Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I'm trying to make sense of my fascination with MMA. My brother, whom I respect greatly, told me, "No civilized society should allow this." He also said that the MMA event I was watching included "barbaric morons that can't box, wrestle, or do martial arts."

Of course, being a student of karate, I took exception. However, it is totally barbaric. My response to my brother was that it had fewer injuries than football and boxing, which is really a cop out.

So, why am I fascinated with MMA? Why am I obsessed with two dudes trying to kill each other for three rounds, five minutes each, and then hugging it out? I think that's it, the hugging it out.

I practice karate. Twice a week, or more often, depending on my mood, I go to the dojo. We work it out, run in place, do jumping jacks, sit ups, pushups, and then, often we fight. We put on the gloves, the shin guards, the mouth piece, and we try to kick the shit out of each other. But, we really don't have any aggression, we're just practicing, in case something happens. We're really just staying in shape. We're really just sparring.

And when we are done, we hug it out. And, that is cool. And when I see Weideman hug it out with Machido, yeah, that's me hugging it out with Mike from Hicksville. Me hugging it out with Adam from Bethpage. Just warriors. Or really, just an accountant from Bethpage, or a mechanic from Hicksville. But, for that three minutes, when we are sparring, we are warriors.

And that is what I like about MMA. It's a true and honest sport. Granted, it's a little bit of a blood sport. But, when we leave the ring, we know who won. And, we hug it out.

And, by the way, I'm at 188, looking for that middleweight belt.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Soccer Dad

Soccer Dad

I didn't want to be that guy. You know who I am writing about, that Dad that can't separate his issues from those of his kid. In my case it's my nine year old daughter and Travel soccer. I've encouraged her and nurtured her but always sat in my beach chair on the sidelines and read the paper while she played. I'm not the guy yelling at her, trying to coach her up in the middle of games. I'm the guy that peeks over the sports page to see if she is having fun. And she was. Until Travel Soccer entered our lives. Now I'm that asshole.

My daughter started playing soccer when she was three years old, a bunch of kids in a clot kicking at the ball and running up and down the pitch having fun. When she was eight she joined our local soccer club's GU9 team. For the uninitiated, that stands for Girls Under 9 years old. I know, she was eight and playing up a year, but she wanted to do it. She was a little too young, and while she played well, she didn't like the pressure of coaches yelling like maniacs, of parents yelling louder. I sat in my beach chair and read the Sunday New York Times and after the game I would always ask the same two questions; "Did you try your best," and "Did you have fun?"

 She always said yes, in spite of occasional tears. I felt she should play down the following year, another year of GU9 while the vast majority of her team went up to GU10. Unfortunately, our local soccer club is dying and there was no GU9 team, just the GU10 team, so she tried out.

Two days of tryouts with a trainer from the New York Red Bulls Training Academy, one guy who didn't know my daughter from the next kid, then four weeks of waiting, They were only going to take thirteen kids. Then another week. Then another week. Finally, the coach, who had known my daughter for two years, had a pool party for the team. The next day, the roster was posted and my daughter wasn't on the list of fourteen, not thirteen. The obligatory email came. It explained that they relied solely on the ratings of the trainer.

Being the positive role model, I emailed the coach and thanked her for all of her efforts on behalf of my daughter, explained that she had enjoyed playing for the coach and that she wanted to get better so she could tryout again next year. I asked the coach if she could tell me what areas my daughter could improve in so that she could be a better player.

No response.

The league assured me they would have a GU9 Travel team, or at least find a place for her to play. That never happened so I signed her up to play in a neighboring league. The director of that league assured me that if she played a year of intramurals and worked hard, she would make a Travel team. So, she did. Her team had a great forward, I'll call her Sophie, and my daughter, let's call her Layla, played great centering the defense. She played hard and her team went undefeated. And, she tried out for the Travel team.

Two days of tryouts with four trainers from the Red Bulls Academy (foreshadowing). I felt Layla was a step slow and not aggressive enough, but they had two teams and I thought she should have been good enough for the B team. There were three girls from Layla's intramural team, the aforementioned Sophie and another kid named Jo. I might be biased, but I knew my daughter was better than Jo and that Sophie would make the A team, but I've never played soccer so I wasn't sure. I prepared Layla for the worst, that she probably wouldn't make either team but we held out hope. After all, the league director had told us that she would make a Travel team if she tried hard, and she had indeed done that.

Two weeks went by and we expected the worst. In the meantime, her intramural coach had scheduled a scrimmage as a last get together and to hand out trophy's. The day before the scrimmage, we got the bad news, Layla had not made either Travel team. I was okay with that, another year of intramurals would be great, she had such a great experience. Then, my wife took Layla to the scrimmage.

Her coach was astounded that she didn't make the team. Sophie had made the A team and Jo had made the B team. Sophie's dad, a Varsity Girls Soccer coach, former college player, and the coach of two Travel teams was equally astounded, and was irate. He assured my wife that Layla was better than at least 7 players that had made the B team. His wife told mine that Jo was in her daughter Sophie's class and came to school two days before rosters were announced and assured Jo she had made the team. Something is rotten in the state of youth soccer.

Sophie's dad was so angry that he called some contacts in yet another town and got Layla a spot on one of their Travel teams.

Which leaves me confused. I may be THAT asshole, but I am not that ASSHOLE.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Just Thinking About Tim Tebow

Ever since Steve Spurrier coached the Florida Gators, I've had an issue with the boys from Gainesville. Of course, this had more to do with the Sports Illustrated cover of December 4, 1972 than anything else. On that cover, Sports Illustrated claimed "Steve Spurrier Steers San Francisco." What a joke. Any Niner fan knew that John Brodie was the man by the Bay and any claim to the starting position by anyone else was spurious. Spurrier was a backup, and, worse, a punter. He played in 1972 and went 8-5-1 and the 38 year old Brodie regained the starting spot the following season. In other words, Spurrier was a washout.

It's always been my contention that Spurrier's failure contributed to his treatment of quarterbacks as a coach. Who else would develop such talents as Noah Brindise, Doug Johnson, Danny Wuerffel, and Tim Tebow. Oh, never heard of the first three? No shocker there. You would never have heard of Tebow if the media had a clue. Spurrier won a Heisman, just like Tebow, a sure foreshadowing of future anonymity if there ever was one. Here's a short list of Heisman winning quarterbacks that were a bust in the NFL in the last 12 years: Chris Weinke, Eric Crouch, Jason White. Matt Leinart, Troy Smith, and, finally, Tim Tebow.

Leave it to the Jets to  make me feel empathy for Tebow. I hated the kid, wondered what the Jets were thinking when they traded for him, and couldn't wait for him to fail. The media circus that surrounded his arrival in the league was ridiculous and the trade for him was stoopid, stoopid, stoopid. Sanchez was the man, in my eyes. I'm a Pac 12 fan and wanted Sanchez to validate the quality of the conference by succeeding in the Big Apple. And that meant failure for Tebow. Let's watch the Jets lose with Tebow. Let's watch Tebow fail in the NFL. Let's see that smug Christian explain His plan after he goes 10 for 40 with three picks and no TD's.

Well, the circus came to town, and for whatever reason, Sanchez failed. And Tebow rushed in to save the day. Oh, that's right, the Jets didn't play him. They traded for him, but never played him,. Of course, I think the Jets coaching contributed to the lack of offense, but something needed to be done. I couldn't wait to see Tebow rush in from the sideline, the crowd cheering. I couldn't wait to see Tebow hand off twice for runs up the middle for no yards, then throw an ill conceived out that got picked by a corner. But, it never happened. Tebow never got off the bench. What a rip off. The Jets ripped off the fans, and they ripped off Tebow.

So now Timmy Terrific exits New Jersey. A year from his life has been stolen by Jets management and he is left to pick up the pieces. He's been above the fray, a good team mate and a consummate professional. That's more than the Jets can say. Exit, stage right Tim Tebow.

Enter, stage left Geno Smith. He joins four other quarterbacks in the fold. The new messiah, the chosen one. Sanchez will soon be gone. Matt Simms? Next. What do these quarterbacks have in common?

A reason to rejoice. They have disembarked the flaming Jets. Ryan goes 6 and 10 this year and we start another rebuilding process. In the meantime, who is that other team in New Jersey? Oh yeah, those guys.

Maybe media attention isn't a good thing?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My nine year old daughter hijacked my blog for this post. It is to Dr. John B. King, Education Commissioner of the State of New York. I copied John Hildebrand at Newsday.

Dear Dr. King
      Hi my name is (redacted) and I am 9 years old. I just finished the ELA stat test. The test was really hard and confusing. I always work hard and feel smart all the time. I always get B and A's. But when I took the ELA stat test I felt dumb and stupid. I felt this way because I didn't know what they were talking about. Why are the questions so confusing?  Other kids in the school was crying because they didn't finish the test and it was so hard. I think you should space out the test. I think this because 3 days in a row of tests is tiring , frustrating , and hard. I am frustrated. I finish 3 test then next week we take 3 more tests in a row. I think it's unfair. thank you for your time reading my note and I hope you do something about it.  

Comment: This letter was my daughter's idea. As you can tell, I did not edit it. It is truly her voice. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Burying Somebody

Truly a brutal day, just the start of a brutal three days. I went to work today and of course, my heart wasn't in it. This afternoon I got my beautiful, wonderful kids off the bus and we hung out and did homework together. At six, I loaded them in the car and drove them 25 miles to the home of friends and dropped them off, then drove five miles back to the funeral home to the wake of my wife's cousin. He was the only boy and had four little sisters. They were, of course, distraught, and the pain was palpable. A steady parade of family and well wishers lasted more than two hours. I didn't have the heart to tell them that burying their beloved brother tomorrow is going to be worse.

I shepherded my wife to the car and we drove back to our friends' house to collect our kids, who feigned sleep as my wife and I decompressed with a bevvy or three. Margy is one of my wife's closest friends and my wife's pain spilled out. Racked with sobs, she sat at their breakfast table and tried to make sense of a senseless act. I didn't have the heart to tell her that tomorrow is going to be worse.

Later today (Thursday), we will be celebrating a mass in Keith's honor, a service in a religion that may condemn him for taking his own life. After that, we will mournfully follow his body to a plot of earth where he will be buried, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. This is when shit really gets bad.

How do I know this? Just over eleven years ago I said goodbye to my brother. We had him cremated, held a memorial service for him at his place of employment, and took his ashes to California a month later. We held a party in his honor with friends and family and then, the next morning, spread his ashes on a beach along the Pacific Coast. Spreading his ashes was the goodbye, the burial. It was the worst day of my life.

That's what they will be facing today.

It's particularly poignant for me. While Keith wasn't my cousin, I did know him. I didn't know him well, but my kids played with his kids. He was a father, like me, he was a son, like me, he was a brother, like me. And his sisters, like me, will have to say goodbye to someone they loved.

Then, they go home. Without the possibility of ever seeing him again, alone with their thoughts. No more wakes, no more funerals, no more celebrations. Just the rest of their lives without their loved one. That's what happens after the funeral. It's over.

Except for those special occasions when you get to remember the departed. Like the anniversary of their death, or their birthday. And you all get together again and rip open the scabs and let the pain bleed out of you again. Or, you just rip open your own scabs and let the pain bleed out of you all alone and revel in the melancholy, wondering what if.

Later today, I will watch my wife's family go through this and I will remember doing the same thing for my brother. Later today I will be clenched in my own pain at watching them go through what I have gone through. Later today, I will have flashbacks to that walk on the beach, spreading my brother's ashes, and I will cry inside. I will cry inside because I know what they are going through. I will not cry because I know it is their pain, and not mine. But, I will know that pain, because I have felt it, because I feel it. Later today I will stand by my wife and tell her it will get better, even though I know that it won't. Later today I will help bury their beloved brother, son, and cousin.

And then, tomorrow, alone, I will celebrate my brother's 51st birthday without him.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My wife's cousin killed himself yesterday. He was from Long Island but had moved to North Carolina with his wife and kids. He became estranged from her and his kids had chosen sides. He was a long way from home and felt isolated. Having grown up on the West coast and living on the East coast, I had always been concerned about him. While I'm not estranged from my wife and kids, I know how dark it can get being in an alien community and feeling alone. I didn't know him well, but I recognized a kind and gentle spirit and I'm rocked by his decision.

I doubt an early exit is ever the right decision. It's such a flagrant dismissal of all those that love you. But, who can know the depths of depression that can lead you to such a rash and violent act. It has deprived his kids of a father, his sister of a brother, and his parents of a child. From the survivor's point of view, it's a selfish act. But, who can really understand the pain that leads to the early check out.

Of course, my life isn't wine and roses, but whose is? It just reminds that all of the crap that I am going through in my day to day life isn't really that bad. I lost my brother in 2001, and yes, I did look on top of the fridge - he wasn't there. But he is in my heart and I keep him there. Of course, my brother was 39 years old and I have a lot of memories to keep him alive. I wonder about his kids? Do they have enough to keep him alive?

What a waste.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Connecticut, Really?

Just trying to make sense of the shootings in Newtown and I am coming to the conclusion that we cannot. We cannot figure out how a person can kill innocent children. We cannot figure out why a mother of a developmentally disabled child would own assault weapons. We cannot figure out why that man would target eight year old children. We cannot figure out how the parents of the children will go on with their lives. We cannot know how we can make sense of this tragedy. We cannot figure out how Robbie Parker can possibly offer condolences to the parents of the shooter. He is a parent who lost a child, Emily. We cannot fathom his forgiveness, his compassion, or his empathy.

We want justice. We want to blame someone. We want to blame mom or dad for not recognizing their kid was wrong. We want to blame them for not knowing this kid was going to blow up a school, to go postal, to slaughter innocent children, teachers, and parents. How could they not have seen this ticking time bomb. How could they not have taken action?

I hugged my nine year old. I hugged my six year old. And, I am mad. I am beyond mad. I am pissed. And here comes Mr. Parker, to show me humanity, to show me humility, to show me empathy. He's not mad. His eight year old daughter is dead, eviscerated by the bullets of a madman, but he's not mad. Imagine the image, his 80 pound daughter ripped apart by bullets from a gun bought legally, intended as an assault weapon. Imagine the havoc wreaked by those bullets on that innocent child.

But, he's not mad. He forgives. He is a child of god. Reverend Rocky Veach took advantage, talking to Anderson Cooper. Forgiveness was his message. He understood. Clearly Robbie Parker had been drinking the same Cool Aid spooned out by Reverend Veach. I just don't get it. In Romans 12:19, God says, "vengeance is mine."

What vengeance is satisfactory to the parents and loved ones of the 28 or 29 dead in Newtown Connecticut? The only vengeance, I think, is the existence of hell. I hope it exists, and I hope that sorry piece of feces rots there.

Unfortunately, I don't believe in heaven or hell. So, all we can do is hope those kids passed quickly, and that rat bastard suffered. I'm sad that he didn't get to experience the American system of justice, where he would have been isolated and assaulted on a regular basis. I had great compassion for Dahmer, but ultimately justice was served. I'm just sad that Mr. Lanza won't experience similar justice.

So, I guess I'm a piece of crap. but I'm sad that asshole didn't get justice.