A Change Is Gonna Come

It has been an unsettled time for Catholic schools in Indianapolis. Unfortunately rather than watching other schools deal with a church leadership that is hopelessly out of touch with the times, it is now affecting our family directly.

Cathedral High School announced Sunday that after two years of working with the Archdiocese to resolve a personnel matter, they were caving[1] and choosing to “separate” from a teacher who is in a same-sex marriage. In a letter that went out to all Cathedral families Sunday afternoon, the school board said that the Archbishop threatened to remove Cathedral’s Catholic identity, which would prevent them from celebrating the sacraments, including holding masses on campus, and would also prevent Cathedral from calling itself a Catholic school, which would in turn remove the school’s tax-exempt status.

This came on the heels of Brebeuf, Indianapolis’ Jesuit high school, losing its Catholic identity on Friday as a result of their refusal to fire a gay teacher. Brebeuf is in a slightly different position as they are run by the Jesuits rather than the Archdiocese. The Jesuit leadership has offered vocal, public support of the Brebeuf board and questioned the Archdiocese’s decision.

This all began last fall when Roncalli, Indy’s south side Catholic high school, placed two school counselors on administrative leave until they renounced their same-sex marriages. The moves were made on orders of the Indy Archdiocese.

We also heard a rumor this weekend – at this point totally unconfirmed by anyone who would know for sure – that a teacher at St. P’s will not be returning next year because he is in a same-sex marriage. I fear a little for our main priest, who has voiced support for gay causes.

Clearly the Indianapolis Archbishop is on a mission.

I always struggle with how to handle issues like this. I have no problem criticizing many policies of the Catholic Church, or any church for that matter. But I do have a hard time understanding where the lines for my criticism fall. We pay tuition at two Catholic schools and send a monthly payment to a church in the archdiocese, I volunteer in the school and am a member of the athletic committee, so I am part of the community. But since I am not Catholic, I wonder what right I have to criticize the stances of an organization I’m not officially a part of.

But in a time when it is increasingly difficult to find people who have the gift for connecting with kids, who are willing to deal with all the shit that comes with being a teacher, who can live on the frankly embarrassing wages teaching offers,[2] it strikes me as counter to the mission of every school, Catholic or otherwise, to run people out of their jobs for the crime of wanting legal acknowledgement of and protection for their love for another human being.

It is more infuriating to see this come in an era when society as a whole is racing toward full equal rights for people of all sexual orientations. In an age where the leader of the Catholic church has stated that the church should accept and love gay people no differently than anyone else. When the American Catholic church has often been ahead of the Vatican in opening up to gay parishioners.

However, it seems that the Indianapolis Archbishop wants to carve out a niche as the man who took a stand against the Church accepting gay marriage. This seems like a decision that will only please conservatives in the church hierarchy who are trying to counter Pope Francis’ liberalization efforts, and people who will be dead in 10–15 years. At the same time it will continue to drive away the younger generation that the Church has been desperate to find ways of bringing back. This feels like a decision that may have seemed like a good idea to a small number of people when it was made, but down the road will look like a monumentally dumb and shortsighted choice that did more harm than good to the organization the Archbishop was trying to “protect.”

I do see some good in this, though. There has been an overwhelming response to the decision. My Facebook feed is filled almost exclusively with outrage at what Cathedral and the Archdiocese have done. Different people are laying blame in different ways, but the common message is that this was a horrible decision that will hurt Cathedral and its students. A few families who have written a lot of exceptionally large checks to Cathedral and churches within the Archdiocese over the years have come out strongly against the decision. Ultimately that is what could move the needle, if some of those funds that have only been promised but not yet delivered get placed in hold until there is a reconsideration.

One current teacher at Cathedral posted that she is divorced and remarried without getting an annulment from the church, which puts her in violation of the same morals clause in her contract the gay employees are charged with violating. She closed her post with “#FIREMETOO.” I can’t imagine how much courage it took to post something like that. There have to be dozens and dozens of teachers in her same situation across Archdiocese schools that will not be targeted by the Archbishop simply because they are married to someone of the opposite sex.

I was most pleased by how our girls responded. We got the email after dropping C off at camp, so it was just M and L with us. They both immediately expressed their confusion and anger. “That’s so stupid! It doesn’t make any sense! The only reason they should ever fire a teacher is if they are a bad teacher or hurt someone!” We’ve spent their entire lives teaching them not to judge people because of how they look, what language they speak, their culture, or who they love. When forced to confront the issue directly, it’s heartening to know that they can put those lessons into practice immediately.

I also think the vast majority of the Cathedral faculty support their colleague and believe this decision is wrong. I am confident that they will teach our daughters values that are more consistent with our world view than the Archbishop’s retrograde philosophy. It is that knowledge that allows me to remain comfortable with sending our girls there.

Despite those glimmers, it is a sad and frustrating moment. In general I think society is headed in the right direction, toward the time when everyone who pays taxes receives the same rights and protections under the law. There are still far too many extremely powerful organizations, though, that are dragging their feet and refusing to join the majority view that isolating and hating people is wrong. That this is occurring in the sphere of secondary education, where Catholic high schools pride themselves on having an advantage over public institutions in how they challenge young adults to broaden their perspectives, learn and practice empathy, and live moral lives where all God’s children are treated with love and respect is particularly disheartening.

  1. My term, not theirs.  ↩
  2. I had a conversation with a teacher at a Catholic school this past winter in which I learned how much this teacher made. It almost made me want to cry at how little this person, who has tons of education and experience, clears each year. Especially when you factor in all the bullshit that comes with dealing with kids all day.  ↩

Friday Playlist

Happy Summer Solstice! 

“Cuddly Toy” – Roachford. I know I’ve written about this song at least a couple times over the past 16 years. How I bought the cassette single right before I graduated from high school 30 – THIRTY!!! – years ago and listened to it non-stop that week. And how when I got to college someone “borrowed” it and I never saw it again. Then, years later when file sharing and music downloading arrived I tried to find the song but could never remember the name of the artist until I heard it randomly sometime about 10 years ago. Anyway, someway or another I was reminded of it this week and made sure to add it into my Spotify library.

“Wishing Well” – Terence Trent D’Arby. I heard this on Sirius this week and started wondering if TTD was the most disappointing artist of the 1980s. This was a monster hit, and deservedly so. In an era where music was all mixed up he found a niche that was all his own. James Brown loomed large over his sound, but he was far from just a new age JB. TTD was, arguably, the most brash artist of the decade, basically telling everyone he was the greatest thing to come along in the entire history of music. There was so much promise on this song and then it all kind of went POOF and he disappeared, never to enjoy the success he saw with this song, let alone do bigger things. Hearing this song, and having those thoughts, got me inspired and I listened to his entire debut album, Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby the other day. It was good. But it also didn’t punch me the way I expected, loaded with tons of “How were these never hits?!?!” songs. Oh well. A single moment in the spotlight is better than none.

“Magic” – The Cars. One of the great summer songs of the 1980s kicked off the greatest summer in the history of pop music.

“Sleep All Summer” – Crooked Fingers. A summer staple on these playlists. Just a wonderful song from a vastly underrated band from the ‘00s.

We Are Living In A Society!

I’m not usually big on complaining about what the younger generation is doing. As times change so do behaviors and accepted norms. I think everyone needs to be flexible and realize what was fine when we were 20 may have totally changed by the time we’re 40, 60, etc. But I heard this story on the local news this morning – while checking to see how many hours of today would be lost to rain – and had to shake my head.

Poll shows many Millennials, Gen Zers aren’t wearing deodorant

For fuck’s sake, people! Basic hygiene is not up for discussion. No one needs to be sending out waves of body odor for the rest of the world to walk through.

I had a roommate for a year in college that refused to wear deodorant because he said it caused Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately this was in a large house and he was often too busy in architecture studio to come home. But the kid did get a little ripe.

What really pisses me off are the people who come to the gym without taking a whiff of their bodies first. Tuesday morning there was an older woman – Baby Boomer! – at the gym who has absolutely kicking. It was that terrible, haven’t washed for a couple days in the summer smell. And she was sweating her ass off, so the odor kept getting worse and worse. Finally, after I literally had to stifle a gag when I was two stations away from her, I cut my workout short and left. She otherwise seemed like a nice enough lady. And good for her for getting out and trying to stay in shape as she approached 60 (I’m guessing). But, good Lord, did you not notice the odor coming from your pits before you left the house?

It kills me how many stinky people there are at the gym. Do people not understand that whatever aromas are on your body grow proportionately stronger as you increase your body temperature? Sometimes the people who have doused themselves in cologne or perfume are just as bad as the BO folks as they get deep into their workouts.

There should be a simple series of steps before you go to the gym. If you haven’t bathed in awhile, take a wash cloth, put some warm water and soap on it, and give your nooks and crannies a quick wipe. Dry them off and apply deodorant or anti-perspirant. Even if you bathed less than a day ago, go ahead and give your pits a test sniff. If there’s even a hint of something growing in there, a swipe of deodorant will knock that shit down enough not to gross out the people around you.

Easy, peasy. Let’s go, people!

Summer So Far

Here we are on June 19 and I can already say it’s been the strangest summer in some time. Mostly because it really doesn’t feel like summer yet.

The big issue has been the weather. It was a moderately wet spring to begin with, then Mother Nature lost her damn mind in the middle of May. It’s rained something like every 4.5 hours since then. Every time you think the sun is going to come out and things are going to begin to dry out, storm clouds begin piling up on the horizon and racing in. Last weekend Mother Nature cracked her knuckles and really gave us two big middle fingers, dropping over eight inches of rain in several areas near here, while almost the entire area got well over four inches of rain. If you were to try walking in our yard right now, you might lose a foot when it sinks beyond the ankle.

So most days the girls and I have been sitting around doing nothing. I feel kind of bad when S gets home every night and asks the girls what they did that day and they answer, “Nothing.” But we just spent a lot of money in San Diego; I’m sticking to the Internet we’ve already paid for for awhile rather than bowling or trips to the mall.

Another downside to this weather is it has delayed a rather significant landscaping project we have going on. It is a project that was expected to enhance our enjoyment of summer pretty significantly. Howevah…we are currently three weeks behind schedule so the girls and I are just kind of looking out the window, dreaming of the day it will be done so we can start doing what we expected to do this summer. The good news is we have had a dry day so far and one of the biggest, final steps is being knocked out as I type this.

Yeah, I’m being coy. A selected few folks know about the project. If it wraps up in the next 48 hours, as we really hope it does, I’ll break shit down for you next week.

We did have a rather big change to our routine this week. M decided that she wants to try running cross country next year. This was purely a social decision. One of her teachers at St. P’s told the entire eighth grade class that a great way to get settled into high school is to go through summer conditioning for a sport. It would help the kids, the teacher said, meet some of their future classmates and teachers so they didn’t start the first day of the fall semester surrounded by strangers. M’s best friend is running, as are two or three other St. P’s friends, along with a few girls she knows from other middle schools.

Originally she thought about going through summer conditioning with volleyball, which really worried us. The CHS program is very strong, a ton of girls go out, and M has never played club, summer leagues, etc. We realized it might be fun in the summer, but she had zero chance to make the team. We did not want her to get crushed just as her freshman year was starting. Fortunately a couple of her friends came to the same realization, one of them found out that cross country is a no-cut sport and you can talk while you run, so they decided to give it a shot.

I was very curious how this would go. She infamously thought about running cross country in fifth grade and couldn’t make it two blocks on a training run before she quit. She has some speed, but I wondered if she was strong enough both mentally and physically to deal with the training. We’ve been up at 6:00 every morning this week to get her to practice and she’s done just fine. In fact, last night when I asked her what days she wanted to run the rest of the week – summer workouts are 100% voluntary and absences are allowed without question – she told me, with a sheepish smile on her face, that she was really enjoying it. That made me very happy. She’s been lucky to almost always be on good teams, but has never been a great athlete. We know it bothers her that her two sisters are known around school and in friend and family circles as being athletes. I’m glad that she’s trying something new, seems to be doing fine, and has already found enjoyment in it.

The only bummer is that 6:00 alarm. She decided to run with the summer school crew so she can be with her friends.[1] I was hoping she would have wanted to go in the regular session that starts later in the morning. But being with her friends motivates her and adds to the fun, so I’m fine with it. I usually go walk around the track and listen to podcasts while they are running, so it’s not a bad start to the day. Especially since it has been so dreary and cool so far. I’m sure we’ll have some mornings in July when it already feels like 90 and I’ll be as sweaty as she is after my walk.

Off to shake my fist at these clouds that are beginning to build in the southwest sky…

  1. She could not enroll in summer school – which apparently everyone takes now – because of our vacation.  ↩

Reader’s Notebook, 6/18/19

A few books notes for you.

Northland: A 4000-Mile Journey Along America’s Forgotten Border – Porter Fox
Fox travels the border between the United States and Canada from east to west, beginning on the coast of Maine and ending on the beaches of Washington. Along the way he hitches rides with fishermen in Maine and on a cargo barge that travels the Great Lakes. He paddles a canoe through the St. Lawrence river area. He joins a seasoned explorer in the lake country of Minnesota. He drives the vast flat lands that stretch across the Dakotas and Montana. Through his trip he shares stories of the first Europeans to explore and settle the lands, the government workers who marked the border over the decades, and ties those stories to the current state of the lands and people who live on them.

Sabrina – Nick Drnaso
My first graphic novel of the year. I recall one review said that this book literally haunted the reviewer’s dreams, which set a certain expectation for what the book should be.

Drnaso centers his story on the disappearance of a young woman named Sabrina a few blocks from her home, her eventual death, and the impact that has on her boyfriend, the people who attempt to help him, and eventually on the entire country. It morphs into a much broader critique of the state of the world as he looks into conspiracy theories, the way we consume and spread information, and how the individual can get crushed by society.

It is a bleak and unsettling book. It also has some very strange sections that I, honestly, could not figure out. I wasn’t sure what to make of the end of the book. His art has an indistinct style, too, which made it tough at times to know which character was currently at the center of the panel. Or perhaps that was just because I don’t read a lot of graphic novels and if things aren’t very clear I can’t keep up with them.

The Parade – David Eggers
Oh, how I once enjoyed Eggers’ writing. He once offered us some of the most daring and interesting prose of anyone in his generation. He’s used his fame to push worthy causes and help others. However, along the way he lost his fastball and his recent work has come off as lazy and well below the heights of his early work. And yet, when I saw this at the library, I was drawn to it. It certainly helped that it is a rather thin book. “If it sucks, at least it won’t take me very long to get through it,” was my thought. Which ended up being the straight truth, Ruth.

Eggers writes about two contract workers who are sent to a fictional country somewhere in southeastern Europe that is coming out of a long civil war. The men are tasked with laying down the first paved road that connects the country’s southern hinterlands to the capital. Their work, it is promised, will allow the people in what were rebel strongholds the chance to access the bigger, better economy, education, culture, and healthcare of the nation’s capital.

The project lead is a sober, dedicated man who refuses to stray from the protocols placed upon the project. He spends his days piloting a state-of-the-art machine that can lay an asphalt road quicker than any other similar machine. His partner, on the other hand, sees little need for boundaries or regulations. His task is to clear the path in front of the machine of people, large impediments, and solve other mini-crises so that the asphalt can continue to get laid down unimpeded. He is more interested in jetting off on his motorcycle to explore strange areas and interact with the locals.

As you would expect, his journeys lead to trouble of various kinds, the lead is forced to jettison the schedule, which causes him to accept that there is more to life than following instructions. And his partner sees that there is danger in living life without boundaries.

All this leads to one of the most predictable endings I can remember. And, again, it came across as the lazy, easy choice for Eggers. I wondered if I had missed something so I skimmed a few reviews after I finished. One critic called the book’s final paragraph one of the most offensive things she had ever read. I think that’s a little extreme. But it is all the proof that I need that I don’t need to read another Eggers book.

Four Days in July: Tom Watson, the 2009 Open Championship, and a Tournament for the Ages – Jim Huber
I grabbed this – the tale of Tom Watson’s amazing run to nearly winning the 2009 British Open – as a book for our trip to San Diego. I started it the Sunday before we left and ended up blowing through it in about 36 hours.

That’s not to say it is a great book. Rather that it reads pretty quickly and isn’t that lengthy to begin with.

Many of you will remember Huber, who worked for CNN and the Turner networks for years as their resident “essayist.” He was the guy who rolled in for touchy-feely pieces in the midst of other sports coverage. The book reads exactly like an extended one of those essays. It’s schmaltzy and overly-dramatic, but given that it is about a nearly 60-year-old man coming within a shot of winning one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world, the tone fits the subject matter.

While the book focuses on that July weekend, Huber does offer background into both Watson’s life and that of Stewart Cink, who bested him in the playoff. There’s plenty of history of the tournament and how Watson came to be one of the Open’s greatest champions with his dominance there in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Huber’s dissection of Watson’s final hole of regulation, when he made a couple tough choices that both cost him, are deep and do well to show how Watson made the right choices. But I did like how Joe Posnanski handled what happened to Watson on the 72nd hole better than Huber.

US Open with A Dash of NBA Finals Notes

I think I firmly established my old man status by watching approximately 800 hours of golf this weekend. Now, it was the US Open, which is always big. Before we had a lake home and spent most of our June weekends there, I was still watching the Open for hours on Father’s Day weekend. And Topeka, Kansas’ own Gary Woodland leading for over half of the tournament, from his late Friday charge through his memorable back nine Sunday to win his first major, also helped.

Obviously I’m thrilled with Woodland’s win. It has certainly fueled my rediscovery of golf that he is one of the most talented players on the tour. It’s nice that he has a major win to elevate his status from just another guy with talent in a sport that is filled with those guys. His round Sunday was filled with some nervous moments. At times his game off the tee resembled mine: no idea what direction it might go. But, unlike a guy he is often compared to, Dustin Johnson, he found a way to recover from every mistake, or at least limit the damage. Along the way he hit two shots that will go down in US Open history, and be shown each time the championship comes back to Pebble Beach.

His three wood from the fairway on 14 had people Tweeting the Sam Cassell Big Balls GIF. That was just an amazing shot, up the hill, over a bunker, into a tight pin location, as his wheels were getting a little wobbly. That birdie tuned a one-shot lead into a two-shot cushion, largely eliminating Justin Rose and making it very tough for Brooks Koepka to have a chance.

And his chip off the green on 17, which he nearly holed, came after one of his worst shots of the day, an absolutely flubbed iron off the tee that came up approximately 175 yards short of the pin. Yet he calmly clipped it, without taking a divot, and left himself with a couple feet for a gutsy par. On the No Laying Up message board, someone posted that the average golfer attempting that shot would have hit the ball into the ocean or taken a huge crater out of the green. Or both.


And then Woodland closed in style, drilling a 30-feet birdie on 18 after three shots that were almost too safe coming up the fairway.

His win was made more impressive by the run that Brooks Koepka made at him. The two-time defending champion, and winner of the last two PGA titles, birdied four of his first five holes which made it feel inevitable that the best golfer in the sport would catch and pass him no matter what Gary did. It felt like the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January, where Woodland entered the final round with a lead, shot a terrific 68 – one of only two rounds in the 60s – and yet still lost because Xander Schauffele dropped a course-record 62 on him. Sunday Brooks was going low and there was nothing Woodland could do about it.

Until we had that crazy 30–45 minutes where all of the contenders kept fucking up. Koepka would hit it into the rough. Woodland found sand on the right. Rose found sand on the left. Repeat. It was a comedy of errors as all three men seemed to wilt under pressure. As he did all weekend, Woodland found a way to make pars out of bogeys, and limit his bogeys to single shots lost rather than multiples. It was just enough to keep Koepka from ever catching him.

Good, entertaining golf all around. Although I do love the bloody US Opens where no one can break par and all the players are complaining about how unfair the conditions are.

I admit that if Woodland was not a Kansan and a Jayhawk, I would have been pulling hard for Koepka and history. Woodland is kind of the classic boring golfer. He has a huge game, but never shows much emotion. Hell, other than raising his arms and giving a fist pump after his final putt dropped, he still didn’t look a guy who had just won his first major. I think I’d be pissing myself where he remained cool and blank. But fact is he has a Jayhawk on his bag, comes from my home state, and hasn’t seemed to say or do anything super dumb, so I’m on board with him.

I’ve learned that having takes about golf means you need to have takes about the coverage. Fox did much, much better than CBS would have done and outpaced NBC’s efforts as well. Thursday and Friday were absolutely tremendous, exactly the way golf should be covered. Coverage of a wide range of golfers, reduced commercial breaks, some real quality analysis, not too many fluff pieces. Saturday and Sunday skewed more toward traditional coverage, but they still did a better job than CBS or NBC would have done. They’ve come a long way from the first couple years they had the US Open when it seemed like no one had any idea what they were doing.

Some quick words about the NBA Finals.

L is funny. She has favorite sports teams, but she can’t watch them play. Or at least not for very long. Whether it’s the US Women’s soccer team, the Royals, or the Warriors, she’ll sit down to watch a game with me, get antsy, and quickly give up, telling me, “Will you let me know who wins?” The funny thing is when I tell her one of her teams loses, she gets all frustrated. So she was very frustrated as the Raptors and the Hoops Gods defeated the Warriors.

Yeah, I said it. All props to the Raptors for winning a title I don’t think anyone gave them a chance to win. But that was clearly Hoops Gods in action. How else do you explain Kevin Durant getting hurt not once, but twice? If he plays and is healthy the entire series, the Warriors win in five or six. How else do you explain Klay Thompson, who was playing the best basketball of his life, blowing out his ACL on a fairly innocuous play in an elimination game? The Hoops Gods were either sick of the Warriors or punishing them for hubris. I’m pretty sure if game six had gone to OT Draymond Green would have gotten another T so that he would have been suspended for game seven. And if game seven was close, 100% that Steph would have gotten hurt. The Warriors were flat not winning.

So L was bummed and the Dubs’ dynasty likely comes to an end. It’s pretty crazy that they were arguably the greatest block in NBA history and a bad calf muscle away from winning five straight titles. That really shouldn’t happen in the modern NBA.

Friday Playlist

Back at it after a week off.

“Call Me Snowflake” – Middle Kids. MK’s new EP came out a couple weeks back. I don’t know why I was surprised, but it is really, really good. I guess I figured since they had released a couple solid singles from it in advance, there wouldn’t be much more to it. But turns out that it is fantastic front-to-back. Proving they are as good as anyone making music at the moment. I like the out-of-nowhere, mid-90s vibe in the middle and end of this song.

“Room 13” – Jesse Malin. Malin worked with Lucinda Williams on his upcoming album. There’s a strong Ryan Adams vide to this song. So hopefully Malin doesn’t have a creepy history with women so I can listen to the album.

“Calm Down” – Pete Yorn. It’s been awhile since Pete Yorn has given us any new music. It’s been even longer since he hewed as closely to the sounds that made him a star as he does here. I approve.

“You Haven’t Done Nothin’” – Stevie Wonder. So I knew this song; as I’ve shared many times before Stevie was one of my mom’s very favorites, and our house was filled with his music during his epic run in the early-to-mid 70s. But until I read Tom Breihan’s breakdown of it in his The Number Ones series this week, I didn’t know the song. And, whooo boy, it’s a scorcher when you get into the lyrics! Even better, a song aimed at Richard Nixon seems perfect for the summer of 2019. More importantly, the song inspired me to spend some time with Stevie’s golden era albums over the next few weeks. I listened to Fulfillingness’ First Finale the other night. It isn’t loaded with classics, but it does have that uniquely Stevie vibe that set him apart. All sorts of bits from African and Latin music, jazz, and traditional American soul mixed up into a blend that no one else ever replicated. We throw the phrase “musical genius” around a lot. But Stevie was definitely worthy of the label. 

“Hypersonic Missiles” – Sam Fender. A brother-in-music sent this to me a few weeks back. He sends me several songs a week, often in moments when I can’t listen to them, so occasionally I don’t get to them. It took me a few days to go back and give this one a try. But, man, I was glad when I did. And slowly over the past couple weeks, this has grown into one of my favorite songs of the first half of 2019. Fender is just a young pup – he just turned 23 – but he’s already won great critical acclaim back in the UK. This song shows immense promise. It begins sounding about as British as you can sound. Then comes that hooky chorus that gets into your head. Finally, out of the leftest of left field, comes that big, Clarence Clemons-sounding sax followed by a Tunnel of Love-era Springsteen-like guitar line that just blew me away. Add lyrics that are extremely timely – they are based on a nearly indefensible weapon the Russians may be developing – and you’ve got a damn-near perfect song.

KU Hoops: Spring of Drama

It is mid-June.[1] What better time to talk some KU hoops? Especially after the weirdest season in decades turned into the weirdest offseason over the same span.

In the wake of the boat-racing by Auburn that mercifully ended the 2018–19 season, what should have been an opportunity for relaxing and regrouping became one of the most dire stretches in the Bill Self era. Dedric Lawson, Quentin Grimes, and Devon Dotson all declared for the NBA draft. KJ Lawson and Charlie Moore both announced that they were transferring, neither of which was a big loss other than subtracting a body from a rapidly shrinking roster. Most people expected Udoka Azubuike to declare for the draft. A team that began the 2018–19 season as one of the deepest in the nation suddenly faced the 2019–20 campaign with barely enough to field a squad. Oh, and the NCAA/FBI thing still hung over the program.

Cooler heads said, “Bill Self always finds a way to fill holes in the spring.” But as I looked at the list of unsigned high school prospects, I just didn’t see it. Two players KU had allegedly been the leaders on for months, Matthew Hurt and Cassius Stanley, were wavering. When both announced they were going to Duke it was not a huge surprise. KU went all-in on a couple guys they had been recruiting as backup plans to other guys, but those, too, fell through.

There were rumblings that RJ Hampton, a player who the “experts” said loved KU, would reclassify and wrap up his high school career in time to be eligible next fall. Hampton is the kind of kid that KU generally leads for until his senior year, when the Nike money, I mean influence of the Kentucky and Duke brands takes over and causes a shift to one of those schools. With Kentucky and Duke pretty much out of room for next season, Hampton looked like a done deal for KU. His time table kept changing, from July to June then finally to a nationally televised announcement on ESPN in late May. An announcement at which he proclaimed that he was skipping college to go play in New Zealand for a year. Par for the year for KU. “My dream has never been to be a college basketball player,” he told Jalen Rose on ESPN. Props to him for being honest and chasing his dream. It would have been nice if he didn’t waste KU’s time.

There was actually good news in May. First, Udoka shocked some people and announced he was returning for his senior year. I think Bill Self expected him to go pro. I leaned that way. He’s not ready for the NBA, and his game isn’t right for the modern pro game. But I figured he would go play in Europe and make some money instead if risking another major injury while in college. I still expect that he’ll get hurt at least once next year, but at least he’s back!

More shocking news in May: the NCAA appeals committee ruled that Silvio De Sousa is eligible to play next season. While their ruling was presented without comment, it was clear they took the line that suspending a kid for two years for getting a couple thousand bucks was an egregious penalty. Especially since there were multiple kids who played in the NCAA tournament – including two for Auburn – who received greater sums from agents and only served minor suspensions. Suddenly KU had the potentially best big-man combo in the country, although I believe there’s at least a 65% chance the NCAA infractions department finds a way to suspend Silvio again.

As the draft deadline grew closer there was worry that Devon Dotson might stay in. Dotson’s decision was, to me, the biggest of the offseason. He was poised to become a superstar next year if he returned to KU and made some minor improvements in his game. His return along with who we knew would be on KU’s roster would be enough to make KU a Big 12 title contender for sure, and a possible national title contender. He waited until the final hours, but in the end announced that he would play at least one more year at KU. Folks were starting to get excited.

Moments later Quentin Grimes announced he was pulling his name out of the draft, which was a big surprise. No one really believed he was ready for the NBA. But everything he had said made it seem like that had been his plan all along and there was no way he was changing his mind. RJ Hampton had yet to announce at this point, so after Grimes’ declarationI was in the midst of multiple text threads that boiled down to “Do we want Q back or RJ?”

Grimes answered that question moments later when he announced he was leaving KU. I’m not sure what went wrong for Q at KU, but other than his very first game, when he dropped 21 on Michigan State, he never looked comfortable or displayed the game he had in high school. I thought he got a little too big, which robbed him of some of his speed. But he also looks like the classic kid who is physically imposing in high school, but in college is just another dude, and he never figured out how to work around that. I think he’s also been told if he plays in the NBA, it will be as a point guard. And if he plays with Dotson another year, he can’t show people that he’s a #1. So, I think he’s made a very mature decision to take a year off, rebuild his body and game, and then play at a program that will put the ball in his hands. In a very different way it worked for Malik Newman. At least as far as Malik scoring 13 points in five minutes against Duke to get KU to a Final Four. The whole pro career thing hasn’t worked out so well. No ill will toward Q and I wish him the best.

With the guys from last year’s roster figured out, Self did pull a few rabbits out of his hat. He snuck in on Tristan Enaruna very late and stole him away from Creighton. After missing out on several higher profile graduate transfers, he grabbed shooter Isaiah Moss from Iowa to fill a glaring need. When John Beilein left Michigan, their highest rated recruit, Jalen Wilson, reopened his recruiting. He is buddies with Hampton and for awhile it looked like they might come to KU together. There were some nervous moments but Wilson announced for KU on Wednesday.

Bill Self’s spring magic is still in effect. In less than two months KU went from “Who the hell is going to play?” to “Who is going to redshirt?” In the process he both filled just about every hole on next year’s roster and backfilled the program with a group of players who are talented but should also be at KU for 3–4 years.[2]

There was even some unexpected good news when the NCAA announced they are moving the three-point line back slightly next season. That should benefit a team like KU that will look to play inside-out as much as any team in the country.

All of this was tempered a bit by the news, about 30 minutes after Wilson’s announcement, that the NCAA will announce major charges against at least six programs soon. Two of those programs are supposed to be “high profile” programs. KU fans immediately began hoping that Louisville and Arizona were those two programs. Between the NCAA not being able to use the Kurtis Townsend phone call recording, Billy Preston never playing for KU, and their suspension of De Sousa being overturned, I feel like KU is in decent shape. KU will get hit with charges as some point, be it next week or in the next phase of the NCAA’s investigation. But I think KU is in much better shape than either Louisville or Arizona.[3] There will be more drama, though.

It is nice for things to have calmed down a little. KU had three huge “recruiting” wins by keeping Dotson, Udoka, and Silvio. Adding Moss, Enaruna, and Wilson gives Self options. And now KU fans start hoping that Ochai Agbaji and Marcus Garrett are shooting 8000 jumpers a game, Dotson comes back like a senior-year Frank Mason or Devonté Graham, Silvio is actually good, and Udoka somehow stays healthy and learned to shoot free throws. And there’s not any more bad news for awhile.

Not too much to ask.

  1. Holy crap!  ↩
  2. Of course half or more of those guys could transfer before they get that deep into their careers.  ↩
  3. Seriously, how does Sean Miller still have his job?  ↩

San Diego Notebook

Our summer trip is already in the books.

After C and L wrapped up their school year last Tuesday, we set early alarms and headed off to the airport at 5:30 Wednesday morning to get our flight to San Diego. It was the girls’ first trip to California, and the first visit to San Diego for S and I. Other than normal teenage sister bullshit and a few too many clouds, it was a good trip.

Thanks to that early flight – we had an hour layover in Las Vegas – we landed in California around 11:00 AM. After getting our bags and picking up our car, we had the whole day in front of us.

Our first stop was La Jolla and a walk along the beach. This was the grayest, chilliest morning of our visit. San Diego is in the midst of its “June Gloom” phase, when the marine layer rolls in and blocks the sun most of the day. Yet the beach was pretty busy. M did stick her feet into the water so she could say she’s been in the Pacific, but it was not a hang out at the beach kind of day for us Midwesterners. We strolled through some shops near the beach and had our first round of tacos.

Then it was off to our hotel. We were staying at the Hilton that was set against the southern half of Torrey Pines golf course. We were so close you could hear what people on the course were saying from the pool. I spent a lot of time watching golfers come up the 18th fairway, of which we had a clear view of the from our entire hotel. I even snagged a handful of Pro V1’s that had been hit onto hotel property. One day I walked up to the clubhouse and golf shop. Part of our Hilton visit included a 15% coupon that was good for items in the golf shop. Two problems: most of the Torrey Pines gear is ugly and the coupon did not cover anything that was US Open related. Even though TP isn’t hosting the Open for two more years, I’m guessing 75% of the items in the store had the Open logo on it. Even if the coupon was good, I would feel a little silly walking around with a shirt or hat that said “US Open 2021” on it.

After freshening up we went back to La Jolla and stopped by both the gliderport, where hang gliders jump off of cliffs to sail the air currents, and another beach and see the seals that have taken over.

Between the very early alarm and the time change, we kept things chill in the evening. I think we were all in bed and asleep by 7:30 PDT. And, amazingly, we all slept until around 6:30 the next morning.

Day two we got serious. We went to Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo. Both lived up to the hype. I did make an observation in the zoo, though. For people our age, the San Diego Zoo was the greatest zoo in the world. Mostly because we saw Joan Embery on the Tonight Show. It was also light years ahead of other zoos in how it presented its animals. I realized that while the San Diego Zoo is still awesome, zoos in other cities have all followed its lead. The Indianapolis Zoo is much smaller and constrained by climate conditions, but it really looks like a mini-SD Zoo. 30–40 years ago, I think most mid or small city zoos were primarily steel and concrete pens with little to make you think you were seeing the animals in their native state. You can debate whether zoos are ethical enterprises or not, but the San Diego Zoo’s influence has clearly been a good thing for animals in zoos everywhere.

After the zoo we took the girls for another first: lunch at In N Out Burger. I believe it had been 15 years since my last In N Out visit. Oh man was it good! And the girls all loved it. They all said it was their favorite burger ever. That night it was back to La Jolla – our hotel was just 10–15 minutes from much of the cool stuff in LJ – for sushi for dinner. You would think getting sushi in California would be magical. I have to say, though, that only one thing we got was t better than the couple sushi places we frequent here.

Friday we drove up to Torrey Pines State Park, which was just beyond the golf course, for a few hours of hiking. We started with an easy loop trail and then tried the more challenging beach trail that included a 350 foot drop. It was another gray, cool morning but we worked up quite the sweat on the beach trail and then climbing back to our parking spot. Looking down at the Pacific from the cliffs of Torrey Pines was an amazing view and made it worth it.

For lunch we went, shocker, back to La Jolla to a little spot called Girard Gourmet. It is a Belgian-style eatery that has a huge, wonderful menu of deli items. I had the single best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had; simply eggs, turkey, cheese, and avocado on a croissant. We walked in when they were prepping a big order for carry out and although they got our food together fairly quickly, they couldn’t get us our bill until we were done eating. When the lady apologized for the wait when I went to pay, I told her that it was totally worth it. Another older woman behind the counter, who we guessed was the owner, turned her head and said, “That’s nice to hear, thank you!” Made my day.

We strolled around LJ for a bit and when we walked by the restaurant later there was a line at least 10 people deep to order. This is a key part of our trip: we tended to be early and just barely avoid crowds. It seemed like everywhere we went we’d be among the first to arrive and soon after there would be a huge line. One exception to that in a moment…

Friday evening we drove a few miles inland to have dinner at S’s cousin’s home. He and his wife are 10–12 years younger than us and have three kids under five. When we asked for advice for places to go over the weekend, they sheepishly admitted that they don’t get out much. Ahhh, traveling with moody teen girls is a pain in the ass but at least we can get out of the house!

Saturday we went into the city to explore Little Italy and the Gaslamp Quarter. We had brunch at a wonderful place called the Farmer’s Table in Little Italy and then strolled through the farmer’s market. The sun was finally out so the girls were discovering why San Diego weather is so great. We also went into the Padres’ team store where L got a hat and I got a pretty dope Swingin’ Friar Ale shirt. On our way back north we drove by the USS Midway – lines were long and we figured the girls wouldn’t be into it so we did not stop – and then through the Liberty Station district.

Back to the hotel for some chill time before we made a second trip to Balboa Park. We were in search of the Japanese Gardens, however they appeared to be roped off for a wedding. We wondered how much that cost. Then back to Petco Park for the Padres-Nationals game. We had seats in the second deck in left field which were pretty solid. Petco is a really nice stadium and feels perfectly San Diego. The turf looked more like a putting green than a big league outfield. It was a typically modest crowd and the game was not that memorable. L wore her Alex Gordon jersey. I had a couple Swingin’ Friar Ales, which I really enjoyed. Sadly this was only my ninth Major League stadium.

Sunday we drove down to Coronado Island and spent most of the day there. This was an important stop for me. My mom and stepdad stayed at the Hotel Del Coronado on their honeymoon in 1985 and he always told me I needed to go there some day. We did walk around the grounds, but when we saw how much it would cost to take our family there – roughly $1200 a night! – we decided for now a tour would have to do. The girls were being extra shitty during this part of the trip so, unfortunately, my mood was a little clouded during our time on the island as well. We rented a golf cart and puttered around a little bit. We realized after the fact that I had twice driven where I was not supposed to be. And in an area that was totally golf cart friendly a woman almost ran a stop sign and hit us. That would have been a bummer.

Sunday was the warmest day of our visit. As S’s cousin told us, even on days when the air temperature is only in the 70s, the sun is very hot because SD is so far south. Sunday was one of those days. Walk through the shade and it is the absolute perfect temperature. Get in the sun for a few minutes and you start roasting. The plan was to take the girls back to the hotel so they could swim. They had enjoyed the pool on cloudy days when it was deserted. For some reason they all decided that they were too tired to swim Sunday. So S and I sat near it and read for awhile.

For dinner we tried to go to a place S had found called The Taco Stand in La Jolla. We knew that it can get very busy and there are often long lines, but Google said Sunday evenings were the best time to go. When we arrived there was a line maybe 20 people deep but we figured, “How long can it take to make tacos?” After about 15 minutes in line and having only moved up a few feet, we decided tacos take longer than we could deal with. So we quickly found the nearest In N Out and made our second stop of the trip. Seriously, how could I forget how good In N Out is? I told the girls back when I traveled for work, I remember once driving 90 minutes round trip just to get In N Out. Back at the hotel, as the marine layer drifted back in, M and I tried to get some sunset pics as the last few groups of the day finished up on the 18th hole in front of us. Unfortunately the photo opps were not great due to the clouds.

Monday we packed up and headed to the North Park area, which was funky and cool and fun. We perused a few shops, I took some pictures, and we cruised into the North Park Taco Stand location just after opening and had zero wait to get our tacos and burritos. A perfect end to a very good trip. We all understood why the lines are so long; these were good fucking tacos!

And that’s it. In all my trips to California, I had never been south of LA. I certainly had a mental image of San Diego but I really enjoyed finally getting to see the city for myself. It is hillier than I thought. In fact, it feels more Bay Area than SoCal to me because of the hills and the June Gloom. I imagine the ten months of the year that aren’t dominated by the marine layer might give me a different impression. But with my year of NoCal living, I connected quickly with the feeling of San Diego in June. As much as I love San Francisco, San Diego doesn’t feel as crowded, is certainly cleaner, and the weather is definitely better. Although we’re trying to branch out and go to new places when we are able to travel, I would love to give San Diego another visit at some point.

Some other things I forgot to jam in above:
* Man are the Las Vegas and San Diego airports cramped messes! It really makes me appreciate how new and spacious the Indy airport is. Tax money well spent!
* I got my first driver’s license in California. I used to travel to Cali for work about once a month. I know California traffic. So I was shocked at how little traffic there was in San Diego. We only ran into one slow down, and that was just a few miles on our drive to S’s cousin’s home, which came right at 5:00. We sailed from Torrey Pines to anywhere we wanted to go on the freeways. Traffic in La Jolla was often congested, but that was city traffic with intersections and lights. I was expected LA-style slowdowns on the freeways every time we used them.
* My one big disappointment from the trip was not being able to see the Marine jets that roared over our hotel. Every 15–20 minutes they would come shrieking right above our heads from the Miramar base just a few miles away. But the marine layer was so thick that even though the jets were still very low, we couldn’t see them. Saturday and Sunday, when it cleared, there were no jets flying. Apparently being a Marine pilot is a Monday-through-Friday gig. Sunday on Coronado we heard some jets taking off from the Navy base there, but were too far away to see them.
* I laughed at one point when I realized that when I think of Southern California, my mental image is still based on late 1970s pop culture. CHiPs, Charlie’s Angels, Three’s Company, etc. That was over 40 years ago and things have changed massively, but I still had that vibe in my head the entire time.
* After every trip there’s a part of me that wants to go Cliff Clavin after his visit to Florida. Become an annoying expert on all things about my destination, adopt all their sports teams, act like I am from there, etc. There are worse places to adopt than San Diego.

Grad Days

Looks likeI forgot to hit post on this yesterday.

St. P’s is, apparently, the only school outside of Massachusetts that is still in session. C and L have two more days, today and tomorrow, both of which will be filled with watching movies, playing games, field day, and other nonsense. Parents voted for this schedule a year ago, and there have been a lot of sarcastic comments in the halls, in the parking lot, and at school events by people who hate the choice. Worth noting we are scrapping this schedule next year, going back to an earlier start. Which means this summer will be extra short.

Oh well.

The end of M’s St.P’s career went as we expected. A lot of tears. A healthy dose of attitude. And she’s already complaining about being bored.

She, and many of her classmates, we teary messes when they walked out through the line of the other 350 or so students on Thursday. Their kindergarten buddies were last, and M lost it when her buddy came out to hug her. The class lined up for pictures in front of the school and most of the girls were crying. I was one of several parents who pointed out, maybe a little too loudly, that they were all going to see each other in 15 minutes at the pool party the entire class was going to. Call me sentimental…

She went off to the pool party then a sleepover with her closest friends.

Friday evening’s graduation ceremony as nice. It was a full Mass – complete with Father J’s patented extra-long homily – followed by presentation of awards, a few speeches by teachers and one by a student leadership group, and then the handing out of diplomas. Although she didn’t win any awards – well, she earned the presidential scholar award that pretty much every kid who made the honor roll got – she did have a moment in the student leader speech. While running through some memorable episodes such as field trips, plays, etc., one of the memories was “M’s bad attitude.” There were a lot of nervous chuckles as parents looked at us to see our reaction. I had no idea what this was about, so I just shrugged. I looked in M’s direction and she was laughing so I figured it was all good. Later, she reminded us of how a year ago, a teacher who was having a bad day apparently reached her limit when M talked a little too much in class. “M!” She yelled, “You have a bad attitude!” That teacher was not popular and has left the school, so I think this was a fun memory for the entire class. The family we may carpool with for high school did express some mock concerns about having M in their car next year, though.

There was a brief reception afterward before families left the eighth graders to party for two final hours together. When I picked her up at 11:00 there were a lot more tears, hugs, and lengthy goodbyes.

I thought it was all a little weird; I didn’t have an eighth grade gradation. And I wasn’t sad about being done with middle school. 95% of my friends were going to the same high school as I was. In fact, I think the only people who didn’t were ones who moved away. She’s dealing with a little different math. And, as I said last week, she has been in the same building for nine years, so this is a huge change.

So that was graduation weekend. M is helping me watch one of her cousins the next couple days. Meanwhile we have suitcases out and are packing for our summer trip, which begins early Wednesday morning. More about that later…