DQ: An open letter to Brandon Palaniuk

Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.

Babe Ruth

Dateline:  La Crosse, WI

There will come now,


There will come now,


There will come now,


There will come now,

the end,


the rebirth,

of your career.

Welcome, to the path of a champion.

Right now, you are a winner, but you are not a champion.


This DQ, can break you if you let it, or make you if you survive it.

Survive it, and win again, and you son, will have the stuff of champions.

Champions come bruised.

Champions come bloodied.

Champions come hurt.

It is the measure of a champion, not what they do after a win, but what they do after a loss.

The bigger the loss,

the bigger the comeback,

the bigger the champion.

The greatest game you will ever play, the greatest foe you will ever face,



Not the 99.

Not the bass.


Your career, is what you see in the mirror.

Demons, always come, with an invite.

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out”

John Wooden

The secret to winning, to becoming a champion, maybe even the secret to life, is the ability of a person to, survive stupid.

Surviving stupid.

The greatest advice I ever heard an NFL coach tell a rookie wide receiver was simply this, “Son, know where your feet are.”

Brandon, know where your feet are.

Know where the sidelines are, know where the rolled up tarp is when you chase a pop-up fly, when you chip, know where the sand trap sits.

Stupid, comes before success, look it up.

I have done some pretty smart things in my life, but I have also done some pretty stupid things as well.

It’s the stupid stuff, that has taught me the most.

Accolades don’t motivate me,



And now they will,



“If you are not making mistakes then you are not doing anything.”

John Wooden


I have gone from worst,

to first.

I too, have been, DQ’ed.

I was fired from the first job I ever had in the news biz.

I have Facebook friends from way back then who will vouch for that.  I looked different, I sounded different, I wrote different, I thought different, and I was gone.

Being different, sucks.

Trouble is, I think I’m normal, and that others were the different ones, and that has always been a problem.

I was fired, in 1983.

Four years before you were BORN.

Fired, 30 years ago, but

last Wednesday, I was fired again,

in a nightmare.

I woke up, afraid, afraid that I couldn’t pay the mortgage, couldn’t make the college payments, put food on the table,

but mainly I wake up feeling that I’m a failure.

30 YEARS of this, dude.

And I will tell you something I have never told another soul, my entire freakin’ career is built on that nightmare.

My DQ.

And, I NEEDED IT, the DQ.

Everything I have today, was based on that DQ.

I believe things happen for a reason, that we are all on a ride, and we are not the ones driving.

And there is a stop, called Humble, on the ride.

We are creatures, of fault, and through fault, comes humble.

Through fault, comes knowledge.

Comes the strength needed to be kinder and better.

Comes inner strength.

When I was DQ’ed in news, the local newspaper, wrote about it, I signed autographs at the same time and place I signed up for unemployment benefits.  A social worker took her picture with me.


You too, now have the DQ’ed tattoo.

And your nightmares will come.

And with it, will be your success,

or failure.

You choose.

“It is what you get from games you lose that is extremely important.”

Pat Riley

You told me, “This one hurts,” and it should, because anything worth having should hurt, if you lose it.

I read of your DQ at 2:45am this morning, and never slept another wink, in fact sent you this text at 3:10am, “I’m here for you if you need me.”

At 4:30am, you responded.


I know.


And if this sport means anything to you, it is a pain that will never go away. And is a PAIN YOU NEEDED.

Coming in 2nd at the Classic, being DQ’ed and possibly missing the 2014 Classic and whatever else bad stuff comes your way will make you better.

Darn it.

I know it hurts, and your level of hurt will tell you how much this means to you, if you told me just, oh well, I would have tied your butt to an airline seat and sent your arse back to wherever Idaho it is they hide Idaho.

Before sweetness, comes sour, look it up.

You will be asked about this DQ all of the rest of this year, and maybe throughout your career.

Welcome my friend to the stuff of nightmares.

You will either be better, or you will be broken, and I can’t help you there, it is just you, and the foe in your head.

I hope it doesn’t eat you up, because in your eyes, I see the glint of a champion, I see you stumble on the rocky path to greatness, and I know, unfortunately, it is how it needs to be.

You can either be the future of the sport, or be lost in its past.

I want every cast you make from now on to be revenge for surviving stupid, I want from now on you always know where your feet are, I want you to know that I will be there for every bruise, for every scrape, and I expect you to do that for others as well.

Another truth.

I’m always described as an Emmy winning blah blah blah.  And that’s pretty cool.

But 15 years after my DQ, came to ESPN via UPS, a medium sized brown box that was tossed up on my desk.

I didn’t open right away, thought it was just some kind of SWAG, or something, but that Friday when my mentor came in for his regular weekly meeting, he saw it and told me to open it, which I half heartedly did.

In it was a medium size plexi-glass award.

I just looked at my mentor, and the award in my hand.

15 years after my DQ, in an unmarked brown box came this, The New York Festival, Investigative Journalism World Medal…and on it in gold lettering was this, “Don Barone.”

And when I looked at my mentor all he said was, “Well I guess being a bald stringy arse long hair hippie…guess being different does win.”

At home, in my bedroom, it is that award, not the Emmys, that sits on my dresser, it is that award I see when I wake up from the nightmare, and when I see it, I smile, and go back to peaceful sleep.

Brandon Palaniuk, you will get through this, and you will wake up from nightmares,

and someday when you wake from your nightmare,

on your dresser you will see,

a Classic Trophy,

and you will smile, and go back to sleep as well.

To dream,

of the 2013,


and only then will you know,

that the hurt you feel today,

was worth it,

in the long run,

and nothing is as bad as it seems, or as good as it seems,

it’s just part of the ride.

Trust me.


“He who is not courageous enough to take risks, will accomplish nothing in life.”

Muhammad Ali