Monthly Archives: February 2012

Spring Training

spring-training

Opening Day is one month away. Today we start practice. Douglas is taking a big step up for a 10-year old. He’s moving up to the Majors division, playing with 11 and 12-year olds.

Last season was a breakthrough for Douglas. He was one of the starting pitchers in our rotation. There was only one other 9-year old in the AAA division who pitched as consistently as Douglas. Douglas pitched three solid innings in our Championship Game and helped us win. That’s a photo of him in that game.

In the Majors, he’s going to face better hitters. It’s not going to be easy for him to get strikeouts. As a hitter, he’s going to face bigger kids. They all throw hard, some throw 65mph. He’s going to have to work harder, harder than he’s ever done. Practice will be less play, and more work on skills and drills. Douglas can’t coast on his natural athletic ability anymore. This is the Majors.

This will be my third year managing Little League. I’ve finished in second and first place. I hope my players do well in the Majors. I have a good approach to developing ball players. Getting a group of boys to work as a team, to believe in themselves, to do their best, to play safe, to learn baseball skills, to being a good sport, takes a lot of my energy.

I’m eager to get all my new players together. I’m nervous about meeting their parents for the first time. Sometimes I wonder why I spend so much energy running this team. Then I think about what it means to Douglas and the rest of the boys. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

Political Silly Season

Political Silly Season

I cut out this column from the Cleveland Plain Dealer after Nixon passed in 1994. Dick Feagler wrote it. His words resonates to this day. Read and enjoy.

Final exit for an obstinate man

Richard Nixon won’t be back this time

The fat lady has sung and this time there will be no encore. Four times in his life, the press pronounced Nixon dead. Once he even spoke at his own political funeral. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore,” he told the media that loathed him. That was in 1962 when he lost his bid for Governor of his own, conservative home state. He thought he was finished. So did the reporters.

We were deep in Camelot. The Irishman in the White House had stolen the presidency from Nixon with a combination of money, charm and good looks. And help from the Chicago mob, which slipped in the fix as if democracy was a third-rate fight.

Nobody minded much. Even Ike was cool toward Nixon. Ike was a hero and everybody’s grandfather. He knew that Nixon was useful to have around to do the stuff that got your hands dirty. But during the campaign, when they asked what Nixon had done for America, grandpa requested a couple of days to think it over. It was one of the few things Ike ever said that got a laugh. A born straight man like Nixon brought out the comedian in everybody.

No wonder he was paranoid. He was a rare creature, an underdog without sympathy. The media kept trying to get rid of him like something you’d scrape off your shoe. He was a political shark who got to Congress by red-baiting and smear tactics. An early opponent called him “Tricky Dick.” It went into the language and stayed there.

He had the physical grace of a wind-up toy. When he shot both arms above his head to make little victory signs with his fingers, he seemed like a man who’d been jolted by a cattle prod. You figure it would keep a dozen seamstresses busy repairing the rips in the armpit of his suits. In triumph, he looked pained. In defeat he looked sullen. Kennedy in a back brace was more relaxed than Nixon in a golf shirt. He walked on the beach with his wingtips on.

He had the personality of a lousy blind date. His soul was a computer crammed with political software. He was as ambitious as a Borgia. He believed his enemies were out to get him, which was certainly true. He wrote their names down on a list and hatched bizarre plots against them. He had an inferiority complex and nobody to talk him out of it except the goons on his payroll. In the end, they showed him no loyalty. He cursed his luck and even swore off-key, like a man who has read bad words in a book and rehearsed them.

An assassin made him President. That was after he had gone down for the third time. The press played taps for him in ’52 after a scandal over a slush fund. He stayed on Ike’s ticket as vice president by delivering a mawkish, self-pitying speech on national TV. He whined his way into the White House and whined his way out of it.

He was next reported done for when the mob stole the election in 1960. He was listed KIA in ’62, and he thought so too. Then Kennedy was murdered and Johnson sank in the muck of Vietnam and pulled Hubert Humphrey down with him. Nixon campaigned in ’68 as the “New Nixon” on the accurate hunch that nobody would vote for the old one. The hunch was right, but it was false advertising.

He let people think he had a secret plan to end the war. In fact, he widened it. Twenty thousand more Americans were killed in Vietnam after he took office. He sat there while the war ran down. Then along came Watergate, which was nothing. Nothing. A man more human, a man less paranoid, a man who created a small reservoir of good will would have survived it. The plotters in Nixon’s camp would not take the fall for him. He had no cronies, only hit men.

Shakespeare wrote about men like Nixon. In the end, his tragic flaw did him in. One more maudlin speech. Then the most disgraced president in history stood in the door of the getaway helicopter, rendered a final spastic and astonishing victory sign and flew away. And that, finally, had to be the last of him.

And really it was, The media, which tried so hard to get rid of him, is pretending this week that he came to life once more as a revered and respected elder statesman who had mellowed into brotherhood with the rest of the species. But this media, which shamelessly guts and maims the living, can be counted on to speak glowingly and hypocritically of the dead. After it sees the death certificate.

I would rather see Nixon off without phony anthems of praise. To me he represented, from beginning to end, most of what is wrong with the American political process. I have read the glowing eulogies from men who despised him. Groping for things to say, they have lauded his ability to keep getting up from the canvas. And his long service to his country.

For service to country, nobody, in my book, can beat those 20,000 names on the Vietnam wall. He kept getting up from the canvas because he lacked ability to know when he was disgraced. Only drunks, buffoons and politicians count that as a virtue.

I do, though, feel sorry for him. I don’t think it’s an accident that he chose not to lie in state in Washington, D.C. He returned, instead to his home town. Where he was once a boy listening to a train whistle and dreaming of doing great things.

He did them. But I pity him because he never learned to take pleasure in small things. Because he was awkward and a born loser. Because his ambition became obsession. Because his own name should have topped his enemies list.

That’s true of a lot of us. Maybe most of us. But it was the central truth for Nixon. The boy, dreaming to the blue note of a train whistle, didn’t know that. Nixon has returned to the place where the dream was clean. And there he will finally find rest.

Checkmate

checkmate

Douglas is still home with a sore throat. He just beat me again at chess. He just took his Queen to d1 and checkmate. He’s turning into a little Kasparov.

Tattered Ribbon

tattered-ribbon

A few yeas ago the Susan G Komen Foundation asked for my support for a Race for the Cure event. My Company had been supportive of the event by donating time, money and merchandise. They were expecting us to continue. I told them no, we would not support their cause because my wife was going through breast cancer. I told her that I needed to focus my energy on getting Janet healthy again.

The truth of the matter is that organizations like the Susan G Komen Foundation make me mad. Who cares how cute and pretty their Pink Ribbon campaign is. Breast cancer isn’t cute and pretty. It’s scary and ugly. It’s devastating to the victims and their families. The prostrate cancer that killed my Dad is devastating.

It makes me sick to see so many companies jump on the bandwagon of making things Pink just for the sake of claiming that they’re for “breast cancer”. I am so sick and tired of companies making money off of it without contributing 100% of the proceeds to actual cancer research. Komen is a corporate marketing enterprise allowing big businesses to wrap themselves in the aura of women’s health. The insulting part is how LITTLE of the money made from these Pink Ribbons actually gets donated. The Susan G Komen CEO Nancy Brinker was paid a salary of $417,171 in 2011. Nonprofit my ass.

If you want to make a change, don’t buy advertising. Donate directly to an organization doing cancer research. Or better yet, donate bone marrow and blood. Visit patients in a cancer ward. Best yet, reach out to a family affected by cancer.

The real crime here is how little support most families get when a loved one is stricken by cancer. Cancer is a darkness that can consume the entire family if it isn’t confronted with. I have a front row perspective on this, and it isn’t pretty.

Fighting the Health Insurance companies to get treatment for your wife when she needs it? There were an insane amount of sign-offs needed by various providers to get lab work, MRIs, x-rays, biopsies, medication, chemotherapy, radiation treatments and surgeries in place. Trying to decipher the stack of medical bills coming in and finding nuggets like a $35 charge for a single 200mg Tylenol Tablet. How about $120 for an icepack? All in all, I spent nearly $60,000 over two years in co-pays and deductibles. Can someone explain to me what exactly an Health Insurance Company does? I think I know the answer – they exist to make a profit by playing arbitrage between you and the health care providers. If I was king for a day, I would outlaw Health Insurance companies and institute a single-payer system. Fuck ‘em. Like yesterday.

I remember leaving the office early on Janet’s Chemo days so I could take her in. And getting yelled at by the owner of my Company for leaving work early. I remember bringing Janet home after a particularly nasty chemo session, getting her into the bed, and having to keep the kids out of the bedroom so Janet could get some sleep. And having the kids so confused and not understanding that Doctor’s orders were to get to sleep. I remember having to hold down the Company operations and run the kids around and keep the house running. And how lonely it was.

It was hard having people come up and ask what they could do to help. I wan’t sure how to answer that. Several people came over anyway. They helped me cook and clean. Some bought over dinner for us. I remember Savannah’s extended Soccer Team family gave us a phenomenal gift basket. Courtney’s Girl Scout troop also put together a great care package for us. I’ll never forget that.

My advice is this. If you know of a close one that has been stricken by cancer, go over their house to help. Talk to their spouse, for it is he/she that needs to be strong for their spouse and kids. That person need help getting through this too. Talk to them, listen to their fears. Help them focus on what they need to do to get their family healthy again. Help them understand that they are in the fight of their life. Help them understand that they need to take care of themselves in order to take care of their family. Let them know that you are thinking of them and not just their stricken spouse. Let them know you care about them also.

Every bit helps.

Home Sick and Beating His Dad

home-sick-and-beating-his-dad

Douglas is home from school today. Yesterday he came down with a bad cough. I’m keeping him home until it totally clears up.

I haven’t been able to get much work done around here. We got to enjoy a bacon & eggs breakfast together. And we played a few games of Chess.

I stupidly lost my Queen in the last game and he proceeded to take away all my pieces one by one until it was just my King left. Then he chased me into a corner into checkmate, all while avoiding stalemate.

Kid’s ruthless, even if he isn’t feeling 100%.

I Almost Threw Up…

…after watching this for the first time today. It was aired on June 12 & 13, 2010. The News Announcer clearly stated “she does have a medical history” . A reasonable person would correctly deduce that Janet died of natural causes.

Seeing how this tragedy was handled by a mere few in this small community, I wonder how they could think their slanderous gossip was “protecting” my children.

I will never forgive Cal Coast News, Karen Velie and the other demented people who made her death impossible for any decent human being to handle with decency and dignity.

RIP Janet

End of the Season

end-of-the-season

Next week is the end of Winter Sports. Savannah will be playing her last soccer game as a Junior and Courtney will play her last Water Polo game as a Freshman. Both of them had excellent seasons.

They get a short break, then it’s on to Spring Sports – Track and Swimming. Sometimes I wonder if the food budget will hold up. Everyone in this house is so active. I wouldn’t want it any other way.