BlogEd

Family, Faith & Fun

Zealots and Trolls

DT at CWS tunner

Sports fans are an interesting breed.

On one hand you have, of course, the “fanatic” or “zealot”, whom The Free Dictionary defines as “a person marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm.” The opposite of a fanatic, according to Yahoo! Answers, is the “troll.” A troll or “hater” as they are often referred, is someone who opposes what you think.

Things can get real interesting when a zealot and troll sit next to each other in the stands.

I’ve just returned from Omaha, Nebraska, where I had the thrill of watching my son compete in the 2015 College World Series. David was six-years-old when he first told me he dreamed of playing in Omaha. Seeing his dream (and mine) come true was a beautiful, amazing experience.

As our team took the field, I was talking with another dad who was also experiencing dreams coming true. “There are over 300 Division 1 baseball teams,” he explained quite excited, “which means with 35-man rosters, there are roughly 10,500 student athletes playing baseball.” I nodded my head in agreement giving him the impression I was able to multiply large numbers in my head.

“Eight teams get to Omaha,” he continued, “meaning out of 10,500, less than 300 kids get to experience this.” Once again I nodded confidently in agreement. But then he asked, “Do you know what percentage that is?” He then just looked at me and waited as if my brain was somehow capable of figuring out his complex mathematical equation.

He must have noticed the blood rushing out of my head as I was trying to do math and mercifully volunteered the answer: “Roughly 2.6 percent.” “Yes, that sounds about right,” I said, stomping my foot trying to get the blood flowing back to my brain. “Think about it,” he insisted, less than 3% of all college baseball players ever get here. This is amazingly special.”

Despite my horrible math skills, I’ve thought a lot about that brief conversation. It was indeed “amazingly special” to get to Omaha. And when you consider the winner of the College World Series represents fewer than half of one percent (0.33%) of all division one baseball players (I figured that out all by myself), you realize how truly incredible it is to win this, or any other championship.

Which brings me back to the fanatics and trolls. You see, most are so focused on the win or the loss, they never take into consideration the incredible journey the athlete must take just to get into a position to win or lose. All that matters is for “their” team to finish in that very elusive half of one percent.

My wife and kids have urged me to not look at social media – the playground for zealots and trolls. For the most part, I have complied. But sometimes, I just have to look. And so it was after our team lost I ignored the warning bells and viewed a few social media posts.

And there they were. The zealots and trolls filling page after page with their unbridled vitriol. The fanatics chimed in on all the mistakes made which lost “us” the championship and the trolls basically suggested blind lame dogs would have beaten “our” team.

“It’s okay,” as my son has said to me more than once. “It doesn’t matter what they say or think.” In fact, like most athletes, he seems to have a basic understanding of the zealots and trolls. “They’re just fans,” he says a bit matter-of-fact. “They cheer and they boo. But they don’t understand.”

Then he looked at me and said, “But you understand, Dad.”

Indeed I do. I know all about the countless hours he spends to hone his skills when no one is looking. I know about his terrible disappointment after a poor performance and his heartbreak with a loss. I understand how hard he has worked to fight back from injuries and overcome way too many surgeries and hospital stays. And I certainly know all the sacrifices we have made as a family to help him get where he is today. Yes, I do understand.

So go ahead with your cheers and boos all you zealots and trolls. We understand.

What Do I Know?

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Five years before my daughter, Abby, was even engaged, I wrote a song with my friend, Don Koch, called, “What Do I Know?” The song is about a dad’s emotional struggle about giving his daughter away. Of course, that dad is me.

I knew the day was inevitable and tried to project my emotional state. Even then, the thought made me my heart sink, my knees weak, and my eyes wet. I jokingly told her I’d be doing her wedding via satellite.

When I wrote this song, however, I never once even imagined she’d fall in love with an Aussie and move to Australia. So her wedding events and day were filled with an extra amount of emotion as our window of time together would come to a sudden end with her moving to the Land Down Under.

In the hundreds of photos taken by the wedding photographer, most of me were as you see below. I assured Abby they were not sad tears. I was and am thrilled for her and her new adventurous life with Alex. They make a great team. God is good.

With the exception of the “lanky and juvenile” part, I think I got it pretty right. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get a Kleenex. I’m about to watch this again:

What Do I Know?IMG_1840

Ese es mi hijo!

David HR swing

I’ve been yelling, “Ese es mi hijo” from the stands now for 16 years. It simply means, “That’s my boy,” and you hear it yelled out a lot here in Miami. For some reason, my hispanic friends think it’s funny when I yell it out.

I learned my Spanish baseball vocabulary at a popular baseball park here in Dade County called “Tamiami.” Against the well-meaning advice of many kind and gentle baseball-parent friends, David started playing there when he was nine years old. We were warned the conditions there could be a little rough. And just to prove the point, our very first game was complete with a resounding victory — and a fist fight — between the coach’s wives.

But it was at Tamiami my son, David, really learned the game of baseball. I can still hear some of the heavy Spanish accents from coaches as they taught the boys how to play. Baseball wasn’t just a game; it was a passion.

We sent 9-year-old David on a month-long baseball trip from Miami to Texas that year under the care of another couple. We never worried once knowing he would be the most well treated and cared for kid on the entire trip. Hispanics take family very seriously and David was their adopted gringo son. Not only that, but by the time the trip was over, David knew all Celia Cruz’s songs by heart.

Now David plays for the University of Miami. Not surprisingly, one of his teammates was on his Tamiami team. Several others play for different Division One teams while at least one other is already playing professional ball. Today, David was named one of sixty players to make the Golden Spikes Watch List. The trophy, which is awarded in June, is given to the athlete the panel considers the best amateur baseball player in the country. It’s a nice list to be on.

So once again, here I am in the stands yelling, “Ese es mi hijo!” And I couldn’t be more proud. God is good!

Sheet Trouble

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My wife has the flu. So last night she suggested I may want to sleep in the guest bedroom. “The only thing is,” she explained, “you’ll need to put sheets on the bed.” She then drew me a map as to where to find the sheets in the hall closet, took some NyQuil, and went to sleep.

Soon after I found myself standing beside the guest bed trying to determine how to put the sheet with the curved elastic corners onto the mattress. “I have a college degree,” I said to myself trying to figure out which side of the sheet was the length and which side was the width.

I managed to get one curvy corner over one side of the mattress on the foot of the bed and then stretched the other curvy corner to the top of the bed only to have the bottom side pop off. Undeterred, I put the top side on and then stretched it down to the bottom only to have the top side pop off. “I must be using the wrong side,” I told myself. So using my suspect math skills, I spun the sheet by a quarter and tried again. Same thing.

I stared at the sheet looking for instructions or at least arrows pointing in the direction the sheet is supposed to go. Talk about a manufacturing oversight. I spun that lousy piece of sheet on the bed at least 15 different times trying to find the right configuration but the closest I ever came was to get three corners. That’s when it occurred to me I must be using the wrong sized sheet.

I followed my map back to the closet, pulled out a new sheet with elastic corners and tried again. This time, I managed to get all four corners of the sheet onto the mattress even though the elastic corners were desperately searching for some crevice they could cling to. When I laid down, everything seemed to work when suddenly, all four corners simultaneously popped off and enveloped me like a giant cocoon.

I was laying in my white cocoon considering checking into a nearby hotel, when I realized I didn’t care if the lousy bed sheet was on correctly or not. After all, I spent my entire freshman year of college without bedsheets and was certain I could manage until my wife got over the flu. Besides, the cocoon was perfectly comfortable and even eliminated my need to use the other sheet in the set – the one without the elastic corners.

Engulfed in my soft cocoon, I started thinking that perhaps I had stumbled onto something that would be perfect for the “As Seen On TV” section at Walgreens. “Why pay for two sheets when all you need is one?” would be my slogan. Then, in my very expensive Super Bowl ads, you’d see happy people jumping into their beds in slow motion only to be lusciously swallowed up in fluffy white cocoons of cotton on top of bare mattress pads.

I must admit it was rather gratifying knowing I could help millions of men who would never get their elastic cornered sheets to stay on without staple guns. With that happy thought, I pulled a pillow into my cocoon, drew a soft blanket over the top, and fell asleep. Solving problems for millions of men, after all, is exhausting.

No Ugly Crying

Abby & Dad

see the short video here: http://youtu.be/n72tZR-yrR8.   Photo by kallimaphotography.com

The night before my daughter got married on December 28, she handed me a small gift. Appropriately, it was a handkerchief. It was monogrammed with these words, “No ugly crying. I love you, Abby.” She knows me well.

Abby didn’t want me to see her until it was time to walk her down the aisle. As the minutes passed and the hour drew near, however, I was beginning to panic. I felt like a gurgling volcano ready to explode in a horrific blast of ugly crying.

A good friend, who also knows me well, saw me pacing. “Have you seen Abby?” he asked very concerned. All I could do was shake my head, “No.” He heard the volcano gurgling and said, “Oh no. This is not good. You’ve got to see her…now.”

So it was that a few moments later I was outside the room where Abby was waiting with her bridesmaids. I stood there waiting, alone with my thoughts, when the volcano started to erupt. I pulled out my special handkerchief and tried to read the words but all I could see was, “I love you.” Then the volcano blew.

I was desperately trying to compose myself when I turned to see Abby walking toward me. What a sight. I have never seen anyone or anything so beautiful. She was radiant; absolutely beaming.

It’s hard to stop a volcano, but Abby did. She looked me in the eyes and with great confidence and conviction, said words of love that will forever touch my heart. And somehow, the volcano stopped. (Click here to see the short video.)

The next thing I knew I was standing beside her before family and friends with a lump in my throat, but a confident smile on my face. We were standing together before a loving God who brought all of us to this point and who promises to see us through every twist and turn of life.

So I put her hand into her soon-to-be husband’s hand, gave him a hug along with a few private words, kissed Abby one more time, and took my seat beside my beaming wife. As we watched our daughter get married, the pastor (my older brother) recited this wonderful blessing from the Bible:

“May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Without a doubt, December 28, 2014, was one of the best days of my life. I am greatly blessed.

 

Black Friday 4am Interviews

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4am Black Friday Interviews

A few years ago my oldest son, Matt, somehow talked me into getting up at 3:30 in the morning to go shopping on “Black Friday.” For the most part, he just wanted to see what all the hype was about and I was a bit curious myself. After all, nothing says, “Thanksgiving” more than a mad rush of crazed shoppers scrambling for that one special item that can be purchased even cheaper on Amazon.com after a full night’s sleep and have it delievered directly to your door.

I said I’d go, but only if we took along the camera and did our own little “shopping at 4am” expose. So here’s our little “Black Friday” interview special all the way from some mall somewhere in MIami:

Father of the Bride

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Abby & Alex engagement

I am a father of the bride.

And, no, I have never been able to watch the “Father of the Bride” movie without tearing up. The scene that always gets to me is when Steve Martin (the dad) is playing basketball in the driveway with his daughter (played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley — now the wife of one my favorite country singers).

As they reminisce, the scene keeps flashing back to when the bride was a little girl playing with her daddy and all of a sudden I’m a slobbering basket case. When that movie came out in 1991, my little girl, Abby, was all of one year old and it all seemed so far away. But even then, I think she was secretly scheming to leave me one day.

So of course, I have no idea how I’m going to get through the wedding. It doesn’t help that they will be living in Australia, roughly three airplanes and some 24 hours worth of flight and airport terminal time away. In my mind, she was going to get married and they would live in the house next door — or even better, he could live next door and Abby could stay in her own room in my house.

The truth is, I really am very excited for her. I even like the creep she’s marrying. His name is Alex and I tried not to like him, but he won me over. His love and care for my daughter calms my heart and there is no question she is crazy in love with him. He is God’s ideal choice for my daughter and they compliment each other so well.

I wrote a song a few years ago envisioning the day some guy would ask me if he could marry my daughter. I knew the day was inevitable and I knew then, as I know now, I would be an emotional mess. It’s called, “What do I know?” Part of the lyrics go:

So now he asks me, “Will I give her away?”
My head is swimming, I stammer to say
“Will you love her forever?”
My world is spinning so
What do I know?

(NOTE: You can go to iTunes and download the song for $0.99 and help me pay for this wedding :)

It has now been over 30 years ago that I asked the extremely cute, sweet, and smart Vermont girl to marry me. How I pulled that one off remains a beautiful mystery. Of course, I was totally oblivious to any pain or struggle her father may have been going through giving his daughter away to some creep from Miami. But he did and I am forever grateful.

Now it’s my turn.

Abby’s big day is almost here and I can’t help but think of the very first wedding all the way back in the Garden of Eden. The passage in Genesis 2:23-24 explains that when God brought Eve to Adam like a typical man, he looked at her and after he picked his jaw up from the ground he mustered a profound, “At last!”

Adam then pulls himself together and goes on to say, “This is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh. She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.'” The passage concludes by saying, “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife and the two are united into one.”

December 28th is almost here. I think I hear Alex saying, “At last!”

It Stinks in Here

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I did my duty as a grateful citizen of this country and voted.

You should, too. Even if it stinks in that little voting booth.

I was looking for the voting bubble which read, “None of the above” or even better, “Throw all the bums out.” But it wasn’t there, and the pungent odor just lingered.

Political satirist, Barry Crimmins says it well, “The big problem with the election, of course, is someone will win.”

Term limits would solve much of the terrible odor we’re smelling. The longer a person stays in office, the more acrid they begin to smell. Like the bumper sticker says, “Politicians are like diapers. They should be changed often. And for the same reason.”

The Greatest

David painting

David and his catcher. Painting by “Aunt” Peggy Chantlos.

I drive a pickup truck, so naturally, I listen to country music.

The first time I heard Kenny Rogers’ song, “The Greatest,” we were on a family road trip somewhere between Miami and Vermont. The soft country ballad started playing and I was immediately enthralled. Great lyrics, catchy tune, and a story about a little boy playing baseball. Having a young baseball player sleeping quietly in the back of the van, it was an instant hit for me.

As the song goes, the little boy is standing alone in a field dreaming of his future as a big league ball player. He can hear the crowd cheering as his game winning hit is just moments away. But he’s down to his last strike. The pressure is on. It’s the moment for which every little baseball player dreams.

There was no question my little baseball player sleeping in the back was filled to overflowing with that dream. His young life was already logged full of countless hours swinging his bat, playing catch, and dreaming of great things to come. The more I listened, the more the song seemed to be written about my son.

The last few lyrics are simply brilliant. So much so that as soon as the song ended, our family vacation took an immediate detour as I drove off the highway in search of a record store until I owned a copy.

It goes without saying that not long after, I had my little baseball player standing in a field swinging his bat so we could produce our own version of, “The Greatest.” So here it is for you to also enjoy — and perhaps remember your dreams, too. Just be certain you watch and listen all the way to the end. And by the way, while young David, the star of this video, was none too happy about having to purposefully swing and miss, his dream remains very much alive.

Enjoy!

A Promise To Barry White

IMG_3264As a Miami resident surrounded by beautiful beaches, my wife and I love to do something completely different and visit other people’s beaches on our vacations. So this time, we packed up our swimsuits and and headed to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.

I really didn’t know anything about Myrtle Beach and was surprised to discover it is quite the family vacation spot. Not only do they have beautiful beaches, but it’s packed full of family entertainment like water parks, amusement centers, the Carolina Opry, an aquarium, and Elvis. That’s right, Elvis. He was there performing at a place called “Legends” which came as a bit of a surprise. One doesn’t usually put Myrtle Beach and Elvis together; especially during the off-season.

A “Legends” advertisement said their show was a musical celebration which not only included Elvis, but several other of the most “iconic entertainers of all time.” Needless to say, I bought tickets.

As we entered the 500 or so seat auditorium on a Monday night, we were greeted by non other than Barry White. He was kind enough to pause for a photo which we were able to purchase at intermission for $20. It’s been a while since Barry has had a hit song, so I’m assuming these photo ops are helping him pay the rent.

Barry White was the first performer of the evening and sang several of his hit songs. He was a bit taller and leaner than I had remembered, but his booming baritone voice sounded as good as ever.

Then, to everyone’s delight, out came Johnny Cash. Yes, the “Man In Black.” While a bit shorter and stockier then I had remembered, he looked remarkably well for his age. He got us all clapping and singing along, although I struggled a bit remembering all the lyrics to, “A Boy Named Sue.”

After Johnny’s 20-minute set, I could hardly believe it when John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd came out to perform as the Blue’s Brothers. I’ve always loved, “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” and those dance moves crack me up. Belushi had trimmed down some and Aykroyd didn’t look a day over 40. How do those hollywood types stay looking so young?

Needless to say, by the time Elvis came out, the entire audience was pretty pumped up. The last I had remembered, Elvis had packed on a few pounds, but he had obviously been working out and dieting and could now fit back into his tight leather pants. We were clapping and whistling and singing along to hit songs like “Hound Dog” and “Suspicious Minds.” He even managed to kiss a few ladies in the front row while singing “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” It’s good to be Elvis.

Elvis was born in 1935 so I was amazed that despite his age, he could still gyrate those hips in the same way that used to drive TV censors crazy. Today, unless you’re swinging naked on a wrecking ball, most censors don’t even notice. Anyway, his hips were as flexible as ever and his hair still spilled over his forehead which, for some reason, makes ladies swoon.

The show ended with all our “iconic performers” coming onstage to sing a finale together. As the song crescendoed to its final climatic end, we were all on our feet cheering and hollering. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one amazed that somehow, on a Monday night in Myrtle Beach—during the off season—this little venue had amassed such an impressive group of performers.

I personally promised Barry White I was going to tell all my friends about their show. He just smiled and in his deep and resonate voice said, “I can’t get enough of your love, babe.” I thought he was a bit forward, but a promise is a promise.

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