I narrated my 3rd consecutive Super Bowl Recap Show for the NFL. Last night I saw it air on TV and it hit me how blessed I have been in this lifetime. Being heard or seen TV doesn't make me blessed. Throughout my career, I have seen myself on the big screen and on the small screen. I have heard my voice on the big screen and the small screen. I have heard my voice on radio. I have spoken and performed in front of hundreds--thousands even. None of this is what makes me blessed. I am blessed because I am living a life of tremendous faith and seeing how God truly honors Jesus' tenet: "If you have just the faith of a mustard seed...
"As I listened to my narration last night, the number 3 came up again as I realized all 3 of the Super Bowls I have narrated involved the Patriots. There are 3 individuals who would have been extraordinarily proud to witness what was airing on Fox Sports 1: John Jennings, Sonny Lea and Joe Paparone. I have chronicled John and Sonny in the past but never Joe. Warning: You might need some tissue.
Joe was a longtime Atlantic City policeman (detective by the time of his death). We met during my years working at the library and became really close friends. He saw me go from the "corporate and civic world" to my career and he was undoubtedly one of my biggest supporters. In late February of 2016, while home for a few days on rest from starring in "Father Comes Home From the Wars" in Harrisburg, PA, Joe and I had lunch at a diner in the town I live. We talked a little politics. We talked about his upcoming retirement. We talked about the play I was in. We talked about our shared connection as Pisces. We talked about the life and crime in AC. We talked about his new fiancé and their upcoming plans. We talked about producing a short film on prostate cancer. Joe had recently beaten the disease and was passionate about educating men about the importance of getting tested. What we didn't talk about was his recent diagnosis of bronchial cancer. We finished up lunch and talked up our next get-together once I returned home from the play for good.
Well, in returning home I called him and sent texts and got no answer. By late spring/early summer, the results were the same. By mid summer, the results were the same. In fact, by this time, I became a bit self-conscious, wondering if I had done something wrong to or by him. By fall, the results were the same and by the holidays I was determined to connect with him. Interestingly enough, I got a text response saying: "Who is this?" Now, I was really taking aback. One December evening after teaching an acting class in Ventnor--just a couple of miles from where he and I would often meet for talks or lunch--something within me said to Google his name. I did and what I saw paralyzed me physically and emotionally. Joe had died a mere three weeks after our lunch together at the diner. He never mentioned he was terminal. That was Joe. Thank God for my wife who wiped my eyes dry that night because I was messed up.
Truth is, maybe even still am over it a little bit. You see, although Joe would always say "Lenny, you are a great one" he so often put his time and even money behind those words. In playing a police officer in the film "Antenna," Joe helped me prepare for this role by studying with him and giving me the inside scoop on police work. Even more, when I was building my new home studio, Joe said "Lenny, let me help you." I told him I was good. He wouldn't hear it and invested a couple of thousand dollars into my gear....(this is the point where I have to settle myself)
He never wanted anything. Truly. Occasionally, he would joke: "Just say my name when you win your Academy Award." God, I miss him. In an age where we talk about how white cops treat black men, here was a white cop and a black man, both of us who never saw color. Our relationship and friendship is the story behind a new series I am writing titled "Twice on Sunday" and is, unequivocally, the motivation behind my new podcast Sunday Word.
In a society and world that embraces evil and idolatry where people are truly working against the tide of spiritual wickedness at every corner and where God, hope, love, faith and inspiration are the B-sides to life, I am hoping to simply build a community of people seeking to make God's kingdom a reality in their everyday lives. Through music, interviews, guest narratives and a complete reversal of that which has robbed your bodies, minds and spirits of "life abundantly" this is a podcast modeled after John Tesh's "Intelligence for Life" but with a different focus. Your bodies, minds and spirits....hmmmm, there is the number 3 again.
Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other.