Editor’s Note: This morning, I received word about the passing of long-time friend Ernie Palladino, who lost his battle with cancer. I’ve been extremely moved by his passing and the battle he fought so valiantly that I put together the following reflection.
“Howya doin’ kiddo?”
It’s hard to believe that I’ll never hear those words again from my dear friend, Ernie Palladio, who today lost his battle with cancer.
In a time where I should be excited about the start of another Giants training camp this week, I find myself with a heavy heart as I struggle to find the right words to express my memories of “the little guy with the big heart” who taught me so many valuable lessons that I have applied in my career that I could probably write a book.
Understand that in college, I didn’t major in journalism. I chose to study English literature and creative writing, and for a while I thought I might go into contract law or be a teacher.
While I did gain some experience working on the college newspaper, it’s probably fair to say I had a lot to learn about being a journalist when I graduated school.
(I still do, but that’s another story for another time.) .
I was lucky. I had what most young journalists don’t have—mentors. One of my mentors is the late Dr. Howard Livingston, the founding editor and publisher of Inside Football.
Another mentor? Ernie Palladino, a man whose journalistic style and ethic I greatly admired and tried to emulate, and a man who made sure to introduce me to several people in the business when the opportunity presented itself so I wouldn’t have to “be alone” when he Ernie wasn’t there.
It’s because of Ernie that any chance I get to serve as a mentor to an aspiring journalist, I openly embrace it. If I can pass along half of what he and Dr. Livingston taught me, then I’m confident the next generation is going to do just fine.
I have many memories of Ernie, but the one that probably sits at the forefront of my memory bank happened in 2011, when I was diagnosed with cancer.
Needless to say, I was devastated when I got my news and for several weeks, I was convinced that I wasn’t going to make it.
Ernie, who had dealt with his own cancer battle back, wouldn’t let me think that way. He gave me the greatest possible incentive to fight and win my battle: If I beat cancer, he promised me that we’d share a dance at the Commissioner’s Ball that used to be held at the Super Bowl.
Now how could I have refused such an offer?
When my scans came back clean in the fall of 2011, Ernie was one of the first people I told. His reaction was priceless—you’d think that he was just awarded a lifetime supply of fresh pasta (Ernie, an old-world Italian-American, loved his pasta, sometimes more than I think he loved money, but that’s another story for another time).
Unfortunately the NFL eliminated the Commissioner’s Ball which used to include the media, so we never had that official dance. But from that moment, we had a friendship that solidified further and which taught me that I’m a lot stronger than I thought.
As I sit here writing this, I have a piece of paper with a list of football articles that still need to be done before the start of Giants training camp.
While my heart is heavy as I think of Ernie’s family, including a new grandson who entered the world not too long ago, and I pray they find solace in knowing that Ernie is no longer in pain and that he’s itching to get to work as a guardian angel for those who mourn for him.