Bluegrass on the Brink

When I heard about two old men throwing punches in a dialysis clinic in Georgetown, Kentucky on Monday I thought it was due to the Obama Care arguments in the Supreme Court. I was embarrassed to learn they weren’t fighting because of access to care or poor treatment. They weren’t fighting for the “right” to free healthcare.

They fought over UK and UofL

I wanted to write a post explaining why UK playing UofL is a big deal. I was going to touch on the basketball history of the schools, the larger than life coaches, the parade of All-American players who have come and gone, and the titles each school has earned. I was going to point to the lack of  pro sports in Kentucky as to why these schools are on a pro-like tier to the residents of the commonwealth. I was preparing to pay tribute to the Blue Mist and Cardinal fans who just find a way into any venue. What I want most of all is for Kentucky as a whole to avoid a black eye in front of the nation on Saturday.

What I want to see is two teams playing with passion and urgency. What I don’t want to see are drunks in blue and red fighting in the stands. What I don’t want to see is footage from Lexington of couches burning on Euclid Ave and cars being over turned on Muhammad Ali in Louisville.  I am tired of the avalanche of Facebook posts showing Cardinals being hung and Wildcats in coffins. It’s all a little too Hatfield and McCoy for me, so no more diabetic knuckleheads duking it out. Life is too short.

I’m a fiercely proud Kentucky native and really do like seeing UK and UofL in the Final Four. Any chance I get, I will work a reference into my home state. Granted Kentucky lags in education and income, and tends to lead in tobacco use and unemployment, but it is where I was born and my family still lives. Many of my fondest memories are set against the backdrop Western Kentucky. To me, this weekend represents an opportunity. It’s a chance to show the country that these two schools and their fan bases can co-mingle on a national TV, be passionate, be supportive, and not let things get ugly. It’s a chance for the commonwealth to put it’s best foot forward on a national stage and could be the perfect lead into the Kentucky Derby on a world stage only 4 weeks from now.

So tonight, Final Four eve, the Bluegrass is on the brink (Divided We Fall). Only one of the schools will advance to the championship game on Monday. If it’s Louisville then they earned it. Coach Pitino will have his team prepared and he will have the upper hand over his chief in-state rival. If it’s Kentucky, then they are fulfilling what many thought at the beginning of the season. Calipari will be in a title game again and have a chance to wipe away past alleged transgressions. Either way, a team from Kentucky will play for the title ( United We Stand).

That is fine with me….I just hope it’s UK.

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The Hungry Games: A Short Tale of Bad Steak and a Good Book

Fritos are good, but should your steak taste like one? Can a mere book be good enough to make you forget how bad dinner was? I guess so.

Not sure which is more disturbing: the beef we bought from a local farm and attempted to eat tonight or my wife being totally hooked on The Hunger Games.

My Beef

We recently bought a portion of a cow from a local farm. Before we bought, we got a sample to try. It was good, but I am positive what we brought home in mass from the farm was not from the same cow. The ground beef, the steaks, the roasts – all taste like what this cow must have been stuffed with in its final moments: corn.

Imagine  going through the trouble to grill a steak, but what you taste is a corn chip….. a big fat, grilled Fritos corn chip, without the satisfaction of a hearty crunch. Not even a Stubb’s (“Ladies and Gentleman, I’m a cook” – love that and it’s right there on the bottle) bath can salvage this meat.

Nope. Just terrible.

The Hunger

Fitting that Kelly is reading a book with hunger in the title, because we (me) are hungry but she is being “fed” by this book. If the house caught fire this red-hot second, she would exit said inferno at the chapter break. With the movie coming out Friday, many folks are reading and Kindle-ing the book, so she’s not alone in being consumed by this. At a really crowded Starbucks today, I noticed only two books on the tables: The Hunger Games and The Bible. Good company, I suppose.

The Remains of the The Day

It’s after 9pm and I should be hungry, but my appetite is lost. I’d like to talk to my wife, but she is in bed reading her book and nothing will compete for her attention. I think I’ll watch some hoops or maybe The Office.

That’ll show her.

March Dadness

Madness is in the air.

After all, it’s March and the NCAA tournament is in full swing – 16 teams remain. All the number 1 seeds survived, but the number 2 seeds were not so fortunate.  The first and second rounds have played havoc with office pools. In addition, the Peyton Manning saga has been in full swing. Nashville was a host city for the opening weekend of the tournament, yet local media seemed focused on Manning (at least when I was listening) and if he would become a Titan.  Spoiler alert: he did not. Shocker.

Around the home, madness is in the air. So far in March there have been two birthdays, out-of-town family weddings (including my sister!), allergies, cutting the grass (more allergies), planting the garden, work-life challenges, a drop in exercise and I’ve been neglecting my morning quiet time. Now add to that a brand new madness starting tonight – my 6-year-old daughter has her first soccer game!

As a dad who played a few youth sports and enjoys competition, I have mixed emotions. Is she prepared? Will she get hurt? Will she be a good sport? Will she make friends? Will she lose or gain confidence? Will she enjoy playing team sports? I remember being her age and playing youth soccer in my hometown and LOVING it. Thinking back, my skills were OK, and what I lacked in that department, I made up for in competitive spirit, but that was me (in youth basketball I was once on a team that scored only scored 7 points in a game – I was discouraged, but wasn’t allowed to quit – glad I didn’t). I want her to enjoy soccer – and if she loves it, that will be fine with me – but I don’t want to make her love it. After all she is only 6 and has her whole life in front of her.

So tonight at 6pm my bracket, my work demands, Peyton, the yard  – all get put aside.  I will sit with my wife and son and watch soccer. I will cheer her team – The Swans – and  I will cheer for her. If they win, I will celebrate. If they lose, I will lend a shoulder to cry on ( that’s what my shoulders are for these days) and encourage her to stay with it. Either way, tonight at 6pm, the twisty road of being a dad takes a new turn and I will need to be ready to jump in.

Let the dadness begin!

It Came From 20 Years Ago

20 years ago this week, I was enjoying the fun and sun of Key West, Florida with my fraternity and most of the undergrads from UK. EVERYONE was there on Spring Break.

That trip brings back many memories. Some good (good friends, sun). Some bad (a fraternity brother was knifed by a local). Some ugly (around 20 of us lived for a week in a one bathroom condo). Some hilarious (almost evicted from said condo due to excessive snoring from someone sleeping on our balcony – seems it upset the neighbors). But my clearest memories revolve around the excitement of Kentucky basketball returning to the Big Dance.

Since it is March Madness and there is a lot of excitement about the Cats again, here are some thoughts on how things were then and how they are today:

Back Then

In 1992, it depended on where you lived as to what you got to watch. Also, CBS might cut away from a game in the middle of a shot (“What just happened?….Did he hit it?….I hate CBS”).

Today

It’s carried on 4 networks and every minute can be watched (“Hey, CBS and those other guys are alright”). It’s ironic that now you might be considered a square if you actually watched games on a “TV”.

Back Then

I was a cockeyed optimist who got himself mixed up in almost all sports, except baseball (too long and boring, unless were talking St. Louis Cardinals). UK was my team and we were returning to the dance after a few years of being exiled to the desert, known as probation. We had a good team, coach and tradition.

Today

Like pharmaceutical reps of 5 years ago, sports coverage and analysis is over the top and there is too much of it. I followed UK this year, but only watched a couple of games from start to finish. I have sports fatigue and everything seems like baseball to me. The constant – we have a good team, coach and tradition.

Back Then

Mike Francesa, sports guy on TV, earned the name “Mike Fran-suck-a” from my friend Lee W. due to an opinion expressed which was not pro UK

Today

Actually heard Mike on the radio yesterday and he seems to be doing well….although I immediately thought “Fran-suck-a” Thanks Lee.

Back Then

UK was destined to face Duke in the regional finals. In what has been called the greatest college game ever, UK lost in OT when what’s-his-face hit the shot. It really shouldn’t rise to the level of where were you when Kennedy was shot, but I’ll never forget – neither will Big Blue Nation or Duke fans. The Blue Devils went on to win the title, but a few years later UK managed to pull off a memorable win over Duke in another regional final. UK went on to claim the title that season.

Today

If the seeds hold in the South region of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, UK and Duke could play again for the chance to go to the Final Four almost 20 years to the day of the 1992 game. Sports fatigue, or not, I will be watching that.

 

“My Daddy Can Do Anything”

Last weekend, my children were playing at a neighbor’s house. I was in the garage when my daughter came running in and said our neighbor was having trouble starting his mower and asked if I would help him. I said yes and that I’d be up there in a minute to help out. She turned around to run back and as she left the garage, she yells “My daddy can do anything. He fixes things with his hands”. I blushed.

Recently, I was working in my office while my son was playing on the floor. After a few minutes, he asked me to look at him.  He had built, MacGyver style, a desk out of some toys and a book. His laptop was an old calculator and he was typing furiously. I asked what he was doing and he said. “I’m being you daddy”. I blushed again.

The eyes of my children see me as all-knowing and worthy of emulating. They notice things like my hands. Where I only see what I do with my hands as mundane – typing, pulling a starter chord or how I get food in my mouth for instance – they see my hands as how I pick them up and play with them. They see comfort; a hand to hold when things hurt, they are uncertain or scared. They are at the magic age where dad can do ANYTHING, even when I think I can’t.

That made me think about my role as a dad. What am I modeling to my children? What is it I do that they see in me as so great? Even on my bad days, I’m still their dad. What are they learning from me? You only have your children at home for a short amount of time and then they are off into the world. I see a big part of what I do as dad is to run interference between my children and what the world. It’s my job to show them that faith in Christ is more than enough to see them through.  It’s my job to teach my children to say “yes sir”  and “no ma’am”. It’s my job to protect them and teach them to not judge or bully or laugh at people’s pain. It’s my job to see them grow older and enjoy the things they do and say along the way.

The eyes of my children see someone who can do anything. I love that.

If you are looking for some good “dad” books, I suggest Boys Should Be Boys and Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Dr. Meg Meeker.

Our Plan: Tornadoes

Do you have a plan for your home in the event of a tornado? The past week saw deadly and destructive tornado outbreaks across Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama. Once again, it is tornado season and now is a great time to get prepared.

In my home, that means we have a plan in the event of menacing weather. This is what we do:

1. We Stay Informed –  When there is the possibility of dangerous weather, we keep the TV on local weather stations for the latest news. Since tornadoes are so localized (not like a hurricane) we keep an eye on the weather, but when the neighborhood tornado siren is activated, we move into our safe place.

2. We Have Identified Our Safe Place – Experts and I’d have to say common sense say get somewhere low and fortified. Ideally, this is a basement, storm cellar, or storm shelter. If you don’t have those, it is advised to take shelter on the first floor of a home in a bathroom or small interior closet. For us, it’s the interior closet option. I call it the Alamo, and I pray it never comes to that, but in our house it’s the best place. It is close to the center of the home, shares a wall with a bathroom for some added reinforcement, has no windows and does not share an outside wall.

3. We Have Some Provisions –  I’m not prepared for a nuclear winter. We don’t live in an area prone to earthquakes, hurricanes, brush fires or flooding –  2010 being an exception. Around Tennessee, it’s tornadoes, but it is hard for me to imagine having to go it alone for days without assistance. That in mind,  I have converted an old backpack into our “emergency” bag. It contains essentials only: water, snacks, blanket, flashlight, first aid kit, medicine, and room to push in a purse, wallet, cell phones and chargers. Also, a small weather radio. If we have to take shelter, everyone puts on long pants, long-sleeved shirts, thick-soled boots or shoes, rain gear and the kids each have a sleeping bag back pack. We even have gloves, goggles and helmets for the kids.

Hopefully, I’ll never have to see if I was prepared enough. The worst thing we could do is leave the house and try to scramble to another location, so we’ll make out stand at home.