Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Yo, He Bum Rushed The Show

"The meaning of all that, sone medi is the wack, As you believe it's true it blows me through the roof, Suckers, liars, get me a shovel, some writers I know are (darn) devils, for them I say, Don't Believe The Hype!" - Chuck D of Public Enemy

Mark Lemongello was my first. I was almost 7. It was a humid, August night in 1977 at Atlanta old Fulton County Stadium when I got to see, not only my first professional baseball game, but also my first next big thing. Lemongello was a rookie phenom for the Houston Astros playing my hometown Atlanta Braves.For 8 innings, Lemongello bedeviled Braves hitters and upped his record to 5-13. Braves and later Phillies pitcher Dick Ruthven took the loss. Lemongello would finish 9-14 that season, Do the same the next season, finish his career 22-38, then kidnap and rob his cousins and spend ten years on probation.

Last night at Turner Field in Atlanta some lucky almost seven year old got to see Stephen Strasburg. As mentioned in a previous blog, Strasburg is a rookie phenom with the Washington Nationals. He throws 100 mph, and spent less than a year in the minors, before being called to the majors on June 9. Last night was his fifth start. He had set a major league record with 45 strikeouts in in his first 4 starts, and brought a 1.72 era into Atlanta. I don't know what the almost seven year old kids thought, but watching on television made me envious. Strasburg has been advertised, written about, talked about, and media hyped as the next big thing. Former Braves pitcher and current Braves broadcaster John Smoltz even said Strasburg had the greatest curveball he had ever seen. Hope Smoltz watched last night, because Strasburg was good, but he didn't have much of a curveball. For the first three innings, Strasburg struggled. He gave up four hits, he got behind in counts, he left balls up, and he looked average. His stuff was impressive, he just never found command with it. Then from inning four to inning seven he looked every good as his hype. He struck out seven Braves. His 92 mph change up was unfair looking, His fastball crippled Braves hitters. He showed poise and patience; rare for a pitcher not yet 22 years of age. Then the seventh inning happened. His teammates couldn't field the ball cleanly. He gave up a couple of hits. There was bunt single. He left the game trailing 4-0.

What the almost seven year olds got to see last night that I did not 33 years ago, was the Braves' pitcher be awesome. Tim Hudson matched Strasburg, inning for inning. He threw more pitches, and didn't make hitters look dumb, but he pitched a gem of a game. He left after seven innings as well, the difference was, he picked up the win, 5-0. Strasburg took the loss.

This was my first impression of Strasburg. His stuff is amazing. He seems well beyond his years mentally. I think he'll be terrific as a big league pitcher, especially if the Nationals get better behind him. I don't think he'll kidnap anyone or be out of baseball after 22 wins. He is neither the greatest pitcher I have ever seen nor is he any baseball savior, but he is really good. I'm undecided on whether he should be in the All Star game, but I am quite envious of the little kids and adults who got to watch Strasburg and Hudson pitch so well.

Rarely do things live up to any hype, much less the hype being bestowed Strasburg. I watched, on tv, a really good baseball game. The Braves saw 21 thousand people buy tickets since early June when Strasburg was placed into the Washington Nationals rotation. Over 42 thousand attended last night's game. The crowd was electric. It sounded like a very special event, even on tv. I peaked over at the Baseball Almanac website. Six thousand people attended the game I went to. I guess Mark Lemongello impressed few people in 1977 other than me. I wonder what Rowland Office is up too?

Saturday, June 26, 2010


"The only true currency in this bankrupt world....is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." - Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the late great rock critic Lester Bangs in Almost Famous.

Most of you have already figured this out. I am uncool. Having a blog is probably the signal but my parenting is the dead giveaway. Two years ago I blended my family. I am now a dad to 3 girls, aged 14, almost 7 and almost 6. None of them think I'm cool. The ringleader is my 14 year old, known in this blog as Tay. She campaigns on the platform of my uncoolness. When I met her, a little over two years ago, we hit it off immediately. I could make her laugh easily. She hugged me a lot. We just got each other. I dare say, we were friends. As her mom and I became serious, it was Tay who first asked the question "so, mom, are you two going to get married?" Her mom and I had barely discussed that subject. Something happened and I don't think I was given a memo or even a text message about it happening. We stopped being friends and I started being her parent. I think it was right after her mom and I did marry, she turned 13 shortly after. Suddenly, she starting treating with the same disgust she had exclusively given her mother. I was told to knock before I entered a room she was occupying. Hugging her was not on any agenda, especially hers. Laughing at anything I did or said was not a possibilty and the eyeroll replaced the giggle. The cold hard truth is I should have seen it coming and ignored the reality. I had the same feeling when I met Tay as I did when her new sister, Bug, my six year old, whom I gave birth too years earlier. (I know, but I refuse to acknowlegde that Bug came from someone else other than me).

In the past three weeks, I have not even tried to achieve cool with Tay, or the rest of my kids. While in Florida on vacation, I complained about the skimpiness of her swimsuit. Even my wife told me to get over it. Then, I dictated the arrangements of a playdate with Tay and her friend who is a boy (I don't use the other word and I refuse to call themgetting together as anything other than a playdate), the cold stares and argument that ensued were far from pretty. Today, may have been the topper.

Tay asked to purchase the new Eminem CD, Recovery, released June 21st to rave reviews and huge sales figures. Several of her friends have the record. Her mom resisted. I did some research, knew my results would be F words, sexual references, and general anti-social lyrics and themes, and offically denied her Eminem aquisition. "But I know his songs already. They're not that bad. Other people have it. This is ridiculous. Whatever, Lame." was her reaction. She should have called me a pathetic old man and gotten it over with.

I thought I was cool. Look at my CD collection for crying out loud. I can quote cool things, people, I have six tattoos, a twitter account and ablog. Wait, I'm not helping my case. I'm a parent. At times, I'm a really good parent. Part of being one of those is knowing what limits to place on your children. Bedtimes, grade expectations, safety requirements, and certain entertainment restrictions are part of the dad manual. That manual is really uncool.

My parents won't remember this, but in 1984, I wanted to buy the Whitesnake album Slide It In. David Coverdale's Led Zepplin ripoff band, Whitesnake had catchy pop rock songs drenched in double entendres and usually had sexy videos featuring scantily clad women. I was starting to think all of those things were really awesome. While in our local Turtles record store, I picked up the cassette, asked my mom if I could get it with some money I had from a part time job, she took it from me, yelled at me for wanting to bring that trash into her house and said no loud enough for what I thought at the time, was every person I thought was my friend to hear. I thought my mom was not cool.

I don't think Tay listening to Eminem's album will turn her into a felon. I know she'll hear the stuff on the street. What I want her to understand is by limiting her access to profanity, sexual imagery and talk, and themes that she isn't mature enough to understand, I am helping her maintain some innocence while also not succumbing to what pop culture tells her is ok. Yeah, that is really uncool.

My teenager is a really good kid. For the most part, she's respectful, sweet, kind, and loving. She's so smart, it's scary. I am proud of her every day. For these reasons and because I happen to love her, I want her to be better than even the people she calls friends who may own the Eminem album. Since I like to act like this know it all music person, I want to go on the record as saying, I have listened to 4 songs off the Eminem album. It's his best work in 8 years. He'll probably sell millions, win some awards and become even bigger and better than he is already. He won't get any of my kid's innocence, in my house, on my watch, with his album. If that makes me lame, ridiculous, and uncool, then I might as well pull my pants up to my armpits, wear white socks with dress shoes, and hit the Golden Corral at 4:30pm tomorrow night for the all you can eat mashed potatoes. Actually, that sounds pretty cool.

Friday, June 25, 2010

I Feel Stupid and Contagious

Two hours of my life now belong to a crazy person. Monday Night I watched 120 minutes of VH1's Behind The Music on Courtney Love. Here's the rub, I can not stand the woman; yet I was transfixed the entire time. Love's notoriety is being the widow of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, who killed himself on April 8, 1994. Love later became a successful leader of her own band, Hole, and an award nominated actress for her role in The People Vs. Larry Flynt. Preceding that entertainment resume she was a teenage runaway, stripper, movie extra, musician in several failed bands, and a drug addict. Since her 1990s success, she went back into drugs and many high profile failed relationships. There was even a 1997 documentary accusing her of killing her late husband. To say Courtney Love is polarizing is like akin to saying The North Pole is cold. Watching the show, I realized that she was the anti-Bret Micheals (see previous blog). Artistically and culturally she has offered the world something to admire. Hole's albums Pretty on the Inside and Live Through This (realized 4 days after Kurt's death) are 90s touchstones of alternative rock. The glossy, riff heavy Celebrity Skin record she made with Hole in 1998, while not as critically judged, sold millions and establised her own musical legacy. Yet, Love may be one of the most irresponsible, unlikable humans I have ever witnessed. What she offers, personally, is complexity and a fascinating personality. Unlike Michaels, whom, I envision would make  afun BBQ companion and seems like a good father and solid dude; Love is a mess who I wouldn't want to spend more than a few minutes around.

I was and still am a Nirvana fan. I think Kurt Cobain was a talented, tortured soul who wrote tight, interesting songs that will be listened to for years. His insousiance with fame makes him even more intriguing. It's a shame that his heroin habit, and gross depression took awya the chance to understand him as a songwriter and artist. I had never heard Courtney's version of events surrounding their marriage and Kurt's death. While Behind The Music covered her difficult childhood and driven path to fame I couldn't connect with her at all. I did gain some respect for her in regards to what it must have been like to be hated and villified for being Krt's wife, widow, and caretaker to his belongings and his legacy. 

Tuesday morning I turned the ringer on my phone on, because I was driving my wife's car which currently has no air conditioning. I knew I wouldn't be able to see or hear the vibration. My friend Kraig, who I met the second day of my freshman year of college and talk to several times a week, called. I knew he had watched the Courtney Love Behind The Music, despite not being a fan of hers, Kurt's or Nirvana. Smells Like Teen Spirit began to play. The first sixteen seconds including that unforgettable riff echoed through the car. Like any good song, memories started to happen and while Kraig profanely ripped Love, VH1, Seattle, and everything associated with the subject, I started to realize what Cobain and Love had done to contribute to music and popular culture.

After Kurt's death, I grew quite cynical. I no longer looked at rockstars as people to idolize. I separated music from the person making it. It allowed for less anger and less disappointment. Kurt and Courtney did one thing well, they wrote about their angst, alienation, loneliness, drug madness, and random thoughts and composed very good songs. Everything else in their lives were adject faliures. Kurt said it in his note ":The worst crime I can think of is ripping people off by faking it..." Neither he nor Courtney possessed the ability to get over their stuff and tough it out through life, they saw it as fake.  Well, I can't sugar coat their lack of functionality and how that sucks for those around them who needed them and those those around them who wanted more for them.

This isn't the blog where conspiracy theories are bandied about. This is the blog where Smells Like Teen Spirit is enjoyed for the incredible riff, the brilliantly composed chorus and the non sequiters strew together as grunge poetry for the pissed off and left out. Part of growing up is learning how to compartmentalize. You can appreciate someone's art, and find the artist lacking. You can put things into context and not endorse anyone's way. In a weird, almost accidental way, us 1990s people, Generation X, if you must label, are much more learned than the 1960s people who actually think they changed the world. Today, in this age, we know that you change yourself, and how those around you respond, brings change in the world.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Only One Fish In The Brave Sea

"I don't get high, but sometimes I wish I did. That way, when I messed up in life, I would have an excuse. But, right now, there's no rehab for stupidity." - Chris Rock.

That is not the mission statement of this blog. It is not an invitation for my wife to tell everyone how dumb I am. It's a really good excuse to talk about something stupid that happened today in baseball. The Florida Marlins just hired the winningest manager in their short, weirdly successful, but losing franchise. The Marlins are an odd organization. They are 1305-1414 overall. They have never won a division championship, but the two times they made the postseason, 1997 and 2003, they won the World Series each time. Their pattern has been scout well, draft well, wait for those young players to develop into stars, and trade them for more young talent. Thus, consecutive winning seasons have happened just once, 2008-2009, The manager of those two teams was Fredi Gonzalez. He was also the manager for the 2010, until a few hours ago. With a record of 34-36, the team in 4th place in the National League East, 7 and a half games behind the Atlanta Braves. The Marlins just made another stupid decision. Four years ago, with the lowest payroll in major league baseball, the man Gonzalez replaced, Joe Girardi, led the Marlins to a surprising 78-84 record. Girardi was named the National League Manager of the Year by the Associated Press and The Sporting News. Girardi wona  World Series last season as the manager of the New York Yankees. Girardi was fired because he did not get along with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. This takes us back to Gonzalez. Gonzalez has been a loyal Marlin. He was the first minor league manager hired by the organization in 1991. He coached for the Marlins in their minor league system through 1998, then spent two years as a third base coach for them with the major league club. He moved over to the Atlanta Braves for a few seasons and eventually became the third base coach for the Braves. When Girardi was fired in 2006, Gonzalez was hired within hours. Again stuck with low payrolls and departing superstars, Gonzalez kept the Marlins competitive and had winning seasons in 2008 and 2009. Earlier this season Gonzalez made news across the sport for benching his All Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez for not hustling after a pop up. Ramirez was rewarded the previous season with a 70 million dollar contract, despite a reputation for being a prima donna. Ramirez lashed out at Gonzalez and his teammates for the benching. After a clubhouse mutiny, Ramirez apologized. His contract was engineered by Loria, the owner, over the objections of other Marlins management, who thought the money may be too much too soon for the temperamental star. The question now looms, was Gonzalez fired because he was at odds with his star player?

The Marlins are a rival team. I cheer for the Atlanta Braves, so for now, I prefer schadenfrude for Florida. What concerns me is the retirement of Bobby Cox. I offer Fredi Gonzalez as his replacement. If Gonzalez could win 80 plus games a year with a payroll half of the Braves' amount, what could he do with Jason Heyward, Martin Prado, Troy Glaus, Brian McCann, and another temperamental player, Yunel Escobar? We saw what happened when Florida disposed of The National League Manager of the Year for 2006, he won it all with the 200 million payroll of the Yankees. Gonzalez is a risk taking manager. His teams run. His teams bunt. His teams hit and run. They don't play good defense (the Marlins are atrocious in the field) and Gonzalez has a tendency to give up quickly on guys in slumps. He is excellent with the media and seems to get along with young players who can hit (like Heyward).

Frank Wren, if you're reading, call Fredi Gonzalez' house in Marietta, Georgia. His wife attends dozens of Braves games a year. Get him under contract for next season. he can even bring his fellow fired hitting coach Carlos Tosca with him if he wants. The Marlins are stupid. Don't be like the Marlins, Braves. You're smarter than that.

Like Chris Rock, I throw down the mike.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Dad's Blog

Anyone who tells you they have parenting figured out is a liar. I do believe parenting is like athletic ability, you either have it or you don't. That being said, what you do with it determines if you are good at being a parent. I became a father on August 3O, 2003. I was scared, dumb, and sure I would fail. Now, I am dad to 3 and I still feel scared and dumb, but I don't believe I will fail. The reason for my confidence is the man who raised me.

My dad is a funny, goofy, wise, interesting dude who tells bad jokes, rides a Harley, and keeps a low golf handicap. He teats my mom like a Queen, my wife like a Princess, and keeps his grandchildren thoroughly spoiled.

Foe 35 years I ignorantly did not appreciate my father. I thought I had my life figured out and whatever gains I made as a parent were on my own merit. Then, starting in late 2005, my life began to bottom out and my parents, especially my dad's, importance began crystal clear.

My dad taught me a lot. He taught me how to look people in the eye when I talk to them, how to throw a curveball, how to respect women, how to drive a stick, how to treasure your family, how to cheer for Mickey Mantle, Joe Namath, and my namesake Lance Alworth. My dad gave me a role model, someone to look up too, so that maybe my kids will have someone to admire when they stop being stupid.

I am turning into my father. I'm proud of this. The words that scold,lecture, comfort, bother, and love my kids come from him. Even the inflexion I use when delivering them are like my father. I am blessed. In a world where fathers are reduced in level if need because if their failures or because modern medicine can make that happen; I have the finest parenting model one man can imagine. I owe him more than a card.

Happy Father's Day, Bud. I love you.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Toys Are Back In Town

Like Andy Davis, the fictional owner of Woody the Cowboy, Buzz Lightyear and the other toys featured in the Toy Story movie franchise, I left home at at age 17 to go to college. Behind, were stacks of baseball cards, balls, and toys that I never even thought of again. That's the premise for the third Toy Story. Andy is given an edict from his mom; go through his toy box, either put stuff in the attic he wants to keep, box up stuff to go to college, or throw it away. The usual characters - Woody, Buzz, Hamm, Slinky Dog, Rex, Jess, Bullseye, Mr. and Mrs Potato Head, Barbie, Sarge and his army men fret their fate. Andy puts Woody in the college box, throws the rest in a garbage bag for the attic, gets distracted by his younger sister Molly, and his mom accidently throws the garbage bag to the curb for pick up. The adventure starts. Toy Story1 and 2 were about the process of growing up, moving on and love between friends. 3 is the same motif but even more deep with emotion and story. Lotso the Bear(voiced by Ned Beatty), Ken Doll (voiced by Micheal Keaton), and Big Baby are better villains than Toy Story 2's Pete. Tehre's some cute, pop culture referencing interplay between Ken and Barbie that adults will get. Most of all the movie is touching, not preachy and fun, not cheesy. Well done third chapter of a terrific film series.

I would be remiss if I didn't include the views of my five year old daughter, aka the Goose, and my six year old daughter, aka the Bug. It was Goose's first ever time in the theatre. Other than a bad experience with the popcorn taht left her with a rough afternoon, she loved the picture. Her quote: "the popcorn made me sick, I liked Jessie the cowgirl best, I would see it again." Bug was more effusive. She's a huge fan of the first two Toy Storys, Her review: "Woody and Buzz have never been better. Lotso and Ken are good villains. I can't wait to take mommy and Tay (her older sister) to see it again!"

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Second Weirdest Year Of My Life

Now I know why Elvis shot his television. Last night I could relate.

No; I know what you're thinking. Did Robert Goulet try to steal my girlfriend and sixteen years later I see him on tv and I took my drunken grudge out on my 25inch RCA by blowing a hole in it? I did not. First of all Robert Goulet is dead. Second, my wife is into members of the New Kids On The Block. As far as I know, none of them have contacted her. Yet, television made me bring back some weird, difficult memories last night. I seethed instead of shooting.

After the Braves beat the Rays 6-2, I flipped over to ESPN 2 and watched a riveting hour. The 30 for 30 Series debuted a new episode directed by Academy Award nominated documentarian Brett Morgen, called June 17th, 1994. While the show focused on one day in sports, news, and pop culture; it made me review my entire 1994 year.


The fourth year of the nineties saw me turn 24 in September. At the beginning of the year, I got a promotion from the job I was working; for editorial purposes let's say I worked for a retailer that looks like and rhymes with Tears. I drove 90 minutes to work every day, usually six days a week, and averaged about 12 hours a shift. It was hard, stressful, and ultimately fruitless. I was single the entire year, but because of my work schedule and my social circle all getting married or engaged I had neither time for a significant other nor the ability to find one. In April, the dude who changed the way I listened to music, Kurt Cobain, decided suicide was better than artistic Nirvana.

I did see attend the two greatest rock shows I can recall. In April, just before Kurt shoots himself, his rivals, Pearl Jam, shook the Fox Theatre to his foundation with an incredible concert, broadcast live over Atlanta radio. My ears are still ringing. In August I traveled to the Meadowlands in New Jersey to see The Rolling Stones' Vood Doo Lounge show. Mick and the boys were at the top of their game that night. I rode into New York City and saw a punk show at CBGBs for the first time. I stayed up all night in Times Square afterwards. I still haven't caught up on my sleep.

What brought on these memories was that ESPN show. Without the usual narrative; just highlights, news clips, live conversations, and coverage of the events of June 17, 1994; I was transported, mentally, to 16 years ago. I realized that day combined with the other happenings that year including Kurt's death, a baseball strike, and a white Bronco carrying a lost soul named O.J. changed me. I challenge that it changed all of us.

O.J.'s 35 mph police chase around the Los Angeles area opened a chasm in American culture. People lined the freeway, cheering for a likely double murderer and L.A. police, still reeling from the Rodney King beating 3 years earlier, and the riots following the aquittal of the beaters two years earlier; saw themselves portrayed as the Wil. E Coyote in the chasing of the O.J. roadrunner. Now, a former professional athlete, mediocre actor, and beloved celebrity pitchman drew the attention away from Arnold Palmer's Final Round ever at The U.S. Open, Ken Griffey Jr.'s baseball heroics (he hit his 30th home run on June 17th, the earliest that had ever been done), the opening game of the World Cup being held at Chicago's Soldier Field (Germany beat Bolivia 1-0), the New York Rangers celebrating their historic Stanley Cup with a parade down Broadway, and game five of the NBA playoffs between the New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets. The ESPN 30 for 30 showed the NBA Finals being split screened on NBC with the O.J. reality tv drama. The Real World people at MTV want to tell you they started this reality tv trend. They're wrong. It started that night in June. Almost 100 million people watched O.J. and his white Bronco being chaffeured by A.C. Cowlings. Court TV was created to follow the O.J. legal drama. CNN changed the way they covered stories. Los Angeles tv stations now show every single police chase, regardless of the people involved, because ratings show you are supposed to.

Personally, I never liked baseball as much as I did before August 12, 1994 when the game shut down. I never idolized another music person after Kurt killed himself. I measured musical acts to those two shows I saw in April and August and none have rated as high. I stopped chasing money as hard as I did with that job at "Tears". It wasn't worth the stress. I started looking too hard for someone to marry, and thus married the wrong person a few years later. I became more cynical, seeing people cheer O.J., seeing people so divided (misguidedly) over race, and I even became more angry about political issues, thus hurting relationships.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming Orenthal James Simpson, a white bronco, a shotgun blast in the Pacific Northwest, my 27 inch Phillips or that crappy job. I'm reflecting on a weird, stressful, odd time in my life that essentially killed some innocence and my need for any nostalgia. It all worked out many years later. That year was different than most. I guess I should thank tv. It made me realize how I got to the great place I'm at now.

Oh tv, let's never fight again.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My World Cup Is Half Full

I'll wait for you.. Go ahead and find the match. It's called a match not a game. The Ivory Coast (that's in Africa) is playing Portugal (that's the country next to Spain); they're starting the second half.

Ok, that noise that sounds like you are being attacked through your television or computer screen by a swarm of bees? That's thousands of people blowing into long horns called vuvuzelas. Yeah, it's annoying but you need to pay attention to the game, I mean match on the field; crap, I mean the pitch. They play on a pitch, not a field. Ok, the dude falling down like he's been shot with an elephant gun even though the other guy barely touched him? That's called flopping. Not flip flopping, that's a political thing. Flopping is like athletic acting. He's trying to get the official to call a penalty, crap, it's a card. Anyway, he's trying to draw a card so the other team will have to substitute and then open position on the field, pitch, sorry. Yeah, that clock constantly runs. Except in special situation, like an injury or something. Ok, they're running around passing the ball. When is someone going to score? Well, eventually. maybe not for the whole game. It's 0-0 right now. It could stay that way. This is the preliminary round. That's where 4 teams are grouped together, play each other and the best records move forward into the tournament. No, you don't have to win in the prelim round. You could actually reach the tournament due to points you accumulate through ties. So, some teams play safe in the prelim round to move on. You know, like Nascar drivers who accumulate top ten finishes to get to the Chase. Ok, why does the dude for Ivory Coast named Drogba have a cast on his arm and no one else? Well, he broke his forearm recently and he got medical clearance. As long as he doesn't use it as a weapon, on purpose or by accident. Weird, I know. Ok, you;re reading this and nothing has happened in the match. I know. It's like baseball where people stand around and then stuff happens. Except a clock moves and guys run a lot. Although it looks like they are running for no reason, they are positioning for a shot on goal. What's that? You haven't see a shot on goal. Well, in this World Cup the average shots on goal has been about 7 or 8. So you just have to be patient. Billions of people like soccer except it's called football in every country but the United States. I know. The United States football has big dudes in pads hitting each other and throwing touchdown passes. Soccer or this kind of football is about drama, anticipation, nationalism, and those darn vuvuzelas.

Ok, I've typed more than is actually happening in this game, crap, match with Portugal and The Ivory Coast. You don't have to watch. No one does. My daughter plays soccer. She loves it. I love that she loves it. A lot of these dudes are my height, 5'8", and they have abs, and they have names a lot of us can't pronounce. So, do me a favor. Watch something else. Just don't hate on me for watching Team USA and their terrific goalie Tim Howard try to shock the rest of the snooty football world. I won't hate on you in return.

Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaalllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll! Not really. They're still passing the ball.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Lesson of Bret Michaels

It's happening soon. I will become a man of a certain age. The age that rhymes with lordy and shorty. I haven't been handling the reality of my next birthday well. My wife and kids would say I havent been handling it at all. Then, a few days ago, while driving to the beach, that song by that guy, the one pictured above came on.

For years I hated Bret Michaels, his stupid, insipid, vaccous, glammed, marginally talented chick band Poison, and that God forsaken cheese filled power ballad Every Rose Has It's Thorn. Yeah, you know the song. Bret's on the road with his bunch of hair band superhero wannabes, he calls his stripper girlfriend, hears another dude's voice in the background, realizes he's been cheated on (like he didn't see that one coming) and pulls out an acoustic guitar and starts strumming "we both lie silently still in the dead of the night..." AHHHHH! No. I can't like this song. I can't like him. I can't even acknowledge that "instead of making love, we both; made our separate ways..."

That last paragraph was from me in my teens, my twenties, and even a portion of my thirties. They say the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference. Well since 1986 I haven't been anything but indifferent toward Bret. As I approach 40, I realize, that not only do I like Bret, but I relate to the man.

I know, I'm far from a rockstar. I'm a frustrated, wannabe rockstar, which is amusingly sad. I know music, but I don't play or write music. I critique, I don't make. I also do not have groupies, raunchy reality dating shows, bandanas, hair extensions, famous exes, and lots of money. How can I relate to the man from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania who may be the replacement for Simon Cowell on American Idol? Well, I stopped caring what other people thought of me, owned my past, and am trying to create my future by using who and what I am aided by those most important to me. Deep, huh? Well, a few years ago, I caught up with Bret, in a fan sense, I saw his interviews, read a lot about him, and watched his career. He wasn't the guy I swore he was.

The 90s and early 2000s weren't kind to Bret Michaels. A changing music scene ushered by Nirvana grabbed musical relevance away from his band, Poison. A chaotic personal life including a horrific motorcycle crash, mutilple high profile failed relationships, and a fued with his guitar player CC Deville that led to numerous lineup changes within Poison, along with financial issues caused by Bret's out of control rockstar lifestyle left Bret a cliche; the washed up misbegotten rock musician. Then he turned it all around. he got his band band together, took advantage of the nostalgia hair band music concert scene, and made a lot of money touring. His solo albums revealed a deeper, albeit mixed artistic output, music catalog that included country, soft rock, and blues that finally brought him some critical acclaim, which avoided Poison. Then Bret made a weird decision, that even those close to him say, they aren't sure was correct, he made his day to day life a soap opera we were welcomed to view. People decided, for the most part, they liked him and his life.

From my point of view, I decided, while a lot of Bret's music and reality show stuff I abhorred, I liked him. He was what he was, and he was cool with it. It took him 40 years to get to that point. Same with me. He seems to be a decent dad to two young daughters. I have three of those. He seems to like all forms of pop culture and isn't hamstrung by his hair band times; I've certainly changed my tune in those areas in the last few years as well. Most importantly, Bret presents himself as a dude of 47, who's really really cool with being 47.

I was in the car driving to the beach in Panama City. My wife flipped the radio from station to station. My teenaged daughter begged for hip hop or rap or something "from this decade". Then my wife stopped on that song. "Was it something I said or something I did, did my words not come out right...". I heard my teenager's voice in the back of the car, she was singing along with my wife and I. "Every Rose Has It's Thorn, every night has it's dawn. Just like every cowboy has his sad sad song..." Crap, Bret! You get me, my wife and my kid?! I realized being a sap may not be cool, but if it could bond me with my daughter, that was better than being a bitter music snob.

A lot of magazine articles are and will be written about Bret Micheals redemption, his comeback, his perseverance through recent medical troubles ; an appendectomy, a brain hemorrahge, and a hole in his heart. What those lazy writers are missing is, Bret isn't a lot different than a soon to be 40 year old communications manager who's been through divorce, death of family members, anxiety issues, and finding the love of his life two years ago. That's not redemption. That's living. Living honestly. Does any of this explain his surge in popularity despite not being a well respected, succesful musician any longer. Well, as Bret would say in Every Rose Has It's Thorn, "Yeah it does.."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Grace Of A Tiger

It was quiet inside my house last night. My wife, my youngest daughter, and the dogs were asleep. My oldest daughter was texting in the chair across from me. I had the television on but the sound was low. I surfed the web on my laptop between twitter and yahoo sports. "I'm going upstairs to take a shower", is all I remember my oldest saying as she went the stairs. My attention turned to the news that 28 year old Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was three outs away from baseball's 21st perfect game ever, 3rd this season, and 2nd in the last four days. I flipped the tv from the Stanley Cup playoffs to ESPN. As he got the first two Cleveland Indians out, I put down the laptop and moved to the edge of the couch, just as I had done four days earlier when the Phillies Roy Halladay acheived this rare feat. Jason Donald weakly ground to first base the throw goes to the pitcher covering, Donald is at least one full step away from the bag and the umpire, 23 year veteran Jim Joyce, motions SAFE. I reacted no differently than millions of others watching this play. The umpire is a jerk. How can you miss that? Poor Armando Galarraga will hate you and his life forever. Tweet, tweet, tweet; I started participating in the #JimJoycePointOfView comedy skit on twitter. After a while something happened.

video of the blown call: http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=8616789

I remembered my five year old was sleeping with her mom and I went to move her into her own bed. As she wrapped her arms and legs around me, her warmth reminded me of earlier today when I lectured her on being nicer to her grandmother and cousin. She had been over-tired and just had  abit of a bad day. Part of my speech then was "it's ok to have a bad day, but you have to take responsibility for what you do and apologize and do better the next time." I started to feel less angry for Galarraga, Joyce, baseball, and anything not associated with me or my family,

I went back to the computer and read tweets and news stories that Joyce and Galarraga had talked, hugged, and Joyce had apologized. Galarrage remarked "no one's perfect." How ironic. On a night his perfection was taken away by another man's imperfection, the offended, Galarraga, was able to have perspective and class.

This morning I read this article: http://joeposnanski.si.com/2010/06/02/the-lesson-of-jim-joyce/

Grace is so difficult to have, understand, achieve, and maintain. As a parent, husband, son, and friend; it's important I try to understand what it is and what it means to others if I do have grace. What's really cool is through two things I love; my daughter and sports, I understood it a little better.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Call Me Sir

Sword on your shoulder, royalty making you, a country in awe, then the alarm clock goes off. It's happened to me several times. Maybe it's because my name is Lance. Maybe it's because Sir Lancelot was one of King Arthur's Knights of the roundtable. Maybe because I grew up near and come from a family that largely went to, Central Gwinnett High School, whose mascot is the Black Knight; but I have always been intriqued by Knights and being Knighted. Today in England, Queen Elizabeth performed the Knighting ceremony on actor Patrick Stewart.

Stewart is a 69 year old British actor, best known for playing Captain Jean Luc Picard on Star Trek The Next Generation and Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men movies. he's a well respected and well-decorated stage actor, known for expertise in Shakespearean plays like Macbeth. He joins a long list of actors who have had the honor bestowed on them including Alec Guinness, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Micheal Caine, Anthony Hopkins and Sean Connery.

I am an American, thus not eligible for the Knights of Bachelor title and ceremony, yet I remain impressed and envious. I can't even get my kids to to call me sir. That's probably the main reason I want to have it done to me. Nonetheless, I have concluded that other than punk music, the one thing the English do better than us Americans is honorable ceremonies. Yeah, we induct people into Hall of Fames and give out Congressional Medal of Honors but outside of my Worl's Best Dad t-shirt my little ones gave me, which shrunk (my fault), somebody laying a sword on me and calling me Sir, that's the coolest.

I just wonder what a chainmail outfit would look like on me. Awesome, probably. Now boldy go to the gym and work on that gut Sir Lance! Yes, your highness.