Category Archives: Uncategorized

In Defense of Drunk Drivers

There is none.

Zero.

Unless you are the rarest of alcohol abusers, there are points in your day when you are sober. And it is in those moments that you make a CHOICE to either ignore the problem or go get help.

Far too often, alcoholics rarely choose the latter.

A week ago my wife’s cousin was hit head-on by another driver who was driving drunk, or operating a vehicle impaired for those that try and make it sound as unoffensive as possible. He had apparently drank the better portion of a six-pack, either during or after leaving his job at a bar. At the accident scene, one of his empty beer cans was found on the floor of the driver’s side of his car.

According to court documents, he admitted to the ambulance crew that he had been drinking, but later denied it to the Montana Highway Patrol Trooper who interrogated him. Thankfully, his bloodshot eyes and breath gave him away. The court ordered a blood a draw at the hospital he is in (he got ejected through the windshield) because the perpetrator refused to give a sample, knowing it would give him away.

And this will be his SECOND DUI. SECOND!

This scene is recent and close to home for me, but we all know it is played out repeatedly across the country on a daily, and possibly hourly, basis. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) a person is injured every TWO MINUTES by a drunk driver.

I’m not even sure that cigarettes were killing people that fast at their height of acceptance.

Please spare me the utter garbage that society forced this cruel fate on people. That’s ignorant, stupid and a sad attempt to divert responsibility away from the people who commit this dastardly act. They are individuals who make a CHOICE. A choice to have fun – and I still don’t get the “fun” is in drinking – and put other people lives at risk, including their own.

The penalties for drunk driving are not nearly harsh enough, especially in Montana. It seems like while the laws are there, they rarely get enforced. It’s a shame. A crying shame because sooner or later the idiots who allows the laws to slide will become a victim of them down the road.

In the accident described above, the county is charging the perpetrator with Criminal Endangerment, a felony which carries a maximum 10-year sentence, $50,000 fine, or both. I hope he gets the maximum on both ends, but its likely he’ll get yet another slap on the wrists and sent home when they should put him in a cell and melt the key into the lock.

Drinking is bad, but coupling it with driving can be lethal. It almost was last Tuesday night.

Advertisements

An Open Letter to the Electoral College

To the 538 members of the Electoral College of the United States of America,

It has been an unprecedented time in the history of our country, one that has seen many strange, wonderful and awful things happen. We are a nation divided, regardless of what some may tell us. We are divided by age, political affiliation and sexual orientation to name just a few. And sadly, we still have a significant division of race.

But in a time when such divisions exist and appear to be growing, it is my opinion that the last thing we need is an administration that apparently seeks to divide even further.

It is with that primary thought in mind that I ask you to consider taking an historic leap of courage and to not elect Donald President when you meet next week.

Hamilton QuoteWe are getting a daily glimpse into what his administration will be like. Donald Trump is a man who has sought to take the powerful governmental position on earth, and yet can’t make time for a daily intelligence briefing and who would rather spend tax payer dollars by commuting to work between New York and Washington D.C. He is a man who does not wish to fully commit to his role as the leader of the most powerful nation on earth, still wishing to retain his position as the executive producer of a second-rate television show.

His appointments are showing him to be a man who is regularly selecting people to head state agencies that have been thoroughly abusive and negligent of those same laws in the past. And for others, he has sought out people who hold racist beliefs and ideals that do not reflect those of the greater population of the United States.

Your vote is the last, best defense we have against the powers that would seek to only to drive a wedge further between us, dividing our nation so it is easier to control. That is not the America that I live in and it is certainly not the nation that our founding fathers envisioned.

In the days since this post was published, it is now clear that the election was significantly influenced by the Russian government and their success in hacking various computer systems. Is that really how we want our president chosen?

Today, I implore you to take a step the ideals that once made America great; To stand for truth, to stand with the immigrant and to stand those who struggle to make ends meet every day.

I realize that taking such a stand will not come without a cost. I know that if you take that stand that I am putting forth, that members of your own party will mock and shame you, not to mention your family and friends. Those forces will rage and threaten, and they will be wrong and shown to the world for the charlatans they truly are.

But America was not forged by men and women who sought the easier path. They counted the cost, they made the sacrifices and despite being called ‘traitor’ by those in the homeland, the withstood the storm and are now revered heroes of the United States of America.

Stand with the likes of Washington, Jefferson and Franklin; stand with Lincoln, Parks and King. When you cast your ballot on December 19, 2016, stand with America and more than 74 million of your fellow citizens who do not want the kind of leadership that Donald Trump seeks to offer.

Do the right thing, not the convenient one.

A Little Slight of Hand

We are nothing more than a fluttering piece of paper…

When I was in college I knew a guy named Dave who, prior to attending our school, had become one of the most renown young magicians in Canada. He once performed for a dinner/dance we had and did the old tear-the-newspaper-without-tearing-it and pour-the-milk-into-the-newspaper-cone routines. As he tore the paper up, a few pieces of paper fell to the floor. And has he reached for them, it was apparent that Dave was struggling. His trick wasn’t going as planned.

Or so it seemed.

Dave eventually pulled off the illusions to roaring applause. Later as he stood next to me in the sound booth, I leaned over and whispered, “Man I thought you going to die up there. When you dropped that paper I thought the whole thing was going to fall apart.”

He leaned back to me and said, “Tim, when you’re watching that paper falling, you’re not seeing what else I’m doing.” He gave me a wry smile and I knew that I and my classmates had been bamboozled!

When it comes to politics people, we are way to busy watching those pieces of paper.

It the last few days I have come to realize that there is, in my opinion, a better than average chance that the government may have invented social media. That Mark Zuckerberg may actually be the best weapon the Feds have ever had to control the masses.

How did I come to that solution? Follow me here…

The claim by those on either side of the party lines is that the government is trying to take something away from us. The political right would have you believe that we need to arm ourselves beyond measure to stave off the government when they come to take us away. The left, well they’d have you believe that Washington wants all women to die in dirty hospitals south of the border because they won’t fund Planned Parenthood.

Neither are true.

If the government really wanted you dead, they’d get you before you ever saw it coming. A drone or smart bomb would leave a gaping hole in the planet where you were sleeping. And if they really wanted to kill off women and their unborn babies, well there are a lot easier ways to go about it than through something so grossly obvious as abortion.

And there are literally hundreds of issues just like those two. Mass killings, taxes, emails, foreign policy, banking fraud …

The truth is all of these issues get batted around endlessly on social media and rarely, if ever, does anyone offer a solution much less find one. The government even keeps a healthy facade of having no interest in working with other so that whatever side we’ve chosen, that we blame the other.

And all the while, they merrily keep chugging along year after year, do the same thing over and over. The names and and places change, but the game always remains the same.

It’s a slight of hand that makes my buddy Dave’s milk trick, or anything ever conceived of by David Copperfield, pale in comparison.

See, by getting us, the general public, to focus our attention in the wrong place the government can pull all the shenanigans it wants. And what’s more, it does so right in front of our eyes.

While watching a show called “Brain Games” I found a remarkable gentleman named Apollo Robbins. You could call him a magician, illusionist or even a con man, but in the clip below he clearly explains what I believe the government is doing to us.

See, when we fight and bicker on sites like Facebook & Twitter, we are going at each other. We’re engaging our “Frank” as Apollo calls him with things that do not matter and that we cannot change.

We all do it. We whine, bitch, moan and complain. We call each other names and divide ourselves. We sap the very strength that made this nation great at its outset – Unity.

Consider these numbers:

  • There are 540 members in Congress (435 voting members in the House of Representatives, 100 members in the Senate, and 5 delegates)
  • There are 9 Supreme Court Justices
  • There is one President.

These 550 people decide how we live our lives on a national stage. Toss in maybe 1,500 more for state governors, lieutenant governors and various county reps and state supreme court judges and we have approximately 2,000 people running the whole show.

We get all excited and angry about the “1 percenters” or even the 1 percent of the 1 percenters”, but even they amount to more than 319,000 people out of 391.9 million people. And while their extreme wealth may grease the wheels, the 2,000 state and federal representatives still have to answer the call and make the decisions that shape our lives. They still have to take the bait. They are a mere %0.000625 of the population, and yet they are getting paid, both over and under the table, are free from any law they pass while getting free life-time health care and retirement. Personal body guards included.

For all of the bluster and bustle that goes on during campaign season of “I’m gonna do this” and “We’re gonna do that”, how much of it ever really gets done? Hell, how much of it ever gets started?

And all the while we sit at our terminals and on our smart phones and tablets, talking to friends that we have known for years, sometimes decades, calling them names, casting aspersions and frequently saying things that leave those relations irreparably damaged and changed.

We keep fighting over everything that they – the government – want us to see. All the while plucking our money, our dignity and lives out form under us, right in front of our noses.

Forget everything and focus on just one thing.

Forget the political differences.

Forget the racial differences.

Forget the religious differences.

Forget the sexual or lifestyle differences.

Forget your stance on on topics like guns, abortion and school immunizations.

Focus on just one thing – your government.

If they are not doing what you, a citizen of the United States wants done, then get up and vote them out. Or, in the unlikely circumstance that they are doing what you want, make sure you vote them back in.

Do not try to convince, coerce or influence anyone to do anything other than to vote their conscience and their values. Help them learn how to register. Drive them to the polls if you have to. But just let them make whatever decision they want to make as long as they vote.

And on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, stop trying to be right. I challenge you for a month to never respond to a socially or politically charged topic unless you have a well thought out solution to offer. Don’t challenge someone else and their solution, but rather ask questions like “How to you plan to fund that?” or “How will you implement that?”

The only other reason to respond is if the post they are making is factually wrong.

Do that and you might find that aside from weird cat GIFs and pictures of your family doing rather embarrassing stuff, social media might get awful quiet for those 30 days.

And if it does, that’s when you can almost bet some unexplained bombshell will drop because the last thing the boys and girls on Capitol Hill want are for you to start looking at them in earnest. They’ll be scared you’re starting to figure out their game. And that ever happens, they’ll likely have hell to pay … literally.

Quit being a lemming

When I was a kid I played a game called “Lemmings“. Simply put, you had a group of little beings that you had to get from Point A to Point B on each level, using the special functions of various Lemmings. But they all just followed each other wherever they could – good, bad or indifferent.

Lemmings-BoxScanThe point was, they couldn’t think for themselves. They were the living embodiment of the age-old parental question, “If all of your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?”

Look, whether you believe in God or not, I think we can all agree that we have been created with and given independent thought. We can look at data, analyze it and come to a conclusion, right?

If that’s true then only one question remains: How the hell did Mark Zuckerberg figure out how to unceremoniously remove that ability from our brains the second we get on Facebook? How is that we can interact at home and see the folly in things so clearly, yet when people get online they immediately believe, ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ anything that comes across their news feed?

Listen carefully to what Agent K says here…

Notice what he says about “a person” and “people”? It’s that mob mentality that just because a bunch of people are saying it, it must be true!

I hate to tell you this, but it just ain’t so.

Let’s start with the obvious, or at least what should be obvious: Facebook is not, nor has it ever been a news source.

Yes, some media outlets use Facebook to connect with its readership. They provide stories that appear in your feed, and while they may be a reliable news source it is always a good thing to check them out once in a while when you think something doesn’t sound quite right.

You must question everything!

This particular post is coming after the recent load of crap that the Pope said that the Bible and the Koran are the same thing. Folks, it’s a lie pure and simple.

I’m not a Catholic, but I’ve been around long enough to know when something like sounds fishy as all get out. But just because someone posts a graphic on Facebook and makes a claim, people naturally assume it must be true, or how could it be on Facebook?

Let’s state this again for those not paying attention or for the grossly ignorant: Facebook is not, nor has it ever been a news source.

So how do we know when something posted on the Internet that sounds fishy might not be true? How can we fact check a post or graphic so we know whether or not we should share something to our friends?

Here are three great sites for doing your due diligence and making sure what you share is the truth:

My personal favorite is Snopes, so when I have a question about something like the Pope’s supposed statement on the Bible and the Koran, I head over to the almighty Google and enter “Snopes Pope Bible Koran” in the search bar. Usually in the top two or three lines of the results I’ll find a link to the research that Snopes has done.

If you’re like me and find that someone has posted something untrue, then you quickly copy the link on Snopes in the URL box at the top of your browser and paste it into the ‘comment’ line of the post and hit return.

Willy Wonka lieAn optional snarky reply as to why such nonsense gets posted is completely up to you. Whether or not I include one usually depends on any statements supporting the stupid post or graphic to hopefully get people to rethink their position and get them to fact check their stuff in the future.

It’s your responsibility to get it right. And when someone does post something, regardless of how close you are to them, correct them. As Gallagher once said, “If you let stupid people go around doing stupid things, stupid people think it’s OK.”

NFL Wildcard Weekend Predictions

Saturday’s Games

Carolina Panthers (7-8-1) at Arizona Cardinals (11-5)

Arizona had a great thing going, that is until they were forced to start going through office rolodex files to find someone who could play quarterback. They have a mediocre passing game as a team (14th), but much of that was based on the previous starters. Mix that with the next to last rushing attack in the league and it means trouble.

Carolina has been surging as the season wound down, despite a losing record and Cam Newton’s auto accident. They are solid running the ball (7th) and New can explode for big yardage and scores at any moment.

While I like the Cardinals personally, this one goes to the Panthers 35-17.

 

Baltimore Ravens (10-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

These two almost always put on a good show if you’re up for hard-fought yards and a lot of action. But the last two matchups of these teams in 2014 have been lopsided, one going each way.

The Steelers really should be the favorite in this game, except that star running back Le’Veon Bell is not healthy. In fact, he may not be able to play. He had 1,361 yards and 8 TDs this season. Josh Harris has shown some potential, but he’ll have to shine if he is to give the Ravens something to distract them from focusing on Ben Rothlisberger. If Big Ben can stay standing, the Ravens will have issues.

The Ravens have a similar tandem in Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett. Flacco is really the question mark here. He had a great season when they played San Francisco in the Super Bowl, but otherwise is an above-average QB. Forsett has clearly come out from under the shadow of Ray Rice and his spousal abuse issues, amassing 1,266 yards and 8 TDs.

There’s a lot of give and take in this game, but in the end I think the Steelers will rise to the occasion and win the day. Pittsburgh 31, Baltimore 24.

 

Sunday’s Games

Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1_ at Indianapolis (11-5)

In their only matchup this season the Colts blanked the Bengals 27-0 October 19th. Seems that whenever an opposing QB gets over 290 yards passing in a game, Cincinnati loses. And if anyone can rack up yards quick, it’s the Colts Andrew Luck.

Luck had 4,761 yards and 40 TDs this season passing. He lit up the Bengals for 344 yds/2 TD in the win earlier this season. But what Luck provides in a passing game the Colts severely lack in a rushing attack. Trent Richardson and Boom Herron have given some great efforts, but they will need to step up big of Indianapolis is going to make it far in the postseason.

Cincinnati has an impressive arsenal of offensive weapons, managed by QB Andy Dalton. But for all of that, the Bengals are just not great defensively.

This figures to get into a shootout at best and I’m not sure that the Bengals have the firepower to keep pace. Indianapolis 35, Cincinnati 17.

 

Detroit Lions (11-5) at Dallas Cowboys (12-4)

Have you heard about them ‘Boys? If you haven’t, you clearly don’t know any fans of the Big Blue Star.

Dallas QB Tony Romo finally had the kind of year his supporters have been telling us he’d have. Regardless of the reason, he has been on fire most of the year, save the stint he had with injuries. And while he and Dez Bryant have been putting on an aerial show all season, the real jugger naught has been RB Demarco Murray. He crushed the league with 1,845 yards and 13 TDs this season and was over 100 yards in all but four games.

But that was again patsy defenses.

While Detroit has some good offensive weapons, make no mistake that they are where they are because of their defense. They allowed just 88 yds/gm this year on the ground and 251 yds/gm in the air, making them the No. 2 defense in the league. And while the Dallas offensive line now has a full year under its belt together, they will have to dig deep to give Romo time and Murray holes when they have the ball.

In perhaps the biggest irony of the Wild Card Weekend, Dallas won all eight of its road games this year only to earn the right to play at home where they went 4-4.

This game will be a test of wills, but if the Cowboys can must the same type of game they played against Seattle (Oct. 12, 2014), they have a shot. Dallas 24, Detroit 21.

50 shades of gray Allen, days 16-17

So as I’ve moved into my high school years, it seems I’ve fallen off the actual year cycle and into the academic calendar. So be it for the entry.

1978-79

Cey Scores ToppsAs this year began, I got the biggest surprise of my young athletic life. I won tickets to see the Phillies play the Dodgers in the 1978 National League Championship Series, game 4 at Dodger Stadium.

It had been a mail-in contest, with one entry per person. So I sent in 30 with the same address and different name. There were my parents, Ed & Cathy, and my brothers and sisters. And there was Bill, Frank and Steve that I made up just to name a few. But when the award letter came back it was in MY name.

We had won then right to buy two $3 tickets for $16.50 each. They were at the top of the right-field bleachers, looking right into the sun as the day game made its way into the late afternoon. But hey, we were there and that’s all that mattered.

And when the game came down to the final at bat, we watched as Bill Russell slapped a single to center that the Phillies’ Gary Maadux couldn’t field and allowed Ron Cey to score from second. It was epic and my dad and I were there!

My freshman year, however, was just odd.

I was still terrified of girls, but that was about the furthest thing from my mind.

Well, I’m a guy. So while it wasn’t the furthest thing from my mind, I wasn’t really concentrating on them at this point.

No, it was all about survival. It was about avoiding the likes of John Condos, the older guy who lived down the block from me. He seemed intent on having me push pennies around the rim of a toilet seat or something, and that just wasn’t gonna happen.

Because aside from John, everyone else seemed to think I was a junior or senior. I was a big kid at that age, big enough that more than a few friends hung out with me just to avoid the typical hazing the underclassmen got. Little did they know I’d avoided all manner of confrontation to that point in life, only having two fights through age 15. And both had ended badly for the other guy.

This year’s first memory was my friend James King and some of his other friends getting a little trouble with the law. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say that as smart as that group was they acted pretty dumb. The only major problem for me that arose from it was that since I was close friends with James, the campus cops decided I must know something about what was going on. And so for a few weeks they religiously followed me into the gym at lunch time to watch me play basketball, I can only assume they thought some ill-gotten booty would be exchanged from James’ foray to the dark side of the law.

After about a month I had had enough of feeling like a criminal when I was likely socially sanitary than Mr. Clean. My mom drug me into the principal’s office to meet with Mr. McGrath, where she explained that I had better be left alone or there would be hell to pay. Mom was not a master negotiator, she believed in good ol’ blunt force diplomacy.

This was the year that former Beatle John Lennon was killed outside his apartment in New York. I was OK with their music from the 70s and all that, but it wasn’t like they were the end-all-be-all of the world. They were guys, in a band and the sang well. That was it. But when he was shot, you’d have thought the world was coming to an end.

Being much more of a football fan than a Beatles fan, I was a little put off when they interrupted Monday Night Football to announce Lennon’s death. It lasted only a few seconds, with the Patriots and Dolphins not missing a beat on the field. But when asked about it by some staff member of the Burros Blockbuster school newspaper, I gave what I thought was a pithy response with, “I’m sorry he’s dead, but I just don’t think they needed to interrupt Monday Night Football to report it.”

Looking back now, not a great response. But the ire it drew from the school paper’s adviser was a little over the top. She wrote a commentary and cited me as being “… apathetic vermin …”, and that’s where she crossed the line.

The next day Mom and I were back in McGrath’s office. She had been a little perturbed after the campus cop thing, but she was in full-on attack mode now. Had his desk not been so big, I’m sure she would have gnawed his leg off.

McGrath pulled in the teacher, who’s name escapes me now and instructed her to apologize for the commentary and that she had to write a full retraction in the next issue of the school paper. At first she refused. But when McGrath indicated that he already had her termination papers in hand if she failed to comply, she relented and fell in line.

All this time I’m in freshman Geography, being taught by the offbeat teacher named Frank Mazer. Mazer was unlike any other teacher I ever had. He had this strange sense of humor (still does, by the way) and unlike other teachers, he seemed to

Frank Mazer

Frank Mazer

really care deeply if you got the material. He didn’t just want you to learn it, he wanted you to genuinely get it.

As basketball season rolled around, I found out that he was the freshman coach. I went through tryouts and ended up as one of the 15 young men to make the squad. I wasn’t a front line player, but I hustled my way into significant playing time. I dove for so many balls that Mazer would later nickname me the Human Bruise.

That moniker didn’t stick, but another one did – Magic Gut.

There has always been a lot discussion and interest into how this name came to be, and why I even let it exist as it seems derogatory in nature. But trust me, when considered against the other names I was getting called, it was clearly the best of the bunch.

One day while playing basketball at lunch (long after the campus cops had stopped being my lunch-time “fan club”) we were in there playing hard and having a great time. On this particular day, we were all acting as our own play-by-play announcers, ‘broadcasting’ our maneuvers and trick shots as we executed them. It was kind of dumb. But hey, we were freshmen!

It was in the Spring and the NCAA Tournament had just ended, with Michigan State having defeated Indiana State for the title. One player emerged from that game on a media rocket ride, and his name was Ervin “Magic” Johnson.

So as I took the ball at the top of the key, I decided to drive to the hoop and began by ‘broadcast’…

“Magic fakes left, dribbles right, spins to the hoop and scores! Magic Johnson rolls it in!”

It was at that moment that Greg Markarian, chimed in with, “More like Magic Gut!”

Everyone laughed, but it wasn’t at me. And that made all the difference.

A few years later I did the same thing to Rob White. But we’ll save that story for a few chapters down the road.

That summer, while playing in my final year of Senior League, I had my first and only multiple home run year. I hit one of Jimmy Lawler and one off Paul Bergens. Those feats of strength jump-started a great season in which I struck out 30 times in 18 games.

Yeah, the pros were sure to be impressed.

1979-1980

My sophomore year was a little less strained. I knew my place with women and it was either as the “coveted” big brother or as the undatebale material guy. Either way, i was OK with it, so let’s move on!

When basketball season rolled around we had tryouts and there were a ton of guys going out. We all hustled our butts off for two weeks to impress coach Al Sedios and then gathered in the locker room after the final session to find out who had made it and who was going home. Sedios started slowly reading a list of the 15 names of the guys who made the team, and when he stopped reading mine had not been called.

This was really the first of a series of moments in my life where I really thought I knew what was going to happen, but this time it didn’t. As we left the training room and headed to our lockers, some of the guys tried to console me. It did little good. There were guys on that team I knew I was better than and all my mind could was race in a feeble attempt to ascertain why they got picked and I did not.

I went home, flopped into bed and cried.

Thundarr-the-Barbarian-image-1The next morning I sat in front of a TV watching Saturday morning cartoons. I had found a six-pack of 7-Up in the garage and was drinking them as I watched the likes of “Thundarr the Barbarian” on the screen. I’d polish off a can, crush it and rifle it into the fireplace. My mom would walk through the room occasionally, looking me over and just letting me sit. She new I was ticked and I think even she was a bit miffed.

Then the phone rang.

“Tim, its for you,” she called from the living room. “Its Steve Fry.”

“What does he want?” I scowled.

“I don’t know, just come and take it.”

I did and said hello.

“Hey Tim, its Steve. I was just wondering why you weren’t at practice today?”

I had been in a bad mood that morning, that put me in overdrive in a heart beat. “Real funny Steve. How about we meet somewhere and I kick your ass?”

I’m guessing that Sedios must have heard that through the earpiece on the other end, listening to Steve’s call as he made it from the Burroughs coaches office. I heard the rustle of a phone being given to someone else and then he came on the line.

“Tim, this is coach Sedios and I think there’s been a misunderstanding,” said Sedios.

He went on to explain that when he was reading the names the night before he must have skipped over mine, telling me he was as nervous to read the names as we were to hear them. Of course, none of us were counting names, we were just listening for our own.

BHS GymHe related how when the team’s practice had come to an end that morning that the guys were all on the line and he only counted 14. “Where’s Allen?” he asked, to which Fry had responded, “You cut him last night.”

Oh to have been a fly on the wall of the gym that day.

When I coached years later, that one experience proved more valuable than just about any other athletically. It gave me the perspective of being cut when I had never been cut before. And it allowed me to show compassion to those I was having to let go from the team.

At the end of that year we played a game in Palmdale that I will never for get. It was a very intense game and right before the final buzzer a huge fight broke out. The benches cleared and when the melee was cleared, the refs were ready to call the game a double forfeit because neither team had any players left.

It was then that Mazer, having been sitting with Sedios on the bench, pointed over to where our team had been sitting. And still seated was myself, the pacifist. I thought the reason they were fighting was stupid, so I just sat there and watched the whole thing. And when the refs confirmed that I hadn’t moved, we got the win.

I got my first job sometime this year as well, working for Mr. Dye at Compard Computer Center. We sold these things called Apples and they were just cool. Mr. Dye’s task for me was to learn how to play all of the games that were available for them. Yeah, play games. All afternoon. And get PAID for it. Life was good!

As time passed I got into repairing them as well. One day a guy brought in a machine that was in a wood case, not too much unlike the one see at the right. When I went to fix it it had a serial number of a bunch of zeroes and something like 48 at the end. We logged it, repaired it and sent it on its way. Knowing what we know now, I’d have kept it and gave him a new one. That thing had probably come right our of Steve Wosniak’s garage and today would be worth a ton.

Burroughs baseball came and went, with nothing substantial in the mix. And summer was now void of much of the action I had seen previously because I was too old for Little League. So it was work and summer school so I could finish up Driver’s Ed and get my license.

Next time, I become and upper classman!

50 shades of gray Allen, Days 14-15

Ahhh…

Junior High. That time in life when the acne you’ve managed to ignore for the previous several years becomes the defining aspect of your entire being.

I’ve now reached age 13 in my quest to recount the past 50 years of my life as I head toward my birthday later this month. And these next six years were clearly the most formative of my life.

1977

After completing sixth grade and leaving the likes of Mrs. Oretga, Mrs. Urseth and Mr. Oshel behind, I entered into a realm where classes changed every hour and the struggle to figure who we were was cloaked in everything we did.

Welcome to James Monroe Junior High School.

I was a little overwhelmed that seventh grade year. As someone who was very into sports, I didn’t play anything for the school that first year. In all honesty, I just didn’t think I had anything to offer. I played baseball when the spring rolled around, and at the time, that was all that mattered.

Four FoursIt was during that first year that I met James King. James lived in the outer reaches of Inyokern and spent something like 20-30 minutes one way on the bus to school each day. And while his athletic career never existed because of that commute, he was an extremely talented brainiac. When we got to eighth grade, Mr. Maxwell had a contest to see who could figure out how to get all of the numbers 1-100 using only four fours in a variety of equations. James won that contest and then took it to the extreme, figuring out how to make every number up to like 100,000 or something. No contest. No prize. Just did it because he could.

Yeah, made my head hurt too.

Becoming James’ friend was really the first time I realized that I possessed the strange ability to converse with both geeks and jocks. Kind of like an interpreter, but for two groups that rarely take to each other or have need to do so. Its proven to be a semi-useful skill as the years have gone by. Too bad Syrians and Jews aren’t jocks and geeks.

When baseball season rolled around it was a grand season, capped by my making the 3-year-old All-Star team. We only had on e tournament to play in Tehachapi, but oh what a weekend that turned out to be.

Tehachapi BaseballWhen we got to the field for our first game, my dad noticed that the umpired were climbing out of this unusual van. As my parents explained later, the umpires were convicts from Tehachapi Prison, a facility for mostly drug dealers and users and one my brother had the unfortunate experience of spending extended amounts of time in . But they were on work release and the tourney directors assured us they would be fine, and they were far better than promised.

The plate umpire was a long, lanky site of a man named Slim Johnson. For him to have to squat down so that he could accurately call balls and strikes seemed like more punishment than anyone in that facility deserved, especially for multiple games. But Slim was so enthusiastic about his job that he made every call seem like a cheer. And when someone was called out on strikes to end a frame, he exploded from behind the plate in his own mini one-man show. He was awesome!

When we got to the final game, the opposition was especially rowdy. With Slim and his partner unfortunately on their way back to the prison, the games officials were less than stellar. The calls seemed pretty one-sided and when the other team got rude, they did nothing.

And that’s when things went a little south.

One of our top pitchers that year was Doug Sullivan. Doug was a strapping left-hander that threw hard, and I mean hard. But he also a bit of a chip on his shoulder, and somehow the other team sensed that. At one point while on the mound, the opposition were really riding Doug and it finally got to him. When the other team’s coach made some derogatory comment with a man on first, Doug made a perfect pick-off throw – right at the coach’s face! Fortunately said coach was behind the dugout storm fencing.

When the game ended, Doug had reached his boiling point. I saw him moving toward the exit to our dugout at full steam and I got in his way to try and stop him. He pushed hard enough to get us both onto the field when I noticed Doug’s mom at the fence, grasping it frantically.

“Don’t let him go, Tim!” she implored. “Do not let him go!”

At that point I had lowered my head into Doug’s chest, trying to hold him back like some linemen hit a tackling dummy. I wrapped my arms around him and kept him from moving long enough for a coach and some other guys to help me out. It wasn’t until later that my mom informed me that while I was holding Doug in place, he had a baseball in each hand and was evidently heading to the first-base dugout to exact a little ‘Walking Tall’ justice on the opposition.

Good times.

1978

So my first foray into school athletics began. It all started with soccer and my having to convince Fred Parker and Jack Clark that I should be our team’s goalie. They really thought I should be a full back and had chosen Jeff Nelson to be in the net. He didn’t want to be there and so one day I convinced him to not show up for a game. He bailed, I got into goal and never left.

And with the whiz kid Frank Ortiz acting as a one-man offensive machine, we managed to work our way to the top of the standings before losing to Murray in the finals.

When basketball season rolled around I made Clark’s Heavyweight Basketball Team. When you look at the team picture for that year, I’m the tallest guy in the program. And that included Scott Fulton. I was a starter and given the honor of performing the tip-off for each half of every game. I won e very single tip except against Antonio Dobbins of, guess who … Murray.

Shot PutIn the spring we had track and field, and due to my birthday falling in a weird place I was placed in the 12-13 age bracket instead of the 14-15 one. That meant that my 6-1, 150-pound frame was going up against kids half my size. I ran the 4×100 relay a few times to help out the team, but specialty was the shot put and discus. I set school records in both of those events that may still stand to this day. I mean, throwing a 10-pound shot was like tossing a softball.

I attended my first dance and never left the bingo table. How could I have known then I’d be a Southern Baptist five years later?

And now I must come clean on something, and I will be sending Keith Haywood a message regarding this after I post this. I won a wrestling tournament at Monroe for the heaviest weigh division when Keith was unable to find shoes to wear on the mat. He asked another student if he could borrow his shoes for the match, but I begged the guy not to give them to him because I was afraid Keith would crush me.

It was small. It was petty. And Keith deserved better, a lot better. Sorry Keith.

Parker, Clark and Don Crouse. All three of these men had a major influence on me, but maybe none more so than Clark. He taught me that math could be fun and that organization and creativity were keys to being successful. When he and Parker gave me the Coach’s Award at the end of the school year, it laid a foundation for the work ethic I’ve had the rest of my life. The words of the plaque stated that it was “Given for outstanding Desire, Attitude and Hustle.”

Next time I head into high school. Now it starts to get really groovy.

 

50 shades of gray Allen, Days 10-13

And the beat goes on …

So here we are in my ninth year of life in 1973. I know this is Day 10, but that’s what ya get when you’re born early a in a year.

1973

Third grade was pretty uneventful, as a whole. Mrs. Lovett was my teacher and all I really remember about her was a lot of grumpiness.

But this was the year that my dad began coaching my baseball teams. We were the twins and we had quite the rogues gallery. I could be mistaken, but I think this was the year that I met Greg Bond. Even if I’m wrong, we’re going with it because now I’m thinking of him.

elephant-donkey-boxingGreg and I have had a unique friendship over the years, running into each other now and again. Of late we have re-connected via Facebook and he is one of the few people that I can have a legitimately in-depth political discussion with where I know that he will (A) make coherent arguments and support them, (B) won’t drop to name calling if things aren’t necessarily going his way, and (C) isn’t so died in his party’s dogma that he can’t see the other side.

Rare qualities in today’s faceless Facebook climate.

I also met Jay Young this year. Jay gave me my first instance of being knocked unconscious, which has happened twice in my life. I can clearly remember me playing second base and Jay being at third during a practice session. Our assistant coach, Mr. Brown, was hitting ground balls and sent one up the middle. Jay and I went for it and collided, with Jay’s knee going right into my stomach. I lost my wind, evidently blanked out and awoke to the team circled around me while Coach Brown pumped my right leg like and old-fashioned water spigot.

I guess that was ‘high tech’ emergency medicine back in the early 70s. Good thing John Gage and Roy Desoto came along soon thereafter to set us straight.

1974

This was the year that I can honestly say that I really, really started following baseball. Thanks to my friendship with Jeff Johnson, I was quickly becoming a Dodger fan. And it was that year that I can really remember watching not just who the Dodgers played and how they did, but really paying attention to what they did. I watched how Steve Garvey hit, how Don Sutton pitched and how Davey Lopes turned a double play at second.

And I watched that World Series against Oakland where the Dodgers just didn’t have the guns to take down the A’s.

But no matter what else happened, that great catch and throw out by substitute outfielder Joe Ferguson. He was in right when Reggie Jackson hit a fly ball to right-center with Sal Bando on third. Jimmy Wynn was in center, but had a sore arm. Ferguson ran in front of Wynn, caught the ball and rifled it home to catcher Steve Yeager who applied the tag.

The Dodgers lost that series, but stole my heart.

4th Grade Cortichiato1974 was also the year when I met the first of some awesome teachers in my life. In fourth grade it was Mrs. Cortichiato. Mrs. Cortichiato was just incredible in how she taught us stuff. But her greatest gift to me was reading. I like to read today, but she read to us in such an imaginary, enthusiastic and creative way that you could almost see what she was saying. We spent about an hour or so each day as she read from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, crouching down while singing the Oompa Loomps chants and using a variety of vocal inflections to impart every mood of each character.

Years later as Sports Editor at The Daily Independent, I was covering a Burroughs volleyball game when I noticed a Cortichiato on the roster. It was her daughter and I felt oh so old.

It was also this year that my mom took me to Mrs. Merrick to learn to play guitar. We showed for the first lesson and she started instructing me on how to finger the chords on the neck. When I told her it hurt, she informed me that it wouldn’t after awhile as I would form calluses later. Dismayed, when we left I told my mom I wouldn’t be going back as I couldn’t lose the touch on my fingertips for baseball.

Even on my non-throwing hand.

Yeah, I was a dork.

1975

This was my first year in what Ridgecrest Little League called ‘AAA’. It was backward of what the big leagues did, but we didn’t care.

My dad and Mr. Cope took over the Senators. We were an OK team, but were very young. I had to big moments that year, the first coming at the hands of the league’s most feared pitcher – Roman Revels.

Roman was lanky, a year older and much taller than every other kid in the league. In the short 45-foot pitching distance, his stride seemed to put him within a few feet of the plate when he’d pitch. It was downright scary.

But one night as his Indians faced my Senators, I came to the plate determined to get a hit off him.

As I stood in, he gave me his typically scarey stare. I’m pretty sure he had pitches beyond a fastball, but I doubt he was about to ever waste them on me. I believe it was the second or third pitch when I connected with one, check-swinging the bat and never completing the cut. But the ball took off like a rocket and found its way over the 7-Up sign in left-center. I rounded the bases bases at full speed, not really sure what was happening. By the time I got to the plate, my team was all there like we had won the title.

BaseballLater that year I had another memorable encounter, this time in the field. We were playing the Indians again and I was at third base. Guess my dad figured I was a power hitter now, and back then those guys didn’t play second base.

There was a man on third when a screaming grounder headed my way. The runner broke for home and I rocketed it to Mark Cope at home plate. The runner turned to retreat to third and Mark whipped the ball back, arriving at the same time as the runner. I remember him being bigger than me and lowering his shoulder as he tried to get to the bag. We collided a few feet in front of third and I went down like a sack of potatoes. It stunned me and when I looked up I saw two things – my mom hovering over me, having somehow gotten onto the field faster than the Flash, and the ball still cradled in my glove.

Later that summer I remember the epic World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox. It was a classic, what with George Foster’s laser to the plate after catching a foul ball and Carlton Fisk’s Game 6 homer.

Even though I was Dodger fan, I grew a greater appreciation for the Reds and their manager Sparky Anderson that year.

1976

As far as baseball went, this was one of those incredible years. And not all of it was on the field.

When Spring came my dad and Mr. Cope were back at the helm, this time with my dad as the assistant. When they had tryouts, they called me in to help evaluate the talent and they really listened to what I had to say.

During that session my mom decided to try out this new-fangled thing we had just bought called a microwave. She decided to make brownies in it, putting them on the table in the dining room that had been turned into the Senators’ Draft Central. Being a kid I quickly downed several of them as we looked over players, barely chewing enough to taste them. Brownies in 10 minutes? Are you freaking kidding?!?!

My dad and Mr. Cope got around to trying them about an hour later. When they tried to pick one up they were as hard as rocks. I silently wondered what might be happening tome internally.

We went 17-1 that year, running through our league schedule like water through a sieve. The only loss came at the hands of team where the opposing coach’s older son was umpiring the bases. Needless to say that there were several calls that were highly “questionable”.

In the City Championship Game that pitted Ridgecrest’s best team, us, versus China Lake’s best team, it was a classic. David Wooten was their ace pitcher and we sent Jay Perry to the mound. The game was scoreless until the sixth, when I think they scored four runs. We answered with four in the bottom of the frame to extend the game. I believe they scored once in the eighth (which we answered) and they won it in the ninth with another tally. It was a classic game and still the best baseball tilt I’ve ever been part of.

I made my first All-Star team that year and we played in Bishop. We didn’t do as well as we thought we should have, but it was still like taking that next step.

Later that summer the Jersey Maid Milk Company ran a baseball trivia contest on its cartons, with the winner getting tickets, airfare and everything else to the World Series. I enlisted my mom to help me research the answers, and so off to the library we went. We came home with about a dozen books and dug in.

As we turned page after page, I noticed that my mom was looking at one book rather intently. She had stopped skimming and was reading some story she found. And when she turned the page, she broke into a small stream of tears that steadily grew.

“What wrong mom?” I asked.

“I … I know him,” she replied.

I walked over to look at the book, a large picture of some old guy on the right-hand page. He had a nice smile, but I didn’t know him.

“His name is Jack, Jack Rothrock,” she siad as she sniffed. “I lived with him and his wife when I ran away from home as a kid.”

“Wait! You know someone who won a World Series? I sarcastically queried. “Come on!”

“I did. I really did.” she said.

I left it at that and went back to my own research. But as that summer drug on, she was relentless in researching this guy and where he might be. And one day, she found him living just a few hours away in San Bernardino.

We drove down and found his home, a small trailer in some park. She knocked on the door and it slid open. Tears were shed as they hugged on each other. Finally my mom introduced me to Jack and his wife, Ardith. We shook hands and Ardith offered to let me sit in their living room to watch Saturday morning cartoons as they reminisced.

Jack Rothrock

Jack Rothrock

About an hour or so later Jack limped out of the kitchen, his replaced hip giving him some trouble.

“Your mom says you like baseball,” he said in a gravelly voice. “That true?”

I said yes and he asked me to follow him. He stopped at the first bedroom in the small trailer, opening the door and clicking on the light.

The smell of infield dirt poured out of the room as I walked in, seeing boxes of various things covering the floor. There was a mit in one and many had newspapers and clippings. As I looked around the room I saw a team picture unlike anything we had ever taken in Little League. Each player had his own image and at the top is said “St. Louis Cardinals, 1934 World Series Champions.”

I looked at Jack and he smiled, then pointed toward one side of the image. “That’s me right there. You know any of these guys?”

“Yeah,” I said in wonderment. “That’s Dizzy Dean, and that’s Rip Collins and that’s Frankie Frisch!”

“That’s pretty good,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not even sure I know them all anymore.”

We must have been in that room for an hour looking at papers, gloves and anything else he wanted to show me. In a subsequent visit he confided in me that his kids didn’t really care about his career and that it was nice to get to share it with someone who cared. He had made a decision that he wanted me to have his World Series ring in his will, but he died before he could get it changed. His kids then suddenly cared, as they came in and sold it all off. It was truly sad.

Jack always seems to keep coming back up in my life. He was the one who gave me the ability to see history, and especially sports history, in a new light. It was more than just the wins and losses. It was the love of a game that he gave me and that I’ll never forget.

50 shades of gray Allen – Days 7-9

Year six, or as you probably recall it – 1970.

1970

I turned six and moved into the first grade.

I broke my arm this year while playing superman – dressed in a cape (aka dishtowel) and my underwear. When my mom took me to the hospital the doctor asked me about my arm and the other bruises I had. I told him, “Oh, my mom beats me up all the time.”

Now in today’s vernacular, that would result in a platoon of operatives from Child Protective Services descending upon my house and my parents being led away in shackles. But in 1970 it means the doctor looking at her, looking back and me and my adding, “We wrestle all the time.”

He looked at me, at my mom and back at me. And without a word went back to work.

1971

At age seven I finished up first and moved into second grade, meeting two of the singularly most influential people of my life.

Kurt Seaman

Kurt Seaman

The first was Kurt Seaman. We met in Mrs. Urseth’s second grade class, sitting across from each other. My mom had yet to really find her ‘brown bag lunch mojo’ at this time in my life, and so my midday snacks were marginal at best. But Kurt’s mom made these magical mustard and ham sandwiches. I’m not sure how Kurt gained any weight that year, or if even did, as I was regularly haggling with him to get those sandwiches.

As it turned out, we only lived a few blocks apart and so we’d get together and play from time to time. And then one day he introduced me to this new kid, Jeff Johnson.

Jeff and Kurt fed the two sides of the person I’d later become. Kurt was the adventuresome, devil-may-care stuntman that we all wished we could be as a kid. There wasn’t anything on this planet that Kurt wouldn’t try to launch him and his bicycle over.

Jeff Johnson

Jeff Johnson

On the other side, Jeff was the ultimate planner. He created so many things that the rest of us could hardly keep up. He created an arcade-style baseball game in his backyard using baseball cards, a large marble and a ruler. He created a NASCAR racing game using 1/24 scale models, a pair of dice and an action/hazard card deck that he created. And possibly best of all, he created a new brand of croquet that had all us perfecting the shot where we plopped our opponent’s ball into a compost pile.

Sheer brilliance.

1972

This is where the ‘sickness’ began.

In the spring of this year I was at Kurt’s house one day when his mom informed us it was time for him to go to practice.

1972 Red Sox

1972 Red Sox

“What do you have practice for?” I queried.

His reply was one word. One beautiful, action-filled word.

“Baseball”

After several more occurrences of Kurt having to leave for practices, I somehow got invited to go. I don’t recall it if was from Kurt or his parents inviting me or if my parents asked how I could get involved. But somehow I got there.

And from that day to this, baseball has always been the game I truly love.

Football is great and basketball is exciting. But they just aren’t baseball.

I played with Kurt that year on the Red Sox, coached by Richard Dominguez. He was a great guy and taught me all the basics of the game and who became a good friend as I grew into a man.

With a new-found love of the game, my dad made it a point to take me to my first game at Dodger Stadium that summer. My parents had friend named Rudy and Lenore Garza who lived in the Los Angeles area, and they happened to have four season tickets on the first base side of the most beautiful stadium of the day.

Dodger Stadium First Base Side

Dodger Stadium First Base Side

I can remember walking into the stands on the field level and finding our seats, some 15 rows behind first base and right in line with second. It was like we were right on top of the field, so close you could smell the grass and see the actual faces of the players. My temporary addiction for baseball cards would come later, so this was the first time I’d ever seen these guys except for the few times I watched games on TV with my dad. It was surreal.

At the time the big player for the Dodgers was outfielder Willie Davis. Davis was the man then, with the likes of Garvey, Cey, Lopes and Russell not even assembled yet for their historic run of consistency. But all I wanted that night was a foul ball.

Sometime in the second inning that opportunity came. Davis was at the

Willie Davis (1972)

Willie Davis (1972)

plate and flared a foul ball out way, looping toward our seats behind the right field dugout. As the ball neared it became clear that it wasn’t going to make it deep enough to our seats. Rather, it was angling toward this guy and his girlfriend. He sat there with his arm around her and very calmly raised his hand to make the catch … BAREHANDED!

He looked at the ball for a moment and tucked it away in his pocket.

At the time, Dodger Stadium was not sold out every night and the stands were lean for that game as well. Many of the patrons had transistor radios on them to listen to the dulcet tones of Vin Scully as he filled in all of the nooks and cranny’s of the game. But even Scully, a broadcast veteran of some 20 years at that point, took a minute to acknowledge the catch made by this guy.

A few innings later Davis was at bat again. It seemed too much to hope that he’d flare another one our way, but a few pitches in he did just that.

It looked like an instant replay of the one he’d hit earlier, arching high into the night and spiraling down toward Rudy, my dad and I. And just like the previous time, it just didn’t look like it was going to make it quite far enough.

And sadly, it did not.

For the second time in as many tries, the guy with his girlfriend reached up and snagged the ball barehanded … AGAIN! This time I had run up much closer, hoping that he might take pity on me and give me the ball. He looked it over for a moment before slowly reaching over and, with a smile on his face, handing it to his girlfriend.

It was a lot of years later before I recognized the value of a girl, and I certainly didn’t see it in that moment what possible use they could be. I’d learn that a few years later.

This time Scully exploded, immediately recognizing that the same guy had caught the ball a second time. The fans even gave him a small round of applause.

I walked back up to my seat without a ball, but that, as Billy Crystal once said, “Was my best day ever.”

Well, at least to that point in my short eight years of life.

Next time, age 9!

50 shades of gray Allen – Days 5-7

So here we are on the third installment of my march toward half a century in age. At least now things are starting to get interesting.

Well, just a little.

1968

Still not a ton to actually remember here. But it was during this time that I started making friends that I’d have for years to come.

The first was Marine West. Marine was skinny and gangly, pretty much like every other kid at that age. Well, except for me, who always seemed be in the top percentile when it came to growth and size.

Yippee.

But Marine was one of my earliest friends. I can vaguely remember playing at the day care on the naval base and being forced to take naps on these mats that were not very comfortable. I never liked naps. Well, not until I got over 40.

In later years Marine turned out to be very attractive. I think I heard that she became a pilot for some airline.

1969

This is where possibly my second earliest memory occurs. In April of 1969 the United States had surged ahead in the race to the moon, with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins reaching the surface. My mom and dad had one of those huge console televisions back in the day, and while the color was a little wonky, you could see Armstrong making his way down the ladder and eventually to the surface.

I’ve always had this weird sense of history. I see and look at things in a way very different from most folks. And even then I remember thinking just how incredible it was. Something told me that this was big. Even at age five I knew, this was big.

During this time my dad, Edwin Melvin Allen Sr., had become a huge fan of three things. He watched network news every waking minute except for when The Lawrence Welk Show or Star Trek was on.

StarTrekCastMy dad and I would talk about space and he’s always bring up watching Star Trek. And I always remember thinking what a dumb show it was. But about six years later I totally got it, and we’d hash out every episode down to the last detail. I’d draw versions of the Enterprise and I think he’d get excited, thinking I was going to become an engineer just like him.

To this day I still love that show and its various incarnations.

And I still have a weird attachment to champagne music.

As I entered kindergarten I can remember more friends, but n0ne more so than Roxanne Aslanian. Roxanne was kind of one of the guys, a tom boy. But she has become the one friend that I still remain in contact with today, 45 years later. She married one of my best friends in the world, Jeff Johnson, who I met just two years later through my other great friend Kurt Seaman. The three of us have been staying close for some 43 years this year.

Just crazy.

Another person  I met in that class was Jenny Rungo. I can remember sitting in class while Mrs. Osterman read to us. Her dad, Ralph Rungo would come in from his office and sit with us, listening intently and always flashing that huge smile. He later became my dentist (his slogan was the “Tender Tooth Mender”) and was the absolute best at making sure I felt minimal pain – even with 70s technology.

That’s a wrap for now. Next time it starts getting groovy as we head into the 70s!

%d bloggers like this: