Archive for August, 2008|Monthly archive page
I went downtown today on my bike, to check out what the DNC’s done to my fair city. There are a LOT of policemen and a lot of blocked off roads, and I’m going to go back to Tent State Wednesday or so to take a closer look at it. Suffice to say Tent State felt very much to me like what the 1960s feels like in my mind; lots of young anti-war protesters with good points to make. I was very moved by it, honestly, and will hold my comments on it until I get a chance to spend some more time there.
Anyway, amid all the press passes and TV cameras and cops on bikes, you know what struck me the most? There are freaking HIllary supporters EVERYWHERE. Before I go on this rant I’m about to go on, let me just preface it by saying that I used to be objective in my political thought. I consider myself fiscally conservative yet socially liberal. And I have an open mind, all the time. I like to consider all sides of every issue before coming to my own conclusions, whether they follow any “party” lines or not.
But if you’re planning on voting for McCain in this election, you aren’t paying attention. I had a good friend tell me recently, “Dude, I can’t decide who to vote for.” I told him, “Man, if the last eight years haven’t changed your mind, I can’t help you.” Seriously, what part of “wrong war/horrible economy/human and civil rights violations” don’t people get? And I’m sorry, McCain used to seem like a decent fellow, before he was turned into Darth McCain by the Republican Dark Side, but we cannot cannot CANNOT afford to have this guy or any Republican lead our country for the next 4 or 8 years. And when I see Hillary supporters all over the place, I get a bad feeling in my political belly. They say 27% of Hillary supporters are going to support McCain in the election. SERIOUSLY? SERIOUSLY? What the fuck is wrong with you people? You’re going to throw the race to the Dark Side just because you were slighted or “not treated fairly” by the Obama camp? COME ON! I realize Obama made a serious error in his Vice President pick (see below), but you’ve got to vote the party ticket. Just because this country needs it. Can you imagine 4 or 8 more years of Republican rule? I can’t. And just because you Hillary supporters are wounded emotionally or whatever, that’s probably going to happen. Thanks. Thanks for that. Just because you didn’t get your way, you 27% percent, you’re going to all ignore your morals and your ethics and your principals and vote for McCain. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That’d be like me having one bad drink in Vegas and all of a sudden packing it all in for Laughlin. Yeah, that’ll happen.
No, see, it won’t. Because that’d be stupid. And I’m not calling you 27% stupid, but I am. Because that’s what it feels like to me. You’re stupid. There, I said it.
While we’re on the topic, I also have a pretty bad feeling about the VP pick. Obama’s riding the “change” wave nicely, but all of a sudden he picks an old white guy with 35 years in politics? SERIOUSLY? What part of “35 years in politics” signifies “change” to you? That’d be like me saying “You know what? I feel like gelato today.” And then going to freaking Baskin Robbins where ALL THEY HAVE IS THE SAME OLD FUCKING ICE CREAM. Seriously, I was really hoping that Obama had something up his sleeve. Something dramatic. Hillary would have won the election for him. Al Gore would have been a nice surprise VP pick. Hell, a scoop of gelato would have made a nice dramatic VP candidate. But Joseph Biden? He’s as old as McCain! If McCain were to pick a young African American VP candidate, you’d almost have a hard time telling the parties apart!
I’m going to go out on a limb right here and say that if McCain picks a female VP candidate, it’s over and he wins. While I don’t give the Dark Side credit for much, I do know they know how to win elections (it’s a talent our party seems to have lost), and if McCain put a woman on his ballot, that would do it. It’d be nearly as “change” worthy as anything Obama’s done.
Look, I went to bed the night before the elections 4 years ago and 8 years ago thinking, “there’s no way W gets a single vote. Not one. Nobody’s stupid enough to vote for that guy.” Well, apparently I don’t understand 55 million Americans. And if you’re one of them, that’s okay too. I have Republican friends. Allegedly. But have you all seen what state our country is in? What’s this election all about? I heard somebody on the radio say, “Everybody’s missing the boat. This election is all about abortion and pro-life! Go McCain!” Okay, I get that. You can be pro-life. No problemo. But when everything in our country is owned by Middle Easterners and we all have to learn to speak Chinese because they bought our teachers and we have 20,000 kids dead in a pre-emptive occupation (It’s not a war – it’s an occupation) of a country that posed no threat to us and we have another 20,000 dead in Iran, France and Wherever because our president felt slighted by some action or non-action they took, it’ll still be great around here because nobody’ll be able to get abortions. Yippee! Yay America! Yay unwanted children!
Look, in 2000 I would have voted McCain over Bush, if I leaned that way. In 2008, I would have voted for Hillary, had she not been caught flat-footed by the Obama swell. I think a vote for a Democrat right now is a vote for our country right now. And it’s Obama’s time to be that Democrat. You 27%, if you really want Hillary to come back in 2012 or 2016 to run, you need to put aside your hurt from losing the primary race and vote for our party. Vote for our country. Vote Obama. ‘Cuz if you vote for McCain, who knows where we’ll be in 4 years?
I would have moved to China and taken up diving:
I watched a bunch of the Olympics this year, even though I’m abhorred at the way China seems to treat its humans. Michael Phelps was great, Usain Bolt is faster than a cheetah on Red Bull, and in the dictionary under the word “Man” they should have a picture of Hugh McCutcheon. To come back from a tragedy like he did and coach his team to a gold medal requires ganas that most humans simply cannot muster in a million years.
But you know what I’ll remember most about the 2008 Olympics? The architecture. The Bird’s Nest and The Water Cube will simply go down in history as two of the most iconic structures on this planet. Beautiful, beautiful buildings:
When I was just a wee lad I played Little League baseball in San Diego. I played all of ONE season. Yes, one season. That season, I played right field. I got to bat 20 times; each time I got up to bat, I was afraid of the ball coming at me at what seemed to be 1,000 mph, and I just stood there. Never swinging. So I struck out 11 times and walked 9 times. How the hell do I remember all this after 30+ years? It had that kind of affect on me. Not a good affect, either. Obviously, because I never played that particular sport again. Sure, I played softball in the infamous LA and San Diego architectural leagues of the late 80s and early 90s (remember those? Of course you do!), but obviously I had grown up and wasn’t nearly afraid of the ball coming at me when I was at the plate. Of course, in softball the pitch is like a tropical vacation compared to a baseball pitch.
Now it’s a new century and I have kids and they’re starting to get old enough to play sports. Which I’ve always wondered about. Seriously, the only team sport I’ve ever truly enjoyed has been ice hockey, and I didn’t start playing that until I was in my mid 30s. Before that I played a lot of tennis, but those are the only two sports I’ve truly loved enough to participate in for any length of time. So I’ve always wondered if my kids had the sports gene in them or not. Obviously, it doesn’t really matter to me. I’m not going to be the kind of dad who forces sport on his kids (although I did make them both take ice skating lessons a couple of years ago, which didn’t stick); I’d honestly rather have them be intelligent, compassionate human beings than be athletic. But I’m also willing to follow and explore their leanings with them. That’s what good fathers do, isn’t it?
My youngest son, the G-Man, has shown great interest in soccer from time to time. So just to see if his interest is truly real, I decided I’d sign him up for summer soccer at my local YMCA. Well, okay, not local, because we in central Denver don’t really have a “local” YMCA with a soccer field. As usual with things like this, we looked to our neighboring suburban counties for better recreational facilities than the ones we have here in the city. So I signed him up at the Arvada YMCA, which is about 15 minutes from my house, out in Jefferson County. I signed him up on-line, because that’s how I roll, and when you sign up there’s a little box you can check to volunteer. I thought to myself, “Sure, I’ll volunteer to help out somehow; I have to take him to the field anyway, so I might as well help out somehow.” I thought maybe I could pass out snacks or soccer balls or ties shoes or something, ya know?
Once the time drew near for summer soccer to start, I went on-line (remember? That’s how I roll) to check the schedule, and I find the G-Man’s name, and he’s on Team 3, and Team 3’s coach is (wait for it) Jeff C. Wait, what? Me? I’m the freaking coach? Um, this is a bad idea. I know all of NOTHING about soccer. So I sent the Y coordinator an e-mail explaining that, “I’ve never played soccer and I don’t know the rules of soccer; can I be an assistant or something?” He wrote back, “We’re very short on coaches. You’ll do fine.” That gives you a lot of faith in the system, doesn’t it? Some yahoo checks a volunteer box and you’re willing to give him a whole team of 5 year olds for a whole season? Okaaaaaaaay. So I wrote back, “Oh, all right. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’ve taught theater games to kindergartners before. If I get stuck, I’ll just start making them do theater games.” He thought that was funny. So apparently I got the job.
So I set out to take on my new position with gusto normally reserved for a root canal. They’re similar, right? I mean, when it’s over, it will have been great. And there will be little blood. But at the same time, it could be painful during the process. My biggest worry, honestly, was that I’d have overly competitive parents who wouldn’t like anything I did. Which I wouldn’t enjoy. I don’t really enjoy brawling with somebody’s dad on an artificial turf soccer field. If it were real Kentucky bluegrass, I could probably enjoy it. It doesn’t hurt the knees nearly as much. Anyway, I set out to mitigate that from the beginning. I sent out an e-mail explaining to the team parents that all I really wanted to do with this was instill a love of sport in the children (something I obviously didn’t get until I was in my late 20s) and for the kids to have fun. Seriously, in a U-6 league at a YMCA, there are no goalies and no score keeping. So it’s obvious the major goal is to have fun. And I was bound and determined that my kid and all the kids on the team would at least be exposed to the notion that sports are fun.
I went online and downloaded all kinds of great games and exercises for the kids to play. At our first practice, I had them play “Red Light Green Light” with soccer balls and a parent as the caller, which was cool. I also discovered that their favorite game to play is a game called “Islands and Sharks,” where you set up cones to create 3 islands and you put a bunch of parents between the islands and when you blow the whistle, the kids have to dribble their soccer ball to a different island while the sharks (parents) try to kick the balls away from the kids. It’s a very cool game and the kids started asking for it at each practice, so I used it as a bit of a reward. “First we’ll do this much more serious exercise, then we’ll spend the last 15 minutes of practice playing ‘Islands and Sharks.’” They loved it. And the parents got to be involved and play with their kids which made the whole experience better for everybody. In theory, anyway.
I ended up with 4 boys and 4 girls and, as always at this age, the girls were much better than the boys at the game. Sometimes I’d pit the girls against the boys in things and the girls would win 80% of the time. The same phenomena happens in Drama Club: most of the kids who get it are girls. Say what you want, boys, but at that age girls are generally better put together than boys. The girls work together, they communicate, and they’re competitive. The boys, on the other hand, could be found standing around looking up at the sky from time to time while the girls were beating them at whatever game was going on. “Look, a dragonfly!”
Each week we had one practice on Monday and a game on Saturday morning. Which kills any notion of getting out of town for a summer weekend, let me tell you. That’s one unintentional by-product of being the coach that caught me unaware. “You mean I have to be there EVERY Saturday?” I had one dad cover for me one week when we had a vacation planned, but otherwise The G-Man and I were there every time. Which, ultimately, was worth it, really. The Y puts forth all these rules for games for kindergartners; you’re supposed to have 8 minute quarters with breaks and a halftime and blahblahblah…I studied it a little, but I thought I’d show up for the first game and just follow along, hoping that the other coach knew what he was doing. Well, as it turns out, the other team had 2 coaches, and they’d all been together for a couple of years. And they didn’t really follow the rules. “Let’s just start and we’ll take water breaks when necessary.” “Oh, okay. That sounds good.” That’s kind of how the whole league went; we’d just start and play. Once in a while we’d call halftime. I had 8 kids on my team, so it was easy to swap kids in and out for water breaks during the game. Honestly, much of the time during games I was more worried about making sure my kids were hydrated than how they were playing. It’s been a hot, hot summer.
And I really thought there were more rules to soccer. Okay, so there are, but we didn’t really follow them. “Um, the ball’s out of bounds.” “Let’s let them play it.” “Oh, okay.” I’m telling you, I started the league as a by-the-books serious coach and I ended it like a drunken sailor on shore leave. “Just play, kids. I’ll be over here with my whiskey and my internet porn.”
At the first game, we pretty much were owned by the team with 2 coaches, as they have this one kid who’s like the Terminator of kindergarten soccer. This little dude wouldn’t stop running until he had scored, seriously. And he must have scored 5 times that first game. So at the practice after that, I was worried about how my team felt. I mean it’s the adult thing to think, right? They must be upset; they just got their asses kicked. So I started off practice 2 with a question and answer session. “What did you like about the game?” The one kid I was really worried about beamed at me and said, “I scored a goal.” “What didn’t you like about the game?” “Nothing. Because I scored a goal.” There ya go. My adult fears were groundless.
Each week, I had my team come up with a new name for Team 3 before the game started. I figured it’d be a good way to have fun with it and create camaraderie among the players. So the girls came up with team names like, “The Sun,” and “The Wind,” and “Honeybees.” The boys? “Indiana Jones.” “The Rockets.” “The Dragonflies.” I think one boy even threw out “The Darth Vaders” once, but I didn’t take it. Probably because I was laughing so hard I couldn’t hear him.
And it’s really funny to see your 5 year old develop a rivalry with another 5 year old. There was a team with a kid named Tyler on it that we played a couple of times. My son, The G-Man, was playing hard (which wasn’t his usual MO – he spent a lot time tending to the dragonflies) during a game with Tyler’s team and got tangled up with Tyler and there was some pushing and shoving and falling down and such. After the game, G-Man said, “Tyler’s a rough player. I don’t like him.” After that, every Saturday morning, the G-Man would wake up and say, “I hope we’re not playing Tyler’s team today.”
One of my favorite moments of the season: I always tried to be positive with the kids. “Good job.” “Nice kick.” Sometimes, it’s like trying to shore up the Titanic. “Hey, that was, uh, really good hustle when the other team scored those 8 goals.” No, it was never that bad. But sometimes I had to find positive things to say in the face of negative things happening. And I always told them “good job.” So, during one game, the ball went out of bounds, and somebody on the sidelines kicked it back in and I heard one of my girls say, “Good job, Grandma!” I was nearly on the artificial turf LMFAO.
As far as psycho parents go….there weren’t any. In fact, this group of parents was like a dream come true. I went in expecting a coven of Beezlebubs; instead, I got a whole flock of Glindas (the good witch). They were nice, they volunteered to bring snacks, and they had good kids. Another one of my favorite moment of the season went like this: After a game, one of the kids’ grandparents came up to me. This man was obviously a Navy man, based on his aircraft carrier hat and his Aviator sunglasses, which he wore to every game. And before you jump down my throat for stereotyping a Navy man based on his fashion, understand that my dad was a Navy man. It’s not a stereotype; it’s a uniform. Anyway, Navy man comes up to me and says, with a Navy demeanor, “Coach, I really like what you’re doing out there.” “Um, thank you, sir.” Yeah, I called him ‘sir.’ Again, I come from a Navy family. If a Navy man addresses you, you call him ‘sir.’ Then again, I haven’t called a Navy man ‘sir’ in 30 years; maybe this man caught me off guard a little. Maybe I was a little intimidated at the thought of having a Navy man on the sidelines judging my rookie soccer coaching techniques. Anyway, I said, “Um, thank you, sir.” And he said, “I like what you’re doing. And I don’t know how you keep track of all those substitutions of the kids during games, but it’s perfect.” “Um, wow, honestly, sir, I’m just making it up as I go.” “Well, we can’t tell. Keep it up.” Validation from a Navy man must mean a lot to me, as I had a smile on face for the rest of that day.
Towards the end of the season, one of the mothers came up to me after a practice and asked, “Are you coaching next season?” I pondered it for a moment. Am I? Has this been any more difficult than teaching Drama Club at my local elementary school? More importantly, has it been any less rewarding? No; in fact, it’s as rewarding. And my son seems to enjoy it. “Yes, I’ll be coaching again.” “Good. I’m going to sign my son up again and request that you be his coach again.” “Wow. Thanks.” “You’re a MUCH better coach than the yahoo coach he had last season.” Damn, will you stop it already? I’m going to get a big head!
So I’m coaching again next season. With my son and two other boys coming back to the team (many of the kids are moving up a league, as they’re entering first grade). I’ve ordered a couple of coaching books to help, and I plan on trying to get the kids to pass to each other, because if they can spread out and pass to each other it’ll look less like a swarm of bees chasing a ball and they’ll score many, many more goals. We’ll see how that goes. I think, ultimately, the kids had a lot of fun and, hopefully, they learned that sports can be fun. And maybe they’ll all play another season of soccer before they get to their mid 30s. If that’s all that happens because of this, I will have done my job. And it will have been worth every Saturday I put into it.