The first time I attended a professional football game two USFL squads rather than NFL franchises played. The Michigan Panthers and the New Jersey Generals collided in the Garden State, and for a boy who had never been to a game until then, it may as well have been the Super Bowl.
For Millennials and others not in the know, the USFL was legit; real football in the spring and summer. The United States Football League competed with the old guard. When it eventually folded, countless USFL stars took their talents to the National Football League. From Steve Young to Reggie White to Jim Kelly, the upstart league gave these future Hall of Famers their start. But the stars of the USFL weren’t only the players. The Generals owner did quite well for himself, too. This week he may be elected president of the United States.
From a sports standpoint I have only fond memories of the USFL. My most personal reflection on the league, however, pertains to the kindness of Donald Trump. Yes, that Donald Trump. Trump owned the Generals franchise. The club possessed no shortage of stars with NFL futures, such as Herschel Walker and Doug Flutie, or NFL pasts, such as Brian Sipe. Playing in the world’s biggest media market the team did things big. No one was more Big League than their owner.
It was the mid-1980s and I was taking in my first football game with my grandfather. To say I was excited would be a gross understatement. Despite poor weather conditions I was Gung Ho for a big day at the Meadowlands. Honestly, I don’t remember much about the game itself, but I do remember the wonderful time I had with my grandfather. I also remember my first encounter with Donald J. Trump.
As the weather worsened at Giants Stadium, fans started to file out of the facility. Surely, my grandfather who had already seen his share of Jets games at Shea over the years would have probably followed suit if not for his grandson, who wouldn’t want to leave under any circumstances. So, we stuck it out.
Our seats weren’t bad that day but we were pretty far back in the lower seating bowl—until Mr. Trump stepped in. A Generals employee approached my grandfather and me and thanked us for staying when most of the crowd had cleared out. He then informed us that Mr. Trump would like to move us to the front row behind the end zone because of our loyalty to the game. Wow. Anyone would surely appreciate this move, but for an elementary school kid this was beyond Yuge. We enjoyed the rest of the game that day from the first row. I never forgot it.
About a decade later, the U.S. Open came to my hometown. I’m not a golf guy now and wasn’t then, either. But the event was almost in my backyard. Everyone wanted to go to Baltusrol, the home of the 1993 open. The town of Springfield, New Jersey, buzzed. I remember golf superstars walking the neighborhood and patronizing our local businesses. I remember my parents considering selling parking spaces in our driveway. But what I remember most was another encounter with Donald Trump. Yet again, his kindness shined through.
I scored passes to the U.S. Open through some family friends in local government. I headed to the links with a few buddies. We were a bunch of rogues. All of us either in or just out of college. We were basically beer and football guys who somehow descended on a golfing major. While I didn’t care much about who sat atop the leader board, I did get a kick out of seeing the event unfold. The mass of people and media was not the norm for our town. My friends and I took it all in. We strolled from hole to hole and more importantly we moved from party tent to party tent. For young men in their early twenties on a beautiful spring day, this was the life. Then things got even cooler.
We were just hanging out on a ramp that led to one of the tents when I noticed who I thought was Donald Trump. The hair was instantly recognizable. After all, Trump’s face was in our homes all the time. We saw him on TV commercials and we saw him at pay-per-view boxing events. Even though he moved our seats at the Generals game all those years ago, this was the first time seeing the man face to face.
When I told my friends it was Trump, they thought it was great but they all knew I’d be the one to take things further. Never shy, even back then, I yelled “Hi, Mr. Trump” across the course. I didn’t realize he was on his mobile phone. No one had mobile phones in the early ’90s, but of course Trump did. I expected him to ignore us or perhaps even tell us to get lost since he was on a phone call. He did neither. The billionaire businessman instead hung up his call and talked to us—yes, us. A man friends with world leaders and world champions stopped to take the time to hang with idiot college kids.
Trump asked us if we were having fun and where we were from. Then he told us where the “good tent” was. Apparently it was a tent he had set up for one of his relatives. We thanked him and absolutely took him up on his offer. We headed to the private tent with Trump’s blessing. Sure enough the tent had Trump all over it. The fare was similar to the other tents, featuring great barbecue and the like, but unlike the other tents there was real silverware and flatware. No paper plates and plastic forks in a Trump tent—well, of course not.
Just like at that football game years ago, the fun day I had on the links was made even more memorable thanks to Donald Trump.
A couple years later, I saw Trump again. Again, major pro sports provided the backdrop. It was the U.S. Open Tennis Open in Flushing, New York. It was my first time at this event, but regulars such as Don Imus and Donald Trump attended. Our seats were relatively close to Trump’s box seats. As I walked by him we said hello and shook his hand. Nothing earth shattering, just a quick hello. But again Trump was genuinely friendly. As I sat down to take in the greatest tennis players in the world, I told the woman who accompanied me that night about the other two times Trump demonstrated great warmth toward me, my friends, and my family. As far as I was concerned, this was a good man. He was three-for-three with me.
I don’t think it’s a mistake that I met Trump at several sporting events. It speaks to the normalness of the man. He really is that blue-collar billionaire people talk about. He is a sports fan just like the construction worker, the bus driver, and the police officer. Unlike those who need a teleprompter for every word they say or who pretend they are sports fans when it’s the popular thing to do, Trump is not phony. He wont be a Cubs fan one minute and a Yankees fan the next like his opponent. Trump keeps it real.
I’m proud to say I’ve been a supporter of Trump’s run for the White House from the start. In fact, this is the first time in my life that the person I voted for in the primary (non-incumbent) is actually the nominee for president. That’s exciting. I’m backing Trump because I know he is the best man for our security, our economy, our children, and our country. But, knowing that the man has great character played a role in this as well.
The Clinton campaign has been all about smearing Mr. Trump. Hillary and friends have painted a false narrative about the man Trump truly is. Democrats, Never Trumpers, phony Republicans, and the media have lied at every turn. Most of these people do not know Mr. Trump. Many of them have never met him.
During this historic race for the presidency, I had the honor of interviewing Donald Trump. I told him on the air and off the air about my past run-ins with him. I was happy to let him know that his kindness was appreciated, even decades later.
In my interview with Mr. Trump and during our chat off the air, he lived up to the memories I had of the man. The guy who moved a crazed football kid down to better seats, the man who took the time to hang with college guys on a golf course, the man who was happy to exchange pleasantries at a tennis match, was the same man now. He just happens to be oh so close to becoming our 45th president.
Trump haters like to point to that ridiculous Access Hollywood tape when trying to bring Trump down. One example of a private conversation. A man who’s been in the spotlight forever, yet that’s all they have. I have four examples that paint quite a contrary picture.
I have only been around Mr. Trump briefly. My daughter and I got to meet him at his big rally in Newtown, Pennsylvania, recently. Though, the meetings have been few, Trump has always been amazing. But, if you don’t want to believe me, I can recommend some people you can talk to.
Trump’s children, his employees such as Lynne Patton and Katrina Pierson, and his supporters including Sarah Palin and Ben Carson all know Mr. Trump very well. I’ve interviewed all of these people. These are honest, real folks. They all vouch for Trump. They all have confirmed that my snapshots in time with the man are the real articles. Trump is a good guy. Trump is a great man.
In the remaining hours leading up the election, we know what’s coming. Relentless attacks will be fired at Trump. Hillary Clinton will attempt to tear down his character. He will be called disgusting things, even though he was never labeled with any of these awful traits before he decided to seek office. Funny, how he is suddenly a monster when he’s this close to shaking up Washington. These are lies.
When Tuesday rolls around ladies and gentlemen, vote on issues, vote with your heart, and vote based on the person. But don’t fall for the false narratives. Don’t believe the outright lies. Don’t get tricked by those that say Donald Trump is a horrible person. Take it from me, Mr. Trump has been a good sport from way back.