row, the school will play a Thanksgiving reunion game, at the site of that very first one.

Unfortunately, they can’t get revenge for that loss to Staples, all those years ago. Jolley disbanded his team in the late 1970s, after issues with school administrators over things like insurance.

What an untimely, Ultimate end.

Remembering Sandy Bodecker

Sandy Bodecker — a Westport native who rose to some of the highest and most influential positions at Nike — has died. He was 65.

SneakerNews reports:

Of all of the endeavors that he pioneered for the Swoosh, none is as game-changing as Nike Skateboarding, a renegade division the he presided over since 2002. It was his vision that allowed the skate community to open up to the industry giant, and from there, the rest is history.

His take on the classic Dunk, reinvented with fat tongues and Zoom Air cushioning, paved the way for collaborations with Supreme and Zoo York as well as colorways by the pros, all of which sparked a niche that played one of the biggest roles in the creation of sneaker culture as we know it today.

Sandy Bodecker (Photo courtesy of SneakerNews)

It’s no coincidence that Sandy’s roles at Nike coincide with the success of that respective concentration. Originally a product tester, Bodecker went on to lead the brand’s first Global Football business and later started the Action Sports category while serving as its first head of Global Design.

His most recent hallmark is BREAKING2 and the mission to complete a sub-2 hour marathon; he’s been obsessed with it for years as he has 1:59:59 tattooed on the inside of his left wrist. From the BREAKING2 initiative came the brand’s current arsenal of Vaporfly and Zoom Fly running footwear.

The website FN adds:

Sandy Bodecker (Photo courtesy of Instagram)

He joined the sportswear giant in 1982, and rose to drive “product innovation and built strong relationships and brand credibility with skate retailers, athletes and consumers,” the brand shared in a past statement on his influence.

“From 1994 to 2001, Bodecker led Nike’s soccer business, building Nike … from virtually nothing to one of the company’s top categories and helping to establish global brand leadership in the sport,” Nike previously said of his experience.

Sandy Bodecker (center rear, dark shirt) played on the Coleytown Junior High School soccer team. No word on whether the 8th grader wore Nike cleats.

(Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

Tommy Greenwald: Football’s “Game Changer”

Like many Americans, Tommy Greenwald has a complicated relationship with football.

He was thrilled when his son Jack played.

“If I saw him limping or shaking his head, I’d say ‘Get back out there!'” Tommy says. “I was as happy to see my kid hitting and getting hit as anyone else.”

In 8th grade, Jack hurt his ankle. “My first concern was not going to the doctor,” Greenwald admits. “It was, could he finish the game?”

Jack had a great football career, with Westport PAL and Staples High School. His father appreciates what he learned from intense practices, tough games and his relationship with his coaches.

But, Greenwald says, “the football culture — with its pressure to be tough and strong, to play hurt, to not be perceived as soft” — has its downsides.

That’s the heart of “Game Changer.” Published this month, it’s the local author’s 10th book — and a departure from his previous “Charlie Joe Jackson” (named for his 3 sons) and “Crimebiters” young readers’ series.

Jack Greenwald (center), with his brothers Charlie and Joe.

There’s not a laugh to be had in this one. There are no wise guys, no dog with special powers.

“Game Changer” is deadly serious — almost literally.

13-year-old Teddy lies in a coma after a football injury during preseason camp. His family and teammates flock to his bedside to support his recovery — and at the same time trade rumors and theories on social media.

Was this a tragic but fairly common result of a violent sport? Or did something more sinister — bullying and hazing perhaps — happen on the field that day?

“Game Changer” is different type of book. It mixes together dialogue, text messages, newspaper stories — and Teddy’s own inner thoughts.

It’s different too in that it’s a no-holds-barred look at the terrifying risks of a major American sport — and the entire culture supporting it.

Greenwald is emphatic that this is a work of fiction. He added an author’s note to that effect at the end. He says he never saw or heard anything like what happened in “Game Changer” during Jack’s Westport career.

But, Greenwald says, it is “based on a culture I saw through Jack. It’s not far-fetched that this could happen. We’ve all heard about terrible cases in college, high school, even middle school.”

“Game Changer” is not, he insists, a condemnation of football. “My respect for coaches, the life lessons they taught, the lifelong friendships Jack made, is amazing,” Greenwald says.

He calls Westport PAL and Staples “great programs.” And Greenwald has done enough research to know that football in Fairfield County — while intense — is “a dust speck compared to programs around the country. When football is the dominant event in a community, the pressure ratchets up unbelievably. Westport seems to have a good balance. We don’t pin our hopes and dreams on young kids.”

But his book is “a wake-up call for everyone — including me,” he adds. “People — including me — have to pay more attention to the culture and the injuries” of football.

Tommy Greenwald

Greenwald never had to confront the even more dangerous effects of football at the higher level. Though Jack was “semi-recruited” for college, he ended up at Elon and did not play. He graduated from there last June, and now works at a Boston cyber-security firm.

“Jack’s era was a tipping point,” Greenwald says. “The media started focusing on concussions, and parents started looking at football differently. If Jack wanted to play in college, that would have been a much larger discussion.”

Greenwald — who won a state championship as a Staples High School soccer captain in 1978, and whose son Joe was a Wrecker soccer captain in 2012 — remains a “huge” NFL fan.

“I read, like everyone else, about the dangers,” he says. “And like everyone else I camp out every Sunday looking for the best games.

“It’s a weird feeling to like a game you probably shouldn’t.”

(Tommy Greenwald will host a discussion on the pros and cons of youth sports at Barnes & Noble this Sunday [October 7, 12 p.m.] Panelists include his own son Jack; former Staples High School, Temple University football captain and Staples assistant coach Mac DeVito, and Dan Woog — in my role as Staples boys soccer head coach.)

Pic Of The Day #531

Put me in, coach! Soccer bags, water bottles — and just a hint of fall — this morning at Coleytown Middle School. (Photo/Jeff Manchester)

The Pinnacle Of Fitness, For An Aging Population

In 1992, personal trainer Phil LiCastri moved here from New York. He figured a good way to learn the area was to volunteer.

He found Elderhouse in Norwalk, and taught a chair exercise class.

He’s been doing it twice a week ever since.

“I fell in love with that population,” Phil says. ” I didn’t know my own grandparents well. So working with them was a great connection.”

In 1997, Phil and a partner opened Fast Fitness. It’s still in existence.

But in 2005 he started Pinnacle Health & Fitness, near Shake Shack. It’s not far from the Lansdowne and Regents Park condos. Older residents there have found a warm welcome at Pinnacle.

Many of Phil’s clients are in their 70s and 80s. He’s 52. But, he says, “As I’ve aged, I know my body is changing too.”

Kaye May (left) and Pam Gau have trained with Phil LiCastri (center) for nearly 2 decades.

A lot of trainers want to work with younger athletes. Phil does too: In his spare time, he coaches the Joel Barlow High School wrestling team. But he loves the challenge of the aging population.

“I’ve always been interested in flexibility and movement,” Phil says. “As you age, you lose balance and strength. Those are sometimes overlooked. I wanted to focus on them.”

He remembers fondly a retired high-level TV executive, who was battling Parkinson’s.

“He had so much knowledge, and such a love for life,” Phil says. At first he walked slowly in. Later, he came in a wheelchair.

“He had such drive. People like that keep me coming here every day.”

An engineer with cancer came throughout his chemo. He too had a great will to live. And — like the television exec –both were at Pinnacle the week before they died.

Phil trained a retired eye surgeon beginning at age 80. He was a client for 14 years. Now he’s 95. The other day, Phil visited him in the hospital.

Current clients include 87-year-old Bernie Perry, a travel writer and photographer who 2 years ago wanted to build up his leg strength and endurance, so he could carry 15 pounds of equipment to Iran.

Bernie Perry works out at Pinnacle.

Another 87-year-old, Mel Hyman, still runs a company in Florida. He spends a week there every month, overseeing production and the warehouse.

An 83-year-old woman is an educational consultant for children’s television and movies. An 84-year-old teaches writing at a college in Manhattan.

“Everyone has such interesting stories,” Phil says. “I love listening to them talk.”

Pinnacle is different from other fitness clubs in another way: It has no member fees.

“If you come for an hour a week with a trainer, you can come in the rest of the week and work out on you’re own,” Phil says. “That’s why we’re here. We love what we do.”

His staff includes yoga and aerobics teachers, a kettlebell competitor, a Romanian national track champion and a boxing instructor, among others.

Phil’s clients inspire him. “If they can do what they’re doing, I want to help everyone I can,” Phil says.

“Hopefully I’ll be around long enough to help people who are younger now, as they age.”

Retired Staples Teachers Chart A New Course

There is life after high school.

The annual Retired Staples Golf Tournament was held recently at Newtown Country Club. For decades, they could not dream of getting on the course on a lovely September afternoon. Now it’s no problem.

This year’s champion is Gerry Kuroghlian. However, his scorecard is still being examined by the rules committee.

Can you identify all these legendary educators? Answers below.

(Left to right: Pete Van Hagen, Bill Walsh, Gerry Kuroghlian, Jim Wheeler, Ed Bludnicki, Tom Owen, Bruce McFadden, Bill Brookes)

Kathryn Cavallaro’s Marathon Year

Running a marathon is impressive.

Running a marathon in 4 hours, 15 minutes is outstanding.

Running one when you’re Kathryn Cavallaro is miraculous.

Last month, when Kathryn — the daughter of Westporter Fiona Hodgson — crossed the finish line of the New England Green River Marathon, from Vermont into Massachusetts, she was just out of treatment for breast cancer.

In fact, she’s still doing chemo.

But the 38-year-old busy professional — and mother of 3 — did not let her year of hell (including 2 very extensive surgeries) slow her down.

Literally.

Kathryn Cavallaro

For Kathryn, running is a relaxing chance to be part of the natural world. At 5 a.m., she says, she’s alone — except for other runners, and deer.

“I see the sunrise. I run with snowflakes on my eyelashes. I watch the seasons change, and I’m grateful to be part of this beautiful world.”

Kathryn trains in many places. Among her favorites: Westport, particularly Compo Beach.

When she was diagnosed with cancer, many people told Kathryn that her life would never be the same. “Get used to the ‘new normal,'” they said.

Yet despite major surgery in June, she began training for August’s marathon.

Now she wants to help others push through cancer’s “new normal” barrier. She hopes to start a blog for “runners who are cancer survivors, and cancer survivors who want to be runners.”

Also on the (26.2 mile) horizon: running the St. Jude’s Marathon in December.

It’s a fundraiser for children’s cancer research.

(Kathryn Cavallaro helps many others. But her own medical bills are steep. To help her, click here.)

Fiona Hodgson and her daughter, Kathryn Cavallaro.

Remembering Corey Hausman

Corey Hausman graduated from Staples in June. This month, he died in a tragic accident in Colorado.

Corey and his older brothers, Lucas and Casey, grew up in Westport, and were excellent athletes. Corey ran cross country and outdoor track for 4 years at Staples High School. He was a 2-year varsity skier too.

His parents, Joel and Nanette, and his brothers have written this tribute to Corey:

Corey Hausman was a 2018 graduate of Staples High School who had just started his 3rd week at University of Colorado-Boulder when suddenly he was physically taken from this Earth. A simple yet fatal accident occurred September 12 while he was riding his skateboard across campus to a friend’s house after class on a Tuesday afternoon. It is still too shocking and soon to comprehend this loss or answer the begging question: Why Corey?  Those closest to him are focusing on the spontaneous joy that he brought to the world and that, as a freshman just beginning his most exciting journey, he had hit a personal high note.

If Corey considered you a buddy, you were in for a treat. As the stories from brothers, friends, neighbors, teachers and Staples teammates bubble up, it is clear that Corey had a gift: making people laugh. His range of material was broad including hysterical impersonations, physical gyrations, facial expressions and classic sarcastic quips.

His audiences included all ages and personalities.  Whether it was a shy 3-year-old boy who struggled to make eye contact or the senior citizen having trouble opening a car door at Stop & Shop, Corey would find a way to cheer them up, and to get under people’s skin and produce a smile or laugh. Simple, yet so powerful; it was Corey’s way of giving a little joy to the world.

Corey Hausman (center) with Lucas (left) and Casey (right): “The Brothers.”

Like many Staples students, Corey had excellent grades, scores and credentials enabling him to attend several formidable colleges. But once he heard from CU, all other admission letters remained unopened. He had found his home for the next 4 years; end of conversation.

Far far away from the comforts of home, Corey was outside absorbing all that Boulder has to offer, jamming on his guitar with his roommate ‘til all hours of the morning, making new friends and impressing his professors with his proactive approach to his studies. All of this with the back drop of the Rocky Mountains still covered with snow at the tippy-tops.

Corey was overjoyed with his new day-to-day routine and the anticipation of ski season when he could freestyle with an old teammate from Mt. Snow-Vermont. Corey beamed during the Facetime calls home to just “check in.” Without a doubt, he was the happiest person in the world.

It is unbelievable to think that Corey’s story on Earth ended so abruptly. All of the lingering questions will never be answered. Especially, for his family and many close friends, when will the sadness and longing pain stop?

Experts insist that it is critical to mourn for a loved one that passes. Beyond honoring the deceased, acceptance and mourning is needed for survivors to eventually move forward with life. What would Corey want?  “Sure,” you can hear him say, “a little mourning would be OK – but, please, not too much.”

Why? Because he was able to hit the high note at 18 years old. He was the happiest person on Earth, and he was able to bring his joy to others. Corey would want us to honor him by following in his footsteps — find personal happiness every day, and bring joy to the world by simply making others smile and laugh.

(Services will be held at the Unitarian Church, 10 Lyons Plains Road, Westport, on Saturday, September 29, at 3 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the Environmental Defense Fund. For a web tribute to Corey, click here.)

Lisa Brummel Storms To WNBA Title

The Seattle Storm — one of the classiest Women’s National Basketball Association franchises, on the court and off — just won its 3rd championship in 17 years. The team topped the Washington Mystics, 4 games to 1.

Congratulations to Lisa Brummel! The Storm’s co-owner is a big name in the Pacific Northwest — and in Westport.

Lisa’s story is legendary. The daughter of former Westport superintendent of school Ken Brummel, she was the first Staples High School basketball player to score 1,000 points.

The 1977 graduate also starred in softball, track and field hockey, earning All- FCIAC or All-State in all 4 sports.

She continued her success at Yale University, starring in 4 sports (adding volleyball to the list).

Lisa Brummel

Lisa was a 4-year All-Ivy basketball playing, adding Ivy League MVP when the Elis won the title in 1979. She was an Academic All-American 1981.

In addition, she earned Yale’s George H.W. Bush Lifetime of Leadership Award.

She also played three seasons as a catcher with the Raybestos Brakettes (1976-78), winning national titles each year. Lisa was elected to the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

For 3 years — beginning in high school — she was a catcher for the Raybestos Brakettes. All they did was win ASA national and WSA world championships.

In 1989 Lisa joined Microsoft. She retired in 2014, as Chief People Officer. EWeek named her 1 of the 25 Most Influential People there.

Brummel’s team’s title is a great one. Now let’s see what Westport’s other pro basketball co-owner — Marc Lasry of the Milwaukee Bucks — can do this year.

(Hat tip: Andre Lambros)