Wednesday, December 31, 2014
I saw the verse recently. Saw it for the millionth time. Only for some reason, it touched me deeper than ever. It is from 1st Corinthians 13:13. Three things will last forever--faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love. Amen. Not religious? No problem. John Lennon put his own spin on it. All you need is love. Or as Southside Johnny sang, Without love, there's nothing you can do. In 2014, it was the love of my wife and kids that made me realize just how lucky I am. No need to get into the details of the last two years. If you know me at all, you know where I've been. At times I've felt unlucky. At other times I've felt like, well, maybe what goes around comes around, and I've only gotten what I deserved. But through it all, there is still love. Lots of it.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Having blood on the field has never been easy for me. I'm talking about having family involved in major sporting events. It started with my brother Scott, who broke in to the big leagues around the time I was beginning my career as a sportswriter. Then came my brother Bob, who became a pro soccer coach, eventually the coach of the U.S. national team, as I was having my best years professionally, as a writer for ESPN The Magazine. Then came Bob's son, my nephew Michael, who became a player for the U.S. A key player. It's been overly emotional. I've mostly watched from afar. But last Sunday, I took my wife and son to see Michael play for the U.S. against Turkey. I saw him create a goal with a deft assist. I heard the crowd, many wearing his jersey, chanting his name. And the emotions were amazing.
Monday, May 12, 2014
Each and every one of us has seen a shooting star, someone who comes through our life in a flash and then disappears. In 1987, I took a job as the assistant director of sports information at Harvard University. I was 23 years old. The quarterback at Harvard was a kid from Crown Point, Indiana, named Tom Yohe. We listed him at 6-feet, but he didn’t look more than 5-9. Yohe was a tough S.O.B. who led the Crimson to the 1987 Ivy League title, winning “The Game” at Yale Bowl - a winner-take-all championship game -- on a frigid afternoon. Anyway, I’d heard in the past few years that Yohe went on to produce NFL games on Fox, and was very good at his job. And then last week, I heard he’d passed away at the age of 46. A shooting star, for sure. Rest in Peace.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
The New York Times reported the other day that the New York City Football Club will play its first three seasons at Yankee Stadium. The news took my breath away. Not a year. Three years. Three years of trying to weave 16 league soccer games in with the Yankees’ 81-game home schedule. Three years of excavating the infield and laying sod. Three years of playing on a field that would be considered small for a high school game. Major League Soccer has come so far. At its best, it’s Portland, Seattle or Kansas City, with their fans standing and singing. At its worst, it’s probably the New England Revolution in Gillette Stadium or DC United at old RFK. The NYCFC plan was supposed to be about raising the bar for the league in the nation’s largest media market. Instead, it all seems as makeshift as the team’s temporary home field.
Friday, April 11, 2014
Monday, April 7, 2014
It’s Masters Week. This is the week when I feel that Spring is actually here. The images we’ll see from Augusta do the trick. The azaleas. The green, green grass. The “patrons” dressed in colors that signify the warmer temperatures that will soon be here. And, more than anything, watching the game’s best players work into the evening hours, with enough daylight to carry on. I was lucky enough to cover the Masters nine times, including the one that took place 10 years ago, where Phil Mickelson finally won his first major. Maybe some young fans don’t remember it as epic, because Phil’s gone on to win two more green jackets, a PGA and a British Open. But in 2004, Mickelson was known more for coming up just short in the big events. When his long birdie putt on the final hole fell into the cup, his reputation changed forever.
Friday, April 4, 2014
During my 13 years at ESPN The Magazine I really enjoyed writing about golf. Probably enjoyed it because I was allowed to move my way down the Money List and write about guys who were not flying private jets here and there. Guys like Jason Bohn, Brian Davis, Casey Martin and Paul Casey. One of the best characters I met along the way was Will MacKenzie, whom I met at Q-School in 2005. Willie Mac’s backstory was incredible. A golf prodigy who gave up the game as a kid and became, basically, a snowboard/skate/surf punk, only to come back to the game and become a Tour player. Spoke to Will the other day. Told me about a lot of mistakes he’s made along the way. Basically, blew all his money. Anyway, he’s 11th in the FedEx Cup standings right now with six Top 10s so far in 2014.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Every once in a while I get feisty. Today is one of those days. Stayed up late last night and watched my nephew play his ass off against Mexico. Brought back memories of four years ago. I was in Spain writing about Giuseppe Rossi. We went to lunch with a photographer. A “huge soccer fan.” He starts talking about U.S. soccer. “What the hell is the coach’s son doing on the field?” he asks. Rossi looks at me. I wink. Photographer continues, “I mean, did that kid even play for a good college program?” I catch eyes with Rossi. “No,” I answer. “He didn’t even play in college.” The photographer sits back and says, “I didn’t think so.” At that point I said, “He didn’t play in college. He started playing professionally at 16. Went to Holland at 18. Plays in Germany now in their top league.” Check, please.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
My sons begin their high school baseball seasons today. Here’s a note to them. Learn from your dad, not how to swing the bat or field a groundball. Learn from your dad, who has more than 30 years of hindsight, to enjoy the game. I was never a good player. On my best days I was mediocre. I fought myself too much because I wanted to be good, and now I realize I would’ve been better if I’d just relaxed and enjoyed myself on the field. I’ve not been a perfect role model. I’ve yelled at times, gotten annoyed at things you’ve done on the field. How stupid I was. I want you both to know how much I love watching you play. On the good days and the not-so-good days. Play like kids, with smiles on your faces. Enjoy the dugout, the seeds, the busrides, the team. Love, Dad.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
My children will one day speak, I’m sure, of the things they miss about baseball. That’s just the way it is. I remember my grandfather talking about nickel hot dogs and my father talking about all those doubleheaders -- not day/night doubleheaders -- he attended as a boy at Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds. I miss a lot, too. I miss walking with my dad to the ticket window at Shea Stadium and him telling the salesperson, “Give us the best you’ve got.” I miss my dad buying us all the junk food we wanted. I miss the couple of innings I’d listen to on the radio before I fell asleep. I’m sure there’s a lot that’s good about the game today. I’m sure my kids will miss it. I still love baseball, don’t get me wrong. I guess missing what we had is part of the game.
Monday, March 31, 2014
And so this makes two consecutive Opening Days where I have absolutely nothing to do with Major League Baseball. Before last year, I’d worked in and around the game from 1989-2012, with my only interruption being ‘96 and ‘97 when I took a couple of years off. In some ways I miss the game, but in other ways I don’t. I always loved being around the players, on the field during batting practice, observing their rituals and regimens. And I liked writing about the game’s nuances. What I don’t miss is critiquing players on a daily basis, I guess, because I know all too well how difficult the game is, and I know asking them to talk about what has just happened goes against the grain of what players must truly practice, which is always looking ahead to the next pitch, the next play, the next game, the next series.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Is something wrong with me? I cannot watch the Dick’s Sporting Goods “Sports Matter” ads without getting tears in my eyes. It’s not a new phenomenon. I get misty during sports movies all the time. The Rookie. Remember the Titans. Of course, Field of Dreams. “Wanna have a catch?” But these Dick’s ads, wow. They touch a chord because I’ve spent so much of my life trying to explain to people why sports matter. When people stand up at board of education meetings and say things like, “Shouldn’t we improve the science labs before we worry about the baseball field?” I think, well, sure, but sports matter. When I try to explain to people that I don’t want a job that will keep me away from my sons’ games, I try to explain, sports matter. Most people don’t seen to get it. So I ask, “Is something wrong with me?”
Monday, March 24, 2014
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Monday, March 17, 2014
Facebook suddenly turned into the party where Mom comes downstairs into the basement and asks a bunch of teenagers, “Want warm brownies?” The world of social media moves fast and it’s hard to tell what comes of it. I’ve been trying to build a following on Twitter and Instagram for Leather Head baseball gloves lately, and it’s been fun. But my 17-year old has told me I’m overdoing it. “One Instagram a day, Dad. You’re starting to become obnoxious.” I guess we have to rely on the youth to keep us informed on what’s cool and what’s uncool, even if we’re not gonna hang out together. Whatever. More brownies for me.
Sunday, March 16, 2014
As a writer covering Major League Baseball for 25 years, I had no choice but to incorporate statistics into my work. Fans crave statistics. Players earn big paychecks based on statistics. But now, as I’m around high school players who are trying to improve, I am preaching for them to ignore their stats. Why? Because, statistical goals are stupid and out of a player’s control The only goal every high school player should have is to win the next pitch. As a hitter, see the next pitch. As a pitcher, execute the next pitch to the best of your ability. As a fielder, make sure on the next pitch, you’re ready to snag a bullet. They say baseball is a "game of failure.” Not really. By setting out to win the next pitch - treating each pitch as a brand new game - players will succeed more than they fail.
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Friday, March 14, 2014
Michael Bradley is my nephew. Clint Dempsey is not. So Saturday at 4:30, I will be rooting for my nephew and Toronto FC when they take on the Seattle Sounders, but also hoping Clint puts on a helluva show. I’ve heard the stick they’ve taken from fans (fans are allowed to be fans) for coming to MLS. Those who say they’ve lost ambition. Bull. Wanting the ball at your feet, in Michael’s case. Wanting to be counted on to score goals, in Clint’s case. Wanting the weight of your team and its supporters on your shoulders, is ambitious. Clint went to England at the age of 23, stayed there for six seasons. Set a new standard for American attacking players abroad. Michael went to Europe at 18, played in five countries, for 10 coaches, over eight seasons, and never stopped trying to prove himself. Saturday begins a new chapter.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
There's a new book out called "Pete Rose: An American Dilemma," written by former Sports Illustrated writer and editor Kostya Kennedy. All I've seen to this point is the excerpt, from which I gather Kennedy and I are on the same page regarding Rose. A lot of Rose supporters use the defense that he never bet on the Reds to lose. Kennedy thankfully realizes that managing a MLB team is about more than trying to win one game at a time. Today's moves influence tomorrow's game. So unless someone can prove Rose bet exactly the same amount of money every day on the Reds to win, color me as one who remains un-swayed by the argument that he never bet on his team to lose. I do not believe Rose should be reinstated. As with all matters related to Cooperstown, I trust that in the hands of the Baseball Writers.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Monday, March 10, 2014
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Today, I'm going to write about the baseball glove business. It is a love story. A year ago, Paul Cunningham and I saw our first Leather Head glove prototypes. We liked, did not love them. We tweaked them. We secured Jon Contino to handle our branding. We launched. Every day we learn. All the time we know that gloves are personal. We answer a lot of questions from people who want information, but have no interest in purchasing a glove. We get a lot of requests from players (and a lot of kids) who tell us, "If you give me a glove, I'll promote it for you." We'd love to find a major league player willing to try our glove, but we don't really want to pay him to wear the glove. We want him to put our glove on his hand and, well, become part of the love story.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
A couple of my best friends were among the men who created Rotisserie League Baseball back in the early 80s. Long story short, they never cashed in on their invention and what’s now known as “fantasy” sports is said to be a $4 billion business in the U.S. To be honest, I don’t know anything about fantasy sports. It would be fair to call me a “hater.” While I know not every fantasy player claims to be an expert when it comes to sports reality, enough of them have rubbed me the wrong way to help me form a strong opinion. That said, today I have officially entered the fray, having entered a Major League Soccer fantasy league that kicks off at 3 p.m. I’m sure I don’t have the passion necessary to excel at a game based on number-crunching, but I’m in. I’m calling myself the 50-year old virgin.
Friday, March 7, 2014
Thursday, March 6, 2014
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it 1,000 times. “You’ve got to re-invent yourself.” And so I’m trying, though I’m convinced it’s just a sales pitch. It’s not that I don’t realize times have changed, and many of us who once earned a living as journalists, are now being forced into different roles. It’s just that I don’t think enough people realize that we journalists spend most days re-inventing ourselves. It’s part of the job. Here’s a subject and here’s a deadline. Acquaint yourself with it and write confidently about it in the next hour. Every day is a new class complete with research, analysis, fact-finding, and then communicating. I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone lately, trying to explain to people why I’m equipped to do a job that’s not on my resume. They say, “So you’re trying to re-invent yourself.” And I say, “Always.”
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
I wonder how many others there are, out there like me? How many others ashamed to admit they've kept a secret? Afraid to admit that, for a long time, they were homophobic? I don't even know if "homophobic" is the right word, honestly. "Dumbass" is more like it. Good news is I believe I'm a changed man. At least, less ignorant. Because, as more gay people have stepped out and told me who they are, I've learned that I've had gay friends even when I didn't know it. That I've gotten incredible advice from gay co-workers. That, while I've had bad experiences with gay people, I've had far more bad experiences with straight people, which means their sexuality had nothing to do with it. So, I’m ashamed of my past – and embarrassed – but want to thank those who've come out and slapped a little sense into this dumbass.
Monday, March 3, 2014
On my brother Bob's 56th birthday I will write 150 words about what it's like to be his little brother. No one believes me, but I was just as nervous when his Princeton teams played as when his Fire, MetroStars, Chivas, U.S. and Egypt teams played. I can remember, in the early 90s, stopping in the middle of games I was covering to call the Princeton hotline for scores. The feeling of relief when they'd slipped past Cornell or Hartwick. The feeling of despair when they lost. Sometimes I hate being his brother. Like when nut jobs assaulted me on Twitter after the U.S. lost to Mexico in the 2011 Gold Cup. But on the rare occasions in the last 32 years when he hasn't had a team to coach, I've always felt a void. He loves to coach. I love to be the brother of a coach. Happy Birthday.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Happy Birthday, a day late. It was an honor to stand and cheer for the teams you coached. An honor to be a student at the school you represented so proudly. Even though I was never allowed inside a huddle or a team meeting, you were my coach. As you taught your players to respect each other and to respect the opponents, you coached those same ideals into everyone at Carolina. Sure, it may have been frustrating to not wave our arms and jump up and down when opponents shot free throws at Carmichael, because everyone else was doing it. But you didn't care what everyone else was doing. You coached us exactly the way you coached your players. And looking back now, and seeing how things have changed in sports and society in general, I want to tell you how grateful I am to have been coached by you.
Friday, February 28, 2014
Among those who earn (or used to earn) a living writing about baseball, I am in the minority. I’m not a numbers guy. Couple of reasons. One, I find reading about math to be tedious. Math -- charts, graphs, formulas and problems --is fine. But paragraphs written about numbers bore me. It’s homework. When reading a baseball story, I don’t want it to feel like homework. Buit biggest reason is that I’ve yet to see a stat that isn’t reliant on a reasonable “sample size.” Baseball is a game of situations. It’s a game of hot and cold. Can a manager who’s watching a guy who’s 0-for-his-last-15 with 10 Ks just sit back and wait for the “sample size” to expand? Or does he, in that moment, trust the guy who’s looking better in a recent stretch? For me, there’s way more to analyzing baseball than just doing the math.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Challenging myself in new and different ways. Today, I begin a new adventure that I've hashtagged #BuckFiftyADay. This will be my daily exercise, and maybe you'll want to participate too. I'm going to address a topic, could be anything, and try to nail it in exactly 150 words. Today, I’m going to have to be even more on point since I’m using up my allotment to explain the project. Watched the ESPN Outside the Lines special the other night, entitled “The N-Word.” Provocative topic, for sure. My thoughts after seeing the show were that while I’m not (at all) comfortable using “The N-Word” I don’t think I’m really one to tell someone else what words they should or shouldn’t use. Do words always reflect what a person is feeling in his or her heart? I honestly don’t hate, unless given reason to hate. Only I know what’s in my heart.