Wednesday, December 2, 2015


I recently attended my high school reunion, 20 years went by fast. But I didn’t really go to see anyone in particular, I’ve done a good job of keeping in touch with those friends. I went for two reasons. The first being that I didn’t want the same anxiety that plagued me throughout high school, to prevent me from going as it had kept me from participating in so much already. The second being the fact that the invitation reminded us all, that as 18 year olds we had written letters to ourselves that we would open 20 years later. Only I had no recognition of that letter, and I had to know what I said.

So I went with a friend, and we stayed for maybe 30 minutes. Saw a handful of familiar faces, and way more faces I’m sure I had never seen before and I probably won’t ever see again. Which is totally fine with me. Then the box with these letters came out. In 20 years, you’d think they would have been organized, right? Even a little bit. Like, they could have all been facing the same direction. Anyway, I tore my envelope open and fished out my letter. Good to know that in 20 years my handwriting hasn’t improved in the slightest.

I made it through the first paragraph and couldn’t believe how whiney it was. Basically, all I did was list what traumatic events had gone on through those four years. For which, honestly, I think I probably had more than my share. But still, that’s what I wrote? Nothing funny? I made a joke in the yearbook, that in 20 year I’d probably be watching the OJ trial (and hey, there’s a made for TV movie coming, so I wasn’t entirely wrong) but I didn’t even name the real killer in my letter. It was pretty horrible. Like I was going to forget being carjacked, my mother getting cancer or pops being laid off, and I needed a reminder? And even if I needed a reminder why did I have to write it in such a whiney voice? So 20 years later, there was something new to regret about high school. Great night, glad I went. I could have stayed at home and picked lint from my belly button, and felt more satisfied.

But thinking back to that list, and some other trying times I’ve gone through (which I’m not going to list here) and comparing the lowest of my old lows, I can’t help but think that they don’t even compare to the tough times of today, and seeing my daughter struggle with her own fight with anxiety. I’d go through every rough time or bad memory a million times, if I could take this burden off of her shoulders. I’d gladly serve the prison sentence that was handed out to my carjackers, if it meant she could wake up tomorrow morning without that excruciating weight on her shoulders. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Forever Loyal

Please pause, while I take a moment to pat myself on the back. The World Series went pretty much how I expected it to. I mean, I thought it would go six games, but I was pretty close. I told my wife, and quite a few friends, the Royals would win the series. And the reasons behind my thinking, proved to be the exact reasons why they did. It’s been said over and over again, but the Royals don’t make many mistakes. And more than that, they never miss an opportunity to capitalize when their opponent does. I just heard a stat on the radio, that the Mets lead the series for 11 more innings than the Royals. Yet we only managed one win.

I’ve never been a big fan of the disclaimer “no offense, but” only I really mean it. No offense, but the Mets handed the Royals three wins. Not because we didn’t care, or lacked heart, but we made big mistakes at key moments. And to their absolute credit, the Royals made the most out of all of them. And make no mistake, they helped cause them. The hell with the stat heads, and I’ve always considered myself to be one, but the Royals won because they apply pressure in every facet of the game. They put the ball in play, and make you get them out. They get on base, and then put pressure on the pitcher and catcher with their base running. They apply pressure by running aggressively, so a first basemen has to hurry a pretty simple throw, but one he doesn’t have to make often. It’s why I’ve enjoyed watching them the last two seasons so much. It’s how I always tried to play the game, even if I was so bad and played at such a low level. Yet, had Cespedes caught Escobar’s fly ball in game one (or had our Gold Glove winning center fielder been in the game, as he should have been) we very well may have won game one.

In game four, Daniel Murphy’s error cost us a two run lead. Then there was Cespedes’ running mistake in the bottom of the 9th. And last night, if Lucas Duda makes an accurate throw home, that game is over right there. So that’s what stings the most this morning. We could have, and should have, won those games.

Luckily for me, the sting is lessened by the fact that the Royals win made my girls so happy. Unfortunately, their happiness was curtailed by their sympathy for me, and I really wish they were able to properly bask in the glory. But for me, this loss isn’t a complete loss. The better team won, and they’re a great group of guys who are nearly impossible to root against. The family is happy, and the city is getting some much deserved shine. And the Mets start 2016 right back here in Kansas City in 153 days, when we will get after taking care of some unfinished business. Man, baseball is a helluva game. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

October Classic

I like to believe that I’m pretty hard to surprise. Perhaps it’s due to an over active imagination that works right alongside an overly anxious, that leads me down weird and winding road, where I consider even the most preposterous of situations. Or maybe I’m just an arrogant ass. I’m not entirely sure, but the truth is, that it’s probably some combination of the two. But I am genuinely surprised that I am about to watch the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals play in the World Series.

I mean, I first started talking about the possibility of this match up back in late April. The Mets were in the midst of what ended up being an 11 game winning streak, and had the best record in baseball at 13-3. The second best record belonged to the Royals, who were 12-4. And even after last year, I was telling a buddy that the Mets were built somewhat similar to the Royals. We had a great fielding center fielder, a superb young catcher, some bullpen arms that throw really hard, and a homegrown vet who was the heart and soul of the team. But the Mets and their fans, were most hopeful about the rotation we thought we had.

Yet at the same time, a promising young rotation had burned us before, 20 years ago with Generation K. Three pitchers who were supposed to lead us to the promise land, and would be the foundation of a contender for the next decade. Then the arm trouble started, and that bright future we were promised, became the ghost story evert Met fan would one day tell their children as a pre-cautionary tale. When Matt Harvey went from starting the All-Star game at home to having Tommy John surgery by the end of the year, we were all terrified of Generation K II. If Hollywood could only serve up reboots, why shouldn’t baseball?

May and June came, and the Mets began to fade. On the 4th of July, we were just a .500 team. The future still looked bright, but our hitting was ridiculous. The Royals were battling for the best record in the American League, and re-match of the 1985 World Series appeared much more realistic than a Mets-Royals series. But baseball is a funny sport, and it’s a long season. A month later we were back in first, and the Royals continued marching towards October. And the “promising” rotation of the Mets was exceeding expectations.

That’s when my wife and daughter really got nervous. When I first mentioned the idea of the two teams playing each other in the World Series, they kind of laughed it off. They said it sounded horrible, mostly because they felt I would be unbearably annoying. I mean, that doesn’t sound all that far-fetched, and a few years ago they would have been exactly right. But as I documented last year, I really liked this Royals team.

The idea of my Mets playing their Royals sounded better and better. They feared a “house divided” but the way I’ve looked at it is; if the Mets are going to lose in the World Series, I’d much rather they lose to the team my family loves. How could I really get upset at something that would bring them so much joy? And hell, these Royals are one likable bunch. Losing to them wouldn’t hurt nearly as much as the 2000 World Series loss to the Yankees hurt. It wouldn’t compare to the stomach punch that was the 2006 NLCS against the Cardinals. Seriously, still waiting on you to swing Carlos Beltran (originally a Royal).

This is a win-win series for me. I want my Mets to win, there’s no question. But if losing means seeing ear-to-ear smiles painted on my wife and daughters faces, that’s pretty hard to chalk up as a loss.

Either way, I’m ready. Let’s Go Mets!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Back to the PG

What does the Marvel Universe have in common with hip-hop? Well, currently, nothing. And for that matter, probably not much in the future. But if it were up to me, there would be an entire inner weaving series of movies made about hip-hop, much like the Marvel Universe. It’s a thought I’ve played with in my minds’ eye for a few years, and after seeing how well the NWA story was told in Straight Outta Compton I’m pretty confident that it’s a solid idea.

Straight Outta Compton introduced the guys who made up, for my money, the second most influential group in the history of modern music. Along with brief introductions to some significant characters who remained on the peripheral of the story. There was Tupac, Snoop, Warren G, Suge, and if you paid close enough attention, you even saw Chuck D. Now, they don’t all deserve to have movies made about their lives and careers, but they could all have recurring roles throughout this universe of movies. And Suge would be a cross between Loki and Ultron. Or if you take the DC approach, he’s the “League of Shadows” all on his own.

The next movie would be a Dr. Dre biopic, with more time spent on the Death Row years. Where we would get more familiar with Snoop as well as Tupac, we’d see the introduction to the East Coast-West Coast war, where we would also see Diddy for the first time. The Dre movie takes us through his launching the careers of Eminem and 50 after he formed Aftermath. And next we could enter the world of Bad Boy, who crossed paths with Jay Z early on. So from the Bad Boy movie, the next movie could be about Jay Z, which would be an interesting story alone, and would introduce icons Russell Simmons, Kanye, Beyonce and Nas. A Diddy movie would also include Simmons, and hip-hop isn’t middle age right now, without Russell. His label, Def Jam, launched the careers of Run DMC, LL Cool J, and The Beastie Boys. And a Def Jam story can’t be told without Rick Rubin, who might be the most interesting character in this entire universe. Or any other universe.

I was never a comic book fan, so I’m not familiar with the Marvel Universe beyond the movies I’ve seen or heard are coming down the pipeline. But I know hip-hop well enough to know whose story necessitates its own movie and who would be better off as a Hawkeye or Nick Fury.

I have another idea for a universe of movies, but we’ll save La Cosa Nostra for another time. Oh and by the way, much like Iron Man I have to say that Straight Outta Compton was a lot better than I expected. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Miracle Worker

They were right. I mean, over the years they said an awful lot, and they were right about more than they were wrong, but they really nailed it. I’m not sure exactly who they are, and neither are you, but you’ve heard from them all your life. But when they said you’ll never known pain, until you see your child suffering, they couldn’t have been more right. Of course, without passing on some kind of wisdom that would have given me the ability to alleviate some of my daughters’ pain, they weren’t being all that helpful.

But they were right all the same. When I was 13, I was fairly certain I knew hurt, anger and disappointment on a more personal level than the 13 year olds around me. Because when you’re 13, you know everything better than anyone else. Now with the little maturity I’ve gained, I’ve learned that everyone has their own bag of problems they carry with them wherever they go. It’s the fact I can’t say or do anything, to pass this wisdom on to my own 13 year old that is currently eating me alive. I feel like I’m a five-star meal for a Burmese python.

I can tell myself that she’s going to be okay. She’s a super bright girl, with a great sense of humor and heart that no snake could ever change. And it’s all true, she is that smart and has a huge heart. The girl that loves art, passed on the opportunity to enroll in the advanced art class, so she could spend one hour a day working as an assistant to the art teacher with her special needs class. I mean, sure I’m bragging, but I’d be an ass to not brag. But knowing she’ll be okay isn’t any help at the moment. Maybe that’s a ‘Me’ problem, but it is what it is.

I’m learning that telling her stories about my own experiences as a sensitive, anxious 13 year old (or 38 year old) only really helps me. Sure, I can commiserate with her, but I still never walked even a step in her shoes and we both know it. So they were wrong. They said the teenage years are the hardest, and 7th grade is the hardest year of your life. But it’s not even close. Seeing your kid go through those years is way harder.

I’m pretty sure I now know exactly how Helen Keller felt before Anne Sullivan came along. I have so much I want to communicate to her, some real wisdom (I think), but the sounds won’t make any sense and the gestures probably just look rude. So if you know a miracle worker…

Friday, July 17, 2015

Do What You Can

I like to tell myself that I don’t understand all the vitriol I’ve heard or read since Caitlyn Jenner accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, but that’s not the case. I understand, at best, it’s all ignorance and at worst, it’s good ol’ fashion hate. On one level, I can understand disagreeing with her winning the award. There are so many courageous men and women, who at least have a toe in the sports world. What I can’t grasp, is how people can judge how courageous someone else is, or isn’t.

The fact of the matter is, we have no idea how brave anyone else is. The barista that served you a latte at Starbucks, she may have had to sneak the kids out of the house in the middle of the night to escape an abusive husband. The kid you just walked by in the mall, yeah, the one who had his head buried in his phone and never even looked up as he nearly walked into you. Maybe his mom was just diagnosed with breast cancer, and just getting out of the house took every ounce of courage he had. And I mean no disrespect to those who serve our country, but the fact is, they aren’t all super heroes in uniform. The vast majority have more courage than I can even imagine, but there are also some who just wanted to pull the trigger without legal repercussions. Who knows?

I mention the military, not because I think their courage needs to be questioned. But because that’s become the popular example. “Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t deserve this award, it should go to someone who serves. They’re risking everything for us.” Now, it’s true that they are, but this is an award given out by a sports network to people involved in sports. So there’s that. And furthermore, where was the outrage when Michael Sam won? Why weren’t we demanding that a wounded warrior was more deserving than Robin Roberts? Truth is, if you believe someone from the service deserved the award, by your own logic, the award shouldn’t even be named after Arthur Ashe. He didn’t give a limb in service of this country. Why was he more deserving than the vets who had just served in the Gulf War? He wasn’t. But…and this is important here, he was an athlete and ESPN was (and remains) a network devoted to covering sports. And Ashe faced his tragic death with the courage and grace we should all admire. It was a different time, but that’s the grace and courage that Jenner showed when she risked so much to be true to herself.

You may not agree with how she’s living her life, and you might be one of those who keep calling her “Bruce.” But then you’re the same person who would have kept calling Muhammad Ali, “Clay.” And most importantly, you missed the point of Jenner’s beautiful speech. “I know I’m clear with my responsibility going forward, to tell my story the right way, for me, to keep learning, to reshape the landscape of how trans issues are viewed, how trans people are treated. And then more broadly to promote a very simple idea: accepting people for who they are. Accepting people’s differences.”

I probably shouldn’t even go here, but I just can’t help myself. There’s been a lot of talk that Lauren Hill, the college basketball player who lost her battle to cancer this year, but only after she took the court and touched the lives of millions. I love her story, and it breaks my heart. Driving to work on Tuesday, I heard her parents on the “Mike & Mike Show” on ESPN radio, and I was tearing up in the car. Hill’s fight, and her efforts to spread awareness, took great courage. And I have the up-most respect for her, but…the truth is, her fight was actually a little easier than Jenner’s. More tragic, but a little easier. Hill knew how her story would end. She knew she was going to die, and that it would happen much sooner than it should. But when you already know the outcome, it makes doing the brave thing a little easier. That doesn’t make her struggle and easier, or her loss any less tragic.

Lastly, remember what this is: an award from a network. Getting upset about who they decided to present it to, well that’s really making a big deal about something that isn’t that important. Can you name three past winners? Hell, I named two above, and you probably already forgot their names. So if ESPN giving an award to Caitlyn Jenner upsets you, that’s a you problem. Good luck with that.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Little Big League

I’m going to tell you why you’re rooting for the 2014 Kansas City Royals, or why you should be. These Royals are essentially a little league team. No, that’s really not an insult, but instead it’s the greatest compliment I can give. They play like a bunch of 12 year olds. Not just the enthusiasm, which is copious. But they play the way we were all told to play. First and foremost, you hustle. You always hustle. Play defense well. Catch the ball, throw to the cutoff. Don’t try to make the great play, just play smart defense and hustle and the great plays will happen. Learn how to lay down a bunt and learn how to run the bases. Throw strikes, and trust your defense. If they can’t catch up to your fastball, that’s great, but throw strikes.

They do everything your little league coach taught you. And they play like 12 year olds. They love to run, and they love to get dirty. They chomp their gum, wear rally caps and spit seeds. But even the players on the team remind you of kids you played with. Alex Gordon is the great athlete, who does everything like the cool kid in school. He can strike out four times in a single game, but he never looks phased.  Eric Hosmer has the punky haircut and is always pumping up his teammates, and man can he hit. And anytime he gets a hit, the first thing he does is look back to the dugout and pumps everyone up even more.  Mike Moustakas is that super intense kid, the one you want on your side if there’s ever a fight. He’s the strongest kid on the team, and you get the feeling that his parents are probably too hard on him, but he lives and dies with the team. Salvy Perez is the big lug of a catcher, always quick with a joke and a word of encouragement. And he’ll swing at anything and everything. Lorezno Cain is the kid who started later than everyone else, but he’s such a great athlete that he’s already one of the best players on the team. He’s just a freak athlete, but he doesn't even realize it yet.

And everyone really likes each other. The parents sitting in the bleachers can tell, and watch with pride as the dirty up their uniforms. They have an air of confidence, but never seem arrogant. There’s just no quit in any of them. They go up against teams with bigger and stronger kids, whose parents pay for all the best coaching and ridiculously expensive bats and cleats, and they beat ‘em. They appreciate every victory, and never take it for granted.

Maybe it’s the last summer before someone leaves to join a traveling team, or a dad’s  transfer takes someone else away to a far off exotic city, or maybe they’ll stick together all the way through high school.  None of that matters to a 12 year old on the field. That’s the stuff grown-ups worry about; these kids just want to keep playing.  And man, they sure are fun to watch.