There’s no such thing as an expert

Those of you who follow Pigskin Pick-em in the Daily Globe have no doubt figured out that we’re by no means experts.
“Expert” is a word thrown around far too easily these days. True experts are truly rare, and when it comes to picking the winners of NFL games I assert that there is no such thing as one who truly understands the crap-shoot nature of predicting these things.
Yes, I’m painfully aware that one of our “expert” Pigskin Pick-em panelists, Les Knutson, went 9-1 this week while making good on all four of his NFL selections. So Les had the right to crow on Monday (which, of course, he did). But until he can do it again this week, I’ll assume (at the risk of being called a sourpuss) that he just got lucky.
I don’t know what it is about the NFL, but it seems as if year after year there is hardly any team capable of maintaining consistency. Take the Vikings. One week they start a rookie quarterback against Atlanta and he performs like a Hall of Famer. The next week they rest him and his sore ankle against Green Bay and they completely fall apart. The next week he’s back but he performs like a rookie against the Detroit Lions. And the Lions? They were supposed to have one of the top offenses in the league this year, and their defense was supposed to be lousy. But their offense is poor and their defense is outstanding.
Go figure. Next week it all might flip. As it flips with virtually every other team. Take the New York Giants, who started out this season as if they’d be lucky to win a single game. So after losing their first two, they win three in a row and look good in doing it. So, of course, many of the so-called experts confidently asserted the Giants would beat Philadelphia at Philadelphia Sunday night. They didn’t. They lost 27-0 in a game that wasn’t even as close as the score indicated.
The experts on ESPN and those other NFL pick-em shows express confidence each week with their forecasts. The truth is, they don’t know anything more than the rest of us do. They don’t know which team will show up on Sunday. Heck, the teams’ coaches don’t know either. That’s the nature of the league.
When we set up our Daily Globe Pigskin Pick-em feature this year I was half ready to include a fifth picker — somebody’s pet raccoon, perhaps. Or maybe sports reporter Zach Hacker’s dog, Homer. Because throughout the history of NFL prognosticating, animals have done quite well for themselves picking against their more brainy human owners.
I did a little research this week, and animal pickers are out there. There’s “Bonzo the Idiot Monkey,” and a prognosticating gorilla called Kanda the Great. A camel successfully picked six of the last seven Super Bowl winners before dying prior to last February’s Seattle-Denver contest. Somebody picks the NFL games using a cat called Mr. Nuts, who chooses his winners according to which of two litter boxes suits him.
I may someday, perhaps, attempt to trap one of the numerous squirrels that scurry across my lawn and use him as my resident prognosticating genius. At mealtime, I will introduce two cereal bowls in his cage — one with the word “Packers” taped to it and the other with the word “Bears” and let fate determine all my NFL picks in this way. I figure my own Mr. Nuts can be successful at least 50 percent of the time — which is a bit worse than Les, but at least as good as I’m doing by myself right now.

A light shines in the darkness

I have long ago come to the conclusion that ESPN is too big for its own breeches. It needs to be broken up, cut into small pieces. America’s No. 1 sports network carries far too much influence in the sporting world. We need alternatives.
But imagine my surprise the other day when on-air ESPN analyst Keith Olbermann — arguably the most pompous, self-important bore on that pompous, self-important network — went against ESPN’s own grain. Olbermann went off recently on a subject that until now has been sacrosanct. I’m talking, of course, about New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, who has since the beginning of this long baseball season basked in the kind of adulation that not even Mother Teresa would have been worthy of.
Olbermann, like many others among us too timid to point this out, argued on air that Jeter’s long farewell tour has been (to put it mildly) ridiculous. The testimonials, the gifts presented to him at every American League ballpark, the incessant televised career highlights, the breathless what-did-Jeter-have-for-breakfast-this-morning happy-talk — it is all so far over the top that somebody HAD to say something.
Jeter’s celebrated career is almost over now, but I propose that the worship of this baseball god is bizarre even for this country, which is already so obsessed with celebrity it has long ago lost the meaning of proportion.
We have at least one teammate on record that Jeter is the greatest Yankee of all-time. Greater than Ruth? Greater than DiMaggio? Greater than Mantle? Greater than Gehrig, or at least a dozen others that come to mind? Puhleeeze. Even the commissioner, Bud Selig, made remarks about the guy to the effect that baseball will never recover without his sainted presence.
I have never been a fan of Mr. Olbermann. He’s too extreme, too prone to stretching the truth. His previous stint as a political analyst on MSNBC was so absurd, he probably could have been sued for libel about 10 times per week. And, to be fair, Jeter probably isn’t quite as overrated as Olbermann maintains. But he is overrated, and he has especially been overrated by the other ESPN analysts we’re subjected to, who were probably ordered to say all those unsupportable things about him all summer long.
As Olbermann swims against the tide, the rest of ESPN blithely goes along with the story line. The same old company lines — like football coaches working from a playbook — are repeated regularly, not just with Jeter, but with other ESPN favorites.
And, while we’re at it, I do understand that ESPN has a lot of air time to fill throughout the broadcast day, but can’t somebody get them some REAL topics to discuss? Recently, the topic of the day was: Who’s better: Clayton Kershaw or Sandy Koufax?
C’mon. Kershaw is only 26 years old, and already ESPN asks us to rate him against one of the best pitchers of all-time.
What’s next week’s debate going to be about, ESPN: Who had the greater impact on American culture — George Washington or Derek Jeter?

Keep on keeping on, Trojans

When a high school athletic team — or in Worthington’s case most of the autumn slate of sports offerings — finds winning difficult, it can be tough for everybody.
The athletes play to win, and when they rarely win the season becomes long and depressing.
Coaches remind their players that sports is about more than winning, and they are correct. But they want to see their student-athletes shine with the joy of success, and losing is demoralizing the longer it continues.
Parents struggle to stay positive in such an atmosphere. They hold onto hope longer than the typical fan, who is tempted to become jaded, uninterested, or both.
There’s no beating about the bush at this stage. Most of the 2014 Worthington High School fall athletic teams have struggled from the get-go. The football team is 1-3 after being outscored 99-14 in its first two games. The volleyball team is 1-8. The girls soccer team is 1-9. The girls tennis team has yet to win a team meet.
On the plus side, both the boys and the girls cross country teams are having a good year. Cross country doesn’t stress the team aspect in quite the same way as the other sports, but hats off to them. Likewise, the boys soccer team is quite good. It is 5-4 after experiencing some narrow losses to some very good teams, but the team is of comparable ability with the top teams in the section.
Alas, there’s this “negative” side that whispers negative thoughts. We should tell that side to shut up, I think.
I thought about the autumn Trojans the other night as I was watching a public television documentary on the Roosevelts — Theodore and Franklin. Theodore (Teddy) happens to be my favorite president of them all, and one of his many famous quotes testified of the optimism, energy and fearlessness that contributed toward making him one of our greatest leaders.
I believe TR’s words can still encourage every one of us. They remind us that the winner is not necessarily the one whose arms are raised in victory, but the one who strives and does not quit.
Here’s what Roosevelt said:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Fight on, Trojans.

I’m going straight

Have you ever come to a point in your life when you realize it’s useless to resist?
I have. But it’s OK. I can’t wait to go to the restaurant with friends and see the shock on their faces when I order salad.
I’m going to do it. I’m going to ignore the baby-back ribs on the menu, or the broasted chicken, and I’m going to order rabbit food. And I’m going to eat it with a smile on my face.
The smile will be forced. But I’m determined.
Twenty years ago, more or less, I went to the doctor for a complete check-up. He told me that my triglycerides and bad cholesterol were through the roof and that if I didn’t change my diet I might face serious consequences down the road. So I abandoned the ribs, the fried foods, the French fries, the soda pop and the ice cream for about a week. Then I went back to them like a moth to the flame.
I confess. I don’t enjoy seeing doctors. My philosophy on doctors has been is that if you avoid them, everything will be fine. But if you come into contact with one, he/she will always find something wrong with you. So, then, the key to successful living is to avoid them at all costs.
For the past several years my family has urged me to get a complete check-up. I’m 57 now, and showing signs of wear. But I am a stubborn resister. It wasn’t until my middle child, Kari, showed genuine anger with me that I finally admitted that I must face my fears. Kari worried that I might exit this world before my time. “Don’t you want to see your grandkids grow up?” she asked me.
A few days ago, I made my appointment at the local clinic and found a wonderful doctor with a genuine concern and a pleasant manner. She counseled me to reassess my eating habits. She didn’t have to explain why; I already knew it. She provided a list of food items that would get me on the right track, and she expounded upon the merits of regular exercise. I promised her I would become a changed man.
For all my life, I’ve eaten things I’ve wanted to eat, when I’ve wanted them, and brushed off the consequences. I like McDonald’s French fries. I typically stack my plate with seven or eight broasted chicken legs at Pizza Ranch. I’d eaten a big bowl of chocolate ice cream every night before bedtime.
My wife, bless her heart, gently attempted to push me in a more healthy direction. My kids, too. But on and on I went with the fried foods, the Cheetos, and what-not at all hours of the day.
But there comes a time when a person has to face reality. After all these years, I’m going straight. I used to be like a convicted safecracker who continually returns to his life of crime. But I have seen the light. Slap the cuffs on me. I give up.
I’m still not going to enjoy that salad, though.

The APBA baseball wars

It was probably inevitable, the day I was born, that I would grow to love baseball just like my dad.
And I did. I loved playing baseball, and I loved playing baseball games with dice and spinners. When I was in grade school, I devised my own statistically-inspired baseball games and kept box scores religiously, updating the pitching stats and batting averages after the last outs were made.
So it was inevitable, indeed, that as I grew older I discovered something called APBA baseball, which brought baseball gaming to a new level. You could buy individual cards for every major league baseball player. Each card contained scientific data designed to correspond to the actual pitching and batting records that players compiled in their most recent seasons. I found a like-minded friend and we played APBA baseball together summer after summer.
As I mentioned in a recent column of mine, I came across on the Internet, quite by accident recently, some APBA cards of former greats, and I discussed this miraculous find with some of my co-workers. I haven’t told you, however, what happened next. Well, to make a long story short, our esteemed Daily Globe managing editor, Ryan McGaughey, and two of my co-workers Zach Hacker and Alex Purdy, decided to play our own brief APBA season with some of these new cards and the old ones I had saved from so many years ago. We drafted our teams (by blind selection) and kept to a schedule that gave each one of us six games.
To make it more interesting, we agreed to a rule that the player with the worst record had to buy pizza for the other three at the end of the season.
I’m happy to report that the season was great fun for all of us. There’s a little kid in all of us, and the “kid” came out in all of us as we gathered together to set our lineups for each game and rolled the dice in hopeful anticipation. We established our pitching rotations, designated our closers, and as the games proceeded we became major league managers as we contemplated whether to hit and run, move our infields in with runners on third, and brought in our pinch hitters.
Ryan’s team was a little weak on pitching, but he had a strong lineup with Rickey Henderson leading off and George Brett, Kent Hrbek, Wade Boggs and Carlton Fisk holding down the middle of his order. Zach was better balanced. He had Roger Clemens at the top of his pitching staff and he pulled off the biggest “coup” of the draft when he somehow managed to get the incomparable Joe DiMaggio. Alex wasn’t far behind with Nolan Ryan as his ace pitcher along with hitters like Alan Trammell, Steve Garvey and Harmon Killebrew. Me, I had decent pitching, but my offense was sub-par. Darryl Strawberry wasn’t too bad, but I had to pair him with “average” players like Terry Puhl, Rich Gedman and Phil Gantner. I dubbed my team the “Misfit Toys” and expected to be springing for the pepperoni pizza at the end of the campaign.
Now, for those of you who have played APBA baseball, or Strat-o-Matic for that matter, you already know that the best cards you can hold in your hand are only as good as the dice rolls that they dance to. It’s all in the wrists, as they say.
My wrists were in rare form against Ryan, Zach and Alex. I won four of my first five games and finished 4-2. Ryan finished 3-3. Alex also finished 3-3, helped out by a dramatic two-out two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of a game against Zach that turned a 3-2 loss into a 4-3 victory (I believe Mr. Hacker is still trying to recover from that one).
Hard-luck Zach finished 2-4 after an 0-4 start and much teasing from the rest of us. He bought the pizza. It was very tasty. And he was a good sport about it.
The biggest irony of all, I think, was that my Terry Puhl ended up the league MVP, getting 11 hits in 23 at bats with three home runs and a league-high eight RBIs. The “stars” didn’t always pan out so well. Henderson started strong but he went hitless in his last 12 at bats. Hrbek was just 4 for 17 with no home runs. Ryan’s most consistent hitter turned out to be Jerry Royster, of all people.
Zach got a fine year from his leadoff hitter, Steve Sax (10-for-24, five stolen bases) but Chili Davis was just 1-for-15 with no extra base hits. Joe DiMaggio — D’Mag — was a disappointing 5 for 22.
The next time the four of us get together to draft our teams, we agreed that “The Yankee Clipper” will not be made available. We sent him down to Toledo.

Nothing to report

I really have nothing interesting to write about today in this blog.
For me, it’s not such a bad thing. Like one of my favorite songs, “Comfortably Numb,” we all need to kick back and let minds go to neutral from time to time. For my blog readers, however (which number literally in the dozens, if you add up all the people from my church), it’s probably not such a good thing. They’ve all opened the paper, saw my mug shot, and expected to peruse something marvelously witty.
On days like this, when I’m reasonably content and willing to go from one activity to the next without thinking too much about it (and let’s be honest; you’ve done it, too), I can only hope that the autopilot in my brain gets me through the day.
No need to worry. I’m getting all my work done. I’m just not feeling very creative. I painted our deck last weekend and need time to recover. Before that, I played Worthington High School tennis standout Andrew Johnson in a friendly game, and I think I’m still recovering from that, too (not my body so much; my psyche).
I don’t wish to write about it. Or even to think about it, for that matter.
I’m a sports editor, so I could blog something else about sports, but I’m just not in the mood. I could be like those motor mouths on ESPN-TV and predict who will win the World Series, but let’s just be honest about it — nobody knows. So let’s just wait and see.
I enjoy writing about my family, especially my grandkids. There’s a wonderful Facebook video of Kari and Mike’s boys dancing on their freshly-painted deck, but you probably won’t find it half as funny as their grandfather. I guess you’ve got to be a grandpa, yourself, to get the full impact.
Oh, let’s see … What else can I waste your time with?
I’m reading another book. I read lots of books. This one is historical and it’s called “December 1941,” and I guess you probably have already guessed what it’s about. What happened on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, got my dad sent to war. I’m so very glad he was able to get back.
I’m thinking again about writing another short story or two. It’s a hobby of mine. I self-publish them. Problem is, I don’t have a good subject yet. I tend to come up with about two-dozen ideas each month, but I hardly like any of them after I sleep on it.
I was thinking, maybe, I’d like to write a history of the PJs Lounge men’s fast-pitch softball team that I had so many happy years with. It was quite a team, and I had quite a lot of interesting teammates. But, naaaaa. I’d probably say something about Johnny or Dave that they wouldn’t appreciate. It’s tough being a writer, you know.
Well, if I come up with a good subject, I’ll let you know.
Sorry I don’t have anything interesting to talk about otherwise. I’m just not very interesting today, I guess. I’ll try to be better next time.
But if we’re really going to be frank about this … if you’ve now made it to the very end of this blog, how interesting could YOU be? I mean, don’t you have anything better to do?

The family that camps together …

Two nights before the Wolter family “campout,” my kids started an online chat with Sandy and I that was the weirdest thing ever.
They were concerned about a number of things, especially where everyone would sleep. They were even more concerned about morning showers.
A little background might be in order here. My wife and I have three daughters, who are all grown up now with families of their own. Between the three of them, they’ve got two husbands and six kids. So it was my youngest daughter’s bright idea (Laura) that everybody get together for a three-day weekend to experience a “family campout.”
At first, we considered renting a cabin or two near a lake. That was expensive. We decided, ultimately, to have it at our place. All of us (that’s 13) were to stay together at our house in Worthington and play games, make s’mores in our backyard fire pit, play some Monopoly and backgammon, eat really well, and basically just hang out and enjoy each other. We planned one day at Sioux Falls, where we’d eat a picnic lunch at Falls Park and spend the rest of the day at Wild Water West.
But shortly before all this was to happen, our daughters decided to go online with questions on just how all of this was going to work.
Kari wanted to know where everyone would sleep. Shannon was worried that Laura’s son Tyson (who is a well-known light sleeper) might wake her up in the middle of the night. She needs a full night’s sleep, after all.
Laura said not to worry about it. So did I. Kari’s clan can sleep in the second bedroom. Laura’s family can sleep in the family room. Shannon’s outfit can sleep in the third bedroom. And if anyone needs more privacy than that, they can sleep on the couch in the living room. That is, if they didn’t want to pitch a tent in the back yard (we discouraged it, fearing the likelihood that a swarm of mosquitoes might carry away one of our grandkids).
The online back-and-forth at first was maddening. Then it became hilarious as we got sillier and sillier about all our ridiculous concerns.
The silliest issue of all was the morning shower thing. How would we all get our showers in a house that had just one and a half bathrooms (just one room containing a tub and shower, that is)?
I explained, sitting at my desk computer, that it would all work out and that nobody should be anxious. But there was an abundance of unease, notwithstanding. I finally wrote that I would be happy to forgo a shower, personally, and simply go to the half-bath each morning and splash water on myself from the sink.
The next message was from Laura. “Guess I’m not getting close to dad, then.”
Sandy, participating from her laptop in the family room, quickly added to the conversation with a message of her own. “Doug, you need to take a shower.”
I’m happy to report that the three-day camping weekend went marvelously well. Wild Water West was a blast, and we took lots of pictures while climbing on the rocks at Falls Park. Back home, we swatted mosquitoes while toasting marshmallows on the fire pit and played lots of games together. Everybody contributed for meals; the pancakes Mike (Kari’s husband) made for our breakfast meals were particularly tasty. We sat around in the mornings in our jammies and in the evening sat and watched kid movies before bedtime. Shannon got her beauty rest. The grandkids behaved themselves throughout, and we bonded in a way that families can never really bond until they go on a three-day campout together.
And, much to the relief of everyone, I made it to the shower every morning.

Welcome to the jungle

The wife and I moved into our house in Worthington last August and walked outside together to survey the lush landscaping.
“They’re weeds,” Sandy said, pointing to an area saturated with tall, green plants with pointy leaves.
“No, they’re not,” I said.
“They sure look like weeds to me. I think we should pull them out,” she said.
“Let’s see if flowers grow,” said I.
Our place is wonderful, especially if you like outdoor plants. I love them. I don’t know how to control them, but sure do appreciate the way they make our yard look “filled in.”
Sandy thinks it’s a little TOO filled-in. We have a plant area in the front lawn next to our deck area and another bigger plant area starting at the back yard deck and winding all the way around the side of the house to the opposite corner. In short, about three-fourths of the circumference of our house is encircled with plants, and for most of the way the plants are packed more densely than the hair on a yak.
The variety is amazing. There must be 40 to 50 varieties of plant species around our house. And, yes, I know at least some of them are weeds, because I’ve chopped more than my share of healthy thistles over the past year (and although thistles can, technically, sprout purple flowers, I know a thistle when I see one).
All these non-weed plants, apparently, are what they call “perennials.” I know this now, but I didn’t know it during the winter months when everything was barren.
Sandy and I thought that, maybe, nothing would grow back in the spring.
Boy, were we wrong!
By late May, every square millimeter of our plant areas were filled in, and by early June many of the green things were as tall as our waists. I was correct about the flowers, because some of those “weeds” produced very pretty flowers of blue or white. I’m glad I didn’t hack them to death prematurely. But Sandy may yet be correct about some of the other odd-looking stalks; flowers have yet to grow on them, and unless they produce something pretty and fragrant in the next couple of weeks or so, I may have to admit she’s at least partially right.
Flowers or not, as of two weeks ago things had most definitely gotten out of hand. There was just too much of it all. It was looking like our own private jungle, so I stalked outdoors to take matters into my own hands.
The idea was to pull a few of the “plants” so as to give the others a little more room to breathe. But by then the mosquitos had taken up residence.
After two minutes I emerged from jungle covered in welts. There was a cloud of mosquitoes around my head, and they followed me all over the yard. Swatting furiously, I could not keep them off. The sound of them was ferocious, and I swear that they looked as large as small birds. The Amazon basin doesn’t have mosquitoes as big or as vicious as these.
This is, I suspect, what happens when you’ve got a jungle in your yard and you haven’t the wherewithal to deal with it.
But I’m not giving up. I’m going back there. I’m going to trim those overgrown plants if it’s the very last thing, I do — which it might. I just hope Sandy doesn’t find me lying there one day, covered in big red welts while wearing my pith helmet and holding a machete.

Brains don’t make sense to me, either

I have several nerdy tendencies and one of the worst, I suppose, is an interest in intelligent design theory which compels me to digest numerous books and articles about how intelligent life got here, and why.
I don’t know if I really understand two percent of what I’ve read about the subject, but it’s fascinating nonetheless.
Seems to me, the question basically boils down to whether life occurred and developed randomly, with chance as its guide (the Darwinist approach), or it required a supreme intelligence (which, I assert, is the more rational option given the amazing complexity of the information-based systems that we see). If you think you could randomly toss all the letters of the alphabet over the Sahara Desert, wait 100 million years, and find that they miraculously arranged themselves to form the Declaration of Independence, you are a Darwinist).
Materialists have a hard-enough time convincing John Q. Public that life is just a lucky break. What then, can they tell us about the brain?
I came across a scientific article the other day titled, “Why Can’t We Explain the Brain?” and my own quavering gray matter began to buzz and whir. In other instances, I could give myself headache trying to understand the strange brains of Joe Biden, Donald Trump and Dennis Rodman, but it turns out that even our brightest scientists and philosophers can’t even begin to explain where “consciousness” comes from.
For several decades now, the biggest brains among us have attempted to unlock the mystery of consciousness. Sure, we’re getting better at detecting areas of the brain that are stimulated due to the various functions, but we’re no closer to understanding what makes us self-aware. As the article states, we can’t “see” consciousness no matter how many times we study the behavior of the brain’s neurons, dendrites, synapses and what not.
There was a time when the geniuses behind brain research tried to tell us that “mind” is really nothing more than the natural unfolding of evolution. We started out with small brains, then they got progressively larger as the eons came and went, and consciousness is really no more mysterious than the result of molecules firing out in all sorts of directions. They told us that one day science will figure it all out, and when they do it will be no more miraculous than anything else we take for granted.
Yet here we are today. No farther along in explaining it.
Personally, I rather enjoy the fact that the smartest brains among us can’t yet explain how this base of power actually works. I like it that there are still some profound mysteries in the world — which leads me to think that explaining Joe Biden isn’t really all that necessary.

You can really play when you’re that big

My 4-year-old grandson Jake got his robin’s egg blue T-ball uniform last week and couldn’t wait to try it on. He insisted on practicing in full gear, and then he went outside and ran up and down the lawn asking his mom, Kari (my daughter), to time him. After returning to the house, Jake continued to “practice” in the living room.
Kari told him she was “so excited” to watch him play his very first game and Jake asked, “Do I really get to play when I’m this big?”
Kari said, “Yes!” and Jake responded like any other self-respecting serious ballplayer when anticipating the big moment.
“I’m nervous,” he explained.
Learning of this episode, I went to Kari’s Facebook page and saw the decked-out ballplayer in pictures. Jake was indeed in full uniform, with a robin’s egg blue cap matching his jersey, and his clean white baseball pants overlapping a tiny pair of black cleats. He’s also wearing a big smile, handling the ball in his right hand while holding the baseball glove I bought for him on his third birthday — it’s black and yellow and it’s so little I can barely squeeze my pinkie into it. But for Jake, it’s just right.
Ah, to be young when summer beckons!
I remember when my oldest grandson, Clay, began his T-ball career. I watched him play at every opportunity, and I’ll never forget how when I showed up with my lawn chair he seemed to forget about what he was doing at the moment. He stole my glance every five seconds, just to be sure grandpa was really there to watch him.
All throughout southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa, the summer youth sports scene is beginning to play out. It is a marvelous time of year when youngsters get to dream heroic dreams and fathers, mothers, grandparents, uncles, aunts and siblings get to watch them and try to remember what it was like when they were that young and carefree.
I still remember my Little League baseball days. I remember that my entire summer revolved around the games. I counted each day, each hour, each minute to the next game at the Sibley, Iowa, park where we played our little contests. I remember that if it rained on game day — or if there were even a threat of rain — I was beside myself with worry. The very idea that my game could get rained out literally could inspire a tantrum.
And I particularly remember my dad standing next to Mr. Clarey — our coach — during one particular game while I was in the on-deck circle swinging my little wooden bat. I remember overhearing Mr. Clarey talking about me to dad. “He’s a chip off the old block, isn’t he,” Mr. Clarey said.
I hope dad was half as proud as I was at that moment.
As for Jakey, he will play many a ballgame in Mankato with his dad, Mike, watching and puffing out his chest. Have fun, Jake. I plan to be there as often as I can, with my lawn chair.