Playing (Or Not Playing) The Game

Electrics

Many moons ago, on a planet far, far away…I used to play basketball for Rosecrans and Philo schools. It seems like forever ago and…it kind of was. At Philo we played in a gym called “The Pit” because, well…it WAS in a pit. The stands sat above the court and the wall was literally less than a foot away on each side (as you can see from the above photo). This was before the 3-point shot was used in high school basketball back in 1986-87. I remember a lot about those days. The practices. The games. The nut-hugger shorts (and I don’t remember being all that uncomfortable in them despite what my son might think). I remember a few of the big plays that happened (some good, some bad). I remember the guys on my team and how it felt like I would always be friends with them. I remember the after school dances, the cheerleaders, the fans. My Dad sitting in the stands, usually not cheering but just watching intently.

There were so many things to remember about those days. They truly were the best days of my high school career. I loved playing basketball and I loved playing for my school. Want to know what I DON’T remember?

Our record.

Any year. All 4 years.

Now granted…none of my teams were “championship” caliber teams. We were never considered to be in the running for a trip to Columbus, OH. Never once would anyone look at any of my teammates or myself and say, “I can totally see him playing for Kentucky!” I’m pretty sure if the 3 letters N-B-A were ever uttered it was in reference to the Lakers and Celtics playing in the Saturday Night Game Of The Week. NOT of the possibility that maybe someday I would have a shot of playing on the parquet floor at Boston Garden. No…none of my teammates or myself ever went on to play professional ball. It’s kind of sad really…because I always saw myself with that potential.

(HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! [No I didn’t.])

Now it’s my son’s turn. He’s on his school’s 8th grade basketball team and he’s a great athlete! Starting QB for his football team this past year. Likes everyone on the team. Is willing to play hard and listen to what his coaches are telling him. Most important of all…he plays because he loves doing it. He’s not getting paid. He’s not REQUIRED to do it. He’s certainly not being forced to do it by his mother or myself. He does it because he likes hanging out with his friends and loves to play the game.

Something I’m realizing now that my son is getting older is that the times when just playing to have fun are kind of gone. He’s 13 and in the 8th grade. Now times are tougher. He plays with a lot of really good athletes, some who play basketball year round, and getting playing time is at a premium. No matter how hard he works, no matter what he does, it doesn’t seem like he is going to get a lot of minutes.

I know this happens. It happens to millions of kids everywhere. And it happened to me. My freshman & sophomore years, I had come off the bench at Rosecrans. I got plenty of playing time, but I was awkward. I had gone from being one of the tallest kids on our team in 8th grade to a small forward spot. I hadn’t developed a decent jumper yet and my ball-handling was a work in progress. My junior year, I switched schools and was the backup to our team’s leading scorer. Actually, Jay was the leading scorer in Philo’s school history at the time. Dude could hit from everywhere! So my junior year, I saw the court…mmmmmmm….maybe 3 minutes a game…if I was lucky.  So…I understand that sitting the pine is a sad reality for many kids out there who enjoy playing sports.

Fer Basketball

Here’s the thing though…I don’t recall any of my teams ever blowing out our opponents. We weren’t a great team. Didn’t have that kind of firepower. So…when I didn’t get into a game that was close, I kind of understood. I didn’t like it but I got it. I was a role player. Coach would put me in to play defense, spell whoever our starter was and that was my job.

This year, for my son’s 8th grade basketball season, his team is blowing teams away in their conference. I mean…we’re talking 20 to 30 point blowouts. They’re a pretty good squad. They have a guard who has handles and is quick to the basket. They have another guard who is small in stature but plays big with a great 3-point shot and is able to handle anything anyone throws at him. We have a small center who can be a beast on the boards and can go up with either his left or right hand. Another small forward who is so fast and has such long arms that he could probably guard a varsity player. And the list continues on! The problem I’m having with this 8th grade season isn’t the players. They are ALL excellent ballplayers. The problem I’m having is the way the playing time is being split.

Look…I know that the coaches want to win. That’s the whole point of playing the game. And I know that there are players who deserve to be out on the court when it’s crunchtime. Trust me, in a close game my sophomore year? No way in hell I would want to be on the floor ahead of the senior who deserved the playing time. But in a 20 or 30 point blowout? In the 8th grade? Seriously? The starters should be in the locker room getting ready to hit the showers by the middle of the 3rd quarter. Let the other kids play. You might be surprised. And in the process, they too can have some memories that will play such an important part of the men they will become later in life.

Trust me…I speak from experience. Let them play and you’ll see. They ALL have potential. I did. It might not have been NBA potential but I’m still playing the game all these years later and I have all those great memories to go with it. Let them play coach. You won’t be disappointed.

Tigers

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Thanksgiving 2015

Another year, another great Thanksgiving. It’s a tradition to have it at Mom & Dad’s house and this year it returned after a single season at Frank’s home out in the sticks. Although I kind of enjoyed the “no cable, no internet” policy last year, this year allowed us to watch football and post Facebook status updates without any issues! Here are some photos of this year’s great holiday!

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I’m Not Dead Yet.

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So…a weird thing happened to me last night after we picked up Christopher from football practice. For the record…I stubbed my toe while getting into my wife’s car. I’m not gonna lie, it hurt like hell and as I went to back out of our parking spot, I started to feel the pain shoot up my leg, so I asked Stephanie to drive. And this is where it got weird.

So I reach down and feel my toe and there is blood. Not a lot of blood, but blood nevertheless and so I drove to the next available side road and pulled over. Stephanie handed me a wad of tissue paper and I checked to see what the damage was. It appeared to me that maybe I had a cut under my toenail or something of the sort. Nothing to get too worked up over. I would like to think I have a fairly high tolerance for pain. I mean, I’ve had sciatic nerve issues and kidney stones and THOSE I consider painful…NOT stubbing my toe on the parking brake of my wife’s Traverse.

Anyway, I still feel like the pain is making its way up my leg and so we decide to let Steph drive me home. As we are pulling away to go turn around, I blacked out. Dunno why. Just out. So…Stephanie pulls over and notices that I’m A) passed out and B) apparently not breathing. Obviously that second one is a big problem. So now Steph is in full-blown panic mode. Christopher calls 9-1-1 and then both he and Ava go running up to our friends’ house to get help. Stephanie is straddling the middle of the car console, beating on my chest and trying to talk to the 9-1-1 operator. At some point, I remember being in a really deep sleep and not wanting to wake up. I remember when I had kidney stones and the doctor gave me morphine. It was a lot like that. Total darkness. A really, really deep sleep and then suddenly…I was awake!

As I awaken, I hear Stephanie talking to the operator, answering ridiculous questions about my age, what I had been drinking, was I on drugs? I hear sirens in the distance. A quick glance in the back seat and I see neither of my kids are there. I didn’t feel bad but I was very hot and a little nauseous. It was all very surreal. When the ambulance and a couple police cars arrived, I was coherent. I answered all of the questions they asked. They got me out of the car, sat me in some cool grass and took all my vitals and I was fine. They offered to take me to the nearest hospital but I passed. I was feeling much better and didn’t see the need for that. Once everything was cleared, Steph took me home where I got into bed and tried to process what had happened. What an odd experience.

Today I went to my local doctor and he diagnosed me with “Vasovagal Syncope.” The definition of this condition is as follows (from the Mayo Clinic website):

Vasovagal syncope occurs when the part of your nervous system that regulates heart rate and blood pressure malfunctions in response to a trigger, such as the sight of blood. Your heart rate slows, and the blood vessels in your legs widen. This allows blood to pool in your legs, which lowers your blood pressure. This drop in blood pressure and slowed heart rate quickly diminish blood flow to your brain, and you faint. 

Common triggers for vasovagal syncope include: 

  • Standing for long periods of time 
  • Heat exposure 
  • The sight of blood 
  • Having blood drawn 
  • Fear of bodily injury

Considering that the way that I stubbed my toe was so sudden and so painful, essentially it sent off triggers to my nervous system which then shut down & put a full-body reboot on me. I guess it’s the way your body handles pain or certain kinds of trauma.

Anyway…I am fine. My big toe still hurts quite a bit and I am going to get x-rays to make sure there’s nothing broken but overall…I should live. Which is a good thing. I can’t imagine how awful it would have been to be placed in my final resting spot with a tombstone that said…”Here Lies Dear Old Dad…Stubbed His Toe And Now He’s Dead.”

Seriously? Worst…ending…ever.

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New York City…Summer 2015

IMG_4536 If it’s Ava’s birthday then we MUST be up to something…right? This year, we all piled into a Delta regional jet and hightailed it up to New York City for a long weekend. And trust me when I tell you…it WAS long! There is just so much to do in NYC, there’s no way you can get all of it into 3.5 days but we sure did give it a try! Let’s start on Thursday…

THURSDAY

IMG_0152 We arrived around 1:00 to a rather soggy New York. It was raining cats & dogs and didn’t let up until 7pm! We made our way to the Marriott Marquis, a beautiful hotel right on Times Square, and got all of our stuff unloaded. We then went in search of some lunch, finding an Irish pub just off Broadway that was perfect. After we were finished, we scrambled back to the hotel, getting completely soaked as the rain came down in buckets! Fer got the worst of it as he didn’t have a raincoat. But Ava, Steph & I also were pretty wet by the time we got back. We got lucky that the rain stopped at 7:00 because the U2 show at Madison Square Garden began at 8 and there was no way I was gonna be late for that! U2 ripped through a 3 hour set of classics ranging from “Bullet The Blue Sky” (my favorite performance of the night) to “With Or Without You.” They also did a lot off their latest album, which neither my kids or my wife knew. This kind of made the middle of the show a little slow for them but I liked what they were doing. The set was pretty cool (not 360 Tour cool though) and the way they incorporated the video screen as part of their show is pretty unique! We also got to see them perform Lou Reed’s “Satellite Of Love” (the first time they’ve done that since 1993) and Paul Simon came out on stage to help Bono through his classic “Mother & Child Reunion.” IMG_4458   u2-paul-simon-msg-concert
FRIDAY

We met up with Stephanie’s friend Iris & her family for a tour of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Together we walked through the museum, in awe of the pictures, videos and remaining artifacts of what was surely one of the greatest tragedies on American soil. It’s an amazing place and I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance. IMG_4507 After spending 2.5 hours in the museum (and STILL not getting to see everything it has to offer), we headed to find food. We ended up heading toward Chinatown. The subway was packed and as we all went to get on the train, the doors closed before I could get on! Everyone got on the subway train except for me and so I found myself alone at the Financial District train stop, hoping to find my family again. It actually wasn’t THAT scary. They were just getting off at the next stop however Stephanie’s face when she saw me still on the platform when the doors closed was PRICELESS! LOL! IMG_4477 IMG_4478 IMG_4484 IMG_4488 Once we found one another again, we went for lunch and then we made our way across the Brooklyn Bridge. I’ve never crossed the bridge on foot and so this was something new. It was a beautiful day and, despite the fact that the Love’s had done this before, they marched with us, much to the dismay of their youngest daughter Molly. I’ll let you find her in this picture… IMG_4544 Needless to say, it took some ice cream at a Shake Shack in Brooklyn to wipe that frown off her face! LOL! That evening, we ate dinner at the primo street meat hotspot on 53rd and 6th, the Halal Guys. I tried to explain to my family why the chicken & rice was just SOOOOOO good but they had to try it for themselves. No one likes it as much as me though and for $7 in New York City? That’s a bargain meal! IMG_4587 IMG_4589 After dinner, Stephanie & Ava hit the Sephora store in Times Square and Ava bought herself some birthday makeup. Fer & I headed over to Foot Locker to get him some school shoes. Needless to say, both kids walked away happy this night! IMG_4546 IMG_4573
SATURDAY

The kids were exhausted from all the walking on Friday, so on Saturday we decided to take it easy. We woke up late (well…THEY woke up late. I was up at 7am as usual) and made it to our 2pm performance of “Wicked.” Even though Stephanie has seen it 4 previous times, I really feel like “Wicked” is THE show to see on the famous Broadway strip. It’s got everything! Great songs, a great script and the performances were excellent! We all loved it and we were singing “Defying Gravity” as we walked out of the great Gershwin Theatre. IMG_4614That evening, Ava wanted to check out Madame Tussauds Wax Museum so we went for a few photo moments. Not much else to do there BESIDES take pictures actually. It’s pretty amazing how lifelike some of the figures look. It’s also kind of creepy in a way…but we had a lot of fun despite the fact that only Ava really wanted to go to begin with and as we left we all decided it was worth checking out! IMG_4637 IMG_4650 IMG_4672 IMG_4724 IMG_4776
SUNDAY

For our final day in the Big Apple, we took the subway down to Battery Park to visit ye ol’ Lady Liberty. I’ve been to the island a couple times but it was fun taking the kids to see her. Someday I would like to get in the Pedestal just to say I’ve been there but we enjoyed just hanging out on Liberty Island and drinking lemonade on this beautiful August day. IMG_4822 IMG_4855 IMG_4888   IMG_4887   For the big finale to cap off our long weekend, we decided to go to Central Park for a little stroll and then head to Dylan’s Candy Bar to celebrate Ava’s 11th Birthday! In Central Park, the kids did a little rock climbing, we took some pictures and Ava had her portrait drawn by a skilled street artist! We then had a quick dinner of New York pizza and for dessert? Awesome ice cream sundaes at Dylan’s! We pretty much covered all the bases that we could in a few days in the big city. It was a LOT of fun and I imagine, at some point, we’ll find our way back there to do some less touristy stuff but for now…we made some great memories and had an amazing time!

IMG_4905 IMG_4911 IMG_4949 IMG_4946 IMG_4966 IMG_4968The Birthday Girl!!!

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The 115th U.S. Open (aka The Week We Got Roasted)

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Let me first say that going into it, I knew that the FOX edition of the U.S. Open was going to be different. The network bought the rights to all of the USGA events last year and this was their initial foray into the world of golf broadcasting. Pooling from a vast sea of freelance technicians and production, the 4 days of television was, in my opinion, visionary, interesting, compelling, exhausting and exasperating, all at the same time. We did things that had never been done before and made it work on some levels and watched it fail on others. FOX is a unique network in that they are willing to try new things and be different. They’re the youngest sibling of the Big 3 networks and so they aren’t afraid to make changes in how they present sports. Remember the glowing hockey puck? Yeah…that was a FOX idea. It’s the way they do things. And for this event, they brought out their toys in full force!

IMG_3995 IMG_4002 IMG_4045As a collective group, we all tried to make the 115th U.S. Open the best it could be. And considering the course it was on, Chambers Bay just outside Olympia, Washington, that was a tough task. After walking a bit of the course on Tuesday prior to the event, the course is definitely unique from other golf courses. The fairways and the greens mesh together. You couldn’t tell where the greens started or ended. The fairways were brown and hard. The greens were brown and hard. It was hard to find the ball through a viewfinder, causing our camera guys to miss shots that they would normally NEVER miss on a regular course. The greens were literally like a putt putt course, with rolling hills and mounds and curves. It was MADDENING! AND…it was FOX’s first time trying to put it together!?!? Insane, is all I can say about it.

And we heard ALL about it. Overall, most of the articles I’ve read about our work and the way FOX covered the event have been less than positive. There was THIS article and THIS article in the USAToday. Plenty of people bitched and moaned about the graphics or the camera work or the directing style on social media. They REALLY moaned about the announcers and the reporting and the commentary. There wasn’t much to like if you watched and listened to what the media or the social networks were dishing out. But the truth of the matter is…we worked our asses off.

IMG_4084OUR schedule was insane and we are the graphics department! We sit in a tv truck and type for a living! I can’t imagine what the camera ops and the audio techs must have suffered through! It was as intense as you can imagine a major event to be and it was a huge undertaking. Needless to say…there were things that went wrong. In my little corner of the world, we lost our scoring system twice early in the day on Thursday when there were 156 golfers in the field. Normally, if it was a Saturday or Sunday when things get a little slower, I could’ve kept up without a computer scoring system telling me that Tiger Woods just scored a +7 on a par 3. But with our coverage bouncing all over the field and with people running all over the place screaming “IS IT FIXED YET?”, it was a little difficult to concentrate. If you’re wondering what my job was, here it is. See that little graphic in the lower right corner?

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Yeah…that was me. And I was on your screen ALL…THE…TIME. My main man Tyler and I worked to try to keep things up to date but alas…that just isn’t possible when the leaderboard is changing constantly and our coverage is bouncing from one guy to the next as they are putting out and we have no idea if they just scored a par or a birdie or a bogey or whatever. It was a tough gig and I learned a lot. And so did Tyler. Together we figured it out and, despite making a few mistakes over the following days, I think we got it worked out. Now that I’m here in Sacramento for the U.S. Senior Open, it seem like last week is a million days away! Of course, you don’t hear anyone talking about us now but…whatever. You get my drift.

Anyway, following the event, I can now say I was a part of something that was trying to be different. We tried to bring the viewers something that wasn’t the same as what CBS or NBC does. I had nothing to do with the Ball Tracker or any of the other technology that went into last week however I thought most of it was pretty cool considering how stodgy golf can be sometimes. And the ending of this particular event will NEVER be forgotten! Dustin Johnson’s monumental missed putts on the 18th green giving the win to Jordan Spieth will go down in golf history! It was INSANE! One of the craziest endings to any golf event I have ever worked and I will always remember it.

So for those of you who were so critical of the coverage, I get it. It wasn’t the best it could’ve been. Maybe CBS or NBC or ABC could’ve done it the way you are used to. Maybe the announcers weren’t as good as you are used to. Maybe the graphics were more intrusive than you are used to. But I thought, watching every single shot of every golfer who made our air, that it was different to say the least. And in the end, for a major golf tournament that needed a breath of fresh air and a little kick in the butt, FOX definitely gave it that!

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Ava Goes To Camp

IMG_3970This summer, Ava has foregone swimming and Christopher decided not to join a baseball or basketball team and so…our children have found themselves with plenty of extra time on their hands! Or…have they? Actually…that statement couldn’t be farther from the truth! Both kids are keeping VERY busy with everything from volunteer work to sports camps. And for a week in June, our dear darling little young lady went to summer camp with her bestie, Bug.

For an entire week, Ava and Kate called Camp Ernst their home and they both came home with grand stories of fun and adventure! Despite the fact that she was literally worn out once she returned, Ava had a blast at camp, riding horses, hanging with new friends and just being a kid. I’m really glad she had fun at camp however it might be a while until her mother is able to let her go for another ENTIRE week. It was odd for her to be gone and quite honestly…that “No cell phone” policy is CRAZY in this day & age!!! But I get it. And I think Ava appreciated it also…

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Facebook Conversations

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Every now & then I get into a discussion with my kids and feel the urge to share it with my Facebook friends. A friend recommended that I write them down and put them in a book. While this SOUNDS like a good idea, I don’t know that most of our conversations are worth writing about. But the few we HAVE had that I’ve shared are quite memorable! So I went back through some of them and figured I would share them here and maybe someday, my kids will read this and say to themselves, “Did I say THAT?” LOL

5/30/2015
While listening to Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” on the radio…
Me: “This song reminds me of my first kiss.”
Ava: “Really? Who was it?”
Me: “A girl I met while on vacation in Florida.”
Ava: “What was her name?”
Me: “Skye.”
Ava: “Does mom know that this song reminds you of another woman?”
Me: “Not that I’m aware. I was pretty young when it happened and I doubt she’d care. Besides…I have lots of songs that remind me of your mom.”
Ava: “Like what?”
Me: “Well….actually most of them are from when we first started dating…”
Ava: “Like ‘Uptown Funk?'”
Me: “Um….no. Not ‘Uptown Funk.’ But if your mom asks, you can TOTALLY tell her that ‘Uptown Funk’ reminds me of her.”

5/29/2015
Me: “Ava…how many names have we given Christopher through the years?”
Ava: “Let’s see…Christopher, Chris, Fer, Ferby…”
Me: “Doodle, Dude, Gung-gung (Ava’s baby name for him)…”
Ava: (straight-faced) “Luis.”
😐
Hysterical laughter ensues.

5/7/2015
Ava: “I woke up at 6:30 this morning.”
Me: “Why?”
Ava: “There was a bright light shining in my eyes.”
Me: “Did your brother turn on the hallway light?”
Ava: “No.”
Me: “Did your mom turn on your bedroom light?”
Ava: “No Dad. The SUN was shining in my window…at 6:30 IN THE MORNING!?!?”
Me: (laughing) “Well…it IS almost summer, I suppose.”
Ava: “Well…summer is ruining my sleep time…”

1/26/2015
Tonight at dinner, my daughter thought she was being sly…
Me: “Ava…eat your dinner.”
Ava: “You gave me too much pasta.”
Me: “Ok then…eat the green beans and drink your milk and then you can be done.”
Ava: “What green beans?”
Me: “The ones that are buried UNDER your pasta.”
Ava: (blank stare at me) “But….how did you know?”
–CUE LAUGHTER

5/19/2014
While riding in the car, Ava begins turning around quickly over & over again.
Me: “What in the world are you doing?”
Ava: “It says objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. I was just checking.”
Me:😳

4/19/2014
On the way home tonight, Jason Derulo’s new song “Talk Dirty To Me” comes on the radio. I quickly try to change the channel but Ava stops me…
Ava: “But dad! I like that song!”
Me: “It’s AWFUL!”
Ava: “No it’s not! And I like the video.”
Me (not wanting to know but having to ask): “What is the video about?”
Ava: “It’s about the world and other nationalities and stuff. It’s cool!”
Me: “Really? That’s it?”
Ava: “And twerking.”
Me: “Great.”

12/19/2013
Lady Gaga’s “Do What You Want” comes on the radio…
Me: “I don’t like this song.” (As I reach to change the channel)
Ava: “Nooooo! I like it!”
Me: “Sorry…I hate it.”
Ava: (singing to song) “Do whatcha want with my body…”
Me: “Nope. Done.”
Click. Off.

11/26/2013
When Stephanie went to wake Ava up this morning…
Mom: “Ava…time to get up. Look outside!”
Ava: “Why?”
Mom: “It snowed!”
Ava: “Yeah (looks out the window)…I’m not going out in THAT.” (Rolls over)

11/19/2013
Me: “You got any homework tonight bud?”
Christopher: “No. I got most of it done at school.”
Me: “Cool.”
Christopher: “But I need you to check my English, Math, Science and Social Studies homework.”
Me: “How much do I get paid to do that?”
Christopher: “Nevermind. Mom will do it for free.”

11/13/2013
Steph: “Can you kids leave us alone for a minute? Your dad & I need to talk.”
Me: “NO! Don’t leave! She wants to kill me!”
Christopher (seeing the look his mom is giving him): “Ok…love you guys. Nice knowing you Dad…”

9/8/2013
While practicing her volleyball serve in the front yard…
Me: “Ava…I bet you a dollar you can’t hit the ball to me.”
Ava: “A dollar? Ok!”
She sets up, hits the ball and nails it far right, hitting our neighbors tree and ricochetting it directly to me.
Ava: “You owe me a dollar.”

THE END

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