Archive | September, 2011

The Message Is Clear: Yankees Will Regain World Series Crown

29 Sep

“And so it went for the  2011 Red Sox, the biggest chokers of any Boston team in my lifetime.  At least the ’78 Sox fought back and forced a one game playoff;  these guys couldn’t even do that.  They disintegrated over an entire month, day after day after day.  You can’t even explain how brutal they were unless you followed the free fall firsthand…

Their body language grew progressively worse as the month dragged on, with their manager seeming more hopeless and desperate than anyone.  They blew basic baseball plays, bothched fly balls, dropped relay throws, ended games by getting caught stealing, threw meatballs, bitched at each other, admitted to being scared…you name it, they did it.  They choked away Game 162 by getting three guys thrown out on the basebaths, by blowing a 3-2 lead in the ninth, by botching a season-deciding fly ball…with two outs in the ninth.

You can’t say it was unbelievable, because, actually, it was totally believable.  This was a mercy killing.  At least that’s what I will keep telling myself.  The 2011 Red Sox needed to go away.  And they did.”

-Bill Simmons, Grantland.com, 9/29/11

Dear Jeff,

Bill Simmons was your favorite sports writer, bar none, and when I read this today, all I could think of is that last night, the most magical night in baseball history, was something only you could dream up and orchestrate.  I received several emails today from people, including Drew, saying that they were stunned at how last night had your signature written all over it.   It was surreal, and your man Simmons summed it all up right there.  See what you did to the poor guy ?  He is beside himself !

I vividly remember that one of your favorite all-time Christmas presents was Bill Simmons’ “The Book of Basketball” that you received on your very last Christmas morning in 2009. 

So one night last week, Thursday September 22nd  to be precise, I was driving home from the train station on Douglas Road.  As I always do on the short ride home, and as we always did together last year when we drove home after meeting on the evening train, I turned on the Yankees game on CBS radio with John Sterling and Susan Waldman.  This was the night after the Yankees clinched the AL East on Jorge Posada’s dramatic two run, game winning single. Sure enough, at the moment I turned the game on, Posada was coming to bat.  The following was the exchange between Susan and John.  Although I may not be quoting Susan exactly, it is very close, and John’s response is verbatim:

Susan: “What a magical moment it was for Posada last night here at the Stadium, John, after a really tough season.  And just think of everything that’s happened here at Yankee Stadium this season.  I mean, Jeter didn’t just get his 3,000th hit, he hit a HOME RUN to get it, Mariano became the all-time saves leader here at home as part of another brilliant season at age 41, and Posada, another all-time great Yankee, sends the team to the division title with a clutch hit.  And if that’s not enough, the Red Sox are collapsing before our very eyes !”

John: “Susan, it’s as if all of this is being directed by someone above.”

I swear, I nearly drove off the road.  My first thought was, “Oh shit, Sterling’s on to Jeff.”  But then I said to myself, well so what, what’s he going to do about it ?  When I got home, I literally sprinted into the kitchen and told Mom and Brett what John had just said.  Mom, the non-sports fan that she is, kind of ignored it, but Brett broke into a broad smile and just shook his head ‘yes’ in a knowing way.

In my April 9th blog post (“Why Are You Going To Boston, Daddy?”), I noted that it was a sign of your presence that, in your first season in Heaven, the Red Sox started 0-6 for the first time since 1945. It was really quite amazing that it happened after the free agent shopping spree the Sox went on in the off-season to set themselves up nicely for another championship.

But then I got confused when they stormed all the way back and actually sat atop the AL East for almost the entire season.  Now of course, it is so clear to me that this was your grand plan all along- have them get off to a miserable start to shake their confidence, let them enjoy a surging comeback all the way to the top, and then have them endure one of the greatest collapses in baseball history.  Brilliant.  You set them up for The Great Collapse.  Oh, I can just picture your face as you’ve watched this unfold. 

I know that the one thing that probably gives you a little pause in orchestrating this devastating ending for the Red Sox season is that your great friend from Middlebury, Dan Roberts, is a big Sox fan.  But I also remember what you said to me one time when we were discussing how many of your Midd friends were from the Boston area and loved to root against the Yankees.  “Dad, when it comes to Yankees-Red Sox, all’s fair in love and war.” 

The door to Jeff's room makes clear who his favorite sports teams are

Well, Jeff, I want to let you know that I saw and heard you loud and clear in my dream this Monday night.  You looked so good, and I am deeply grateful that you made contact with me again so soon after the Yankees game in August.  And yes, as you requested, I will let everyone know that the Yankees will win it all this year, their 28thWorld Series championship.  You said that their playoff run will be led by the great Yankee veterans but also that Jesus Montero will show that he is a “true Yankee” by doing some special things to contribute to the victory.  Sounds amazing.  I’ll pass the word along.

And I promise to tell your buddy Alex Feintuch what you said- that you want him to go to the victory parade and that, while you wish you could go with him again, I should join him this time, in your place.  I love Alex and think he’s a great young man, and so I’d be happy to do it.  I’m pretty sure that he will be down in South Carolina at school at that time, but I’ll convey your wishes.  I know how much fun you two had at the parade in 2009.  I don’t know if I can slip away from work for a whole day either, but let’s make sure they win first, and then we’ll figure it out.

I don’t know, man, it pains me to say that I really disagree.  I think the Phillies look too tough if the Yankees make it to the Series, and to be honest, I’m not even that confident that the Yankees can take the Tigers, because Verlander will pitch at least games 1 and 4 in the first round.

But hey, whenever we disagreed about sports when you were here, you were always right.  Let’s hope that streak continues.  And I must say, it sure seems as if you have had a major role in all that has happened, as John Sterling hinted last week.  Certainly, the victories of UConn in April and the Mavericks in June had your fingerprints all over them.  And last night ?  Oh my, I am still shaking at the thought of how the Yanks blew a 7-0 lead and how Boston’s ace closer, Mr. Papelbon, blew the save after striking out the first two batters !  And the two games ended within 3 minutes of each other.  You obviously drew up your wildest dream and willed it to happen. 

Jeff hung the newspaper celebrating the Yankees' 2009 championship on his wall, where it remains today

It is brutally painful to know that you won’t be here to watch the playoffs with us this year or ever again.  Drew will be at school, so I know we’ll be texting away with each other.  He’ll be home for a few days during October break, and we’ll be watching together then if the Yanks are still in it.  I’ve got Brett here at home for one more playoff run, so I will waive the unofficial rule of his having to go to bed on school nights by a certain hour.  We always have such a great time watching together, and he is just as big of a Yankees fan as you are.

But it was just a year ago, even when you were struggling, that you and I enjoyed being together in the upstairs TV room, watching the games on the big screen with our feet up.  You were always banging away on your laptop during the games, communicating with your friends on Facebook;  I’m sure you were providing a running commentary and analysis of what was happening.   But less than three weeks after the Yankees were eliminated by Texas, you were gone.

The Yankees calendar on Jeff's bulletin board- still on November 2010

So now what I’m left with is periodic communication from you at your whim- your voice in my right ear on August 13th telling me that Chavez was going to walk and then Jorgie was going to juice one, or in a dream like Monday night, telling me to spread the word of the Yankees’ impending championship.  I guess in life, you have to take what you can get and be grateful for it, and so I am.  In fact, I pray every day for any form of contact from you whatsoever.  So please keep it coming.  

In the meantime, line up those beers with the pretzel rods, and enjoy the playoffs, my son.  The Yankees’ annual quest for a championship was always one of yours and my favorite times of the year.  I remain excited about it, but as with everything in my life, it can never again be quite the same. 

All my love,

Sir

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The Decision To Join The Middlebury Brothers Of KDR, And Other Major Life Choices

20 Sep

I was a member of the KDR fraternity at Colgate, and so I know from experience what an amazing thing brotherhood is and how great it is to be part of a Greek organization.  Like anyone else, I had certain fraternity buddies that I was closest to, but every single one of them was my brother.  And the House was your home, whether you lived there or not, any time, any day.  And your brothers are always there for you when you need them.  For many people, there are times when you definitely need them.

So it was with that inherent bias that I (and Carey) always encouraged Jeff to join one of the Middlebury equivalents, which were the coed social houses.  And when he told me that they had a KDR chapter there, I secretly hoped that would be the right fit for him. 

But Jeff was not sold on the concept of joining one.  And by the start of junior year, he hadn’t yet done so.  But I guess the brothers of KDR made some overtures to him that winter, and when Jeff sent me the following email on February 21, 2008, it was clear to me what the right answer was.  For context, Jeff’s loving nickname for me was “Sir” (because I am the opposite of a “Sir”!), and one of his many nicknames for Carey was “Pote”, which Jeff created as a derivation of the word “petite”.  Jeff often called her that too in reference to her slender build:

“Hey Pote and Sir,

I have another moral dilemma.  A couple of my friends really want me to rush and pledge a social house this spring, KDR (Kappa Delta Rho).  The thing is, I don’t really want to, because I have a good social life as it is and don’t want to feel committed to doing certain events on certain days.  Granted, the Greek life here is not nearly as intense as a big school with actual fraternities and sororities—it wouldn’t be that big a commitment at all—but the bottom line is, I’d rather not do it.  Rush week is this upcoming week.  What do you think I should do ?  Jeff”

Our advice was pretty concise.  Do it.  You’ll expand your friendships even more, you’ll have a blast and create many great memories, and the House will be another place you can call home.  You’ll also gain a new group of brothers who will support you if you should ever need them.  I didn’t know that, a year later, Jeff would need them. 

And sure enough, just two days later, we received the following email containing Jeff’s decision.  I think the email illustrates what an extremely thoughtful and introspective person Jeff was:

“Hey Pote and Sir,

Tonight was both an exhilarating and disturbing night.  On the one hand, it was disturbing in that I found out that one of my friends is a heroine addict and pretty prominent in the drug business.  On the other hand, it was exhilarating in that I realized that I can stay true to my convictions and that so many people like me a lot.  I think I will rush KDR.  I told them it’s my birthday a week from Sunday, and they promised to take me to the bar to drink heavily the day I turn 21. 

They also told me that if the reason I’m apprehensive to pledge is because I don’t want to live there next year, don’t worry about it.  I’ll pretty much be able to live where I want next year, and I can tell this is true because everyone at KDR really wants me to join, so they’ll be fine with whatever I want to do.

Anyway, it was just a weird night because I kind of gained a better picture of where certain people will be once out of college.  I’ve been thinking back to your guys’ 25th reunion this summer at Colgate, with you guys seeing all of your classmates that graduated with you.  It’s funny, because I’ve started forming  pictures in my mind of what directions all of my respective classmates will go in the future.  The guy who I found out is a big heroine user really surprised me, but I realized that that’s just what happens sometimes when you go to college.

Dad, I remember this summer at Colgate when you told me that that one weird dude who came up to me and started talking to me ‘was always high when he was at Colgate.’  People choose different routes in life, and it’s up to every one of us to choose the best for each of us.  Me personally, I will probably drink a lot most weekend nights when I go out, because it’s fun in a social setting and just contributes to having a great time, but I would never touch another drug, whether it be marijuana, heroine, or cocaine.  But we have to respect everyone else’s decisions in life.

Anyway, sorry to go off on a tangent, but it’s just what came to my mind as I came back from the Grille tonight.  But in any event, I’m going to the bball game tomorrow at 2 (meeting Jason at 1:30 and bringing him down early so we get good seats).  Then tomorrow night is the Winter ball, which I have tickets for thanks to you guys already buying it for me.  All of my friends are really pumped up for it.  Hopefully, we’ll be in a better mood thanks to Midd’s win, which would be the first NESCAC playoff win in our school’s history (remember last year we lost to Colby in OT).  So we’ll see.

Hope this isn’t too long (because I hate when Mom leaves me really long messages on my phone !).  Jeff”

Jeff (at right), with great friend and KDR brother Andres Gonzalez-Stewart at Midd graduation, May 2009

So what do I take from this incredible email ?  Well, first I’m proud that Jeff was such a deep thinker and so self aware.  I am happy that he realized he could be himself and do only the things he was comfortable doing, and that people would like him for the person he was.  Of course, I was thrilled he decided to rush KDR.  And I am struck by the fact Jeff clearly did not have a judgmental bone in his body.  He observed everything that was going on around him, but he judged no one.

Also, Carey and I were blessed to have the kind of relationship with our son that resulted in our even being in a position to receive such a candid, open email from him.  He literally told us everything during his entire life.  There were no secrets, and we felt so fortunate in that regard.

And lastly, it is ominous to read Jeff’s words discussing the different routes that people take in life.  It is clear that he had absolutely no conception of the tragic, misguided route that he would one day take. He was vibrant, thoughtful, happy and thriving up until his final two months.  It all went down in two short months.

I remember standing up at Jeff’s wake, accepting the heartfelt condolences from the seemingly endless line of people who came to the funeral home.  At one point, I looked up and saw a section of the line with a large number of young men and women who I knew I had never met before.  But I realized immediately that they were the brothers of KDR, who had shown up in force, having made the 4+ hour drive from campus to share their grief with us and to give their love to Jeff, their fallen brother, one final time. 

At the moment this wonderful group of KDR brothers approached me that night, they didn’t know that I was overcome with emotion at the memory of how they were there for Jeff in early February 2009 when he needed their help.  In a situation completely unrelated to anything previously discussed on this blog, Jeff needed urgent transportation assistance from his brothers on short notice. Their overwhelming response blew Jeff away and deeply touched him.  I know this, because as with everything, he told me so. 

In fact, Jeff specifically cited the following brothers to me at that time in reference to their immediate response to help him: Andres Gonzalez- Stewart, Ray Queliz, Ben de Leiris, Blake Johnson, Derek Schlickeisen and Brittany McAdams.  And Jeff thanked Carey and me for encouraging him to join KDR, using this situation as an example of why we were so right. 

I am hopeful that Jeff’s Middlebury classmates who are readers of this blog will make sure that the KDR brothers are aware of and read this post.  That’s because it is my only way to thank them and let them know how deeply grateful our family is for their love and friendship to Jeff during his last year and a half at Midd., and specifically during the time mentioned above.

My KDR brothers at Colgate were a big part of my amazing college experience nearly 30 years ago.  Little did I know then that the 2008-2009 Middlebury brothers of KDR would be just as important to my son all these years later.  It just goes to show that the beauty of brotherhood is timeless.

 

-Rich Klein

Talkin’ Sports

11 Sep
Man, I like Obama but I hate his sports picks.  Biggest frontrunner ever.” 
-Jeff Klein, text message to Dad, June 3, 2009 
 
It’s certainly not surprising to anyone that Jeff started a sports blog after college.  After all, he was passionate about all sports, craved huge upsets, and loved to talk to anyone and everyone, even people who had no interest in sports, about the latest happenings in the sports world.  As an example of the latter, a young woman named Ashley posted on Midd-blog’s page remembering Jeff, calling him “One of the most genuine guys at Middlebury, even if I never got any of his sports references!” Even his blog’s name, Talkin’ Sports, had roots way back to the summer of 2006 when Jeff was first given the opportunity to write his own newspaper column in The Middlebury Campus.  His idea was to call it Talkin’ Sports, but the sports editor at the time suggested J.K. Rolling, and Jeff agreed to go with that.

Although known for basketball, Jeff was a fine baseball player. This photo is from 1996

But as many people also know, the aspect of sports that got Jeff riled up the most was the preponderance of “egregious” behavior that permeated the sports landscape.  And sure enough, it turns out that there was one specific atrocity that served as the final straw, the catalyst that resulted in the creation of Talkin’ Sports.  This blog post will definitively answer the following trivia question: 
Which of these egregious situations directly led to Jeff’s decision that it was imperative for him to start a blog to speak on behalf of enraged sports fans across the nation ?  Was it… 
A)   The continuing mismanagement of the Knicks, from Isiah Thomas to James Dolan, which had led to a 7 year playoff drought and a plethora of huge contracts handed out to underproductive players
 B)   Jeff’s belief in the David Stern Conspiracy Theory, which holds that Stern attempts each season to coerce the NBA’s referees to make foul calls in the playoffs that favor the teams that Stern wants to see participate in the NBA finals in order to maximize television ratings,
  OR
C)   Jeff’s view, and that of many March Madness fans, that the selection committee makes poor decisions AND intentionally matches underdog non-BCS (big schools that are eligible for the Bowl Championship Series in football) schools against each other in the first round, so that there are fewer opportunities for them to pull off a huge upset against a BCS school that the networks want to stay in the tournament (again, for ratings reasons) ?
To take these in order, Jeff had been disenchanted with the direction of the Knicks ever since their last NBA finals appearance in 1999.  By the 2005-06 season, they had the highest payroll and second-worst record in the league.  Thomas was President of Basketball Operations and had traded several future draft picks for Eddy Curry.  And in February 2006, he traded for Steve Francis to play alongside Stephon Marbury. 
I am an optimist by nature, and I told Jeff that Francis was a great player and would help turn things around.  Brett, who was only 11 at the time, was at an age where he still agreed with everything his Dad said (I miss those days).  Jeff, however, was aghast and baffled that I would say such a thing and that I would brainwash young Brett into thinking everything would be rosy in Knicks-land.  And so on February 23, 2006, Jeff sent me the following email.   The subject line said simply, “Reality”
“Dad, I want you to sit Brett down on your lap, and together the two of you can maybe take yourselves out of your denial and understand what really is.   P.S.  Hope you’re having a good time in the Bahamas.”
And he pasted in two links to two different espn.com articles on the state of the Knicks.  One of them began, “The back page of Thursday’s New York Daily News labeled the Knicks ‘The Biggest Mess In Sports’.  It continued, “…NBA analysts across the country were ridiculing the trade that doubled Brown’s trouble, uniting evil twins Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury in the coach’s doghouse…Two reasons the Knicks will continue to be the NBA’s worst team with the bleakest future.”
Wow !  One thing about Jeff- when he took a position on something, he defended it with maximum force and hit you with it right between the eyes.  This was a perfect example, but you know what, he was right and I was completely wrong.  Not only did the Knicks not make the playoffs that season, but they didn’t do so in any of the next four seasons either.  It is heartbreaking that when they finally made it to the post-season again, this past season, Jeff was not here to see it.   In any case, even though the Knicks were enduring yet another losing campaign in 2010 when Jeff started his blog, this was not the impetus for its creation.   Answer A) is incorrect.
And then there is David Stern.  To Jeff, there was no bigger villain in sports than the NBA’s longtime Commissioner.  Jeff was convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Stern was blatantly guilty of manipulating the outcomes of playoff games.  Over several years, Jeff observed that referees seemed to make outrageous foul calls that favored the marquee team or superstar that Stern wanted to see advance to the finals.  In May of 2009, Jeff was rooting hard for the Magic to beat the Cavs and Lebron in the Eastern Conference Finals.  He was certain, though, that Stern wanted Lebron to get to the finals, and on May 28th, he emailed me with his concern that the refs would ensure that Stern’s preferred result happened:
“I hope the Magic close it out tonight, and if not tonight, home in Game 6, because we all know there’s no way the refs would ever let the Magic win Game 7 on the road, especially if the Lakers have already clinched.  If it’s not Lakers-Cavs, the league loses, which is why I can tolerate a Lakers win.  Actually, the thing is, I think the league wants the Cavs even more, because Lebron is the up and coming star, and Stern wants him to be the face of the league… which is why it’s even more important that the Magic win.  I really think they will, though- the Magic are the better team, and I don’t think he can get the Cavs into the finals without starting an outright scandal.”
 The Magic won the series in Game 6 at home.
 In 2009, Jeff was just getting warmed up with respect to his anti-Stern rhetoric.   He even used that Halloween as a venue to make his point about NBA officiating, donning a “blind referee” costume at his friends’ Halloween party. 

The blind referee- Halloween 2009

In 2010, Jeff was in rare form as the playoffs were approaching, and he really let loose in the following emails and texts he sent to me:
 4/14/10- “How bout fixing the problem of the NBA trying to fix the outcomes of the games come playoff time?  How far will Stern and his minions go to try to get a Cavs-Lakers finals ?  They failed last year, but only because Orlando played out of their mind, beating both the Cavs and the refs to make an unexpected appearance in the Finals.  I really hope some underdog, small-market teams crash Stern’s party this year, I really do.”
 5/5/10- “That’s good news that Lebron seems certain to stay.  But you know what’s great news?  Last night David Stern was at the Magic game and before the game he went to center court to announce that the 2012 All-Star game will be in Orlando’s new arena.  And the crowd booed him heavily !!!  (the writer of the article I’m reading thinks it’s because of all the bad foul calls that went against Dwight Howard in the first round).  I’m so happy the Magic fans are recognizing how Stern is trying to screw them.  Again, in a fairly reffed series, the Magic would beat the Cavs in 5 or 6.”
5/29/10: “I know they want Celtics-Lakers, but breaking out the machetes this early ?”
 But believe it or not, despite Jeff’s deep disdain for Stern and his belief that NBA playoff games were rigged in favor of the league’s preferred teams, this situation was not the specific catalyst for the creation of Talkin’ Sports.  Answer B) is therefore incorrect.

Name the sport- Jeff was ready to play

It should not be completely surprising that the catalyst for Jeff making the decision to start a blog related to March Madness.  He was passionate about so many things, but March Madness took his sports passion to a whole other level.  Specifically, he reveled in upsets, particularly big first-round upsets, and he basically put all else in his life on hold during the first round of the tournament. Make that during the entire tournament.  
The funny thing is that Jeff almost always finished last in his bracket pools, because he loved to pick lower seeded teams and root for the upsets, and didn’t really care about winning the pool.  In fact, Jeff copied me on an email he wrote on March 27, 2006 to Peter Shrager, a writer for FoxSports.com, who invited his readers to email him with comments on his articles.  Jeff wrote to Shrager:
 “Hey, I absolutely loved your article about George Mason and how it’s more important to see a historic upset than getting your bracket right.  I always find myself not wanting to fill out a bracket because all I really want to see is upsets.  It’s a shame that so many people would rather have the favorites go to the final four just because of their brackets.”
Since it was all about the upsets for Jeff, he felt that any action taken by the selection committee that effectively reduced the likelihood of upsets occurring was an affront to all college basketball fans.  So when the committee, in 2009, chose Arizona for the tourney over St. Mary’s, Jeff was livid.  He dedicated his next J.K. Rolling column to this unjust decision and began his March 19, 2009 article by scalding the committee with the following pen lashing:
“Arizona is in.  St. Mary’s is out.  Are you kidding me?  Great, Arizona extends its longest active streak of NCAA tournament appearances to 25 straight, which undoubtedly pleases all the traditionalists.  But is it really too much to ask the selection committee to base its decisions on merit instead of pedigree?  The fact that the Arizona Wildcats were awarded the last at-large bid in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament… is absolutely absurd and reflects the committee’s blatant bias toward traditional powerhouse conferences at the expense of lesser-publicized mid-majors…
The selection committee screwed up big time here… it made an ostensibly subjective decision that sorely lacks any semblance of validity…You think mid-majors can’t compete on the big stage?  Try telling that to Davidson- a team that came within a Stephen Curry three from going to the Final Four last year…
Give the little guys a chance. “
During his entire life, Jeff was a champion of the “little guys”, both in sports and in life.  In this case, he believed that St. Mary’s exclusion in 2009 robbed the tournament and its fans of an upset opportunity.  But how do I know that the final straw that led to the creation of Talkin’ Sports in 2010 was further atrocious behavior by the selection committee in matching non-BCS teams against each other?  Well, Jeff’s email to me on March 15, 2010 makes it crystal clear:
“Dad- Excerpt from the March Madness column of Gary Parrish of cbsportsline.com:
‘[2. The plan is to make the good non-BCS teams eliminate the other good non-BCS teams: I suppose (or at least I hope) it’s a coincidence, but it seems every year one of the non-BCS teams most likely to make a run in this event gets paired with another non-BCS team that’s likely to make a run in this event. This year’s best example is a first-round game in the West between Butler and UTEP. I said last week that the three non-BCS schools with the best chance to make the Sweet 16 were New Mexico, Butler and UTEP, and now either Butler or UTEP is guaranteed to have its season end Thursday because of an unfortunate pairing.]’
I’m starting a blog.  This shit is ridiculous.”
And so, with that declaration, it was decided.  Jeff, always a man of the people, would blog on behalf of sports fans everywhere against all injustice.  Thus, If you chose answer C), you are correct.
That very same day, on March 15th, Jeff created Talkin’ Sports and put up his first post entitled “March Madness Selection Committee’s Choice Of Bracket.” From then on, Jeff was on a roll.  He continued to post regularly through the spring up until July 8th. At that point, there were 20 posts in all, and Jeff demonstrated his versatility by writing about everything from March Madness to the NBA, MLB, NHL and even the New York Liberty women’s basketball team.  And he loved every minute of it.  He bounced ideas off me, asked me to critique his drafts, and debated with me constantly about all of it.   After the July 8th post, though, his hours at work started to get crazy, and the blogging stopped.  I was distraught, because I knew how much enjoyment he derived from his writing. 
After Jeff left his job in mid-August, he began to struggle with what to do next.  We talked about a wide range of possibilities, but more than anything, I strongly encouraged him to resume writing on his blog while he was sorting it all out.  I was convinced that this was crucial to getting his morale back on track and moving forward.  He seemed to agree, but the blog remained quiet.  In fact, after having posted 20 times in less than 4 months, the silence was deafening, and I began to plead with Jeff to write one to get back into the swing of things.
You have no idea how elated I felt when I received this email from Jeff on September 24, 2010 which simply said,
“After a long hiatus….
Stern Tightens Dictatorial Hold on League
At long last, another post.  I read it closely to discern whether the old Jeff Klein passion was still there.  I felt it was.  Jeff appeared to be his usual exasperated self, incredulous that Stern would impose a new set of rules giving referees greater latitude in doling out technical fouls for almost any  expression of disgust by players over a call.  And I thought his concluding sentences were vintage Jeff.  He wrote: “Well, I’m done venting for now.  Please don’t T me up.”
In retrospect, though, this post was a last gasp attempt to recapture the fire that had been there as recently as two months earlier, but tragically and inexplicably, the flame was burning out.  There would be no more blog posts.  To this day, I long to hear Jeff’s animated views on so many topics, but especially about the constant crazy happenings in sports.  The intense pain that I feel when I go to jeffkleinsports.blogspot.com and see the September 24th date of his last post is indescribable. 
As my writings on this blog will attest, I fully believe he is aware of and has had influence on both the good and egregious things that have happened in sports since he left.  There is comfort in knowing that.  And I am blessed to have two equally rabid sports fan sons in Drew and Brett with whom to watch games and exchange texts about the latest sports news.
I have spent hours upon hours poring over both Jeff’s emails to me and his newspaper articles from the past five years.  Needless to say, this has been a bittersweet exercise.  I have read so many things that have made me smile and even laugh out loud.  The sheer uniqueness of the way Jeff expressed himself in writing was often hilarious.   However, I cannot shake the horror I felt when I recently read the last two sentences of his J.K. Rolling article from April 11, 2007 in which he bemoaned the lack of upsets in that year’s NCAA tournament.  Jeff’s words, so innocent and so hopeful, have the impact of a dagger to the heart and haunt me every day.  He concluded the article by writing:
“Oh, and one last thing: a 16-seed will knock off a one-seed in my lifetime.  It’s gonna happen.”
Yes, no doubt it’s gonna happen, son.  But with one impulsive and horrific act, you ensured that it wouldn’t be in your lifetime.  I hope, pray and cling to the belief that when it does happen, you will be watching from a beautiful front row seat overlooking the entire scene from above, holding in your hand that classic draft beer with a pretzel rod in the mug handle, that you loved to buy at the Garden.

And maybe then, when that 16-seed has completed the ultimate upset that you waited your entire life for, you can find a way to send us just one more Talkin’ Sports blog post, from Heaven, speaking about the beauty of the little guy rising up to overcome all odds.  You know, that image could have been a metaphor for your own life, if only you had given yourself the same fighting chance that a huge underdog has every time it takes the court.
And the cruelest irony of all is that, in time, you absolutely would have won your battle, just as you said a 16-seed would someday win theirs.
-Rich Klein