PLANTSVILLE – Tom Coughlin, retired head coach of the New York Giants, often liked to keep his players just a bit off balance. At the end of the 2007-08 NFL season, his team had just lost a critical game and the players expected to face his wrath in the locker room the next morning.
On accepting the St. Francis Award at the 31st annual Franciscan Sports Banquet at the Aqua Turf Club June 7, Coach Coughlin explained how he handled that morning-after talk: “I walked into the room and I said simply, ‘Gentlemen, we have two games to play. We have to win one of the two games to get into the playoffs. I suggest we beat the Buffalo Bills this weekend, because our last game is against the undefeated New England Patriots.’ Then I walked out of the room.”
The Giants went on to beat the Bills. They eventually found themselves in the Super Bowl against the still-unbeaten Patriots. Down 14-10 late in the fourth quarter, a one-handed catch by wide receiver David Tyree set up a touchdown play, and the Giants won 17-14.
“There are no limits,” Coach Coughlin told the 570 banquet attendees. “There are plateaus, but you must not stay there. You must go beyond them.” We have no control over how strong an opponent is, he said. “But you have control of yourself and the efforts you bring.”
Coach Coughlin was one of four sports celebrities receiving awards at this, the biggest fund-raising event for the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist.
Co-emcee Al Terzi, a retired broadcaster and a 2010 recipient of the Jim Calhoun Community Service Award, announced that his son, Fox 61 news reporter Tony Terzi, would receive the Dean of Sports Award, named after the late Arnold D’Angelo, aka Arnold Dean, aka the “Dean of Sports.”
“I couldn’t be prouder, as a dad and as a fellow broadcaster,” the elder Terzi said.
Rich Coppola, Fox 61 sports director, praised Tony Terzi for his versatility. He has been a radio DJ, a sports reporter, a news reporter and a news anchor. “
Tony Terzi said that when he received a letter from the Franciscans in February, he thought it would be an invitation to once again co-emcee the banquet with his father. Instead, it was an invitation to receive the award.
Tony Terzi’s co-emcee spot this year was handled by Joe D’Ambrosio, WTIC “Sports Talk” host.
Jim Calhoun, retired head coach of UConn Men’s Basketball, has been a fixture at the event almost from the beginning 30 years ago.
“You’ll leave here tonight feeling good about this experience,” Coach Calhoun said. “Mother Shaun [Vergauwen, mother general and co-founder of the order], you helped me and my family, all of us.”
In presenting the Jim Calhoun Community Service Award to Jim Penders, head baseball coach at UConn, Coach Calhoun said, “This is a special guy, friend, coach.”
Tedy Bruschi, former Patriots linebacker, three-time Super Bowl champion and host of “The NFL Show” on ESPN, presented the St. Clare Award to fellow ESPN commentator Chris McKendry. Mrs. McKendry, now ESPN’s broadcaster for Grand Slam Tennis, said the award recognizes two things that have been intertwined in her life, her faith and sports.
When she first began covering tennis, she was nervous at the prospect of interviewing tennis greats John and Patrick McEnroe and Chris Evert at the same time. But she prayed about it, and when the interview took place, “it was just four loud Irish kids talking at a table,” she said.
“I prepared for tennis, but my life prepared me for that moment,” she said.
Sharon Rigby of Meriden, a lifetime apprentice to the Franciscan Sisters was among the attendees. She said she goes for the camaraderie and to support the sisters. “This is a lot of fun. I enjoy this. You get to see old friends you haven’t seen,” she said.
Thomas McGraw of Prospect, a parishioner at St. Aloysius in Plantsville, said he has attended for many years to support the sisters. “We also sing at the [Franciscans’] Christmas fair. It’s a wonderful organization,” he said.
Mother Shaun remarked on why she believes the annual banquet is so successful.
“The kind of celebrities we have, I think, are special, but it’s special because I think that for the people who come every year, it’s gotten to be kind of like a friendship group.”
Proceeds benefit the Franciscan Life Center and Franciscan Home Care and Hospice Care in Meriden.