Rest In Peace, Don

My brother Don died yesterday.

No, we didn’t share the same DNA. But we were alike in so many ways. And I hope he knows that I — and so many others — loved him dearly.

Donald W. Grier became a member of Delta Sigma Phi one year after I did. He was initiated in 1984, and he made an impact on K-State’s Alpha Upsilon Chapter almost immediately.

This Pratt Greenback was no ordinary college student. Far from it, in fact. He was a “38-year-old when he was 18.” He wore a pocket protector in his shirt and a calculator on his belt. He walked with a distinct gait that was all his own. And he had a sense of humor that could be best referred to as unique…or warped.

We were BOTH socially awkward, yet he was nearly always the life of any party he stumbled upon. I was always a bit jealous of him for that. No one ever designed a t-shirt for a party with MY likeness on it. But they did for Don. He was special.

When his fellow Delta Sig brothers elected him as our treasurer in November 1984, little did they know that they were shaping the future of our chapter of our beloved fraternity for decades to come.

Let me repeat that: Don Grier’s work as treasurer of the Alpha Upsilon Chapter in the Spring Semester of 1985 was one of the key reasons there is still an Alpha Upsilon Chapter of Delta Sigma Phi.

A little history lesson is in order here. In the early- to mid-1980s, the Alpha Upsilon Chapter was in debt to virtually everyone a fraternity could be indebted to: the National fraternity, local banks, alumni members…you name a group, we likely owed them money.

But the men in the house during that period of time were determined to change all of that — none more so than the guy with the calculator on his belt.

During that fateful Spring 1985 semester (yes, it was important enough to refer to it in that way), I got a first-hand look at Don’s “wizardry” with our chapter’s finances. I was lucky enough to be President of the house during that same semester. And the amount of time I spent with Don — figuring out ways to “make the debt vanish” dwarfed anything that either of us did that semester.

But I’ll take very little credit for what happened during that amazing five months. The men of the chapter closed off New Wing and all moved into the “old” portion of the house, attempting to save money wherever we could. We probably didn’t actually save all that much, but I’d like to think the sacrifice brought us closer in ways that you couldn’t qualify in dollars and cents.

We eliminated meal service from Friday night until Monday morning. An “open” kitchen? You’re kidding, right? The “pit” was locked up tighter than a drum! And when we did sit down for a meal, it was more than likely “stew on a plate.” That “stew” was more than likely a whole lot of vegetables and VERY little meat.

And though the house was still “wet” at that point, there was NO social budget. Brotherhood bonding? It was “on your own dime.”

When that semester was over, we were “in the black” on more than one ledger sheet. It was, simply, the work of a group of men who loved each other WAY BEFORE it was en vogue to openly say so. It was, simply, orchestrated by one remarkable man.

And when I handed the reigns of the house to the remarkable Kevin Vondra — who served honorably as President for three semesters (unheard of at that time) — the men of Alpha Upsilon had a chance to REALLY change the face of Delta Sig on the K-State campus.

There was a move into the top quartile academically, athletic success we could only dream of, and growth in membership numbers that was unprecedented for Alpha Upsilon at that time.

Yes, my friends and brothers, it’s NO EXAGGERATION to say that the man with the pocket protector, the distinctive walk, and more “theories” than you could shake a stick at IS and WAS a big part of the reason that the CURRENT Alpha Upsilon Chapter of Delta Sigma Phi even had a snowball’s chance in Hell of becoming the juggernaut it is today.

Best K-State fraternity? You can make that argument for sure.

But our world, and the beloved Pyramid of ours that’s the center of that world for so many of us, is a bit less special today.

You can be damn sure, however, that God, Cliff Veatch and Jack Taylor are laughing along with my brother tonight.

Rest In Peace, Don.




Longing for fatherhood as a 55-year-old single man…and finding it in a way that was obvious all along

“‘Father’ is the noblest title a man can be given. It is more than a biological role. It signifies a patriarch, a leader, an exemplar, a confidant, a teacher, a hero, a friend.” – Robert L. Backman

As a 55-year-old single man, I think you can safely say I’m more than a bit socially awkward.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t laugh, cry, hurt, heal, long and love just as passionately as “the next guy.”

In fact, I may do all of these things at a level that’s more than a bit uncommon.

And so, on several occasions a year — most specifically Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day — I’m left to reflect on what I’ve missed through the years…and what I’ll miss in the future…by not being a husband or father.

That reflection, lately, has led me to what I now like to think of as my “reality,” and it’s something I hope holds some degree of truth….and is not just a rationalization designed to get me through the days, weeks, months and years which lie ahead.

I think I knew, early on in my college years, that having a long-term relationship — one that ended in marriage — was going to be a chore. And by the time I was three or four years into my teaching and coaching career, I was pretty darn sure I was going to be single for life.

I just had NO IDEA as to where to start a relationship, no clue as to how to spark that “special something” in someone else…and have it last.

But I was fairly certain, however, that at least one thing I wanted — the chance to be the leader, confidant, hero and friend spoken to in the quote that opens this piece — was something I could achieve through teaching and coaching.

And for 18 years, I hope I did just that for what I’ve got to believe were hundreds of young people in a pair of special communities. It’s why I dove headlong into teaching and coaching, into establishing relationships with my students and athletes that were “beyond the norm.”

But it’s also partly the reason that I never seemed to completely “connect” with those closest to me: my blood family. Yup, when it came to truly loving and caring relationships, I seemed destined to be awkward for life.

That’s when my teaching career came to a screeching halt, and I found myself searching…searching for who I was, who I wanted to be, and how I was going to get there.

It’s taken me well into my 50s, but I think I’m finally the son, brother, nephew, uncle and cousin my family deserves. I only wish my grandparents — particularly my Grandmother and Granddad Waeckerle — could have been here to receive some of that love in the way they gave it to me.

But it was the way that Granddad Waeckerle, and my dad, “found their emotional, loving footing” later in their lives that gave me hopes of a similar turnaround.

It was a decision in mid 2014, however — just less than four years AFTER leaving teaching and coaching — that gave me the opportunity to open myself up, make myself vulnerable, and hopefully keep other men from making some of the same mistakes I made through the first 50 years of my life.

That decision, to return to involvement in my fraternity — Delta Sigma Phi — was the single most-important thing I’ve done in my adult life.

Why? Because when I “came back” to Delta Sig, I did so determined to make a REAL, palpable difference in the lives of those men who touched my heart…and allowed me close enough to touch theirs.

I can’t tell you how important it was, is, and will continue to be that three young men — in particular — have allowed me to be so involved in their lives. And though I know DJ Bartels, Hunter Post and Trayton Post have probably REALLY regretted opening their hearts to me on MORE than just a few occasions, each of them has given me the chance to be a confidant and friend.

And I can’t tell you what that means to me. Words just don’t do it justice. So I continue to pour out my heart, to those three men in particular, and hope that some of it…any of it…makes a true difference.

Their REAL dads — two remarkable men named Dan Bartels and Mark Post — have allowed a peer (me) to take a huge role in the lives of their sons, and have done so seemingly unblinkingly. I can’t tell you what that means. Again, words just don’t do it justice.

And though DJ, Hunter and Trayton hold the largest segments of my heart, they’re by no means alone. Young men named Stephen, Colby, Ryan, Mario, Neal, Chaz, Noah, Avery and others have allowed me “in,” letting me be part of their lives, letting me share in some of the emotion that keeps me sane and keeps me thriving.

Heck, even Taryn and Ashley — the Post and Bartels SISTERS — have let this old man in…if only for a few fleeting minutes at a time.

Sure, the new way I’m choosing to live my life leaves some more than a bit confused. They ONLY see the “socially awkward thing,” and don’t take the time to see the respect, caring and love that comes along with it…if time and trust are allowed to build.

But, like the best of those friendships I built in my days as a Delta Sig undergrad — with men named Randy, Brad, Rob, Dan, Jeff, Jack, Keith, Kent, Dave, Chad and Chuck — they’re relationships built to stand the test of time.

And they join those I gained through my years as a coach, with such tremendous men as Matt, Justin, Joey, Chris, John, Tito, Brandon, Ben, Michael, Tyler, Collin and Ryan.

So, really, when all is said and done, maybe I haven’t fared too badly for someone who came out of the womb with “two left feet” when it came to the social graces.

But, if those young people — who will eventually become men who will lead their communities, if they’re not already doing so — will just allow me to have just a piece of their hearts, I might just be able to craft my own definition of “father.”

And maybe, just maybe, its a definition that won’t leave my heart hurting on Father’s Day, longing for something I’ve never had.

Maybe, just maybe, my own version of being a confidant and friend CAN be good enough.

My prayers, and a significant segment of my heart, damn sure hope so.


Not in a hurry to say “goodbye” to 2017, but excited about the future because of Faith, Family, Fraternity and Friendship

There are a lot of people, all around the world, who have been ready to “say goodbye” to 2017 for quite some time.

I’m not one of them.

As excited as I am for 2018 to start – and I am VERY excited – I’m not all that enthused about ending what, in many ways, was my best year ever.

Why was 2017 so great for me?

I’m from a journalism background, so the 5 Ws and I H (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How) have been important to me for decades.

This year, however, was all about the 4 Fs: Faith, Family, Fraternity and Friendship.

It all begins, as I think it should, with Faith. Thanks to my own decision to “take a deeper dive” into my own Catholic faith over the past two years, my life has done nothing but get better as I’ve let “Jesus take the wheel.”

I’ve never really been all that comfortable talking about my faith. I believe what I believe, and I hope that others can, and will, decide to walk alongside.

But I’ve learned so much these two years by reading, listening, talking and just plain opening my heart to something – someone – far greater than myself.

As a result, the fire FOR my Faith has never been greater. And with a determination to dive in even deeper in the days, weeks and months to come, I expect that to continue.

Why do I expect that to continue? Well, Family is a big reason why.

My definition of “family” starts with the “blood” relatives we’re all blessed to have, and grows to include those we choose to share the most intimate parts of our lives with.

So, as much as there’s part of me that will always first be Svoboda, Waeckerle or Basile, there’s an equally growing part of me that is Post, Bartels and Faflick.

My parents were the first to introduce me to the idea of Faith, and they continue to be the greatest single example of what that faith can do. On January 5, they’ll celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary.

And through things both big and small – through tithing and ushering, through greeting and distributing communion – they continue to carve a path I can’t help but want to follow.

On January 11, just days after that anniversary, they’ll open a new chapter of their lives by moving into a gorgeous new apartment in Overland Park, and they’re even doing THAT with incredible love for one another and faith in their own future together.

My blood family also includes my younger siblings – Brian and Ruthie – who continue to demonstrate faith and love in more ways than I can count. Their loving families are something I envy, and their belief in their spouses and siblings is second to none.

I miss having Brian, Jill and Cori in the Midwest. That’s for sure. But knowing that the person who has been my best friend since his birth in October 1966 is just a phone call away is VERY comforting. And having the owner of the world’s best laugh just across town in Olathe is a blessing.

Brian and Jill have done a tremendous job with Cori, who is graduating from college in May. Damn, how did that happen? I was just rocking her in my favorite glider rocker days ago…or was that over 20 years ago?

And with Steve alongside, Ruthie has done a fabulous job of raising two kids in Henry and Abby that are smarter than this Uncle David (they have two Uncle Dave’s…ain’t they lucky??) ever could have hoped to be.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t include my Aunt Roberta and her family, and my Uncle Cy and his, as part of the group that makes me whole. It’s blood, but it’s way more than that.

There’s no common blood shared by me and those five incredible members of my “adopted” family, the Posts, but there’s a love there that is so deep it’s hard to adequately put into words.

In March 2015, Hunter came into my life through Delta Sig. In the weeks, months and years since then, Natalie, Mark, Trayton and Taryn (and Hunter’s girlfriend Carrie) have each carved out a place in my heart that will be theirs forever.

Hunter, Trayton and I now share a brotherhood – through Delta Sig – that’s to be shared for a lifetime. That bond is tremendous, but the love I have for each of them goes beyond fraternity. If I was to have sons of my own, I couldn’t possibly have created two young people this “perfect” in their own ways.

And in Natalie and Mark, I have a “second” brother and “second” sister that I’ve enjoyed the heck out of sharing time, laughter, tears and a heck of a lot of food and drink with over the past 15 months.

And then there’s Taryn, who would be just the kind of daughter I would have dreamed of having…just like her brothers would have been my dream sons. And Carrie fits that description, too!

Yes, I love me some Posts (and a Mulder).

And I love me some Bartels’, too.

Way back in what seems like eons ago, I was a groomsman in Dan and Rachel’s wedding. And then, like friends sometimes do, we fell out of touch.

But family has a way of finding its way back together, and I eventually found my way – first through DJ – back to Dan, Rachel, DJ, Stephen and Ashley.

There was a reason Dan and I first became friends in the late 1980s. He’s loyal and level headed, loving and prideful.

And he hasn’t changed. He’ll be the first to tell you, however, that Rachel is the glue that holds him, and his family, together. She’s great.

And DJ and Stephen join their dad, my brother Brian, Hunter and Trayton as my Delta Sig brothers. We’re one big, happy, Pyramid-loving group of YITBOSses.

Again, there’s a love from me toward DJ and Stephen that goes beyond fraternity.

And Ashley joins Taryn as someone who will always be someone I look out for as I would a daughter of my own.

Then there’s that Faflick guy. Nate isn’t attached to a family I’ve “thrust myself into”…at least not yet.

But there are very few people on planet Earth who will hug you like that guy will. You won’t find a more genuine, loving person than Nate. And again, though there are decades between us in age, I think of him as a brother, a son…as family.

And the third “F” – Fraternity – does not end with my blood brother Brian, the Post boys, the Bartels boys, or my buddy Nate. No, it just grows stronger and stronger by the day.

Men like Randy Withrow, Keith Ely, Kent Ely, Dave Ott, Brad Bodine, Rob Brune and countless others will ALWAYS be the backbone of my Delta Sig existence. But newer brothers like Pierce Stephens, Joey Wenberg, Mario Garcia, Matt Mindrup, Colby Works, Avery Bolar, and a group of “Rho Bros” will also be forever part of who I am.

Yeah, A LOT of these relationships – with family, and in the fraternity – did nothing but grow and get stronger in 2017.

And the friendships I have beyond fraternity – with those current and past work colleagues, with my former students and student-athletes, and with countless others – are all things that sustained me and helped me grow in the year gone by.

So, yes, there are LOTS of reasons I’m sad to see 2017 in the rearview mirror.

But each of the 4 Fs aren’t going anywhere, and as long as I have Faith, Family, Fraternity and Friendships, the date on the calendar won’t matter.

It’s the love that sustains me.

To each of you, thanks. And Happy New Year.



My voice will be heard for my brothers in Delta Sigma Phi…and brothers to be

In June 1982, my life changed forever.

It was then that my dream of attending the University of Kansas – of becoming a Jayhawk – was snuffed out faster than you can say “Rock Chalk.”

I was a co-valedictorian at a medium-sized Kansas Class 5A high school. Not a big deal, but a 4.0 GPA for four years HAD to mean something, right?

Well, in the eyes of those at KU, evidently not. My ACT composite score, a 28, wasn’t going to turn any heads, but I thought the 4.0 was proof positive that I worked my ass off – despite being somewhat limited in certain areas academically.

I succeeded where others may not have.

Thank the Lord for Kansas State University.

K-State, it seemed, liked the idea of a young person overcoming deficiencies and succeeding at the highest level.

K-State, it seemed, rewarded young people who fit this description.

K-State, it seemed, was going to become my new home. All that crimson and blue was going to end up at Goodwill. I was trading it in for royal purple and white.

If I could find a place to live.

And it couldn’t be a dorm. I was lost enough socially as it is. I’d have drowned in a dorm.

Thank the Lord, again, for the miracle that was and is Delta Sigma Phi.

By the end of July 1982, I was a Delta Sig pledge. Yes, they called us “pledges” back then. We weren’t “new member candidates” or “new members.”  We were pledges, plebes…or worse. And it was the most awesome thing on Earth.

Delta Sig gave this self-confessed social outcast (some things haven’t changed much in the 35 years since, come to think of it) a place I could call home. Delta Sig gave me an instant set of brothers – black, white, gay, straight, drunk, sober, intelligent, less so….

You get the picture.

And 35 years later, Delta Sig is still giving me gifts I can never hope to repay – though I’ll keep chasing that elusive ideal of paying back all that Delta Sig has given me until the day I die.

Early next month, I’ll attend my FIRST Delta Sigma Phi National Convention.

Those of you who are Delta Sigs are probably awfully confused right about now. Yes, it’s true: someone who LOVES his fraternity with all of his heart, all of his soul, and would do just about anything for a handful of men who have become MORE than brothers to me HAS NEVER attended the largest celebration his fraternity throws for itself.

And that’s another reason I love Delta Sig: the idea that I can simply “be me” without having to answer a ton of questions.

The first few conventions I missed (as I remember it, anyway) were because I simply had given too much of my life to coaching baseball. National conventions were during the summer months, and I was not doing ANYTHING that took me off of a baseball diamond.

Missing those conventions probably also had a little to do with being so socially awkward (or maybe A LOT to do with it), but it was a matter of priorities. My fraternity was always going to be there. It was a rock. It was a constant.

But now, that constancy is being threatened on campuses across the nation.

The very idea of fraternity is at risk, and in many places, fraternity men have no one but themselves to blame.

That’s why the drought is about to end for me.

No, I haven’t quit coaching baseball – I’ve been doing that for 36 straight years! But I have abandoned the idea that my fraternity will always be there, that it will always be my rock, my constant.

I’ve simply decided that Delta Sig means too much to me to remain on the sidelines while fraternity and sorority life is in peril on campuses across this great nation.

I can’t affect sweeping change. I’m not that powerful. I don’t give enough money to Delta Sig, Kansas State or any organization to swing a big stick.

But my voice can, and will, be heard.

There’s too much at stake for it not to be heard, too many men who have become too important to me to see those relationships forever altered – or snuffed out before they even get started.

I want to have the chance to be WHEELED into an Alpha Upsilon Alumni Reunion in the year 2052 at age 88 and share stories of a life that was made all the more remarkable by the concept of brotherhood.

Yes, my voice can, and will, be heard.

It will be heard for Dr. Pat Bosco, my first Delta Sig mentor. Dr. Bosco spent so much time with a homesick kid whose parents were just 60 miles away that he should have received a Congressional medal of honor 10 times over….and that was in just my first semester at K-State!

It will be heard for Randy Withrow, my long-time Delta Sig roommate, best friend, and the one person in my life who can complete my sentences for me…even if we’re apart for weeks, months or years at a time.

It will be heard for my biological brother, Brian, who I became closer to during my days at Delta Sig than I ever had been during nearly 16 years of sharing the same bedroom growing up. There’s something about our Delta Sig brotherhood that drew us together in ways that blood never could.

It will be heard for Cliff Veatch, whose life was taken far too soon by cancer. Cliff was by far the most-talented Delta Sig undergrad I was fortunate enough to share 1100 Fremont with – no offense to any of the other great men there with us. If Cliff were alive today, he’d have a prominent role in the National fraternity and a starring role in everything he was involved with.

It will be heard for Jack Taylor, the man with a laugh that could fill the halls of The Pyramid like no one before or since. Jack, too, was gone way too soon. But not before his love was shared with countless K-Staters and Delta Sigs. Besides Pat Bosco, Jack probably touched more lives on the K-State campus than anyone I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

It will be heard for Hunter Post, a young man who I’ve known for just 26 months, but someone who I can say without hesitation was the one who grabbed the match and tossed it on my simmering Delta Sig flame. That fire, it can be said, has now fully engulfed this 53-year-old.

It will be heard for Trayton Post, Hunter’s brother and a kid who hasn’t yet started his college career. I love Trayton, just like I do Hunter, like I would a son. And I want Trayton to experience all the wonder that Delta Sig has to offer. I want for him what I found in 1982 and found again in 2015.

And it will be heard for Dan Bartels, Brad Schultz, Dan Prohaska and hopefully others just like them – all men I spent time with at Delta Sig as an undergrad who now either have sons who are brothers (kinda neat how that happens) or sons who soon will be. DJ, Stephen, Braden and Luke should be allowed to experience the joy their fathers did – or will – when THEIR sons become their brothers.

Yes, my voice can, and will, be heard.

Delta Sigma Phi isn’t simply a social organization. Delta Sigma Phi isn’t just a beat up old hospital building across from City Park. Delta Sigma Phi isn’t only a place to hang out for a few years and leave in the rear view mirror.

No, my friends – no, my brothers – Delta Sigma Phi is a transformative organization like no other anywhere on this planet. Delta Sigma Phi is brotherhood defined. Delta Sigma Phi is, to paraphrase a line from Field of Dreams, “everything that is good about fraternity, and could be again.”

The Delta Sigma Phi whose convention I will attend in a little less than a month is far from perfect. And heck, I’ve got myself at least partially to blame for that. I’m the one who was “gone” for a period of years before returning those aforementioned 26 months ago.

But the Delta Sigma Phi whose convention I will attend in a little less than a month is loyalty, honor, respect, friendship and love in one great big gift that just keeps on giving.

Yes, my voice can, and will be heard. And it will be heard for men named Pat, Randy, Brian, Cliff, Jack, Hunter, Trayton, Dan, Brad, Dan, DJ, Stephen, Braden, Luke…and thousands of others whose lives have yet to connect with mine.

Thanks to the fine folks at the University of Kansas – and their snub of 35 summers ago – I received the gift of a lifetime.

I received the gift of Delta Sigma Phi. And it’s a gift I intend to fight to keep.

YITBOS, to those who know.

“Resist” no more: Work at making our Catholic faith your own in today’s world

A few of my Catholic friends and I are reading Matthew Kelly’s Resisting Happiness this Lent as a way of sharing our faith.

Today, as we got underway on Ash Wednesday, we encountered what Kelly calls “resistance.” The concept is at the center of the book, and in many forms, it is what ails the Catholic church itself right now.

How does resistance impact the Catholic faith? The answer, I believe, lies in the idea that many of us fail — on a daily basis — to truly make the faith our own.

Through the years, I’ve seen several people I’m close to — inside my own family and out — leave the Catholic faith “in search of” what they term “a better fit” for their spiritual needs.

As Catholics, they met resistance in its many forms and chose to deal with it by seeking out something different — instead of using that resistance as a call to change themselves, or how they experience the faith, in a way that would allow them to remain part of the church in which they were raised.

Through my recent dealings with some extremely talented young people at K-State, I’ve heard a common refrain: the Catholic church doesn’t meet all of my needs.

Here’s where I’d love to see them — and the older Catholics who may have “faith shopped” and left the church — undertake a process in which they overcome that resistance and make the Catholic faith truly their own.

Here are a few examples of how they might do that:

  1. Volunteer to be part of the Mass. Usher. Be a lector. Sing in the choir. Distribute communion. During my days at St. Isidore’s in Manhattan, I was as close to God in every facet of my life as I’ve ever been. And I think that was, in large part, because I was completely immersed in the “process.” I absolutely loved lectoring, and need to get back to doing it again!
  2. Get “into” the weekly readings…and maybe into the Bible for the first time. One of the things I’ve attempted to do with some of my K-State friends is to provide them a Missal so that they might have the weekly readings at hand prior to…and during…the Mass. In too many Catholic churches, attendees sit idly by during the First and Second Readings — and the Gospel reading, for that matter — rather than fully engaging in what is being shared. And for years, those of us who grew up as “old school” Catholics resisted reading the Bible. It was “something those of other faiths” did on a regular basis. I really spent little or no time in reading the Bible myself until my participation in Christ Renews His Parish while living in Lenexa. It was then, in 2012, that I “gave myself permission” to do something that I had heretofore considered to be “un-Catholic.”
  3. Seek out Homilies worth listening to. If you’re not hearing a Homily each week that moves you, get online and find one! Several of the best Catholic priests in the country post their Homilies, and time spent listening to those podcasts or watching those YouTube videos is time well-spent!
  4. Put together a small group of Catholic friends…and grow the group naturally. It doesn’t matter what brings you together. It could be the desire to really break down the four Gospels. It might be the need to find someone to work with on a philanthropic endeavor. Or it simply might be a need to remind yourself of how beautiful the Catholic faith was when you first learned of its rich history and traditions.

What “overcoming resistance” comes down to, in regard to how we grow our Catholic faith, is really fairly simple.

We each need to remember what drew us to our faith in the first place. We need to take a trip back in time to when that faith was fresh, when it was exciting, when it was filled with wonder. We need to celebrate the traditions that make our shared Catholic faith unlike any other, anywhere.

In short, we need to resist the notion that it’s better to leave our Catholic faith than to work at making it our own, where we’re at TODAY.

Resist no more, my Catholic friends. Our faith is there in all of its beauty, to be rediscovered and redefined — for you, and by you.


Remembering a friend gone far too soon

In November 2011, just over a year removed from coaching in my last high school football game as an assistant at Basehor-Linwood, I wrote the following words for a column that appeared in PrepsKC about what I missed most about coaching.

They were about a man who I hardly knew, yet greatly admired – Blue Valley Coach Eric Driskell.

Here’s a guy (Driskell) I knew only from a chance meeting at a coaching clinic shortly after he had taken over the job from Steve Rampy. He was the guy who had edged out Paul Brown, my friend, for that job.

I can now see why the Blue Valley brass was so enamored with him. Driskell is integrity, aggressiveness, character, toughness and heart all rolled into one very impressive coach…and man.

My postgame interviews with him were like talks with a long-lost friend. He was quiet, yet always brutally honest. And he wears his emotions on his sleeve – and his love for his players and fellow coaches is always out front.

Over the three years I worked regularly for PrepsKC, I was privileged to cover Driskell’s Blue Valley teams on multiple occasions. In fact, I covered his second State title win as a head coach in 2013 in Emporia.

On the field after that heart-stopping win over Salina South, I watched Driskell watch everyone else associated with the Blue Valley program soak in the moment. Instead of being smack dab in the middle of that moment, he worked the outside of the mass of humanity at midfield, beaming as he saw the joy the triumph had given others.

It was moments like those that really defined Eric Driskell.

Though I did not get to know him as closely as have many others, I was proud to consider him a friend, and honored that he thought of me as one as well.

Thus, when I heard he had fallen victim to a brain aneurysm just days ago, eventually passing away late this afternoon, my heart sunk.

As was Eric, I’m a firm believer in God. As did Eric, I know that God has a plan for all of our lives.

We may scratch our heads at moments like this, struggling to find sense in them.

But it’s easy to make sense of one, unavoidable fact: Our world was blessed to have Eric Driskell as a part of it.

Make no mistake about it: His loss will resonate for days into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years.

But also make no mistake about this: Eric Driskell’s impact on all who he touched will resonate for those same weeks, months and years.

He had so, so many gifts. And he was always giving of those gifts to others he came into contact with – even to those he contacted infrequently, like me.

Rest in peace, my friend. And Lord, please allow those who remain here on Earth to honor Eric by living life as he lived it.

Thank you, Del Miller

If the rumors are true, Del Miller is on the verge of retirement.

Del is currently the co-offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at K-State. He’s tutored several amazing QBs at K-State through the years, including the one who now appears poised to replace him as the position coach – Collin Klein.

I’ve been honored to work with Del in a variety of different ways through the years since his arrival in Manhattan in the late 1980s.

First, I was fortunate to cover Coach Bill Snyder, Del, and the rest of the talented K-State coaching staff as a graduate student and reporter for a variety of different print publications at the start of Snyder’s days in Manhattan.

Second, beginning in 1990, my relationship with Del and his wife Jan took a different turn – I was blessed to coach two of his three sons: Todd and Tad. I was an assistant JV coach at Manhattan High when I worked with Todd, and worked with Tad during a pair of awesome summers as the head coach of a Manhattan area traveling team.

On a few of those traveling team road trips, I got to see Del as a husband and father FIRST, and as a football coach second. It was awesome. He was, and is, great at both jobs.

And his skills in both roles would come to the ultimate test when the family lost Troy to a prolonged illness in 2004.

During the years between Troy’s death and Coach Snyder’s initial retirement, I worked with Del in a different role. By this time, I had become a high school football coach, working with quarterbacks and receivers. Thus, I got to spend some quality time with Del at several of K-State’s awesome coaching clinics – sitting in front of a chalkboard or dry erase board, talking ball while eating pizza and drinking beer.

Del left K-State for San Diego State for a period while Coach Snyder was retired, but returned in 2009 and we got to rekindle the relationship prior to the 2009 and 2010 seasons. I then left high school teaching and coaching, and unfortunately fell out of touch with Del.

So why the history lesson?

Mostly, to let you know how much respect I have for Coach Miller as a man. He’s extremely loyal, compassionate, hard-working, and just the kind of role model that made everyone in locker rooms in Iowa City, Manhattan, Springfield and San Diego better for having known and worked with him.

So, if Del is on his way out, here’s hoping he gets the respect he deserves. Coach Bill Snyder will be remembered forever at K-State. For 20 years, Coach Del Miller has been at Coach Snyder’s side. For 20 years, Coach Miller has been trusted by Coach Snyder as few men have ever been. That, in and of itself, says one hell of a lot.

Thanks, Del Miller, for impacting all of us in ways you may not have even recognized. And enjoy your retirement – you and Jan deserve nothing but the best!

There’s a lot to admire about today’s K-State Delta Sigs

If you’ve known me for any period of time, you’re no doubt aware of my membership in — and love for — the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity.

I pledged in 1982, became a brother in January 1983, and have enjoyed every day I’ve spent as a member of the Alpha Upsilon Chapter.


But it was only recently that my passion for my fraternity and chapter were strongly rekindled. I’ve spoken to that in other posts, and in other forums, so I won’t bore you with a re-hash of those things here.

What I thought I’d do this morning — and I’m writing this as I sit in New Lounge at the house — is rattle off a few of the things I admire about those Delta Sigs (current members and young alumni) I’ve met in the last 20 months or so.

I admire…

  • The obvious affection and love these men have for one another. Keeping with the University-wide theme of FAMILY, these guys very obviously share something together that is special. And it goes beyond mere friendship.
  • The incredible desire these men have to give back to their communities and the world at large. I know we have had several Alpha Upsilon Delta Sigs involved on a national and international basis in a variety of activities through the years, but this “current crop” is exceptional. There simply is no limit to what each can achieve.
  • The ability of these men to dream…and do. I have to admit, when I was at K-State, I was concerned with getting a degree and then finding a good job. And that was my fairly narrow focus. These guys are planning ways to make an impact on world hunger, discovering new methods for treating — and curing — disease, and dreaming of the day they can make an impact on fraternity and sorority life around the country that will be lasting and real.
  • The way each of these men seemingly immerses himself in the situation and community he is in. I’ve lived in metro Kansas City for 14 years, and yet I’ve done more “in and around my city” in the past 12 months than I did for the previous 156. The reason for that? Some of these guys. The things they do in KC, the places they visit, the fun they have…it’s all worth emulating.
  • The willingness of some of these men to let a guy who is 30+ years older than most of them into their lives in meaningful ways. When I was in school, I was no doubt impacted by those older than me. Heck, another Delta Sig — Dr. Pat Bosco — was one of my two biggest influences at K-State. And, yes, I’ve met them more than halfway in my desire to build meaningful relationships, but there has to be some reciprocation…and there has been.
  • The fact a great majority of these men see membership in Delta Sigma Phi as a launching point to becoming better men leading better lives. Sure, you never really know what the future holds, but if current involvement is any indicator, these men will be the doctors, lawyers, politicians, architects, engineers, teachers and first responders that make the remaining decades of my life fuller and more meaningful.

I hope that in the coming days and weeks, more of my alumni brothers will join me in “coming home” to the Alpha Upsilon Chapter of Delta Sigma Phi. As they do, they’ll find a group of men worthy of building relationships with — for now and in the long term.

They’ll find a group of men that’s easy to admire.

Left? Right? Why not meet in the middle of a new “shining city on a hill?”

The death of John F. Kennedy came three months and nine days before my own birth. And yet I’ve always felt an odd kinship with a man who I never shared the planet with, never shared a political party with.

Ronald Reagan was elected President during my junior year in high school. Like many young people of today — including those who felt “the Bern” or those who are now “with her” — I was swept away by Reagan’s vision of an America that was truly a shining “city on a hill.”

Except that it wasn’t Reagan’s vision.

Kennedy and Reagan both used the image in speeches before, during and after (in the case of Reagan) their Presidencies. It was unique to neither man.

No, this phrase entered the American sphere as early as 1630 — a full 146 years before our nation was founded. And it was uttered by Puritan John Winthrop, who likely was borrowing it from the parable of Salt and Light from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Winthrop wasn’t Republican or Democrat. Reagan, at one time or another in his political life, was both. And Jesus? Well, I think you could safely posit that Jesus would not have been comfortable aligning himself to the far left or to the extreme right — more likely instead choosing to implore us all to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works.” (Matthew 5:16)

So where are we today as a nation? And where are we headed?

After the party conventions of the past two weeks, it might appear as if we’re headed toward one of the most divided periods in our land since the days of the Civil War. At the very least — one might be led to believe — America is in the midst of a period of unrest unrivaled since the turbulence of the late 1960s.

The truth?

America CAN once again be that shining city on a hill, but only once those elected to political office step away from opposite sides of that hill and meet somewhere in the middle. Like maybe at the top?

I’ll use myself — warts and all, seemingly contradictory beliefs defining who I am and who I’m becoming — as an illustration of where we might go as a nation if we only give ourselves the chance to get there…of how we might make that hill a beacon of light once more.

I was born into a a core family unit of fiscally conservative Republicans. My dad worked extremely hard through the years to provide for our family, and my mom eventually left the home and worked as well — providing wonderful examples of getting “ahead” through one’s own initiative.

We were — and four of the “core” five family members remain — Catholics, believing in the dignity of the human person, protection of human rights, and heeding the call for an active participation in our society.

But it was all with a degree of nuance that is too often absent in today’s “hyper left” or “crazy right” American political landscape.

My mom and I, for example, differed from my dad in our belief in the right of a woman to choose to have an abortion in the case of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mother. Dad chose to take the more hard-line, traditional Catholic stance of abortion as being unacceptable in all circumstances.

Yet we were — and are — able to live together as a family unit, marked by love and respect for one another. And the Catholic church hasn’t tracked down mom and I, ready to “mark” us for removal from the church family.

We’ve also been joined in loving relationships from outside of our core group of five — but very much upon the strongest branches of our family tree — by those both gay and straight, welfare recipients and those who would consider welfare to be an abhorrent idea, and more died-in-the-wool, card-carrying liberal Democrats than I could ever hope to fit under one roof.

And, shockingly, we’ve SURVIVED! No, we’ve THRIVED.

How have we done it? How have we continued to stand by our beliefs, yet love and respect others for — not despite — theirs?

We’ve listened. We’ve learned. We’ve worked together. We’ve grown.

We’ve chosen, simply, to not allow ourselves to be defined by labels — other than those that mean the most: Mother. Father. Sister. Brother. Friend. American.

Heck, I even heard my dad say the other day that he’d consider voting for the Democratic nominee for President, Hillary Clinton, if he thought it was the right thing to do for our country.

That’s where I am right now as well.

I’m a fiscal conservative at my core. The brief period of my life where I drew unemployment checks on two separate occasions after job separation was one that I fought like hell to end as quickly as possible. I believe much more strongly in the idea of working for everything and being given nothing that you haven’t earned.

Heck, even former President Bill Clinton himself — a strong Democrat if there ever was one — worked to reform welfare in his administration, urging those who were in tough spots to think of such assistance as a “hand up” rather than a “hand out.”

I’m all for the idea of giving someone a helping hand when he/she needs it. But I also think that the person getting that helping hand needs to take that assistance and eventually run with it on his/her own.

My hard work — in the high school and college classrooms and outside of them — paid for my college education, with the help of the hard work of my parents. Thus, I think I appreciate it even more than I might have otherwise.

Thus, the idea of a totally “free” college education is one that’s foreign to me.

But it’s not an idea that I’m adverse to at least exploring.

Unfortunately, there’s so little desire on the part of those in control of both parties to “meet in the middle” that it’s going to be hard to come to an agreement as to how we might assist those who really want a college education in achieving that education in a way that is fiscally responsible, affordable, and that means something in the end to the person achieving the degree.

And that’s just one issue!

I’m unlike a lot of my “red state,” Republican-to-the-bone-marrow friends in that I’m a proponent of sitting down and having intelligent dialogue on guns and gun legislation. And with a seemingly growing number of family members and friends who are members of the LGBT community, I’m also a firm proponent of the idea that love is love.

I told you I was full of seemingly-contradictory beliefs.

And yet I’d like to believe that I’m a lot more like a majority of Americans than a minority. And I’d like to believe that those of us here, in the middle, minus a label (Republican or Democrat) can roll up our sleeves and begin the important work of healing the divides and once again making our nation that shining city on the hill.

How do we do it?

First of all, we take the time to do the things we should have been doing all along: thinking, listening, discussing, compromising…leading.

We also work at restoring the family unit — however you want to define family — as the core of our American society. That’s not a Democratic or a Republican stance. It’s an American ideal.

And we quit, once and for all, the political posturing and injurious name-calling that has become increasingly poisonous with the advent of social media and a 24-hour “news” cycle.

Yes, my friends, we have our work cut out for us.

But like I’ve told anyone who would listen as of late, it’s never to late to do good work. It’s never to late to work on “something small” that could in turn spark meaningful change — not just in the immediate future, but in the future we leave for the children of our children.

That, my friends, is the real American ideal. And it’s not one that comes with the label of “Democrat” or “Republican.”

It comes with only one idea, one goal in mind. And it was a goal shared by Kennedy and Reagan, but first articulated by Jesus himself.

Shining city on a hill?

It’s out there, ready to be our “middle ground” once more.

‘Dismember?’ No. But time to look to 2017 for Moore, Royals

Dayton Moore is conflicted…and so am I.

Early Monday afternoon, the General Manager of the World Champion Kansas City Royals sat in the home dugout in Kauffman Stadium and told the gathered members of the media that he wasn’t about to “dismember” his team by trading off pending free agents.

In that same session, however, Moore declared that no one on the roster was untouchable.

So, Dayton, which one is it?

Well, if Moore’s at all like I am, it’s a bit of both.

To fans like me who have seen this team throughout the entirety of its 47-year existence, it’s been one helluva ride.

Just seven years after the franchise came into being, it was in the playoffs. Just 16 years into its life, it was a World Champion.

Then came a 29-year drought.

No one ever said that “helluva” ride was without its brutal bumps in the road. Heck, if you’re one disposed to the idea that Kansas City is the “land of the orange barrel,” it seemed as if the road to Kauffman Stadium was littered with those pesky suckers from 1986 through 2013.

Then came the miracles of 2014 and 2015, and the old two-lane gravel road seemingly became a four-lane interstate in the blink of an eye.

But now, with his team under .500 and a trade deadline rapidly approaching, Moore finds himself trying to decide whether he’d rather continue to travel down the road he’s spent 10 years in building — or to take a moment to do some quick maintenance on Royal Way.

As I mentioned, it’s a tough choice. Heck, a few short hours ago — when my heart was winning its perennial battle with my head — I was ready to “ride it out” with this crew, hoping to see an August and September run to a wildcard spot.

Then came a four-run uprising by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the first inning of Monday’s series-opener at The K…and my head took over.

Yes, Dayton, it’s easy to be conflicted. Yes, Dayton, it’s easy to talk of not dismembering anything at one moment, only to say no one is untouchable the next.

But for the sake of Royals fans everywhere, the latter approach — listening to any and all offers for any and all of your players — is what Moore needs to follow over the remainder of this week.

Unlike one year ago, where Moore was able to bring Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist to Kansas City via high-profile trades, it’s a seller’s market in 2016. There aren’t nearly as many attractive prospects for Moore to pursue this time around — and his roster has as many as five players on it that would command differing levels of “return value.”

Heck, with the haul Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees got from the Chicago Cubs today in return for Aroldis Chapman, just think for a moment what all-world closer Wade Davis might bring the Royals.

And no, I’m not suggesting that the Royals deal Davis. But I am saying that you have to listen. A year ago, the Royals unloaded five pitchers — Aaron Brooks, Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, Sean Manaea and Cody Reed — who have started games in the big leagues since being shipped out of the Royals organization.

Read that again really slowly. Five pitchers. All have been starters for their new teams in the last calendar year.

Now think of how you’ve felt as the Royals have paraded Chris Young, Dillon Gee and seemingly a cast of a thousand others to the mound this season in the fifth-starter slot.

Yeah, you have to at least listen for offers for Davis — who some baseball experts say could draw as many as four top prospects in return.

The chance to restock the farm system with a pitcher or two — particularly with the big club and minor league affiliates not exactly teeming with decent starting pitchers — makes a lot of sense. Re-pave a section of that road that was once fancy and new, and you’ve got a chance to make history again — or so the theory goes.

And Davis isn’t the only Royal who could draw interest.

Designated hitter Kendrys Morales. Starting pitcher Edinson Volquez. Reliever Luke Hochevar. All are pending free agents — the guys Moore insisted he wouldn’t dismember his club through trading en masse. Each, however, would bring a nice return.

The heart says “you can’t trade Davis, Hoch, KMo and Volquez! They were all part of our championship!”

The head, however, needs to be concerned with making sure it’s not another 29 years before the Royals sniff another title run.

Cueto and Zobrist aren’t here anymore. Neither are Johnny Gomes, Jeremy Guthrie, Omar Infante, Ryan Madson, Franklin Morales or Alex Rios. Nori Aoki, Billy Butler, Erik Kratz and James Shields were jettisoned after the 2014 World Series run.

Time moves on. Teams change. And you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse.

It’s hard to argue that the 2016 Royals are going to be much better.

Mike Moustakas is gone for the year. Lorenzo Cain will return, but the slightest tweak of the hamstring will end his year. There’s no decent fifth starter in sight. Alex Gordon looks more lost than he has since his days as a third baseman.

Those are facts. They’re things you can see, things your head is trying to relay to your heart.

But your heart, probably just like Moore’s, isn’t quite ready to dismember a champion quite so soon after an 800,000-person party on a wonderful Kansas City November day.

If, however, you don’t want that stretch of road leading to Kauffman Stadium — that Royal Way — to end up like the awful section of I-70 just outside of Columbia, Mo., it’s time to start thinking about 2017.

Dismember? No.

Return to glory? That’s the goal.

And it’s Moore’s job to get us all there.