AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
As the Red Sox get ready to celebrate the 2004 Championship team at Fenway tonight, I thought I would post this column that ran in the Norton Mirror in October of 2004 celebrating that championship. This one is for my grandfather.
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
I never thought I would live to see it.
When the Red Sox stormed the field
in St. Louis Wednesday night after sweeping the Cardinals for their first World
Series championship in 86 years, they did much more than just win a world
title.It was so much more meaningful
and significant than that.
The victory by the Red Sox validated
generations of New Englanders who have lived and died with this institution,
this team that represents not a city, not a state, but an entire region.For so long now this baseball team has been a
symbol of the rugged determination we in the Northeast have, as well as the
frustration we have had to live with for decades.
As I sit here in the immediate
aftermath of something I have waited my whole life to experience, my thoughts
are not of baseball.They are not of the
exciting comeback against the Yankees, the heroics of David Ortiz, the
courageous pitching of Derek Lowe, or the crowning of World Series MVP Manny
No, my thoughts are about friends
and family members who longed to be around for this night, this event, but
could not be here.My thoughts are about
how lucky I am to have been around for this, to have my faith rewarded, and to
be able to share it with those I love.
I think of my grandfather Connie
Houghton, who bought me my first baseball glove when I was too young to know
what hand it went on.He taught me to
love the game, gave me something I could share with him, and instilled in me
the tradition of rooting for your home team and being a real Red Sox fan.
Connie took me to my first Sox game
in 1965.We sat in box seats just a few
rows behind the Boston dugout.The
Kansas City Athletics were the opponents in a doubleheader.We lost both games, Tony Conigliaro hit a
home run in the second contest, and I was officially inducted into Red Sox
Ten years later that nine year-old
kid got to pay his grandfather back a little bit.I got two tickets to the Sox-Oakland playoff
game at Fenway Park, and I had a ton of friends who volunteered to go with me.But there was only one person I wanted to be
with me at that game.And today, it
remains one of the most vivid memories of my life.
I looked around the room as the last
out was recorded Wednesday night, and I will carry those images in my mind
forever.I see my two sons hugging each
other deliriously, and I knew exactly what they were feeling.This was a night, a moment, an experience that
I will always treasure being able to share with them.
Many people who are not sports fans
are nonetheless celebrating this week, because the truth is the Red Sox are
about more than sports.The Red Sox are
as much a part of New England life as the leaves turning color in the fall and
the college students heading home for the summer.
Red Sox fans, your faith and support
has at long last been rewarded.So many
other teams have won the World Series in the past 86 years, and each one of
them had fans that enjoyed it and relished it.
But none of them – not a one – meant
as much to their collective community as the Red Sox.You have to be a real Sox fan to understand
that, but it is true.Our faith, our
perseverance, our very existence has been validated in a way only the faithful
can truly comprehend.
And for one night, I am nine
again.I am holding my grandfather’s
hand as he gazes down at me, smiling the smile that only winners can
flash.All across New England, others
are going through similar moments.
They did it, Connie.Just like you always told me they could.Let’s celebrate.
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, May 26, 2014.
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
Sometimes it’s not the story you tell that matters – but rather how you tell it.
When my oldest grandson Will (did I mention his name is William?) was just a little more than two years old, his Grandma and I took him on the first of what would become our annual vacation treks to New Hampshire. We stay in a hotel, visit StoryLand and other local attractions, and just have an all-around great time.
But that first trip was a treat we will never forget, made more so because it was the first time I ever told my grandson a story. And that is quite a story all by itself.
With a big day looming in front of us, we tried to get Will in bed early that first evening. We tucked him in, read him a story or two, and then told him to go to sleep. Yeah – right.
My wife decided this was an opportunity to run out and get some supplies. By default that left me in charge, and she told me to get our grandson to sleep by the time she got back. I assured her that would be no problem.
But it was not that easy. We read some more books, and I pretended to fall asleep next to him. Somehow he wasn’t fooled, and I knew there had to be another way.
Then it hit me. I asked Will if he would like Grandpa to TELL him a story. He seemed to consider this an exciting alternative and quickly agreed.
Quickly scanning my memory banks, I told my excited grandchild I was going to tell him the story of the Three Little Pigs. He squealed happily and snuggled up in his bed, looking up at me with great anticipation. I was quite proud of myself.
That is, until I started actually telling the story.
I was a few minutes into relating the fairy tale when I suddenly remembered it involved the eating of the title characters by a scary animal. It crossed my mind this might not be the best sleep aid.
And worse than that, I realized that in fact I did not remember many of the key details of this story of destruction and near-death.
I tried to change stories, but Will was having none of it. I had promised Three Little Pigs, and he would settle for nothing less. So I told my rather unique version of the story.
When Grandma snuck back into the room, Will was totally involved in the sorrow of the swine. The first little pig had just lost his house made of sticks. The second little pig had fled after the Big Bad Wolf had blown down his house made of newspaper.
“And there was a knock on the door, and the Big Bad Wolf asked the third little pig to please let him in”, I related earnestly. Will was almost asleep at that point, but Grandma’s near hysterical laughter woke him up.
I managed to finish the story in a fairly non-violent manner, and my grandson seemed quite happy. He fell asleep with a smile on his face, and I celebrated my obvious brilliance despite my wife’s insistence on pointing out the many places where I had veered off from the original transcript.
The next night we put Will to bed, and he asked for the Pigs story again. I flushed with pride, pushed Grandma aside, and set out to once again enthrall the youngster with my story.
However, I couldn’t quite remember exactly how I had told it. The problem was – Will did.
“No Grandpa – not right” he rebuked me. He wanted exactly the same story (the kid has a memory like an elephant). It took me an extra half-hour to finish the story because he kept correcting me and making me start over. But he eventually dozed off in satisfied slumber, and we watched him sleep for a while.
Next month Will – now six – will head up north with us again. He’ll probably fall asleep watching a DVD this time. He won’t want to hear my convoluted tale of the polite wolf and the pigs living in a house of newspapers.
But we’ll always have that time I told it to him.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and grandfather of three. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.
Mansfield Selectman Olivier Kozlowski sent out a tweet this past weekend under his Twitter name of "@SelectmanKoz." He does this regularly, commenting on a variety of topics. He has an absolute right to do so.
But the elected official crossed a line of sorts on Saturday when he commented on a sign at a Lowe's store advertising job openings. In fact, he not only crossed the line - he kicked dirt all over it.
The sign that offended Selectman Kozlowski simply announced the store was hiring. It made that announcement in both English and Spanish, and it was the Spanish part that apparently offended the selectman's sensibilities.
Using his @SelectmanKoz name, Kozlowski tweeted "@Lowes what level of customer service can I expect from applicants who need the lower half of this sign?"
Contacted later for an explanation of his statement, Kozlowski said, "It struck me as odd that the store was looking for employees who may not be able to speak English. It seems self-defeating."
The elected official then added: "I stand by what I said."
So much wrong, so little space. But let's start with Selectman Kozlowski tweeting as "@SelectmanKoz."
He has a perfect right to use that name. But when he includes his office on his Twitter handle, he also accepts an additional responsibility. What he says or tweets now reflects upon his town, his board, his colleagues and the citizens he represents.
If he wants to use the name, he must also accept that burden.
And what he tweeted was absolutely stupid. Not silly, not unwise, not misguided. It was just stupid, in every single sense of the word.
And it unfairly tarnished the reputations of the Town of Mansfield, the board of selectmen, town government and the community itself. Far too many casual Twitter readers now think Mansfield is "that crazy place where the selectman thinks Lowe's shouldn't hire people who speak Spanish."
Of course, the good selectman is also a hero to many. Facebook abounds with people who think only those speaking English should be hired, and praise Kozlowski for "speaking his mind."
Perhaps they make the selectman feel vindicated, but it is difficult to accept his tweet as anything but what it clearly is - a distinct prejudice against those who do not speak or read English well.
The sign he tweeted about merely said the store was accepting applications. It did not indicate any preference in hiring. It didn't even specify a position to be filled. But apparently just the fact they used the Spanish language was enough for Selectman Kozlowski to decide it was a problem.
The sign did not indicate the job was in customer service. For all the selectman knew, it could have been for a job with no customer contact. But apparently even the possibility that the applicant might have read about the opening in Spanish caused this elected official to question what level of service he might receive.
Forget how self-serving and self-centered this sounds, and just think for a moment how unfair it is. But, hey - if you read Spanish better than English, how could you possibly help Selectman Kozlowski find the proper power tool? He has a right to expect better than the likes of you helping him, doesn't he?
He might like to hide behind the concept of free speech as a means of justifying his mean-spirited and cruel remark, but that won't wash. We all have the right to say stupid things.
We also must all be held accountable for them.
My father came to this country as a teenager unable to speak English. He got a job working in a local store. If Selectman Kozlowski had been in charge, Dad probably never would have been hired, based on his "ability to communicate."
Perhaps, then, he never would have gone on to put himself through college, become a CPA, vice president of a major bank and help thousands of people.
Selectman Kozlowski appears to be a nice man who made a big mistake. He has embarrassed himself, his colleagues and his community. He should apologize for his insensitive and stupid remarks, move on personally, and hope the voters of Mansfield allow him to move on politically.
And I stand by what I said.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on May 19, 2014.
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
a steady diet of politics and posturing, the Attleboro City Council is
preparing to sit down at the table and digest the issue of whether or not to
institute a local meals tax of ¾ of one percent on restaurant tabs.
hoping they stop talking in circles and just eat their spinach.
there has ever been a no-brainer issue before the council, this is it.Faced with shrinking revenues and rising
costs, the city clearly needs money.
is not going to come from the state, which has refused to provide an even higher
rate of aid.It is not going to come
from local businesses, which are struggling to survive in a slowly-recovering
economic climate.And it is not going to
be raised solely on the backs of residential property taxpayers who still find
themselves looking for jobs that pay the bills.
knows there has to be some kind of revenue increase.Call it a tax, call it a fee, or call it
whatever other catchy phrase makes you feel good.City residents need the services they now
have, and you need the money to provide them.Step up to your plates and swallow this distasteful political meal.
communities around Attleboro have already adopted this tax out of necessity.It will not put a burden on the city’s
restaurants and eateries, as their competition in several neighboring towns are
already dealing with it.It has had
little to no impact on business in those areas, and there is zero reason to
believe it will serve as any kind of detriment to Attleboro establishments.
it’s a tax.Taxes are bad.Nobody likes them.It is not politically expedient or wise to
enact them, especially on a local level.People can’t afford any type of increase.They should cut all the “fat” out of the city
budget before proposing to take so much as a nickel out of the pockets of
citizens.Agreed on all points.
But this is
down to basics here, and it is time to set aside the rhetoric and ideological
philosophies.Attleboro’s schools need
funding and improvement.Any objective
review of the facts shows this to be true.And since the state is not going to bail the city out this year, it is
incumbent upon the council and the government to start solving their own
has said he will dedicate the added revenue from the meals tax to pay for
schools.This won’t solve all the
problems facing education in Attleboro, but it is a good start.It shows city officials are serious about
doing more than talking about how dire the situation is.
face it – this is hardly an oppressive tax.If you take your family out for a nice meal in one of Attleboro’s better
restaurants and spend $100, you will pay an extra 75 cents in taxes.If you are an elderly person on a fixed
incoming going out to treat yourself to breakfast for $10, you will pay an
additional 7-1/2 cents.
is not going to prevent people from paying their rents or heating their
homes.Yes, it all adds up.But the children of the city are worth this.
instituting the meals tax, officials actually thin the burden on their
constituents.Many people who do not
live in Attleboro still eat in the many fine establishments there, and thus
will be contributing to the taxes collected.
councilors have no problem taking additional aid when it flows from the
state.Where do they think that money
comes from?It stems from all the good
taxpayers across the Commonwealth who are paying for things all over the
state.The meals tax is not all that
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, May 16, 2014
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
I write a column.Other times, the
column writes itself.This is one of
those latter instances.
Mike Kirby recently informed me I had received a letter at the newspaper
office, and forwarded it on.When I read
it, the past seemed to be speaking to me.I knew I had to share it with those who regularly read this space.
I wrote about the dedication of a new sign at the Lee Burchill Complex in
Norton, and retold part of the story of the young man after who the fields were
named.He had been shot and paralyzed
while still in high school.Now suddenly,
I was holding a letter from someone who had taken care of him during his many
trips to the hospital.
recent article on Lee Burchill is what prompted me to write”, the letter
began.It told of the writer working in
a hospital and first meeting Lee long after he had been shot.He wrote of Lee always being happy despite
enduring tremendous pain.
said it felt like electronic zaps.A face
cloth on his skin felt like a cheese grater”, the letter went on.The author told of trips to visit Lee in
Norton, and beeping at him as the paraplegic youngster would wheel himself
around his Grove neighborhood.
he revealed the final act of friendship he performed for Lee.He was on duty at the hospital when Lee died,
and took part in preparing his body for his final journey.
Head Nurse knew Lee was a friend, and told him he did not have to do this.But our anonymous caring individual
remembered saying, “I will do it for that exact reason, he was my
friend.I will help him pass into this
next phase of life which will be pain-free for him”, he wrote.
touching and meaningful as his letter was, the author (anonymous here at his
request) added another surprise.He
included two letters Lee had personally written to him months before he died,
with the help of a special device (remember, this was 1981).
my wife and I gazed down at the letters, we could almost hear Lee’s raspy voice
emanating from the printed pages.There
was no doubt they were from him, as his trademark cockiness and sense of humor
in the face of incredible challenges came through clearly.Please allow me to share one dated February
just wanted to thank every one of you for your get well card and tell you all
just how much it was appreciated.Right
now, I’m home from Tufts, but I’ll be going back in a few weeks for an
operation.I’m scheduled to have brain
surgery.You see, the doctors don’t think
it’s fair for one man to be so intelligent.So they’re simply going to remove half my brain.You understand, don’t you?It’s to give the other countries a
chance.It’s my duty as an American
went on for a bit, then concluded by writing:“Well, “The Burch” is going to take off now,
but anytime you are in the area, don’t be afraid to drop over.Again, I’d just like to thank all of you for
taking such great care of me.As a
matter of fact, if I ever get shot again, I’ll be sure to make sure that I’m
sent to you.”
was signed “Your satisfied patient, Lee Burchill (The Burch)”.
was written by a man who had spent the previous 8-1/2 years unable to walk and
in constant pain.An athlete known for
his cockiness who now had to have even his most basic needs attended to by
others.A person who had every reason to
give up and become bitter, yet remained able to appreciate the things others
did for him.
kind soul who contacted me was so impressed by Lee that he still has these
letters some 33 years later.Lee had
that kind of effect on people.
also reaffirms that the people of Norton didn’t name those baseball fields
after Lee because he died.They did it
because of how he lived.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and
a longtime local official.He can be
emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, May 2, 2014.
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
Saturday, Norton Youth Baseball will begin its 60th year of
operation (according to unofficial records).The Opening Day ceremonies will be held and a new sign dedicated at the fields
on Plain Street known as the Lee Burchill Complex.
may have driven past the fields, taken children to practice or play there, or
just driven by and seen the old Burchill sign.Maybe you wondered who Lee Burchill was, and why the fields were named
after him.Maybe you saw it and the
thought never crossed your mind.
from Norton, and folks in general, need to know this story.And since there are fewer and fewer townies
like me left who have known and admired Lee and his family, there is a need for
the story to be told.
Burchill was a Norton High School senior in the fall of 1972.A good all-around athlete with a quick laugh
and cocky attitude, he could both make you laugh and tick you off with equal
particular fall afternoon he had just led his football team to a near upset of
heavily-favored Case High School.After
the game, the young quarterback went to the home of his best friend in
there, Lee was somehow shot in the head by his friend.It was ruled accidental, though there were
many who questioned it.The only thing
we know for sure is - that day life was forever changed for Lee and his family..
shotgun pellets lodged in his head, Lee became a quadriplegic.It was a miracle he survived at all.He would spend the next nine years immobile
and in considerable pain before passing away.
nine years were far from unproductive.Lee took on his physical limitations like he did everything prior to the
shooting – as a challenge.
over a year from the incident, he did the unthinkable.Through tutoring and hard work, he earned his
high school diploma.We teased him and
asked what took him so long.He laughed
along with us at the joke.
he was in May of 1974, in cap and gown, being wheeled down the aisle by his football
coach to graduate with my class.
To see what
Lee went through on a daily basis was astounding.His courage was inspirational.Perhaps just as much so was how his family
stayed by him and sacrificed for him.Though in truth, they never seemed to consider it sacrifice.
Rita was an amazing woman who helped take wonderful care of both her sons.I say both because Lee’s younger brother Joey
suffered from a long illness and also died at a young age.It all took a toll on Rita, who passed away
far too soon.
left Lee’s dad Fred as the lone surviving family member.After suffering the death of his wife and two
sons, no one would have blamed him if he chose to wallow in despair and let
what was left of his life fall apart.
it is clear where Lee got the courage and determination
he showed in his life.He obviously
inherited it from his father.
a Norton resident to this day, and is a regular visitor to the family grave. Most
of us cannot imagine what he has been through, but all of us can appreciate the
courage and class with which he has done it.
new Lee Burchill Complex sign could easily refer to their entire family – but
it doesn’t.It is in honor of Lee, who
received the rawest of deals from life and strove to overcome it.A self-assured, self-confident teenager who
suddenlly had to rely on others to take care of his most basic of needs.A young athlete no longer able to walk, but
working hard at it until the day he died.
next time you go by the sign at the Burchill field, see if it looks any different
now that you know the story.That sign
is the symbol of a town’s respect for one of its own, and intended to help
guarantee the story of Lee Burchill is passed on to future generations.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and lifelong
Norton resident.He can be emailed at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at