Month: May 2014 (Page 1 of 2)

A Real American Hero

As a young lad, my summers were split into two, roughly even, segments. The first half consisted of baseball and day camp at the YMCA. Once baseball season ended, usually in mid-July, my mom would ship me off to spend a month or so with my grandparents in central Kansas.

Her parents were farmers. They could pick up three TV stations (on a good day). Their home was small and few items from my uncles’ childhoods remained. I’d spend my time at their house either throwing a baseball against the side of the barn, going to the pool in the nearest town with my cousins, or using things from the suitcase full of books, toys, games, and baseball cards I brought along to pass the days.

My dad’s parents, though, lived up the road a bit in a small city. They had cable TV.1 There was a small zoo that I later realized was pretty sad and likely cruel to the animals. Evenings would be spent sitting on the front porch listening to the Royals game with my grandfather. But, most importantly, their basement was filled with toys left by my youngest uncle, who is just 11 years older than me. On my first day at their house, after spending the obligatory time catching up and settling into my room, I would rush downstairs and start dragging out things to play with for the next week. Prominent in that pile was my uncle’s old G.I. Joe collection.

I loved those old Joes. I lamented that the line disappeared in the late 1970s, just as I was getting old enough to really be into them. When Hasbro resurrected the line as Star Wars-sized figures a few years later, I’ll admit I spent probably a year or two longer than I should have playing with them. I had to make up for lost time, I guess.

Don Levine, the man who created the G.I. Joe, died last week.

Alex Pappademas wrote this terrific tribute to Levine and overview of the history of G.I. Joe for Grantland.

“Hasbro was the laughingstock of the toy fair in 1964 because no one assumed G.I. Joe would sell,” the company’s longtime marketing director Wayne Charness told the Chicago Tribune in the late ’80s, when sales of G.I. Joe figures and ancillary products had topped $2 billion. “The buyers thought we had a terrible idea, and they only bought a small amount, but that first year we had a monster hit. We laughed all the way into 1989, and we’re still laughing.”

In Memoriam: Pouring Out Some Heavy Water for Don Levine, the Father of G.I. Joe

Yo Joe!

  1. I watched For Your Eyes Only at least 50 times at their house in 1982. 

Summer Kickoff

How did your summer 2014 start off? Ours had highs and lows. Breakdown? You betcha!

I’m hoping the way our weekend began was not an omen for the rest of the summer. L. and M. both woke up with stomach aches Friday. It was L.’s last day of school, with her big bike parade on the agenda, so I did not want to be stuck at home with one or two sick kids. I’ll admit I told M. to suck it up so she didn’t ruin L.’s last day.1

We got M. and C. to school without incident, but on the way home L. puked in the bowl she had brought along. Moments after we got home, St. P’s calls asking me to pick M. up because she was throwing up.

I’ve said it many time and I’ll say it again: Father of the Year!

We had a couple hours of puking on the couch before a quick trip to the pediatrician’s office to check for strep (negative). There was puking in the exam room and in the car again as well. We left with a prescription to ease the nausea and once that kicked in, both girls were able to rest for a bit.

C. made it home feeling ok, but eventually began feeling bad and, you guessed it, puked before bed time. Three girls all puking in one day! A new family record, I believe.

This was concerning not just because everyone was sick, not just because L. missed her last day of pre-K, but because we had big Memorial Day weekend plans. We were not only opening up the LVS.2 We were not only hosting friends and some family for the weekend. But we were also going to take a new (to us at least) pleasure craft out for the first time. If the girls were sick they would likely not be eager to go out on the water.

M. and C. both rebounded and felt decent most of the weekend. L. never really shook it, though, and even got sick again Sunday night. She’s not going to look back on this weekend fondly.

Other than all that ugliness, it was a fine weekend. Gorgeous weather the entire time. Mostly good behavior by the girls, who had their buddies from next door along for the fun. Some really good times with friends and family. Cookouts. Swimming. S’Mores and campfires, with a bonus visit from a curious raccoon. Tubing, for the girls. And our first-ever weekend owning a pleasure craft. Other than someone else asking me to keep it straight for a minute or two, I had never driven3 a pleasure craft before. It was a learning experience, but certainly an enjoyable one.

So it was all kinds of good. The first of many fun weekends for the next three months. With, hopefully, less puking, of course.

I’m off shortly to spend a day with C.’s class on their last, big field trip of the year. It’s supposed to be warm and muggy. And my stomach has felt better. It could be an interesting day…

In my defense, C. complained about an upset stomach Thursday morning and ended up being fine. And the last time I let M. stay home, she miraculously felt fine the moment we dropped L. off at school. ↩
Local Vacation Spot, if your memory has slipped. ↩
Piloted? Run? Can I get a ruling here? ↩

Age Appropriate Fashion

There are many good aspects to being in your 40s.

In a lot of other ways, though, it bites the big one.

I could write for pages and pages about the downsides to being 40+. Rather than bore you with stories about how my back always hurts, my crappy eyesight, my deteriorating hearing, etc. I thought I would share this less personal observation.

I’m beginning to question how I dress. Only mildly, mind you. But still, sometimes I wonder if there is some vague line around 40, maybe 45, when you need to stop dressing like you’re in your 20s.

Examples: Should I wear as many shirts that proclaim my loyalty to my favorite teams, beers, or other cool products? As a middle-aged man shouldn’t I be wearing either name brand polo shirts or Tommy Bahama shirts if I’m going to dress casual?

Today I was buying a pair of shorts. My shorts tend to be monochromatic, usually khaki, black, or navy. Today, though, I picked up a pair that featured a muted plaid pattern of grays, blacks, and whites. They’re not garish, but neither are they the plain shorts I traditionally wear. Still, as I walked to the register, I wondered, “Am I too old to wear these?” Likely not, but I felt like I might be right up on the edge of whatever the highest age they would be suitable for.

Which is stupid. We’re long past the era where each age required a specific style of attire. Wear whatever is comfortable and fits your tastes, as long as you don’t look ridiculous.

It did help, though, that at St. P’s pickup today there was a dad/grandfather, clearly at least ten years older than me, wearing a surfing t-shirt and some stylish plaid shorts. If he can pull it off, I damn sure can.

Reporter’s Notebook

I was back on the diamonds last night, watching a game in the county baseball tournament. It was your average 21-0, 5 inning blowout.

WHS scored four runs on four hits, two walks, and three wild pitches in the first. Then they went down 1-2-3 in the second. I went from thinking it would be a blowout to wondering if EHS could keep it close.

They couldn’t. Ten runs in the third, seven in the fourth, game over in a tidy 90 minutes.

EHS has a bunch of young pups; no seniors, several sophomore and freshmen starting. That youth showed. Lots of bad mistakes in the field that turned a mild rout into an embarrassing one.

I was sitting on the EHS side and one dad was having a hard time keeping his frustration in. After the catcher dropped an easy throw that would have nailed a runner, the dad jumped up and muttered, “Come on, 8! Catch the dang ball!” Then he walked away and paced behind the stands for a few minutes. A couple innings later, after an outfielder dropped his second fly ball of the day, the dad popped up, cursed/grunted to himself, shook his head violently, and moved up to the top of the bleachers where he stood staring at the trees for awhile.

I share his misery because I bet I’ll be in that mode if the girls are still playing sports in high school. Badly wanting them to win and having a hard time dealing with the mental errors and misplays.

These lower tier games don’t have an official scorer. I think each team keeps their own book, so there’s never any clear statement on what is an error and what is not, for example. Which I kind of like. Because that means I get to decide for myself. And I’m firmly in the camp of people who feel that how errors are assigned is stupid. A) It’s all a judgement call by someone not on the field. B) I think scorekeepers are way too lenient in giving hits versus errors. My view has always been if a defensive player does not have to go some ridiculous range to get the ball, and it hits his glove but he can’t hang on, it’s an error.

I assigned five errors yesterday. Initially I gave out a sixth, but then I realized an outfielder had run about 30 yards to get to a ball that popped out of his glove. When I saw him take his position again, and noticed the distance, I changed the call.

A couple years ago I did a game that was played downtown at the Indianapolis Indians field. There were about ten people on my side of the press box, and the guy working the PA on the other side was someone I knew. After the shortstop butchered a sharply hit ball, the PA announcer slid open the window separating the sides and asked us press folks if we thought it was a hit or an error.

“Error!” I quickly said.

He nodded, closed the window, and E flashed on the scoreboard. A couple guys in the press box gave me a look, not challenging but more offering me a chance to provide justification.

“It was hit right at him, he had it in his glove, and that’s an easy throw,” I said to nods around the room.

Finest moment of my career!

C. Is Eight

A quick administrative note. It’s a very busy week here. As I’ve mentioned, this is L.’s final week of pre-school. Thus, I’m trying to cram a bunch of projects into my final (now) 14 or so hours without a kid to get in the way.1 As you would expect, we have a busy holiday weekend on the horizon. And I’m getting out and working for the first time since basketball ended Tuesday night. So posts are more likely to come in the evenings this week.

It was a huge, nay, HUGE weekend for C..

Friday night she crossed the bridge and became a Brownie.2 A very important step in a young girl’s life. Unlike M.’s Daisy Scout troop, who had a private ceremony after school two years ago, C.’s troop shared the stage with eight other Girl Scout troops of various ages. It was long and a little tedious. But I think it was cool for C. and her friends to see older girls who have stuck with scouting all the way through high school.

And I have to say, some of the high school seniors were kind of cute and rocking very nice dresses. Not that I notice these things. My point, though, is these weren’t a bunch of social rejects who had only Girl Scouts to get them through school. They seemed like nice, normal girls. On the way home, C. told me she wanted to keep doing Scouts as long as she could and “get all the badges.” I explained that as she gets older, earning badges requires more work than just going to a fun meeting after school. “I know!” she shouted at me, happily. We’ll see how interested she is in scouting in a few years when sports and socializing take hold of her after school hours.

But that was just an appetizer for Saturday’s main course, her eighth birthday. She refused to mess around. As soon as Claire’s was open, she insisted on heading that way to get her ears pierced. She chose emerald earrings to match the birthstone necklace my step-dad had given her on Friday. And she proudly wore both when we met them for lunch afterward.

It wasn’t the prettiest day ever, but she got to play with her buddy next door in the afternoon.

After a quick dinner, she finally got to open her presents. Another Lego Friend set for the collection and a birthday Barbie. She was pleased. Then the neighbors joined us at a local bowling alley where we turned the five girls loose for a couple hours while the adults sat and watched and drank. The girls had a good time, and made the other folks bowling around them laugh with their enthusiasm. Between games the girls scarfed down cupcakes and C. got a bag of Justice goodies from her friends.

It was a simple, yet fun, birthday.

(Quick aside: L. owned the lanes Saturday. Despite being five years younger than the oldest girl, she had the best score in both games, bowling in the 80s both times.3 She enjoyed besting her sisters and their friends. Oh, and she lost another tooth earlier in the day, so she’s now missing her top two front teeth. Once she came back and said to me, “Dad, I hath sithteen poinths!”)

The first graders at St. P’s always put together a time capsule at the end of the year. They fill it with stuff from school, parents send items from home, and later this week the boxes will be sealed and sent home with instructions not to open until she graduates from high school. As with M., I wrote C. a short letter. I talk about the things she’s doing now, the people she hangs out with now, and wonder how much those will have changed over the next 11 years. And I describe the girl she is now a little.

I told C. that there is never any secret as to how she feels about things. When she’s happy, she’s HAPPY. When she’s sad, she’s SAD. She has yet to learn the meaning of poker face. If she tries to hide her emotions, she eventually dissolves into either giggles or tears. She is also a very good friend. I think girls love being around C.. I base that in part on how many playdates she gets invited to. It’s a little ridiculous. But I also think she’s just a fun kid and her full investment in every moment is contagious, and makes the people around her happy. She’s a genuinely sweet person and I really hope she keeps that quality as she gets older. For all of her frustrating moments of anger and sadness, she is generally a bright-eyed kid full of energy seeking the next moment of delight. Another thing I hope does not go away.

Friday is the annual bike parade and family picnic that wraps up the pre-school year. So, basically, everything needs to be wrapped up Thursday. ↩
If you’ve never had a Girl Scout, they go through a “bridging ceremony” when they move up to the next level. They literally walk across a bridge up on the school stage. The kids like it, so I will not mock. ↩
All the girls had the bumpers up, so keep that in mind. There would have been a lot of gutter balls without them. ↩

Bond – Skyfall

Finally! I not only watched a Bond movie for the first time in ages, but I knocked out the most recent one. The same movie I nearly saw in the theaters upon its initial release 18 months ago. The same movie I nearly bought the day it was released on disk. The same movie that has been in my Netflix queue for months.

Better late than never, right?

I forget how I did these in the past, so forgive me if I’ve strayed from the format I’ve used before, or if it’s extra disjointed. I’m out of practice.

So to quickly reset, Daniel Craig took over the role in Casino Royale and, as the kids say, ripped shit up. It was a stunning introduction to the newest Bond. Craig’s next movie, Quantum Of Solace suffered due to a writers strike, but wasn’t terrible.

From moment one of Skyfall, we’re reminded of exactly how Craig has made Bond his own. He strides into a room, jaw clenched, pistol ready, menace radiating from his body. That continues throughout. Never, for a moment, is there any confusion as to which Bond we are seeing. And even now, in his third movie, it is remarkable.

A persistent theme of Skyfall is age. People grow older, skills diminish, old ways are found to be inefficient. Technology, meanwhile, advances, making the impossible accessible; easy, even. That theme is addressed directly at times, notably in how Bond isn’t getting any younger.

But I especially enjoyed the subtle comparison to the old days in the moments when MI6 and Q are able to track Bond’s every movement in real-time. Long gone are the days when Bond flies off to some tropical locale for a mission while the higher ups in London sit back and hope for the best until word of success or failure arrives. Now, he is never off the grid. Unless he turns back the clock and chooses to be, of course…

I remember hearing, when Skyfall was released, how it wasn’t just a great Bond movie, but it was flat out a great movie. It’s certainly not Best Film Oscar material, but that assessment fits. It isn’t just about the story or acting, though. This is a wonderfully directed movie. It is gorgeous to watch. Sam Mendes takes the innate colors of the cities the story rolls through and makes them integral to the picture. Dreary, gray (or grey in this case) London is suddenly made cool by sexy black cars and stylish, athletic people dressed in blueish hues. Shanghai is lit up in glorious Asian pastels. There is a thickness to the scenes shot in the London Underground.

It’s not just color that makes this movie look gorgeous, though. Two scenes in particular, both on trains coincidentally, are fantastically shot. In the opening battle on top of a train, the cameras are kept away from the action. We view the fight through trees and passing landscape. Rarely are the fighters in clear, high definition view, adding to the drama. When Bond is pursuing Silva through a London tube train, the view is compact and crowded, mimicking the feel of being on a rush hour train. These are simple things, but both well done.


Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva

Sometimes Bond villains are so silly you can’t take them seriously. This one, though, is spot on, as a Brit would say. There is the perfect motivation for his evil. He has the perfect plan of attack, a clever, technology-based thrust aimed right at MI6 and M rather than at the broader world. And Bardem is fantastic. Silva is an odd fucking duck, to put it crudely. But not in a cartoony way. You can sense both his original brilliance and his current madness in every scene. He’s an unsettling man to watch. And his entry speech is one of the better introductions to a Bond villain in the series’ history.

Bond Girls

Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine.

A thoroughly delightful companion for Silva. Creepy and odd, but crazy sexy at the same time. I approve.

Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny.

Nothing wrong with a British sister kicking some ass. And that accent! Whoo! A bit underused, but it all comes together at the end. She’s Moneypenny! While the original Moneypenny could never have been a field agent, it’s fun to think that her competency and strength were born in field duty rather than just good, old fashioned British fortitude. A lovely way to set up the next few movies. Oh, and that shaving scene was special.


Choosing Adele to sing the title song for a Bond movie made in 2012 was a no-brainer. Like using Sheena Easton in 1981, it was perfect for the time. The song? Not bad. Not bad at all. But given her ubiquity in the two-plus years leading up to the movie, I don’t know that the song is particularly memorable.


Several good quotes I jotted down.

“Gun and radio…”
“Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t really go for that anymore.”

A nice bit in the first encounter between Bond and the new, shockingly young, Q. Another sign that these are better movies that those of the past eras. They don’t need gimmick weapons to grab your interest.

“What makes you think this is my first time?”

Brilliant line by Bond when Silva caresses him in a rather suggestive, sexual manner. What made it brilliant wasn’t that you couldn’t imagine Connery or Moore saying it. Times were different, and if they said it, they would be sure to say so with a grin just to make sure everyone knew they had never even thought about having a gay experience. But Craig says it so matter-of-factly that, given the rest of his Bond’s personality, you think, “Yeah, I can see him doing that if it meant success in a mission.”

“That’s a waste of good scotch”

Bond after Silva kills Sévérine when attempting to shoot a shot glass of scotch off her head. A weeeeee bit tasteless, but also shows the cold heartedness of this Bond perfectly.

“How safe do you feel?”

M to the parliament council questioning her. A very interesting, if subtle, point made during our Age of Intelligence Gathering, for lack of a better phrase. Do you want MI6 (and the NSA) snooping, or do you want another 9/11 seems to be her argument. A question that will continue to be addressed for a long time.

Other Tidbits

Lovely to see the Aston-Martin DB5 return. That is a dead sexy car. And perfect placement, as Bond and M go off-the-grid, and leave behind the modern trappings. A terrific little retro-Bond music as they cruise away from London. And then the subtle dig by M, “It’s not very comfortable, is it?”

Speaking of M, I like that they killed off Judi Dench’s M rather than just brought in a new M, unexplained, in the next movie. And the introduction of Ralph Fiennes as the new M was perfect. He begins as a know-nothing, bureaucratic antagonist, proves himself in the line of fire – with a combat record to boot – and then slides as the new M. Well done one both ends.

People were right. This is a fantastic movie. It is Bond for smart people. Yes, there is violence and action. But there’s also an intelligent story that limits the ridiculous, completely implausible twists. Other than the standard hero beating the odds stuff, most of the movie you think, “That could happen…”

The story is less about brute force than about learning to combine old tools and new to solve cases before too many people are harmed. It’s almost a techno-thriller And rather than the old “ends justify the means” attitude, it addresses the times we live in and how we operate spy programs when we’re not sure who the bad guys are.

And they finish it off with a glorious orgy of ridiculous, over-the-top, military violence. Hey, it’s not perfect.

But it is very good. Certainly one of the Best Bond movies ever.

R’s – Six Weeks In

The Royals have officially reached the maddening stage with me. They had a nice road trip last week, winning four of seven games. With one exception, they continued to get solid pitching from the starters. Those guys just can not hit, though.

As Joe Posnanski and others have written about many times, what is especially infuriating is that this franchise hasn’t hit since the Golden Era. It doesn’t make sense. Yes, Kauffman Stadium is not a great home run park. But the Royals haven’t hit home runs on the road since pretty much forever, too. And when road teams come into the K, they still find a way to clear the fences, even if at lower rates than in their home parks.

It’s as though every Royals general and field manager since the artificial turf was ripped out doesn’t realize that slapping the ball and letting it bounce around doesn’t work anymore.

The problem isn’t just the lack of home runs, though. This organization has always had a horrific approach at the plate. Even the franchise’s greatest players were loathe to take a walk. When Tony Muser was managing the promising group of young hitters around the Millennium, he famously told them to jump on the first pitch they saw because they might not see another ball to hit in their at bat.

Tony’s been gone for a long time, but the Royals still hack as though he’s in the dugout.

Two weeks ago the Detroit Tigers retired six straight Royals on ten total pitches. Early in Sunday’s game in Seattle, Royals pitchers had thrown at least ten innings of 15 or more pitches in the series. Seattle pitchers? Zero 10+ pitch innings.

Even Eric Hosmer, who seems to be the only guy who can consistently hit, will come out of his shoes at the first pitch in an AB if it’s anywhere near the plate.

It’s infuriating to watch a rally die because two straight hitters try to jump all over the first pitch and pop it up on the infield.

The most common thing I say while watching the Royals?


So the Royals can’t hit home runs. They don’t work the count. Guys like Alex Gordon, Sal Perez, and Billy Butler will hit for a week or ten days and then fall into a deep slump. Mike Moustakas, who was supposed to be the power at the center of the lineup, can’t hit his weight, let alone live up to his hype, and is likely headed back to Omaha today. Hosmer is the only home-grown hitting talent who shows any consistency, and I’m beginning to believe that’s in spite of his approach at the plate rather than because of his terrific talent.

The Royals off-season moves have mostly worked out for the best. Omar Infante, when he can stay healthy, provides fine defense at second and a good bat at the top of the order. Nori Aoki has struggled at times with the transition to the American League, and his defense is the weakest on the team. But in general he’s been solid. Jason Vargas has surprised being terrific in most of his starts. And Alcides Escobar rediscovered his stroke from two years ago and is again playing Gold Glove caliber shortstop.

But the Royals are a game under .500 with just three weeks left in the soft early portion of their schedule. When the calendar turns to June, suddenly they begin playing much better teams more often. Maybe the warmer air will help balls carry at the K and some of those line drives will sail over the fence. And maybe those shots will build confidence in Gordon, Butler, and Perez and the bats begin to give the arms some support.

These are the Kansas City Royals, though. Putting your faith in being smart at the plate and getting on base and scoring runs every night is bound to leave you disappointed.

Weekend Notes

A few things about a few things.

After our endless winter, we finally got a blast of hot over the weekend. It pushed well into the 80s both days, with a healthy dose of humidity to make it feel a tad uncomfortable. I swore not to bitch about the heat after the months of cold…

This is the Midwest, though. The high Friday is supposed to be down in the 50s.

Part of being in a cable-free house means I have missed out on a few things. For example, I haven’t been able to watch the Pacers get their stuff together and suddenly be on the verge of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. I checked the score around halftime last night and, seeing they were well behind, forgot about the game. I was doing one last Twitter check before bed and saw that they had come back and won, taking a 3-1 lead over Washington.

Still not convinced they have all their issues solved. But they were built to play Miami. A boost of confidence from closing out the Wizards in five or six games and a chance at redemption against the Heat might just keep them on track.

Or they might not win another game. Tough to buy in to the turn around completely.

I realized this morning that L. is down to two weeks of pre-K remaining. That means these are the last two weeks of me running around the corner to drop off and pick up a kid. The last two weeks of not having all three girls on the same school schedule. It has gone quickly.

More tooth fairy stories.

Three lost teeth in the last week.

First, L. lost her third tooth on Tuesday. When I went in to do the tooth-for-cash switch, it was after 11:00. And yet she was sitting up in her bed looking around. Fortunately, she was totally out of it and I was able to get her to lie down and subtly made the swap while I was patting her back and telling her to go back to sleep. M., for some reason, still protested the next morning when L. showed off her $3. I can’t figure that kid out.

C. lost a tooth Thursday night, but did so after everyone had gone to bed. She came into our room after 11:00 to announce her big news. S. rather tersely told her that it was too late for the Tooth Fairy, so she’d have to save it for the next night. What she really meant was we didn’t have any dollar bills lying around and needed to get some the next day.

Friday night C. and L. decided to sleep together in C.’s room. So when I snuck in I had to worry about not waking two kids. C. was flopping around the whole time I was in there, but never woke. The other danger with her room is she always has crap thrown all over the floor. Last week I crushed two plastic Easter eggs that were under a pile of blankets she left on the floor. So, in addition to not wanting to wake anyone up, I had to be sure not to impale my foot on any sharp objects scattered around.

Finally, L. lost another front tooth today right after school. M. was telling her yesterday to be careful if she lost it at school, because it was a valuable tooth. We’ll see if she throws a fit tomorrow when L. emerges from her room with $5.

Finishing Up Strong

Kickball season ended last night. St. P’s got a gutty two-run win over the team they got their first win over a week ago. They ended the season 3-4, but won three of their final four games.

As with the first game, last night was not without controversy. There were a series of contested calls involving foul balls late in the game. The OL coaches and parents were complaining especially loudly about two calls in the last inning. Given the closeness of the game and the position of the coaches and parents (directly between me and the field), I came dangerously close to becoming That Dad. You know, the guy who yells at the other team’s coach and parents during a third and fourth grade athletic event.

In my defense, they were being idiots. I’m amazed at how many parents, including ones keeping the scorebook, don’t understand the foul ball rules. Last night one parent turned to another and said, “So when is it a foul ball and when isn’t it?” Shouldn’t you know the answer to this question before you start bitching loudly?

A grandfather of one of M.’s teammates was standing near me and as I started to voice my opinion, not loudly but enough to be heard several feet away, he turned and looked at me and shook his head in disgust. I’m assuming at the other parents and not me, of course.

Anyway, the girls won and were very happy. And I learned a valuable lesson: stand farther away from the field next fall so I don’t hear every comment of the other team’s parents. I think I’m going to recruit kids and parents from the neighborhood to play some kickball in the street this summer so, hopefully, M. can develop a little more kicking strength/skill. Since she doesn’t listen to anything S. and I tell her to do, maybe peer pressure will pay off.

Oh, last night OL pulled off an unassisted triple play. With runners on first and second, there was a line shot to the pitcher, who caught the ball. The runners from second and third both took off and, as tends to happen, either kept running or completely froze in the middle of the base path. Meanwhile the parents from both teams are screaming at their kids to either throw to second or get back to their base. The pitcher was the first to figure out what was going on. She ran toward second and tagged the base, then ran over to first and doubled-off the runner there. Sure, she could have thrown the ball and not hogged all the glory for herself. But given how first basemen struggle to catch, it was a pretty heady and smart move. A bummer for our girls, but impressive nonetheless.

Hawks (Of Many Kinds)

Worlds collide to make the first post of the week an easy-to-name one.

First, a few words about Naadir Tharpe leaving the Jayhawks basketball program.

I felt sorry for Naadir all season. He was clearly miscast as a primary point guard for a national championship contending caliber team. But, thanks to several misses on the recruiting trail by Bill Self1, the job was his. And despite his obvious limitations, people looked back at his performance against Michigan a year earlier, when he played wonderfully, and expected him to be a step up from the always wild ride that was Elijah Johnson’s year at the point.

And, to Naadir’s credit, he played wonderfully again in a few games this year, notably in the second Oklahoma game. While the rest of the team tried to piss that one away he hit a series of big shots and then sealed the win at the free throw line.

But it was always a roller coaster ride with Naadir. He’d counter every good game with another where he would turn the ball over constantly, often in a mind-numbingly dumb manner. He would go scoreless on a night when no one else was hitting. He would fail to do anything to stop the guy he was guarding. He would attempt the difficult pass when the easy one was both smarter and better.

And then came the stuff that made me feel for him. Bill Self will jump all over any player that’s messing up. But he’s especially hard on the older players and on his point guards. Naadir got it both ways last season. I believe it was during the Oklahoma State game in Stillwater when, after throwing a ball out of bounds without being pressured, Self just destroyed Naadir during the subsequent time out. At that moment, I wondered if Naadir might transfer when the season was done.

Whether it was all that or his stupid social media move in the off-season (look it up if interested), but enough became enough and he’s gone.

Everyone’s probably better for it. I think he’s a player who has maxed out his abilities, and it would be a miserable season if he continued to struggle with the basics of running the offense. Throw in the expected reaction by opposing fans to his selfie exploits, and I don’t blame him for leaving.

There is some question as to whether he was asked to leave. I haven’t heard anything to suggest that he was forced out. But I’ve also heard the coaching staff wasn’t too disappointed he is leaving. It saves them having to publicly discipline him for his naughty pic and a season of the fans killing him every time he did something wrong.

I hope the best for him, wherever he lands. His career at KU might have been different if he never had to be more than the backup he was recruited to be.

On to the Atlanta Hawks, who nearly knocked the top seeded Pacers from the NBA playoffs in the opening round. It took a determined, gutty effort in game six for the Pacers to bring the series back to Indy for game seven. Then, finally, for most of the night, the Pacers played free and easy while Atlanta was missing shots they had hit through the first six games. It was a bit of a rout, although Atlanta made enough runs to keep it interesting.

Getting to the bigger point, man, I don’t know what happened to the Pacers. They looked awesome through the first three months of the season. Then Paul George threw down that nutty 360 tomahawk against the Clippers, the paternity rumors about George and an exotic dancer, Larry Bird signed Andrew Bynum and traded for Evan Turner, Lance Stephenson started fighting with everyone, and they fell apart. Only Miami’s struggles in the final weeks of the season kept the Pacers in the #1 seed slot.

The Pacers just feel like a team that has come completely unmoored. I don’t think getting by Atlanta suddenly fixes that. Maybe they’ll get it together enough to win four games against Washington. And then the hope is that getting a third crack at Miami, with home court, will suddenly focus them and we’ll see the Pacers from the first half of the season.

That’s a lot of wishful thinking, though. I have a feeling they have a new coach next year, because someone has to take the blame, and Larry will look long and hard at moving everyone but Paul George in the off season.

Finally, real hawks. As in we have a couple living in our backyard trees. I’m not sure whether it’s a mom and her juvenile hawklet, or a mating pair. But two birds have spent the last several weeks reeking havoc amongst the wildlife in our neighborhood. Each morning our front yard is covered in feathers from the hawks’ morning kills. Occasionally I find little bird parts scattered around, too. Sadly the hawks have either eaten or scared off all the songbirds and our normally busy bird feeder is desolate and quiet.

I’m not sure what kind of hawk they are, but a neighbor mentioned he talked to the city two years ago, when a pair was in his trees, and was told you can’t shoot at them because they’re a protected species. Not that I would take a shot at them, but I don’t know of another way to get rid of them. I guess it will be a birdless summer, and we’ll hit the mosquito spray extra hard. Or hope the bats clear them out.

  1. The one notable failing of Self’s recruiting has been with primary guards. After getting Mario Chalmers and Sherron Collins, each ranked #2 in their class, in back-to-back years, he has not signed his top point guard target since. Tyshawn Taylor only came to KU because Tom Crean left Marquette for Indiana. Tharpe was a third or fourth choice. Frank Mason was a fall-back option. I suppose Conner Frankamp might qualify, but I doubt Self ever expected him to be a starting point guard. 
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