Tag Archives: sports

How Real Winners Turn March Madness Into a Billion Dollar Payday

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It’s that time of year again when the U.S. male population exists solely on pork rinds, queso, and Miller Light, worker productivity falls 3,000%, and people stop spitting on math majors.

“I just love March Madness!” Image via lifestyleet.com

That’s right, March Madness is here, and with it, your chance to skim a billion dollars right out of Warren Buffet’s polyester pants by creating a perfect NCAA tournament bracket.

Who needs a bitcoin when you have a million freaskishly huge bags of cash? Image via gstatic.com

Everyone knows that with the right guidance and a lot of tequila, a billion dollar bracket is yours for the making. Because Gemini Girl likes winners (and pretty people with shiny teeth) I’m here to show you a foolproof method to do something considered statistically impossible by everyone at Berkshire Hathaway, Yahoo, and His Emperorship, USSR Czar Vladimir Putin (er, I mean President of Russia and someday soon, the world).

“I pick Republic of Florida to win tourney, then I get on boat, invade nude beaches, and steal most happiest place on earth for Mother Russia!” Image via businessinsider.com

A Number’s Just a Number Until it’s a Winning Powerball Ticket

Everyone thinks bracket rankings are meaningful, but Gemini Girl says don’t believe the hype. Just because Florida’s only been to the tournament once (1 Florida) and Coastal Carolina’s been, like, sixteen times (16 Coastal Car.) doesn’t necessarily mean the Coastal Chanticleers should be in your final four. Why? Because their mascot is from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and everyone who took A.P. English knows that book blows. Any team represented by a Middle English rooster is a guaranteed first round loser, plus, the only mascot I’d ever put money on is Smeagol.

Smeagol invested his tourney winnings in Lebron James. Image via dailypicksandflicks.com

Never Underestimate the Well-Endowed Team

Not the cheerleaders, the school with serious cash on hand. Cheerleaders are athletes too so stop laughing.

They’re real, and they’re spectacular! Image via cracked.com

Anyway, everyone knows that in order to build a successful college basketball program, you have to provide recruits with a lot of Benzies, babes, and weed. Not every deep-pocket donor feels comfortable carpooling to the local strip club with a freshman phenom though, and that’s where an institution’s endowment really comes into play. According to Forbes magazine, Harvard has more money than the entire GDP of the USSR (we all know that’s exactly where Putin is going, so don’t be a hater).

“First I take Republic of Mickey Mouse then I sneak up lazy river to take capital of U.S.A…Las Vegas!” Image via businessinsider.com.

If you ask Gemini Girl, deep-pocket donors = recruit lap dances = Letters of Intent  = guaranteed Final Four appearance. Get it? All those math majors who think anyone cares about their groundbreaking algorithms can suck it. Combine Harvard’s greenbacks with the fact that they’ve appeared in the tournament twelve times (12 Harvard), and you’ve got a combo that’s screaming final four.

This dude loves throwing cash around at Juicy Lucy’s, but don’t tell the Tea Party I said so. Image via datingolders.com.

When in Doubt, Go to Your Happy Place

Sometimes the NCAA men’s selection committee throws everyone for a loop and chooses a team no one’s ever heard of, like Nebraska, probably because Warren Buffet paid them all off. A lot of people don’t realize it’s even a state, and since most guys I know cut geography in high school to go smoke weed with the freshman basketball phenom, things can get a little confusing when trying to make winning first round picks that include areas of the country which might not even be real.

Not a basketball phenom. Image via perezhilton.com

In order to maximize efficiency and minimize the likelihood of the dude in the cubicle next to you who wears a Dennis Rodman Bulls jersey to work, like, every day calling you a poser, use Gemini Girl’s Word Association Tool to make perfect first round tourney picks.

“I’m so Russdiculous!” Image via baconsports.com

Example 1

Memphis: Elvis

George Washington: Wig

Word Association Winner? Elvis

 Example 2

Oregon: Duck

BYU: Polygamy

Word Association Winner? Polygamy

Example 3

Colorado: Weed

Pittsburgh: Blah

Word Association Winner? Weed

“March whhaaattt?” Image via thejointshop.blogspot.com

It’s like, freakishly easy, right?

So there you have it. As soon as you gather all of your well-endowed friends at a random happy place to buy a winning lottery ticket you’re pretty much guaranteed a perfect tournament bracket. But please, don’t tell anyone that Gemini Girl gave you the winning edge. Tell everyone. Then cut me in on 15% of your pre-tax earnings and get me an autographed picture of Warren Buffet (but if you have to use the Word Association Winner tool in an either/or scenario, I’ll take the cash).

***

If you’d like to fill out a 2014 NCAA Men’s Tournament bracket and win $1,000,000,000, go here: How to fleece Warren Buffet!

If you’d like to find the closest strip club to your office, go here: Don’t tell my girlfriend!

If you think Nebraska is ground zero for paranormal activity, go here: Nebraska is for losers!

Are Our Children at the Core of the Next Entitlement Demographic?

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There’s nothing that tugs at a parent’s heart like the hollow face of a hungry child. On the other hand, there’s nothing that makes a parent’s eyeballs distend, roll backwards, and practically dislocate themselves, like witnessing the antics of a child who feels a little hungry, complains about it, and expects a custom-made meal to be delivered on the spot.

The child, in this example, is mine.

Yesterday, my husband, son, and I hooked up to play a late afternoon front nine (keep in mind that I didn’t know what “front nine” meant until I was about thirty years old) on our neighborhood course (also keep in mind that, growing up, the closest thing our family had to a neighborhood course was, well…nothing). As we repeatedly made our way from the rough to the fairway, into a sand trap, and over the green, my twelve year-old son, Taylor, began to shank his drives. The more balls he shanked, the testier he got, the testier he got, the more he shanked. Why the male gender has failed to acknowledge the symbiotic relationship between these two variables is beyond me. But he’s young and I digress.

Even though his facial expression is familiar, that’s not my son. Image via sportsillustrated.com

Exhausted by a transition from summer to middle school that pushes him out the door every day by 6:45 a.m., frustrated, and possibly a bit disinterested, he stood on the green ignoring a view that could have inspired the creation of the earth itself and asked a simple question.

This is the view my son couldn’t see. Image via ccatcastlepines.com

“Where’s the beverage cart?”

“I don’t know. It’s late in the day, but I’m sure it’ll be around soon,” I said.

“I can’t believe it isn’t here. This is ridiculous,” he replied, grabbing his ball from the fairway and storming toward the next hole (keep in mind that if I had pulled a move like that on my mother, she would have coldcocked me before I had the chance to take a step…by the time I staggered up from my face plant into a bunker, stunned and babbling course etiquette backwards, she would have finished the hole and moved on, with or without me).

That’s not my mom. That’s a vampire. Image via http://www.reasonforchange.com

At the time, my reaction to his mini-outburst was much less measured than I’d like to admit, but I can say in retrospect that he was having a moment. We all have them. Even Oprah. In fact, I have about a dozen an hour on that fateful day each month when standing anywhere within my peripheral vision holds the equivalent danger as juggling molten-hot machetes on a tightrope (keep in mind that if you mess with me on the Tuesday before the Thursday, you’re taking a risk that’s not worth the reward). As the saying goes, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Image via mszigzag.typepad.com

In hindsight, Taylor was as within his rights to complain as any kid invited to walk a beautiful golf course with his parents could be, which is to say, not at all.

And that’s where I have a problem.

My problem rests on the premise that even though he knew it wasn’t right to lose his temper, he didn’t know that the reason he lost it, contextually, was wrong.

The math breaks down like this: every time we play golf, we walk the course. Every time we walk the course, the beverage cart comes around at about hole five or six. Every time the beverage cart rolls up, Taylor gets a snack, often something more spectacular than anything he could ever pull from our pantry. Every time he gets a snack, we sign the bill.

My husband likes the beverage cart too. Image via golfdigest.com

We do this because we want him to experience things that we didn’t as kids. All parents hope their children have more than they did growing up. By popular definition, “success” is another way of saying “Congratulations, you’ve achieved the American Dream.” The words are practically interchangeable in our culture, even if they sometimes sound hollow.

But I’m finding that for a generation of children being raised today, “have more” doesn’t necessarily mean “do more”, and that’s not good (keep in mind, that our kids will most likely need to “do” a lot more than we did to get ahead when they’re adults).

What did Taylor do to earn a one-on-one trip to the golf course with Mom and Dad? Nothing. Yesterday, that’s pretty much how he treated it. Like nothing. The instant gratification he derives from getting a snack-on-demand wasn’t there, and because of that, he lost sight of the things around him that are much more important.

In many respects, our children are growing up in a world that we never knew existed when we were kids, because it didn’t. Where we played with blocks, our toddlers manipulate touch screens. Remember the days when your Dad schlepped you to the library so you could spend an hour deciphering the Dewey Decimal system to look through an ancient card catalogue and find the one book in the entire city on yellow-bellied marmots for a report? Taylor doesn’t, but he can pull up more images of that nasty rodent than you’d ever want to scroll through on his phone. Do you channel the Von Trapp family and sing songs with your children in the car? Me neither, because my kids’ headphones are shoved so far into their ear canals that they automatically de-wax themselves pushing them in and back out.

The Dewey Decimal System is almost as old as Joan Rivers. Almost. Image via http://www.afterelton.com

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. With the best of intentions, we damage our children. Keeping that thought in mind, I can’t help but wonder if parents who are willing to give their kids anything also take away something critical that means everything. Do I fall into that category? Sometimes. There are things I do well when it comes to raising my children to become responsible adults, but today I’m focusing on what I do wrong.

As the debate around our nation’s entitlement state roars down a bloated, bipartisan road toward a November 6 collision with itself, perhaps, instead of simply targeting the entitlements already being given, we should also focus on how we ensure that our children avoid this path. Does the current road need repair? Yes, but future generations can get a better start if they walk down a street that begins with chores and ends with education. Or begins with education and ends with validation. Or begins with validation and ends with communication. Or maybe our kids should just take out the trash.

If life’s about the journey, our children had better develop strong calves. Image via media.knownew.com

As humans, we’re a complicated mixture of nature and nurture, and it’s the combination of the two that makes us who we are to become. Yesterday? Taylor wasn’t the kid I wanted him to be, but most of the time, he is. He now understands (more fully than he’d like) that a trip to the golf course is earned, not given. I’m not writing this to embarrass him, rather, I’m putting this out there to call attention to myself, with the hope that through my children’s eyes, I learn the exact lessons I’m supposed to teach.

The Other Side of David Versus Goliath or Why I Actually Feel Bad for Duke Fans and Will Cut You for My Team

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Everyone loves a Cinderella story unless you’re the older, more experienced stepsister who, even though you’ve been around the block one too many times, are a little passive-aggressive and decidedly OCD, is used to getting your way.

Like you, I prefer to take the underdog’s side in just about everything in life. Except college basketball. That’s where I draw a really clear line.

I grew up in Louisville, KY, better known as ground zero for NCAA hoops. You won’t find any native of the state who says, “I really don’t care who wins when Louisville and Kentucky play each other every year. I’m just out here for the five-way chili cheese dogs, a mint julep, and a little bit of fun.”

Wrong.

Basketball in Kentucky is a blood sport, right up there with cockfights and whatever Michael Vick was doing in his backyard with innocent dogs. Veins course in either a bright shade of red or electric blue, and there’s no chance of a transfusion between the two. You’d rather die on the table than risk being infected with vital fluids of a fan from the other team. The Great Wall of China might as well be running along the rolling, bluegrass-covered hills of our sidewise state, because loyalty is embedded so deeply below the earth that not even Sarah Palin in a bikini with a machine gun could loosen it up.

This is not a real picture. But oh, how I wish it was. Image via politicalhumor.about.com

As I watched in disbelief when Lehigh University took it to Duke in the final minutes of the game last Friday night, I couldn’t help but flash back to a David and Goliath moment of my own, when Louisville played no-name Morehead State in the NCAA tournament last year. The game was in Denver, and having convinced my husband, Scot, that we should blow the money we’d set aside for a new washer and dryer on box seats, I was actually there. Front and center.

The first sign of trouble reared its head before the game actually began. As I settled in with a five-way chili cheese dog and ginormous Coors Light, I searched my section for a friendly, painted face, and noticed that nobody but me was wearing the requisite red and black. Since I was clearly gonna be responsible for leading section 148 in the U of L fight song, ushering the arena toward the cheers my mom sang to me when I was a baby, and starting the wave, I shotgunned the entire $20.00 beer I was holding and went back for another before the players even hit the court. I was literally buzzing in anticipation of the action, and in hindsight, blowing my t-shirt money on alcohol before it all started was a big mistake. Leadership can be stressful though, especially when you’re drunk.

Was Sarah Palin drunk or sober during the Vice Presidential debates? You be the judge. Image via http://www.americantimes.org.

The second problem that day was the fans, and not just the annoying guy with the big bobble head sitting right in front of me in a Vandy hat. More on him in a minute. I’m talking about an arena full of thirty-something generation X whities in their khaki Dockers/Steinmart golf shirts/receding hairlines who’d kicked off work for the day because their buddy scored a free set of tickets. They didn’t even know who was on the court.

Morehead State? Is that, like, right next to Russia? Image via backseatcuddler.com

If I was drinking a beer every ten minutes? Everyone else was doubling down as they high-fived each other and screamed with the wild abandon of 5th graders off their ADHD meds, “MORE HEAD MORE HEAD MORE HEAD!” Get it? More head? As in “Morehead State” chanted in a dirty way and nothing like the cheers my mom sang to me as a child. I mean, how do you compete with that? Nobody, and not even the ushers, were spelling C-A-R-D-S with me in my upper body, pseudo-Village People dance moves, and my team was handicapped right out of the gate.

So I got louder. I had the monumental task of carrying the entire arena, and probably city of Louisville for that matter, as the other guys scored basket after basket and that dude who now plays for the Nuggets started the painful process of taking us down. Destroying a team with multiple NCAA titles, a rock star coach who can get away with wearing white pimp clown suits on occasion, and an almost unpayable mortgage on a state-of-the-art arena isn’t easy. Being the only person under the glaring lights at an away game who’s cheering for the anointed ones (who everyone in the state of Colorado apparently now hates) isn’t easy either, and that’s where the bobble head guy comes in.

Image via nbcuniversalstore.com

Vandy dude, with his invisalign braces and baseball-cap turned backwards in an “I’m not as old as I look” pathetic play on youth, was in the fortunate position of occupying the seat right in front of me and my big mouth during the game. As I ratcheted up the volume for my hometown team, he turned it on for that other school in Kentucky where you go when your grades aren’t good enough to get into WKU. Even though he was there for the next game being played and had no real skin exposed, by halftime he was turning around and nodding at me in an exaggerated white man’s overbite, can’t find the beat to the song expression of glee whenever the back-and-forth on the court went in the direction of Morehead State.

So I did what any self-respecting, organic produce buying, kettlebell throwing, member of the local library coalition, forty year-old, mother of three would do in the same situation.

I got in a fight.

Sarah Palin uses any words she can find, in random and non-sequential order, in a fight. Image via http://www.palingates.blogspot.com

Before the Louisville-Morehead State game, the last fight I started was at a bar in Chicago. I was about thirty and my husband and I were there with friends to see a Neil Diamond/Abba impersonator band: Thunder and Lightning. Thunder was this ancient dude with Grecian Formulaish hair and awesome, sparkly shirts, and Lightning was the girl/grandma, wearing machine gun jubblies and some kind of Renaissance Festival hat and gown. Anyway, you had to knock down about 34 drinks or so to really get into it. So I did.

Before I knew it I was dumping a full beer over some guy’s head who told me I looked like Natalie Merchant of 10,000 Maniacs. I have no idea why that bothered me at the time because I think she pretty much rocks. But whatever. Somehow aware in the shaky neuron misfiring of my brain that I was once slated to go to law school and naturally possessed the rabid mind of an attorney, I didn’t actually crack the glass bottle onto his head. Instead, I poured it over him with an exaggerated motion: like I was slugging a clogged bottle of ketchup. I had pretty much emptied the whole thing and was going back for round two when the bouncer threw me over his shoulder and dumped me out the door and into a cold, dark alley. But at least I wasn’t in the back of a cop car. I didn’t even get to hear the Cracklin’ Rose/SOS duet.

It felt like déjà vu as the clock ticked down at the Pepsi Center, the six true Morehead State fans in the house plus 20,000 drunk pharmaceutical salesmen erupted into deafening applause, and the Vandy dude turned around and pointed his finger in my face. Yes. He was in my face in the same way that you would nail a dodgeball at your lab partner’s head in 4th grade and yell, “In your face!

I turned to look Scot in the eye, he shook his head back and forth in a “please do not embarrass me again” appeal toward any shred of rational thought left in my body as he rolled up his sleeves to defend me, I shrugged my shoulders, bared my teeth, and attacked.

Sarah Palin uses a lot of whitening products. Image via the immoralminority.blogspot.com

Luckily my husband was sober, grabbed me by the hair as I flew, no, tumbled into the air in an Angelina Joliesque cat move intended to crush the dude with the big head, and took me down. My dream of connecting my heel to Vandy dude’s face was destroyed by Scot’s quick reflexes, and instead I ended up flat on my back as he commandeered the keys to the SUV. I had to be in carpool line within the hour to get the kids and nobody really wants to deal with a drunk, crying basketball mom crashing onto the sidewalk and taking the kindies down one-by-one.

So what am I trying to say? I’m not really sure, except it sucks a lot more to go down as Goliath than David.  Lehigh University and Morehead State were just happy to be at the dance. Teams like Duke, Kentucky, and Louisville are supposed to be the prom queens, and when you lose to that girl who stole your boyfriend? It hurts.

How Skate World Changed My Life

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When I was in middle school, we didn’t text, chat with our classmates on Xbox, or look up cute boys online.  We couldn’t.  It was the Mesozoic era, and the technology didn’t exist.  So what did we do without the huge cornucopia of Apple-inspired abundance at our fingertips?

Hanging out with my Mesozoic friends. Image from Flickr

We hung out.  Together.  As in, a congregation of people in the same place at the same time talking, laughing, relaxing and having fun.

At first we were just a neighborhood group of 6th graders playing kickball in the cul-de-sac every day after the bus dropped us off from school.  We were small.  Like, short and super-pasty until we acquired our first sunburns of the season, blistered, peeled, slathered Noxema on our faces, burned again, and painfully prepped our oozing skin for baby oil and the long, tan, sunny days to come.

OMG SO CUTE. If this were a picture of me, I'd...

Pre-tan sunburn. Image via Wikipedia

By the following summer, various groups morphed into an actual circle, stationed shoulder-to-shoulder by the high dive from the moment the gates opened at the pool until the lifeguards kicked us out.

A year later, our circle doubled on top of itself and became a two-tiered figure eight that included just about the entire school.  We’d graduated to non-parent supervised activities, and everyone wanted to be a part of that.

Off-duty lifeguard kicking back. Image from Flickr

As the venues got bigger, my friendships grew.  Not in a six degrees of Facebook, “OMG! We went to the same driver’s ed school but graduated six years apart and never even crossed paths (literally! ha ha ha!) but somehow share 62 connections, so will you be my friend or at least like my macramé page?” kind of way.  Back then, “friendship” had a clear definition, and was something much more organic and real.

By 8th grade, I was a little person on the edge of a big world, and my growing independence meant I was more than ready to wean myself from drive-in movie night with Mom and Dad.  For me, it was beyond a big deal to be dropped off by my parents (but not where anyone could actually see me being dropped off by my parents), skates dangling from my shoulder, with a $5.00 bill in-hand.  I was always a little early so I could get the best cubby to store my stuff, and save a place for my friends at the front of the line.

The line to get into Skate World, that is.

With feathered bangs shellacked to my head and a plastic comb sticking out of the back pocket of my Jordache jeans, I was ready to roll.  Literally.  Like, all night long and right into adolescence.

Image from Flickr

Every Friday night, me and a few hundred of my peers propped ourselves against the shag carpet-walls, laced up, and hit the floor.  Nothing could keep us away.  It was our chance to talk, laugh, roller dance, and venture out into life in a safe place, without anyone who cared about good posture or whether or not we’d written our science fair hypothesis looking over our shoulders.

There was no danger of drugs or alcohol, and barely even a cigarette back then.  I’ve heard about the temptations middle school offers today, and to be honest, I’m more than a little scared for my kids.  The only hazards at Skate World were the threat of too much craziness during the Need for Speed contest, a huge face-plant because some stupid 7th grader dropped his gum, or sweaty palms in the middle of a backwards couples skate to Journey’s Open Arms.  We were allowed to roll toward preteendom under a cloak of innocence, drifting away from Mom and Dad with some bruises and falls, but nothing you could really call broken.

Image from Flickr

The more I skated, the better I got, and in a way, my prowess in the rink mirrored my growth in life.  At first, I stuck to the middle of the floor, close to the guards and skate-standing a lot more than moving in any preplanned direction.  I was trying to stay up without falling down, and with strobe lights flashing in my eyes and a ginormous disco balls orbiting overhead, I was a little spooked.  Unsure of myself, I didn’t venture very far.

Image from Flickr

But soon, all of my friends moved further out, and they looked like they were having a lot more fun than me.

So after school, I’d log hours of practice in the creepy basement, learning to balance, turn, and increase my speed, forever trying to catch up to girls who seemed to be born with wheels instead of feet.  They were so much better than me, but as I skated from pole to pole, trying not to trip on the drain or kill myself jumping the random pipes sticking out of the ground, I got better.

Speed skates are cool.

In time I moved from the center to the middle of the rink, better known as the chill zone, a fairly risk-free area where the majority of the kids hung out, flipping around backwards to talk, or test a new move.

As I shifted spots, my closest friends were now stationed on the outside: Roller Derby central.  This part of the rink both awed and scared the crap out of me, because it was where the best skaters held court, sailing around with a dizzying array of twists, speed, precision-cut turns, and an uncanny ability to somehow stay ahead of the beat.

Just watching them made me want to stop, glide quietly toward the nearest exit, and play Galaga in the arcade for the rest of my life.

A Christmas tree ornament shaped like a Galaga...

Image via Wikipedia

But there they were, talking, laughing, dancing, speed-skating, and motioning for me to join in.  It was positive peer pressure, the kind that tempts you to be better, not worse.

So one night I closed my eyes, stepped out, pushed forward, and let myself fly (albeit at the back of the pack so I could immediately abort if a rabid 7th grader tried to cut me or rip off my face).

these teams were all phenominal to watch the o...

Image via Wikipedia

I felt like I had arrived.  Where?  I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t really care because the beauty was in the journey itself.

Even though we eventually outgrew our skates, we never left the lessons we learned behind.  Skating, like life, is about balance.  Make the wrong move and you’ll end up flat on your face, but work hard enough and you’ll have the chance to fly.  Every Friday night, my friends and I learned from each other while we taught our own lessons at the same time.  And we didn’t even know it.  Now that my skates are packed away in Mom’s and Dad’s creepy basement, and my son, Taylor, begs to play Call of Duty instead of seeking out the boys next door, I realize what we had.

When I look at the canvas of Taylor’s pending middle school life, I can’t find Skate World or anything close to its equivalent in his line of sight.  Sure, there’s a roller rink in town, but nobody goes.  All I see are schedules and seminars, too many meaningless distractions, and not enough time.  Time to fly, that is.  And it makes me sad.  I’m not sure where he’ll find his place to grow, safe from my prying eyes and all of the scary things in the world.  But I’m looking, and I hope he is too.

Skate World Playlist

Halloween 2011. Still roller dancing, even if we're by ourselves in a corner. Skate World rules!

  • Rapper’s Delight – The Sugarhill Gang
  • The Stroke – Billy Squire
  • Double Dutch Bus – Frankie Smith
  • Hold the Line – Toto
  • The Freaks Come Out at Night – Whodini
  • Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
  • Celebration – Kool and the Gang
  • Another One Bites the Dust – Queen
  • Super Freak – Rick James
  • Jack & Diane – John Cougar
  • The Message – Grandmaster Flash
  • Heart of Glass – Blondie
  • Genius of Love – Tom Tom Club
  • You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC
  • Funkytown – Lipps Inc.
  • I Want You to Want Me – Cheap Trick
  • Let it Whip – Dazz Band
  • Open Arms – Journey
  • Freak-A-Zoid – Midnight Star
  • Jessie’s Girl – Rick Springfield
  • Le Freak – Chic
  • 867-5309/Jenny – Tommy Tutone
  • Jam On It – Newcleus
  • Waiting for a Girl Like You – Foreigner
  • All Night Long – Lionel Richie
  • Freeze Frame – J. Geils Band
  • September – Earth Wind & Fire
  • Urgent – Foreigner

*Thanks to Susan Klosterman Francke, Laura Badorek Hasler, Tiffany Calvert Diehl, and Michelle Clasby Depoy for their contributions to this playlist!

People Who Live in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Stones

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As the mother of an 11-year old boy, the news of Jerry Sandusky’s alleged child abuse and the questionable diligence Joe Paterno exercised in reporting the incident  hit close to home.

Needing an outlet for my feelings, I posted the following on my Facebook page immediately after I heard the news:

“I don’t care about winning streaks, national titles, or hollow sound bites. That members of the Penn State administration barely raised their hands when faced with eye-witness actions of a pedophile who was one of their own shows that those individuals have no heart.  That Joe Paterno didn’t act to better protect and defend an innocent child who was raped in his “house” proves that he has no soul.”

I was mad.

But now that time has passed and I’ve reflected on the matter, I feel something much more complex.

In that moment, my sentiment was genuine, fueled by real indignation coming straight from the heart.   Any parent knows that the passion nourished by this organ is three-dimensional, and beats more ferociously than anything else.

But in pointing my finger at Joe Paterno, I could have just as easily been looking in the mirror at myself.

About two years ago, I was at the grocery store rushing to pick something up that my daughter, Grace, needed the next day at school.  It was late, and I was both preoccupied and annoyed.  Like most moms, I was running behind a never-ending to-do list that seemed to square itself and multiply whenever I wasn’t looking.  Snow swirled outside, it was an unusually frigid Colorado night, and a humid chill was biting, snapping, and pushing people indoors.  All I wanted to do was get what I needed, check out, and go home.

Turning down the frozen food aisle, I came upon a young boy, about my son’s age, and an old man.  The man was huge, well over six feet tall, unshaven, wearing dirty old jeans, suspenders, and an untucked, long-sleeved shirt.

The boy?  Small.  Cowering.  A little disheveled as he gazed up at the old man while simultaneously trying to avert his eyes.

He reached for a frozen pizza, and the old man smacked it out of his hand, mocked his sagging posture, and demanded, “What do you think I am, an ATM?”

The boy looked down at his feet and didn’t say a word.

In that moment, I knew something was wrong.

I slowed down and watched them, easing up close and trying to make myself known.  The old man realized I was there, looked at me, made eye contact, and didn’t smile.  I didn’t smile back.

And then he grabbed the boy by the shoulder, threw me a backwards glare, and dragged him toward the door.

I felt a mixture of emotions then…anger, confusion, pain, sadness…but the one that overwhelmed me at the time and now makes me feel ashamed?

Fear.

That old man scared me, and in a split second I used fear to assess and rationalize what I was about to not do…my husband, Scot, was out of town, the kids were home alone, and the storm outside was getting worse.  The old man was probably the little boy’s grandfather, unemployed, and having a bad day.

Except my gut told me that wasn’t the case.

While I tried to convince myself I was overreacting so I could get on with my life, my conscience argued the other side.  Strenuously.

But I didn’t listen.

In an instant, I made a decision that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

I turned my head.  I closed my eyes.  I walked away.

That little boy needed help, and I didn’t extend my hand.

For the last two years, my dreams have been filled with that child’s face.  He’s calling out to me, screaming my name, and I’m searching frantically, straining to see through the dark and place the location of his voice so that I can pull him toward me and wrap him in my arms.

But I’m never able to find him, and when I wake up and can’t get back to sleep, I see him hovering two inches above me, eyes wide and afraid.  And then he’s gone.

After the Sandusky allegations came to light, the dreams got worse, and the little boy’s face became fused with my son’s: at a football camp, trapped in a bathroom, confused and alone, running down a grocery aisle from someone who’s supposed to be a hero but is instead inflicting cruel and unimaginable pain.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I wrote the Facebook post about Joe Paterno, I was also writing about myself.

I’d give anything to have that moment in the grocery store back, to actually listen to my sixth sense instead of brushing it aside.  To have made a different choice.

But it’s gone.

Mothers make mistakes.  Famous coaches make mistakes.  We all make mistakes. Unfortunately, we often have no idea in the moment how big those mistakes can become.

Everything matters.  The little voice inside your head that won’t shut up?  Listen to it.  The guy sitting on your shoulder who you’d just as soon leave?  Hear him out.

Joe Paterno’s problem wasn’t rooted in the actual commitment of a crime.  His mistake was ignoring the voice that must have plagued him in his dreams, or two inches above his face when he couldn’t sleep at night.

Left alone, the voice of indecision becomes that of regret, and it doesn’t go away.

I will forever be haunted by that innocent child in the grocery store, wondering where he is, and at the same time, who I failed to be.  I think, in the twilight of his life, that Joe Paterno must have been haunted too.  What at first seemed like a glancing blow likely turned into a fatal wound.

Doctors can try to treat cancer, but they can’t diagnose a broken heart.

If you would like to give a voice to an innocent child, please go to http://www.casaforchildren.org.

You Gotta Pay to Play

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I just got blown off the court.

English: An explosion Deutsch: Eine Explosion

My implosion Image via Wikipedia

Again.

And I’m not happy about it.

Taking every day of my four decades on this earth into consideration, (O.K., four decades and some very spare change), my win-loss stats are backlit in a much more flattering hue than the numbers I’ve posted as of late.  Think megapixel versus rabbit ears.

But now, instead of living out a Technicolor tennis dream, I’m that quasi-rodent looking sheepishly over its shoulder as I limp off the screen, er, court.

For a large portion of what I consider to be a fairly short life (wishful thinking is an important component of aging gracefully), I was a good tennis player.  O.K., a really good tennis player.  I competed in USTA-sanctioned tournaments from the day I could lug a Hello Kitty backpack to school, held a respectable state ranking year-after-year, and then, at the apex of my junior career, quit.

While my high school teammates went on to play for their respective colleges, I took another path, joined a sorority, and played Russian roulette with a fake I.D.

Not only did I walk away from a sport that I excelled in, I did so with absolutely no appreciation for the skills I possessed or the work that went into getting there (not to mention the money that could have gone toward buying my father the cardinal-red sports car of his dreams that was instead dumped into lessons, clinics, and camps.  Sorry Dad).

Prince first visit to ireland

Prince Image via Wikipedia

I was so ambivalent toward tennis that I completely upchucked the third set of the state semi-finals my junior year just to get to a Prince concert on time.  I’m surprised my partner, Susan, who was playing her heart out in a match that we were supposed to lose but could have won if I hadn’t been so intent on partying like it was 1999, didn’t kill me on the spot.

George Bernard Shaw told us that youth is wasted on the young.  But he never said why.

Fast forward to last year, and I found myself itching to get back on the court.  This sudden desire might have been tied to the fact that I was turning 40, the kids were finally in school all day, and I had way too much time on my hands.  I also could have been suffering from some type of nostalgic identity crisis fueled by my decision to join Facebook.  Either way, I was ready to announce my comeback tour, complete with pyrotechnics and huge bangs.

Jeff Hardy and Triple H posing for the crowd a...

Image via Wikipedia

So after a twenty-two year hiatus, I dusted off my Red Head racquet, strapped on my favorite lucky visor, and hit the courts.

Game On.

Expect for one problem.

Mine wasn’t.

Everything I took for granted as a result of clocking countless hours of court time as a child was gone, and no matter how strong my desire, my strokes simply weren’t there.

Soutar and Williams, tennis (LOC)

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

Over the two-plus decades I carelessly chose to sit out, tennis moved on without me.  Shots I assumed to be ingrained in my muscle memory were nowhere to be found, and I wanted them back.  Immediately.  (Patience is the most overrated virtue on the planet, because while you wait, inert and immobile, for one thing to happen, something completely unanticipated occurs.  Like back pain.)

My yearning to regain what I had so thoughtlessly abandoned years before was real, and life responded in the only appropriate way.  She said no.  I was looking back in an effort to move forward, a path that can be circuitous at best, misleading, and full of dead ends.

As I sat courtside icing my hip, lamenting my fate, and wondering what the artist formerly known as a symbol was up to, I remembered a theory first introduced by Anders Ericsson and later made popular by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers.  The concept, at its most basic level, states that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill.  Do you want to sell a painting?  Put in your 10,000 hours.  Write a book?  Ditto.  Start winning tournaments instead of losing them?  Same answer.

Even though I had invested my 10,000 hours two times over and more, that era was gone.  I needed to forget the past, start over, and renew the process of logging my time on the court.  Again.

So I went to work.

English: The tennis player Li Na at the 2007 M...

That's not me Image via Wikipedia

I spent the first couple of months learning how to change a sea level stroke that was at one time hard, fast, and predictable to a high altitude game that was sort of passable on a good day, not quite as quick, and semi-erratic.  I allocated the spring toward focusing on the net because my formerly solid groundstrokes were as unstable as avalanche territory on a sunny day.  I re-engineered my serve.

I bought a new racquet, shoes, and clothes, threw my racquet at the fence in frustration, picked it up and threw it at my car, switched racquets, changed my shoes, loosened my grip, bought more clothes, restrung the second racquet, gave the first one away, and bought even more clothes.  I was determined to at least look like a competitor even if I wasn’t playing like one.

And I kept clocking my hours, one horrendous forehand at a time.

Today, although I’m not where I want to be (and still, at times, get wiped completely off the court), I’m making progress, and I’m not looking in the rearview mirror to get ahead.  The fundamentals of the game I used to know are still there, and I’m building on them to construct something new.  What’s gone is gone, but the future’s ahead: bright, shiny, and staring me in the face.  And I’m willing to work.  Hard.  I’m playing at a respectable level, and even though I lose more than I’d like, I win matches too.  More importantly, I appreciate those wins, much more than the confident yet naïve little girl who walked off the court so many years ago without a second thought.

I wish I could have talked to her back then.  If I had, I would have told her to pick a different night to go to a concert.