Tuesday, June 19, 2018

My Last Game as a Youth Sports Coach

I was checking around G's baseball team to see who could make it to a playoff game, when the mom of one of my best players, said what can only be described as fitting words.  Her son had stopped playing baseball and was hanging up his spikes.  After 250 baseball games, 120 basketball games, 50 football games and 10 soccer games, JMR has stopped coaching and is mercifully hanging up his spikes.

One of the few games where I coached C and G together.
C was just 7 years old when I started to get the coaching bug.  Soccer of all sports was my first foray into coaching after LC thought that I should get into it.  Everyone will agree that I am a terrible parent when watching my children play sports.  I tend to bitch and moan a lot - sometimes at the coaching and some times at the umpiring.  I talk trash to opposing teams - the "wooing soccer mom syndrome" rattles me every time.  And I have a vicious competitive streak, to such an extent that LC will slowly move away from me as the game goes on.  She thinks that I don't notice when she does it, but I do. 

The thing is is that a lot of that generally went away when I coached.  I was still very competitive - A referee once told me to get my nitro out as I was screaming after a play ended in 3RD GRADE FOOTBALL - but the screaming wasn't vicious.  G would get mad at me because I would bat everyone everywhere in the order and wanted everyone to pitch. A basketball referee actually asked ME to calm my head coach down after a terrible call.  Coaching had a soothing effect on my vicariousness.

These basketballs sure look lonely
And the amount of coaching that I did tended to be on the ridiculous side.  There were some years where coached C and G in baseball, coached G in travel and Rec basketball and coached G in football. Coaching in 2012 and 2013 was like another full time job.  And just when I started dialing it back with the boys, I started coaching DLG in Summer, AAU and travel basketball.  Why did I do this to myself?  These were the best of times because I loved spending the time, but it was also the worst of times because it affected my work and I was always exhausted.  I would lay awake thinking mostly about football.  Saturdays and Sundays in the Fall were all about watching film, drawing up game plans and thinking about how to get an edge.  Yeah, LC doesn't miss those days.

But sometimes, I do.

The last coaching I did was for G's Junior Baseball league.  Once the kids were done with the Cooperstown team as 12 year olds, interest started to wane.  It was always a struggle to field 9 kids, even though I had 15 kids on my team.  But there I was trying to win games and make the kids a little bit better.  It was sometimes a drag because of the weather or because I was busy at work, but once I got out into the field, all the juices came back.  We were like the Celtics because two of our best players never showed up tot he games and we still went 8-2.  (That tie was a win in my books).  Because C was young enough to play in Juniors himself, I tried to talk him into playing with us.  Except for some Summer League games, I never got the chance to coach them together...they were probably fine with it.

Yeah, I'll be back next year.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Maybe the Celtics' Opponents Just Aren't Very Good?

A lot has been made about the Celtics' 2018 playoff run.  After a shaky 4-3 series win over the Milwaukee Bucks, the Celtics cruised through the conference semifinals with a 4-1 victory over the upstart 76ers and are up 2-0 versus LeBron James and the vaunted Cavaliers. A lot of reasons have been discussed about the Celtics run without their two best players, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, even suiting up, much less putting 20 points up per game.

He really doesn't have anything to do with it.
Brad Stevens is the most important person on this team, some reports have stated.  Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have emerged as the next superstars of the NBA, other reports have exclaimed.  Scary Terry Rozier and Marcus "trash talk" Morris have come out of nowhere to put up huge numbers when just a couple of months ago, they were nice complimentary pieces expected to work 10-15 minutes a game.  But I have it figured out.  And these reasons are not the REAL reason for the Celtics 2018 playoffs.   

Maybe, just maybe, their opponents suck?

Brad Stevens is not any more a coaching genius than I am.  He's a good Xs and Os coach who has good out of bounds plays and can't settle on a rotation to save his life.  Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are good young players.  Of course they will average 18 points a game, though, if they are logging 35-40 minutes on a team that doesn't really have natural scorers.  Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris are having good series as starters, but they are not difference makers.  All the hype though may get us a first round draft pick for Rozier so I won't complain.  Thief Danny will find some lousy team to deal Rozier to in the off season, I'm sure.

But frankly, its the team defense and sharing of the ball that has led to the Celtics' success.  In a league of superstars, me-first mentalities, touches and general selfishness, defense and passing almost seem like novel concepts.  Believe it or not, the closest parallel I can think of is the UConn Women's basketball team.  They practice sharing the ball and defense almost exclusively.  The sets that they run and suffocating defenses they play have led to what seems like 50 years of dominance.  All an NBA team has to do to win in this league is commit to passing the ball and defense.  Maybe this has something to do with Stevens, but that is a mentality that comes with being the underdog because of injuries.

The unselfish passing I'm seeing with this team has been leading to open threes and layups.  the Cavs look old, tired and disinterested in playing defense.  They simply look like they suck.  The best thing I saw in Game 2 was James going off and still losing by 10+ points.  That means that someone else needs to step up to win this series with James.  Won't happen if everyone else sucks.

The suffocating defense has been leading to open jump shots and layups in transition.  It has been leading to terrible shooting and decision making.  That game against the 76ers, where Boston kept stealing the ball during out of bounds plays, was a perfect example of a defense that had something to prove.  Do you think that defense shows up if Irving and Hayward were out there?  Probably not because they don't have anything to prove.  Thee 76ers believed their own hype, but unfortunately, they suck.

So let's win two more games, have the Warriors and Rockets beat the snot out of one another in the Western Conference Finals and finally raise Number 18.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

So Ball-Hawking is a Thing

So we finally had our day in the Fenway seats.  Although this was the first game our season tickets could go to, Ive had these seats - and was looking forward to this game for months.  Not only that, but it was the first game against the retooled Yankees and G wanted to see Aaron Judge and GianCarla Stanton. But when G informed me that we had to take one of his buddies to the game so they could "ball hawk," I was intrigued.

On the ride in, we started talking about it.  G and his buddy started talking about this guy named Zack Hample and his 10,000 baseballs.  They started to watch his videos and talk about the games he was at.  I had a lot of pressing questions that I kept to myself.  For instance, how can he afford to go to so many games in so many cities that he could collect 10,000 baseballs?  Finally, I piped in with a question.

"Where do you keep 10,000 baseballs?" I asked.  They were stumped but G's buddy said that he would eventually sell his baseballs before he got to 10,000.  He figured he could sell his baseballs for 25 dollars a piece.  I stifled a laugh.

Hour 1 of 7...
But undeterred, they started plotting out their night.  They had Yankee hats so they could hang out by the Yankee dugout without repercussions.  They were able to get in early to watch batting practice (but it was cancelled!) and to generally pester ushers to get closer to the bullpens.  They had their seats lined up when the game got late, and they knew what to say to the bat boy to try and get balls.  Seriously, I wish these kids spent this much time on their homework.  But because we had gotten in to park two and half hours early, all we could do was stare at each other.  The kids just played catch.  Little did I know that this would just be a fraction of the entire time I was in there.

But there was a game too.  Almost from the beginning, you knew that it was going to be the Red Sox's night.  Mookie Betts hit a laser beam double of the monster and scored on a Hanley Ramirez single.  They took a 4-0 lead in the Second Inning when Benintendi hooked a triple down the Right Field line and scored on another single from Hanley.  It seemed like that would be enough since Chris Sale was throwing the ball WELL.

After Aaron Judge smacked a 440 foot home run into Center field to make the game 5-1 int he 5th inning, the Red So absolutely went off.  JD Martinez hit a bomb 420 feet for run scoring Double.  And After a Sacrifice Fly, error and Walk made the score 10-1, Mookie Betts came up again and hit a bomb over everything in Left Field for a Grand Slam to make the score 14-1.  The park was going crazy!

Now after a score like this and the 35 degree weather, I would have talked my crew into leaving.  But not tonight.  When the 8th inning started and Yankees fans, who came in droves, started leaving the dugout area, G and his buddy made their move.  Although the protective netting had been extended to the Foul Ball alley, there was an area  near the dug out that was (apparently) a prime area to get a ball from the ball boy.

And boy did they try.  Remember, we got into the park at 4:30.  At 11pm, 30 minutes after the last pitch was thrown, I get a text from G.  They were coming back in about 10 minutes.  There was no one left in the stands or on the field.  What the Hell were they waiting for?  Any way, at 11:30 they finally get back.  They both ended up with baseballs that they got from the ball boy.  I'm not sure, but G's buddy may have given him a ball.

When we finally get home after Midnight, I decided that G should find a different hobby than ball-hawking.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Last Time at Epcot Center?

First in 2009, we discovered how one could visit the countries of Europe and enjoy a lovely time exploring various cultures (wink, wink).  Then in 2012 we journeyed back, a couple of years older and a couple years wiser (we stayed at a place that allowed us to walk to Epcot - and easily walk out of Epcot).

As the kids have gotten older, I am now starting to wonder if our 2017 trip to Epcot is going to be the last one we take as a family.  Our schedules are taking us in a million different directions, and our pockets are clear out of spending money.  Sadly, this may be our last sojourn into the future world.  But before we get all moisty-eyed, lets discuss this trip.

5 million people just out of focus
It was a couple of days after Christmas.  I picked this day after an enjoyable day at Busch Gardens thinking that this might be one day that won't be crazy - midweek, weather was not going to be great, and everyone would go on the weekend.  We stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort and took the tram to the park.  Although it was mid day, I was heartened by being the only people on the bus.  Sadly, there was a good reason why no one was on the bus, they were all at the park.

When  we get to the park, we were struck just by how busy it was.  We tried to see what Fast Track and Soarin' were up to in wait times and it was impossible that the lines could be that long. The fast pass system has changed in the last 5 years; they were all sold out.  3-4 hour wait times at Fast Track? Even G wasn't up for the wait.  We then walked over to Soarin'.  The wait was only 90 minutes and I liked the trivia game that you could play while you waited.  Lets do it! So while DLG and LC were getting caricatures done near France, the boys and I started our slow march to the ride.

2 hours later, we get off the ride.  Of course it wasn't worth that long of a wait, but it was enjoyable once we got there.  We go back and meet the girls and have some pizza in Italy.

It's now been 4 hours since we stepped foot in the park.  We now have one ride, and a 35 dollar pizza to show for it.  We walk around to see what the other rides are like.  Spaceship Earth was going to be two hours.  Even rides like journey to the imagination had one hour wait times.  So back to Soarin' we go.  This time with all five of us.

After our second time through the line, (Make it 7 hours at the park), we decided to go to a different place for dinner outside of the park, thinking that the rides at night would not be as long since the families with the small kids would be leaving.  But if anything, the crowds got bigger!  It was now night time.  All the rides had two or three hour wait times.  Even past the time that the park closed for Gods sake.  The countries were packed like we walking past Times Square.

We even tried Test Track one more time.  I became nervous when they closed the doors behind us. Uh, were the last riders of the night? That cant be a good thing, hurdling down the track with a bunch of tired 22 year olds looking to go out at the club.  Lets take a couple of pictures and go home, I declared.

The constant walking led to the kids agree with my declaration.  The frustration with the lack of rides and the 5 million people wore us all down.  Everyone just wanted to go back to the hotel room and relax for our long trip home in the morning.  At least we got quality time with the kids in the room instead of screaming time in the park.  Not so bad.  And maybe this wont be our last trip. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Unsolved Mysteries and the 2018 New England Patriots

Scene and Action!  Robert Stack comes in from a foggy road "join us and you might be able to help us solve...a mystery.  Cut to Keely Shaye Smith staring the camera down describing the mysteries that are unfolding at Patriot Place.  The Patriots, coming off of a thrilling OT Super bowl win over the Falcons, were looking to make it three Super Bowl wins in 4 years.  But in the days leading up to the Super Bowl and definitely the days after the devastating loss, some questions remained unanswered:

What the Hell is going on down there?

Tom Brady.  In what was supposed to be a thinly veiled infomercial for TB12, Tom vs. Time was actually quite enjoyable.  Showing Tom Brady as a human being - dealing with his kids, making fun of his friends and taking to coaching from Tom House of all people - actually made me like him more than I already did.  The idea is that Brady IS actually a good guy.  If you cut out some of the creepier moments, particularly the ones that featured Robert Guerrero, and this was Emmy worthy.  But the question lingers...why did he release these videos in the week before the Super Bowl?  Were they released to show that Tom was actually a good guy, and not the Machiavellian puppetmaster who engineered a Jimmy G trade to the 49ers?  And what about that alligator in his TB Times?

Bill Belichick.  Malcolm Butler?  I understand that Butler is undersized so he is not a great matchup on the Eagles taller wide receivers. But when it was clear that Eric Rowe and Jordan Richards could not cover or tackle ANYONE, would it not be a smart move to see if Butler could make a difference, especially given that he would be fired up for the benching?  Even on 3rd and long when it was clear that the Eagles had to pass to a receiver?  So clearly something happened in the week before the Super Bowl and the Patriots agreed to not call it discipline so Butler's value would not be further diminished.  What is it with undersized athletes from Boston and their fortunes when Boston is done with them? Isaiah Thomas is shrugging his shoulders as we speak.

Rob Gronkowski.  Will he retire or not?  I'm kind of tired of this guy.  He always hurt, he always says or does something stupid.  And now he is taking advice from the Rock that he should become a movie star.  Have you seen him answer questions?  He's too goofy to be in a movie like San Andreas or Skyscraper.  And then, what happened to his Foxboro home.  Someone stole his SAFE and other belongings.  Does this guy not have security?  Even I have a security system, and I'm a schlep.

Josh McDaniels.  Man, this guy is wishy washy as all get out, huh?  He took his name out of the running last year for a couple of jobs.  This year, the Colts issued a press release introducing McDaniels has their new coach.  During his exit interview IN FOXBORO of all places with Bob Kraft, something happened.  McDaniels did an about face and said he was staying.  If coach goes, I go.  Was he promised the head coaching position in a year or two?  Was he given the ability to draft his own quarterback this April?  Was he given a tour of the Eye?  No one knows and in true Patriot fashion, no one is talking.

The cult of personality in Foxboro is unlike any other place in sports.  No one talks.  The players, even the ones with personality, always look like they are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.  When players leave, they usually get hurt or fade away into oblivion.  Something is going on in Foxboro, and I'm getting apprehensive just thinking about it.  Hopefully there is some sort of update next season saying that a caller knows whats going on.