Tuesday, July 31, 2012


How should we define an "athlete."  Is a field goal kicker an athlete?  A 375 pound offensive guard for an NFL team?  Is the designated hitter on a baseball team an athlete? A fencer? A sharp shooter? A weight lifter?

I think whatever definition we create would include participants in three Olympic events I saw yesterday.  While I was extending myself perspiring on an elliptical machine I watched the synchronized diving competition.  This was something to see.  Let's start with the dives themselves.  From a platform a diver jumps up, then does four and a half somersaults in the air before gliding into the pool with as little a splash as possible.  Try that at your local pool.  Try one somersault. Given the nature of the event, not only do the athletes do four and a half somersaults they do it at the exact same time as a teammate is so contorting himself. The two of them have to enter the pool at the same time, having twisted at the same time.  Try synchronizing cannonballs with a pal the next time you are at the Y.

After the diving competition while I pushed myself to what amounts to fast walking for a while, I saw a beach volleyball competition. If you have never watched this, take a look.  Two women on a side, diving all over the court, jumping to block and spike. An American team won a contested match with the Czechs.  Timing, diving, blocking, changing direction while in the air--athletes.

But the most mind boggling event I viewed yesterday is one I see only every four years.  The gymnasts.  Contestant after contestant got up on the horse and effortlessly went through contortions for a minute. Grabbing one end of the horse and swinging around, then switching hands and positions.  I am in good shape. I exercise almost daily. Spend nearly an hour, sometimes more, on the elliptical machine without stopping--I could not last five seconds doing what these gymnasts were doing effortlessly. And of course after they were done, spinning dizzily, they dismounted gracefully landing two feet on the ground without a stumble before raising their hands in a deserved gesture of self satisfaction.

Today marks the third day of practice for the New England Patriots. We consider football players to be great athletes and they are, but not sure even the defensive backs--often the best athletes on the teams--could score a point against the women in the beach volleyball game, or last ten seconds on the horse, or dive in tandem with a teammate.

Friday, July 27, 2012


I was watching an early round soccer game yesterday morning between Gabon and Switzerland. There was a camera shot of the stands where Gabon clad supporters were walking around the stadium in some sort of poorly choreographed march. The extent of the synchronization made me wonder if the Gabon loyalists had knocked a few back before the contest. At one point the Gabon fans stood in front of seated Switzerland fans and did their cheering. It looked like good natured us/them back and forth.

The players for both teams sure looked as if they were playing their hearts out for their respective countries. Switzerland had been favored so it was something of a victory for Gabon to come away with a 1-1 draw.

At some point during the game I thought of lyrics from the John Lennon song, Imagine. Imagine, there's no countries, it isn't hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.

What are countries? They are political and social constructions, no? The United States is separate from Canada and Mexico, how? An arbitrary line was drawn, the same kind of line that separates Portugal from Spain, or Togo from Benin. Why is Chile different from say, Colombia or Venezuela, or for that matter, Lichtenstein.

The Olympics brings together countries which may be in conflict and might even be at war, and this is cited as a good thing. Iran will compete with Israel in the next few weeks and the spirit of sport will trump the political tensions between the countries. I love watching the Olympics and I root for the US to win. I think the Olympics by and large is a wonderful event. Yet it does reinforce the construction that we are different, and we are not.

When I was a kid, I went to a summer camp where, periodically, we had what were called "Watermelon Leagues." The bunch of us campers would be broken up into three teams that would compete in basketball, baseball, and volleyball over a week. The winning team would get a watermelon. This was good fun. Some tensions surfaced. Players on team A would coalesce and see Team B as the enemy, but it was for a short duration and subsequently we got back together again as a group.

The Olympics is a great event. I look forward to the summer games particularly. However, it obstructs any ability to imagine no countries, and perpetuates the incorrect conception that we are different.

125th street mural

I am riding now taking a serpentine route through Harlem now on Madison Avenue. I'm in a bus equipped with wifi as I return home from a three day trip to NY to visit my brother. Soon we will be turning crossing 125th street, it of the famous Langston Hughes poem called 125th Street Mural--often just called, "What happens to a dream deferred."

It is taking forever to get out of Manhattan. We left at 4 from Madison Square Garden on a Friday so, go figure, the traffic is horrible. I could have walked the 90 blocks in an hour and we are now 45 minutes from when we started.

After we boarded, the driver delivered the bus version of the stewardess speech leaving out the part about the flotation devices. Bathrooms in the back. No loud radio playing. Hold onto the railings as you walk up and down the aisles.

At the end of the talk he told us that the bus would not leave until everyone on this Boston bound journey chanted, "Let's go Yankees." The Red Sox are in the Bronx this weekend playing the Yankees in a three game set. At this clip I will get home in time to see the Sunday contest.

It does still surprise me how pervasive sports is in our society. My brother and I had lunch Wednesday at a place called Ben's and there we saw a number of patrons adorned in baseball jerseys representing their teams. That night we went to a sports tavern that was packed on a Wednesday and we could have selected any one of a dozen other such restaurants within a two block radius. We take a walk in a rural part of New Jersey yesterday and see two walkers/joggers wearing gear from football teams to which they apparently have some allegiance. And today, the bus driver, knowing about the Red Sox rivalry, ribs we Bostonians by telling us to chant Let's Go Yankees. When one of the riders chirps up with the requested chant, the driver's riposte is "Boston fans are such traitors."

I will have time to blog about the entire olympics which ends mid August, by the time this bus leaves the Bronx.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

tee shirt

For the first time in a while it is pleasant to sit out on my deck. Earlier this week it was so hot and humid, that when I slid the slider over at 9 pm to see if it would be comfortable outside, I felt as if I was being hit with a wall of outside heat.

Today, however, it is gorgeous. About 80, no humidity. In a couple of hours the deck will be covered with sun, but right now I still have some shade. I am fortunate--as I have written before in this blog, to live adjacent to a wooded area. In front of me as I sit is nothing but what looks like a lush forest. To my right is a park and I can hear the bats hitting the balls and the chatter that comes with the games. To my left is a quiet neighbor.

All is well, but that is if I am looking through this narrow lens.

In Colorado a maniac decided to spray a movie theater with bullets. The killer has destroyed life and the lives of the loved ones who knew the victims. And who knows how emotionally shattered the survivors of the shooting are and will be.

If you are willing to accept the argument that we are all connected somehow, then who knows what damage this crazed person has done to all of our foundations.

This morning I had to do some errands. I brought the vacuum cleaner in because it is essentially new and was not working. A kind technician showed me that what was not working was me as he explained as diplomatically as one can, that I did not see something that any fool should have been able to notice. So, the vacuum cleaner got "fixed". I went to the post office to mail in a bill, and then returned some bottles to what are called here in Massachusetts, package stores. Finally, I had to go to the supermarket to pick up an item or two.

As I checked out and was running my card through the gizmo, I hear the person behind me ask, cheerfully, for a bag of ice in addition to his groceries. The attendant goes to get the ice and I turn around to see the customer. He is a normal looking fellow with a friendly smile. I am about to turn back around to get my packages when I notice his tee shirt. It is a normal beige looking Saturday morning tee. It has three letters on it. GFY.

In a time of acronyms that are used in texting I am about ten years behind the curve. This one, however, I think I get.

What would possess a person to wake up and finger through his duds and decide to select that shirt to present that message to the world.

The crazy in Denver is a crazy, deranged to somehow think that the horrific act makes sense. The fellow with the shirt probably just thought it was a hoot to wear that top. Probably is benign, but we are all likely better off if we pass along the love instead.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Knicks and Lin

It has surprised me now and again when I meet people who lead or own organizations that are, financially at least, successful--and discover that they, to be polite, lack wisdom.  Sometimes I believe people latch onto or are given something that cannot fail without determined efforts to undermine it.  So, the enterprise is a success.  But still when you come face to face with the persons who are running the show you marvel at how such a simpleton rose to the position and how the organization can continue to survive.

Last year the Knicks got an unexpected breath of fresh and rejuvenating air when Jeremy Lin soared to stardom within the period of a few weeks.  Lin had been a benchwarmer, but because of injuries got an opportunity to be the starting guard. What he did was so sensational that he found himself on the cover of SI, earned a sports fan nickname, Linsanity, and made active fans out of New York basketball enthusiasts whose excitement had ebbed for so many years as the team played uninspired and losing basketball.

Lin was injured toward the end of the season so he could not participate in the playoffs, but had it not been for the energy he infused into the team, the Knicks would never have made the playoffs.

The wizards who own and manage the Knicks--the same brain trust that hired Isiah Thomas to coach and general manage the team--decided not to rehire Jeremy Lin for next year.  They went out and signed a very talented player in Carmelo Anthony last season, and the word is that Anthony and Lin did not mesh.

By not signing Lin, not only did the team reduce its chances for being successful, it hauled out the New York City fire department to put out the sparks of excitement that Lin had generated.  This befuddling move will remove fans from seats, set the press against the Knicks, move some New York fans to root for the Brooklyn Nets instead, and--oh by the way--result in the Knicks losing a competitive edge.

Jeremy Lin will play for the Houston Rockets next year.  It is the Rockets gain. That is about the only other entity that gains. Lin will lose the New York City exposure. The Knicks will lose a talented player. And the league will lose the excitement that Lin provided.

Probably good for Boston Celtic fans, though.  The Knicks play in the same division as the Celtics.  One less team to worry about.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ray Allen Press Conference

The reaction Celtic fans have had to the departure of Ray Allen reminds me of a sweetheart's response after a lover has taken up with a rival.

The Miami Heat, Allen's new team, officially introduced the player at a press conference yesterday. I saw much of the interview portion while on the elliptical.  It seemed to me that Allen was diplomatic when asked about his relationship with Celtic management, fans, the New England region and former teammates--even Rajon Rondo a player with whom it is said Allen had conflicts.  Flanked by his new coach and the general manager, Allen adroitly walked the line between praising and not disrespecting his former team/fans, and sounding eager to be with the new team.

The reaction in New England has been amusing to me.  Why did he leave?  We offered him more.  He is not loyal.  Does he really want to play with THEM?

When a lover leaves for another, this is how the jilted person often reacts. What could she possibly see in HIM.  After all I have done, she takes off with that, that, that, bum.

Every word uttered by the former sweetheart is scrutinized and seen through the distorted lens of the person who is heartbroken.

Ray Allen left the Celtics because he thought the new situation was better for him.  He took a lot less money to play for the Heat and that can burn the spurned team.  Sitcom characters describe to a forlorn ex lover why the partner headed off, "He's just not that into you" they say.  Well, Ray Allen was no longer that into the Celtics.  

And instead of blaming Ray Allen for his decision, Celtic management, might want to consider what it was that made the Celtics less attractive. I'll suggest it could have been coddling a churlish Rajon Rondo and marginalizing a mature Ray Allen.

Regardless the episode and reaction in New England indicates the devotion and attachment sport fans often have to their teams and the players on them.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I read today that there is a growing niche for restaurants that have followed the lead of Hooters. These restaurants hire waitresses who are revealingly clad. Like Hooters, the chains have suggestively punny names.  One is called Mugs and Jugs. Another, the Tilted Kilt. Twin Peaks is a third.  These restaurants have been nicknamed "breastaurants."

Is there anything wrong with the concept?

If you are a sports fan you have noticed that in the last several years, broadcasts of baseball, football, and basketball games have included sideline reporters who interview coaches at intervals during the contest.  These journalists are far more often than not, women.  Almost without exception, these reporters are not difficult on the eyes.  The demographics of the sports television viewers are changing, but still the audience is overwhelmingly male.

Is there anything wrong with hiring attractive women to be the sideline reporters if a criterion for their hiring is  pulchritude and the journalists, however excellent they may be, have been employed primarily to engage the overwhelming portion of the audience?  Is there anything wrong with this, if the overwhelming majority of the broadcasters in the booth are men?

The Dallas cheerleaders have not been selected because of their SAT scores.  Anything wrong with this?

I've never been in a Hooters.  I am not a prude, but in the context of a family restaurant the Hooters' concept bothers me because of the hypocrisy.  It seems to me that many people get very upset when sex is discussed in the schools or in most public places.  If sex was not intended to be the lure in Mugs and Jugs et al, then the eateries would not be suggestively named and the servers would wear more in the way of clothes. If you check out the logo for Twin Peaks, it's clear that the owners have not identified mountain climbers as the key demographic.

At the Twin Peaks web site a click on locations informs the surfer that the restaurant has a presence in twelve states.  Only one of these is a blue state.  Eight out of twelve are red; three are undecided according to the current political map.   Is it odd that tolerance for such a theme is found in places where the majority of voters support conservative measures?

Those who read The Madness of March know that for five days in 2009 I spent time in sports books along the strip in Las Vegas.   The book describes the sports betting scene more than anything else.  However, there are allusions to cocktail waitresses and the temporary diversions for the sports bettors.  Yet, that is Las Vegas. When you go to Las Vegas there are no stunning surprises along these lines.

Twin Peaks in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Kansas.  Probably nothing wrong with it, but are the same people who are eating there voting for conservative candidates who campaign on a platform opposed to sex education in the classroom.

I have no problem with alluring attire or consensual intimacy. At all.  I do have a problem with declarations that sex is an abomination and a proliferation of successful breastaurants in red states.  Where are all those people shouting for abstinence in the schools when a new Twin Peaks opens.  Where are those people who squawk at the (very few) sexual references in a great book like The Catcher in the Rye, when the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders are getting chest colds in a wintry December football game.  The existence of steamy looking women in places where generating steam is declared sinful is, to my way of thinking, revealing.

All Stars

Last night's All Star game was over almost before it started. Justin Verlander gave up five runs in the top of the first.  He could have been helped by a catch or two in right field, but Verlander did not help the American League cause by walking batters.

As I was driving home last night I started thinking about my All Star team.  I was not thinking about who I would select for first base, second base, in the National League, but--if I set out to create a roster of people who were All Stars in my life--who they would be.  Who, for example, would be an All Star as friends, teacher, physician, neighbor.  Who would be an All Star as colleague, mentor, relative.

The radio talk about the All Star selection may have got me going on this track. There were conversations about who should have been picked and quite a bit of talk about the national league manager's selection of starting pitcher.   What makes someone an all star was the general theme of the talk.

I did not actually create a team, but did think about certain individuals who would make it if I were to create such a team.  If you try it, that is try to identify who the All Stars are in your life, it might be interesting to consider, when you are done, the common denominators in this group of people.

I don't think the common denominators will be affluence, or physical beauty, or power or even passion.  I think you will find that the All Stars in our lives are the people we can trust, who we know we can depend on to do what they implicitly or explicitly promise to do.  I think our all stars are the people who default to being considerate despite and regardless of their own personal aggravations. 

Sport general managers are supposed to assess team talent and seek out other players who might help the enterprise.  It might be a good exercise to think about the people with whom we spend our time. Are they all stars?  More--or at least as--significantly, would we make our own team?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Stepping Up and Stepping Away

I can remember exactly where I was the evening of March 31, 1968.  My freshman girlfriend and I were down in the basement of her dormitory.  This was one of the few places in the dorms where there was a television and we were poised ready to heckle President Johnson deliver a speech to the nation. The talk was, ostensibly, to be about the Vietnam War, how things were going, etc.  At this point already I, and nearly all of my fellow freshmen, had become anti war campaigners. It was sport for all but the most apolitical among us to jeer and question the credibility of war proponents.

Johnson, you may remember, did a very clever thing on this date at the end of March.  It was common during the period for politicians to deliver advance copies of their speeches to journalists.  When a presidential talk was completed, newscasters would analyze instantly the talk, because they had had the benefit of reading it well before the speech was delivered.  Later, in the Nixon administration, Vice President Agnew railed with some legitimacy about this process which he called Instant Analysis.  Agnew, never one of my favorite pols, did have a point in this case complaining that citizens did not have an opportunity to digest a speech before the journalists would slam it immediately after the last presidential word was uttered.

On March 31, 1968 Karen and I had been peppering the screen with challenges to the president's credibility, when Johnson stunned the entire nation by ending his talk with a comment about the upcoming election. Everyone thought that Johnson would, for sure, be the democratic candidate in November.  But Johnson with a smile told the viewing audience that he would "not seek nor accept" the nomination of the party.

This not only surprised the viewers, it astonished the journalists who had been given the speech--but not the last paragraphs. What happened then was that broadcasters on all three networks sputtered and stammered for a while having had no preparation for the most significant part of the talk.

At the time everyone speculated on why Johnson who had clobbered Goldwater in the 1964 election would take himself out of the front runner position for another term.  I'm reading a book about Lyndon Johnson now.  It might take me until the election to finish it as it is a fat book and while well written, every page is dense with information and it is taking me a long time just to get through a few pages.

What I have discovered so far has been illuminating.  Apparently, Johnson was a person who simply hated to lose. This fact is at odds with another fact--he wanted desperately to be president. How someone can aspire for the highest office and at the same time be averse to what is a likely event at some steps along the way, is difficult to fathom. Yet, supposedly, the man hated to lose.  I am only 70 pages into the book, but I wonder if his decision to step down was because--in the face of mounting anti-war sentiment even within his own party--he thought he might lose.

In sport we often hear about players who are great because "they hate to lose."  Yesterday while watching the Wimbledon final we heard talk about this player or that, who excelled because of their will to win and aversion to loss.  But in sport those who win must acknowledge that losses are inevitable and nobody but nobody--even a Michael Jordan--can assume that they will always win.  In sport, heroes become heroes because they put the potential for loss on the line. True champions would never decline an invitation to compete.

President Johnson, like all of us, was a complex person.  A southerner who voted against every civil rights legislation prior to 1957, he became the president who was able to pass the most meaningful civil rights bill of the twentieth century in the mid 60s.  Johnson, however, also was a person who sent your brothers to war in Vietnam with a real sense of how futile the enterprise was and how corrupt the South Vietnamese--our alleged allies--were.

I'm interested in finding out more about this complex person (though the length of the book is daunting).  Regardless, I am not sure I will ever be able to comprehend let alone condone how we continued to escalate the war at the cost of so many deaths to young people. I knew from nothing in 1968 when I went to watch that speech. Maybe I still know from nothing, but I know a little bit more than I did then.  Athletes step up. Johnson stepped up with domestic legislation, but he stepped away when it came to the war, and it cost the baby boomers, our parents, and potential offspring, dearly.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Rondo and Ray Allen

Yesterday Boston fans were sad to read that Ray Allen had signed with the Miami Heat.  Sad because Ray Allen was a class act and a consummate professional.  Sad also because the Miami Heat with another three point shooter will be dangerous.  If you recall the final game against the Thunder when Shane Battier and Mike Miller were hitting uncontested threes, you can just imagine the problems for defending teams when they focus on Wade/James leaving a sharpshooter like Ray Allen alone to score.

I read that one of the reasons that Allen decided to leave for Miami was because he did not like playing with Rajon Rondo.  Perhaps I should leave for Miami as well.  Rajon Rondo for all his potential is a player who will wow you with his capabilities and preclude championships because of his deficiencies. Strictly from Chelm 50% of the time, despite being by the accounts of his coach, a very bright man.  When coaches talk about how players "do all the little things" that help you win, Ray Allen is one of those players.  Rondo is not.

The Celtics would be wise to deal Rondo for a talented rebounder and replacement point guard.  Even those who contend that Rondo has terrific skills--and he does--and helps you win games, you do not help your team if you alienate a class act and great player like Ray Allen.  Basketball is, truly, a team sport. The whole can be either greater or less than the sum of its parts.  A talented point guard who discourages a shooter, renders the combination of the guard and shooter unequal to the cumulative values of the players.  And in this case the behavior of the guard was a factor in actually subtracting that shooter from the picture.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Today tennis fans around the world watched Serena Williams win the women's Wimbledon singles championship.  Later in the day dedicated fans saw Serena and her sister Venus win the Wimbledon doubles championship.  However, the most stunning Williams achievement that the tv audience heard about today was related to neither of these events. During the broadcast one of the announcers reported that the sisters' father, Richard Williams, was a newlywed and would soon, at 70, be a father again.

In Vegas, I'm guessing that Serena individually, and Serena and Venus in the doubles, would have been favorites.  I'm not sure they were taking odds on dad's chances.

Congratulations to the Williamses.

unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable

The Scranton commission that explored the shootings at Kent State University in 1970 concluded that the National Guard's actions that May 4, 1970 day were "unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable."

They were. I have done some reading about the event and there are no other words to describe what they did.

Then why did they do it? Why would anyone do something that was unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable? And why were those who fired never punished.

Members of the Guard to this day claim they were provoked, that there were snipers, and/or the students were throwing rocks at them. Not one of the four students who were shot that day could have reached the shooters with a thrown rock. I visited the campus recently and saw the memorials for Miller, Scheuer, Krause, and Schroeder. In the parking lot where they were slain, there are gravelike markers that are lit all night to commemorate the tragedy. I went to the spot where the Guard fired. Willie Mays could not have thrown a rock from where life ended for the closest slain student to where the Guardmembers were standing.

Unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.

It's going to be hot today in Boston. I read that it will be something near 97 degrees.  I have some cleaning to do in this heat and the basement needs to be picked up. The external air conditioning unit for the upstairs makes a racket that is annoying and I need to contact the fellow who installed it.  We are supposed to get some serious thunderstorms later in the afternoon.  It likely will be a trying day for a Saturday.  And the four students who were murdered at Kent State in 1970 would love to have had a string of forty plus years of such days.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Balls Out

Yesterday I saw some of my colleagues sharing coffee and talk outside of a campus store.  I bought something to consume and joined the three of them.  Four professors sitting sipping morning beverages.

At one point one of the school vice presidents walked by.  Tony, the least reserved of my colleagues, spotted the vp, rose from his chair, and shouted, Balls Out, within earshot of a number of undergraduates.

This startled me as I was under the impression that this expression had something of a risque origin, and probably not the kind of thing you yell to a university vice president mid morning.  Then I thought, not at all for the first time, that I probably did not know what the phrase meant.  This happens with increasing regularity of late.  I read something on line or hear something and I either have no idea what it means, or suspect that what I thought it meant could not possibly be what it does.  I received a note from an acquaintance about a year ago with lol as a peculiar and, in context, non sensical sign off.  Why would this peripheral acquaintance write "lots of love".  I asked around to someone with whom I can confide my ignorance and discovered that lol just means laughing out loud.  A couple of days ago I was chatting on line when a friend signed off ttfn.  I could not imagine what that was, so I looked it up and found out that it was a benign good bye. Ta Ta for Now.

So, yesterday after Tony shouted Balls Out to the veep, (and my other two cronies seemed to be unfazed), I kind of knew I had it wrong.  This morning I looked it up in what is called the Urban Dictionary.  Much of what appears in this dictionary is R or X rated, and while I have not been living under a rock, far removed from my regular word choices.

 I think "urban" in urban dictionary is an interesting euphemism and inaccurate. I grew up in Brooklyn until I was a preteen, moved to suburban New York, and have lived for the last 31 years in Boston--not exactly a cornfield.  Yet, it has seemed to me at various points in my life that people who have lived in cornfields were far more "urban" in terms of their esoteric street language than I was.  The men and women I met when I went to Albany for school who were from the upstate New York country taught me a thing or two. A woman I know who grew up in Brooklyn and then went to school in the midwest told me that the gals from the prairie in her dormitory could spin a tale or two that would not be found in Dick and Jane readers.  So the urban in urban dictionary is likely a misnomer.

This all said, I found out in the Urban Dictionary, that Balls Out has as its origin nothing vulgar.  It means to go all out.  The usage in the Urban Dictionary to explain the meaning goes like this. "I thought I would slack off in the class and get a B, but Harry went balls out and got an A."

Apparently the Vice President had given a speech to a group that had my colleague Tony as a member.  In it, the veep referred to his days as a swimmer, when he asked his coach what strategy he should use when about to compete with a rival in a meet. The coach looked at him and shook his head.  "No strategy," he said, "go balls out."

Tony was yelling Balls Out to affirm to the veep that he had heard his message and that the key to success might not be planning but to go balls out.

Right now Roger Federer is going balls out in his semi final match with Novak Djokivic.  He is up a break in the fourth set having won 2 out of the first 3.  Djokovic was down love forty, 1-4, but then he went balls out to give himself a chance.  Knowing Djokovic the match will not be secure for Federer until the last point.

In sports, I think Balls Out is often the way to go. You have to use your head as well.  When I was decent at tennis (and those days judging by a performance last night are way over) I used to love playing guys who tried to hit the ball as hard as they could all the time.  Unless they were a full notch better than I was, I would always win because I'd let them gas themselves out and return most of the shots before they started missing. So Balls Out has to be complemented with strategy.

However, I do think that we might want to default to Balls Out assuming we tend to use our head on occasion. In life, love, sports, work,--effort and energy typically is the way to seize the day.

Federer has just won in four sets.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Where do the missing socks go?

I have a drawer where I keep about 9 socks whose partners have disappeared.  In another drawer I have about five more. These are socks that have lost their partners very recently and I'm hopeful the other will turn up maybe in a second hamper or in a t shirt where its clung when it came out of the drier.  In short time they may join the orphans in the other drawer.

I know that others have experienced the same thing and I find this sock to be a sometimes funny and sometimes frustrating phenomenon.  I

A number of years ago I had had it, and went out and bought enough underwear for a platoon.  About the same time someone around here had just about had it listening to me complain about how my socks were disappearing and the next thing I knew there were enough socks to shut me up.

They are gone again. I have to go out tomorrow and buy more of both.

Let's think about this. Where do our socks go?  Is this some deity's way of relaying a message about the importance of unions, or the inevitability of unions disintegrating.  Is this some way of reminding us that it is essential we not let go of those we love?

Where does our underwear go? Socks, okay, maybe when you grab the laundry from the drier you inadvertently leave one between the washer and drier.  Maybe sometime in the gym, you pack up, and toss your dress socks in the bag, and drive home sockless, not realizing that you haven't thrown both socks inthe bag.  But underwear.  How come after buying several three packs in a I-will-never- have-to-buy-underwear-again mood, today I was down to only a few pair.

In a drawer I keep for who knows what reason, I have single socks that are waiting somehow for their partners to show up.  There are probably 1000 people in Boston who are waiting for the love of their lives to return and stop their silly dallying with a mismatched good for nothing stocking.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Maujer Boys

The drill when we visited my grandmother was always the same. Dad would drop us off, and mom, Bobby, and me would start the visit while dad searched Williamsburg for a parking spot.  Fifteen minutes after we arrived, dad would ring the bell.  When we left, the procedure happened in reverse.  Dad left early, told us to wait about ten-fifteen minutes depending on how far away he had parked, and then the three of us would walk to the curb where he'd pick us up.

The first family car we had is the first one I remember. It was a 1950 black Ford, two door sedan.  It was a standard with the shift on the wheel.  You started the car by pushing a button near the radio.  For 11 years it was the family car. When I was 11, the Ford was losing it.  We took it in the summers up to the Poconos which was, for it, a long haul.  In 1959 dad drove to a new job which was a daily 70 mile trip. The Ford was getting long in the tooth, so we splurged and my folks bought a brand new spanking white Rambler.

The Rambler was a big deal.  We had just moved bought a house in the suburbs and money was not raining down on us.  Still, it was time to replace the Ford and the Rambler looked so fresh and new.

We visit my grandmother sometime after we bought the new car. Dad goes to get the car. We wait by the curb and it is taking an awful long time for dad to come and get us. Finally, we see him, but he doesn't have the car.  He tells us to come with him. We walk a few blocks and see the Rambler.

Mom lets out a yelp when she sees the car.  Dad just stares at it.  On the brand spanking new we just paid a fortune for it Rambler, words are scrawled with black magic marker.  "The Maujer Boys, Joe, Tony, Ace, ..."  I don't actually remember the specific names, but I remember the Maujer Boys being scrawled on the car. Maujer Street or Avenue was near where my grandmother lived.  Some street toughs had gotten a kick out of spray painting or magic marking the new car.

The ride back was an hour in good times and this ride back was a real long hour.  As soon as we pulled in the driveway, my mother went into the little laundry room adjacent to the garage. She got a rag and some Ajax like cleaner and started scrubbing the scrawl.  I cannot relay how the knot in my stomach went away when the paint came off the car.

Williamsburg was a tough neighborhood. Kids who lived there were often in trouble.  When I was in college I took a course that dealt with urban delinquents that discussed why kids who were bereft naturally committed random acts of vandalism.  The message seemed to be that it was understandable given the poverty.

I can't recall how I felt at the time I read the articles in college, but I know how I have felt for several years now, if not then. I have no sympathy for the Maujer boys.  None.  I have no sympathy for them for several reasons.  One is that what they damaged was not theirs nor was it owned by someone who had done any disservice. Second, and more significantly, for every one of the Maujer boys who was disillusioned with life and committed the vandalism,  there were as many if not five times as many kids who were similarly disillusioned, but knew it was not their right to take out their bitterness on someone else.

Is this related to the world of sports? Well just peripherally.  On a regular basis those who follow sports read about one athlete or another who has been arrested, because of some illicit behavior. We read about a draft pick who is talented, but the team is taking the risk because the player has been a discipline problem. Discipline problem does not mean here that they come late to meetings. Discipline problem means they robbed someone, or beat up their spouse, or waved a knife at someone who challenged their masculinity.Excuses are often provided for these miscreants.  The offender grew up poor. The offender's family members were all hoodlums.

Not much sympathy coming from this quarter. For every poor kid that waved a knife at a roommate or a girlfriend, there are one hundred poor kids who never would, because it is wrong to wave a knife at a roommate.

Sure, it is possible if I were to meet a Maujer boy today, he would express remorse, and be genuinely contrite.  And I would accept such a genuine apology. We all do things we are ashamed of.  However, we should never condone reprehensible behavior because of a litany of bogus explanations. We have all taken our hits. Every reader of this blog, can list a dozen times when some event created real pain, physical or emotional. How many of you have ever, with or without a sense of justification, beaten up a stranger or waved a knife at a frightened spouse, or felt entitled to announce that you were a Maujer Boy--on someone else's property.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My point exactly

Old joke.  You probably have heard it.  95 year old man walks into the doctor's office and with some pride tells the doc that his 19 year old bride is pregnant.  The doctor tells the man to sit down.  "Let me tell you a story" he says.  The man sits and listens.  "There is an elephant hunter" starts the doctor. "The elephant hunter goes out to get the elephants one day, but instead of grabbing his rifle, grabs his umbrella.  The hunter gets to the area where elephants lurk, spots one, takes out what he thinks is a rifle, but is his umbrella, and shoots the elephant.  The elephant is dead."

The 95 year old man snickers, looks to his left and to his right, smiles at the doctor and says with some condescension.  "Doc, that's a ridiculous story. You can't shoot an elephant with an umbrella. Someone else must have shot the elephant."

The doctor nods, points his finger at the 95 year old man with the 19 year old pregnant wife and says, " My point exactly."

In November I was on a jury.  It lasted a week ending just before Thanksgiving.  The case involved a woman who had gone in for gall bladder surgery.  When the doctor began the operation he saw that the woman's system was unusual.  He could not tell what was the common bile duct and, as I was educated, one never wants to sever the common bile duct.  The common bile duct is the key conduit through which, and which allows, our bile to be eliminated.  Damage the common bile duct and, in effect, the bile has no route through which to exit. 

Not knowing which duct was the common bile duct, the doctor puts a weck clamp on a duct to allow him to test if it was indeed the common bile duct.  It was.  He then knew not to cut there and that he had to change what he intended to do and rebuild the woman's biliary system.

The lawyers for the woman claimed that when the doctor placed the weck clamp on the common bile duct he eliminated any chance of doing anything other than rebuilding the biliary system.  And the lawyers claimed that the method he selected for rebuilding the system jeopardized the woman's health.

As it turned out, months after the operation, the woman suffered a stricture; the rebuilt system that would facilitate taking the bile out was not functioning. The toxins were literally poisoning her system and she nearly perished. She prevailed but was suing the doctor for a year of lost life because of his compromising the common bile duct, and the choice he made for rebuilding the biliary system.

When questioned, the doctor--a very highly regarded Boston physician--claimed that he had done nothing out of the ordinary by using the weck clamp. He regretted that he had placed it on the common bile duct, but asserted that he had no real choice given the complexity of the woman's system and his need to discover what duct was what. When asked why he had selected the method he used to rebuild the system, he said quite candidly that it was the method he was most familiar with and that it was within what was considered protocol.  One expert supported the decision. Another thought it was unwise.

For some reason this case crept into my consciousness today, now 7 months after it ended and we the jurors rendered a decision. I thought of it as a metaphor.

We have emotional bile in our systems as well. Some of this bile just comes with the territory of being human. Others we produce because of decisions that turn out to be unwise. When we stop, look, and test, and see what is what, we find ourselves staring at the challenge of figuring out a way to purge the bile in our systems that we have accrued and are accruing.

We can select the best method for healing ourselves, or alternatively proceed using a method that is acceptable and easier for us because there is less immediate discomfort. 

The doctor was found not guilty and I think, given the nuances of this case that we heard for five very long days, appropriately so. But are we innocent if we choose a second rate method for addressing our emotional bile. What on the surface seems to be a defensible response might result in an accumulation of additional bile which could render us very sick.  

I was thinking of this today not as it relates to the world of sports. However, with reports about Penn State again surfacing, and increased attention to concussions affecting player health, I think the metaphor applies to the world of sport as well as to our more serious personal issues. When we come to the fork in the road, and know which way to go, sometimes we have to take the road with the bumps. You can't shoot an elephant with an umbrella. My point exactly.