chris singleton

Inspiration from Charleston

One of my good friends from the world of broadcasting is Scott Eisberg, the sports director at WCIV-TV in Charleston. When the news broke of the 9 people killed in a church in South Carolina, I went to the live stream of his station and saw him in the middle of downtown reporting on what was happening.  Any time a sportscaster is on the news beat, you know that the story is a major story (I had to do it a few times when Tropical Storms and Hurricanes threatened Myrtle Beach).

When you see the images of the killer and the story of how this despicable act went down, it is so easy to spiral into despair.  In the darkness, a beam of light shined when I saw my friend Scott’s Twitter feed.

Chris Singleton is a baseball player at Charleston Southern, a Division I school in the north part of town.  He played his high school baseball at Goose Creek High, where his Mom, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton was a track coach.  Sharonda was one of the nine victims who was murdered during a Wednesday night Bible Study at the Emmanuel AME Church.

This tragedy has brought about so much anger and rightfully so.  If anyone has a right to be mad at the world and mad at society, Chris Singleton would be at the very top of the list.  Yet when he faced a press conference just 24 hours after his Mom’s death, he delivered profound words during a tragedy where many are struggling to find the words.

“Love is stronger than hate. So if we just love the way my mom would, then the hate won’t be anywhere close to where the love is.” – Chris Singleton

Click here to watch video of Chris Singleton talking 24 hours after his mother’s murder

Will this powerful and inspirational message be on a constant loop on the 24 hour news channels and lead the network news?  Sadly, I think we all know the answer.  But thanks to the power of the internet and social media, the word is spreading about this story and I hope it is heard by as many people as possible.

Chris Singleton’s biggest claim to fame was delivering the game winning hit at Doug Kingsmore Stadium to give Charleston Southern an upset win over ACC power Clemson.  Now, his words, strength and courage should be played for generations to come.

I was in South Carolina when Hurricane Sandy devastated the Shore, but I have no doubt that the high school athletes in this area stepped up to the plate and showed their leadership and courage during a time of tragedy.  It is my hope that I will never have to see that side of character and that Shore Sports Zone can be all about highlights and great student sections and fun features.

I’ve had the great pleasure of getting to know the top athletes in this area in the past year.  I moved back to New Jersey to shine a positive light on what athletes are doing in the area that I grew up.  I hope those athletes click on the link above and see how Chris Singleton is surrounded by teammates and how he can use sports to help heal not only himself, but an entire community.

681G6501_01.MOV.Still001

Rich’s Blog – What Signing Day should mean

Rich Chrampanis has covered National Signing Day for over 20 years.  What he witnessed in Lakewood was much more than two athletes putting pen to paper

681G6513_01.MOV.Still001

From a media perspective, Signing Day can be monotonous.  It’s the same routine every year. Sit on the desk, sign the papers, take pictures with your coach and family and then say how you fell in love with the campus and you can’t wait to get there.  But from my days in television, I made it a point to make a big deal about Signing Day – not just football.  Any athlete who puts in the hard work both athletically and academically deserve to be praised and fussed over.  It’s not just a great moment for the athlete, but their entire family and the school administration who helped make it happen.  Before ESPN made it a spectacle and the internet is flooded with commits and analysis, I used my platform on television to elevate the celebration of choosing a school.

In 2003, I invited one of the biggest prospects in the country to announce his decision live in our studio.  This was in the early days of internet video and when Syvelle Newton put on a Clemson hat only to take it off his head and fling it on the table for archrival South Carolina’s lid,  the entire state was thrown into a frenzy.  With all due respect to Kim Kardashian, I’ll never forget when our boss came to me the next day and told me that we broke the station’s internet site.

One year later, I had another elite prospect join me for his announcement.  Lawrence Timmons was spurned by in-state schools and chose the Florida State Seminoles.   He just made his first Pro Bowl and has an amazing NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I’ve always said the best part of my job is seeing young men before they achieved greatness and seeing that spark before anyone else.

I never thought that I would have another Signing Day moment like the two above.  But then I walked into Lakewood High on Wednesday morning.  It was supposed to be just like all the other ceremonies – Chapelle Cook was a lock for Temple since last summer and Datrell Reed was choosing between Villanova and William&Mary.  I walked in to see Reed wearing a blue “V” cap and thought I had missed the moment.

But I didn’t.  LJ Clark, the Piners football coach, had nearly many in the room say a few words to the honorees.  The tears flowed everywhere.  From parents, assistant coaches, assistant principals and the athletes themselves.  Signing Day at Lakewood isn’t some dog and pony show.  It’s a genuine and true celebration of two young men who had hundreds of reasons to be on the wrong path, but instead overcame it all to earn full scholarships.  You may think Lakewood is a tough place, and there’s certainly some truth to that, but there’s an awful lot of love.  The students at this high school have a staff of people who are giving their hearts and souls to making a better life for their students.

Cook and Reed both have over 3.0 GPA’s and were first time qualifiers on the SAT’s.  For Datrell, the turnaround is remarkable after failing through elementary school and middle school.  It was a substitute teacher, Ricky Maldonado and Clark, who helped get him on the right path.

The hardships that both of these athletes have had to endure aren’t talked about very often, but rest assured they are there.  Clark painted the picture with just one story.   Datrell Reed came off the practice field in the summer to find his sneakers stolen out of his locker room.  They were his only pair.  Ricky Maldonado was there to help him out.  Do you think Datrell Reed is going to appreciate the countless amount of gear he’ll get when he checks into Villanova’s equipment room this summer?

Chapelle Cook and Datrell Reed are doing it right.  They dream of the NFL and are doing everything they can to make it happen.   But they have the fallback of a stellar education.  And in this day of student loans, these two young men won’t have to pay a penny when they get their diploma.  Can they make it to play on Sunday?  I’ve seen countless players who flew under the radar and had that special something to make it.  Cook and Reed have that special something.

We live in a world where negativity reigns.  When Lakewood had a number of football players kicked off the team after being arrested for burglary, the news was front and center.  Datrell Reed and Chapelle Cook’s story of overcoming the odds and taking a huge step towards great success is not going to grab the clicks of the police blotter.  But maybe you can change that by watching our story and do what I do every Signing Day – find new athletes to follow and pull for at the next level.  Thanks to Datrell and Chapelle, I have a new favorite Signing Day moment.

Rich’s Blog: Unselfish MVP’s

The post-game on camera interview can be daunting.  The top high school athletes are more than comfortable on the field or on the court, but stick a microphone in front of their face with a camera after a hard fought game and it can be very intimidating.

The basketball holiday tournament frenzy wrapped up on December 30th and I made my way to four different championship games.  The routine was almost the same for each game: shoot the highlights, get the team picture with the trophy and interview the tournament MVP.  I was struck by the responses of three different athletes who won an individual award and their reaction:

681G3816_01.MOV.Still001

“I don’t really care about the MVP stuff or anything like that.  I just care that our team is happy and everyone feels like they contributed and everyone feels like they are a part of it, not just me getting MVP.”

Manasquan’s Marina Mabrey (WOBM Christmas Classic MVP)

681G3909_01.MOV.Still001

“Well I’m definitely more happy that we won the tournament.  I don’t really care about the MVP, I’m just happy we won the tournament.  We’ve been talking about it since the end of the last year and I’m just happy we came through and did it.”

Toms River North’s Mike Nyisztor (WOBM Christmas Classic MVP)

681G3763_01.MOV.Still001

“It was definitely a team effort.  I couldn’t have done it without them and I think we all played our hearts out and it was a good team victory.”

Holmdel’s Mia Ehling (Bayshore Invitational MVP)

Three players who have plenty of press clippings, interviews and individual accolades have a team first attitude.  Is it any coincidence that all three of these teams won championships?  I don’t think so.

Marina Mabrey is one of the best high school players in America.  In 20 years of covering high school sports around the country, I’ve seen overhyped recruits and I’ve been able to see the real deal.  Mabrey has one of the most complete games I’ve ever seen.  Muffet McGraw, the head women’s basketball coach at Notre Dame, gets to pick the best of the best when it comes to women’s basketball.  She will be more excited about Marina’s post-game quote than any of her highlights from her senior season.  It’s the unselfish player who is also a tremendous talent that wins championships.

Pat Riley, who is as good an authority on championships as anyone, wrote in his book The Winner Within about the “Disease of Me”.  It’s the selfish attitude that can bring down any team no matter how talented they are.

I’ve been behind the curtain and have had the ability to know what great college coaches are looking for when it comes to recruiting.  The three answers you see above?  They are music to any coach’s ear.  Talent and a selfless attitude?  That will get you far not only in sports, but in life.

In addition to talking with three great selfless players, I also got the chance to witness one truly selfless team.  Red Bank Regional was the #3 seed in its own tournament, yet hoisted the championship trophy because of 13 players and their coaches playing for one common cause.   Albert E. Martin was a Red Bank Regional senior when he collapsed and died in a preseason game in December of 2012.  They upset St. Joseph’s-Metuchen, the defending NJSIAA Tournament of Champions winner, 59-54 in overtime to snap the Falcons 29 game winning streak.

“Because this tournament is for Albert and everything he taught us and did for us, this one’s going to be for him,” senior Jimmy Ferrogine said after winning in the semifinals.  “I was a sophomore and Albert was the senior on the team, he was our team leader.   We’ve been playing for him ever since that happened.”

Just being around the Bucs for three games, it’s easy to see that no one cares about who gets the points or the post-game glory.  I was not here when Albert E. Martin was an athlete at Red Bank Regional, but I already know that he was selfless.  After all, he’s still having an impact on his teammates inspiring them to do something that no one thought could happen.

 Rich Chrampanis is the founder and managing editor of Shore Sports Zone in his first year covering Jersey Shore basketball.   He won two Edward R. Murrow Regional Awards for documentaries on basketball players Cindy Blodgett and Raymond Felton and spent the last eight years as host and executive producer of the Cliff Ellis Show at Coastal Carolina University.  

Rich’s Blog: The other side of bullying

The allegations are horrifying and criminal.  Sayreville’s cancellation of its 2014 season has dominated the headlines in high school football in New Jersey.   There’s no need for me to get on a soapbox and state the obvious – that there’s no place in any level of sports for that kind of behavior.

Fortunately, I have seen the other end of the spectrum when it comes to bullying.   It was sweltering late morning in August and I was paying a visit to a high school football practice to do a preview.  At the end of practice, this team ran its round of sprints to work on conditioning to close out the session.  It is hard work, but necessary.  As the players ran through their paces and got more and more exhausted, there was one younger player on the offensive line who was falling off the pace.  Once every player completed the final run, this one player was all alone – he probably felt embarrassed and beaten.  The perfect target for immature kids to belittle and taunt.  Except at this practice, something else happened.  About half the team ran across the field to do one more lap and help this player get to the finish line.  The rest of the team, instructed by coaches to stay, clapped loudly on the sidelines in encouragement.

Sequence 85.Still001 Sequence 85.Still002

While I happened to capture this moment on camera, I can honestly say off the top of my head I saw three other instances where players did the same thing to help the slowest guy on the team get through conditioning.  I spent the past week reading about plenty of negatives when it comes to New Jersey high school football.  Just know there are kids all around the Jersey Shore who are clapping and raising people up instead of tearing them down.

 

The Power of Words

A close friend wrote me a thoughtful note that had an apology for not giving me a going away gift. If I had a choice between any material item in the world or that note, I’m keeping the words.

For the first time in 21 years, I won’t have a paycheck. Yet, I feel like I’ve won the lottery – a Powerball of kindness by your words. My severance package was an avalanche of great words from athletes, coaches and the viewers who were kind enough to watch and listen to me over the past fifteen years.

One of the benefits of getting older is having more awareness of the significant moments in your life. One year ago, I thought I accomplished a major goal. I wrote and published a book on David Bennett’s Cats and Dogs viral video and how it effected the end of his tenure at Coastal Carolina. I asked Coach Bennett to write a motivational message at the end of each chapter. My words were simply a table setter for the inspiration of a great man. I rarely feel good about the work that I do, but when I finished that project, I did.

Days before our launch, we were threatened with a lawsuit. Sue me? Go ahead, take my beat up Dodge Stratus (purchased solely on a Will Ferrell SNL sketch). But an incredible gesture by a friend to help me with a project now had him in the crossfire and unnecessary publicity.
I thought of my friends and the instilled spirit that everyone at my alma mater, St. Bonaventure, were given as a gift by attending there. Would they choose personal gain over hurting a friend? That’s why “Be A Dawg!” is tucked away in a storage unit. Coach Bennett was doing the same thing that I ultimately did – helping a friend and not thinking of himself. Only my inner-circle knew about what was going on, but reading your words today made me expand that circle.

This event started the end of my tenure at WPDE-TV. Local television is too often filled with gimmicks and catchphrases. My respect and admiration for my co-workers and management and all the viewers is genuine. There’s a reason why the the core of NewsChannel 15 has been around for a long time, a rarity in television.

It was at Saint Bonaventure that I had another defining moment. On a tennis court off a busy highway in Buffalo, New York, I was playing a singles match for the Bonnies at Buffalo State. I lost the first set and was losing 3-0. On the court by yourself, it is so easy to get consumed with what went wrong (the past) and get overwhelmed by what needs to get done (the future). For some unexplained reason, rather than panic and quickly go away like I had done so many times in my Bonnies tennis career, I felt calm. Something clicked to pick up my racket and figure out a way to get that ball over the net. I came back to win the match in three sets and it might as well have been Wimbledon. My greatest athletic moment is buried on the agate page of the Buffalo News circa 1991.

That gets back to your words. Never understimate the power of a note of kindness. We all need to do it more often. A couple of days ago, I was terrified about walking into the great unknown and jeopardizing my incredible wife and two amazing kids. Thanks to your words, I’m calm. It’s love-three. I don’t have that 100 mile per hour kick serve anymore, but I just have to get the ball over the net. I got ’em right where I want ’em.