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Ivan Maisel: A Father’s Journey to Demystifying Grief and Loss (ep. 572)

Ivan Maisel

John O’Leary welcomes acclaimed sports journalist Ivan Maisel to the Live Inspired Podcast, reminding us that even in the face of darkness, there is always the possibility of finding light.

Ivan Maisel is a longtime sports journalist for ESPN known for his insightful analysis, compelling storytelling, and in-depth knowledge. With his ability to blend statistical analysis while highlighting the human side of the game and capturing the emotions and experiences of athletes, coaches, and fans, Ivan has earned a loyal following and widespread acclaim.

Yet, when his 21-year-old son Max went missing, Ivan soon learned he’d have to accept the incomprehensible. Although not evident, the years of mental illness became too much to sustain and Max ended his life.

Today, Ivan joins us to share his profoundly human and deeply empathetic story of a father’s relationship with his son, of its complications, and of the struggle so many parents face with their children— the struggle to connect.

My friends, let this conversation serve as a beacon of hope, guiding us to embrace the joys and challenges that come our way, inspiring us to live each day boldly, and reminding us that even in the face of darkness, there is always the possibility of finding light.

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  • Covering national college football for Sports IllustratedNewsday, and The Dallas Morning News, Ivan knew at an early age that he wanted to be a sports journalist.
  • Known for delivering compelling narratives, Ivan credits his dad instilling humor to what led him to become a good storyteller.
  • Since both parents went to Alabama and with many great baseball players heeling from Mobile, Ivan developed a love for sports.
  • January 15, 1994: Ivan and his wife Meg welcome Max and instead of sports, it was humor and comedy that connected them.
  • “Every parents has regrets. When you lose a child, your regrets heighten because you can’t make them up.”
  • On February 25, 2015, Max parked his car in a park on Lake Ontario’s shore and was last seen walking to the pier.
  • Mental illness needs sunlight. By talking openly about the mental illness, we’re able to make strides in helping those who face it and their loved ones.
  • “If you live long enough, you’re going to grief.”
  • Are you struggling? Ivan encourages that if you can make it through today, tomorrow may be better.
  • Get a copy of Ivan Maisel’s book I Keep Trying to Catch His Eye here.

If you or anyone you know has thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.

Did you enjoy today’s conversation?

You’ll enjoy hearing from Derek Redmond. After tearing his hamstring at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona,  Derek was stumbling to finish the race but not without the help of his father Jim. With an in-person crowd of 65,000, Jim dodged security and began running alongside his son in what would become one of the most inspirational moments in sports. It’s a conversation of perseverance, teamwork and self-belief you don’t want to miss. Listen to Derek Redmond on ep. 542.


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  1. Q. What is the best book you’ve ever read?
    A. To Absent Friends by Red Smith.
  2. Q. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today?
    A. Empathy.
  3. Q. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be?
    A. A memento that Max gave me for Father's Day when he 6 years old that's hanging in my closet.
  4. Q. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be?
    A. My father's mother.
  5. Q. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
    A. The Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  6. Q. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
    A. Your classes are actually interesting. You should go to one.
  7. Q. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read?
    A. He loved his family.