Month: August 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

Mini Reporter’s Notebook

A few quick notes from the start of the high school sports season.

High school football kicked off last Friday. I covered GHS, who were coming off their best season in decades but had to replace a ton of seniors. That showed as they lost 42-19. They got torched by the opposing quarterback. Kid threw the ball 23 times, completing 17 for 373 yards and six touchdowns. First play from scrimmage was a 79 yard TD pass. Four other scores were for 40+ yards. It was a night when I was thankful for the late start and long first half that only allowed me 30 minutes to write. I didn’t have to go talk to the losing coach and ask dumb questions about why his defense couldn’t create any pressure on the QB and why his secondary kept letting guys run right by him.

The highlight of the night was a retired teacher from the host school who sat by me for part of the first half. He admitted early on that he didn’t know much about football. He just loved to come watch the kids play. I’m far from a football expert, but he asked a few dumb questions about basic rules that I did my best to answer kindly. Dude seemed nice enough and who knows if I’ll be able to remember the nuances of a sport I never played when I’m pushing 70.

Anyway, as the teams lined up for the National Anthem, he leaned over and whispered, “So, does GHS have any black boys over there?”

Oh boy, here we go.

I simply said I thought there were a few but it was hard to see all the way across the field as the sun was setting behind them.

“Oh there’s one, number 87. He kind of stands out, doesn’t he?”


Fortunately the game started shortly after that and while he kept talking to me a little, he realized I was scribbling down the play-by-play and stats and that topic disappeared. For awhile.

Later in the game, after the first two touchdown passes by the host school, which coincidentally were short passes followed by long runs by black wide receivers, the teacher leaned over again and whispered, “You know, I just don’t think the white kids can keep up with those black fellows, if you know what I mean.”


He then launched into a story about back in his high school days, in the 1960s, there just weren’t any black kids that played high school football and it was a totally different game.


This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. When it does, I take the approach of least resistance: I have a job to do, so focus on that, nod and mumble responses, and hopefully they’ll figure it out and leave me alone. It’s not the time or place for confrontation. Usually that’s exactly what happens: they see me concentrating on work and pipe down.

I was saved from further frustration by the temperature. It was sweltering in the press box. Between quarters he ran out to say hello to someone in the stands and on his return, gathered up his things.

“Well, it’s been nice, but no offense, it’s much cooler outside. I think I’m going to sit out there, if you don’t mind.”


I think the thing that really bugs me about guys like him is not their attitudes/prejudices/twisted senses of humor. Some people are just like that, and it’s more common in older people. Rather, it bugs me that guys like him see another white guy and think I’m interested in hearing his comments about race. How does he know I’m not married to a black woman? Or I have in-laws who are black? Or I grew up at a school, or in a neighborhood, that was racially diverse? But he didn’t care. He saw a white guy and decided that I would, at some level, share his views. Or at least tolerate them. Which I guess I did since I stuck to my work and never challenged him on any of his opinions.

It was a bummer on an otherwise nice night for football.

Unfortunately, the schedule keeps me from working either tonight or next week. We have two teams playing each other tonight, which means there are only five games instead of the usual seven. And I drew the short straw this week since none were terribly close to me. Next week we’ll be in Boston for my brother-in-law’s wedding.

I’m hoping for cooler weather, better football, and quieter company in the press box when I’m back at it in two weeks.

I did get to work the virtual sports desk the last two nights. The guy who normally takes calls with scores is on vacation so I got to monitor them. Coaches, and a couple students, would either call, text, or email me the details of their games and then I put them in the proper format before sending them on to that night’s editor. Not terribly exciting or demanding work, but it’s another new thing for me to do.

It’s an extra-long holiday weekend for us. St. P’s has a four-day weekend so M. and C. are off today. C. has a party and then we’re making one, final trip to the pool for the 2013 season. We have guests coming from Michigan for the weekend and will hope it stays dry so we can enjoy the LVS with them.

Happy and safe Labor Day weekends to all of you.

You’re Doing It Wrong

Week three at school and folks are still having issues with the drop-off procedure. Which naturally always makes me think of Mr. Mom, when Jack drops the kids off for the first time and does it all wrong. Each day the teachers who monitor the drop off area at St. P’s have to run over to a couple cars and explain that kids can’t get out off the left side of the vehicle, that you have to pull all the way up to the sign, or to wave cars forward who are just sitting in the drop-off zone. Come on, people. It’s week three. You should have this shit down!

Our morning routines are falling into place. Most days involve the girls taking turns being grumpy. Neither M. nor C. are especially excited about getting out of bed. But C. stays super-grumpy for the first 20 minutes or so. Usually during this time M. finds a way to get on her nerves. Then, when her blood sugar rebounds, C. is suddenly full of energy and M. gets grumpy. Yin and Yang, I guess. I can’t imagine where they get the morning grumpiness from.

This morning, M. made C. cry at the breakfast table. Fifteen minutes later, C. made M. cry while we were getting them dressed. Nothing but good times in the mornings here!

Slow It Down And Play It Again

Each week, as I go through my RSS feeds, Twitter, email, and other mediums through which I find cool stuff, I come across things that I’ll open up in my browser but forget about. They may sit in an open tab for days, but at some point a mental alarm goes off and I think, “Well, I haven’t read that yet. Time to close it and forget about it.”

That happened a week ago with the freaky music item of the week, a slowed down version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” that people were buzzing about. It sat in a browser tab for at least four days. But each time I came across it again, I decided I didn’t have four minutes to sit and listen to it. Thus, as happens too often, I closed it and forgot about it.


Tim Carmody is guest blogging at Kottke this week. He reposted the “Jolene” audio along with the science behind adjusting the speed of a song and keeping it in tune. Then, he added several songs that he adjusted just to prove the math. I finally listened to “Jolene,” and it’s jarring. I don’t know if it’s good, but it’s pretty interesting to listen to.

(Non-footnoted aside: like most boys who grew up in the 70s, while I have no great affection for Dolly Parton’s music, a significant portion of my early joking career involved Ms. Parton. Thus she’s deep in my pop-cultural DNA. Plus, The White Stripes ripped this track up, so while I’ve heard the original less than 10 times, I’ve still heard a version of the song many times over the years.)

What’s really amazing are Carmody’s slowed down versions of Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You.” And then, if you jump over to his Soundcloud page, he has much more.

These aren’t revolutionary re-workings of famous songs, versions you’ll want to listen to over-and-over again like the originals. But it’s a cool way to make your brain listen to familiar songs in a brand new way.

How To Make Your Own Slow Jams

Koana Islands

Wow, this fascinates me, and disturbs me almost as much. It’s an article about Ian Silva, a man in Australia who, through a combination of interest in maps and baseball, has created a very detailed, imaginary world. Complete with maps that look straight out of a real atlas and exhaustive records of the baseball league.

People in the Koana Islands love baseball. The first league play started in 1882, barely six years after the MLB. Between the top-tier, Triple- and Double-A leagues, there are over 180 teams spanning the island nation. Fans are so rabid that there’s even talk of expanding to a Single-A league, adding even more teams. If you’re a baseball fan, you might be surprised you’ve never heard of this. You’ll be even more surprised when you try to find the Koana Islands. That’s because the 32-island chain, with its nine major cities, 11 national parks, 93 million residents and a landmass that is equal to Spain and Sweden combined does not really exist.

It fascinates me because I spent hours as a kid staring at my grandparents’ world atlas when I visited them. I would, occasionally, draw maps of my own imagined countries and continents. And, of course, I loved baseball more than just about anything else when I was a kid. This could have been my creation. Well, I never stuck with anything long enough to do something this involved. But you get the idea.

Which is the thing that disturbs me about it, too. What was is it that sends some of us on paths where we have casual hobbies and diversions once we’re adults, and others of us into absolute obsessions like this? I had plenty of weird pastimes as a kid. I still have a handful of oddball interests that I don’t necessarily share with the world. Why do some people just read books, watch sports, maybe collect something while others spend their free time in an extra bedroom or basement obsessing over some esoteric amusement?

Oh, and this reminds me of the wonderful novel The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. as well.

Koana Islands

The Rush Begins

We have neighbors who are recent empty-nesters. For the first few years we lived here, we watched them come-and-go on weekends to their two boys’ various activities. When we would stop and chat in the front yard, the dad would always warn us of what was in our future.

“Enjoy this time,” he said. “One day you’ll be coming and going constantly to practices, meetings, games, performances, and whatever else your girls are doing.”

Tonight it begins.

This is the first fall all three girls will be playing soccer. Through the luck of the draw, they practice on three different nights (at three different times, no less). For the next nine weeks our weeknight schedules will be:

Monday: C.’s practice.
Tuesday: Nothing. Take a breather. Or, more likely, schedule playdates.
Wednesday: M.’s practice.
Thursday: L.’s practice (At 6:30, for an hour. Who schedules an Under-6 soccer team for the last practice slot and for a whole hour?)
Friday: I’m heading somewhere for high school football.

And then each Sunday we’ll have three soccer games. The best part about that is the league the girls are in plays all games, at all age levels, at a single site. So there may be some Sundays that we’re there for four hours. But at least we don’t have to race from one field to another 20 minutes away and then back again. Or have to be at two different places at the same time.

My favorite thing about Catholic schools in Indianapolis is the fierce kickball rivalries between the schools. I still remember laughing in my wife’s face when she told me kickball was a real sport here.

Anyway, that begins in fourth grade. A couple girls on M.’s soccer team are also on the St. P’s kickball team. I was recently talking to one of the moms about getting back-and-forth between soccer practices and kickball games.

Afterwards, in the van, I mentioned to M. that she could play kickball next year. I heard her sigh deeply. As we drove home, L. began asking questions about kickball. What is it? Where do you play it? Why was M. going to play it?

M. responded, in a very annoyed tone, “Mom just wants me to play kickball because she did,” and sighed again.

I laughed to myself and thought, who would have guessed that it would be the mom in our house pressuring the kids to play sports?


Because nothing is more boring that reading about someone else’s fantasy sports team, I’ll just say I’m reasonably pleased with my lineup after last night’s draft. I had the third pick, planned on taking Marshawn Lynch, and went with Adrian Foster when the guy with the #2 pick snatched Lynch up.

We have only eight guys and drafted 15 rounds, so we raced through it in about 90 minutes. There was a group of 12 people near us also drafting. They began at least an hour before us and were still going when we left. It was much easier than my last draft, a dozen years ago. Back then, we all had our own computers to do research on but had to walk up to the “big board” and enter our own picks. I remember that draft taking close to five hours.

More importantly, high school football begins tonight in Indiana. I’m off to watch a team that went 9-2 last year, but lost a ton of seniors. They produced one of the most exciting games I’ve ever watched a year ago, coming from 21 down in the fourth quarter and surviving a long pass as time ran out to grab a 41-40 win. They’re on the road against a team that isn’t great, but which beat a couple good teams a year ago.

But all that matters is I’m getting out to watch and write about football in a few hours.

R’s – Slipping Away

I didn’t mean to jinx the Royals a week ago when I wrote that the series against Boston would likely be the high point of the season. And while it remains to be seen if their glorious month of baseball has come to an end and they will scuffle through the remainder of the season, things certainly don’t look promising.

Losing three of five in Detroit was perfectly acceptable, although blowing Saturday’s game was galling. Especially with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth and a runner on third in the ninth. But and you just have to tip your cap sometimes.

They held their own in Motown and then came home for a stretch of games against bad teams.

And proceeded to get shut out by the Chicago White Sox. Sure, John Danks has owned the Royals in his career, but he’s not been a good pitcher this year. Didn’t matter last night, as they had no answers for him.

The big concern is that, through a combination of injuries and slumps, the team is looking pathetic on offense again. And they’re making mistakes teams that struggle to score can’t afford to make.1

That’s five losses in a week, after losing that many games over the previous month. Last night was only one game, but it sure felt like more than that. Perhaps all will be well tonight and the Royals will rip through the rest of this 18-game stretch against (mostly) teams that are not in a pennant race and be within shouting distance of the Wild Card lead when they play Detroit again on Sept. 6. But at 8.5 and 6.5 games out of the division and Wild Card races, they can’t afford to waste another night like last night.

  1. Chris Getz getting picked off last night was absolutely brutal. He’s untouchable, though, so he won’t be sent back to Omaha for a mental error. 

25 Favorite Songs Of All Time, 2013 Edition

As I mentioned a couple weeks back, it’s been five years since I first posted my 20 Favorite Songs of All-Time list. Which means it’s time to review and tweak the list.

There wasn’t any great, complex methodology to this. I simply took the original list and evaluated those 20 songs against each other. There was some movement, and one replacement, adding a song I nearly put on the list five years ago. Then I reviewed my 100 favorite songs list to see if anything needed to be added from there. Finally, I looked at my Favorite Songs of the ’00s list and selected two songs from there.

So, three songs drop out, one replaced by another song by the same artist, and two brand new songs/artists are added.

Thus, I present my 20 Favorite Songs of All-Time, as of August 2013. 2008 place in parenthesis.

1 – “Don’t Dream It’s Over” – Crowded House (1). It’s been my favorite song for a long, long time and nothing has changed that.

2 – “Clampdown” – The Clash. (5). A big mover! These lists are always subject to whims of the moment. I think my love for this song had faded a bit in ’08, but it’s back, baby! And with a vengeance. It is The Clash’s finest moment.

3 – “And Your Bird Can Sing” – The Beatles (3). Solid. Steady.

4 – “Corduroy” – Pearl Jam (6). Respectable movement up the list.

5 – “Karma Police” – Radiohead (2). The big dropper at the top. I still love it, but I was in a bigger Radiohead place five years ago. I still spin them regularly if not as often as then.

6 – “One” – U2 (4). I admit, I just don’t love U2 as much as I used to. However, this song remains great and loved.

7 – “True Faith” – New Order (7). Lucky number seven sticks.

8 – “T.R.O.Y. (They Reminisce Over You)” – Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth (8). No shame in staying in the Top Ten.

9 – “Purple Rain” – Prince replacing “Raspberry Beret,” also by Prince. This was one of my big dilemmas when making the original list. “Purple Rain” had always been my favorite Prince song. But as I listened to several of his biggest hits to make sure, “Raspberry Beret” jumped out at me. I wrote that it was the perfect pop song. That is still my opinion. But “Purple Rain” is epic and grand. The perfect final statement for the perfect album. And the bonus that it was (mostly) recorded live just adds to its excellence. Also, I needed a 1984 song in here.

10 – “Paid In Full” – Eric B. & Rakim (10). Still one of the most important hip hop songs of my life. I watched Old School a month or so back and it’s still shocking to see Snoop Dogg take a crack at this. Some songs shouldn’t be covered, no matter how good the covering MC is.

11 – “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” – Manic Street Preachers (11). I really badly want this in the top ten, but it can’t quite crack it.

12 – “How Soon Is Now?” – The Smiths. (9). Another song I don’t listen to nearly as much as I once did.

13 – “The Modern Leper” – Frightened Rabbit (NA). New addition number one. My favorite song of the past decade. It’s the soul-grabbing, gut-punching opener to one of the most powerful albums I’ve ever heard.

14 – “Welcome To The Terrordome” – Public Enemy (15). Chuck’s masterpiece.

15 – “Love Will Tear Us Apart” – Joy Division (13). The song that kicked off alternative rock.

16 – “Last Goodbye” – Jeff Buckley (17). Swappin’ spots with The Church.

17 – “Under The Milky Way” – The Church (16). I’ve been loving this song for 25 years now.

18 – “Bitter Sweet Symphony” The Verve (18). A song that still gets regular radio airplay, and I crank it up each time I hear it.

19 – “Born To Run” – Bruce Springsteen (20). The song by which every meaningful American rock song has been influenced.

20 – “Stuck Between Stations” – The Hold Steady (NA). The other newcomer. One of the greatest lyrics ever, with every single line quotable. Performed by one of the best American bands of the past 20 years at their absolute prime.

Dropping Out:

“Battle Flag” – Lo Fidelity All-Stars with Pigeonhead (14).

“She Sells Sanctuary” – The Cult (19).

No shame in being in my Top 25. These just don’t make the big list anymore.

Monday Notes

We kick off the first full week of school today. Which means we can begin setting some routines around here.

M. was the first to show signs of being tired last week. She had a meltdown one night about doing her homework. It was an easy assignment based on her summer activities and she decided she’d rather have a meltdown than take two minutes to do it. It wasn’t just about being tired, though. There were some hormones in there, too. The really fun times with her are not too far down the road.

Sunday’s American Top 40 replay was from August 1984. As I’ve shared before, nothing triggers the nostalgic part of my brain more than music from that summer. While listening, I thought of a fine way to describe it. When I hear Prince, Bruce, Tina, Cyndi, etc. it’s like when you scratch a dog’s belly and its leg begins twitching uncontrollably. I can try to do other things, try to put my focus elsewhere. But those songs are going to cut through everything and make me sit around and think for awhile.

Freaking old man.

There has to be a story idea in there somewhere that I can turn into a project, right?

After twelve years away, I’ve been talked into joining a fantasy football league with a few neighbors and their buddies. I get the impression it’s not a hard-core league. I think a couple guys take it fairly seriously. But for the most part it’s pretty casual and chances are just about everyone in the league will forget to set their roster at least once.

Back when I played fantasy sports more often, I was pretty solid at coming up with fun names for my teams. But in my retirement, that touch went away. As I sat in front of the screen last week, creating my team, I froze when it came time to change “Team 8” into something more creative. I racked my brain for ideas that were equal parts creative, funny, and could serve as a way of introducing myself to a group of guys I don’t know very well.

I tried to come up with some Charlie Weis-related name, but each option was either too wordy (The Pronounced Strategic Advantages) or gross (Charlie Weis’ Panis. Nothing there worked.

I figured my old standby, The Phogtown Phunksters, wouldn’t make sense to a bunch of Hoosiers (and one Denver transplant).

So I settled on the Torn ACLs. Nothing very creative or fun about it. But it wasn’t Team 8 either.

And then I read the article I’ll discuss in the next section. It provided a great name and an image that can be found all over the Internet that can serve as my logo. And even if people don’t know the backstory, it’s funny and gets funnier as they learn more about it.

That’s right. My team is the Baby Manginos!

Which gives me a chance to link to this story about what Mark Mangino is up to these days. As I mentioned last week, I’m in the midst of some site changes. Part of that includes building a more extensive, complete archives section. Over the weekend I was reading through my 2007 and 2008 posts. Man, the days when Reesing was flinging the ball around to Fields, Meier, Briscoe, and Henry and handing it off to Cornish, McAnderson, and Sharp seems like 20 years ago.

But props to Mangino for finally making an effort to improve his health. He still, clearly, has a long way to go before he looks normal again. But the effort is what counts.

It is kind of funny how everyone gets rehabilitated, though. Mangino wasn&apos;t just an intense coach who grabbed some facemasks and yelled. He said terrible, borderline racist, things to many of his players. He went beyond the normal <em>tear them down to build them up</em> levels of verbal abuse. I hope he&apos;s in a better place now, but you can&apos;t just blame KU letting him go on he and Lew Perkins not getting along.

One night last week I rolled over in the middle of the night and half-awoke. I must have heard her running full-tilt into our room, because half a second later, L. came flying into our bed. Literally flying. I think she got her foot on the frame of our bed and leaped across S. to land between us. I let out a little yell and then helped her settle in. She wasn’t crying but something had obviously disturbed her sleep. A little later she was thrashing around and yelling, “NO M.!” in her sleep. Even in dreams the big sister is bossy.

Which, finally, brings me to another old blog post I came across over the weekend. Four years ago we took the girls to a local water park and, after M. refused to go down a kiddie water slide, apparently S. shoved her down. That night, while she was sleeping, we heard M. yelling, “NO MOM! DON’T PUSH ME!” That’s our big, brave girl!

She Knows How To Work Me

L. is one smart cookie.

I offered to take her somewhere for lunch yesterday after her sadness about M. and C. going off to school.1 She quickly agreed and reminded me that a year ago on the sisters’ first day of school, I took her to a bookstore and she got to pick out a book. Can we do that again, she asked. How could I say no?

We cruised over to Barnes &amp; Noble and browsed through the children’s section. I told her how much money she had to spend and pointed out several slim reads based on Despicable Me and the Toy Story movies. But she wasn’t interested in those. She even ignored the Learning to Read books based on the Marvel super heroes, which she generally loves. Instead she found a Marvel set that has two books and 41 magnets that can be placed on six different background scenes. It was more expensive that her budget, but when I thought of her crying as we said goodbye to the sisters, I caved.

&quot;OK. Just don’t tell your sisters how much this cost.&quot;

So we spent last night reading through the books, which offer the origin story for some of the biggest Marvel super heroes and super villains. This in addition to the three Marvel shows that are added to the DVR each day. She knows more about comic books at four-and-a-half than I ever did.

There’s an Internet celebrity who loves to talk about reading comics with his five-year-old daughter on the many podcasts he appears on. I’ve always laughed at his stories, but never had a frame of reference for them. I think L. is about to suck me into a world that I somehow managed to avoid 35 years ago.

  1. BTW, she insisted to me all day that she was just tired. But finally, last night, she told M. and C. that she cried when we left them in their classes because she missed them. 
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