Dear Pete:

Let me start by saying that I am a fan. I grew up in the 1970s when the Reds were The Big Red Machine. I followed that team as closely as a kid living in Harlan County, Kentucky could, being over 200 miles away. Many nights, I sat in the basement listening to Marty Brennaman and the Old Lefthander Joe Nuxhall call games on WSGS out of Hazard, Kentucky.

You’re in the headlines again for all the wrong reasons. Newly discovered evidence indicates that you bet on baseball while a player for the Reds. You even bet on Reds games. You’ve denied all this in past. I’m sure you will again.

A lot of folks believe you should be reinstated by Major League Baseball and honored as one of the game’s greats. Major League Baseball Rule 21 (D) says something altogether different:

Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.

This is posted in every clubhouse in baseball. There is no gray area. Was there something about this you didn’t understand? Maybe you just thought you wouldn’t get caught.

These new allegations, if true, are the end of the road for you and Major League Baseball. I take no pleasure in this. In fact, it pains me to watch this play out.

You were one of the idols of my youth, along with Johnny Bench, Roger Staubach, Dan Issel and Wilt Chamberlain, sports stars who seemed bigger than life. You, though, were different. You were a regular guy who just happened to be a great baseball player. As a kid, I knew I couldn’t do the things the stars did, but you made it seem that hard work made anything possible.

All Reds fans from those days remember when you left for the Phillies after the 1978 season. We had suffered through the indignity of seeing Tony Perez traded and now you were gone. Of course, we didn’t blame you. We blamed the Reds, in particular General Manager Dick Wagner whom we viewed as a villain on par with John Wilkes Booth.

I was as happy as anyone when you returned to the Reds in the middle of the 1984 season. With you as player-manager, the team responded, playing better baseball for the remainder of the season. A year later, you were the Hit King. By then, I was a grown man, but it still thrilled me to watch you play.

By 1989, I was in my second year as a lawyer. I heard about your suspension at work.  I was outraged. There had to be a mistake. Later, when you were permanently banned from baseball for gambling, I still didn’t believe all the allegations. Sure, you bet on horses. Maybe you even bet on other sports. But you wouldn’t bet on baseball. Your denials rang true to me. You loved the game too much to compromise it by violating its most sacrosanct rule.

That you may have bet on baseball was just not possible, even as the evidence mounted. I continued to believe you even after you accepted a lifetime ban. You accepted this indignity, I rationalized, only to stop the kangaroo court of Major League Baseball from falsely declaring that you had bet on baseball games. You were in the Star Chamber where accusation amounted to conviction. I couldn’t blame you for falling on your sword.

As much I believed you–and I did–two things nagged at me. One, why would the Commissioner’s Office be out to get Pete Rose? You weren’t a bad guy. In fact, you were one of the good guys, a shining example of how to play the game. Two, why was Commissioner Bart Giamatti so convinced of guilt? Giamatti was no dim bulb. He was a man of great intelligence, both a scholar and an avid baseball fan. It made no sense.

Then I read the Dowd Report, the investigative report prepared by former federal prosecutor John Dowd, a man whose named you have dragged through the mud over the years. The report supports only two conclusions: (1) You were guilty as charged based upon overwhelming proof; or (2) you were so thoroughly despised that dozens of people would conspire to destroy you. I was wrong. You lied.

Of course, you remained defiant, that is, until you finally fessed up in 2000. I guess you knew you would never be reinstated unless you came clean, so you admitted to gambling on baseball. In your typical fashion, you didn’t confess in a meeting with the Commissioner or with any humility. Instead, it was part of a book, My Prison Without Bars. Almost immediately, you began hawking autographs with the inscription: “I’m sorry I bet on baseball.” I can buy one on Pete, you still can’t get out of your own way.

You know baseball history. Baseball was almost destroyed by gambling in the early 20th century when the Chicago White Sox fixed the 1919 World Series against, ironically, the Reds. After the Black Sox scandal, gambling on baseball was the third rail of the rule book. Touch it, and you’re finished. Anyone who bet on baseball would be banned for life–no exceptions.

You know about Hal Chase, first baseman for the New York Giants. Prince Hal was an early example. He was banned in 1921 for betting on his own team. Chase was a particularly scurrilous character who was also rumored to have fixed games as far back as 1910. The rule was clear–bet on baseball and leave the game forever.

Dowd estimated that you may have been in debt over $100,000 at the time you were banned. The new revelations show that some of this debt may have been owed to a bookie connected with organized crime. Did you really mortgage yourself to the Mob while we were cheering your return to Cincinnati?

This latest revelation isn’t the first indication that you bet on baseball while playing. In his book, Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, author Kostya Kennedy offered several anecdotes of such gambling, even from your own mother! I suspect we’ll now start hearing more such stories. Hopefully, you’ll remain silent. When you defend yourself, things seem to get worse. Regardless, your time for confession has long since passed.

You taught me that my heroes do, indeed, have feet of clay. I believed you because I wanted to believe. I wanted to believe you loved baseball just like I did back in those days when you were a hero. Instead, you trashed the game by committing its gravest sin.

Your apologists–and there are more than a few–compare this to steroids. That’s a false analogy for a number of reasons. First, no one ever threw a game because of steroid use. Second, during the so-called Steroid Era, performance enhancing drugs weren’t even banned. Finally, you–of all people–should have been above this.

I’m not suggesting that you ever threw a game. I’ve never heard even a rumor about that. If I did, though, it wouldn’t be hard to believe. That’s where you’ve taken yourself.

What about the Hall of Fame? Contrary to some people’s belief, the Hall of Fame is not run by Major League Baseball. It has its own rules. Frankly, its rule declaring you (and all other banned players) ineligible is, at best, silly. Allow the voters to decide. Prince Hal never got in, even though he was regarded as one of the best players of his day. The Steroid Era stars have found the doors to the Hall closed to them despite none of them being on the permanently banned list.

As far as the ban goes, I have no sympathy for you. You knew the rule. You’ve done well because of your banishment. Unlike some, I don’t begrudge you making money hawking your autographs and photo ops. With your lifestyle, cash is probably a necessity. If you can make money off your own downfall, so be it.

In the twilight of your career, you chased the hits record of another notorious star, Ty Cobb, hanging on well past the point of being an effective player. It is ironic that you were so driven to secure your place in the record book, while so cavalierly disregarding the game itself.

So, make no mistake. You accepted a lifetime ban that was richly deserved. You knew that. Don’t act like it’s an injustice. It isn’t. You knew the rule. You knew the penalty. That’s actually that’s the epitome of justice.

The most surprising part of all this is that I’m still a fan. I’m a fan of No. 14 who strutted with his chest out. Charley Hustle who ran to first on walks. I see you rounding second with your helmet flying off and then diving head first into third. You made kids like me love baseball. It seemed like more than a game. It was important. It mattered. I just wish you’d felt the same.

© 2015

The Stuff Of Dreams

I’m a dreamer. Literally. I don’t mean dreams of success or other flights of fancy, either. I mean real dreams, the kind you have when you’re asleep. Being a tad slothful, I’ve never studied dreams or tried to analyze their deeper meaning. When I was in college, I knew a girl who analyzed dreams, but I never paid much attention.

If you’ve read this blog, you know that I am a recurring theme. My stories are about me. My opinions are mine, of course. I even believe that others are interested in my take on things. This post is slightly different. While the dreams are mine, I’m now interested in what others think. What do these dreams mean? With that in mind, I now share a number of my recurring dreams:


In this dream, I am a passenger in a car with someone who can’t drive worth a damn. My most recent version had me as a passenger with Lyndsay Lohan driving. She was smoking marijuana and weaving in and out of traffic on a six-lane highway. She wouldn’t stay in the proper lanes, either, and was constantly dodging on-coming traffic. I was terrified and screaming at her to slow down. She didn’t. This dream ended as the always do with a terrific accident. I was unhurt, but rattled. Then, I woke up.

This is a typical variant of this one. Sometimes, the driver is out of control driving downhill. Often, the car runs off a cliff. There is always an accident at the end, and I’m unharmed. I wake up immediately.

Another variation is that I’m driving, but the car has mechanical problems. The most common problems are either I can’t get the car in gear and it rolls backwards or there are no brakes. I careen around the highway–again, terrified–until the inevitable accident ends the dream. Do I see myself as out of control? Do I believe others have my fate in their hands? Do I see myself as immortal?

Perhaps unrelated, I also dream often about not being able to get my car out of reverse. Is this some latent concern that I am not going forward in life? Does it portend future transmission problems?


In this dream, I am in school again, usually college but sometimes high school. I am approaching finals and haven’t attended class. I’m completely lost. In a panic, I desperately try to determine my class schedule, but I can’t. I am going to fail all my classes. Oddly, the dream always ends before I actually take my finals, but failure is unavoidable. I’m frantic and depressed.

I’ve had some variation of this dream hundreds of times. Sometimes, I’m aimlessly wandering the hallways looking for my classroom. I never find it. I never have any books and don’t even know my class schedule.

What can this mean? Do I secretly regret that I wasn’t a more dedicated student? Do I want to relive my youth? Do I fear commitment? Could this in any way mean I am gay?


I work in a small law firm with four other lawyers, and we get along famously. It sounds trite, but we are like family. In almost eight years together we’ve never had a serious disagreement about anything. We’ve been fairly successful and like coming to work. Why, then, do I frequently dream that I am mercilessly abused at work?

This dream revolves around one of my partners–a female who shall remain nameless–berating me over some minor issue. Most recently, I dreamed that our firm had purchased a new coffee maker that leaked. My partner poked my chest with her finger and screamed: “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU ARE AN EXPERT ON COFFEE!!” Nothing of this sort has ever happened in our office. Truthfully, I do have quite a bit of expertise on coffee, arguably more than anyone in my office; however, this has never been a source of contention among us.

In this dream, I’ll be yelled at and called names–maybe even told to leave the firm. It’s always very contentious–the exact opposite of my real life job. I always wake up before there is any resolution of the dispute.

For many years, I had a job that I did not enjoy–at least not often. Perhaps this is post-traumatic stress, and I’m reliving unhappy times in my dream life. Am I expressing some kind of hidden hate for my co-workers? Am I seeing into their souls that they secretly hate me? Do I fear women?


I’m being shot at. With guns. Real guns. It’s almost always a gun battle where I’m hunkered down exchanging gun fire with someone. One time, it was with Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays. The Say Hey Kid had me pinned down behind my car, and he was peppering it with bullets.

This dream has no context other than a gun fight. I never know how or why it starts. I’m just in the middle of it. Once, my wife was shooting at me (I’m pretty sure that was just a dream). Another time, it was my own mother. Regardless, they just shoot at me relentlessly.

This dream always ends with my being shot but not fatally. It’s usually in the arm. That wakes me up. Then, I know “it was all just a dream.”

What the hell is this one about? Do people want to see me dead? Why would Willie Mays try to drop me? Maybe they don’t want me dead. After all, they only shoot me in the arm. Then again, all that reckless gun fire has to be intended to do me great harm. Why? Do I harbor a belief deep in my psyche that I am a bad person worthy of being gunned down?


This may be the weirdest one. It’s about a house. It’s a large house. Sometimes, the house is yellow. Sometimes, it is red brick. There is an alley separating it from my yard. I’m in The House and can’t get out. People are in The House looking for me, and I’m hiding from them. I’m usually in the bathroom or a closet. I don’t know why they are looking for me, but I’m scared. I’m always alone in The House and trying to find a way out. The good news–I guess–is that they never find me. The bad news is that I never get out. At least, no one shoots at me.

This dream rattles me more than any of the others. I always wake up wide awake. There’s great relief when I realize I am in my own bed and not The House. To my knowledge, I’ve never seen a house that looks like The House. If I did, I’d probably freak out.

What is The House? Does it symbolize something in my subconscious? Do I feel trapped in my life, unable to escape? Am I a closet paranoid, fearing that others are out to get me? Am I concealing some secret shame that I fear other will discover much like I fear they will find me in The House?

So, they are–my five most common recurring dreams. I have other dreams, like the one where I’m eating something really crappy. Since my wife is not a great cook, I understand that one. For a brief time I look Ambien and had dreams that were so vivid they freaked me out, but that was only for about six months. These five are the windows to be psyche.

Freud believed that all dreams were manifestation of wish-fulfillment based upon “day residue” or events that happen during the day. I don’t know about that. If I’m wishing for this stuff, I’m more messed up than I thought. Some think they’re all about sex. If that’s the case, it’s just as well that I don’t understand them.

If you have any kind of psychology background or if you’ve been in therapy for a while, feel free to offer your interpretation. I don’t intend to seek professional help. I’d rather just open it up to amateur speculation. Bear in my, though, that if any of this means I’m dangerously unstable or psychotic, you might want to take the edge of your analysis.

Now that I’ve gotten this off my chest, I may sleep better, at least. Maybe I’ll even get out of that damn house and get to class on time. Of course, I’ll need to be careful about getting a ride. Hopefully, I won’t get shot before I get there. If I do, someone at work will yell at me. Whew.

© 2013

Cheerleader God


Ray Lewis shows God His Lombardi Trophy

I’m a big sports fan. Huge, actually. I’ve ruined substantial chunks of my life grieving over sporting events in which I had no stake other than as a fan. None of the players or coaches knew me nor did they care one way or the other about how their pitiable performances affected me. Nevertheless, though, I grieved.

You know who else is a big sports fan? God. That’s right. Capital “G” God. The Big Guy. The Alpha and Omega. The Big I AM. How do I know that about the unknowable? Athletes have told me. Repeatedly.

Ray Lewis says so. God glorified him (or vice versa–sometimes it’s hard to follow Ray) with a Super Bowl win. After the Ravens’ win, Ray said “It’s simple: When God is for you, who can be against you?” That is pretty simple. God is all-powerful, all-knowing and omnipotent. If He’s for you, who CAN be against you? Well, a lot of people, really. The other team, for instance. Their fans. Maybe people who just generally hate your team or you personally. Atheists, too.

Ray’s simple observation begs many questions, of course:

  • Was God against Colin Kaepernick?
  • Was God for John, but not Jim, Harbaugh? If so, why?
  • What did God think of Beyonce?
  • How about the guy in the suit that John Harbaugh screamed at? What sin did he commit?
  • What was God’s deal with the Harbaugh parents? For or against?
  • Why didn’t God see that holding call on Crabtree? Or did He see it but smite the officials with blindness, because he was for Ray?
  • Is possible that God was on the side of Michael Oher, the guy from the movie The Blind Side, and Ray just benefited from it?
  • Why did God turn out the lights in the second half?
  • What kind of God would allow Destiny’s Child to reunite?

If it were just Ray, it wouldn’t be that big a deal. Other athletes are just as bad–or maybe it’s good. Boxers praise God–right after they beat the holy crap out of someone. “Thank you, God, for giving me the strength to inflict permanent brain damage on this other child of yours.” Basketball players do it. Baseball players. Everyone who wins has God on his or her side. Some invoke Jesus, which is really the same thing except with a decidedly Christian take.

That’s right. God picks sides. He’s picked the World Series, Super Bowls, NCAA Championships, fights–you name it. There isn’t enough hard drive in the Cloud to list all the athletes that have credited God for their wins. God plays favorites. No doubt. God is definitely a Calvinist when it comes to sports.

The uncomfortable flip side of this is that God clearly dislikes certain teams and athletes, too, not to mention their fans (like me). This is rarely acknowledged, with one notable exception. Former University of Kentucky football player Stevie Johnson is now a star wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills. A couple of years ago, he dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass. Just dropped it. Stevie saw the hand of God in it.


Stevie Johnson’s ill-tempered tweet reflected a lot of fans’ thoughts.

Predictably, Stevie took a lot of heat for this. But, if you are a sports fan, haven’t you at least thought this before? Sure you have. Of course, I remember Stevie catching a touchdown pass to beat the University of Louisville. An act of God, for sure.

I’ll confess that I’ve prayed to God about sports. “Oh, mighty God, PLEASE let this free throw drop!!!” Of course, this type of prayer is fruitless, but I’ve done it. My life as a sports fan has proven and disproven the existence of God many times:

  • Jim O’Brien hits a last-minute field goal. Colts beat the Cowboys in the Super Bowl. No God.
  • Roger Staubach hits Drew Pearson with the original “Hail Mary” pass in the 1975 NFC Playoffs. God lives!
  • UCLA beats Kentucky for the 1975 NCAA Basketball Championship. No God.
  • Six months later, the Reds rally from 3 down to win the 7th game of the World Series. Big God!
  • Jackie Smith drops a touchdown pass against the Steelers. Cowboys lose the Super Bowl. No God.
  • Kentucky wins the 1978, 1996, 1998 and 2012 NCAA basketball championships. Big, big, big, big GOD!!
  • Christian Laettner hits a three to beat Kentucky at the buzzer in the 1992 NCAA Regional Finals. There is a God, and He hates me.
  • Billy Gillispie is hired as Kentucky’s basketball coach. God hates Kentucky.
  • John Calipari is hired as Kentucky’s basketball coach. God actually loves Kentucky but has a twisted sense humor (see Gillispie, Billy).
  • University of Kentucky Football: No God or at least not one that will let us be great at two sports.

I, for one, refuse to blame God for this.

For brevity’s sake, I won’t list the other 200-300 examples. One can readily see that I have struggled to see God’s handiwork in my life as a fan. For others, look no further than this year’s NCAA Football Championship. Notre Dame has Touchdown Jesus, but Alabama whipped them like Samson breaking bad on a bunch of Philistines.

The problem is that for each instance in which I have been crushed by a sporting event, others have felt an equal and opposite reaction. Call it Newton’s Law of God In Sports. He loves one team and hates the other. Okay, maybe He doesn’t hate them. Only if you’re a member of the Westboro Baptist Church do you embrace the hating God. But, at the very least, He’s cruelly indifferent to the other team and its fans.

How does this happen? Do the other fans pray better? Are the players better people? If so, what can I do to help my team? If more of our fans pray will that tip the scales? Or is the quality of the prayers, rather than the quantity, that matters most? It’s hard to say, really.

What about Tim Tebow? By all accounts, he’s a fine young man, sincere in his faith and an all around good guy. He played quarterback for the Denver Broncos in 2011 and won a bunch of games. Now, truth be told, he didn’t play particularly well, completing less than 50% of his passes. Yet, he won or, more accurately, his team won. Many folks attributed this to God. Tebow is a Christian, and God wins games for him. Many of my devoutly Christian friends manically cheered for him, as though he was the first Christian to ever play in the NFL (I don’t think he is, by the way). Then Tebow got traded to the Jets, because the Broncos preferred Peyton Manning at quarterback. Tebow barely played for the Jets and did nothing to help them win–to the extent the Jets did win. Did God turn his back on Tebow? Doubtful. Tebow just ended up on a team that didn’t want to play him. Like Tebow, Danny Wuerffel was also a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback from the University of Florida and a devout Christian. He had no success in the NFL. Why? Because that’s sports, not God.

Now, you’re thinking: “What’s your point?” Here it is: God isn’t picking games. If he did, the parochial schools would never lose, and Bob Knight would have never won a game. God is God, which is a good thing, but one can only hope that He is occupied with more important things than Ray Lewis’s retirement and my desire to see a teenaged college student make a free throw.

I won’t even belabor the obvious such as the horrific injuries–and even death–suffered by athletes. If you’re a sports fan, you can think of an almost endless list of vile humans who have excelled in sports. What about cities like Chicago and Cleveland? What are they–the Sodom and Gomorrah of sports? If God is picking sides, surely he could cut them a break.

So, the next time you think God has picked your team or favorite player, remember that just means He’s back handing someone else. Eventually, He’ll show you the hands, too. Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with praising God. Some believe that He demands it. It’s just that suggesting He won a game makes as much sense as crediting the military for it. After all, we should be thankful for our soldiers, too, but let’s be reasonable.

Okay, now God, UCLA has 11 NCAA basketball titles, and Kentucky has 8. Do you think you could see your way clear to…..never mind.

© 2013

The Sporting Life of Me

I like sports. Maybe I love sports. Loving something like that (or is it those?) seems odd to say out loud, but it’s possible that I do. Why? I’m not sure, but I know this much: It isn’t because I was ever good at any of them.

If you’ve read any of my sundry blog posts, you know that I will opine on almost any topic–politics, religion, TV, movies, fighting girls, self-help and, yes, sports. These things interest me, and I like to write–and talk–about such things. One might call me self-centered. One might be correct about that, too. I assume that others will be interested in these subjects since they interest me. Mostly, I believe that others are, or at the very least should be, interested in what interests me. If not, they must be interested in me, generally. With that in mind, let’s talk sports.

I’m not an athlete. I never was. Oh, I tried my hand at various sports. Never, though, did I find my game.


I played a lot of baseball growing up. I wasn’t particularly good, but I played. I had one God-given skill and that was speed. I was pretty fast. That was helpful, to some extent. I also have decent hand-eye coordination–decent, not excellent. I couldn’t hit very well nor did I have a good arm. In my 20’s, a doctor told me that it was likely that I had torn muscles in my shoulder when I was young, which would explain chronic pain and weakness. I use this now as an excuse to explain my overall mediocrity. I am now convinced that I tore my shoulder when I was 4 years old.

My baseball career, as it were, can be summed up in one game when I was 14 years old. My team faced a pitcher who threw side arm. I couldn’t hit him neither could my team-mate batting in front of me in the order. In the last inning of an extra inning game, we both had struck out four times. There were two outs, and I was on deck. Since we both had the dreaded Golden Sombrero (four Ks), I silently prayed that my team-mate would get out so that I would not end the game for us. He did. On strikes. I was happy. There may be no “I” in team, but there damn sure is one in “strike out.”

I was also volatile and difficult to coach. I would argue with my coaches. I would argue with opposing players. I would argue with my team-mates. These may seem to be attributes of the modern athlete; however, they are best reserved for the modern, outstanding athlete. The borderline, average teenager in the 1970’s did not benefit from such behavior. One time, I even got into an argument with my coach’s father during a game. Not a good move.

I combined lack of skill and bad attitude with laziness. If I needed to work on something, I preferred to just sit around and hope I improved. Oddly enough, it didn’t work.


I also played basketball or, more correctly, tried to play. To say that I was not a good basketball player is to say that William Shatner is not a good singer. The speed which I flashed playing baseball disappeared with a basketball in my hands. I couldn’t go to my left at all. I could barely go to my right. But, could I shoot? No. Try as I might, my jumper was always an awkward “push” shot. It would have looked good in the days of the two hand set shot.

My lack of skill limited my play to pick up games, except for a brief period in elementary school when I played what we called “Little League” basketball in my home town. I played for Loyall Christian Church. Although I did not attend church there, they sponsored our team. I played three years and might have scored 10 points total. Honestly, that’s probably a stretch. I do know that my high game was four points. Wow.

The highlight of my organized basketball career was a fight–not involving me, of course. My Dad had an older kid walk me to my games at night (Dad was often on the road for work during the week). One night, we encountered a hoodlum of some renown. My guardian slapped the cigarette out of the hood’s mouth, picked it up and took a long drag off it. He then flicked the butt off the hood’s chest. I can still see those ashes exploding against his chest in the dark. Why did he do this? I think it was just to make a point. Okay, that’s not really a fight, but I was just 7 or 8 years old, and I thought it was cool.

I would occasionally play pick up games, usually quite poorly. The only time I ever recall playing well was in a one on one game with a friend in high school. For reasons now obscure, I had mouthed off about how I could beat him. I don’t why I did that since he was taller than I was and, by all appearances, more athletic. He challenged me to a game to 20 by ones. Something possessed me and, for that one game, I could really play. I couldn’t miss a shot. My awkward, two-handed J hit nothing but net. The game winner was made after a quite accidental cross-over dribble off my knee. My opponent slipped and I nailed a jumper from about 15 feet. My friend was wowed. I used up all my basketball luck in one game.

I also played in the occasional pick up game in college. Again, poorly. My friends tolerated me, because…well…they were my friends. I’m sure it pained them to watch me. Sometimes, I would play against girls. They were also better than I was. Perhaps the highlight of my college career was a violent body check/pick laid on me by a University of Kentucky football player. He was about 6′ 4″, 350 maybe. No front teeth and he wore a down vest to play basketball. After his bone-pulverizing pick, I predictably collapsed in a pathetic heap. He then screamed obscenities at me, rightfully questioning my manhood.

I used to play basketball with my kids. Then, they got better than me, too.


I also tried golf. There weren’t a lot of golfers when I was growing up in Harlan County, Kentucky. Some people belonged to the Harlan Country Club. I heard that they played golf up there on a 9 hole golf course. Other than the occasional miniature golf game (they had miniature golf in Evarts), I didn’t touch a golf club until I was in my 20’s.

I thought golf would be a good game for me. It didn’t require much (or any) athleticism. I imagined myself strolling the links with fellow hot shots, playing and making lucrative business deals. Sadly, my golf play resembled nothing so much as Spaudling Smails in Caddyshack. Here are some of the reasons golf didn’t work:

  • I discovered that most people didn’t enjoy playing with someone in a blind rage the whole time.
  • People would give me pointers which I desperately needed; however, I HATE pointers, advice, helpful hints or whatever the hell you want to call them.
  • I broke my pitching wedge beating it against a tree after sailing an approach shot over the green.
  • I broke my 9 iron. By running over it with my car. On purpose.
  • I bent my putter. Throwing it.
  • I would curse loudly and often.

Ultimately, I abandoned the game because I was just terrible at it. Terrible. The only thing I liked about it was that one could drink alcohol while playing. In my case, it didn’t affect my game at all. Now, I often think about what my father said of golf: “If a man has enough time to play golf, he should do something productive instead. Like work.” That gives me some comfort. Some. I don’t do much productive, either.


I tried other sports. Bowling, for instance. Sucked. Like golf, I can tell you all the fundamentals one must embrace to excel, but I can’t execute any of them. Once I stopped drinking, I found out that the only reason I ever bowled was for the alcohol, anyway.


How about pool? I love shooting pool. I can visualize every shot on the table. I can’t execute any of them. I’ve broken a couple of pool cues over my leg. I used to have a nice pool table, but I gave it away. It taunted me every time I walked by it. Again, though, one could drink beer and play. It had that going for it.


In the 1970’s, there was a yo-yo craze. That’s right–yo-yo. Everyone had a yo-yo, me included. The craze even reached Harlan County. Every hay-shaker and hill jack in the county was walking the dog, rocking the baby and going around the world. Me? I cracked myself in the mouth once trying to go around the world. Split my lip. Sometimes, I would walk the dog, and the yo-yo would pop up and hit me in the forehead. It was just sad.


My mediocrity knew almost no limits. Ping pong, darts, dodge ball, volley ball and softball all mastered me. PE in high school was a struggle, because there were no games at which I excelled. Our PE teacher was an affable enough fellow who went on to a successful career as a college football assistant coach. He was affable, that is, until he had a psychotic episode of yelling and screaming about something. He once hit a kid with a desk. He was better, though, than the head football coach who someone once aptly described as a “shaved ape.” They brought to mind the old Woody Allen joke: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym.”

Of course, it was a right of passage that one take PE. At the time, I suspected that it was because of a homoerotic desire to force us all to shower. I guess that was wrong, but–hey–I was 14. It made sense at the time.

One sport I never tried was football. I was WAY too small and have an aversion to being hit. I also don’t like injuries of any kind. When I grew no one played soccer. I never ran track or swam competitively or played Frisbee. I like to think that I could have excelled at any of those if I’d only tried.

Later in life, I met many people who didn’t grow up with me. Someone would ask if I played basketball, and I could say, “Oh, yeah. I was pretty damn good, too.” Or I could say I was baseball star. Fortunately, when you reaches a certain age, people don’t challenge you or invite you to join their teams. If they do, you can alway claim some injury like a torn rotator cuff or unresolved sports hernia prevents it.

Now that I’ve written this, I think I know why I love sports. It’s precisely because of my incompetence. Perhaps, I live vicariously through these athletes. Perhaps, I admire their expertise. It could be that they represent all that I wanted to be. Or maybe it’s because I REALLY love watching TV. I am very good at that.

© 2012

Flaming the Fans

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto has banned alcohol in certain tailgating areas for football games.  Why?  Because a group of drunken idiots got in fights at a recent game.  Of course, the idiots are apoplectic about this, because that’s how idiots react.

President Capilouto also banned DJs in those same areas. They may not have anything to do with the fights.  Maybe it’s just a nod to good taste.

(Apropos of nothing, I should note that a friend of mine and I always refer to the President as “Doctor Copulate-O.”  Oh, how we laugh when we say that)

This recent edict got me thinking about my own history as a fan and various fan personalities.  I don’t have much to say about fans acting like fools.  My friend, Meisterblogger, wrote an excellent piece on that subject.  I have nothing to add to that.  It does, however, make me ponder the behavior of fans, behavior in which I have engaged on some level my entire life.

I’m a sports fan.  Always have been.  When did it start?  I can’t really remember, but I know it started with baseball cards.  The one I remember best was a 1966 Willie Mays card.  For some reason, I loved that card.  I kept it under the desktop glass of a desk in our house.  I would sit and just look at it.  I loved it right up until my little brother managed to get it out from under the glass and tear it in half.  It was then replaced by a 1969 Willie Mays, which I kept in my pocket for safekeeping.

I carried the Say Hey Kid in my pocket for years.

I’ve cheered my teams.  I’ve screamed myself hoarse.  I’ve also cried.  Yes, cried.  Literally.  Who are my teams?  At various times, I’ve been fanatic about:

  • Los Angeles Lakers:  I’m not talking about the “Showtime” Lakers of the ’80’s.  These were the Lakers of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  Why?  Wilt Chamberlain.  Wilt was the first basketball player of whom I was aware.  He was bigger than life.  Headband; knee pads (on his shins!); tape and rubber bands on his wrists–he had swag before there was swag.  In those days, there was only one NBA game a week on TV.  The Lakers and Knicks dominated.   I remember when the Lakers won 33 games in a row.  The starting line-up was Wilt, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, Happy Hairston and Jim McMillan.  Wilt retired, then West, then my interest in the NBA.

There was only one Wilt.

  • Kentucky Colonels:  After Wilt retired, my interest shifted to the American Basketball Association.  Kentucky had a team.  Dan Issel, Artis Gilmore, Louie Dampier, Darrel Carrier and many others.  We rarely got to see them on TV, but I followed their every exploit.  The ABA was great.  Red, white and blue ball; three pointers; big Afros.  I loved it.  A couple of times, ABA barnstorming teams came to Harlan and played exhibition games.  We’d get Dampier, Carrier and a few other stars.  They were great guys.  They even let one of our local basketball coaches, John D. Wilson, play in one of the games.  Great stuff.  When the ABA merged with the NBA, the Colonels folded.  THAT was a sad day.

Artis Gilmore was everything cool about the ABA

  • Cincinnati Reds:  When I became a baseball fan, it didn’t take long to become a Reds fan.  Everyone in Kentucky was a Reds fan in those days.  You didn’t have much choice in the matter.  Johnny Bench was my icon.  He could do no wrong in my eyes.  I followed the Reds as closely as one could during the 1970’s.  I listened to the games on the radio.  I cut the box scores out of th paper. When they finally won the World Series in 1975, I was as happy as a kid could be .  My fandom continued in earnest through the mid-1990’s.  I’ll confess that it burned off through a combination of things.  One, free agency in baseball took away the concept of “my” team.  Rosters change too much and too quickly. Second, I’m one of those who never got his passion back after the 1994 players strike.  I still follow it, but I don’t live and die with it.
  • Dallas Cowboys:  From Craig Morton to Tony Romo.  Calvin Hill to Demarco Murray; Bob Hayes to Miles Austin; Bob Lilly to DeMarcus Ware, I’ve followed the Cowboys.  Roger Staubach was the hero of my youth.  I’ve reveled in the salad days of the 1970’s and 1990’s and suffered through the 1980’s and 2000’s.  Jerry Jones is the bane of my existence, but I still watch and hope.  Mostly, I long for the day when the Jones family dies out.
  • The University of Kentucky:  I save this for last, but it is certainly not least.  This is the one where my fandom has not waned.  Oh, being older, I’m not as psychotic as I used to be, but I’m still a card-carrying member of Big Blue Nation–basketball and football, of course.  I’m a two-time alum, but that doesn’t really matter.  You don’t have to be a grad to belong to BBN.  Hell, you don’t even have to ever set foot on campus.  It’s bigger than that.  It IS Kentucky.  My obsession with all things UK has evolved, but it has never died.

Against this backdrop, I’ve learned a lot about fans.  I am one.  Who are they?


I’ve been this guy.  He shows up at 9:00 a.m. to tailgate for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.  He drinks and drinks and drinks.  He’s loud and obnoxious.  He freely uses foul language.  He’ll insult opposing fans.  He’ll insult his friends. He’ll pick fights.  He’ll randomly vomit.  He watches the game–maybe.  It doesn’t matter if he does or not, because he won’t remember it.

Here’s how I used to do it.  Show up several hours before kickoff with a grocery bag full of beer.  Drink the beer.  Wander from the tailgate to tailgate bumming more beer.  Watch the football game.  Try not to pass out or puke.  Drink more.

I would find myself with people I didn’t know.  Drinking and cheering.  High-fiving and hugging.  Once, I was tailgating and a woman asked of me and a friend:  “Do you mother****ers wanna dance?”  We declined. That’s the crowd we were in.

Drunk Fan isn’t to be confused with his cousin, Drinking Fan, a mostly amiable fellow who occasionally goes over the edge.  He’s okay.

Fortunately, the strongest thing I drink these days is coffee.  The good news is that I remember all UK’s basketball games.  The bad news is that I remember all the football games, too.  Nothing is perfect.


This guy believes he’s part of the team.  More accurately, he is the team, and the team is him.  They are one.  WE win.  He wears jerseys of his team.  He paints his face.  He names his kids after players.

If his team wins, this guy is a better person.  Not only that, he’s just better in general.  Healthier, happier, stronger.  Better.  He will gloat.  He will post things on Facebook like:

Cats win!  Yeah, baby, we’re rolling!  Suck it, Louisville!

Of course, he can also lose.  Losing is crippling.  He can’t face the light of day.  He won’t read the papers or watch TV, lest he be exposed to the terrible truth of his own failings.  Losing makes him a lesser person.  Unworthy.  Yet, he will tweet this:

U of L fans suck!  Chipstrapped losers!  Enjoy your one win, because we’re still BIG BLUE!! #UofLblows

The Demented Fan sees each game as a personal triumph or failure. It never dawns on him that he isn’t playing and has no stake in the outcome of games played by others who are not conscious of his existence.  Sadly, I’ve been there, too.  Why, oh, why, dear God, did they lose???  My cheering, my clothing, my very presence should have made the difference.  They did not.  I have failed.  Life sucks.


He rants.  He raves.  He yells obscenities.  He throws things.  He does all of these things just watching on TV.  I’ve been that guy, too:

  • Christian Laettner’s shot hits the bottom of the net to beat UK in the Regional Final.  In one seamless motion, I sweep a full ashtray into my hand and hurl it against the fireplace.  It shatters into a thousand pieces.  A stream of obscenities follow.  I can’t sleep for days. It takes 20 years for me to watch a replay of the shot.
  • Colt Jim O’Brien’s kick splits the uprights to beat the Cowboys in the Super Bowl.  I cry.
  • Remember Dwight Clark’s famous catch against the Dallas Cowboys?  The “Catch?”  I screamed and fell to my knees.
  • LSU beat UK on a Hail Mary pass with no time left.  I was watching the game at home and drinking.  I stepped outside, pick up a basketball and hit it with a baseball bat.  Not understanding the immutable laws of physics, I did not know that the bat would fly back, instead of the ball flying forward.  The back cracked me in the middle of the forehead.  I immediately went into a swoon and puked up about 2 gallons of beer.
  • North Carolina beats UK in the regional finals.  I am so deranged, I don’t know what to do.  First, I punch the door.  A steel door.  Bad move.  Then, for reasons I don’t understand, I tore my jeans in half–while wearing them.  You know how the Bible talks about people “tearing at their robes?”  That was me.
  • I once spit on the TV screen.  By “once” I mean innumerable times.
  • I have used every foul word and phrase in the English language watching games–even when my team is winning.
  • In a futile effort to protect our possessions, my wife bought me foam bricks to throw.  Not enough heft to them, but I did shred one.

Remember what I said above about fans acting like fools?  Burning couches and fistfights are for fools.  My actions were acts of passion.  Fortunately, I’ve outgrown this behavior–for the most part.  Now, my wife acts worse than I do.  At least I get to see what an annoying pain in the ass I was.


I really have nothing to say about this guy.  He is just one step above the contemptible Fair Weather Fan.  The Casual Fan only pretends to be a fan.  He never loses sleep or acts like a jackass over a game.  He doesn’t know the players’ birthdays or their hometowns.  He’s a fraud.  I’ve never been him, and I won’t be.

I have crawled from top to bottom of the Fan’s Tree of Life.  I’m now a passionate–yet mostly normal–fan.  I still get agitated and take it too seriously.  But, I tell myself that the sun will still come up tomorrow and life is good.  I even believe that sometimes.

So, what kind of fan are YOU?

© 2012

Confessions of a Baseball Dad

I loved baseball as a kid. Loved it. Loved watching it, listening to it on the radio, playing it, reading about it. Before there were girls, there was baseball.  After girls, there was still baseball.

I’ve been watching youth baseball since 1998 when my first son started playing t-ball. Two more sons followed. My middle son has continued to high school and Summer travel teams. I don’t know how many games I’ve seen, but it’s somewhere north of 1000. My youngest, 10 years old at this writing, is just getting cranked up in the baseball world.  This year alone–among high school, Little League, all-stars and American Legion–I’ll probably watch over 100 games.

Why do I write this? Because I’ve learned a few things. Some by watching others, some by my own stumbles. I’ve always thought the best way to learn is through the mistakes of others, but life isn’t always that tidy.

I played baseball but not particularly well. I was fast, but that’s about it. I also had a stubborn unwillingness to work hard or take instruction. Couple that with limited natural ability, and athletic success was not within my grasp.  One day I might have kids.  Boys even.  They would play. I did have boys, three of them.

Like a lot of first loves, my baseball love faded over time but never died out. I wanted my boys to play. I wanted them to be good. I wanted them to love it. Baseball rattles, tiny uniforms and little bats were the baby gear I favored.  I wanted my boys to play baseball–and any other sport they wanted to try.  Sports build character.  Teaches life lessons.  I found out that all that is true, but I’m the one who may have learned the most.

Three Teachers

My oldest son didn’t love baseball. He liked it.  When he played t-ball, he figured out that if you threw the ball from the outfield, play would stop. So, he’d picked the ball up and toss it maybe 3 feet. Dead ball! It was one of many early signs that he was smarter than we were.  But, he liked playing and seemed to have fun in his distinctive low-key style.

I knew early on that my oldest son wasn’t going to be a ballplayer forever. Now, I suppose the dramatic story would be that I struggled with this and it tortured me. It didn’t, but he taught me.  He was supposed to love it, because I did.  But, he didn’t.  Now, I don’t think he played in order to please me.  It’s just something he did, like going to school.

He taught me that my kids can find their own way without me mapping out their every step.  He found his interests without much help from me. No, it wasn’t baseball, although he played until he was 15.  I enjoyed it, and I think he did, too.  But the things he loved were different.  He could draw.  He loved to read. He taught himself to play the piano (I certainly was no help with that).  He loves math. Again, I’m pretty useless with that, too.  He taught me what my Dad told me long ago about my kids:  “Find out what they like and learn to like it, too.”

In his last season of baseball, my oldest was used mostly as a pinchrunner.  I didn’t like that one bit.  I suspect he didn’t, either.  He showed up to every practice, every game and rarely complained.  He pinch ran, stole bases and scored runs.  For the first time, I admired one of my children.  He showed up and did his job.

My second–and middle son–was different. He loved baseball. He made me throw him grounders when he was 3 years old until my arm ached. He made up a game called “cool scenes,” which required me to give him increasingly difficult plays to make. He wanted to be catcher–the BEST catcher. So, we worked on it. He put on full catcher’s gear and I would bounce baseballs to him. Oh, yeah, he kept his hands behind his back and stopped them with his body. And he was 6 years old. He became a helluva catcher,  starting as an 8 year old catching 12 year old Little Leaguers. When he was 12, he was a one man wrecking crew.

If throwing baseballs at a six year old sounds extreme, it is. It’s also extreme to tell a 5 year old before his games: “Remember: You’re the best there is. Prove it. Kick their butts!” I did that, too. He ate it up and believed it. He also played like it.  I was from the Marv Marinovich School of Parenting.

With me, there was a problem with this approach.  It’s hard to reign it in. If you do that before the game and after the game, it’s hard not to demand it during the game. That’s problematic. I would yell. I would rage. I would want to strangle coaches, parents and opposing players. In short order, I started to become Monster Dad.

You’ve seen this guy. He yells. He paces. His face is red. He barks instructions or criticism between each pitch. His kid’s success is his success. Failure is an indictment of his parenting and, indeed, worth as human being.

I will say one thing for Monster Dad: This approach can be quite effective. Sadly, it’s downside is the creation of Monster Kid. At least–to some extent–that’s what I got. My son would fume, throw things and curse. Or he would exalt in his accomplishments far beyond their real worth. In other words, he acted just like I did.  Of course, I attributed none of this to me.  It was just his personality.

So, I had this kid who played ball the way I always wanted to. Hit the snot out of the ball; strong arm; fast; played all out. He also preened at home plate after home runs; threw helmets; and punched walls. Hmmm. How do I get him to stop this?  What will people think of me?

Well, in my case, I had to stop my behavior first. And I did. I shut my mouth. I stopped blowing up every good game into the greatest event I ever witnessed. I stopped critiquing his every move.   Turns out that some of it was his personality, but a big part of it was mine.  I had to change before he did.  I’m now the dad you rarely hear at the games and never hear yelling AT his kid.  If he has behavior issues (which is rare now), his coach will handle it on the field.  My job is after the game–in the car or at home.  I’m not perfect, either.  He could tell you that.  I still have my flare ups, too, but all in all I keep my mouth shut.

What have I gotten in return? A kid who matured into a young man. He’s still too demanding of himself but goes about his business on the field. Oh, occasionally, I’ll hear a helmet placed down none-too-gently or hear him muttering expletives on his way back to the dugout. That’s okay. Striking out is not the same as getting a hit.  I’ve matured along with him, and we both enjoy the experience. The only time he’ll ever get criticized by me is if I see behavior that has no place on the field. Then, he’ll hear about it from me, but it will be between us.  He still wants to be the best and works hard to be just that.  He’s more intense than I’ve ever dreamed of being.  I admire that.

My youngest found his own way. He is almost 7 years younger than my middle one. He watched his brothers play. He started swinging anything that looked like a bat from the time he could stand up. Left handed, too. Sweet swinging. He’d throw anything that resembled a ball.

My youngest never met Monster Dad. I just let him play. He’s good, too. Same physical attributes as his brother but little of the attitude. He’s egocentric, but all decent ballplayers are. When he steps on the field, he believes he’s the best player.  He has fun, smiles a lot and rarely hears his Dad’s voice during games.  He has his moments.  We’ve had tears and tantrums, but very rarely.  He plays hard and always has fun.  I admire that, too.

I used to attribute these differences among my kids to their personalities–which are very different, by the way. That was until I took a look at my own actions. Each child reflects–to at least some extent–my attitude toward him. I learned something from each of them. I can’t take credit for their athletic ability, though I’d like to do so. My influence came through how I dealt with each of them.  While I was dealing with them, they were teaching me.

Teaching Moments

I’ve seen towering home runs and lock down pitching. Slick fielding and laser-like throws. I remember my 10 year old coming in to pitch against the best team in his league and striking out the side on 10 pitches.  And an 8 year old catching a cut off in the outfield, spinning and nailing a runner at the plate. There have been many, many others. These are easy.

Now, for the hard parts. Strikeouts, game-killing errors, injuries, pitching meltdowns and countless others. Hey, you gotta be there for those, too.  How about your kid dropping the F Bomb on his way to the dugout? That’s happened.   Ejected from a game?  Been there.  Benched for throwing a fit?  Yep.  We’ve learned to say: “Hey, that sucks, but it’s over. Time to move on.” No one enjoys these moments, but they happen.  Suck it up.

It took me awhile to figure out something and apply it to my kids.  I don’t like being yelled at.  Ever.  For any reason.  If you yell, I don’t listen.  I just want to yell back.  It’s no surprise that my kids are pretty much the same way.  Honestly, aren’t most people?  I see the parents who yell and rage at their kids.  If you do that, take a look at your kid after you do it.  You won’t see a look of affection, I’ll guarantee that.

The highs are never as high as I think they are nor are the lows that bad.  I learned that watching my kids play baseball.  A clutch hit is great, but it doesn’t cure cancer.  A critical error is bad, but we still have everything we had before.  Relax.  Enjoy.  It’s just a game.  So is life.

What Have I Learned?

Left on their own, kids will play ball and have fun. Do you learn anything else? Do sports really build character? Maybe. Oh, there are kids from such bad backgrounds that any type of structure probably helps, but there aren’t a lot of those. The older they get, the more they see that working hard and being good at what you do pay dividends.  There are certainly benefits to that, but the sports world is not the exclusive proving ground for those lessons.

Everything isn’t a matter of life and death.  My kids aren’t the center of the universe.    I go to games to watch my kids.  Other parents show up to watch theirs.  If my kid has a bad game, I’m no better or worse parent than I was when the game started.  Simply put, we’re not all that important. I’ve never seen a really good athlete who wasn’t a bit of a narcissist. Would a star player really be okay with going hitless just because his team won? Nope. It’s just not reality. Youth sports feeds this. People slap your kid on the back and tell him he’s great. You do, too. That’s why some of those bad moments are okay. A little ego deflation never hurts

So, my kids have learned a few things, but the real student has been me.  Most of my life, I have been relentlessly critical of myself.  In my mind, a good day was fluke, and bad day would last forever.  No matter well I did something, it could always have been better.  The world, it seemed to me, was focused on what I was doing.  One slip up, and failure was sure to follow.

Turns out that I was wrong about all that.  If you strikeout, you get to bat again.  If you lose, you can play again.  Preaching to my kids to let things go and play the next game has had a positive impact on me, if not them.  I can’t tell someone something over and over without applying it to myself. Bad days, like bad games, don’t last forever.  There’s a next day, just like there’s a next at bat–even a next pitch.

In my case being a parent has built my character.  Taught me discipline.  Taught me patience, understanding, even empathy.  While I was trying to teach my kids these valuable life lessons, I was the one learning.  They were clean slates.  They didn’t have a lifetime of bad habits and ego-centric behavior to deal with.  I did.

So, here it is–what I’ve learned:

  1. Play to your strengths and don’t let anyone else tell you what those strengths are.
  2. Whatever your role, go hard.
  3. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be the best if you follow the first two rules.
  4. While you’re following the first three rules, have fun.

If I do these everyday, they’re all good days.  Thanks, boys.  Well, I’m done.  I have to pack for a trip to Georgia–baseball tournament this weekend.

© 2012