Sunday, November 6, 2016

Is It Over, Yet?

I voted early last week because this twisted election year has beaten me down, and I figured that if I got it out of the way, I'd feel a bit better. I did feel a bit better immediately after I voted. I'm almost 50 years old, but I still get a thrill every time I cast a ballot in an election. I feel so patriotic and American. Not in a flag-waving, 'Murica kind of way, but in a thoughtful and appreciative way. I think of all that came before--the sacrifices and the deep thinking--that allows me to cast a ballot. I was concerned that by voting early I'd miss out a bit on that feeling, because I also like the feeling of voting with other people. You know, the energy of election day. But I didn't experience a lull.

Afterwards, though, the cacophony didn't stop. That was a weird feeling. Every other time I've voted, I've done it on the day of the election and then the noise has died down within a few hours. Not this time. I guess my actions don't control the universe after all!

But I looked at the odds of Trump winning on and I got nervous again. I've done some gambling and I know that longshots do come in, and I also know that medium shots come in more often. A one-in-three change doesn't make me feel comfortable. I want election day to come and go, and I want it to be a victory for sanity over insane change-for-change's sake.

And don't even get me going on what it might be like if there's a tie or some other such nonsense, causing the election to go to the courts.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October's End

It's an election year, in case you haven't noticed. Here in western Massachusetts, an ultra-liberal section of a liberal state, there isn't as much local vitriol as there is in other places, I'm sure. I met someone from rural Pennsylvania a few weeks ago and he described the divide in his town and how it manifests itself: the municipal waste removal workers have been known to treat rather shabbily the garbage cans at houses with lawn signs in support of candidates they don't approve of.

I find myself wondering how my experience in this election would have been different if Trump supporters were more than mere curiosities and instead were a more prominent part of my day-to-day existence.

I find myself thinking back to something that my father told me when I was a teenager. We were watching a documentary on World War II and Hitler, and he said to me, "Don't ever think that something like that can never happen here." I didn't believe him at the time, of course, but he's gotten a lot smarter as I've gotten older, so I now see the wisdom in what he's saying.

Massachusetts has early voting now. I'm trying to decide whether to vote early or not. On the one hand, it might be nice to get it over with. On the other hand, I like the feeling of civic pride I get when I go to the polls with everyone else.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Is Your Blog Running? Who Left This Thing On?

There's an awkwardness here, to be sure. I mean, we haven't seen each other in over three years, and we then we bump into each other out of the blue. Well, mostly out of the blue, I guess, since admittedly there was some method to my madness. After all, it wasn't like I cut all ties: deep in my Internet history, I still had your number, so to speak, in the password to get in.

So how have you been? I bet you've been lonely, or am I projecting that? It's just that you're here, kind of waiting for something to happen, and I haven't held up my end of the bargain. I haven't provided you with, well, anything.

I'm not going to stand here and tell you that everything is going to change overnight. About the only thing I can promise is that it won't be another three years before anything happens. I'm still trying to figure some stuff out, but I think that we had some good times here, and if you're still willing, I'm in. I know it won't be exactly the same, but maybe we can make this blog thing even better. What do you say?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

It's almost 10:00 a.m. and I haven't gotten any Hallmark cards yet, so I can't say for sure if Father's Day is a Hallmark holiday or not.  I can say that each Father's Day I've celebrated as a father has gotten richer over the years, if also more complicated.  When I went downstairs this morning to make the coffee, after debating with myself whether I should really get up or not, and cursing myself for not taking the time to make sure that at least one of my two sons knows how to make a decent pot of coffee so that I could save myself the trouble, I did get a big hug from my 10-year-old.  That was nice.  My 13-year-old son is still sleeping.  That's fine.  I wish I were still sleeping. 

My plan today is to go for a run, eat some breakfast, and then go coach my younger son's championship baseball game. He doesn't know that I know this, but my son wants to give me a championship for Father's Day.  Okay.

I never thought that the best part about Father's Day, the one thing that I would look most forward to, would be spending 45 minutes or so running by myself.  But as I said, fatherhood grows more complicated every year, it seems, and sometimes we just have to simplify for a bit.  And if my family allows me to do that for a little while today,then I'm happy.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Baseball Is A Simple Game

Youth baseball is now in full swing (pun intended), and after an extended period of irritatingly cold weather, we've had a stretch of heat that's fired up some thunderstorms that have cancelled some games recently, as sure a sign of summer as anything. 

Here's my problem with baseball: the adults who run kids' leagues.  No, let me try that again.  Here's my problem with baseball: because the action takes place in manic bursts of energy that die away almost as soon as they get started, people watching the games have too much time to think about, pick apart, examine, and analyze the game's minutiae.  And there's a hell of a lot of minutiae--it's the only youth sport that I've coached where it's not just advisable to carry a rulebook in the equipment bag, but where the chances are pretty good that on any particular play, you might have to consult the rule book to get clarification on something. 

Ive always hated when people use knowledge as a weapon to humiliate or intimidate other people, and unfortunately I see that type of behavior on the baseball diamond, particularly with obnoxious coaches and rookie umpires. 

But I'm getting away from what I really wanted to write about, which is the story out of Westfield, MA, about the 12-year-old Little League player who's been told by the league that he can't pitch, because he has too strong of an arm. He's pitching in Westfield Little Leagues "minor" league division, where most of the players are 9- and 10-years old. So the kid may have a good arm, or it may be that he's just got an advantage because he's a couple of years older than most of the other kids he's playing against. The story explains that some parents of opposing players actually heckled this kid while he was pitching. The move has upset the player and his family. The story also states that it's too late in the year for the kid to be moved up to the "majors" division.  It seems that the National Little League policy is to prohibit 12-year-olds from pitching in the minors, but Westfield's local rules permit it. 

That must mean that Westfield coaches have to carry TWO rulebooks in their equipment bags.

Now, I'm sure there are details that Ron Chmelis left out of his story for one reason or another, and that I don't know the full story.  But what I do know is that youth sports is supposed to be about developing in the participants the skills they need to enjoy playing that particular sport. While I'm sure the 12-year-old enjoys pitching against younger kids, I'm not sure that he's going to get much better at baseball playing against lesser competition.  And I'm not sure that the kids who have to bat against him will see much improvement, either.  Seems pretty cut and dry:  let the kids play against kids his own age.  I'm sure if left on their own, the kids would have figured this out themselves weeks ago. 

Stupid adults.

Monday, May 13, 2013

(Don't) Kill the Ump!

This hasn’t been a good run for Major League Baseball umpires. In one game, they mistakenly declared a home run to NOT be a home run, even with the help of instant replay.  In another game, they allowed a pitcher to warm up and then be removed from a game, which is illegal.  The umpires involved in these decisions have been suspended and some have even been fined. 

Nobody likes the ump; that’s one thing that even Yankee and Red Sox fans can agree on.  Umpires don’t have an easy job, to be sure, but what bothers me about Major League umpires is the general disdain they show for everyone in baseball who isn’t an umpire, players, coaches, and fans alike.  The next time you’re at a Major League game focus your attention for a moment on the first base umpire and watch how long it takes him to confirm a call.  If he’s a typical umpire, there will be a second or two between the ball and base runner getting to first and the official call. 

It’s not like he’s got anything better to do.  I mean, it’s only HIS JOB to make these calls.

And don’t get me started on the strike zone.  Not only is every umpired allowed to interpret the rules to mean he can make the strike zone be anything he wants it to be, but anyone who questions it is subject to immediate.    

So, much of the criticism the umpires are facing right now is justified and self-inflicted.  For people who work in a profession that will be replaced by robots or lasers hopefully any day now, I would think that they’d be nicer.  Instead, they act as if people pay to see them do their job and reject any notion that they can ever be wrong.  That’s all okay, though.  They’re professionals making big bucks.  What I can’t live with, though, is how their boorish behavior is spreading to college, high school, and youth baseball umpires.  This behavior may be a reaction to the other side of this ugly coin, the increasingly coarse behavior of parents and other fans, but no matter the cause, it turns what should be a celebration of baseball skill and passion into an adversarial exercise when it doesn’t need to be. 

I’ve disagreed—even sometimes, but rarely, vocally—with umpires many times over the years.  Like any father, fan, and coach, I can exchange bad umpiring stories with the best of them.  But I’m not going to do that as much anymore.  Why?  My 13-year-old son just began umping games.

Talk about a shift in perspective.

He decided to become an umpire not because of a power trip, but because he loves baseball and this gives him another way to be involved with the game. Prior to his first stint behind the plate this past weekend, he was so nervous that his whole body was shaking—he wanted very badly to do well.  The lesson to be learned here is that even if an umpire makes a call that goes against your team, it can still be a good all. 

I’ll try to ease up a bit on the umpires this year.  I won’t let the questionable calls get to me, and I’ll smile and shake hands afterwards with sincerity.  After all, as I’ve come to realize, even umpires have families who love them

Monday, April 29, 2013

Off the Cuff

It stares at me without pity from the pages of Wikipedia:

"Many rotator cuff tears are asymptomatic. They are known to increase in frequency with age and the commonest cause is age-related degeneration and, less frequently, sports injuries or trauma. Both partial and full thickness tears have also been found on post mortem and MRI studies in those without any history of shoulder pain or symptoms."

I could quibble over the questionable wording (commonest?) and how that might undermine the accuracy of the information, but the ache in my right shoulder tells me that the information is more accurate than not.

I never realized that I could get injured simply by doing nothing. So much for the "use-it-or-lose-it" philosophy of staying fit.  And then just below that result on the Google search was the medical article with this hope-crushing title: "Age-related prevalence of rotator cuff tears in asymptomatic shoulders."  

In other words, there are a lot of us walking around with bad shoulders, due to torn or strained rotator cuffs.  Some of us may not know it, and I suppose they are the lucky ones. Others know that there's a problem, but have no idea how they might have injured their shoulder, because it's something that just happens. 

It's hard to be an American male and not be able to throw. I've been thinking about it, and I've basically been throwing all my life.  Baseballs, footballs, balls of all types, of course; rocks, dirt clods, sticks; playing cards into hats, coins into fountains, chestnuts at kids from our rival neighborhood during the Chestnut Wars of 1978 to 1982.  Now I can still throw, but it really, really hurts when I do it.  This makes coaching baseball really difficult, and with baseball season just getting underway here in the Northeast, that's a problem. 

But what's really upsetting is that I haven't been able to play catch in the back yard with my kids. This injury has made me more aware of the fact that those moments are going to be fewer and fewer as the years go back.  A rotator cuff can happen for no apparent reason, but at least they can heal. The missed connections from a simple game of catch in the back yard is not as easy to correct.