Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 272)

More Check Marks

A couple kid milestones to share.


First, C got her braces taken off yesterday. This was both early and late. She was originally pegged to be in them 22–24 months, and this was just month 17. But it was also late because she missed an appointment during lockdown so likely would have had them removed 4–6 weeks ago had she stayed on that schedule.

She was thrilled to get them removed, although a bit bummed that some of the ceremony that goes with having them taken off has been wiped out by the Covid era. No little celebration in the office, no basket of popcorn and candy. We’ll make up for that some other way, so it all evens out.

Her teeth look great. The only bummer was that she – in a total shock – got some calcification/discoloration from eating too much sugar and letting it sit under her braces too long. Mom was not pleased with that but it was kind of a sure thing to happen to that kid. She will now wear her retainer 24/7 for 10 weeks before being evaluated again.

Now two down on the braces tip, L likely to start her routine in the next calendar year.


The other milestone is that M was elected as a sophomore class officer.

A few weeks back she told us that she wanted to run for student council. “Cool, go for it!” was our response. A couple days later she said she changed her mind and wanted to run for class officer. Which confused me. “What’s the difference?” I asked. “Aren’t class officers part of student council?” Or at least that’s the way I remember it from 30+ years go when I was in high school.

She explained that student council and class officers are two different groups at CHS, and have two different sets of responsibilities.

Whatever, we were still supportive and onboard.

Unlike the old days where parents would help their kids make posters and buttons or whatever when running in a school election, now kids can kind of do it all on their own. M had to submit a video, and a couple of her friends helped with that. She never showed it to us so I have no idea what she said or what her tone was.

She dropped it into the appropriate digital folder and waited anxiously for election day. There were 14 or 15 kids running, and the top 7–8 vote getters would be the winners. The kid that got the most votes would be class president, the remaining winners would all get the same title of class officer. No secretary, treasurer, etc.

Election Day arrived and she was nervous. That nervousness increased when they extended voting an extra day. Given all the controversy about the act of voting in federal, state, and local elections right now I couldn’t help but wonder why voting was being extended and who made the decision. Then I remember that it was high school and the likely aim was to get more kids to vote.

She was hoping to hear the evening of the second day of voting. Students used a Google form to submit their votes so it wasn’t like teachers were counting slips of paper. But no email came out that night and she got more nervous.

The next day, right around lunch time, she texted me that she had been elected. She was pretty excited. One of her friends from St P’s also made the cut.

Her first task is helping to pick the class theme for homecoming. I’ve had to drop her off extra early at school the past two Wednesdays so she can attend meetings. After that they will plan one of the dances and another event in the spring. Assuming any of that happens.

Regardless of what they do and if they get to do it, it’s a cool accomplishment and a nice addition to her list of activities when it comes time to send out college applications.

It is always interesting to watch your kids accomplish things. M and I are very alike in many ways. That’s why we argue the most. But she also has a healthy dose of her mother. I would never have run for any kind of school election. She is much more outgoing than I was at the same age. I don’t know what her actual level of popularity is, but from my perspective she seems pretty popular. That’s all from her mom.

While I’m sure she has plenty of teenage hangups, she seems a lot more comfortable in her own skin than I ever did in high school. I’ve always said I had no worries about her finding a path in life. So far she’s proving me correct in that assessment.

Weekend Notes

It was a weekend dominated by watching sports, mostly on the TV.


Friday night we went to an (outdoor) fundraiser that a high school friend of S’s was throwing. This is her pal who nearly died of Covid back in April. He brought together a few well-connected friends he has (one is an NBA player) to throw a neighborhood concert that would raise money for families that were struggling with expenses because of Covid-related hospital stays.

It was a perfect fall night, the first Friday night this season you had to throw a jacket on to be outside. It would have been great to be at a high school football game. But the concert was fun. There were a lot of St P’s families there. We hung with a few of S’s high school friends. We very briefly met the NBA player.

Throughout the night we were following the CHS game. They were playing the #8 large class team from Ohio. Last year the two teams went to overtime with St X winning. This year CHS won by three, getting a late interception as St X was driving for a potential tying/winning score. They are now 5–0.


Sunday I watched some chunks of the Colts game. They looked pretty good despite losing three more important players to injuries. Since key players getting injured seems to be a trend around the league, I’m starting to think the healthiest team in January will be the true Super Bowl favorite. I caught the end of the Dallas-Atlanta game, which was just stupid. Then again, if any team knows how to blow an un-blowable lead, it is the Falcons. We had dinner plans so missed the late games and the first half of the night game, although what I did get to see of the Pats-Seahawks game was highly entertaining.

I watched most of the fourth quarter of the Lakers-Nuggets game, and that was absolutely terrific drama!


I missed some NFL during the day because I watched C cheer at the St P’s cadet football game. She had told me the team wasn’t very good, which is saying something since she knows nothing about football. But they were playing another allegedly bad team so there was hope. After a scoreless first quarter parents were mumbling about a 0–0 tie. But St C found a huge weakness in the St P’s defense, forced four turnovers, and won 22–0. It’s painful watching bad middle school teams try to play football. Most of the kids are too small to tackle. The offenses suck. The defenses are terrible. The parents are constantly complaining. Granted, all middle school sports are kind of a train wreck. But football seems a little extra bad. I had this thought two years ago when M cheered: how on earth are all the Catholic high schools around here good-to-great at football when CYO football is soooo bad?


Most of my weekend sports time was devoted to watching hours and hours of the US Open. Which was terrific…until Sunday. I am not a Bryson DeChambeau fan. Which is a shame because he’s a remarkable player and just had a legendary performance in the final round of a major. But he’s both insufferable and generally full of shit, which makes it very hard to get onboard with him. I wish I could like him, because he is very much about doing things different than what conventional wisdom suggests, which is something that golf needs. But his personality is soooooo grating that I can’t get over it.[1]

He’s definitely the future of PGA golf, though, and us haters are going to have to get used to him. Even if he doesn’t dominate the way Tiger in his prime did, more and more golfers are going to begin following his path of bulking up to chase speed and distance. Even if he isn’t always winning, golfers who resemble him both physically and in their game will.

I’m not sure that’s great. Anyone who plays golf wants to it as far as they possibly can. But Bryson makes a mockery of courses, even ones that have been stretched out and allegedly toughened up to fight the big bombers like him. It’s clear that superintendents, the PGA Tour, and USGA have no idea how to set up courses to prevent distance from being such a huge factor without making them impossible to play for the guys who don’t hit it 300+ with the driver. And the PGA/USGA don’t want to piss off the equipment manufacturers but putting greater limits on either driver size or performance, or taking some juice out of the ball (or putting spin back into it). Golf writer Andy Johnson has been saying for some time that golf is headed where men’s tennis went a decade ago, when racquets got so hot that long rallies disappeared and matches became, essentially, serving contests. The ATP did take some juice out of the tennis ball a few years ago. I don’t watch enough tennis to know if that has made much of a difference.

I don’t know what the right answer for golf is. The sport has a long history of the pros and weekend duffers being able to play the exact same equipment on the exact same courses. When the pro game begins to turn into a completely different sport, where long and middle irons aren’t needed anymore, it may be time to re-examine that relationship and whether the pros should be forced to play scaled-back equipment.

As much as I dislike Bryson, I can’t help but be impressed with how rapidly he has changed both his body and his game. Just over a year ago he said he wanted to gain a bunch of weight to help him swing faster and harder. He gained a solid chunk during the brief winter off-season, and then another chunk during the lockdown. He’s something like 40 pounds heavier than he was a year ago. The gains in his game were immediately apparent. But a lot of people, me included, didn’t think he could manage to hit the ball insanely far and keep it relatively straight. He will occasionally go off the rails a little, but it is utterly remarkable how well he controls the ball off the tee. When he turned pro he was not a good putter. Since the restart he’s been putting incredibly well. His wedges were always his issue. Suddenly in the last month they’ve turned into a plus rather than a minus. Someone on Twitter today pointed out that Rory McIlRoy has been trying to figure out his wedges and putter for five years. Bryson apparently fixed them in less than a calendar year. Insane.

It was also a little disappointing that the tournament didn’t turn into the usual absolute carnage that the US Open is famous for. There were big numbers, to be sure, and only two players were at par or better. But it didn’t feel like the disaster so many Opens of the past have been. And when I say disaster I mean in a good way for the viewer. I love watching the pros look like me, battering the ball from one side of the rough to the other, or having no idea where it will end up thanks to course conditions. Bryson and the other young bombers out there may have ended that era.


  1. It doesn’t help, for me, that he’s a big supporter of our president. Which, to be fair, most pro golfers are and I don’t count it against a lot of them. But when you already dislike someone, that just makes it worse.  ↩

Tops of Eighty Four

It only took six weeks for Tom Breihan to roll through the 20 number one songs of 1984. 1985 has some bangers, for sure, but we’re approaching the point where I’ll be more interested in his words than in the songs themselves.

In the comments, people ranked the Number Ones of 1984 in their preferred order. Believe it or not I’m not registered to comment; not sure why but I’ve never signed up. I have a blog, though, and feel obligated to share my rankings of the chart topping songs of the greatest year in pop music.

1 – “Let’s Go Crazy” – Prince and the Revolution
2 – “When Doves Cry” – Prince and the Revolution
3 – “Time After Time” – Cyndi Lauper
4 – “Out of Touch” – Daryl Hall & John Oates
5 – “Owner of a Lonely Heart” – Yes
6 – “What’s Love Got to Do With It” – Tina Turner
7 – “Say Say Say” – Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
8 – “Missing You” – John Waite
9 – “Jump” – Van Halen
10 – “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” – Deniece Williams
11 – “Ghostbusters” – Ray Parker, Jr.
12 – “Karma Chameleon” – Culture Club
13 – “Caribbean Queen” – Billy Ocean
14 – “Like a Virgin” – Madonna
15 – The Reflex” – Duran Duran
16 – “Footloose” – Kenny Loggins
17 – “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” – Wham!
18 – “Against All Odds” – Phil Collins
19 – “Hello” – Lionel Richie
20 – “I Just Called to Say I Love You” -Stevie Wonder

End of Two Seasons and A Career

The fall 2020 kickball season has come to an end for our family.

L’s team capped their season Wednesday with a run-rule win against the nearest parish. L had a grand slam, a three-run triple, and a single to close out the season.

She didn’t kick quite as well this year as in the past. I’m not sure if that’s because she hasn’t played soccer in a year, or just from her body changing – she’s stretched out more over the past few months – and her form changing along with it. She’s becoming more like C, though, and kicking line drives then racing around the bases. There are a couple girls that are probably faster than her in a straight line. But no one runs the bases like she does. Her grand slam was legit, though, a towering ball that an outfielder couldn’t contain and rolled all the way to the school building.


C’s team had their final game Thursday. It was against a school we’ve had issues with for years. We beat them like a drum back in fifth grade. But something happened between that game and sixth grade. Our girls all seemed to plateau while the St J’s girls all got bigger, recruited some friends, and figured the game out. Not only had they beaten us something like five-straight, including earlier this season, but some bad blood had developed between us and their coaches. Their coach is super competitive, as are we, but always acts like she doesn’t know the rules. She’s been coaching long enough where she damn well should know them. Our head coach is our school rules expert, and it drives her nuts when this coach pretends she doesn’t know what is going on.

And weird things tend to happen in these games. Once it started sprinkling during the game, then raining a little harder. The umpire refused to stop the game and a couple of our parents yanked their kids off the field in the middle of an inning. Another time C felt like she was going to throw up and had to exit in the middle of the game, likely costing us that game. Our head coaches also argued about when to reschedule another game that was rained out, and a third game that was halted because of darkness three innings in. And we ALWAYS seem to get some crazy umpire when we play them. In our first meeting this year we got a total dick who refused to call St. J girls out for crossing the kicking line because he said it was too hard for him to see it.[1] Then he yelled at our head coach, telling her to “Come out here and see what I can see!” when she attempted to protest.

In short, when we play St. J it always ends up being some super stressful night that isn’t fun at all. Plus we lose.

When we rolled up to the field Thursday my stomach did a flip. We had the umpire from M’s infamous “Longest Game Ever” three years ago. This was the umpire that made two absolutely horrific, and wrong according to the rules, calls that nearly cost us the game. It was the maddest I’ve ever been during a game and the only time I’ve decided to chat with an umpire following a game.

L’s team had her earlier this year and she missed a couple calls against us in a close game.

Just freaking great.

We gave up eight runs in the first inning. Not a great start. We got a few back in our half, played better D, and slowly chipped away. In the third inning the umpire made a “wrong by the rules” call. In kickball a runner at first is in play if she turns back inside fair territory to get back to first. Doesn’t matter if their intent is to go back to first. A St. J girl did that, our girl playing first tagged her out, but the umpire refused to rule her out. Our head coach went out to discuss, but the umpire would not change her call. Between innings they had a chat and the umpire admitted she was wrong. Fortunately we got that girl out at second so it didn’t alter the score.

But my blood pressure was rising.

We continued to play well on defense and took a three-run lead into the seventh.

We gave up five and St. J had the bases loaded with two outs when their kicker stepped over the kicking line when she made contact. The head coach and I started yelling, “SHE’S OUT!” The umpire gave us a look, nodded, waited until the girl passed first, then called her out. Redemption!

Now we needed two runs to tie, three to win, with the heart of our order coming up. Our best kicker was first. She’s a lefty and kicked the longest ball I’ve ever seen on our field. She easily scampered home for the first run. We got a runner on, made an out, then had another big kicker come up with a runner on second. She blasted one, bringing home the tying run and ended up on second. We had a good, if inconsistent kicker up next. She sent a low liner toward the shortstop. It skipped, got by her, and bounded into the outfield. I coach third and was screaming at our runner, “COME ON, COME ON, GO! GO! GO!” windmilling my arm and sending her home. She scored easily, our girls all lost their shit, and they ended their careers with a very sweet win.

Whew. I literally smacked our head coach in the shoulder when we got to our bench. “HOW ABOUT THAT!?!?” I yelled at her. The girls hugged, took pictures, thanked their classmates that had come to support them, and we headed to Dairy Queen for an ice cream celebration. And then the St. J’s team all showed up. That was a liiiiiiittle bit awkward. With Covid restrictions in mind, we claimed one side of the patio, they stuck to the other, and the peace was kept.

C got on three times and scored a couple runs. She had one play where she was able to open up and fly around the bases, scoring from first. One of the St. J’s players said, “Wow!” as C passed her at full speed.

That is what I’m always going to remember and miss about C. Once she figured the game out, she was the best player in her grade for about three years. In sixth grade she was one of the very best players in the entire school, both because of her kicking and speed and the way she could basically play the entire infield.

She’s lost some of that over the past year. Her kicking isn’t as consistent, but she still occasionally really got into one. Her fielding took a huge step back. I think all those blasts up front, and resulting injuries, wore her down.[2] But the girl could still fly when she got on base.

M and C had very different kickball careers. M was always on great teams, but was often the weakest player on the team. C was on a bunch of mediocre to bad teams, but usually was the most complete player on the team.

I have two favorite memories of C’s kickball years.

The first was in fifth grade. I don’t remember the details of the game. I just know she kicked a couple home runs and made a ton of plays in the field. That night a friend of ours with a daughter on the team sent me a screenshot of the text her son, who is in M’s grade, sent her after the game. He said that his sister made a couple nice plays and that C “Had the greatest kickball performance I’ve ever seen.” I show that to C every year when it pops up in my Timehop memories.

Second was a moment in sixth grade. I was keeping score and the mom/grandma keeping score for the other team kept bragging about her daughter/granddaughter and how fast she was. “Yeah, you’re not going to throw her out,” when we tried to throw her out at first. She told me how the girl was the fastest on the St. C cross country team. I nodded and smiled, not saying a word about C’s speed, and knowing C had beaten her at every XC meet that season.

Fairly early in the game this girl was on first and the ball got away from our pitcher, rolling behind home plate. The runner saw this and took off, getting to second easily and turning towards third. C had taken off after the ball immediately, picked it up a good 10 feet behind home plate as the girl was rounding second, and then roared across the field to tag the girl out a step before she got to third. Giggling the entire time.

The mom/grandma literally gasped and made some semi-snotty comment about how it was a lucky play to her kid when she checked in with us as out. It was very hard for me not to say “DON’T EVER FUCKING RUN ON CB AGAIN!” I did say it to myself. Bitches.

Those moments of speed are the biggest thing I will remember about C’s career. She could be moody, get down on herself, and mentally check out. I lost track of how many games she started crying in, whether because she was getting beaten up by the ball or was frustrated with the umpire. But when that girl got a chance to run, she was so much fun to watch.


  1. There is a line in front of home plate that kickers are not supposed to cross when they kick. I know there is an official distance this line is supposed to be in front of home, but it differs on every diamond. If a girl steps over the line and kicks a fair ball, she is supposed to be out.  ↩
  2. She had her worst injury a couple weeks back. She was pitching and took an absolutely crushed ball right in the hand. It bent her hand completely backward and she immediately burst into tears and came out of the game. I was worried her wrist was broken. It turned out she just had a nasty hematoma that lasted about a week. S said the force of the ball likely burst a blood vessel in C’s arm. I’ve been trying to tell you all for years how rough real kickball is!  ↩

Football!

Football is back! After three weeks of high school action, the college and pro ranks joined in this weekend to give us another nudge towards a sense of normalcy.

Let’s run through the weekend’s happenings.


High School

CHS played arch rival BCHS on Friday. CHS was ranked #1 in 5A, BCHS #1 in 3A. Despite the difference in size (CHS is a natural 4A school, with about 350 more students and draws from a bigger geographic region), this is a pretty even rivalry. Last year was a delightful game with the eventual 3A state champs in control most of the night until CHS made a few huge defensive plays and had two 60+ yard touchdowns in the second half to get the win.

This year…well, not nearly as exciting. CHS led 25–0 midway through the second quarter and seemed well on their way to another crushing win. They got sloppy, though, committing a ton of drive-killing penalties and allowed BCHS to get comfortable on offense. It was never close, but the final, 39–20, was CHS’ closest game of the year.

Now they move on to the annual Cincinnati part of their schedule, with home games the next three weeks against schools from Ohio.

I listened to the CHS game on the radio, as has become my Friday tradition. After it ended, I flipped over to the student broadcast of The Other CHS’ game, which was headed to overtime. These student announcers weren’t nearly as good as some of the ones I’ve heard in the past. I did enjoy the line by one of the announcers that even though he had to take the ACT Saturday morning, he was fine with the game lasting deep into the night. The Other CHS won by one in double OT.


College

This weekend of college football felt very strange. Two major conferences not playing. Marquee non-conference games cancelled and replaced by games that only the most devoted fan would be interested in. And then the Big 12 laying a big, fat egg against the Sun Belt.

I don’t care about the Iowa State and Kansas State losses. And, to be honest, I don’t care that much about Kansas losing to Coastal Carolina. I was not sure what Vegas was thinking, making the Jayhawks, who literally may not have a functioning quarterback, a touchdown favorite over a team that beat them last year. A loss was not that much of a surprise. KU getting absolutely housed in the first half? Now that was a surprise. Really glad I didn’t drink a beer until kickoff so I could stay awake for that garbage. As it was I only made it to halftime before bailing. 10:00 pm eastern time starts are bad.

Listen, KU sucks. They will not win a game this year. That’s nothing new. But anyone who thought that this year would bring some dramatic improvement wasn’t looking at the roster. Again, the team does not have a quarterback who is ready to take a D1 snap. The offensive line will yet again be the worst in the Big 12, making things even tougher on the quarterback.

The thing for KU is to get through this year. Because next year is when Les Miles’ careful and disciplined recruiting should begin to bear fruit. I don’t expect Miles to keep the majority of the kids he has commitments from in the current recruiting class, but bringing in a third-straight class that is almost all high schoolers will at least get the program back on firm footing for the first time since Charlie Weis drove off nearly 30 players in his first year. That always had to be the first step to end the cycle of suck. Then you start hoping some of these kids can play.


NFL

Welcome to Indy, Philip Rivers! All summer we heard how “playing behind one of the strongest offensive lines in the NFL will allow Rivers to cut down on his interceptions.” So naturally he throws two really bad picks, one early in the game when the Colts could have put the Jaguars away, the other late in the game that killed any chance of the Colts coming back. Oh, and the defense kind of sucked and the offensive line sure looked mediocre in the running game. Plus Marlon Mack may be out for the year. You shouldn’t overreact to one game, but losing to the worst team in the NFL was not a great start for the Rivers era. Oh, turns out he may be cursed, too, which could be a problem.

I casually watched several other games. Which is my favorite way to watch the NFL. I cooked. I read. I surfed the web and the socials. I took a break to coach a basketball practice. I don’t have to be totally invested in an NFL game. It can just be on, the background noise to fall afternoons and evenings. For that reason alone, it was good for the NFL to be back.

My only complaint of the first day of NFL games – well, other than the Colts game – was the crowd noise that Fox added to their games. I’m fine with this, in theory. But it has to be done correctly. Most of the time they had it cranked up at least 20% too loudly. It should not interfere with the broadcasters’ audio. In the Chicago-Detroit game, it was often hard to hear the announcers over the fake crowd noise. Which makes no sense. And the increases/decreases in crowd noise were always super abrupt. Like there was a kid with his hand on the volume knob, and he frantically spun it up or down depending on the play, rather that easing it to a new level.

A friend pointed out the fake noise on the NBC broadcast should have reflected that had a crowd been in the new LA stadium, it would have been at least half Cowboys fans. I liked that thought.

Finally, I realized over the weekend that the NFL playoff format is different than the predictions I offered, with only the top seed getting a bye. I regret the error but will not update the picks to reflect the proper order. They were half-assed to begin with.

Friday Playlist

“Child’s Romance” – Nap Eyes
This song sounds soooooo Australian. Yet this band is from Nova Scotia. Even if they aren’t from my favorite musical continent, I still really dig this song. All kinds of good bits in it.

“Mustang” – Strange
Not sure there’s anyone in music right now like Bartees Strange. He combines a variety of disparate influences into a unique sound. He’s also a pretty interesting cat. The critics love him, so I hope his upcoming debut EP gets as much attention as it deserves.

“Singing” – Sun June
What an absolutely gorgeous song. This sounds like the end of summer to me.

“The Rising” – Bruce Spingsteen
Bruce has a new song out this week but this one seemed more appropriate for today. Nineteen years pass quickly.

“My City of Ruins” – Eddie Vedder covering Bruce Springsteen
If we’re playing songs off The Rising, might as well share this one too. Come on, rise up.

2020 NFL Predictions

Over the weekend I dug into the blog archives a little bit. I would pull up a random month from the past and scroll through the entries, skimming any that jumped out at me. I had thought a good quarantine project would be to re-read through the entire history of the site, but I never got around to that. Maybe that can be a winter project.

As I went through Septembers of the past, I realized to keep with precedent, I should throw together some NFL predictions for the upcoming season. Who knows how long the season will last and what it will look like as it progresses. And we all know who is going to win the hypothetical Super Bowl, baring an injury to one particular player. So maybe this is a waste of time and space. But seems like I should post something to keep up with history.

These are always half-assed, as I loathe the NFL offseason and all the hype that comes with it. This was an especially odd off-season, though, so I anticipate even more “I didn’t know that guy was on that team!” moments in the first month of the year than usual. Which makes these even more half-assed. And that seems appropriate for 2020!

AFC East

New England. Yeah, yeah, I know. But seriously, you trust Buffalo over Belichick? Come on. I also happen to think Cam Newton is going to do just fine and Josh McDaniels will embrace the options Cam offers that Tom Brady didn’t. The Pats might only be 9–7, but I can’t believe the Bills will win 10 games.

AFC North

Baltimore. I’m not sure I believe all the hype on Lamar Jackson. He’s definitely an amazing player. But I wonder if everything he did last year is repeatable. Or at least repeatable at the same level, or higher, that he did in 2019. Even if he’s only 75% of last year, that still means the Ravens are the best team in the division.

AFC South

Phillip Fucking Rivers. I hate that guy. And I hate that the Colts signed him. One of my brothers-in-law has been sending me pictures of Rivers all summer saying, “This is your quarterback.” My response is always, “Fuck that guy.” Houston really should be the favorite here. But since Bill O’Brien seems intent on crippling Deshaun Watson, I will say Indianapolis, provided that fucker Rivers stays healthy.

(Seriously, we should be in the midst of a glorious run where Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck, and Watson are battling each other every year. Luck is gone and Watson is never going to have all the weapons he needs. I feel cheated, and not just because Luck was a Colt. That was good football watching for a decade or more that will fall short of its potential.)

AFC West

Kind of weird that as soon as the Tom Brady era ends, the Patrick Mahomes era begins. You can just pencil in Kansas City as long as he remains upright. Concerns about the defense? Sure. But how many teams are going to be able to go toe-to-toe with the Chiefs offense for 60 minutes?

AFC Wild Cards

Pittsburgh, Cleveland

NFC East

Philadelphia. Like most of the NFC, I don’t love a team in this division. The Cowboys have a higher ceiling, but I trust the Eagles to play closer to their ceiling more than I do Dallas.

NFC North

Green Bay. Is Aaron Rodgers still Aaron Rodgers? Is the chip on his shoulder getting bigger the deeper he gets into his career without another Super Bowl? Will Minnesota have a few key injuries that destroy their hopes for a division title? Yes to all.

NFC South

New Orleans. One last go-around for Brees and Payton?

NFC West

Seattle. Not a sexy pick, but they are reliable and I feel like the 49ers will fall back some this year.

NFC Wild Cards

San Francisco, Minnesota

Playoffs

New England over Cleveland
Baltimore over Pittsburgh

New England over Indianapolis
Kansas City over Baltimore

Kansas City over New England

Green Bay over Minnesota
Philadelphia over San Francisco

Seattle over Philadelphia
New Orleans over Green Bay

New Orleans over Seattle

Super Bowl

Get extra bulbs for the scoreboard in Tampa, because the Chiefs and Saints are going to light it up.

Kansas City 45, New Orleans 42

Take these to your favorite betting app and lock that shit in!

Post Holiday Notes

A late return after the long holiday weekend. My in-laws have been in town since last Wednesday, which has adjusted my daily routine a little.

Our Labor Day weekend was pretty low-key. Friday night was so cool that we kicked on the outdoor fireplace for the first time this season. A couple of the girls hung out with friends on Saturday. On Sunday we hosted a light family gathering at the pool.

Last week we had absolutely perfect, early fall-like weather. Windows open at night, the air on for maybe a couple hours in the afternoon. Summer came roaring back yesterday, though. I played golf in the morning and my shirt was completely soaked before I hit the fourth tee. I think it’s the hottest round of golf I played this season. Sadly the word “hottest” only applies to the weather and not to my game. More on that whenever I get around to another golf post.


We are in our final week of kickball. Last night C’s team had a 10-run lead at one point and then had a couple bad innings on offense, but still went into the final inning with a three-run lead. They got two of the first four kickers out and seemed on the verge of their second win of the year. Then their opponents suddenly kicked the ball better than they had all game, our defense let us down, and we gave up 15 runs. We could only muster one run in our half of the 7th and gave our opponents their first win of the season. I should be used to how C and her teammates fold under any kind of negativity but last night really stuck with me. The team they played were not very good but our girls just kind of meandered through the game. They could have easily doubled their lead, perhaps even run-ruled the other team. And then that last defensive inning really sucked.

They have the final game of their careers on Thursday.

L’s last game is tonight. She’s been threatening to not play kickball anymore for over a year now, but this could for sure be her final game, depending what she does in the spring and if she is still interested in club soccer a year from now.

Her basketball team has had five practices. We tried to put some offense in yesterday. It’s a pretty simple five-out, motion offense, but it does take some time to understand where the cuts are, where you move to when the girl next to you moves, where the open spot the cutter should end up in is, etc. I’m hoping they can grasp it in time for games so we aren’t running the same plays we’ve been running for five years.


We’ve had very good luck with phones, both S and I, and M and C since they got theirs. We’ve never cracked a screen, permanently lost one, dropped one into a lake, etc. C’s phone is suddenly acting super wonky, though. Taps on the screen are not registering while phantom taps can take over and launch apps or attempt to make calls she wasn’t trying to initiate. It was almost like the phone had been hacked and someone else was controlling it.

Last night I did all the troubleshooting I could – hard resets, restoring the software, etc. – and nothing seemed to work. This morning I took the case off and it seemed to be working more normally. At least there aren’t the phantom taps. But a section of the screen still appears not to work. She drops it roughly 175 times a day so I would not be surprised if something inside has become disconnected even if the screen has not shattered.

L is pretty excited that she finally gets a phone of her own when her birthday rolls around in four weeks.


C’s grade had their first student test Covid positive since classes began this week. Fortunately the student was not in her room so we just got the generic email from the principal rather than a call.

Those calls are what all us parents fear right now. The call to come get your kid because they’ve been exposed, their siblings also need to go home, and your entire household probably needs to be tested. Thus I puckered up a little bit this morning when I got a call from school. Thank goodness it was just L asking me to bring her the homework binder she had left at home.

August Media

Funny what happens when sports come back. My media consumption was waaaay down in August. Or at least compared to the previous five months. Here is what I did knock out.


Jayhawkers

I remember when this movie was made. Justin Wesley, a recent KU basketball player and brother of former KU great Keith Langford, was cast in the main role as Wilt Chamberlain. A KU professor – Academy Award winner Kevin Willmott – was making the film. A few other notable locals from Lawrence had cameos. But it was a low-budget, semi-artsy film that never got a wide release, so I forgot about it.

Until July, when The New Yorker ran a piece about it. I had no idea the film was on Amazon Prime Video, so I added it to the queue.

It is a charming, well-intentioned film that also comes off as slightly stilted with a touch of cheese to it.

It is the story of how Wilt Chamberlain came to play basketball at the University of Kansas over hundreds of other offers he had, and his experiences during his time in Lawrence. The final 20 minutes are an extended retelling of one of the greatest NCAA championship games of all time, the 1957 game when North Carolina beat Wilt’s Jayhawks in triple overtime. It was a game that colored Wilt’s career forever and kept him from returning to Lawrence over 40 years.

The film plays a little fast-and-loose with the facts. Things that happened one year are pushed a year in either direction. Watching you would think that Wilt left campus immediately after that 1957 loss when he, in fact, played one more frustrating season before jumping to the Harlem Globetrotters for a year before becoming eligible to play in the NBA.

The film is honest in painting a picture of the Midwest in the late ‘50s. Although coach Phog Allen was careful to present Lawrence as an oasis from the racism that Wilt experienced in his previous travels outside Philadelphia, Wilt quickly runs into issues getting served at restaurants, being allowed to sit in regular seats at movies, and so on. But through Phog’s influence, the support of chancellor Franklin Murphy, the desire of the community for the team to win another national championship, and Wilt’s charisma, rules begin to bend for him.

Wesley is not a strong actor, and isn’t given too much. The loquacious Wilt the world would eventually meet is reduced to a man who nods and offers brief comments. But Wesley was a tall basketball player and could imitate Wilt for the action scenes.

As I said, it tries a little too hard at times. But it isn’t terrible. For KU fans, it’s a look at a fascinating point in the program’s history.

B


The Battered Bastards of Baseball

There are lots of reasons to love baseball. One of the most romantic is the idea of the small-town professional team, where the community rallies around a group of players who are mostly passing through on their way up or down the minor league ladder. Once upon a time the country was dotted with hundreds of independent teams, playing the lowest levels of baseball and giving countless men one last chance at the game.

By the early 1970s the independent teams had largely been wiped out, replaced by teams controlled by big league teams. Actor Bing Russell saw an opening in Portland as a chance to correct that and fulfill his longtime wish to own a team.

This film reviews his ownership of the Portland Mavericks, an independent, Class A team that played in the Northwest League from 1973 until 1977. The franchise was true to its name. Russell ran the club unlike any other in baseball. He kind of had to; with no MLB affiliation he had to take a different route to build a roster. The team was built on rejects and castoffs.[1] They played with an attitude and freedom uncommon in pro ball outside of Oakland.

To the surprise of nearly everyone, it worked. They won their division in their first season, finished second in year two, and then won their next three division titles. Their success rekindled a love for baseball in Portland, which had seen the AAA Beavers move to Spokane in 1972. Perhaps because of this newfound enthusiasm for the game, or perhaps out of an effort to run Russell out of the league, the Pacific Coast League expanded in 1978 and a new Beavers franchise replaced the Mavericks. Rather than take baseball’s paltry $25,000 relocation fee, Russell sued and won a $250,000 settlement.

This is just a fun, funny movie. It’s a great story, well told. And it makes you want to fall in love with some goofy team that nobody thinks can win.

A


Ted Lasso

I had no idea Apple was making a Ted Lasso series, based on the commercials from a few years back for Premier League soccer. Then I read this piece and figured, “Why not?”

Like that article, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed the show. Everything about it seems to be screaming “This is going to be terrible!” But it’s not. It is warm and kind-hearted and full of humorous moments. It may be the times we are living in, when every day seems more horrible than the one before, but I think I needed a show like this, that even with characters who are caustic and cynical, ultimately bends back toward empathy and kindness.

I have a huuuuuuge issue with the show, though. Everything we know about Ted Lasso leads us to believe he’s from Kansas. He coached a mythical Wichita State football team to the D2 national title. He wears shirts that represent Kansas City. He mentions KC being home a few times. But he talks like he’s from the south. And Jason Sudeikis is from Kansas City; he knows how we sound! Sure, there’s the classic, Midwestern hick accent that far too many people from my hometown have. But what he’s doing ain’t that; it that of an old ball coach from the Deep South. Maybe he figured since that’s the voice he used in the original commercials he couldn’t stray from it. Alas…

B+


The Endless Summer

I know I watched this, or at least parts of it, years and years ago. In high school, maybe? Or perhaps college. Something reminded me of it, I saw it on Amazon, and decided to rewatch it.

If you’ve never seen it, it is considered one of the greatest and most influential surfing movies ever. Filmed in the early 1960s, filmmaker Bruce Brown travelled around the world with Mike Hynson and Robert August searching out waves and an “endless summer” as fall and winter descended on America. They surfed in West Africa, likely the first to ever surf there. In South Africa, which had a budding surf culture, they discovered the perfect wave at Cape St. Francis that became a “must surf” spot. They also hit Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Hawaii.

The footage is amazing for its time. Well-shot to begin with, it is also crazy that everyone was using long boards back then. Today you see surfers on shorter boards and remaining pretty static on them. Brown, Hynson, and August would all walk their longboards, passing from front to back as they rode waves, which blew my mind.

Brown’s narration is casual and goofy, sounding more like your uncle who thinks he’s super funny while showing family movies. Some of the commentary when they are in Africa is borderline racist, but it was the early ‘60s and I don’t think there was any true ill will behind them.

B+


John Mulaney: New in Town

Man, Mulaney knows how to do a standup performance. This is the second of his specials I’ve watched, and each time he nails the timing of the show. You get people laughing early, slowly ramp up the laughs, and the last 15 minutes should have people crying. In this case, his story of trying to get anxiety meds by faking an issue with frequent urination had me laughing so hard, and crying so much, that S was a little worried about me.

A


Pearl Jam Live at Lollapalooza 2018

One night I was watching some golf videos or something on YouTube when I noticed this over on the right hand side of the screen in the suggestions. Two-plus hours, and two bourbons, later, I was deeply satisfied with my choice.

A+


  1. Russell’s son, Kurt, even played for the team in its first season.  ↩

Reader’s Notebook, 9/1/20

Three highly lauded books have kept me busy the past couple weeks.


Disappearing Earth – Julia Phillips
The last part of a book is so important to how readers feel about the entire story. This is an example of a book that was elevated by a nearly perfect ending.

It begins with the disappearance of two young sisters from Petropavlosk, the capital of the Russian region of Kamchatka. The rest of the book advances in one-month increments, with each chapter focused on a different person. Most of them are women, living in different cities in Kamchatka.

The woman are of all ages and stages of life. One is a student from a small town living in a big city, dealing with the racism of Russians against the natives. Another woman faces a cancer diagnosis. Another woman wakes on the anniversary of her first husband’s death and goes to bed that night grieving her second husband’s death. Another woman is trying to figure out where to take her current relationship, which is with a devastatingly handsome yet equally stupid man. Another family, both a sister and a mother, deal with the disappearance of their sister/daughter a few years before the girls from Petropavlovsk, and wonder if the disappearances are related and if their sister got less attention because she was a native rather than a Russian. Another woman, the only possible witness to the kidnapping of the two sisters, searches for her lost dog.

These stories – and more – are all interesting and moving. But I was wondering how they would be tied together and if the resolution would make the journey worth it.

Phillips nailed the final two chapters wonderfully. The next-to-last chapter focuses on the mother of the two disappeared girls. A reporter, she is sent to cover a native arts festival. While there she meets a man who, after hearing a description of the only suspect in the kidnapping, realizes he knows someone who fits that description. As the chapter tumbles toward its end, there is a persistent fear that there will be no connection between this lead and the woman’s daughters. And then the mother notices something tiny, that most people would have missed, that brings everything together.

In the final, wonderful chapter, Philips takes us right to the edge of a resolution for the book’s two big mysteries. But she never offers the final reveal, allowing the reader to wonder how that scene would play out. That is a little maddening, but it also works. It ranks up there with Ben H. Winters’ World of Trouble for vague yet satisfying endings.


The Splendid and the Vile – Erik Larson
My second Larson history focused on the World War II era in about a month. This one is about Winston Churchill’s first year as wartime Prime Minister, stretching from May 10, 1940 to May 11, 1941. That span also covers the very worst of the Battle of Britain, Germany’s relentless bombing campaign of British cities.

The book is not just about the war, the politics of the time, or a straight biography of Churchill. Rather, it tries to put all of those elements in context with the family members and staff that surrounded Churchill. By doing so, we get a more personalized look into what life was like in London during the very darkest days of the war (for the British).

As much as I enjoyed that, I could not help but crave for more details about the way itself. There were a few things I never knew. First, Hitler’s #2, Rudolph Hess flying a plane to the UK to attempt to negotiate a peace treaty and spending the bulk of the war as a prisoner. Second, that the British attacked French ships that refused to turn themselves over following the surrender of France. I can’t help that I get dazzled when you throw WWII into the mix.

I had never read any biography of Churchill before, so it was humorous to learn what a kook he was. He was absolutely loony. But he managed to stay focused enough to lead the British through a horrible time, and eventually convince Franklin Roosevelt that the UK was a worthy recipient for American aid in the months before Pearl Harbor brought the US into the war.


A Burning – Megha Majumdar
Here is an example of a book that takes a familiar situation and places it into an unfamiliar context to allow the reader to examine it without their own prejudices attached.

Majumdar’s book takes place in India, in a town where a commuter train has just been fire-bombed by terrorists, killing over a hundred people. Through the lives of three people, Majumdar shows the dangers of nationalism, social media, corrupt traditional media, and how the lure of success and prosperity can make people behave strangely.

Jivan is a young Muslim woman who was seen at the train station with a mysterious bundle before the attack, and then running from the station afterward. Her Facebook chat history shows contact with a suspected terrorist, but she claims it was innocent flirtation with an interesting boy from another country. The media takes this knowledge and runs with it, turning public opinion against her. Much of her story is told from inside the women’s prison where she is held while awaiting trial and, eventually, her sentence.

PT Sir was Jivan’s PE teacher at the private girls school she received admission to. Stumbling into an opposition party rally one day, he is swept up in the excitement of the crowd. At another rally, he uses his knowledge of microphones to help the party’s leader overcome a technical issue. After this unlikely meeting, he is soon asked to do other favors for the party: testify in court against people they insist are guilty but there just isn’t enough hard evidence to convict. He shows up, tells his stories, and gets convictions for the prosecutors. With this service come payments which begin to change his family’s life and how people view him. Soon he is an integral part of the party’s election campaign, and when they win the state elections, he receives a ministerial position. When the media ask him about his former student, he doesn’t tell them the parts of her life that could turn the public in her favor, but rather those details that make her look worse.

Finally, Lovely is a transvestite who is attempting to become an actress. She takes acting classes, where she seems to excel. However, each time she attempts to break into the world of big, Indian films, she is typecast in small roles in the background. The man she loved has left her for a “real woman” who can give him a family. At Jivan’s trial, Lovely testified on her behalf, as Jivan had been teaching her English. In fact, the package that Jivan had the night of the attack was not a bomb but rather old books she was taking to Lovely to help with her studies. However, after Lovely posts videos online that go viral, she is offered a major part in a movie by one of India’s biggest producers. When it is suggested that the movie will be more successful if she reverses her support of Jivan, she quickly abandons her former friend.

There is a constant feeling of injustice that bubbles through the book. The media rushing to judgement, bending facts to suit the story they want to tell. No one in power offering to defend Jivan. PT Sir lying on the stand over-and-over to take away power from minorities and political enemies of his party. Lovely getting the door slammed in her face constantly. A political party that uses ethnic identity, language, and religion and a wedge to both gain power and turn the state’s citizens against each other. The biggest injustice is Jivan’s sentence, which shows that a society motivated by hate and fear and needing someone to blame can manipulate the court system to levy a hideously unfair sentence on someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There’s a lot in the book about where America is right now, and where we could be headed. Which makes an already chilling book even more concerning.

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