Wrapping Up The Comeback Season

1 03 2011

The end of the Coe men’s basketball season also meant a long night for Sam.

Finally, sometime around 11:30 p.m. last Thursday, the 8-year-old ballboy/waterboy for the Kohawks finally went to sleep, two hours after Coe’s 55-51 loss to Dubuque in the IIAC Semifinals.

I had prepared Sam for this possibility on the drive down. Dubuque had been playing some of the better basketball in the Iowa Conference, especially against Coe. Coe came in as the 2-seed, Dubuque the 3-seed. Yet I knew this showdown would be a tree stumping-pulling contest. A showdown the Kohawks may not get out of with a trip to the finals.

Coe’s final record checked in at 17-10 (10-6 IIAC), a remarkable upswing from the 4-win season of the 2009-2010 season that was Sam’s introduction to the program.

The disappointment of Thursday’s loss is starting to fade away with Sam as he shifts into baseball season and all of the time that brings. Yet, once summer comes, Sam will be ready to return to Eby for another round, another tour of the quirky Iowa Conference.

******

Sam was excited for the season opener. He doesn't get to work too many rooms with actual seats.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010.

The first “official” test for the Kohawks with a trip to Northern Iowa. Of course, UNI had knocked off UNLV and Kansas just seven months before. Their standout seniors were gone but a Division I program is a Division I program.

As excited as Sam was to take to the McLeod Center for to chase down the basketballs and get the water out, some of the Kohawks also seemed a bit excited for the start.

Except for Borno. Senior Dan Borngraeber squeaked in Coe’s first basket and clapped his hands on the way back down court. Yet the scores didn’t come easily until the very end. UNI won 84-45 and the Kohawk coaches expressed their frustration after the game, especially coming off Coe’s strong exhibition showing at Northern Illinois earlier in the month.

Sam and I spent the 60-mile drive back from Cedar Falls to Cedar Rapids talking about how Coe was going to be better this year. Definitely better than four wins. “15 wins would be a very good improvement,” I told the drowsy Sam sometime around 10:30 p.m. Sam wanted the Kohawks to win 20.

******

“Uh, oh,” I mumbled to Sam a week later.

Coe had just called a timeout in their road game at Mount Mercy. The Mustangs had put up the first 10 points.

“It’ll be okay, Sam,” I sighed. “They’ll come back.” I was trying to convince myself the Kohawks really would win at Mount Mercy, a program that is in the NAIA and does offer scholarships for basketball.

Tatman rises up. That got a rise out of Sam.


Only Coe did. Now confident that Sam could do the job without Dad hovering, I walked to the far end of the court so Sam could dish out the water.

The new players (freshman Nathan Joens and Andrew Wirth) earned solid minutes and left behind some much-needed toughness to a program that couldn’t close out the victories the year before. Coe hit threes. Coe blocked shots. Coe escaped with a 73-68 win. This would be a different season.

Sam rolled into the locker room to offer his congratulations. Yes, buddy, this is what a winning basketball team looks like.

Because of the spread out nature of the Iowa Conference and my own unusual schedule of nights and weekends, Sam and I spent a few nights, with dozens of other people around the world, watching streaming cameras from all over the state.

We watched Coe hang on to win at Buena Vista, a place where the Kohawks never win, by a single point. (Exhale at the buzzer). Saw the win at Dubuque. Saw the Kohawks blow at Central, another PWTKNV (like Buena Vista – I like acronyms).

The next road game we actually got to attend was the game I later dubbed “Monday Night Raw”. Coe at Cornell. Another weak start as Cornell jumped up by 13 points. But like Andy Dufresne, the Kohawks just chipped away at the wall, letting pressure over time do its thing. Alex Tatman hit from the outside. Seth Light and Kevin Gaster found their grooves inside. Coe then led by a dozen.

Of course, it wouldn’t be THAT easy for the Kohawks. The Rams battled back and, with 30 seconds left, Cornell had the ball, with Coe leading 58-57. Cornell got five shots off. None of them went in.

Again, this was another game Coe would have probably lost in 2009-2010.

*******

I can’t say enough about the seniors.

Five young men are now leaving behind organized basketball – with uniforms, referees and fans – for good. Guys like Dan Borngraeber, Fred Rose, Dan Onorato, Joe Parys and Alex Tatman have probably spent the last eight or nine years going to practice and sharpening their game.

After battling tall guys, Borno always came down to Sam's level to say thanks.


I am honored to acknowledge just how kind these five have been to Sam.

My only advice this year to Sam was the same as the year before. “Try and get them their water within five seconds of them sitting down”. Again, he did a pretty good job of that.

After nearly every game Sam was at (all of the home games plus a couple roadies), the players – especially these seniors who battled through a four-win campaign the previous year – were always gracious to an 8-year-old boy who loves being around college basketball.

Amid the winning, I also tried to stress to Sam the importance of being a “team player”. Some of these seniors saw their minutes fade as the younger players gobbled up more floor time. Yet a critical point to the season was watching some of these seniors truly support the mission, even if their points were not the difference on the floor.

Best part for this week is that Coe Basketball isn’t finished just yet. The women are in the business of “survive and advance” now, even hosting the four-team opening round this weekend. Instead of chasing basketballs and handing out water, Sam will look to be in the stands on Friday night for Coe’s game against Minnesota-Morris.

Hopefully, Sam will get to see “his” team one more time before the summer hits and these outstanding young men start the new phase of their lives. As always, thanks, Kohawks.

A delightful season ends. A new addition: Katie now as the regular halftime entertainment.





Best Summer Ever? I’d Say “Top Five”

23 08 2010

These are the final hours before the school year starts for Sam and Katie.

The last gasp of summer vacation.

Brief aside: Whatever really happened to summer vacation? “Back in my day” we were out by June 5 or so (not June 10) and didn’t return until September. Of course, in 1983, my elementary school wasn’t plagued with 19 in-service days. Yes, you read that right. 19. But anywho…

To think, I had such grandiose plans for the kids on this last Monday. We were going to stop by Thomas Park in Marion, possibly hit some baseballs back at Kennedy High School and spend four hours at Noelridge Pool for the last day that pool was open.

The kids accomplished so much in the Summer of 2010.

Just not today.

I am spending this afternoon filling Sam and Katie with multiple teaspoons of Pepto — it’s a mystery what led to this. As a “responsible parent”, I just can’t let them near the pool right now. That could change, however — the pool is open for six more hours as I write this.

On Mondays and Tuesdays this summer, this was my oasis from the world.


The pools of Cedar Rapids are where we spent far too many hours this summer. Back in May, Erica and I decided it best to shell out the $192 for the family pass…as long as we got the value from it.

Yeah. We did.

I want to say we had about 40 visits between Noelridge, Cherry Hill and Ellis pools this summer. In my undeniable, stingy form, I took full advantage of this, dragging the kids to swim, jump and entertain all throughout the summer.

Best part of all of the aquatic action: Sam and Katie really learned how to swim. I mean, really learned. They turned into super swimmers before my astonished eyes. Sam, who turned 8 in July, broke through that mental wall to careen himself off any 1-meter spring board that he could find. Swimmin’ Sam passed through the rigors of Level 3 Swimming Certification.

Katie was even more impressive at the pool. She still can’t touch the bottom past most of the children’s areas at Cherry Hill and Noelridge. On top of this, Katie faces the gentle frustration of being two inches shy of “getting legal” to go on all of the water slides. She’s 3’10” — gotta be four feet.

Yet now Little Katie jumps into the deeper end (five feet) and swims all out to wherever I am standing. She flips underwater and is trying to even get creative and “artsy” with her swimming. I’m so proud of her.

Both Sam and Katie had banner moments all throughout the summer. Sam had two that still stick out.

Seconds after hauling in the Wrigley Foul Ball on June 16, Sam smiled for days.


First, on the June trip to Chicago via the $1 Megabus ride (yup, a whole dollah), Sam and I went to Wrigley Field for his first Cubs game. Sam scored an Oakland A’s hat two hours before the game on Addison, across from the stadium. We went inside Wrigley, along the first base line and even further to the unmistakable ‘353’ brick wall in right field. All of these people are standing along the edge, clamoring for batting practice baseballs.

Just as Oakland’s turn with batting practice is closing out, our hopes for Sam scoring a BP ball were also starting to fade. Then one unidentified A’s player nods, from 70-80 feet, in our direction, points to the bill of his hat and fires a line drive straight to Sam.

The crowd gathers around, adults and kids jostling for position to get the ball.

Sam reaches up with his lefty glove…and hauls it in.

He still sleeps with that baseball every night.

That trip to Chicago also came at a rare “down” time for Sam in his actual baseball playing endeavors with the Green Machine of the 3rd/4th Grade Division in the Hiawatha Kids League. Sam enjoyed being on a winning team that made the semifinals in the playoffs and even tied for first place in the regular-season with a record of 9-2-1. He was an outstanding teammate and very encouraging to all of his friends. I’m proudest of that.

Sam has a summer birthday (July 14) and that means getting together a posse of partiers isn’t as easy as, say, during Katie’s annual November soiree. For 2010, when Sam hit 8, he had a birthday moment none of us will forget anytime soon.

In a heat index pushing 108 — and insisting to wear his full baseball uniform — Sam fired the first pitch for the Cedar Rapids Kernels game that night from the mound. The full 60’6″. He couldn’t throw it that far the night before when we practiced a bit. Now he knows what ‘adrenaline’ means:

Katie had more life altering accomplishments this summer as well. She is on the verge of 6 (“I’m 5 and a half, Dad”). I’m unsure how I’m going to handle tomorrow morning as she trudges off to kindergarten.

Could you EVER say 'no' to this face? I do because sometimes this face frowns.

It wasn’t really that long ago when Little Katie couldn’t walk, talk nor eat much. She’s still picky about her food but talks, sings, screams and runs everywhere. She can even hit live pitching in the baseball cages…as a 5-year-old. Well, as long as it’s high and inside. I’m thankful to have an active little girl who likes to break a sweat.

Now she can almost do it all. She’s a “big girl” who makes friends so very easily. When we go to the parks, she always goes up to the other kids, usually girls, and says, “hi, my name is Katie. Want to play with me?” If life could only be that simple. If only.

In these final days of Summer 2010, Katie saved her most jaw-dropping accomplishment for last Saturday night. I’m at the station, wrapping up the early newscast at 6 pm and Erica sends me these waves of phone calls and texts. COME HOME NOW.

As I pulled up, I saw Katie’s new (okay, it came from a garage sale for ten bucks) Barbie bike in the driveway. That gave me a clue to this…

Well done, Katie. Not bad for a 5-year-old. I learned at 7. Sam learned at 6.

We are still in a transitional state for scheduling here. In June, I moved to a different world at work, moving over to weekend evenings. The bright spot was that I was almost always home during the mornings, plus Mondays and Tuesdays all day. We got to enjoy so much in the mornings, whether organized events or just the off-the-cuff learning throughout each day.

I guess I just feel so blessed and fortunate to have a solid family. Amid the “chaos” (most of which doesn’t really matter anyway!), Erica, Sam and Katie are the best! I won’t end this saying I hope to have an even better Summer of 2011. If it’s close to this one, that’ll work.





Thanks, Kohawks

5 03 2010

With this being the “real” start of the college basketball season for those of us under the category of “casual fans”, I find it hard to figure that our season is already over.

Our season?

Sam and I spent many of our Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons inside the Eby Fieldhouse at Coe College this season.

And what a season it was.

4-21.

A college basketball team with a 4-21 record just wants the season to end right away.

Only we really didn’t.

Sam walked away from watching this team knowing what it means to keep battling.

The Coe College men’s basketball team did something absolutely incredible this year and the players will probably never truly understand it for another decade.

These eighteen guys did their part to open the eyes of a 7-year-old to the magic and precision of being a team, especially when things don’t go right.

Sam’s journey into becoming a “Kohawk” happened in early November of last year. A few weeks before that, head coach Pat Juckem invited me to be the emcee for the program’s steak fry fundraiser to open up the season. The only real basis for Pat picking me was that a) I played ‘noonball’ at the school a few times a week and “knew my place” amid the legitimate former college basketball players and b) television news anchors can speak on any subject or any cause as long as a steak and dessert are included.

After the program, Pat pulled me aside and invited young Sam to be a ballboy for the men’s team but on one condition.

He had to show up at practice.

So, on a chilly November afternoon, right after picking up Sam from school, we drove downtown to the Coe campus. Because of his dad and his bizarre priorities, Sam dribbled the basketball along the concrete of the campus walk for about a quarter-mile, finally pulling up at Eby Fieldhouse.

Instead, the “Echoes of Juckem” filled the gym. Lots of talking, pointing, emphasizing.

“I think they’re trying to play defense,” I told Sam as he tried to process the sight of nearly twenty basketball players elbowing, pushing and defending the tar out of each other.

This went on for another fifteen minutes when Juckem finally let up. We made eye contact.

“Alright, guys! I want you to meet Sam here!”

My son tried to hide behind my legs. THAT was his introduction. I shook him like an Iverson crossover, circa 1997. Now Sam was in plain view.

“Sam is 7 but plays on a third-grade team over at Kennedy. He will be with us for the season. Welcome Sam!”

The players clapped at the introduction.

“Pretty good and amazed,” is how Sam described his first meeting with the players five months later.

* * *

Division III basketball is played in real obscurity. Basketball fans who went to gigantic schools (I graduated from Wisconsin) may not realize that most college basketball players sweat, grind, succeed and fail in front of crowds of 150 or 200. A handful of Division III colleges can draw “four figures” for most home games – Washington University and Wisconsin-Stevens Point come to mind off the top of my head – but, for the most part, it’s playing basketball in a vacuum. I wonder, especially for the student-athletes from the smaller Iowa towns – where Friday night home games are the ONLY social event in town – if the transition is jarring at first.

November 17, 2009. Mount Mercy at Coe. Nearly a full house because Mount Mercy’s campus is eleven blocks away.

“Just make sure Coach Pat gets his water six minutes into the game,” I tried to remind Sam.

“I was kind of nervous,” Sam says now. “I didn’t know the players’ names.” At this point, it was just numbers.

Sam and I had actually worked out a decent system so he could be the ballboy and waterboy. Before the game, Sam would collect up all the loose basketballs, put them in the cage at center court and push the cage behind the bleachers.

Yet, once the game started, a 7-year-old’s attention span had to get pushed into maximum overdrive.

“Got three in!” I’d yell over the crowd noise as three Kohawks would get up from the bench and go to the scorer’s table. Sam would rush over to the large orange water cylinder and make fresh cups. Time was critical. After all, we had a goal.

“They needed to get water five seconds after they sat down,” Sam reminded me. Gotta have goals in this life. Get the guys their ice cold water within five seconds of leaving the game.

You only saw the easy stuff here.

Some rules to remember: Coach Juckem was usually ready for his first cup of water of the night whenever he ditched his jacket. That was a sign.

After the first two games, Sam was getting more comfortable with the players and they with him. We even made an early-season road trip, to Cornell College, where Sam worked the game, making sure the players got their hydration on.

The season didn’t exactly go as planned, unfortunately.

You see, the 2009-10 Kohawks only had one senior, Cass Behrens, a guard Sam would often call “mean as a snake with the heart of a lion” to his face when handing him water. Freshmen, just months into their college experience, were trying to guard more mature and more experienced players.

The losses piled up. 2-5. 2-7. 2-10. We tried everything during this stretch of road losses. Sam and I would dial up websites, looking for any scores or information, only to meet the agony of defeat.

Then a funny thing happened. The defeats, often close and frustrating, only made Sam and me want the next home game to arrive even faster. I wanted to spend the season teaching my son a lesson about “sticking it out”.

The rewards – when they did come on the court – have already formed true memories. At 2-10, Coe knocked off Buena Vista at home, snapping an eight-game losing streak. It’s about 9:40 PM. It’s a school night. I even had my younger daughter, Katie, with us.

Big Dan always came over, win or lose, to thank Sam.

As we are leaving Eby Fieldhouse, satisfied with the first win we’ve witnessed in six weeks, we hear yelling coming from upstairs.

“What’s going on?” I ask.

Sam motioned to follow him.

We walked into the room where the players would wolf down walking tacos, brownies and chug Gatorade bottles afterward. Because it came from the joy of a win, I told Sam to go on win.

The players yelled out, “SAM!” as he fought off his shyness and sat down next to forward Fred Rose and munched on a sandwich and cookie.

By this point, we had gotten all of the players’ names matched with the numbers. As we would read the program with each game, we also learned more about the students’ hometowns, their majors and, after a while, I’d learn about their background and what they wanted to do with their life.

More losses came. They wouldn’t let up. 3-10 turned into 3-19.

I know the frustration this brings to a basketball team. When I was sixteen, I played on a 4-20 squad. March 1 couldn’t come soon enough.

Yet with each close loss, Sam & I could see the Kohawks making progress. Sam had mastered “the game” of being a waterboy so much that he could outsource some of the duties to his little sister or even Coach Juckem’s two boys. Sam would shake the hands of the players, win or lose as they would come out of the locker room.

I can’t tell you how many times players would come up to me – after another night of disappointment in the end – and thank us. “We really appreciate you and Sam coming by tonight,” I’d hear.

Sam would nod and go back to shooting his post-game baskets on the Coe floor – the one time I would let him shoot. “Not at halftime, Sam,” I’d remind him when he would see other kids shooting baskets, “you’re on the clock, buddy.”

The final home game of the 2009-10 season ended with another tight loss to a top-team. Central College escaped with a win as Coe dropped its 20th for the year. Afterward, we went to the postgame “mess hall” so Sam could tell the players goodbye and thank you.

Chuck was always good for: WHAT'S UP, SAM!

Sam, bless his heart, resisted any major proclamations from his “vocal” father. I just let out a sincere, “thanks so much for having Sam with you.”

Amid the clapping, some yells from the players. “THANKS, SAM! SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!”, the baritone-blessed Charles Cotton barked out.

We weren’t done with Eby Fieldhouse quite yet.

The Coe women’s basketball team rode out a regular-season IIAC title to be the top-seed in the conference tournament. The Fieldhouse took on a true home-court advantage for their playoff games.

Once Sam’s third-grade team practice wrapped up, we zipped downtown to watch the first playoff game. In a sea of black t-shirts for the student section, Sam, still in his Kennedy green/white practice uniform, spotted a half-dozen of the men’s players.

“HE’S OUR WATERBOY! STOMP, STOMP, STOMP-STOMP-STOMP…HE’S OUR WATERBOY!”

For the rest of the game, Sam, normally the tallest kid in any class he walks into, stood in the bleachers next to his friends, 6’7″ Dan Borngraeber and 6’5″ Joe Parys. “I’ll just see you after the game,” I told him and sat in another part of the gym.

Sam’s final two games at the Fieldhouse this year weren’t about shucking balls and chugging water for the players. He was able to also see these players as student-athletes, role models and even friends. Not a bad deal for a 7-year-old.

Best of all, I could see my son’s attitude about winning and losing getting shaped by this experience.

Thanks, Kohawks. We’ll see you next year!





The Need For Journalists To Be “Nice”

27 02 2010

Journalists catch an easy reputation as pushy, overly aggressive and insensitive.

And that’s just in the morning meeting.

Yet I know that I have run across more than a few of my professional colleagues, especially when out in the field on traumatic or stressful stories, and have found them unspeakably aggressive or even rude.

Two of the toughest hombres in modern cinema. And they were nice...until it was time to not be nice.

Especially with people (we could call them interview subjects but I’ll stick with people) who may be going through terrible days, maybe even the “worst day of their life”.

Knocking on doors is the most depised part of reporting. If there is a murder or a death that merits a news crew to come out, reporting means knocking on the doors of neighbors to learn a little bit more about the victim or the victim’s family.

I can’t stand knocking on doors.

We all strive to tell great stories.

We all also understand knocking on doors can lead to telling great stories.

On January 12th, I was assigned to Washington to cover the death of Patricia Blum, 67. Her husband, James Blum, 70, admitted to investigators he killed his wife.

Open and shut, 75-second story about a murder? Not quite.

After knocking on doors, we met a pair of neighbors who filled out the story in fairly rich and descriptive fashion. One spoke about her own neighborly battles over shoveling sidewalks and other property issues. The other didn’t have as much to say but they did open up. I stood on the wood floors of their foyer, tracking in snow and playing with their 14-year-old dog. Friendly people.

Three weeks later, a fire at this second neighbor’s house left behind considerable damage and sent this older couple to live at the home of one of their grown children for some time. I had gotten an e-mail from the daughter to let me know her parents were okay and that they enjoyed talking with me. Made my day, especially when I found out they were not roughed up too bad.

I write this because, under the guise of inflexible deadlines for the newscast and more demands from the office for more “output”, feeling overwhemled when out in the field is a danger in our business. In 14 years of working in TV news, I have known quite a few colleagues who “had the chops” to be at a major market or even a network but they got burned out on deadlines and knocking on doors.

Just be nice when you’re out in the field, I always tell journalism students when I talk with them at the University of Iowa every few months. By doing so, you represent yourself well and also can set yourself up for a fantastic story sometime down the road.

I can always point to my first Saturday working my first “official” job in TV news. September 13, 1997 in Topeka.

In the late afternoon on a sun-drenched Saturday, I was sent out to cover a car crash on the east side of the city, off I-70, the Kansas Turnpike. When I got to the scene, I had come across one of the most horrific sights I had ever seen. A mangled SUV that hit an embankment. As I tried, often unsuccessfully, to shoot the video in a way that was not graphic, I couldn’t help but think of the family affected by this. (Mind you, I’m a 22-year-old, three months out of college, and full of the hubris that young men always possess. It’s why our car insurance rates are sky high).

A day later, I found out the person who perished in that awful crash had been a local basketball star in Topeka and that he was driving home from the University of Kansas. He was only 18 and just a couple of weeks into college. Valedictorian, no less. Big dreams. Big future.

All taken out in just moments.

For months, I kept thinking about his family and how they would try and go through that. In early January of 1998, I spotted the young man’s parents while I was covering a high school basketball game. They didn’t want to talk at that point, which I certainly understand. Yet I, gently, kept in contact and, weeks later, they agreed to an on-camera interview to talk about their son’s legacy.

The story aired in February of 1998 and I was extremely proud of the piece. I’d even say that story landed me my next job in the business, as a sports anchor/reporter in Eau Claire. The parents’ reaction to the piece is what I remembered the most. They, graciously, took this broke reporter out for lunch weeks after it aired.

I decided, in the days before the lunch, to dub down ALL of their son’s highlights from the four years he was a starter on the high school basketball team. Between the highlights, the sound bites and the feature stories in the archives, that came to about 35 minutes of video. Seeing the look on their faces when I handed them the VHS tapes is forever burned into my memory.

It’s been almost 13 years since I covered that terrible story but I walk away knowing that, maybe, I helped bring a little smile to a grieving family.





First Trip to Los Angeles Amid Skewed Expectations

26 02 2010

It all started with a simple e-mail from my wife

Des Moines to Los Angeles. $126 round-trip.

Like a pimple before prom, it just stuck out and we had to pay real attention. The moment of truth was approaching. Wait a day and that price could shoot up to $417. (Isn’t travel in 2010 just delightful?)

In a few weeks, that means the four of us will fly west for a few days of, we hope, lots of warmth and none of the worries.

This guy had no trouble having fun in L.A., provided his hot tub worked.

Yet I must confess I know next to nothing about Los Angeles — and what I do know comes from 90210, The Naked Gun, The O.J. Chase, Pat Riley’s Showtime Lakers, White Men Can’t Jump, Falling Down and Every Which Way But Loose.

I’ve never been there.

Wait. I have been to Los Angeles, technically, but I cannot refer to a three-hour layover when flying to Honolulu as truly having been to Los Angeles.

Any advice from the gentle readers about what to see and do? Especially with two small children.

Sure, we already have some of the trip already set up. Near a beach? Check. Disneyland? That’s Day 2. LEGOland? Day 3.

Yet I’m fairly quirky. I want to see a little bit more than just that. I just don’t hold much interest for seeing the Pitt-Aniston House (in happier days) or checking out all of the stars on the Walk of Fame.

I also realize Randy Newman’s epic salute to Los Angeles (from 1983) is gone forever. Each time I hear this, I can envision Pat Riley screaming at his world-class Laker basketball team, Kareem pulling down the goggles and Magic looking up and down the court, watching for double-teams for both during the game and after.

Even 18 years later, it's pretty...it's SO pretty.

My own “must do” list, if time and the possibility of whiny children were no object:

  • Dodger Stadium.
  • Venice Beach. Just to see the courts where Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes battled in only the greatest basketball movie ever produced. As long as you don’t count Teen Wolf.
  • The Back to the Future set. My buddy Raji often spoke of wanting to break into the downtown block of Hill Valley and just ride around. A couple years back, I spotted the movie set on Google Earth. Yeah, it could be worth a $300 trespassing citation and a few hours in the clink, right?
  • The Rose Bowl.
  • The L.A. County Courthouse. Again, if I had no minors counting on me to be a role model, I would even aim to walk into the courthouse and re-create my favorite parts of the O.J. Trial. You’re weird, I hear you murmur. Yeah, well recognize people who re-enact Civil War battles and even give them airtime. Why not for the trial people my age would often skip class to watch on Court TV? I could bring even different suits and act out the parts of Lance Ito, Gil Garcetti and Johnnie Cochran. More people watched the O.J. Trial than watched the Civil War. The fact there was no TV in 1863 will not dissuade me.
  • The Falling Down Tour. This would not require the presence of children as Michael Douglas created mayhem (is that a formal charge in California? It is in Wisconsin) all over the city. Sometimes hilarious. Sometimes disturbing.

A vacation all changes the moment you have children, especially if you have two. Couples without kids go to Wine Country in Northern California. Couples with young kids go to places that end in the word LAND.

A beer-drinking orangutan equals smiles all around. Will I see him AND Philo Beddoe fighting for money in the streets?

Even packing and flying with young children can be terribly stressful…if you let it. Amid our New Travel World of baggage fees and seat fares, the push to show up at Gate 17 in Des Moines with four backpacks could be a reality. My wife has executed these flights before with minimal expense and I’m putting my trust in her skills once again.

If not for her eagle eye on spotting the $126 flight, the only way we would be going to Los Angeles would be Griswold-style. Station wagon with wood trim.

That’s probably not entirely awful either.





Maybe I’ve Hit The Tipping Point To Stay Inside Rather Than Run

25 02 2010

When you hit 35, you don’t notice the little changes. Gotta stretch before running. Takes a little longer to shake off the rust when you stride out of the driveway down the street.

You are supposed to be a bit more cautious by this point in life. You quit wearing doo-rags and t-shirts with offensive slogans in public.

Now I’ve become the old man who is chronically whining about the weather.

Yup, that’s me.

I fully expect to start growing hair out of my ear the length of the native prairie grass. Only after I start wearing white pants and eating dinner at 4 PM at my new residence, Del Boca Vista.

I couldn’t tell you the last time it was 40 degrees here. As I age a little bit more, my tolerance for cold weather is what melts away. In 1992, my father was astonished that I chose to go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Part of it was his concern that I would become an anarchist or communist and also that I chose to freeze my limbs, tendons and bones from November to early March.

Chris, have I EVER let you down on a jog? I always kickstart your heart!

Now at 35, I have a full box of Pizza Rolls in the oven instead of lacing up my silver New Balance size 15’s, starting up my iPod and kick-starting a four-mile jog. Not even the prospect of running fast to “Don’t Go Away Mad” by Motley Crue is getting me off this couch right now.

Just too cold out there.

Here is the difference. Three years ago, I lost about 25 pounds in three months. All in the dead of winter back in Eau Claire. The exact reasons for the weight loss were obvious: I was chowing down on lettuce wrap sandwiches and running at Gold’s Gym a ton. Even in -13 below weather, I would crank out two or three miles on the treadmill at Gold’s when I was finished anchoring the news at 10 PM.

Now?

On this day, Brett Favre was 38. So cold even he wanted to go inside.

It’s getting more difficult to step outside in the cold. This is the same reason when it snows during Thanksgiving, a family sends the college kid out to clear the walk and not the 77-year-old grandpa. In January 2008, I think I saw this “quick aging in the cold” phenomenon first-hand. Brett Favre was in the NFC Championship Game in his final game as a Green Bay Packer. Even with their previous playoff struggles, no way the Packers would lose to home with this much on the line, right?

Of course they would lose. After an hour outside, Favre looked like he didn’t want to be out in the cold anymore. That triggered the other times in 2007 when I saw him after victories in the frozen air and he seemed miserable. This probably also explains why Kurt Warner was happy to play in Arizona for the final five years of his career and not in, say, Cleveland or Buffalo.

Whether a Hall of Fame quarterback or some schmoe who writes stories for a living, time marches on and catches up with all of us men. We can’t avoid it — only try to temper it. How we battle back differs. Some of us wear tighter shirts. Some of us make up for a pot belly by working the biceps. Some of us just rub Flexall on our skin and put Grecian Formula on our head. Whatever works.

Ding! I think my Pizza Rolls are done.

When I need to find that inspiration, maybe I should really dig deep. Not “Don’t Go Away Mad” but… this:





What Happens to “Old” Olympians?

24 02 2010

Thoughtful article from Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post hit on Tuesday morning.

It takes, what, about 10,000 hours of training to really become an expert at something? Yet what happens when Olympic athletes are finished in that obsessive chase for world-class glory?

Solid piece on the athletes…one the fame fades.