Monday, August 31, 2015

The Braves Way needs to hit the Highway

John C. Malone
Liberty Media



Dear Mr. Malone,


My name is Andy Lipman. I’m 41 years old from Atlanta, Georgia. I was born in Atlanta in 1973 but my Atlanta sports allegiance did not begin until 1982. 

Let’s flash back to that season. That was the year the Braves started the season at 13-0, a Major-League record to start a season. For most, that spring was mostly about wins and losses. Not for me though.

That 13 game winning streak meant a heck of a lot more to me than just baseball. It was around that time I learned my life expectancy was 25 years due to the fact that I was born with cystic fibrosis. My father got me into America's pastime that spring. I needed the Braves then a lot more than they needed me. 

Those 13 straight wins kept me playing baseball and therefore improved my lung capacity. Baseball is a part of the reason I’m 42 this Friday and still thriving with this disease. Like I said, I needed baseball, specifically the Braves, back then a lot more than they needed me.


Let’s turn to present day. The Braves have one of the worst teams in baseball, attendance is dwindling and fan support is at a low I haven’t seen since the team moved to Turner Field. 

There’s a disconnect between the Braves and its fans. Just as an example, I went to the Yankees game yesterday as I am a season ticket holder and I was embarrassed to tell my 7 year old that we are still considered the home team despite the fact that 60% of the stadium wore Yankee pinstripes. 


Mr. Malone, all I keep hearing about is "The Braves Way." I get the marketing strategy to get younger in order to succeed. Heck, I predicted it going into the offseason. I understood the Heyward trade though it pains me to realize that you’re essentially saying we couldn’t afford him when he becomes a free agent. I understood the Justin Upton trade though once again I’m miffed that you’re saying we can’t afford him. I understood the Gattis trade because the guy couldn’t be a solid catcher. I even understood trading Kimbrel BUT only because you were starting over and you were able to get rid of Melvin Upton. 


Here’s what I don’t understand. When did the Atlanta Braves become a small market franchise? When did "The Braves Way" become putting the brand over the team? When did ownership stop caring about the everyday fan? 

When Ted Turner was at the helm, he either got the big named free agents or at least had the Braves as one of the teams that was in talks with the high-priced guys. I looked at ESPN after last season and the Braves were not listed as favorites for any of the best players in free agency. 

Here are some other things I don’t understand. Why do we still have Fredi Gonzalez? He’s a terrible strategist and knows very little about sabermetrics which is a key metric to winning in present day baseball. I also don’t understand why we drafted about 50 pitchers in this year’s draft when hitting is our biggest weakness. You may say we’ll trade that young pitching for hitters but we haven’t exactly brought in any great hitters into our minor league system lately. We then took money we weren’t spending on guys like Heyward or Upton and signed an outfielder to a long-term deal who was past his prime and about to go under the knife. Markakis had a decent year but he can't hit for power anymore and his better days are far behind him.

We were told "The Braves Way" meant getting younger but we followed up trading some of our mid-20 stars by signing an aging catcher, several past-their-prime outfielders and a couple of scrap heap relief pitchers. 

I didn’t expect to trade our number one minor league prospect, a good young pitcher and a few other players for a couple of scrubs and a 30-year old player with an injury history who is still NOT considered ready for the big leagues. That doesn't sound like "The Braves Way." I think Olivera will be our modern day Brad Komminsk. If you don’t know about Komminsk, he was supposed to be the next Dale Murphy. He wasn’t even as good as Eddie Murphy.


Mr. Malone, I have never met you and never heard a word from you about the team that has given me and millions of people around the country reasons to turn on the television or walk through the gates of Turner Field. I want to hear from you or John Coppolella or John Hart or Jon Schuerholz or anyone with the name “John” who is a Braves employee as to why we are basically tanking when kids like mine want to root so badly for this team. 

We are being insulted as fans that the big deal surrounding this team is a new stadium. We don’t care. I don’t go to Braves games for the “fan experience.” I go to see a competitive team that will play its heart out for our city and I believe that most season-ticket holders will agree with me.


Somewhere there is a kid like me who needs another “13-game winning streak” to keep his self-esteem going during a difficult time. Somewhere a young Braves fan needs a run like in 1991 for some extra motivation to get him through a tumultuous time. Somewhere there is a kid who needs a CHAMPIONSHIP reminiscent of 1995 so that he doesn’t have to focus on all of the medical treatments he has ahead. 

Thirty-three years ago I needed our Braves to get through my treatment-filled days. Today I believe that they need me and millions of others to stand by them and bring back the success that our fans deserve.


Thank you for your time. Please come to Turner Field sometime and witness firsthand the amount of empty seats and the number of fans wearing the visiting team's jerseys. It might be an eye-opening experience for you.

Please help us bring back a professional baseball franchise to Atlanta. If you can’t bring this kind of competitive unit to this city, I beg you to sell this team to someone locally who can. 

I realize you need some type of stock in return but please consider the working man who spends a good percentage of his salary to attend games. Please consider the lifelong fans who have been watching games since before you were even born. And of course, please think about the kids who are learning baseball for the first time and need a local team to root for. Those are your future season-ticket holders.

They are a lot more important than a few pieces of paper to someone like yourself who honestly doesn't need the money.

It's time to scrap "The Braves Way" and change it to "The Atlanta Way."

We are all in this together.



Andy C. Lipman

Atlanta native & a Braves fan forever



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It was just...time

Andrea's good friend Juan, who doubled as her tennis coach, asked me from time to time in his easygoing Argentinian accent, "When am I going to see you back on the court?" I had told Juan that I used to play but I just didn't have time anymore. 

My son often asked me what sports I played as a kid. "I played baseball, basketball, soccer and some tennis," I always reply. Tennis was always last on my list. It's the sport I wanted to forget. Why? I couldn't even figure it out until recently.

For years, I played competitive tennis as a junior. I was never ranked in the top 50 nor did I ever win a singles tournament. I'm just saying not to compare me to Roger Federer. 

I was 18-0 in high school doubles but I was never one of the top players on a highly rated high school team. Still I loved the game and for the most part it loved me back. The constant moving back and forth caused me to release my mucus and therefore kept my lungs in decent shape. As the years went on, I won a round-robin tournament, made it to the finals of a ranked tournament (in which I knocked off the top seeded player in the semifinals) and began taking lessons several times a week. I even gave lessons to young kids over the summers. 

The problem became when I won, it was more a relief than a thrill. When I lost, I thought about it for weeks and months and criticized myself for hours everyday. I would throw my racket all over the court and scream when I lost points. When I came home, my dad would ask how I did and it would pain me to tell him when I lost. When I won, I just said "I won. Going to my room now."

After my high school days, I decided not to try out for the UGA tennis team. I used to play the team's racket stringer several times a week and won a few more times than I lost. I knew with that record I was never going to be able to compete on a top ranked NCAA team.

I stop playing tennis my freshman year and only played off and on for the next decade. I played on a club team in the early 2000's and got so frustrated after being eliminated from two straight playoff matches that I had an emotional breakdown in my car while my wife tried to console me. Tennis, while keeping me physically healthy, was emotionally killing me. 

Slowly I went from playing on club teams to being able to count on one hand how many times I played per year. Finally, four years ago, I just stop playing. My rackets went from being stored in the house to the garage to eventually the back of the storage room in the basement.

Why was it so hard for me to go back to the storage room, grab my racket and ask someone to play? Then it dawned on me, I realized what tennis was for me.

Tennis revealed my issues with depression and anxiety.  The losses were horrible and the wins were acceptable. Tennis may have loved me but in truth I hated tennis. It brought out the worst in me. It triggered my depression.

I learned to cope with all the things that brought out my anxiety and depression. Well, except for tennis. That didn't become clear to me until last fall. Andrea was told that Juan passed away. She was shocked as were all of the tennis players at our facility.

As several hundred people stood on the courts remember Juan, I stood on a tennis court once again with sadness. This time it wasn't about me about it but about a person we had lost way too early.

Juan always asked me to get back on the court. I always refused, claiming that I just didn't have enough time.

But in fact, there was no better time than now.

When we returned from the funeral, I threw my racket case in the car along with my tennis shoes. I didn't immediately go back to playing but I realized I was done refusing the game.

Today I'm taking lessons once a week and I have partners that I play with here or there. I even joined a competitive team. My game is totally different now. Back in my heyday, I was known for lobbying and just keeping the ball in. Now due to my increased workouts, I am hitting the ball a lot harder and with more overspend. I have a completely different game. But the most important thing is that I have a completely different attitude.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Titanic

I don't shy away from being open and honest about my mental issues. In fact, I often discuss my issues with depression and anxietyRecently, I’ve been confronting another emotional stressor, that of envy.


I feel as if I'm trapped on the Titanic. Half of the ship is being rescued while my half wonders if we are doomed. In this case, people aren't being rescued based on wealth or social status, rather their survival depends on their genotype.

I feel like I'm never going to get off this boat.

Over the last 12 to 18 months, two major pharmaceutical breakthroughs have helped more than 50% of the CF population improve their lung function. The new drugs, Kalydeco and Orkambi, are not effective for the type of CF I have


While people like me are happy for those who are being treated, we are disappointed that we are not candidates for either of these drugs. Knowing this makes me feel as if I’m trapped with that disappointed CF population on a sinking ship. Emotionally it seems so unfair to read discussions on social networks like Facebook dedicated to talking about how patients' lives are so much better after taking these miracle drugs. I feel so selfish for revealing my envy.

It haunts me that my "breakthrough drug" may never exist.

I'm not fighting any less to beat this disease. I spend most hours of the day and night doing treatments, running, working out and doing whatever it takes to stay strong with cystic fibrosis. Yet, there is a part of me that is envious of those who take these new drugs and get to feel so much better. I'm sure that one day my genotype will have a breakthrough treatment. I know there are several companies working on one,and the previous FDA approvals only add momentum for future successes. Still, it is difficult to wait and wonder. 


Neither new drug is a cure, but then not all rescue boats are guaranteed to reach the mainland safely. Still, like the drugs, they offer hope. I worry that by the time the right drug is available for memy ship will have already sailed or worse, sunk.


Still, this wouldn't be a post from me without a positive spin. I may have already received my first "miracle" drug 9 1/2 years agoand then another 2 1/2 years later. I'm referring to the birth of my children. 


Avery and Ethan have changed my life. My health is no longer just about me. It's about them too. I want to keep getting stronger so that I can see all of the milestones in their lives. They have changed my life more than any pill could. I think that perhaps each of us has received a miracle drug some time in our lives but might not have recognized it as such because it wasn't something we had to swallow or inhale.

These miracle "drugs" got me to 40!

And they will get me even further.

We each need to find our miracle treatment. It may just be looking us right in the face. 

In my case, that couldn't be more true.

Live your dreams & love your life.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Life & Death

Ever heard the old expression, "Life is an open book"? Like a book, life has a beginning, a middle and an end. 
Sadly, a lot of people focus on how the story ends rather than enjoying the development of the characters,  the vivid descriptions, or plot line progressions of the story itself.

Just a few years ago, I was strapped to an IV pole, struggling with pain all over and enduring a terrible smoker's cough though I'd never even taken one puff of a cigarette in my lifetime. Just another miserable day fighting cystic fibrosis.

During that episode, I lived in a constant state of fear. I wasn't worried about how I was going to live my day rather I focused all of my energies on how I could outsmart death. What I didn't realize then was that I should have concerned myself more with the former than the latter.

Why is it so important to worry less about dying than worry more about living? I guess in short, everyone dies but not everyone lives. Yes, we all technically live because each of us breathes but I believe the true definition of living should not just be to inhale and exhale oxygen 24 hours a day. Living, to me, is attempting something that scares you. Living is going somewhere that is outside of your comfort zone. Living is accomplishing feats that are considered improbable.

My definition of living probably varies from many of you. I have lived with an enormous chip on my shoulder since I learned of the mortality rate that came with having this incurable genetic disease.

Living with cystic fibrosis provides me with a tremendous opportunity to view life more appreciatively. We each live only once so really it doesn't matter what ends our tour on this earth. What matters is how much we appreciate our days while we are here.

Does this mean that I am grateful every moment that I spend on this planet? Heck no! There are days when I wonder "Why me?" There are mornings that I wake up on the wrong side of the bed. There are occurrences that cause me to question life's fairness. These moments, however, are brief compared to the times that I relish experiencing another day as a part of our beautiful world.

Too many times I hear people complain about the "small stuff." Why is traffic so slow today? Why is there nothing good on television? Why does it continue to rain?

Perhaps it's perspective.

With traffic being so slow, I have more time for self-analysis or to listen to my favorite CD.

If there's nothing on TV, I can take that time to enjoy my family or take a much-needed nap.

If it continues to rain, I can work on a project that I've been pushing aside for months. I can call someone I haven't talked to in weeks or perhaps months or even years.

Life isn't about dying. If it was, we'd all be the same. It's about living and therefore we are all different. We each have the choice to make the most of every moment. If we don't, there is no one else to blame but ourselves.

The final chapter of your story shouldn't be the best one. Don't just skip to the last page; that's not where life happens. Enjoy your entire story. Make it the best book ever written.

As always, Andy
Live your dreams & love your life