, Corbin, KY


July 23, 2013

John Boel and why to give people second chances


Last week, Louisville television anchor John Boel was nominated for regional Emmys in four different categories. He won them all.  

Before November of 2010, Boel had won 70 Emmy awards in a 25-year career as a television anchor and reporter.  But after his second DUI, John was “On the News, In the News” which became the title of his autobiographical book.  

When I met him at the Kentucky Book Fair, he had been unemployed for over a year.  He had also been sober for most of that time and a regular at recovery meetings.  

After spending the day with he and his wife Brenda at the table next to mine, I went home and wrote a Huffington Post column about him and his book that night.

It was perfect timing.

A lot of influential people in Louisville, like WHAS radio personality Terry Meiners, were helping John and a couple of months later, WAVE3 gave John a second chance.

The Emmys tell the rest of the story.  

There are two schools of thought about forgiveness. One is articulated by Jesus, who said to turn the other cheek. The other is articulated by the fictional character The Godfather, who believed that all wrongs must be avenged. Most of us live somewhere in the middle.

If you are like me, there are some people I forgive and others where I tend to hold grudges. I’d like to be more like Jesus, but realize like The Godfather that if I forgive everyone for every reason, people would walk all over me.  

However, God gave me a unique talent.

I’m good at picking out people who will make the most of a second chance. I don’t bet on many horses in the comeback category, but find the winners when I do.

Everything about John Boel told me that he would make the most of a second chance. He is a focused and driven guy who does stuff like compete in Ironman races.

I always wonder if John and I would have been friends before he fell off the wagon. Guys like John always seem a little too perfect for someone like me whose every ounce of being screams imperfection.  

Getting knocked down put John in the same universe I live in. Hoping that the world would overlook his imperfections and see the whole person.

The people at WAVE3 saw the whole picture and gave John a second chance. One that he made the most of.  

A lot of well-known people are trying to make comebacks in a public way.

Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer are running for office in New York. Tiger Woods is battling back as a golfer and scores of celebrities battle addiction problems in a public way.  

Making a comeback is not limited to celebrities.

I just helped a young man get admitted to college after he flunked out a few years ago. I’ve helped a number of people get readmitted into college and will go to any length, including visiting the president of the school, to make it happen.  Almost all of the people have come through on the second chance. Usually with honors.  

There are just as many people that I did not choose to help. I’m not sure why I pick one and not pick another. Usually it is a gut feeling about whether a person would appreciate the opportunity.  

The movie Donnie Brasco is a wonderful illustration of a parlance of the street and the whole philosophy of giving your “stamp of approval” for a person by “vouching” for them.

If you “vouched” for someone and they did not come through, like in the true story of Donnie Brasco, the consequences could be deadly.  

John did not know I had planned on “vouching” for him until he saw the article in print.

I think divine providence kicks in, but I knew after the first hour at the Kentucky Book Fair that he would be the subject of my next column.

I suspected that helping to get John in the public eye would help get him back on the air again.

I knew I had to try. Being on the television news is a difficult position to obtain and getting a job in a city where you were publicly bounced off the air is nearly impossible.

It would have been easy to write John off and forget about him.   

On the other hand, a guy with 70 Emmys is a great addition to any news team anywhere.  

Now he has four more to add to his collection.  

More importantly, he is a model for why forgiveness, or at least selective forgiveness, can have big time results.  

I figure that if forgiveness was good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for me too. At least some of the time.  

Congratulations John. You have made me proud.

Don McNay is a columnist for the Richmond Register. Contact him at This column was taken from the updated version of his book, “Son of a Son of a Gambler,” which will be released July 30.

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