The problem sits in the stands

Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

I sat in the stands of the soccer stadium. And I seethed.

My assignment — in 1997, as a new reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — was to cover a high school girls soccer game between Whitefish Bay and Shorewood. And I could barely concentrate on what was happening on the field because of a couple of idiots in front of me in the stands.

I couldn’t believe it. These were “adults,” presumably parents, shouting degrading insults to the opposing team’s teenage players, and screaming obscenities at the referees. They cussed and screamed, not once, not a few times, but for the entirety of the game.

It was impossible not to hear these middle-aged cretins. My blood was boiling.

As a reporter, it wasn’t my first bad run-in with people in prep sports. I would go on to deal with condescending coaches in all-star meetings and stage parents who called the paper to complain there was never enough coverage.

Parents complain there isn’t enough coverage? That has never happened to me. (Sarcasm off.)

I don’t know what the full story is with former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy or those parents caught on camera at the youth wrestling match. I just know we don’t have a new problem now; we have always had this problem. Hateful, ugly, loathsome comments coming from fans and parents in the stands toward the players and officials is an issue at every level of sports.

I’ve covered future Division I basketball players whose parents sat in the front row of their high school games, motioning to them to shoot all game, as if no other coaches or players existed.

I covered a game in Racine where the student section was so ugly to the opposing team I couldn’t help but mention it in a story, even though I knew it would make the home school angry.

I covered a game in Mukwonago where parents followed referees to their cars, complaining all the way.

Youth sports, I decided, was rife with clueless parents who, at best, didn’t understand the game they never played themselves, or, at worst, lived their uneventful lives vicariously through their children.

Then I went from observer to full immersion. I became a mom to kids who play sports.

I saw a youth coach (also a parent) re-insert a player in a game after the kid hit his head so hard he had to leave the game, dizzy. Twice. When I confronted the coach, he said he did it because the game was tied. This was fifth-grade basketball.

I’ve seen parents stalk the sidelines, calling out their kid by name, overriding the coach with their own instructions. The players who became distracted, and then confused and conflicted. Do what the coach wants and deal with parents at home? Or do what the parents want?

Every game — every game — I hear parents whine about calls, or what they perceive to be non-calls, and I sometimes yell: “You should have had that, ref! You’re making a whopping $15 a game!”

I can’t help it. I’m done with the parents; I’ve been done with them for years.

I stay as far away from them as possible when I go to my kids’ sporting events.

At all times.

In all games.

Unless I get to know them (just a few), I can’t trust them.

I avoid the middle of the stands. I sit on the edges. I walk around the perimeter. I hide in the corners and put on my headphones. Anything to tune out the endless complaining.

I even try to park my car away from everyone after I once heard a man lambaste two kids in the back seat of a car at Uihlein Soccer Park, in what only can be described as verbal abuse.

I know this has made me look anti-social, or even aloof. I don’t care.

Here’s my thinking:

If you have never officiated a game …

Or coached a kid …

If you have never played a sport …

Or if it has been decades since you put yourself on the line of competition, why are you even talking?

Other than to encourage, to be positive, to be uplifting?

I really don’t get it. That’s not just my child out there, that’s a group of kids and teenagers just trying to navigate their way to adulthood in a healthy way. Also, those kids on the other team are my kid’s future collegiate classmates, coworkers and community leaders.

Are they not, in a way, all of our kids out there? I’m rooting for all of them.

And without the refs? We have no games.

Look. I’ve messed up. I’ve failed, too. I’ve said too much on those drives home from games and practices. I’ve criticized and second-guessed. After investing thousands of dollars in my kids’ sports, and untold hours of driving them to practices and games, organizing my life around the youth sports schedule, it takes herculean restraint to hug a child or high-five a teen and just say, “good job,” win or lose. And to say, “respect your coaches and don’t talk back to officials.”

But my goodness, can we hold up a mirror to our histrionics – and see what our kids see, and listen to what our kids hear, and understand?

We need to stop.

This has gone longer than Nickel’s career, though berating officials after games was rare in the 1980s, but, based on my own observation, not unheard of.

This was a topic of discussion on Steve Scaffidi’s show on WTMJ in Milwaukee Thursday morning. One suggestion was made to ban excessively obnoxious parents from games. The problem is that while the home school can do that, since presumably high school administrators know their own school’s parents when they see them often, that’s harder for the opposing high school to recognize parents who aren’t theirs.

Scaffidi said we have become a nation of complainers. I’m not sure about that. I do think that as kids get into travel and all-year sports their parents’ sense of perspective can become warped. Youth sports does indeed cost parents “thousands of dollars in my kids’ sports, and untold hours of driving them to practices and games,: requiring parents to organize their life around practices, games and tournaments.

And to what end? According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, out of 8 million high school athetes, 480,000 of them — 6 percent — go on to play college sports. That’s one player per 15-player basketball team. Less than 2 percent of high school athletes play at an NCAA Division I school that offers scholarships.

Parents acting like two-year-olds at games creates a self-perpetuating cycle when it comes to high school officiating. There are nationwide reports of officials getting out of officiating because they’re tired of verbal abuse wherever they go. That probably results in worse officiating, which leads to more verbal abuse, which leads to officials leaving the game, which leads …

I’m not sure what you do about this. As I’ve written here before, we decided early on that we were not going to be those parents. I might complain briefly about a call, but coaches and parents don’t grasp the sport if they believe games are decided by individual officials’ calls. Kids don’t learn anything good when their parents intervene with their coaches over playing time. We wanted our kids to learn about the intangibles of sports — being on a team, having a role on a team (which may or may not the role you want), sportsmanship, etc.

 

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Time for a new coach

From the Wisconsin Gannett Empire:

The Green Bay Packers relieved coach Mike McCarthy of his duties after a 20-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field dropped the club to 4-7-1 on the season.

McCarthy is the first coach in the history of the franchise to be fired before the end of a full season.

“The 2018 season has not lived up to the expectations and standards of the Green Bay Packers. As a result, I made the difficult decision to relieve Mike McCarthy of his role as head coach, effective immediately,” Packers president and chief executive officer Mark Murphy said in a statement released by the team.

“Mike has been a terrific head coach and leader of the Packers for 13 seasons, during which time we experienced a great deal of success on and off the field. We want to thank Mike, his wife, Jessica, and the rest of the McCarthy family for all that they have done for the Packers and the Green Bay and Wisconsin communities. We will immediately begin the process of selecting the next head coach of the Green Bay Packers.”

Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin was named the interim head coach.

McCarthy is the first Packers coach to not finish out a season since Gene Ronzani resigned with two games left in the 1953 campaign. McCarthy replaced the last Packers coach to be fired in Mike Sherman in 2006.

McCarthy, 55, signed a one-year contract extension through the 2019 season on Jan. 2 of this year.

A Super Bowl champion in 2010, McCarthy is just one of three head coaches in franchise history to win a championship in the Super Bowl era, along with Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren. Since taking over in 2006 the Packers have had just two losing seasons under his direction and reached the postseason nine times — including eight straight seasons from 2009-16.

He concludes his Packers career with a record of 125-77-2, which is the second-best win total in franchise history behind Curly Lambeau (209-104-21). McCarthy has the most postseason games (10) and wins (10) in the playoffs of any Packers coach.

McCarthy is No. 27 all-time in the NFL in coaching victories and is the fourth-winningest active coach in the league behind Bill Belichick (258), Andy Reid (192) and Marvin Lewis (130).

Under McCarthy, the Packers did not just win Super Bowl XLV 31-25 on Feb. 6, 2011, but the team also won six NFC North division titles and advanced to four NFC championship games (2007, 2010, 2014, 2016).

The only surprise here, after the Packers’ pathetic performance in their 20-17 loss to Arizona Sunday, management decided to fire McCarthy now instead of waiting until his inevitable firing after the end of the season.

This puts the Packers into limbo for the rest of the season. One assumes the Packers’ next coach will come from one of this year’s playoff teams, including currently popular Saints quarterback coach Joe Lombardi, grandson of Vince.  So the Packers can’t hire, say, Lombardi until, say, the Saints are eliminated from the playoffs, which might not be until Super Bowl LIII.

The Packers probably did a big favor for McCarthy, who is strongly rumored to be heading to Cleveland to work for former Packers executive John Dorsey and with quarterback Baker Mayfield. Given how successful the Packers were with McCarthy, regardless of what you thought of his recent work, that’s fair.

What, or who, got McCarthy fired was really former general manager Ted Thompson, whose last drafts are being exposed as being really bad, especially on defense. GM Mike Sherman got coach Mike Sherman fired for the same reason, though Thompson issued the pink slip.

SI.com last week ranked the likely coaching vacancies:

5. Green Bay Packers: Fun for the right coach, but difficult for someone who may not be used to a quarterback that pushes back and likes to run the show. Having Aaron Rodgers for the remainder of his prime is the best part of this job, but also comes with myriad stresses. Dig into Packer teams over the past decade and you’ll find that it takes a brain surgeon type to match wits with the franchise quarterback.

Does “pushes back and likes to run the show” sound like anyone familiar? If you read this blog Friday afternoon, you might have concluded that Rodgers has become Brett Favre II, complete with rocky relationship with coach and increasingly cranky personality. (Favre reportedly became quite a loner in his final season with the Packers.)

The Packers’ history and Rodgers’ presence suggests that the Packers’ next coach will be an offensive assistant (as in Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Lindy Infante, Mike Holmgren, Mike Sherman and McCarthy), not someone from the defensive side of the ball (Phil Bengtson, Ray Rhodes), most likely not a former head coach (Forrest Gregg, Rhodes), and most certainly not a current college coach (Dan Devine).

McCarthy is the third best Packers coach in the last 60 years, behind Lombardi (duh) and Holmgren. Ironically Lombardi and Holmgren were second choices behind Iowa coach Forrest Evashefski (who never coached in the NFL) and Bill Parcells, respectively,. Fans at this point will start to chime in on their favorites, forgetting that there was only one Lombardi, there is only one Bill Belichick (and his assistants have not done well as head coaches, including Josh McDaniels, another popular name), Holmgren grew an ego that led to his departure from Green Bay, etc.

 

A view of enough manhood

Greg Gerber, my former Boy Scout senior patrol leader, now writes and blogs (and after this we’re going to call him Bullet Point):

Men have been getting a bad rap in recent years. They are blamed for almost all of society’s problems. Triple that if they are white men. Double it again if they are conservatives or Christians.

I think we need to cut men some slack.

Much of the problem with men is that they are exhausted – emotionally and physically – because they really don’t know what is expected of them. The bars for achievement are routinely raised like he’s an Olympic pole-vaulter, and the goalposts defining success are pushed further and further back.

Let’s not overlook that the paradigm is also shifting to hold men accountable in 2018 for things they did as teens and young men back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Deep inside, men know that whatever they are doing now isn’t enough, it hasn’t been enough in the past, and they will likely fall short in the future.

That feeling of inadequacy starts early in their life, continues through adulthood and culminates as heavy regret in their later years. Let’s look at the life of a typical guy, starting in elementary school when he is told he is not:

  • Studying enough
  • Quiet enough
  • Polite enough
  • Artistic enough
  • Organized enough
  • Athletic enough
  • Listening enough
  • Clean enough

He is told that because he fidgets too much, he really needs to be medicated. He gets the impression that if only he’d behave more like the girls in school, he would be considered successful. But, his genetics don’t allow that to happen and his best attempts to meet expectations fall short. It’s a rare boy who doesn’t enter his teens thinking he is incapable of doing anything right.

Eventually, he winds up in high school where all the prior inadequacies are multiplied. He also discovers he is not:

  • Attractive enough
  • Smart enough
  • Creative enough
  • Practicing enough
  • Thin enough
  • Tall enough
  • Hairy enough
  • Serious enough
  • Funny enough
  • Friendly enough
  • Tough enough
  • Helping enough
  • Learning enough

By the time he graduates, his feelings of inadequacy are firmly established — especially if he doesn’t think his father is on his side. To escape the pain, he turns to pornography, alcohol or drugs and begins to isolate himself from others, which further fuels his sense of inferiority.

If Satan hasn’t already wounded him badly enough to take him out of the game, he continues trying to prove himself to others, and especially to himself. The only way society allows him to do that is at work, where he hears the message loud and clear every day that he is not doing:

  • Enough contributing
  • Enough planning
  • Enough prioritizing
  • Enough selling
  • Enough reporting
  • Enough traveling
  • Enough fixing
  • Enough recruiting
  • Enough emailing
  • Enough budgeting
  • Enough prospecting
  • Enough projecting
  • Enough producing
  • Enough writing
  • Enough calling
  • Enough scheduling
  • Enough collaborating
  • Enough research
  • Enough supervising

If he has any commitment to any of the above, one thing is certain, he is told he isn’t committed enough to doing it fast enough to make everyone happy.

So, after the stress of working 50 to 60 hours a week in a glass gerbil cage running on a treadwheel going nowhere, he visits his doctor and the “not enoughs” start all over again. His physician reprimands him for not:

  • Eating healthy enough
  • Exercising enough
  • Walking or running enough
  • Relaxing enough
  • Sleeping enough
  • Flossing and brushing enough
  • Medicating enough with vitamins and supplements
  • Drinking enough water
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Smoking too much
  • Eating too much high-fat food

After stopping at the pharmacy on his way home to pick up a stronger blood-pressure medicine, which only makes him more tired and gives him less energy, he arrives home and his doubts pick up steam. From the moment he walks through the door, he feels he is not:

  • Earning enough
  • Listening enough
  • Speaking enough
  • Caring enough
  • Cleaning enough
  • Mowing enough
  • Shoveling enough
  • Weeding enough
  • Raking enough
  • Picking up enough dog poop
  • Cooking enough
  • Romancing enough
  • Washing enough
  • Folding enough
  • Sorting enough
  • Carting enough kids
  • Spending enough
  • Investing enough
  • Visiting enough – especially the out-of-town relatives
  • Parenting enough
  • Playing enough
  • Repairing enough
  • Disciplining enough
  • Teaching enough
  • Coaching enough
  • Reading enough to the kids
  • Helping enough with their homework
  • Remembering enough – especially the details of the exact words he wrote on the card he presented to his wife with a specific type of flower on their first date at the certain restaurant twenty years earlier

When he tries to follow doctor’s orders to relax more, he discovers he is:

  • Watching too much television
  • Fishing or hunting too much
  • Playing too many video games
  • Spending too much time with his friends
  • Not committed enough to quality family time

When he seeks sex from his wife as a reaffirmation that all is right in his world, that he is loved, and that all of his battles are noticed and appreciated, he is told that sex is all he thinks about.

And we wonder why men walk away from their families and look to start over hoping for an opportunity to redeem themselves. But, that never works out the way they expect and only serves to bury them in more problems, more debt, more work and more feelings of inadequacy.

By the time Sunday rolls around, the pitiful, wounded warrior limps into church (or, in some cases, is dragged in) and crawls to a seat where he learns just how inadequate he really is, especially with helpful elbows to the ribs from his wife and children. He is told he’s not:

  • Worshiping enough
  • Praising enough
  • Evangelizing enough
  • Attending enough
  • Giving enough
  • Serving enough
  • Reading enough
  • Studying enough
  • Praying enough
  • Fasting enough
  • Singing enough
  • Thankful enough
  • Committed enough
  • Leading enough
  • Growing enough
  • Helping enough
  • Loving enough
  • Meeting enough
  • Sponsoring enough
  • Forgiving enough
  • Teaching enough
  • Spending enough time “in the word”
  • Spending enough time with his wife
  • Spending enough time with his kids
  • Spending enough time with his parents
  • Spending enough time alone with God

Through sermon after sermon, he is reminded he is:

  • Too angry
  • Too lustful
  • Too selfish
  • Too sinful
  • Too broken

to be of any real use to God’s kingdom. If only he would slow down the hectic pace of his life, then he would find “genuine rest.” The fact he doesn’t make time to enjoy a Sabbath rest is further proof as to how depraved and worldly he really is.

By the time he gets into his sixties, the idea of eternal rest is tremendously appealing.

Do you want to know why women tend to outlive men?

Really?  It’s ugly!

I firmly believe that men get so tired of fighting one battle after another and having life-long feelings of inadequacy reinforced at every turn that they finally give up. They bow their heads and utter “It is finished.”

We need to do a much better job of affirming men, believing in them, and supporting them through all the trials and tribulations they face.

They need to be told that success isn’t defined as a fat wallet, beautiful home, fancy car and perfect children, but rather by the long-term impact they have on people closest to them.

For heaven’s sake, let’s stop giving men the impression that a happy wife leads to a happy life. Nobody can be responsible for another person’s happiness and it is only adding to his stress if he senses his wife is unhappy and the world — and church — blames him.

We need to understand men are human, not supermen — and help them understand that, too.

License to dad

The writer’s name is Orkin. Haris Orkin.

I was a skinny, bookish, bespectacled, and insecure 12-year-old living in the suburbs of Chicago when I first realized what I wanted to be when I grew up: Alexander Mundy in It Takes a Thief, James West in The Wild, Wild West, and James Bond. Those men had no fear. They were confident in any situation and were comfortable in their own skin. Not me. I lived a life of perpetual embarrassment. Of course, now I know that’s how most 12-year-olds feel. At the time, all I knew was I wanted to be someone else.

The first Bond movie I saw was In Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Bond was engaged to be married to Teresa (Tracy) Draco, played by Diana Rigg. I was a huge “Avengers”‘ fan back then. (I’m talking about the English “Avengers,” not the Marvel “Avengers,” though I was an avid comic book reader as well.)

Who wouldn’t want to be engaged to Diana Rigg in 1969? She was beautiful and smart and effortlessly cool. Bond was heartbroken when (spoiler alert) Diana Rigg died. At least he avoided getting married. It was clear even to my 12-year-old self that no one wanted a married Bond—a Bond who had to change nappies and help with the dishes. They killed off his fiancé so Bond could continue to be a lady killer. This is probably just as well. Bond would have made a terrible husband and a worse father. The first time his kid spilled a Cherry Slurpee on the supple leather of his Aston Martin, Bond would have launched his tiny ass into the stratosphere with his ejector seat.

There’s no denying that being Bond has its perks. You visit all kinds of exotic places and drive unbelievable cars. You have a license to kill and because you do, you can take what you want and do what you want and no one stands in your way. Men fear you and women fall all over you. Best of all, you get to make a difference. You get to save the world.

There’s also a pretty significant downside. After all, no one really cares that much about Bond, and Bond doesn’t really care all that much about anyone else. That makes for a pretty lonely life. That’s not the worst of it. Bond isn’t willing to open himself up to love. He’s kind of an emotional coward. He isn’t willing to care deeply about someone. He’s too afraid of getting his heart broken, too afraid of experiencing loss.

Fathers face that kind of fear every day. We worry about our kids. We worry about them physically and psychologically. We worry about their futures. To me, the idea of losing a child is far more frightening than having a supervillain like Auric Goldfinger barbecue my scrotum with an industrial laser.

In the original Magnificent Seven, Charles Bronson played a gunfighter who comes to a Mexican village with six other gunmen to protect the town. He’s admired by three little Mexican boys who follow him everywhere. They worship him for his bravery and aspire to be just like him. They think their fathers are cowards in comparison. Bronson paddles their asses and gives them a speech that has always stayed with me:

Don’t you ever say that again about your fathers, because they are not cowards. You think I am brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until finally, it buries them under the ground. And there’s nobody says they have to do this. They do it because they love you, and because they want to. I have never had this kind of courage. Running a farm, working like a mule every day with no guarantee anything will ever come of it. This is bravery.

Am I sorry I didn’t become an international super spy? Would I have enjoyed jetting around the world, dispatching super villains and romancing women with names like Pussy Galore and Holly Goodhead? Probably. Then again, when I was in junior high, I was painfully shy around girls. I was awkward, tongue-tied, and insecure. Not exactly James Bond material. By the time I hit college, I started capitalizing on the strengths I did have. Like my honesty, my empathy, and my self-deprecating humor. Besides, if I had become James Bond, I wouldn’t have had time to coach my son’s soccer team or teach him how to ride a bike. I wouldn’t have had time to take him hiking or watch “Looney Tunes” or play video games with him. I would have missed everything.

My son saw me for who I was: a combination of contradictory traits. I was klutzy and confident, bold and bashful, and I made fun of my own awkwardness. Humor was my secret weapon. He watched and learned, and had none of my bashfulness when it came to the opposite sex. He had a lot of friends who happened to be girls. He saw them as equals. He had no expectations, so he didn’t make things weird. He was honest about his feelings and didn’t play any macho games. He was a good person and girls could see that. And he was funny. That’s probably why he had a girlfriend from the time he was 12.

Maybe you don’t need a license to kill to be a hero, after all. Maybe there’s more than one way to save the world. Maybe it’s more important to be a good parent. Maybe it’s more important to raise a child with confidence and kindness.

 

Attention fathers

Former police officer and current firearms instructor Kevan Norin:

Non PC alert: It takes a man to raise a man.

I was, to put it politely, a rebellious child, but I had three things going for me — strong male role models in the Norin and Blindheim families, fictional heros who reinforced positive masculinity as the provider and protector (Lucas McCain, Matt Dillon, Officers Reed and Malloy, nearly every role ever played by John Wayne, the list goes on) and a culture that upheld these roles as Good. I worked to pass this ideal to my son, and he is passing it on to his.

This comes to mind as there are so many lost boys out there, lacking what I had, and being sought out by forces willing to fill the void that don’t care about what they are producing or are actively trying to build a world devoid of Lucas McCains.

Just sayin’. Your mileage may vary. Before anyone points out the common thread of the capacity for violence, consider the line that divides criminal violence from ambiguous violence (Clint Eastwood didn’t do us any favors with Dirty Harry and The Cowboy with no Name) from righteous violence — and not the revenge genre made popular by movies like Death Wish.

Put in real terms, it’s what’s separates a killer with a gun walking into a school, and a police officer with a gun running into a school to stop him.

The aforementioned McCain, of “The Rifleman,” was TV’s first single father. Dillon, played on radio by William Conrad and on TV by James Arness, was the marshal of Dodge City, Kan., on “Gunsmoke.” While I didn’t watch those often …

… but I was a religious watcher of “Adam-12”:

The series began with Malloy (the driver, therefore my favorite) getting ready to quit the police department after his partner died. On ostensibly his last night, he gets a rookie partner, newly married with a child on the way. (Spoiler alert: Malloy doesn’t quit.)

The actor who played Malloy, Martin Milner, was a real-life role model. He was married for 58 years. He had a 50-year career in Hollywood.

Series like these have remained popular decades after they left the air not merely because cable TV channels need something to fill air time. Viewers didn’t see Reed the father, but over its seven seasons they saw Reed mature under Malloy’s guidance. They saw police officers act how police officers should act, and both “Adam-12” and “Emergency!” (whose Roy DeSoto was also a father, though that was not often depicted either) inspired many future police officers, firefighters, paramedics and EMTs.

I’ve written here before in commenting about the Boy Scouts that children need multiple male role models. That includes fictional role models.

 

TAKE me out to the ballgame(s) …

For those interested in seeing the baseball game I mentioned Wednesday, here are the pregame interviews …

… the ballgame (Foreshadowing Alert: make sure you watch the last inning) …

… and the postgame.

The video and sound quality is not the greatest. (Nor is the announcing since the announcer did rudimentary game prep, though more than none.) For whatever reason the videos are in HD on the newspaper Facebook page but only SD on YouTube. Fortunately the game probably makes up for that.

Given how the Brewers’ pitching has been since the All-Star break, you could take the four pitchers in this game and send them to Milwaukee and they’d do better than the Brewers’ bullpen, and some of the starters too.

This started, as I wrote Wednesday, because I came up with the idea where I come up with my best thoughts — in the shower the morning of a tournament championship game. (Wauzeka 14, Platteville 12.) I also did it for two professional (as much as this is) reasons — to improve my baseball play-by-play since baseball is the worst sport I announce due to my having not done enough baseball, and to get the experience of calling my own child’s games, which I might have to do in future years.

Submitted for your approval as well are the first-round game against Shullsburg …

… the first …

… and second parts of the quarterfinal against Kieler …

… and the semifinal game against Cuba City (hint: watch the beginning):

Some boys of summer

An outstanding newspaper editor writes:

Take me out to the ball game: Those of you who have Liked The [Platteville] Journal’s Facebook page (and pushed it over 7,000 Likes) may have seen a few eighth-grade baseball games streamed on the previous three weekends. (I came up with that idea where I usually get my best ideas, in the shower.) Game one was a 14–12 Platteville loss. However, after a nailbiting 3–2 win over Kieler, a win preserved by a bases-loaded two-out strikeout, and a 13–7 semifinal win over Cuba City (it turns out scoring six first-inning runs — after the first two batters went out, the next seven reached base — before your opponent can bat is good for your chances to win), the Hillmen will play at Dickeyville (weather and bandwidth permitting) tonight at 7:30 for the league tournament title.

Readers might say I’m bringing this up because my youngest son is one of the pitchers on the Platteville freshmen-to-be team. To quote a friend and former coworker of mine, who is now a judge: What’s your point?

That’s what I’m doing tonight at 7:30 Central time, weather and bandwidth permitting.

Dylan, photographed at a Milwaukee Brewers baseball camp at UW–Platteville.

Related is what Kate Leavell writes:

A letter to my former self as a new sports parent:

One day you’re going to get in the car with your kid’s water bottle that he left at home for the last time, that sour shoulder pads and cleat smell coming from the back seat, and the little chunks of dirt that have been knocked loose from muddy cleats all over the once new floor mats. You’re going to climb the stadium stairs one last time, listen to his name announced, watch him take the field and shoot a glance up your way and a little wave. You’re going to hear the last whistle, watch the last half time talk, the last hand shake, eat your last stadium hot dog, shade out that last bright sun beam blocking your view, and then you are going to get in the car and you won’t ever be back again.

Today may be the first time he sits in your lap as you lace up his cleats and then walks onto that field, and he may be terrible, he may be fantastic, he will likely have moments of both, but when it’s all over he’s still that piece of you that you love no matter what.

All I care about now at the end of this journey, is that he had fun, that he has memories that he cherishes rather than ones he hopes to forget. His playing time, lack of college offers that he never cared about or wanted anyway, coaches’ philosophies, club teams, stats – none of it mattered. Not one bit. Don’t waste time keeping up with the joneses of sports parents, just love every.single.second.

When he is small, sports will seem like such a milestone and you will be in a hurry to get him into as much as you can. If he shows promise you may start looking ahead, thinking you are depriving him if you don’t get him the training he deserves. Be ready, because the second it starts the comparison and expectations are instantly out of reach. Don’t miss the fun, don’t miss the laughs, don’t miss the chance to reassure when the tears come, hug him tight, hand him an ice pack when he gets hurt and then send him back out there. And when he wants a break, when he says he misses his friends, respect that request.

Don’t worry about what the coaches are doing, how the team is playing, who should be playing, if they are learning as fast as other teams, if they are a super star, or if they are winning. Just look at them – are they happy? Are they growing and learning and reaching and stepping outside of their comfort zone? Because at the end of their sports experience that’s all that matters. You won’t care about anything else when it’s over.

There are so many things outside of sports that he loves to do, that he is so amazing at. There are so many opportunities that are going to get missed if he is training all the time. He doesn’t want to play in college, that was my destiny, not his. But the things he learned playing sports he will use every day when he leaves for college next year.

Don’t let him forget that he has other talents, to explore as much as possible, to focus on the things he loves but to also constantly try something different just for the experience. Don’t let his self worth become directly tied to his athletic abilities. Don’t let your relationship become coach and player instead of parent and child.

Soak in every moment of every game, absorb the cheers, the goof ups, the missteps, the sometimes less than perfect effort, the sometimes mind blowing plays, the team events, the mud, the smell, the tears, the joy, because one day its going to be over.

You’re going to miss the smell that you think you hate on that drive home from practice, you’re going to miss the constant shuttling to and from practice, volunteer responsibilities and team events, you’re going to miss all the time you spent worrying about team stuff instead of just relaxing and watching him love the game, you’re going to remember those band-aid moments, emergency room visits, got cut from the team and then, years later, the being made captain moments. Hold on tight, and remember why he is playing, never miss an opportunity to experience the complete and total joy you get from just getting to watch him play, because it doesn’t last, and it doesn’t come back.

Related is this comment:

Try marching band. It’s a sport. Why?Try lifting a heavy instrument, (maybe a bari saxophone, 20ish pounds) holding it out at the correct angle, counting your steps so you are where you are supposed to be at any given time on the field, blowing through your instrument, and remembering the notes you need to play, wearing a band uniform in hot weather and sweating buckets, bugs land on you? Too bad, you can’t blow them off, you have to keep going, friend passes out, too bad you have to step over them. And that’s after 2 months of conditioning…yoga, stretching, jogging, marching, getting your steps down. Starts in July, ends in mid November. It, unlike normal sports, builds team work, they become a tight knit group. It’s not a 7 minute show where one person shines. It’s either they all score well together or they all mess up together. Most parents are at every performance cheering and screaming, getting their band kids pumped up. All of them. It’s nine weekends of sheer craziness. And it’s an all Saturday adventure. It involves the whole family, if there are affordability issues, they get covered. It is a community. We’ve even gone on to competition when right before our band director found out one of his students died. It took him to his knees. It was awful. Our band director spoke with our kids and they, as a team, decided to go on for their friend. Her marimba was draped in flowers and set where it normally would be.
These kids learn discipline, working as a team, and how to resolve issues. ThiS mom had NO idea the hours it took to go from point a to polished program. Blood, sweat, and tears. Try band, in the 7 years we were involved, I never heard any booing from the crowd and I can say that because I was there, every performance, I was the video person. We cheered for each other. I love all sports but I love band too. Sorry this got long. You just got a condensed version of behind the scenes. Crazy awesome.

A personal highlight today

I have a doubleheader of sports to announce today, ending with Lancaster at Clinton in Level 3 football at 6:45 p.m. on WGLR (97.7 FM) in Lancaster, available online at wglr.com.

Before that, I will be announcing state tournament soccer, Rice Lake against Mount Horeb, in Milwaukee for Rice Lake’s WAQE (also 97.7 FM), also available online at waqe.com and msbnsports.net. (Which marks the first time I have ever announced games for two different radio stations on the same frequency in the same day. I hope I keep one separate from the other, lest one get an unscheduled format change, given that the first is a Hot Adult Contemporary station and the other is a country station.)

When I was asked to announce state soccer, it occurred to me that there was someone residing in Presteblog World Headquarters who would know something about Mount Horeb, since the Vikings ended his season last week. And so …

… Platteville/Lancaster goalkeeper Michael Prestegard will join me on the broadcast. He’s certainly seen enough of my on-air work from the booth (including when I accidentally hit him in the face with my clipboard), but today will be his on-air sports broadcasting debut. (To add to various things he and his brother and sister have done for my main employer the newspaper.)

The closest I have come to this before now is when my father accompanied me on two interviews with microbrewery owners for a magazine story. The owners and he kind of monopolized the conversation, but I got enough material for the story just by listening and taking notes. (My father’s career was not in journalism, but if you can talk to people, that’s a start. My kids already know Who, What, Where, When, Why and How and What Does This Story Mean to the Reader.)

Mrs. Presteblog has been with me for many games over the years …

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… but sadly not today due to this thing called work.

It’s a much smaller scale than, say, having Chip Caray work with his father Skip and Skip’s father Harry …

… or the numerous other father–son baseball teams (Marty and Thom Brennaman, Harry and Todd Kalas, etc.). But today will be a personal thrill for me.

On day number 8,767

There we were, 24 years and an hour of so ago, the media geek and the returned Peace Corps volunteer.

Twenty-four years, three children, four dogs and four cats later …

Players at Alone for Christmas.
Michael the potential future firefighter.
Michael the potential future firefighter.
Dylan plays trombone.
Dylan plays trombone.
Shaena the violin player.
This is Leo and Max
This is Leo and Max “playing,” not an argument between the human siblings.
Oskar and Luna couldn't care less, unless they're hungry, which is only in the a.m. or p.m.
Oskar and Luna couldn’t care less, unless they’re hungry, which is only in the a.m. or p.m.

Five years ago I wrote this on the occasion of our 19th wedding anniversary.

A few things have changed, like jobs and address. We also have three teenagers in the house, including the child who is not a chronological teenager. Other than that, you can probably add five years to everything listed in there. (The march of time!)

Here’s what has not changed: I still love my wife.