Aug 26

Close non-encounters with Dana Delany

Once upon a time, that time being about roughly 20 years ago, I was driving (maybe for the last time) my family’s old 1964 Ford Falcon. I think my cherished 1985 Volkswagen Scirocco was in the shop.  I was on Ventura Boulevard waiting to make a left turn onto Coldwater Canyon Avenue. I looked in my rear-view mirror, and driving the car waiting behind me was the lovely and talented Dana Delany.

This took place, I believe, shortly after the “China Beach” era. And the thought occurred to me, as a single man in Los Angeles, how nice it would be to meet Dana Delany. And then another thought occurred to me: What if I had to suddenly slam on my brakes after I made my left turn and Dana Delany collided with what was my family’s dated and rather expendable station wagon. She would be so apologetic, and naturally she’d want to make it up to me, perhaps over a drink …

I made my left turn, took another glance in the rear-view mirror as Dana Delany made hers … and then I kept on driving. It wasn’t my seize-the-day moment. What might have been … I’ll never know.

But this much I do know.  The key to the whole plan was making sure Dana Delany thought she was at fault. Crashing into her with my vehicle: That never would have worked.

Aug 13

Kershaw CVIII: Kershawp in the Air

Put my little girl on a plane today with two grandparents and a cousin for her first real trip away from us. A week.

She’s about the same age I was, 8 going on 9, when I first went away to sleepaway camp, a journey that I greeted with almost equal parts excitement and anxiety. But from the moment this trip was first put on the table nearly a year ago, to the moment she hugged first my wife and then me goodbye around dawn today, this girl, who sometimes trembles over things you and I would laugh at, never had a single moment of trepidation. Not one.

She shrugged her shoulders for months when we asked if she were ready to go, then when the time came, gave us hugs with nothing but smiles.

I can remember the tears when I first said goodbye to my parents. I can also remember something similar the first time I had to go on a plane and leave my wife and then-newborn daughter behind. But my girl was only looking forward. I have to say, I really admire it.

But … four years, one month and nine days until she’s a teenager. Oh boy …

Aug 04

Hocus focus

I’m no ballplayer, nor do I play one on TV. But though I don’t have to recognize the spin on baseballs coming at me at 132 feet per second, I do depend on my vision for my work quite a bit.

Basically, I spend most of my waking moments staring at small type on a computer screen. And sometimes, staring at even smaller type on my cellphone.  And at night, I go back and forth between staring at the small type and images on a TV screen. Food and shelter for a family of five largely depends on my ability to perform these tasks and then move my fingers on a keyboard while I do it.

Historically, this has been as easy as blinking. But in this, my 43rd year, it has finally gotten more difficult. I look up from looking down for a while, and at first the TV is blurry. I look down from looking up, and so is the fine print.  Most of the time, it comes into focus, but sometimes, I can’t focus at all, except maybe if I move into some much better light. A few times, I’ve given up.

My eye doctor’s diagnosis is blunt. Turns out, I am not immune from getting older.

Not that I ever thought I was. I mean, I was in sixth grade when I first noticed that the numbers on the clock on the other side of my bedroom seemed to change as I was looking at them. I got my first pair of glasses at age 11 and my first set of contact lenses two years later. But nearsightedness (to go with my congenital color-blindness) had been my status quo for three decades.

Now, I’m heading down the other side of the cliff. Or at least a lovely rolling hill – let’s imagine one in bonny Ireland, just because I’ve always wanted to go there. It’s one thing to understand you’re going to get older, and another thing to be socked in the eyes with it.

Relatively speaking, I understand, it’s a minor condition. It’s just weird, man. It’s weird to me that something can be working and then stop. It’s weird to me that I find this weird. But there it is. My baby blues have the blues.

Inevitably, when I think of eyesight and writing, it’s impossible for me not to think of Jim Murray, who unforgettably chronicled his vision loss in a series of columns including this one.

OK, bang the drum slowly, professor. Muffle the cymbals and the laugh track. You might say that Old Blue Eye is back. But that’s as funny as this is going to get.

I feel I owe my friends an explanation as to where I’ve been all these weeks. Believe me, I would rather have been in a press box.

I lost an old friend the other day. He was blue-eyed, impish, he cried a lot with me, saw a great many things with me. I don’t know why he left me. Boredom, perhaps.

We read a lot of books together, we did a lot of crossword puzzles together, we saw films together. He had a pretty exciting life. He saw Babe Ruth hit a home run when we were both 12 years old. He saw Willie Mays steal second base, he saw Maury Wills steal his 104th base. He saw Rocky Marciano get up. I thought he led a pretty good life.

One night a long time ago he saw this pretty girl who laughed a lot, played the piano and he couldn’t look away from her. Later he looked on as I married this pretty lady.

He saw her through 34 years. He loved to see her laugh, he loved to see her happy.

You see, the friend I lost was my eye. My good eye. The other eye, the right one, we’ve been carrying for years. We just let him tag along like Don Quixote’s nag. It’s been a long time since he could read the number on a halfback or tell whether a ball was fair or foul or even which fighter was down.

So, one blue eye missing and the other misses a lot. …

I’m not Jim Murray (you can say that again). For now, I’ll make the necessary adjustments. The computer is a stationary target, fortunately. This is not the end. But that last sentence is a double-edged sword, if you can see what I’m gettin’ at …

Aug 03

What’s so funny about … you know

The day began when Young Master Weisman came out of his bedroom at 6:30 a.m. on this, his seventh birthday. I called him over to me, and he gave me, well, he gave me a hug that was the biggest, longest hug any of my children has ever given me.

I would say that roughly 75 percent of that hug was pure excitement about his birthday, but you know, I think maybe a quarter of it had something to do with me. And I’ll take that combination. It felt really, really good. Just the fact that he was that purely happy … I’ll take it.

Then I learned that Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods became a father. It was on July 30, the same birthday as baseball’s youngiest youngster, Joe Nuxhall. How absolutely great.

That brings me to Grant Brisbee’s piece for Baseball Nation today. Brisbee, some of you know, runs San Francisco Giants blog McCovey Chronicles. He happens to be one of the best, funniest and most imaginative and insightful baseball writers around, in any medium. And today, he wrote a very nice column entitled, “The Los Angeles Dodgers Are Not Having A Good Season.”

As a Giants fan growing up in the ’80s, I went to baseball games in a concrete abomination known as Candlestick Park. The Dodgers had a quaint and airy ballpark. I stuffed tauntaun blubber down my jacket to stay warm during the day games. Dodgers fans wore short-sleeve shirts to the ballpark at night. I watched a team lose year after year. The Dodgers won every year. When the Giants did win something, it would be immediately followed by a sharp, piercing playoff exit. When the Dodgers made the playoffs, they’d skip through and win the World Series.

So the dislike is true and pure, forged in the fires of youthful resentment and envy. Not a fan of the Dodgers. And I figured if they ever became the 1899 Cleveland Spiders — earning every bit of a 20-134 record — it would be delightful. When the McCourt madness started happening, it was somewhat amusing. When Selig took financial control of the Dodgers, it was hilarious. And then there were allllll those losses. The German word for taking pleasure in the suffering of others is schadenfreude, and this season has been the freudiest.

At this point, though: enough. We get it.

The tipping point was Rubby De La Rosa needing Tommy John surgery. Fans of under-.500 teams are people too. They have certain rights — things you can’t take away. And the most important, inalienable right of the fan of a bad team is the right to watch a top prospect’s rookie season. The Royals, for example, have stunned the world by not contending, but every Royals fan in the world can turn on a TV and watch Eric Hosmer and Danny Duffy and Mike Moustakas play. The performances are up and down, but that’s not the point. The point is that they can watch a bad team and project how the prospects will be responsible for the eventual turnaround.

De La Rosa came up and featured a right-handed repertoire that the Dodgers hadn’t seen from one of their young pitchers since the days of Eric Gagne. And then as quickly as he was up, he was gone in a puff of smoke.

That’s not right. I know I’m supposed to be a partisan fan of a team in a historic rivalry … but, come on … really, when Rubby went down … that’s too much.

The reaction some would say I should have to this is horror. A Giants fan taking pity on us — can things sink any lower?

But that’s not me. I’m glad when someone understands, when someone extends me a hand instead of kicking me when I’m down. That’s the way the world should be.

Giants fans want to win. Dodger fans want to win.  Those are two missions forever in conflict.  But there are moments, such as when Giants and Dodger fans joined forces to condemn the Bryan Stow violence, when our shared humanity — not to mention some “There but for the grace” knowledge — transcends our differences. And I don’t care how trite that sounds — I’m a flat-out sucker for it.

Happy birthday, my boy.

Jun 27

My journey

… In about the mid-1990s, after it became clear how awful the DeShields-Pedro Martinez trade was, I started to conjecture that the Dodgers really could become the Cubs – that a journey to 100 years of mediocrity can begin with a single step. Subsequently, I started to think that I might be following the same path. I’m a published writer, and people (some of them, anyway) have enjoyed my work. But I don’t feel like I really made it to the champagne celebration in the locker room.

I’m very happy these days – I have a wonderful wife and a wonderful baby, and you won’t catch me regretting the choices I made that allowed those things to happen. But I do have frustrations, and those frustrations, I’ve come to realize, are played out each time the Dodgers do something. Anything. I’m not just talking about the 162 games; I’m talking about the offseason trades and the decisions to replace the dirt warning track with rubber and the removal of the sandwich station on the Club level of Dodger Stadium. I was raised in an easier time, where things were more often right than wrong, and I haven’t shed my addiction to that time. I want things with the Dodgers to be right. That, essentially, is the genesis of this website – to deal with that want.

I think what it is, is that when I was younger, the games were more fun. They were carefree. Now, they do seem to mean more to me. They carry this weight. And now, it’s been so long since the Dodgers have been a winner, I can’t imagine anymore what it will be like to celebrate that. I hope I enjoy the glory, if it ever comes, as much as I’ve suffered the pain. I think maybe I will.

– Dodger Thoughts, March 12, 2003

Lorenzo Charles died, and that was by far the worst news I heard all day.

I poked my thumb on a fork in the dishwasher, and that was by far the most pain I felt all day. I slammed my hand down on the counter and cursed.

But the angriest I got over the McCourt news today was when my web browser crashed while pages were loading.

This afternoon, I found myself wondering why I can get angry at so many things, so many little things – “Why won’t this page load?! It’s a computer! It’s all 0s and 1s!” – and yet I can remain unflappably calm over the way Frank McCourt treats the team I grew up loving.

It’s not because I don’t care. I couldn’t write for this website if I didn’t care.

Sometime over the eight years since I wrote the post excerpted above, Dodger games went back to the way they were. They went back to being carefree, to being an escape. I suffer every loss, yearn for every win, but even with a losing team, the games are a release for me again. They don’t carry weight. I channel my frustration elsewhere.

So much of the frustration and anger in my life is about unmet expectations. The computer should work. I should be able to do the dishes without maiming myself. March Madness God should not die at age 47. The biggest one of all: I’m not the person I want to be.

But Frank McCourt has no way left to disappoint me, because I have zero faith in the man to do the right thing. I have no expectations of him.

This is a particularly personal view that I don’t necessarily expect anyone else to share, so please don’t get the idea that I’m telling any of you not to be angry. You have every right. I’m just talking about me here.

I think part of my problem in life has been that I’ve not always been cynical enough, which is why I’m so easily disappointed. But McCourt is like a shot of cynicism straight into my veins. In some ways, it’s a relief. McCourt might own the Dodgers, but he doesn’t own me.

The Dodgers are my Odyssey, and to paraphrase Roberto Baly, Vin Scully is my Homer. Safe at home or mired on the seas, the Dodgers are a story, an endless fable that I see in the making, and so, so instructive.

The way I react to each chapter in this epic is the way I wish I reacted to the rest of my life. Suffer with dignity, accept limitations, believe that the next good moment is around the corner. I don’t want to have to become a cynic to survive my remaining time in this world, but if I can ever learn to take the bad with the good in my everyday life, like I do with the Dodgers, I’ll be the better man for it.

Don’t surrender. Be a dreamer, not a demander. It might not be what you need, but it’s what I need.

Jun 18

My kid bids fans adieu

It ended with a single, a grounder in the infield that the other kids couldn’t field efficiently enough to throw my son out at first. Some might have called it an error, except when the players are four feet tall or so, you don’t call anything an error.

It ended with a good feeling, which was something that seemed far from assured not long before.

There was no press conference, but if you check the transactions wire, you’ll see the news. My 6-year-old has retired from baseball.

This was my son’s third season of playing baseball — T-ball, to be more precise, in 2009 and 2010, and coach-pitch this year. I’ve occasionally written about it in the past. There’ve been moments, but it’s never been a sport that he has really enjoyed.

His attitude at practices has mostly been good, considering that he’s not really into the game. But he almost never wanted to play when he didn’t have to. He would have liked to have been better at it, but he didn’t care enough to make the effort to do so, no matter how fun I tried to make it. One of the ongoing mysteries of parenting: not just when to push, but how to push.

It’s entirely possible that my passion for baseball weirded him out from it, though it’s also entirely possible that he wanted to like the game but just couldn’t make himself do so. It was telling, I think, that his favorite part of practice this year was at the very end, when the coaches just had the kids in a glorified game of pickle, and all he had to do was run around like a crazy man.

In the games themselves, his favorite thing to do was to hit, but he really, really struggled at it, and for much of this season, he got worse as it went on. At first, he was making contact, but it would seem like a fluke because his stance was a mess, even by 6-year-old standards. So we’d try to work with him on his stance, but he was very resistant to instruction – prideful, perhaps, or just not wanting to feel pressured into doing something.

So things evolved to where his natural but ugly stance evolved into an unnatural and even uglier stance. It was like a visual representation of angst. Everything was off, and it couldn’t have been more uncomfortable. There was one practice where he swung and missed at more than 20 pitches in a row. Even if you don’t dream of growing up to be Hank Aaron, that’s disheartening.

He is so much fun and has so many other interests. He does well in first grade. My wife and I agreed that three seasons of this game were enough if it wasn’t something he wanted to do. And my feeling was, if he ever decided, two or four or 10 years from now, that he wanted to try again, he’d make so much faster progress once he cared than he would if we kept sending him out there with nothing but a little kid’s stiff upper lip.

So we put the choice to him last month: We were going to finish out this season, but if he wanted to play again next year, it would be his call.

“Hooray!” he exclaimed.

That left the remaining week of the 2011 schedule — and then, another week. See, we thought his final game would be before Memorial Day, but it turned out that there was a makeup game that would be played afterward. So just when everyone thought he had played his final game, another unfulfilling one, there was actually another.

Here’s what happened. In the final two at-bats of his season and maybe his career, his stance all of a sudden came together. It looked like a little boy’s stance should look. And instead of missing each pitch as he so often had, he hit the ball — hit it pretty well, all things considered.

And I was just so happy for him that he could walk away from the game — for the moment or forever — on his own terms, with that feeling that he could do it if he wanted to. An early Father’s Day present, now that I think of it.

When he crossed home plate for the final time, we packed up his gear, grabbed his team photos and dashed off to rehearsal for his piano recital the next day, with camp, swimming and all kinds of summer fun ahead of him.

The craziest thing of all: All this experience has taken place before his seventh birthday. When I turned 7, I hadn’t yet played in a baseball game in my life.

Jun 09

Are we having fun yet?

Six things I wish I were doing but I’m not (in no particular order):

1) Sightseeing
2) Camping
3) Playing sports
4) Reading more books
5) Seeing more plays
6) Hanging out with old friends

You?

Jun 01

Dads do the funniest things


Regarding the dad who dropped his daughter when trying to catch a foul ball the other night at Dodger Stadium … all I have to say is that I’m glad there were no cameras on me when I lifted my then 1-year-old oldest son above my shoulders head-first into a ceiling fan.

Whap whap whap whap. Still makes me shudder. We all do bonehead things to our kids, sometimes literally – if we can laugh about them afterward, we’re lucky.

  • Tony Gwynn (the pop, not the pup) talked to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com about his encouraging progress in his battle with cancer, as well as his son’s hitting struggles and fellow Hall of Famer Gary Carter’s cancer illness.
  • Evan Bladh Sr. writes about his fond memories of Ken McMullen at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance.
  • A new Jackie Robinson biopic is in the works, and Rachel Robinson is collaborating with Legendary Pictures on the project, reports Dave McNary of Variety.
  • Steve Garvey’s son Ryan and the rest of the Palm Desert High baseball team will be playing at Dodger Stadium on Friday for the Southern Section Division 4 baseball title, reports Dan Arritt of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Garvey and friends ousted Oaks Christian and Wayne Gretzky fils Trevor.
May 31

Darkness and light

In the middle of Memorial Day, my wife and I punished my two oldest children. We love them more than life itself and have the highest hopes for them, but of course that doesn’t eliminate the paths to frustration with them.

In particular, they have developed some sort of simultaneous mental block to saying hello to people they know. They resist a friendly greeting like some sort of evil bacteria. I understand shyness – I was the shyest one in my family as a kid and it still crops up from time to time today. But these kids got to the point Monday where their grandparents, who have been very good to them, said hello and the kids didn’t so much as look up. It wasn’t shy – it was dismissive.

That ain’t right. It’s damn vexing, and it only seems to be getting worse. To be sure, my wife and I are wondering what we’ve done wrong to cause this and what we should or shouldn’t do to solve it. But in the meantime, taking away some of the kids’ Nintendo DS privileges seemed a logical stopover en route to the next parenting solution station.

Over the next couple of hours, the kids hardly snapped out of their funk.

At the end of the afternoon, we went to see my 101-year-old grandmother, who is deteriorating rapidly now in a manner that is difficult to take, especially for my father. It was not an easy place for any of us, including single-digit age children who, for the first time in their lives, are face to face with someone whose mind and body are failing.

But when we had all but given up hope on the kids salvaging the day, they came alive. They were not only friendly, but they went and put their piano lessons to tremendous use, playing an impromptu mini-concert for Grandma Sue and a few others at the assisted living home, something so wonderful that thinking about it now does something to my head that I can’t find the words to describe. They did something for this woman, who whom they essentially can no longer communicate with through words because of her hearing and speech decline, that I could never do.

I hope I’ll never forget that moment. I know I won’t forget, at least until my mind goes, the look on my grandmother’s face as we were leaving, a look of direct melancholy but also of one that had been engaged in the world at least one more time.

Anyway, I started writing this tonight after the Dodgers took a 5-1 lead against Colorado and reached this final paragraph with the scorer 8-2, on the way to what hopefully for them and their fans will be their third straight authoritative victory, with the plan of drawing a connection of how quickly simmering frustration can turn to elation. That seems a bit forced now that I’ve gotten to this point, so all I’ll say now is that I’ll never cease to be surprised by how often I can be surprised, much less blown away.

Apr 07

Happy 101st birthday, Grandma Sue

Not to make light of it, but this has been Grandma Sue’s roughest century.

She was all but self-sufficient until the age of 95, and still very much herself in her sharpness and personality through last year, when she hit the milestone of her 100th birthday. But it hasn’t been the same for most of the past 12 months, with her memory and ability to recognize people slipping.

The instructions are for no emergency life-saving procedures to be taken on Grandma’s behalf. Last summer, I got a call early on a Sunday that she had collapsed. I’m about seventh or eighth on the protocol – it was as if the Secretary of the Interior had been told he was in charge. I stood there on the phone, faced, as far as I could gather, with the decision of letting her go. I wasn’t prepared.

After a minute of being just frozen, I told her nurse to call 911. I just couldn’t be the one.

I drove to her apartment in the assisted living facility near UCLA, arriving after the paramedics. She lay there on the floor, unconscious. But breathing. A couple of hours later, in a hospital bed, she began to come out of it.

I didn’t really know what to think. We were taking it day to day after that, but that was about 10 months ago or so. She’s still going. For a couple of those months, she was doing pretty well, but then a slide began. At my uncle’s 80th birthday party in February, she couldn’t really place my kids. This week, I got a message to call her, and when I reached her, she kept calling me Jack and seemed to have me confused with someone else. It was like talking to a distant spirit.

Overall, I have seen her and talked to her very little in recent months. I haven’t been a good grandson, in the slightest. There’s no making up for it. But we’ll see her tonight, and in a quiet way, celebrate her incredible life.

Apr 05

Opening Day, 1993


Lynne Sladky/APCharlie Hough was 45 years old when he threw the first pitch for the Florida Marlins.

Eighteen years ago today, I took a day off from grad school classes to stay in my Woodley Park apartment in D.C. and watch the Dodgers’ first game of the 1993 season, a game that also happened to be the Florida Marlins’ first game ever. Charlie Hough, a Dodger when I first became a fan nearly 20 years before, pitched the Marlins to a 6-3 victory over Los Angeles and Orel Hershiser.

It feels like a lifetime ago. Living out of California for the last time, writing my first screenplay, no job, no kids, no girl (though I fancied one). Twenty-five years old and no idea what was to come.

I can still feel the sun coming into my barely furnished apartment, the living room wide enough to swing a bat in. My brain was heavy, as it has so often been, but I was traveling light.

Mar 25

Tragedy and survival

Just after 7 a.m. Tuesday, I got in my car for a three-minute drive to our neighborhood bagel store. As I moved into the left-turn lane, a many-wheeled truck was lolling the opposite direction past the driveway of the mini-mall parking lot. And then, just as I began to make my left turn, the truck driver suddenly put his truck into reverse, blocking the driveway before I could get through.

I was on the wrong side of the street, perpendicular to traffic, with nowhere to go and a car coming at me at regular speed from about 75 yards away.

I threw my car into reverse in the middle of the boulevard to get out of the oncoming car’s way, and lived to breathe for another day.

* * *

Today in Tucson, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks will gather to play a baseball game in memory of those killed in the January 8 mass shooting in Tucson and to raise money for the Tucson Together Fund, sanctioned to assist victims, families and witnesses of tragedy.

Spirits will be heightened, but I imagine they will also be high. They’ve wrapped this day around a game, after all. It’s going to be a day where life is celebrated, even in death’s immense shadow.

The best antidote to sadness is the argument that things will get better, and short of that, to find happiness in the moments that follow, and short of that, to just find meaning. But there’s no throwing tragedy into reverse. The players and the fans will go home, will go on with their lives. The survivors will go forward into their suffering. They walk a different path.

* * *

My first depression of note came when I was in college, though it was mild by any serious standard. It was over a girl, a girl I never really had but just seemed so perfect. No, not so perfect, but so right. And in order to make sense of why she didn’t want me, I started weighing the conclusion that there might be no reason anyone would want me.

Over the next couple of years, the stakes seemed to increase. I dated, but there would be times a girl would reject me and it would just devastate me, and I truly, truly feared that I was going to spend my life alone. My biggest breakup of all, in my mid-20s, pulverized me.  I walked through life with a constant weight in my head for a couple of years. I bought books on depression. I sought therapy. It felt like the end of the world, and yet this was with the full knowledge that no one had died. It seemed so likely to me that things would be worse before they would get better.

People told me that I was being too negative. “You’re a good person. You’ll be fine.” I just had to rebuild my self-esteem, they said. I had to like myself again before anyone else could like me. But they didn’t know. They didn’t know like I did.

Each miserable day seemed eternal, and yet within five years, I did rebuild, and I met the woman I would marry.

You’d think that have taught me a lesson but good, but I can still struggle with a positive outlook, to this day. Despite my best efforts, my household outlives its means, and I cannot seem to find a solution. It weighs on me repeatedly. It doesn’t mean I don’t have happy days in between, but I do worry. My self-esteem rises and falls like the Dow.

Still, people can tell me things will get better, and they might be right.

What are those who lost loved ones in the Tucson tragedy told? What do they tell themselves?

As the Dodgers play baseball in his daughter’s memory, what is Dodger scout John Green to think?

Do they say to live each day in honor of your lost love? Do they say to just live?

This is not a self-esteem issue. The man lost his little girl. There is no going back from that.

And this happens every day, every hour, every minute. I know it has happened to readers of Dodger Thoughts.

It takes a special person to be able to survive this kind of loss. I don’t feel that I’m special in that way. But somehow people are?

I thought about this post as I kissed my daughter goodnight on her forehead last night. I wish I were going to be at today’s game.

* * *

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 1:05 p.m.

Feb 18

Teach your children? Well …


Jason Miller/US PresswireMy reaction, as it would have been seen on SportsCenter.

Here’s a story …

Making our way through the rain, my 6-year-old and I arrived tonight at his 6:15 p.m. basketball practice a couple of minutes early. The gym was almost empty, so he had a chance to take some shots. They were all really short, barely getting airborne. That wouldn’t have been unusual a year ago, but he has shown this year he can make a basket on occasion.

I wanted to get him to bring his arm back and cock his wrist a little bit more. He really seemed to be short-arming the ball. Now, the boy has made it pretty clear that he doesn’t like to get athletic advice from me hardly at all, so I’ve hardly said a word to him this season, leaving it to his capable and easygoing coach.  But all I wanted to do was give him this small guidance.

He was having nothing of it. I reminded him a) how little I try to force my hoops instruction on him and b) he is supposed to listen to me per the father-son paperwork we filed with … well, no, there isn’t any such paperwork, but there should be.

Nothing.  He was doing everything he could to avoid hearing me.  He tried to take another shot, and out of frustration, I swatted it.  Mean old dad.  But a dad who, for crying out loud, would just like to get to be a dad at one of these moments.

The couple of minutes passed, and his coach called the boys in to start practice. (A small group to this point – only three had made it on time through the rain.)

I sat down on one of the folding chairs on the sideline.  I did not hide my displeasure.  I wanted him to see my frown.  I almost never do this at his sports practices, but I wanted to make my point.

Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images
In your face …

Without even half a team, the coach started the boys off on a layup drill, or something close to that.  My boy dribbled up, shot the ball … up, up, and into the basket.

He looked at me with an almost-but-not-completely sheepish smile.  I didn’t alter my frown an inch.

The other two boys shot, and then it was back to mine.  He dribbled up, shot the ball – in.

He looked over, smiling unabashedly.  I let my lips turn ever so slightly up.

Next turn … he shoots, it’s in.  He smiles big. I lean back, sigh, and smile unsurely, not completely positive I should let him off the hook but finding it very hard not to.

Fourth shot. Four in a row? Oh freaking yes. He looks over at me and is smiling so big, his eyes are aglow.

I’m smiling just as big. He’s melted me completely. In the car ride home, he tells me he’s the best basketball player in the world.

Feb 12

Babe Ruth and Egypt

When Egypt and Israel signed their peace treaty in 1979, my Dad explained the significance of it to me by saying that it was “like Babe Ruth dying.”

I was 11 years old.  I guess that’s how you communicated with me back then.

I’ll need a different touchstone for my kids to explain the importance of what happened this week. I’m thinking maybe, Harry Potter … (but doing something a bit less grave.  Dad could be a serious fellow sometimes.)

Jan 27

Baseball, moist and delicious

Baseball is like the giant, moist blueberry muffin I had Wednesday morning. It’s so grand that you can dive into it with no fear of running out too soon, so full of flavor that each bite from top to bottom is a taste sensation, so generous that you can lose yourself in it, and when it’s finally all gone, you’re somehow satiated … yet dreaming of more. That’s baseball, to me.

Really, it was one heck of a muffin.