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					The Advocate: Ehrmann brings a unique message to New Canaan visit

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Ehrmann brings a unique message to New Canaan visit
By Dave Ruden Staff Writer October 1, 2006 NEW CANAAN -- When his son gave him a copy of "Season Of Life" last Christmas, Mike Hobbs did not know much about the subject of the book, former Baltimore Colts star Joe Ehrmann. By the time he had pored through the 177 pages, Hobbs, a New Canaan resident, was determined to get Ehrmann to address his hometown. "I read the book and it just blew me away," Hobbs recalled. "It was fascinating in a number of ways. I called him and said, 'What do we do to get you here?' " Hobbs' dream will become a reality Wednesday night, when Ehrmann will speak from 7-9 p.m. at the New Canaan High School auditorium. The event, which is being sponsored by the New Canaan High School Sports Council, the Coalition for Underage Drinking, New Canaan Cares, the New Canaan YMCA and the Fairfield County Sports Commission, is free to the public. Ehrmann, who played in the NFL for 10 years, the first eight with the Colts, and was named to one Pro Bowl before retiring in 1982, has taken a postfootball road that would seem antithetical to the stereotypical macho world of his sport. Ehrmann and his wife, Paula, are the co-founders of "Building Men and Women for Others," which, according to its Web site, was "created out of an awareness that one of the greatest crises in America centers on the issue of masculinity and its correlating themes of boyhood, manhood, husbandry and fatherhood. America is increasingly becoming a toxic environment for the development of boys into men. The absence of men as father-mentor-coach role models is the leading cause of declining child well-being and is the engine driving many of our most urgent social problems." Erhmann's other endeavors include co-founding Baltimore's Ronald McDonald House, serving as the preacher pastor at Grace Fellowship Church and as an assistant football coach at Gilman School, a private high school.,0,4810910,print.s... 10/2/2006

The Advocate: Ehrmann brings a unique message to New Canaan visit

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"Sports is a tool and not an end in itself," Ehrmann said during a telephone interview last week. "They are part of the educational curriculum. One of the biggest lies is about winning at all cost. It's not true. It's about character." According to Ehrmann, a seminal moment in 1978 is the root for many of his beliefs and teachings. "I watched my little brother die of cancer," he said. "I spent five months in a pediatric oncology ward. That was a formative experience." Much of Ehrmann's tenets would seem out of place in a football locker room, which, he said, is part of the problem with how boys are raised to think and act today. He said that can be traced back to the concept of masculinity in society. "You have to look at it more in terms of relationships," Ehrmann said. "There are broad cultural messages that create tremendous problems in life for men." Ehrmann said he makes about 75-100 speaking appearances a year. "I'm shocked by the receptivity to all this," he said. "I've been a youth advocate and a social advocate and I didn't know you could actually make a change. I've tried to control and manipulate a lot of things in my life, and this is not one of them." Hobbs, who is retired from his job running a building construction firm, had three sons who have graduated from New Canaan High School. After reading "Season Of Life," which was written by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jeffrey Marx, he was moved. Hobbs recited like a mantra the adjectives that are at the core of Ehrmann's beliefs. Inclusion. Acceptance. Empathy. Responsibility. Love. "I'm getting older and seeing more and more things in my life, and I feel there is a better chance now of knowing when something is really right and not," Hobbs said. Hobbs first approached David Abbey, the schools superintendent, then New Canaan High School's principal, Tony Pavia, and athletic director, Jay Egan. "I was walking to my car one evening, it was dark out and Mike Hobbs came up to me, handed me a book and asked me to read it and let him know what I thought," Pavia recalled. "He wanted to buy it for the coaches. I made a point of reading it immediately. By page 20, I was hooked." Pavia said his reaction was the same as Hobbs'. "We live in a competitive world and we forget there are other things in life," Pavia said. "Joe Ehrmann brings perspective. Sports are merely a means in developing character in people. While winning is important, it is clearly not the most important thing." Hobbs said based on the buzz he has heard, this could be one of the largest speaking engagements in the town's history. The high school auditorium holds about 950 people, and the school is also setting up a closed-circuit feed in the cafeteria for a possible overflow. Copies of Ehrmann's book will also be available for purchase. Ehrmann is returning on Nov. 7 for an all day coaching clinic for the New Canaan High School staff.,0,4810910,print.s... 10/2/2006

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"I hope the book and the message has been a tremendous tool for healing," Ehrmann said. "We've asked the right questions but we have never answered them." Hobbs said he believes Ehrmann's words will have broad appeal. "They work just as well in Greenwich as they do in Bridgeport," Hobbs said. "It's just a better way to live your life. If people took Joe's advice the world would be a hell of a lot better." Copyright © 2006, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.,0,4810910,print.s... 10/2/2006

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