Sunday, March 1, 2015

Imagine That

Imagine a cheesy kids sports movie. You know, Little Giants. The Mighty Ducks. Maybe The Bad News Bears, but on a basketball court.

Imagine the opening credits, where they always tell you it’s “Based on a true story” but you roll your eyes. You wonder how much the Hollywood writers punched up the script to sell tickets.

Imagine the team. Mostly third graders. Mostly small. Mostly not very good at basketball. Some can shoot, some can dribble, some can play some defense but almost none of them can do all of those things.

Imagine their first season. They lose their first game 34-2. You roll your eyes again. Come on, nobody loses 34-2. This team does. It takes them 5 games before they can score double-digits in a contest. They’re so much smaller than the other teams. Watching them feels like seeing the Looney Tunes against the Monstars in Space Jam (without Michael Jordan). They do not win a game all season.

Imagine they hit training camp ready to turn things around in season two. They start to get to know each other better. You see the predictable turn in the plot of this movie coming. But no, there is a twist. They lose the first game of the season 28-3. They lose the next one 29-4. But in their third game, they are actually in it. It goes down to the wire and you nod knowingly. Here is the part of the movie where things turn around. The game goes to overtime but they lose by one. They do not win a game all season.

Are you starting to wonder what is up with this movie? Aren’t the writers laying it on a little thick here? Are these kids going to just keep getting pounded? Do I really want to keep watching this?

Imagine the actors playing the parents in the movie. They are wondering the same thing you are. There is one father in the movie who loves basketball. He is old and out of shape, but he still plays the game. He starts to wonder if he can continue to come watch the team. He wonders if all of this losing is affecting his son. Imagine a flashback scene. A montage of the man’s son losing 13 of 14 games in his one season of baseball. The man fears that continuing on this path may spoil the boy’s love of sports. But the kid in the movie actually seems fine. The kid seems happy to be playing with his friends, and happy to be making new friends. But this father character is kind of a competitive. You can tell he’s afraid that maybe his kid has just come to accept losing. That it doesn’t really matter to him. You want this guy to chill out, and you hope by the end of the movie he learns some kind of lesson but you’re not sure if he will. It’s kind of annoying watching him on the side of the court during games.

Imagine the team beginning their third season and only scoring 9 points in the first game. But they lose by just 4. They lose the next game too. Imagine the kids on that team never hanging their heads. Imagine them after games, loss after loss, still having fun. Imagine the coaches. Imagine them continuing to encourage and believe. You roll your eyes again, you look at your watch (or your phone). You’re not buying this. There is no way this team can be that bad and still smile. But something keeps you watching.

Now imagine the third game of that third season. Imagine after 14 straight losses, the kids hearing the final buzzer and they are ahead. They win 17-8. Imagine the parents going bananas in the stands, seemingly happier than the players. Imagine the relief. You figure this is the point of the movie. The lovable losers finally got one. Good for them.

But wait. Imagine another montage. Imagine Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” playing in the background as the team puts together a few more wins to go with quite a few more losses. Imagine they even make it to the finals in their 5th season, but they lose once again.

Imagine the movie ending there. It’s a logical place to stop. Sort of like Rocky. A bit far-fetched, but still something you might believe was “based on a true story.” But you know Rocky’s story didn’t end after he lost to Apollo Creed. Imagine the writers want to stretch this story a bit further too. You shake your head. How corny would it be if they tried to write an ending where this team wins the championship or something in their 6th season? Or wait, get this… what if they wanted us to believe this team even went undefeated? Give me a break.

Imagine a movie where they expected you to believe that. Imagine this team gets to the finals again against a really tough, determined team. After a close first half, imagine that their best player fouls out early in the second half. Oh come on, you say. That kid never fouled out in any of the other game scenes, now you expect us to believe he just happens to do it in the last game? Typical Hollywood garbage. Throw that in just so we have to see some of the other players “step up” and we all have to learn about the importance of “team." So unoriginal.

Imagine the team clinging to a narrow lead. Imagine that lead cut to two points with just a minute to go. Imagine the team hanging on to win. Undefeated. Imagine the smiles. Imagine the hugs.

Imagine the team receiving “Champion” shirts. Imagine the shirts being way too big. Imagine the shirts hanging off of them like Snuggies. Imagine the kids not caring. Imagine them going to bed in those shirts because they don’t want to take them off.

Imagine how proud their parents must be.

Can you even imagine a movie like that? Would you go see something so obviously contrived? I would not blame you for rolling your eyes. I would not blame you if you said no.

But I saw that movie. It was so good.

I can’t imagine what they might do next.

The Machine / 10-0 / March 1, 2015

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Kung Fu Class

I'm trying to be better about writing things down and capturing moments. It's pretty easy taking pictures, and even short vids (if you know the moment is coming), but sometimes kids just do something that can't be captured immediately or with just a picture. I didn't want to forget this Tuesday.

I don't know if Facebook will be around in 20 years, but I hope Maya can somehow read this when she grows up.

July 14, 2014

You are five. You are creative. You are hilarious.

Many days you occupy yourself by making Play-doh dresses for your dolls, drawing rainbows and flowers, or taking care of your "sick" stuffed animals. But on this day, you wanted to kick some butt.

I was working in the back room when you strolled up and asked, "Dad, how do you spell Kung Fu?" I talked you through it, then you asked if you could have some tape. A few minutes later I heard this across the house.

"Everybody! There is a Kung Fu class in here if you want to sign up!"

I came around the corner and saw a sign-up sheet and a pen scotch-taped to the wall.

You were disappointed when the first hour passed and you had no students. But a little while later you found that your brothers had both signed up for class. You instantly transformed into a master sensei, the living room now your dojo.

"I need 10 push-ups from both of you! Now!"

Max chuckled and said, "Maya, I want to be in your class. But I'm not going to do push-ups."

You didn't say a word. You just walked over to the list, took the pen and calmly crossed out his name.

He did the push-ups.

The rest of your "class" was basically you beating up your brothers. A series of punches, kicks and "HI-YAs!" as they took it in stride while you repeatedly reminded them that "I am your coach! You have to listen to me!"

At one point, Luke sustained an injury during sparring. You barked, "You gotta toughen up! This is Kung Fu class!"

A half-hour later you were back to bringing me Play-doh ice cream cones, but for part of that Tuesday you were the cutest little John Kreese that ever was.

Never stop kicking butt.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

One in a million

One of my most favorite things is the speech by Jim Valvano at the Espy's, where he says that every single day we should strive to laugh, think and cry. Sometimes a 9yr old kid can help knock out all three of those in just two minutes.

Luke & I were riding home from my basketball game on Sunday having a nice talk. Out of the blue he says from the back seat, "Dad, sometimes I think it would be fun to have a million dollars but it could also be not fun to have a million dollars."

"Really? Why wouldn't it be fun?"

"Well, I could get whatever I wanted. So I wouldn't be able to wish for anything any more."

This struck me as unbelievably sweet and innocent. I certainly hadn't thought of the downside of having a cool million. I smiled at him in the rearview mirror and said, "Wow, that is a really great way to look at it, kid. It's not always good to just be able to get anything you want. But if you had a million bucks, what would you get?"

"Oh, definitely some more Nerf Zombie Strike darts."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Luke brought home the school hamster this weekend. She was very cute & had a good little personality, which made it sort of tough for the kids to share. They LOVED having her though. On the other hand, I was kind of disappointed. It didn't really taste like ham at all.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Season Ends

So Max's All-Star team played their last game today. As parents it was tough for H and I to watch our son struggle on the mound in what was probably the roughest day of his young career. He took the loss hard at first, but bounced back like most of his teammates shortly after as the agony of defeat was softened by frozen yogurt, sprinkles and silly 11-year-old humor.

I want to send out a big Thank You to Coaches Carl, Jeff and Steve for all the time put in with the boys (and girl). It means a great deal to me personally that you were there for my son. I don't want to get all dramatic, but I believe these are days Max will remember for the rest of his life, and it is significant that you are part of that. These days are something he will value forever. I only played two years of baseball (younger than Max is now), but I remember them vividly. And I want to share that being able to go to the field and watch my oldest child learn how to experience success -- and failure -- is something that I know I will value forever. Thank you.

Before bed tonight, we recapped this post-season as I wanted Max to know how proud I was of what he and his team had done: Two complete games with no walks, solid relief pitching, improved hitting and plate discipline, stepping up and helping his team at second base when he was needed, a Section Championship banner, blossoming friendships. These things made him smile.

But even as that smile was forming, tears were welling in his eyes. I put an arm around him and asked why he was crying.

"I just wish we could play some more baseball."