Before I get started, let me make clear that I’m not feeling sorry for myself. My life is blessed in many ways. As I continue in this crazy life I realize more and more about perception and how it is, indeed, reality. Look at our political landscape. There is nary an issue the left supports nor believes in that makes any sense yet millions upon millions swear by the ideology and will attack you mercilessly if you disagree. It doesn’t matter how you turn the phrase or how much proof you show. The fact is, they will only believe what they perceive to be right and will do all they can to denigrate you into oblivion. I face the same sort of thing in my life. I have been blessed with a loud, deep voice and a pretty quick wit. It’s served me well in what I do and has also been the reason for angst on several occasions. The initial perception of me is I’m loud, arrogant, cocky, rude and without tact. Of course, the only truth there is that I’m loud. But, that doesn’t change the perception of many. I find that if I’m direct, that’s wrong. If I’m confident, that’s bad. If I’m unwilling to compromise my values or beliefs to make someone else feel better, I’m something *ist or *aphobic. But, my heart is always in the right place and I’m always out for the better good — almost never putting me first. Sounds untrue but it’s not. I had a conversation with someone close to me recently who had been through something traumatic. I was there for this person and came to save the day as is my charge in life. Then waited a couple of days before having a serious conversation about what the next steps should be. I was soft in tone and direct about how it wasn’t this person’s fault and how others involved should face some serious music for their actions. The person shut down suggesting I wasn’t coming at him or her the right way. I should take it down five notches. I was confused but felt good about the fact that there were two other family members in the room who could clearly hear every word and the levels of tone used. To my surprise, they agreed with this person. I felt like I had lost all grasp of reality. How was that possible? What did I miss? Here I was on a rare day off doing my best to better someone else’s life and make sure someone else didn’t get away with doing something wrong. I was walking on eggs and near a whisper, yet I was somehow the ogre. I do a lot of reflecting as I continue growing in this amazing experience of life. I think many people always put number 1 first. What’s best for them at any given moment is what they decide to do. Not knocking it, just not how I’m put together. I feel good about how I’ve managed my life that way. What I always fail to realize, however, is how I’m perceived. In a perfect world, that wouldn’t matter. Fact is fact. Truth is truth. If your perception isn’t based on those things, you’re the problem. Frankly, that’s not how it works. I’m big, loud, direct and convicted. I have continued learning and praying I gain the knowledge that sometimes I need take a breath and consider who’s ingesting what I’m offering and, perhaps, predetermine the reaction before saying it. By the way, this won’t affect how I do my job. This is more about my personal life away from the microphone. I will admit, however, I’m different on the air today than I was decades ago as I continue to grow in that realm as well. But, in my day-to-day life, it’s clear I must continue to consider the mindset and philosophical location of the person to whom I’m speaking. I’m big enough to admit this is a huge challenge for me. jp
As I told you on my show last week. We had a personal tragedy in my family. My niece and God-daughter, Jamie Nicole Rogers — Nikki — passed away. She was only 31 years old. It was sudden and tragic and shocking and has shaken us all.
Many of you already know I was off of my weekend show, “The Weekend w/Joe Pags,” yesterday so I could tend to family business. I was up at 6am, on the road a little after 7 and got to the service in Louisiana at 2pm. I walked in to see my sister and her two surviving children gathered around the open casket broken and weeping. I stood there for a moment taking in the sounds of sobbing from my mother who lost her first-born grandchild, and my other sisters — and, from people I had not yet met on the other side. I saw Nikki’s father there who had long been out of my life yet was rekindling his relationship with his daughter in recent years.
Nikki’s path was not an easy one. She was diabetic and struggled to control the disease. Beyond that, as much as we all unconditionally loved her, she still battled accepting that love and truly believing in it. She fell in with a bad crowd which showed her attention and took her on a detour from which she would never recover. There were always bright spots through the darkness, though. Just six months ago, she reached out to us all on Facebook. She was so excited. She’d turned to God and found a brighter, smoother direction. She wrote me, “Hey Uncle Joey. I’m feeling much better and just wanted you to know life is good and I love you.” I smiled and responded, “I love you too, Nik! I’m really happy for you and want you to reach out anytime!”
Sadly, the draw and power of negativity can sometimes overwhelm the positive factors afforded us all and the bumpy road was too tempting and inviting and it took our baby girl. We all loved her so deeply that we would have done anything to have her healthy and happy and still with us. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make all of her decisions for her.
As a Christian, I do believe Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior has a plan — one we mere mortals will never fully understand. For some reason, we only had Nikki for this short amount of time. I don’t purport to know God’s plan but, I wouldn’t doubt it includes a lesson and wake-up call for those of us who survive. If you have a loved one who might be having a rough go of it — someone you avoid because you want them to get right on their own — don’t. Step in. Offer help. Tell them how much you love them and see if they’re open to hearing it. If not, don’t get frustrated. Accept it and walk away. But, make sure to circle back and try again.
The circle of life is wonderful and confusing, distressing and enlightening. It is unnatural for parents to bury their children, for uncles and aunts to bury their niece, for a grandmother to bury her granddaughter. Do yourself a favor and don’t turn a blind eye nor a deaf ear to someone you love who’s in distress. Many times, things will not fix themselves. If you do nothing else, have a conversation with your kids like I just did with mine. Look them right in the eyes and tell them how much you love them and remind them that if you ever suspect there’s something awry, you will not hesitate to get involved, ask questions and take action. My sister was always there for Nikki but our girl was stubborn like her uncle and wouldn’t always be accepting of her mother’s guidance.
After many tears, memories and saying goodbye to this beautiful young lady for the last time, I got back in my car and headed back to San Antonio. I arrived after 2am — more than 20 hours after my day started. I was exhausted, sad, introspective and angry about the reason for the gathering. But, it was the very least I could do to show my support to my big sister and to bid farewell to the newest angel looking over my family.
We are all better people for having known you and for having been blessed by you in our lives, Nikki. Rest easy, baby. Uncle Joey loves you so much.
It’s hard to fathom it’s been 14 years now. Millions of Americans were getting out of bed, getting the kids ready, making breakfast, on the way to work, walking into school, arriving at work et al. There was nothing remarkable about that morning — and then the world changed forever. As we watched the images unfold from Lower Manhattan, we were no longer from our towns. We were no longer democrats or republicans. We were no longer Black, White, American Indian, Hispanic nor Asian. We were Americans and our way of life was under attack.
19 terrorists, 15 of them Saudi Arabian, had boarded planes and started killing people. But, that wasn’t the plan in the end. The plan was to completely take over the controls of the planes and ram them into buildings in order to kill as many innocent Americans as possible. The Clinton Administration failed. The Bush Administration failed. Bad guys who wanted to harm us went unchecked in our country and did the unthinkable.
The result among us was predictable. When pushed against the wall, Americans have always united and become stronger and more resolved. We all became New Yorkers that day. I would never suggest that we were better as a country because of the attacks. No way. If there were a way to go back in time and stop the attacks from happening, we would all do it in a heartbeat. But, for a moment in time, we were one people. And then, something changed.
We went from absolute support of our first responders because their bravery was on display on that fateful day, to people targeting the police like they’re the bad guys. We went from looking forward to a flight to far away land to being nervous and skeptical as we board the planes. We went from going to the airport for an adventure to being forced to take off our jackets and shoes and belts — being felt up by a stranger or scanned in a machine after throwing away our water to prove we didn’t want to blow up the plane.
We went from flying American flags from our cars and trucks to people actually taking pride in and posting pictures of themselves wiping their backsides with Old Glory or stomping on the symbol of our freedom.
We were attacked on that day because the terrorists hate our freedom and liberty and value system. They hate that we don’t believe what they want us to believe or that we support Israel. We rose up against that extremist ideology and become a galvanized force for good. Today, many more in this country are trying to bring us down from within because they also don’t like our value system, way of life and/or love of freedom and liberty. This is what the terrorists wanted on that day. Yes, we lost 3000 souls that day and I would never attempt to lessen that loss. But, the end goal is coming to fruition as well. Bring down the American system. Bring down American greatness. Bring down American pride and exceptionalism and make Americans question their own way of life.
The best response is to come together again as a people. Love our way of life and our friends and neighbors. We need to once again be one American community that thrives because we do, in fact, live in the best land on this planet. Our way of life will only survive if we stop allowing the hatred and division to permeate our resolve.
There’s been a bit of controversy lately over what Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison posted on his Instagram account. If you didn’t see it or hear about, you can click on the picture above. To paraphrase, the football player and father was very unhappy his sons received “participation trophies.” He took them away and told them they could get them back if they earned them. I could NOT agree with him more.
Some time ago, I was working as the News Director and Main Anchor at the ABC affiliate in Lansing, Michigan. My father come up from Florida to visit and came to work with me one day. My father was not the kind of man who ever gave compliments out. When I introduced him to my General Manager, my GM said, “We love Joe. He does a great job for us.” My father’s response made me think. He didn’t kiss my ass. He wasn’t flowery about how he felt about me. He didn’t brag on me or take credit. He simply said, “You know, he’s always tried his hardest no matter what he was doing.”
At first I thought that was lame. But, I thought about it and realized — that’s a huge compliment… especially from a guy who never gave them out. He got that I learned work ethic from him and my mother. He understood that if I decided to do it, I’d do it all out. Once I got it, I was happy he understood I’d do whatever it took to be successful. And, frankly, that drive inside is why I’ve realized many of my dreams. It wasn’t easy — it was hard. It wasn’t a smooth road — it was bumpy. It wan’t on a silver platter — it was on a dirty plastic dish. But, in the end, the hard work paid off.
I learned that lesson from my parents, grandparents, idols (broadcasting, sports, musical et al) and teachers. I learned at a very early age that the world was available to me if I only put my head down and forged ahead. It hasn’t been all roses either. My drive has sometimes rubbed people the wrong way. They didn’t get it. So, I adjusted. Started all over. Took a different route and made my hay another way.
This will sound simplistic, but I can point to my experiences as a 9 year old kid playing organized baseball for the first time. I couldn’t hit, couldn’t field, couldn’t throw straight so I rode the bench. You can’t do that today. EVERYONE plays EVERY game. No balls, no strikes, no outs — EVERYONE’S a star. I was not. So, I would go to practice early and leave late. I’d bother my father to have a catch with me (yes, most of you say “play catch.” My dad and I HAD a catch). I’d field balls until my face and shins were bruised. I threw a tennis ball against the garage door until my father called me a nasty name because of the noise it made. And suddenly, I was a pretty good player. The other kids who rode the bench still rode the bench. I was the starting catcher. Nobody handed me that position. My parents didn’t demand I play because I was entitled or because they paid the sign up fee. I was given the opportunity because I worked for it… hard.
My first year, we ended in last place. I think we got a certificate. The first place team left with beautiful trophies. The second year, I received most-improved — because I was. The third year, we won first place. We left with the beautiful trophies because we put our heads together and decided to really sweat and exhaust ourselves getting better. Had we received the same-sized trophy as the first place team that first year, we would NEVER have tried so hard to get better. Therefore, we wouldn’t have gotten better. Not even a little.
The lessons learned have lasted a lifetime and have served my teammates and me very well. I don’t care what anyone else says on this. They can write op-eds until they’re blue in the face. What James Harrison did was exemplary as a parent. It wasn’t to prove a point. It wasn’t to tell the league off. It was to set his children up for success throughout their lives. What he did is what every parent should do. What he did is out duty as parents. Show our children the road to success and point them in the right way. Yes, you can get a trophy — if you go work your tail off and earn it. Then it will actually mean something and you’ll remember that lesson for as long as you live.