CLEVELAND - The text arrived on my phone at 6:13 p.m. on Friday, October 16, 2015 as I was preparing to broadcast a high school football game in Elyria:
Check your twitter....Johnny Manziel issue.....fight with girlfriend in car on Nagel Road. Both drinking.
It was from my Mom.
Karen DeNatale was not a huge sports fan. But in the years since her son had decided to take up sportscasting as a profession, she had become acutely aware of what was important in my world.
Suddenly, I put down my game notes and my flip card, because this was a story that my partner Matt Fontana and I would have to address during our broadcast. Because at that time, no one 'moved the needle' quite like Mr. Manziel.
And my Mom was the one who had given me the scoop.
15 days later, Karen DeNatale passed away due to sepsis that occurred following surgery. It's safe to say that most everything in my world has changed since then. Mom was the compass in my life that always kept me pointed in the right direction. She was the rock that my sister Michelle and I Ieaned on. And suddenly she was gone.
"You could be on television."
For 18 years, I worked exclusively in radio in my broadcasting career. I made stops at stations in Defiance, OH, then Caro, MI, followed by 8 years at WOBL in Oberlin, and finally ESPN 850 WKNR here in Cleveland, first as an anchor, then eventually as a producer and show host.
The time spent climbing the ladder to Cleveland was considerable, and often frustrating.
I can tell you now, there's no way in the world I would have gotten to where I did without my Mom. No way.
There was emotional support, as well as financial support, from she and my Dad. Frankly, no son could have had more supportive parents of a career path that paid very little, especially for someone like me who has a boatload of health issues and didn't always have health insurance.
But there was more. As I was working my way into this business, trying to better myself and achieve my ultimate goal of becoming a play-by-play announcer for an NCAA Division I football and/or basketball team, something really cool happened. My Mom made it her mission to learn as much as she could about my industry to aid my job searching.
She would spend hours probing radio job resource websites, critiquing my resume, and encouraging me to apply for as many openings as possible. It was amazing.
I didn't think of this until recently, but often as we would watch the local news on television (including WKYC Channel 3), she would look over in my direction and say, "You know, you could be on television."
"Come on Mom, people tell me that I have a face for radio. Besides, I haven't done TV since college."
"I know. But I just think you could do it."
These conversations came back to me recently after my pal Betsy Kling posted this on Twitter:
Two things about this tweet stood out. First, Mom was a HUGE Betsy fan (who isn't!?!?). But secondly, NO ONE would have enjoyed the fact that I moved from full-time radio, to doing both on-air and digital work for WKYC, than my Mom.
She believed that I was capable of it long before it ever entered my radar screen.
I think about her every time I go on the air, especially when I did my first feature story for WKYC on Valentine's Day.
"Hug your Mom"
As Mother's Day arrives today, people often ask me how difficult it is to not have my Mom around to celebrate the holiday with. I think I can speak for my sister when I say that it was just as hard yesterday and will be just as hard tomorrow.
Although, admittedly, I'm sure I will get a little jealous when I see my friends post pictures of being with their Moms.
Our family was overwhelmed with the support we got after Mom's passing. From friends and family members, to listeners on the Bruce Hooley Show, which I was co-hosting daily at that time. People would constantly ask, "What can I do for you? What do you need?"
It's simple. And the answer still applies 18 months later. Hug your Mom.
Go for a visit.
If you've been estranged, reach out and offer an olive branch.
Life is too short. Heck, my Mom was tremendously healthy before the surgery at age 72, and honestly thought she'd make it to her 90s.
You just never know.
In the meantime, I wish a very Happy Mother's Day to all of the Moms out there today. Make sure your kids and grandkids wait on you hand and foot today.
And to you, Karen DeNatale, thanks for being my Mom!
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