Our beloved Brew.

Our beloved Brew.
R.I.P. Big guy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Taking My Daughter to College

We spent a couple of glorious days together moving Kailey into her dorm room at Indiana University. Even after moving in bags and bags of clothing, half the possessions in her overcrowded bedroom at home, a variety of new appliances, and an assortment of decorator items, we found we'd overlooked a few things (a toothbrush, personal hygiene items, drinking cups/glasses, extension cords/surge protectors, coaxial cable, etc) and had to make trips to the local hardware store, and Target. But we didn't forget to pack essentials like a week's supply of microwavable macaroni and cheese, the microwave itself, a new HD TV, too many pairs of shoes to wear in a month of Sundays, at least a dozen headbands, and a full array of Audrey Hepburn wall posters. You get the idea -- an 18 year-old did all her own packing.

We had a ball unpacking, assembling, sorting, storing, and moving things around. Adding to the excitement was dinner with the family of her childhood best friend who I haven't seen in a long time, and were there themselves moving into another dorm on campus.

With Kailey's move complete, parting was tense and difficult. Although this wasn't the first time she's been away from home, it certainly felt like the most permanent. My little girl is going out into the world to make her own way. This wasn't as scary as sending her to intern in Washington, DC by herself as we did earlier this summer, but it was every bit as emotional for both of us. I suspect it was hardest for Mom who stayed behind to see that Tate got off to his high school classes and tend to the dogs.

Although we shared a long hug, and "I Love Yous,"neither of us was eager to look the other in the eye because we both knew we'd start crying. After I went for the door and she hurried back to the elevator, I forced myself to call out to her again. I wanted to be sure I looked her in the eye so she could see the love that will always be there for her. And as we have done countless times, I whispered "love you more, love you most."

Although no one would be the wiser if I didn't reveal this, I got slightly off route two times during the ride home. I was still struggling with the shell-shock of letting go and traveling in a bit of an emotional fog.

When I got home, everyone else was out. So after getting the car somewhat back to normal, and unpacking my suitcase, I took a shower. The glass enclosure was foggy, I couldn't see well because my glasses were off, and all of sudden I heard that sweet, familiar voice say "Hi, Daddy!" as she bounded into the bathroom.

At once, my heart soared! My little girl was home! What a pleasant and unexpected surprise! For that brief second, I wasn't even concerned about the logic of it all, or the fact that I had left Kailey 250 miles away just hours earlier. I didn't care how or why she was home, I was just thrilled to have her back! I had never noticed before how similar mother and daughter's voices are. Sandy, my wife, had come home from errands and it was she that was welcoming me. As pleased as I was to see her after a couple of days apart, I felt again like crying when the realization hit me that my sweet child is far away, and life as I have known and treasured it most, with both children under foot, is forever changed. Change is good. Life goes on. But dad is still a little sad.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Christopher Sullivan makes even ugly MLS soccer seem intelligent

Loath as I am to watch MLS soccer, it is my habit to check out whatever is on Fox Soccer Channel at all hours of my viewing day. I happened on a game between DC United and Houston Dynamo last week while flipping channels and I had my finger on the channel changer just as I heard Christopher Sullivan's voice doing the color commentary. The game was a dreadful affair lacking skill, creativity, and style from either side. And yet, I stayed with it because I love the unique perspective Sullivan, a former professional player, and member of the US National Team brings to his commentary.

I've heard other former (and some active) players who lack the polish and perspective I think Sullivan brings. His delivery is measured, understated, and at times, melodic. Because of some questionable audio work during the broadcast, the commentators were often drowned out by the stadium announcer and the crowd. I actually found myself straining to hear what Sullivan had to say. Let me tell you, with all to few exceptions, that has not been the case with other soccer announcers in this country. Honestly, if I know a game is also being broadcast in Spanish, I prefer to tune that channel even though I don't speak the language simply because most English speaking announcers tend to be more distracting than contributing. Sullivan reports what he sees in a cadence that lends a rhythm to the game without distracting the viewer. Rather than just report the game, he brings you into its unique character. Too many other former players try to provide a player's perspective, but merely report the run of play.

Sullivan is an astute student of the game. His analysis blends team tactics, individual tactics, and a coach's sideline perspective. He has an amazing command of soccer history, players around the globe, and the fine points that comprise each player's game. Like the sport itself when it is played well, he keeps his commentary fluid, concise, relevant and insightful. He knows how to assess a team's game plan quickly, and at times, his ability to predict what a team is trying to do and when it will happen is uncanny.

I think a key to his success is he doesn't watch the game the way many fans and coaches in this country do. The norm is "ball watching," focus on offensive build up, or one's own team's execution. Coaches and knowledgeable fans watch three parallel aspects of the game at once: our own team's execution of the game plan, the individual and collective execution of what we believe to be the opponent's game plan, and the combined overall dynamics of the game with emphasis on individual match-ups that offer opportunistic advantages. In some cases, it is clear to me, coaches are so busy watching their own team's performance, they can't even tell you the sequence of events or key factors in an opponent's attack. This is especially true at the high school and college level, but I believe Bob Bradley, coach of the US National Team suffers from this at times as well. He's earned the nickname, "Bunker Bob" for a reason. As an aside, I was watching a game being coached by a protege' of mine, and at half time she passed by on the way back to her bench and asked if I had any observations. I took the occasion to ask her if she was aware that all three first half goals were scored on exactly the same play by two players who alternated positions, assists and goal scoring? It was clear to me that they saw a weakness and deliberately, repeatedly exploited it. It was equally clear that the coach and her defense hadn't adjusted to pick up the play after the first or second goal. I was very proud of her that she adjusted, and each time the opponent tried it after the break, it failed. Her team pretty much shut down the opponent altogether through her astute adjustments throughout the second half.

But back to Sullivan -- he has such a thinking man's soccer mind. He would make a formidable coach. If you caught the telecast of the Marathon (Honduras) and DC United game this evening you saw exactly what I am referring to in his ability to predict what Marathon needed to do to gain the advantage over DC United. As the game progressed he accurately predicted where the American team would be most vulnerable. Unfortuntely for the right back and central defenders who had a hellish night for DC United, Sullivan was laser accurate. Again, this game was a dull and lifeless affair, as evidenced by the meager crowd in attendance, until the Marathon coach took exactly the steps Sullivan had been suggesting early in the second half. A generally sloppy and unispired game was made almost bearable by Sullivan's analysis.

I know there are people who dislike Sullivan's work because of his European influences, or sometimes quirky pharsing, but rather enjoy those trademark aspects. There are very few people with whom I like to sit and watch a game because I prefer to analyze the play in my head rather than socialize and speculate as is done at most American sporting events. However, Sullivan is one person I'd love to sit with and compare observations during a match.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Next True American Revolution

Watching the healthcare debacle that is playing out in this country embarrasses me as an American. If the rest of the world wasn't convinced before that this nation has lost its greatness, this episode may complete the picture. America is more divided today than any other time in its history other than the Civil War. Healthcare is just the latest example.

Lies and distortions are flying from both sides. Politicians desperate to protect their personal interests dance the dance of the insincere. Big Pharma, the Insurance Industry, and healthcare providers have both sides of the aisle in Washington right where they want them -- in their back pockets.

No meaningful reform will come as a result of the political "two-stepping" being done by all parties. The Democrats will claim victory if anything makes it to the President's desk for his signature regardless of how meager the change. Republicans will claim they saved the nation, future generations, and your grandmother from being snuffed out by government agents while she slept in the nursing home, if they can deny the Democrats in the slightest way. From what I've read of the actual legislation, it isn't the profound improvement some people claim, nor is it the evil face of Socialism some of the far right suggest. Frankly, much of if it is bureaucratic, bean counting and vanilla.

In the end, both sides are more interested in the 2010 election cycle than advancing the country. As such, Big Pharma, Insurance and the hospital/medical community needed only to disrupt and delay to get what what they want - to maintain the "status quo" as much as possible. Significant, and controversial legislation has a little chance of passage after January 1. The campaign season will take precedence with no candidate wanting to risk their neck being caught on the wrong side of a vote. So after the first of the year, all parties agree to "play nice" and keep hot topics in limbo until after November. Yet another reason, the entire election process in this country needs to be revamped. We'll wait eleven months for anything of value on any topic to happen. Elections, and the money tied to them, not public service, now command every heartbeat of elected officials.

History would tell us, that with notable exceptions like Germany in World War II, revolution is usually instigated by the "have nots." Given the climate in this country, I expect it will be the conservative middle to upper class that will seek to fight to protect what they consider theirs, in less than the peaceful terms we as a nation like to pretend to be our way of handling domestic disputes in these enlightened times.

At some point in my life, I anticipate I will witness a real, bloody revolution, in the form of a civil war in this country. Maybe that's not all bad. Maybe that's what every good democracy needs from time to time to clean out the cobwebs, and earn its freedom. We are certainly proving that under the veil of peaceful discourse, corruption, self-interest and profiteering have the upper hand. The foreign enemies of America who would like to see us destroyed may need not try to disrupt our way of life. Coupled with an unstable economy that is far from correcting itself, as some "wishers upon a star" would have you believe, left to our own devices, we appear to be doing it to ourselves.

Today, the real soccer season begins.

The English Premier League (EPL) starts. YIPPIE! Coupled with Series A (the Italian League) and a little assist from Tivo that means I can watch worldclass soccer all day, everyday from now through next summer (the World Cup Finals in Sout Africa). My dance card is complete.