Thursday, April 24, 2008

Update - Health

The wife's battle against the infection that popped up last week will continue for a while, it looks like. The official diagnosis is mersa - staff infection.
She is definitely recovering, the temps spike at a little lower level every day, but they still spike, and she will not get to come home until all signs of fever and infection are gone completely.
This most likely means another full week in the hospital. So posting on this blog, my Little League website, and my favorite game-time Red Sox site (Joy of Sox) will be very sparse.
I could really spend an entire day doing nothing but catching up my LL website and writing here about the recent events in our lives. But work calls, so just a quick overview -
My LL team has won 2 in a row after starting out 0 - 3. I'm very proud. Maybe I had nothing to do with it, you never know. Maybe it was just their time, but I felt very good about the talk and insights I gave them after that 3rd loss, and the way we approached practice that night. Whether it made the difference or not, they responded with an entirely different attitude and performance the next game and I'll just go ahead and pat myself on the back :)
Oh and today is a birthday for me. Not sure which one. I know it's 40-something, it has to be, but I just can't remember which 40-number comes after 49, so I'm calling it 49B.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cancer Rears It's Ugly Head

Just a quick post today.
Mrs. SoSock is back in the hospital.
Her portacatheter ( the implanted device that they use to run the chemotherapy drugs) has become infected and she was running fevers of 102 - 104 and delirious Friday night. They've been running IV antibiotics since then.
The infection seems to have subsided, at least enough for them to feel safe opening her up and removing the port. She is still feverish, but not nearly as severely as before.
All in all she seems to be out of the danger zone, although she'll most likely be in several more days.
I'm running like a chicken with my head cut off right now, but I'll post a more complete story later.
Oh, very quickly - on a more positive note. The Rockies finally got their first win of the season yesterday. That would be the WSNLL Jr. Division Rockies. My Little League team. Finally!
I'll fill in details later. It was much needed!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Red Sox take 2 out of 3 from Yanks! - updated

I don't have time to write a damn thing this morning, but I just had to write THAT!
I will elaborate later.
Update - 4/19
Beckett whipped the Yanks last night, going 8! First time all season a Sox pitcher has made it past 6. Manny hit TWO dongs!
We are up 3 - 2 on the season and in 1st place, like that really matters at this point. Beating them at their place DOES matter though.
Taxes, Little League, Granddaughter's Softball, Work, and Joy of Sox Game-threading.
All conspiring to keep me away from my blog.
Next week things should loosen up a little and I'll get back to writing.
(As if anyone cares) :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Blue Week

The mourning period continues.
Carolina's loss in the national semifinals was absolutely devestating, and I'm still trying to get over it. Not just because they lost, but because of the way they lost. Fortunately, baseball is in full swing and I have been so distracted by all that entails that I have very little time to think about it.
When I do, it's very disheartening. It's like I wrote a while back about the Patriots' loss in the Super Bowl - the worst part is that this team had an incredible season and their performance in that game is all that will be remembered. They fought through the loss of Frasier, the #2 point guard, for the season. Then they fought through losing the #1 point guard for a big chunk of the conference schedule. They beat Duke at Cameron. They swept through the ACC tournament. They manufactured several of their trademark comebacks during the year, including one for the ages against Clemson. They even made one of the biggest comebacks in tournament history against the Jayhawks last weekend, but couldn't sustain it. They just never quit, which I believe is a testament to Roy Williams and the character of the teams he puts together.
I never have figured out what went wrong that night. Roy puts all of the blame on himself, of course. Says he didn't have the team prepared and focused. They definitely were not prepared and focused, but I doubt that Roy Williams left anything undone that would have prevented this. The team apparently was just a little too pressured. It seemed as though they were so intent on winning it all that the thought of not doing so scared them, and that fear forced them out of their game. They were playing not-to-lose, instead of playing to win.
As a fan, it really hurts because these seasons don't come very often. We've been fortunate enough to have gotten very close several times lately, and did win it all in 05. The fact is, however, it takes a few breaks and a ton of talent to even be in contention for a national title, and when you get so close you always have that thought there - "How long before we get this shot again?" Some people say "well at least you're not like UCLA, 3 Final Fours in a row, and not even an appearance in the title game, much less a title". Maybe they're right. I tend to say that I'm just thrilled when we get to the Final Four, and an appearance there is a victory in itself, and UCLA should be damn proud of getting there 3 straight times. But 3 straight losses in the semi-final would be very discouraging. That really must feel like a wasted opportunity, even more so than the Heels' futility this year. So I will say it once more - it's something I spent entire decades saying as a Red Sox fan - Next Year!!
I just hope Tyler comes back.
And Now For Something Completely Different -
I mentioned last post that there was health news. It wasn't that much. Just that the wife's chemo was postponed till Monday and this was after her usual week off that comes every 4th week. This all added up to about 11 days with no chemo and she was feeling very well for a change. We bought flowers Sunday. Whether they will get planted before they die is another question, but I'm glad she was postive enough to get them and believe she would be able to get them in the ground. I really should plant them myself, for her, and will if I can ever get a break from all of the pre-season crap around the Little League complex that didn't get done pre-season because of the weather. Now I'm having to deal with it all around the games being played and it really slows the whole process down.
We also went out to dinner with a couple that I do some work for. They are very interesting people, both doctors, very intelligent, and just good company. This may not seem like a subject to bother writing about, but when you're going through chemo, any day she feels well enough to get out and DO something is an event.
We had been planning this dinner for the past 3 Wednesdays but every week that would turn out to be a day that Cathy just wasn't up to it physically. I also imagine the posponements were influenced a little by her not feeling real sure about this meeting. She didn't know them as well as I do, and she doesn't seem to enjoy meeting new people as much as before the cancer. I'm sure the fact that they are both doctors and neither of us even went to college was a little intimidating as well. The long break from chemo, however, seemed to allow her to get to a point where she felt like she could be good company, so we went for it this week. She really enjoyed herself, as I was sure she would, and connected very well with them. The woman has a very rare muscle-related condition and is dealing with a lot of pain issues herself, so she empathizes with Cathy's situation more so than most. Her husband has retired specifically for the purpose of researching and trying to cure his wife's illness. I look forward to spending more time with them in the future. We have a fair amount in common, despite the differences in educational background and financial status. I find that the older we get, the less difference that makes, at least when you're dealing with "real" people.
Off to work now, I'll get to my 1st Little League game (maybe games by then) later.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sunday - and Not a Pretty One Either

Well, this pretty much defines Black Sunday
The Tarheels' season came crashing down in flames last night as they played what might have beeen the worst 15 minutes of basketball that I've seen them play - ever. If not ever - close.
They were down by 28 before they started to play like they actually belonged on the floor there, and made the game very respectable for a while, closing to within 4 points with about 10 minutes to go. The incredible comeback seemed to take everything out of them however, and in the end they just couldn't sustain the energy level and lost by 18 or so. I never though I would see them get out-hustled, out-scrapped, and out-willed the way they did those first 15 minutes. They just didn't look anything like the team I've been watching all season.
At least I can finally get my hair cut.
On top of that bad news - it's been raining for like 40 days here. I think the next door neighbor is working on an ark in his driveway. We are supposedly still way "behind" on rainfall around here, but if I hear, "well, we need the rain" one more time I'm going postal on somebody. It's baseball season, dammit! My team opens up in 2 days and we haven't practiced in 10 days. The only time we were able to do anything at all was last Tuesday, and the infield was unusable then. We just hit in the cage a little and worked my pitchers. At least the team we open against is another from our league, so I know they're in the same boat, er, ark?
Besides not practicing the rain is also going to make things rough today. We are supposed to have a ton of volunteers at the complex for a big clean-up/prep day, including the varsity team from the school I used to coach at. (OK, I just coached the Middle School kids).
I have a list a mile long of things I have needed to get done around the complex before the season starts, but the weather has hampered my efforts. It is not supposed to rain today, in fact the sun is supposed to come out, but the complex is soaked, with standing water everywhere and the clean-up will be much more difficult. In fact, I made several trips down there yesterday doing the old flood watch thing. Our complex has been under 3 - 5 feet of water many times in the past. (If I ever get around to figuring out the image thing I'll post some pictures) We sure as HELL don't need that to start the season. The creek was swelled up close to it's banks, but at my last check, about 5pm, it was still about 3 feet from spilling onto the fields. Of course I've seen it go from that to 3 feet deep in the outfield in a matter of 2 or 3 hours before, but I believe we were past the crest at that point. At least I'm hoping so! We probably won't even be able to get on the infields, but at laest there wasn't much that needed to be done there.
Speaking of that, I am out of here to get coffeed up at the Bagel Shop before heading on over to the complex. No one else will be there till 12 or 1, but I will get there around 10 to unlock everything and start setting up equipment for the various jobs so I can get the most out of these folks when they arrive.
There is news on the health front so I will edit this post a little later tonight to cover that. It will be after a late dinner because my wife is feeling good enough to have invited some friends from Temple over. Good news. And if the fields DO dry up a little during the day, I'm calling my team in for a impromptu emergency practice after the work session. (Is that redundant?)
In the meantime - Go Red Sox!!

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Well, if there are any Memphis fans out there lurking you can go ahead and smirk now.
I made the mistake of thinking UCLA should beat Memphis in the 1st game of the Final Four, but the Tigers are now about 1 minute from punching their ticket to Monday night's final and they're up by 11 or so.
So, IF my Heels can beat Kansas in the upcoming game, they will face a very big, very quick Memphis team who has outmanned UCLA in almost every aspect of the game.
I said previously that I think Carolina matches up better with Memphis than with UCLA, and I still believe that. Even though this score (78 - 63, now final) would indicate Memphis is better, therefore we would be better off playing UCLA, I don't buy it.
I think UCLA's style of play would give us a harder time than the Tigers' will. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they aren't perfectly capable of beating us, they are. They are very big, and they run the floor very well for such a big team. I do think, however, that their preferred style is also our preferred style, and I think we are faster, so advantage us.
Too much thinking ahead, though. First things first. MUST beat Kansas, or it's a moot point.
I believe I will comment every so often during the game. Not that anyone is watching, just to record the moments for posterity, or maybe hilarity :)

Go Heels!

Well, I haven't written all week about 'dem Heels.
Maybe it's because I'm still upset that the women lost to LSU. I guess it's a little greedy to want both teams in the Final Four, but that's reality. I really wanted to see the guys and gals both in the BIG Show in the same year.
Maybe I had been assuming all along the men would be there and am afraid to be "satisfied" with making it to this point.
Regardless, it was with an almost smug satisfaction that I watched the final seconds tick off the clock in last Sunday's victory over Louisville. Doubters be damned, the Heels had silenced the critics. I know it's easy to say "what doubters and critics?" when they've been ranked #1 for a while now and came in as the top overall seed in the tournament, but if you live where I do, everyone that is not a Tarheel fan is a Tarheel hater. And I have to admit, the same is true of Duke. You either worship Coach K, or you were glad to see them exit the field prematurely. I shrugged and made a conscious effort not to smile.
I overheard a regular at the Bagel Shop talking on his phone, and apparently the subject of the Heels came up. His end of the conversation went like this - "yeah, well, wait till Saturday. We'll see how far they can go then"
Excuse me? We'll see how far they can go then? Haven't they already gone damn near as far as you CAN go? I believe it's only possible to go one game farther than where they are at. I believe they've already gone farther than over 380 teams in the country, and farther than all but 3 of the "best 64" teams in the country. So THERE!
But the truth is, we will all be terribly disappointed if they don't bring home the trophy. The NCAA is better than most organizations at recognizing teams for the great achievement of actually GETTING there. But the general public will still consider it "falling short" if the Heels don't win it all. And there is some validity behind this, given the lofty ranking and sheer talent the team has. But UCLA is every bit as talented and has what I fear is a big advantage in their previous Final Four experience. They have lost in the National Semi-final the last 2 years, and I think they are hungry to stop that streak and rid that taste from their mouths, just as Carolina was not about to lose in the Regional Final after losing to Georgetown last year in that round.
Of course, the Heels have to get past Kansas first, which will not be an easy task, but it is one I think they will be up to. The Kansas players will be motivated to beat the coach who "abandoned" them to come to Chapel Hill, but I think Roy will be ready for them and I think we are the better team. If I'm right, and UCLA does indeed beat Memphis, I am not taking the position that the Bruins will beat us. I just think that that game will be a dogfight of the largest magnitude. I think the Heels can win that game, but they will have to play a flawless game and somehow equal the sheer determination that UCLA will bring to the table, not to mention their exceedingly high talent quotient. While watchng them play last weekend, I could only say -"Oh my God! They're TOUGH!" But then I think about some of the games Carolina has played this year, and have to believe there are Bruins fans out there right now saying exactly the same thing about us.
That feels pretty good :)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Building Better Men

Tonight I had the distinct honor of listening to and then meeting a man of tremendous principle.
Joe Ehrmann was a professional football player for 13 years, mostly with the Baltimore Colts. After he lost his younger brother, to whom he had been more of a father than brother, to cancer at the tender age of 19, Joe reevualated his life and began a new journey. He is responsible for a number of community and society building initiatives that have had a positive impact on countless lives. Among them are The Door, a community center in inner Baltimore dedicated to addressing poverty and racism, and Building Men for Others, a program aimed at creating a better civilization by teaching boys how to be better men. Oddly enough, coming from a former NFL star, this is done by trying to exorcise all the myths and stereotypes that are typically held up as manly - physical prowess, sexual conquest, and material wealth, and instead raising successful relationships up to the level of being one's greatest accomplishment. He also coaches a high school football team in the Baltimore area, teaching the young men that success is measured more in the strength of their relationships than in the win-loss column. In addition he stresses serving the community, and placing the improvement of the human state above the improvement of one's own lot in life. It is his belief that you must have a cause bigger than yourself. Ehrmann so strongly believes in his mission that, when his kids were young, he moved his family to an inner city neighborhood just blocks from The Door, so his kids would grow up experiencing an empathy for those living in poverty that can only come from being close to it.
A little over a year ago I was burned severely in an on-the-job accident. I suffered 2nd degree burns over almost my entire face. The 1st Saturday after I came home, almost all of the tournament baseball team I had been working with showed up at my house and spent over an hour just hanging out, cracking jokes, ragging on each other, and showing their concern. This touched me deeper than you can imagine. I was NOT a pretty sight and I know it made some of them terribly uncomfortable. Yet this group of about a dozen 13-14 year old boys with much better things to do on a Saturday afternoon just hung out with the old fart who coaches them. They also brought me a book which they all signed. It was "Season Of Life", the story of Joe Ehrmann.
The book was written by Jeffrey Marx, and works in the story of his own relationship to his father, but the real story here is Ehrmann. The writer follows Ehrmann and his Gilman High team through a season. The players are taught that masculinity is being able to look each other in the eye and say I love you, without being afraid. It's really hard to imagine a squad of high school boys who hear this at the end of their pre-game pep talk -
"What is our job as your coaches?"
Boys - "To love us!"
"What is YOUR job"
Boys - "To love each other!"
I wish I had what it would take to force a bunch of young men to say that every day.
Ehrmann spoke tonight of the definition of masculinity, what it means to be a man, then about the definition of feminine and what it means to be a woman. Naturally many people immediately thought - "here comes the double standard, the old difference". But he quelled that thought quickly by saying the definitions are the same. That being a man and being a woman are both about being human, and having meaningful relationships without seeing them as shameful or a sign of weakness. That we lift all of humanity when we find a cause bigger than ourselves and place our contribution to the advancement of that cause ahead of our own physical comfort. He talked about the lies that all young people are subjected to at a very young age. The lies stressing first physical strength, then sexual conquest, and lastly material possessions as the keys to a man's success, and those stressing first appearance, then the aquicision of a man, and lastly deferment to men as keys to a woman's success. And he called all them "flat out lies"
I stated earlier that I wish I could make myself put these issues out on the table with my team. That would take as much courage as it would for the 13 year old to tell his teammate he loves him. It's a goal I will now strive toward. At least I can give myself some credit for steps in the right direction even before reading "Season Of Life".
I have always, well, for over 15 years anyway, ended my practices with a "thought for the day." I always try to choose a quote or saying that can be tied to something on the field, but also has a deeper meaning off the field. When I am coaching guys a little older, as I am this year and have been for the last 3 or 4 years, I try to make it a little deeper. After listening to Joe Ehrmann tonight, I will not be as shy as I have in the past about really getting philosophical with them. These boys are old enough to get it, and they need to be getting it. As Ehrmann points out, they have been bombarded with the message that they have to be bigger, stronger, and better in competition or they are failures. I have always tried to teach that the competition is more about improving themselves than defeating the opponent, and the wins will take care of themselves if they make sure no one gives more effort than they do. Through sheer repetition, though, I wonder if my "thoughts of the day" have become stale, and if I'm sending the message I want to. Sometimes I "mail it in" at the end of practice, simply quoting a line and throwing in a simple sentence or two of explanation and ignoring any looks of confusion I see. I have resolved to re-address my choices for daily messages, and to be better at stimulating serious thought. Joe Ehrmann has inspired me to be better at building men.
After his speech, I approached Joe and told him how much I had enjoyed the book and how important I thought his message was. I showed him the copy that my team had brought to me with all their boyish signatures on the inner sleeve and mentioned the visit they had paid while I was weak and down. He said something that meant a lot to me. He said that no gang of teenage boys would make that visit if I had not had some influence in their lives, and signed my book - "To Coach B, To a Builder Of Men For Others".
It will get a little more prominence on the bookshelf now :)