Not all of it’s good. I remember a frustrated soccer coach who slammed his notebook to the turf after our team scored, then barked out the F word. Hayden, then playing U8 soccer, turned to me, mouth open slightly, and blinked several times.
I swear a light bulb illuminated above her head.
Many other lessons are far less R-rated. Well, some.
Not only from Jesus or Aristotle or a Flock of Seagulls, but from the NFL players I get to Interview when I help out the Associated Press. Keyshawn Johnson, Tony Romo and Larry Fitzgerald are among my favorites in the NFL, but my first interview out of college played out like a band geek asking out the cheer captain.
Or at least the girl with the reputation.
I’m not sure what I meant to ask former Charlotte Hornets star Larry Johnson way back in the day, but I vomited the words like someone tossing a box of Scrabble down the stairs.
At night. Under the cover of lunch hour. When we ought to be doing something else.
(I think bloggers are often loners. Or is it just me?)
So it’s cool to team up at times. Karen from Baking in a Tornado blog invites 12 bloggers to submit secret writing prompts that are dispersed to one of the other 11. Kristi from Black Sheep Mom blog submitted the one I got:
“Sometimes people call me ________ because I _____________.”
The challenge? Narrowing it down. A dude doesn’t get to 41 without being called a few things.Not all of them are bad, mind you. Some can’t be divulged on this page.
But I own them. I … deserve them.
1. They call me @#$%! Because I drive the speed limit
Even when I pass on the left on Interstate 485. Drivers flick flocks of birds at me as they finally pass, while they mutter under their breath (or sometimes spit out with vitriol) many words that rhyme with “brother” and begin with F. Do they get home and rail at their spouses, “you’ll never guess what this IDIOT on 485 was doing today!”
Driving safely? What a jerk.
2. They call me Daddy because my daughters love me dearly – or they want something
Yes, these three kids learned early the power of big, brown eyes. They’re not unlike Medusa’s hair, however. If I can avoid looking directly at them, I won’t turn to stone (or give in to their requests). I know I can do this. Marie, when she was about 9, wanted chocolate SO bad on a grocery trip I could ill afford for staples such as toilet paper, milk and zero-calorie soda.
She shone those eyes at me – chocolate brown – and I refused to look into them. We got out without anything by Hershey that day. But I’m not sure I could do it again.
3. They call me coach because I’m the dude with the bag of balls
No whistle, no polyester coaching shorts, but I am the man with the plan, and a sack of mismatched soccer balls to match. It’s been a while since a player has called me “mommy” or “daddy,” but that’s happened, too.
A girl took to calling me “coachie,” a mash-up of Coach E (is a derivative of Coach Eli). It was cute for a day or two, but I wouldn’t recommend it for your team.
4. They call me Daaaaaaaaaaaaad! Because I’ve annoyed them
So quickly [hearts]DaD[rainbows] becomes [demons]DAAAAD![tornadoes and destruction]. If you hear this bellowed, it means I’ve done one of the following:
Stood in front of a TV showing a Disney show
Made fun of a Disney show
Sung insulting lyrics in place of annoying ones on their favorite tunes
Asked, at any moment in a Disney show, whether the kids featured are tricking someone in some way, shape or form (the answer is always yes)
There are other ways I elicit this moniker that won’t be discussed on this day.
5. They call me Juan Pablo Montoya because … well, just one kid did
I’ve had kids tell me I look like George Lopez. One near-sighted waitress at a Waffle House in Morganton,N.C., even declared that I “look like that guy what plays Superman on TV – that Dean Cain fella!” (That was in college, yes.)
A boy at Grace’s second-grade picnic stared at me in awe as I walked off the playground. Could he be a blog reader, or the son of a blog reader? Maybe someone who’d heard of the legendary soccer dynasties I’d captained, or maybe even heard I make a mean grilled-cheese sandwich?
“Juan Pablo Montoya?” he muttered, slightly exasperated.
“Yeah,” he’s a good driver, isn’t he?” I said. Montoya is a NASCAR driver of Columbian decent, a dude I once interviewed for a story and the default favorite of mine as dictated by the “minority support clause” in the “how to live in America as a minority” initiative (in short, if someone’s your color, you ought to support him. This includes Tony Romo and Tony Gonzalez but not Tony Hawk, in my case).
“Are you … Juan Pablo Montoya?” he asked.
“Nah, kid,” I said. “I’m just a dad.”
Or make that a DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD. And a @#$%!, even.
I happen to have a middle child laying around the house (hey, it’s summer, and we just got cable), so I coaxed her into an interview for today. (Middle children are said to lack the attention the oldest and youngest sibling take for granted. I think our middle kid gets every bit of lovin’ her sisters do.)
What’s it like to be the girl in the middle, Marie?
Dad: All right, Marie. So, what’s it like to be the middle sister? Do you think it’s a good thing?
Marie: In some ways. You get to know what it’s like to be a big sister and a little sister.
Dad: What’s a good thing about being a big sister? What do you help Grace with?
Marie: Pretty much everything. I help her clean up, I help her get ready.
Dad: When you were littler, did Elise do that for you?
Dad: Is that how you learned to do each other’s hair? You know, girl stuff. Isn’t that how you learn from each other?
Marie: She didn’t teach me. She just did it.
Dad: Do you think sometimes it’s not fair to be the middle sister?
Marie: Yeah. Like, when you’re fighting over something. Parents say, ‘well, she’s older,’ or, ‘well, she’s younger.’
Dad: So what do you think about the other people who were middle children, like Martin Luther King Jr. and Pippa Middleton. Do you know who Pippa Middleton is?
Dad: Do you know who Kate Middleton is?
Dad: She married Prince William and had a baby.
Marie: Oh, yeah.
Dad: She’s a middle child. She’s cute and I like her a lot, but I don’t know what she really does, so maybe she’s not a good one to mention for you to emulate, right? But you could be like Abraham Lincoln.
Marie: I’d get shot.
Dad: Eee. That’s a good point. You don’t have to do that part of it. You can skip over that. I think middle kids should have a club. You could have T-shirts.
Marie: And their eyes are the same. And their smiles.
Dad: I wonder if there had been a fourth sister, she would look like you then. Or, if it’s a pattern, she’d look like Elise, and the next one would look like you. The pattern is A-B-A, so the fourth one would look like her again. It’s kind of cool to be the middle sister then.
Marie: In some ways.
Dad: Bill Gates was a middle kid. And he’s a billionaire. Could you handle that?
Marie: I could help out Elise in her crap hole. And Grace in her shoe box.
Dad: They’re pretty lucky to have a middle sister then. I read somewhere the middle sister doesn’t make as much as the big and little sister, but they ask her for money more.
That’s the day my dad died, in 2000. As any of you who have lost a parent know, those first milestones – Christmas, birthdays, Father’s Day – carry an unmistakable void. They came and went, and I wondered how dad must have felt on New Year’s Eve of the year before.
That day – early evening, as people finalized New Year’s Eve plans – doctors told dad he had leukemia.
He waited days to tell my sister and me. I lived in Tallahassee, Fla., eight hours of mostly of Georgia highway away from his brick house in Belmont, N.C. My numbness thawed when I told my friends at work that day, the tears rushing out before my words could.
I know. And fast Internet. Our fish are all dead, however.
We recently watched the Major League Baseball All-Star game. A great American tradition, featuring three players from my Rockies in the National League’s starting lineup (which is why they didn’t score, points out Marie), a touching tribute to veterans, and even Neil Diamond.
Sometimes. But you don’t have to call a doctor after three hours at least.
Batteries are inefficient, as they charge and as they discharge. As a current moves in or out of a battery, it meets resistance. That creates friction, which creates heat. When a batter shorts out, there is no resistance between the positive and negative ends, so the heat has nowhere to go – but in.
You can wind up with a hot battery if you try to charge ones not designed to recharge. But let’s not get into that.
2. How do actors not get hurt when they get thrown through a window in movies?
There’s a special place in Siberia for movie physics and the designated hitter.
None of us can tiptoe through the kitchen after Marie shatters another bowl without suffering lacerations and puncture wounds. And that’s just a Bonnie Brae bowl. In Hollywood, a motorcycle cop can punch a villain hard enough to send him sprawling through a window – without a scratch.
Weight and inertia say this is poppycock. The large splinters of glass would slice through clothing and skin with ease. This says nothing about the inertia that would keep these shards of glass in place until various body parts pushed against them.
It’d be like a great big cheese grater for people.
3. What’s the fastest pitch ever?
It’s the one that girl in the mall tossed me to try and sell me smokeless cigarettes.
Second to her was Cincinnati Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman, in 2010, in a game against the San Diego Padres. Chapman, a lanky Cuban lefty, seared a pitch past Tony Gwynn Jr. and into the record books. Chapman threw 25 pitches that night, the slowest of which crawled across the plate at 102 mph.
The record pitch missed the strike zone, by the way. Lots of speed, no control. Kinda like your dad at the pizza buffet.
4. Are zebras white with black stripes, or black with white stripes?
So, mankind can send humans to the moon and invent T-shirts and underwear without itchy tags, but it can’t quite solve the mystery that is zebra color.
Lisa Smith, curator of large mammals at Zoo Atlanta, says a zebra is black with white stripes. Not sure if she shaved one to be sure. A zebra’s stripes are from pigment activation and inhibition, meaning the fur is black, and white stripes are places that lack pigmentation. A zebra’s skin, usually, is black.
For an answer that isn’t really black or white, this one sort of is.
5. Has a boat ever been struck by lightning?
You have a smaller chance of your boat getting struck by lightning than getting thrown through a window and coming out unscathed, at least.
According to the Boat Owners Association of the U.S., your chances of catching a bolt on a boat are 1.2 in 1,000. No boat in Idaho or Nebraska has ever taken a lightning strike, which means there’s not a lot of boating during thunderstorms in those states, or lightning is allergic to corn and potatoes.
Now, if you ever find yourself on a boat, with a zebra, with no batteries or Aroldis Chapman to help you, just do what Piscine Patel did in this clip from “Life of Pi.”
Not worldly, in the sense that they eat caviar and listen to NPR. They know stuff. Or at least, they know stuff to ask about. Heavy stuff, like, art. And things that lead to salmonella. And inquiries of arachnid origin.
OK, so maybe that doesn’t make them worldly. But Elise did almost invent the iPhone, Marie organized a stamp-out-school-lunch petition, and Grace learned to play the recorder with the wrong hands in the wrong places, and re-learned it all to put her right hands in the right places.
These are the kids who wondered about horses’ safety in water polo, didn’t know San Francisco was in California, and laid down with me to watch a movie on the couch, then asked, “dad, why is everything sideways?”
“Because you’re sideways, lovey.”
Let’s get to questions.
1. Where is the Mona Lisa?
She’s all the heck over Pinterest, as a frazzled-haired teacher with bugged-out eyes, a toothy rendition titled “Mona Teetha,” and even a picture of her with milk jug in hand and milk mustache, captioned, “Got Milk?” The painting has been stolen and had acid thrown on it over the years.
Because this Leonardo Da Vinci painting is so famous, it’s often parodied and targeted. This is not unlike Beethoven’s ninth symphony, final movement, which has been used to pimp everything from Bruce Willis movies to fiber products for regular bowel movements.
Not true. My commenters are very considerate, and I appreciate every single one. There’s widget thing I can add that creates a whole new set of fields for comments, but it seemed kind of complicated. I want to keep it simple. All they have to do is enter their name, their email address (which is never shared), and if they want, a link to their own blog or website.
Unless you’re the two Russian spammers who have subscribed to my blog. I know them by creative usage of the English language and lots of links to shady websites. Prevyet, comrades!
3. Do people put raw eggs in water, then drink it?
It’s a boneless chicken spritzer.
Get it? Boneless chicken?
OK. Eggs have lots of carbs, and are a good source of protein and good fat. When you cook an egg, it lessens those nutritional values. You know, like raw vegetables, which are better for you when you eat them raw. You get all the benefits that nature intended for the chicken embryo.
But because nature doesn’t care for those who eat chicken embryos, nature invented salmonella.
Let’s stick with scrambled egg burritos, shall we?
4. Are tarantulas poisonous?
I think most people don’t leave them on their skin long enough to find out.
When you have hairy legs and big fangs, you don’t make many fans. Luckily, I have no fangs. Tarantulas are disgustingly venomous: They stalk their pray, leap on it, and sink their hollow fangs into it. The venom liquefies all its prey’s guts. Voila: It’s bug stew, a la tarantula.
Tarantulas get a bad rep from being big and creepy, and liquefying bugs’ guts, but unless you’re allergic, a tarantula bite is no worse than a bee sting.
5. Do fish have ears?
Fish have ears inside their heads, which is sort of like having an umbrella in your car when it starts raining while you shop. Kinda useless. Fish instead use lateral lines on their sides to sense changes in water pressure. I kind of wish people had these too, or at least you girls did, when you play soccer.
Only, your lateral lines can tell you when a kid from Mt. Pleasant or Odell is bearing down on you with cleats high. Can you imagine? You’d be all ducking and weaving and making kids miss when you had the ball. Oh wait … you do that already. Maybe you already have lateral lines.
Just don’t grow any hollow tarantula fangs, and we’re good.
If I try to talk to my kids while they’re hungry, the probably see me as a steak, or a chicken leg, or a cheesy chimichanga. Why? Because I’ve probably mentioned one of these delectable items at some point, and they fix on that.
Bloggers aren’t so different.
Jennifer from Another Jennifer blog is one of the most wonderful, talented, and delightfully hungry writers I’ve had the pleasure to have met through my blog. She hates pie, and loves bacon. She writes, she edits, she inspires.
She also seemed preoccupied with the Parmesan chicken wings I mentioned in a comment in approximately 1973.
Who can blame her? I’m at her place today, writing about the hallowed chicken wing. Take a visit, and learn more about yourself at your innermost core, based on a wing test I’ve compiled. Check it out, here.
I’ve also shared a recipe for grilled Parmesan chicken wings. Remember, North Carolina state law states that anyone in the continental U.S. who makes a batch of these must pay a six-wing minimum in tax to the recipe’s author.
While you’re there, check out Jennifer’s stuff. You’ll discover she’s not just another Jennifer after all. She’ll be your favorite.
The radio volume is up, the song plays, the lyrics get belted out… Everybody have fun tonight – everybody Wang Chung tonight! Or, She’s a brick – house. She’s mighty-mighty. Letting it all hang out!
Take it … to the limit … take it … to the limit. Take it. To the limit. One more tiiiiiiiiime …
It’s our thing, to guess who sings the song on the radio. It’s evolved. My girls know the songs. They know the lyrics. They know I’m going to ask, “Who sings this, girls?” They’re starting to remember now, though.
Happy birthday! Can’t believe you would have been 62 today. My dad? Thinking about retirement? The guy who made oldies cool for me and never acted old?
I miss you every day, but especially on a day like today.
It’s opening day for my girls’ soccer seasons. It’s incredible to think that you’ve never seen them play. Well, maybe you have. I suspect you have, actually. But to be here, seeing them, I can’t imagine how proud you’d be.
The universe owes you, Dad, for all those games you watched me warm the bench or muddle through three errors in an inning, or play a football season without a win and without the faint hope of even a point scored (God bless the Jackson Park Jayhawks).
Today, it’s a new season, with new uniforms and a perfect record still intact, with all the possibilities that lie ahead – from wins and scores to the important stuff, such as post-game snacks and post-season trophies. I know you’d make it here today. And you wouldn’t be able to sit down.
The only one you met
I remember when you played with Elise when she was a baby. You’d sit on the floor and watch her, talk to her, use her made-up words, create a little celebrity out of a toddler who called you Pop-Pop. I felt a twinge of sadness when someone asked her, at age 13, if she remembered her grandfather and she sheepishly shook her head, “Not really.”
She’s the only one you met. Marie missed you by two months. Grace by 5 years.
They’ve had to repair all the damage I did to our name on courts, diamonds and fields in Greeley, CO, and here in Charlotte. As you know, it would take three to tackle the task.
Elise is one of only two girls on her co-ed soccer team at school. She’ll mix it up with the boys and never think anything of it. On your birthday, on my team, she played with such excitement that she kept booting the ball clean off the field.
When she finally got it under control, she ripped a shot that clanged hard off the crossbar.
Elise had a familiar teammate for the first time ever.
She came back to soccer today
Marie quit soccer more than a year ago, Dad. The day and the decision hit me hard, but I knew it was one of those times you’re tested as a dad. Do you truly want what’s best for your child? Can you support her, no matter what? It wasn’t difficult to see she was happier away from the sport, finding her stride, literally, with Girls on the Run, and I watched the foundation of her confidence and stamina build up, brick by brick – but I missed her in cleats, I missed her determination and focus, seeing her footwork and teamwork and effort on display.
She came back to soccer today, Dad, on your birthday. She strapped on the shin guards and joined Elise’s team, my team, one division higher than her age group. And she nearly scored the game’s first goal, firing a hard shot the keeper couldn’t handle, and scrambled to her feet to pop in the rebound just a half-second too late.
Now that I think of it, you’ve never gotten to see me coach either.
I remember the day I sped down I-85 from Greensboro to see you in the hospital. They said they didn’t know how much time you had. I was so different. I wasn’t ready to go on without you. I prayed just that… Not yet, Dad. I’m not ready. Never mind what you were ready for.
I’m not sure if being a good dad has made me a good coach, or if being a good coach makes me a good dad. I make mistakes in both. I let the kids run amok. I annoy them sometimes. I set the occasional bad example. Daily. I’ll substitute when I shouldn’t, leave a keeper in a few minutes too long, or lose control of a practice here or there.
My teams – and my girls – are goofy at times, occasionally brilliant, and always, always ready to live “la vida underdog.” Ready to shock the world. Or at least, anyone standing near Field A on a particular Saturday morning.
Incredibly, I’ve also won. You know I never did as a kid. In anything. I don’t remember a single field-day ribbon that wasn’t green (third place) or white (fourth place, and incidentally, the international symbol of surrender). With Elise, the day we won our first league title, it was as foreign a feeling as I’ve ever known.
Even after two more championships with Elise and one each with Marie and Grace, it’s not a feeling I’ve grown accustomed to.
Loveable Loser remains in my blood.
A friend said I was one part Phil Jackson, one part Jerry Glanville on the sideline. I know I was no parts soccer coach when I got started. I’ve still never worn a pair of shin guards, but I learned what I could about the game and about coaching … and about kids.
I read books by Mike Shanahan and Bill Walsh and John Wooden and Tony DiCicco, and tried to become a coach from the inside out.
I discovered that these men had gems that I mined, stowed away in my own box, and I dug deep to find a few of my own. I discovered that coaching and fatherhood aren’t too far removed from each other. There are winning streaks and losing streaks, freak accidents, Hallelujah moments and times when you just can’t hide, no matter how hard you try.
I’ve found patience and confidence and a belief in all things being possible, because I’ve lived them. I’ve caused broken hearts on the soccer pitch, had my heart broken more than once, and witnessed events that restore my faith in the human condition, nearly three times as often as incidents that make me want to disclaim the human race altogether.
Elise says she’s learned more about life from soccer than she has in all her years in school.
My teams have won games they never should have and lost matches they had no business losing. I’ve had to shave my head and go blond because I promised my players I would if they scored hat tricks or won conferences or tournaments. I’ve been given a few water-cooler showers and had my competence questioned more than once.
I’ve been the object of a handful of complaints and an armload of I love you’s and even a kiss on the hand from a particularly amorous 4-year-old, right on the field, in the heat of battle.
All those years of being the kid who barely could make it have made me into the coach who believes every kid can.
You should have seen Grace, Dad. She spun and shook, and blasted past boys and girls with the ball, ponytail flapping behind her. She wowed coaches with her moves, deferred on an easy goal to let her friend shoot, and racked up a hat trick in the drop of a hat.
Always in our hearts
The big girls won a hard-fought victory against a bigger and more experienced team, 1-0, and after Grace had finished her scoring display, I reminded the three how good it made me feel to have them today, on a day I missed my dad especially, to coach them and watch them and feel such pride in who they were, not because they were good players, but because they played, and they loved to play, and that they’ll play again and again and again.
Two inches lower on Elise’s shot, a split second sooner on Marie’s, they’d have gotten you the granddaughter hat trick that is tough to come by on a grandfather’s birthday on opening day. We’ll get them next time.