Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Swing into Spring - Sports Loyalty

Spring really is the season of hope, don't you think? For most New Englanders, by mid-January we are hoping that Groundhog makes the right call and we get an early spring. An early reprieve from a brutal New England winter. True to form, most of New Englanders complain about the heat and humidity all summer and by October are b*tchin' about the cold. I guess it helps pass the time. But can we really complain about this year's "An inconvenient truth" of a winter? We have had a total of 6 inches of snow total over 7 "snow storms." By all accounts, a very mild winter.

So what did we really have to hope for this winter? Baseball. The Red Sox. That is what I am talking about. What an off-season. Welcome Dice-K, JD (as a compliment to Manny and Papi, this is exciting, as a replacement to Manny I would not be as excited. And I thought Mike Lowell got a bad rap before he donned a Red Sox jersey), and Julio. Lester is healthy. Papelbon moves to a starter role. The man-child, Wily Mo is primed for a break out year. Pedroia looks to be this year's Youk. The anticipation is almost too much to bear. It is like the night before Christmas.

Only in Boston, would the top news story leading into sports be a 4-4 tie between the Sox and the Twins in Grapefruit exhibition play over regular season games for the Celtics and Bruins. The Celtics are a far cry from the glory years of the 80's. The Bruins are now the team with the longest championship drought after being a long time holder of the consecutive playoffs record. They are a beat or two away from flat-lining.

What really makes me smile, are my boys enthusiasm for the upcoming baseball season. They are already geared up for clashes against the Evil Empire. And the boys actually have by passed mention of the Yankees, or the Stankees and just refer to them as the Evil Empire. I am proud of the young Red Sox Nation disciples. They know that "A-Fraud is a cheater." They take great pleasure in torturing their Uncle Schles, my brother in-law, by shouting "Go Sox!" or "Sox Rule!" into the phone at him. The boys actually called Uncle Schles on the phone after the Pats beat the Jets in the playoffs to gloat.

I know what you are thinking. My brother in-law is a NY sports fans. He must live in effing NY. Actually, all my direct in-laws live in NY. Yes, my wife is from NY. I know. Isn't that a cardinal sin for a card carrying member of Red Sox Nation? A casual observer would tend to think that. If you had asked me in high school or college, if I thought I would have married a girl form NY, I would have slapped you silly. But rest assured all is not as it seems. A few points of order:

1) Demi had left NY at 21, so she had been out of the state for years when we met on a tropical island, while on vacation, with no intention of going back to NY. We were initially living in a neutral site while we were engaged and first married. The thought of moving to a half way point in CT, lasted about a half of a second. CT? That's barely a step up from Jersey. Is there a worse stretch of highway than 95 through CT? Is it a state law that 95 be continually under construction? So we compromise. We moved to MA.

2) Demi was not a Yankees fan. She really had no baseball preference. Her family was actually split between the Yankees and Mets. I know. Not a whole lot better.

3) It was agreed before marriage that any offspring would be raised right. Pats Fans. Sox Fans. Celtics Fans. Bruins Fans (this was well before there was any indication that hockey would soon die and would rival the British Polo league for viewership).

4) A pagan ritual was performed to induct Demi into Red Sox Nation, that included candles, chanting, oaths and a little blood letting. A definite compromise was made. Not like Rules of Engagement where she wanted a cat, he didn't. They compromised and got a cat. She promised to cheer for the Sox, live and breathe the Sox, in return for a Sox hat and the right to ogle Jeter's tookus when I left the room.

Bonus Points - Demi successfully argued down two male patrons of the restaurant where she worked, on why Warrick Dunn should win the Heisman. Sniff...I think I have some dust in my eye.

If there was any doubt about her loyalty, there was no one sadder after Game 7 in the 2003 ALCS. And she was as exuberant as the rest of the Nation after Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.

A Male's loyalty to a sports team is an important character trait. It is a defining trait. It is the choice between the two sides of the Force. Could you imagine having to live as a Devil Rays fan? With the importance of that load in mind, I gave a lot of thought about introducing my sons to sports fandom. I certainly didn't want to force sports on them. I want them to develop into their own persons, with their own likes and dislikes. But my word, what if they turned out to be Jets fans and I had to disown them?

My opinion on life is that life is a struggle for balance. The struggle is the adventure, the journey. The goal is to achieve balance. Tip the scales too much one way, you falter. Tip them too much the other way you still falter.

When it became apparent that my sons would follow in their old man's footsteps and become a sports fan, I had to decide what to present them to shape their team loyalties. Again, balance comes into to play. There is a fine line between stupid and clever. You don't want to inundate you kids with your sports team's lore and immerse them in your sports team's color. You can push them in the opposite direction. I have known plenty of guys who say they chose their team because they were the enemies of the dad's team. Can't have that. And you don't want to be to aloof where they pick the Bengals because they like the tiger stripes (my grandmother in-law actually took an interest in a Dolphins game because their jersey matched Dan Marino's eyes.....oy vay). Yep, a fine line.

A lot of the burden was taken off of me by my grandmother. She lived with us from the time my first son was born until he was 7. At 10 months old, she sat him on her knee in her favorite chair and watched the Sox. She never missed a game, to the point that if the Sox played a day game, you would usually catch her watching the game replayed at night. At 2 years old, I would come home from work to eat dinner. Caz would take his sippy cup into the living room, hit the lever for the footrest in my recliner, push the back of the chair all the way horizontal, climb in, sprawl out with hands behind his head, the Sox are on TV, and he would ask, "Is Derek Lowe pitching tonight?" Music to my ears. His little brother took interest and followed suit. Perfect. Coco is Little Papi. You would think Big Papi is Santa Claus except I think Coco likes Papi better.

Caz actually tried to get under my skin when he was around 5. He would try to slip in a "Go Yankees" to see who I would react. It was my youngest son who would have a conniption. I usually ignored him or just mildly carried on. At one point though, I did say, "Well, you have a choice. No Yankees fans are allowed to live in this house. So if you want, you can go live with your Unlce Schles in NY." That ended that. Poor kid. Banished at age 5.

I believe the key was that I didn't push. Did I secretly hope they would choose the Jedi side of the force and root for our New England sports teams? Sure. But did I plot a course for that? No. I gave them enough information to come to the right decision on their own. Subtle introductions to interests, whether it was sports, or reading, or chess, or what have you, is a fine way to approach things. Achieve that balance.

Both kids are actually very good chess players already. How many 3 year olds do you know that know how to castle? Exactly.


"The devil is a gentleman"

I reserve the right to digress onto tangents. Is there anything better than an hour of Bauer? Jack is the man. And 24 is the best concept TV has come up with in a long time. With the end of Seinfeld, Comedy is dead. TV needed something. Action was called for and 24 responded.

While it was a good episode last night, there was not enough Jack. I know that in order to stay true to the real time format that Jack can't be at the forefront of every episode. Last night the meanest thing he did was to throw a dirty look at Logan. But do we really need Chloe as a side story. I think Chapel put it best when he said, "Chloe's a pain in the a**."

Previews for next week make it look like things are back on track though. Jack is back to torturing suspects, this time with a glorified cigar cutter. Who needs ten fingers anyway?

Still waiting for the emergence of the Ricker.....well, not really. I wasn't a NYPD Blue fan and I hear that the Ricker did well with that stint. But really, can anyone really get past Silver Spoons? Didn't the Ricker single-handily start the friendship bracelet craze?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Paper Trail

They say the early bird catches the worm, right? Well, Dads-to-be, I say this. Start early. Start everything early: saving for the child's college fund (529's and college savings to be discussed at another point in time), hammering out the nursery, setting up the baby carriage, crib, or swing, or finding that perfect first present. What ever it is, I suggest starting the moment you find out that you are expecting. I didn't realize with my first child, that I didn't have to wait until he was born to start a 529 college savings fund for him.

What I started early was a journal. I wanted us to be able to look back and see what was going on while my son was still gestating in my wife's belly. I have kept a few journals over my lifetime to mark the passage of meaningful points in my life. And I mean a few. Not insane amount in the hundreds like Kevin Spacey's character in Seven. Every page and line do not repeat "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

Heeeeeeeerrrrreeee's Chinny!

I kept one journal for each child. You don't have to write essays, prose or poetry. A quick thought will do. What I tried to keep track of most were current events. Write down the price of gas with a date. Gas was $1.06 per gallon when my first son was born and $1.46 per gallon 22 months later when my second son was born. It was $0.88 per gallon when I first got my license. Go head and do the math.

Reading the old entries now, I have captured some significant historical events: McGwire and Sosa's HR battle to overtake Maris (and well before the baseball steroid scandals started to surface), the Patriots 3 Super Bowls, the 2004 Red Sox World Series, the 2000 Presidential election, 9/11/01.......I still remember coming home on 9/11, grabbing my newborn son and holding him for hours.

Personally, I try to impart a little wisdom on to my sons. I kept a journal for each of them that lasted from the time I found out that Demi was pregnant through their second birthday or so. You never want your kids to make the same mistakes that you have and hope they learn from you. I thought that by writing it all down, the journals might help with that process. I wrote about what it takes to be a good friend, what they should look for in choosing new friends, striving to become a better person, and shared my past experiences. I hope that when they sit down and read these, they understand who there Dad is, how I became who I am, and maybe learn a few things about themselves.

Paper seems to be going the way of the dodo bird. But I am an old fashioned kind of guy. I like paper. I like reading the newspaper with a fold, rather than on-line. I like reading actualy bound books, rather than eBooks. And I like to write lists, journals, and notes on paper. I am sure that seems like a stone tablet and chisel to the technological generation or blackberries, cell phones, and Ipods. If that is your medium, then great. Just write it down. Leave that history to be passed on to your prodigy.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


"We are such stuff as dreams are made"

This Forum and all posting are inspired by my wife and sons. My wife is a constant source of motivation and support. I am very fortunate to have found the most wonderful woman in the world. My boys are my pride and joy. I could not have asked for better. So Demi, Caz, and Coco, Thank You. Thank you for being my inspiration and making my life what it is.

Cukoo Ca-Choo Cooties

While I am very serious about helping Dads and Dads-to-be, I was torn about my first real foray into a subject matter. At heart, I am a smart alec. Normally, I would go with smart a**. But as you become a father, you really do learn about censorship. Censorship of yourself. I try very hard not to swear around my sons. I believe I have a very high percentage of restraint. I blame all the bad words my son learn on my wife and her friends. A couple of her pals would make a long shoreman blush.

So why choose Cooties as my first subject? Every knows what Cooties are. Or at least they think they do. Adults always remember them with a chuckle. But could you state a definition of a Cootie? Could you come up with just one or two sentences to accurately describe Cooties?

This subject came up about 4 months ago with my oldest son. He refused to sit on the same couch as his mother because he didn't want to get Cooties.

I asked him, "So what exactly are Cooties?"

To which he smiled and answered, "I don't know. But girls have them and they are gross!"

I cracked up. I think that's the best way I have heard the subject put. Kids tend to give you honest answers......to the questions you really don't care about the answers to. Don't delude yourself, kids know when to hold back or to fudge the truth. They can sense when trouble looms large. And when you call them on bending the truth, the standard answer is, "I know, I was only joking."

Now, I only have sons but I imagine girls would give the same answer about Cooties. I will have to quiz my friends RJ and Pistol, or my brother in-law, whom all have girls. Some girls may say that boys have them, but I seem to recall being chased around the playground at recess by girls wanting to give me Cooties. I am certain that I escaped my childhood without contracting Cooties. But those girls certainly put up a good fight! Fortunately I blessed with some speed. Of course if I had been smart, I would have let them catch me a lot sooner.

I am not sure at what age girls no longer have Cooties. But I told my son that his mother grew out of them and she no longer had Cooties. He seemed to buy that but he asked me, "How old was Mom when she got rid of her Cooties?"



I really hope it was long before then, otherwise I may have been infected without knowing it. Wouldn't life be great if the worst thing you caught from girls were Cooties?

Since the time my son first broached the subject of Cooties, he has now proclaimed that he has a girlfriend. Maybe girls get rid of Cooties early than I thought? Or maybe my son is just a lot smarter than the old man? Good for him.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Oddessy - The Maiden Voyage

Well, after many longs talks with and words of encouragement from RJ (all monikers will be fictional to a) preserve my friends' and family's privacy should I actually attract some readers and b) protect myself from future lawsuits from my friends and family should I attract more than some readers). So. Why blog? I like to write. Whether or not I write well, I will leave to others to judge. I like to thinks of myself as a savvy and up to date kind of guy but a lot of this web culture is beyond me. Admittedly, at times with all the terminology, blogs, threads, spoofing, etc; I feel like I imagine my late 92 year old grandmother must have felt when attempting to program the VCR. See that? VCR. No Tivo. No DVR. I just dated myself a bit and I don't consider myself that old. I just may have an old betamax tape laying around from my high school days but I can work my electronics.

So why pick to write about fatherhood? I thought about just covering being a Sports Dad. But I would get chastised by my friends for being too much like the Sports Guy, who is now a dad. We have a lot of the same interests: 24, Boston sports, Sportscenter, classic guy movies.....At one point while I was expecting my first child back in 1999, I thought about writing a book for Fathers or prospective Fathers. It would be a handbook or guide to use as a reference. Not that I think I know all about being a father or all there is to know about fatherhood. It would be sort of like the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I would keep adding to it as I gathered more information.

I noticed that while my wife and I were expecting, that though we have come a long way in the birthing experience to involve the dads, we still have a long way to go. Sure, it is not like when my parents were expecting me. My father (who is absolutely my hero) drove my mother to the hospital in Boston on a cold night in December. It wasn't like the old cartoons where my Dad would be pacing in the waiting room, smoking and looking disheveled. There was no waiting room. The nuns at the hospital handed my father a brown shopping bag with my mother's clothes and told him to go home. They would call him when the baby was here.

So by those standards, we have come a long way in involving the dads in the whole birthing process. We go to birthing classes (which I know a lot of guys say they could do without). We are allowed in the delivery room. We get to see the birth in process. But how prepared are we really? What about his process is about the Dad? This is where I will get tons of grief from Moms about what they have to endure. And I agree. I still shudder at the memories of the rigors my wife had to go through. But still, shouldn't the Dads have some resources to tap? Some refuge? Some fountain of information to provide insight? Someone to bounce ideas off of? Some place or person to confide in? You know men don't even like to ask for directions, but where was the "What to Expect When You Are Expecting" book for us? Now my pal, the Great Brudini went to the opposite end of the spectrum for his guide book, entitled ""Do You Really Need That Extra Slice of Pizza?" and Other Phrases Not to Use on Your Pregnant Wife". But I think something in the middle, like a Dad's Guide for Dads is warranted. Don't you think?

So fire away. Maybe I have some answers. Maybe I don't. Maybe we all pool our thoughts and come up with some answers. Who knows?

Is this a revolutionary idea? Probably not. In this information age, there is a chat room, web page, online forum, for just about everything. But as my entrepreneurial colleague RJ would say, this is not an over-saturated market.