#BuckFiftyADay Since March, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay Since March, 2014

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Growin' Up

I had no plans to attend another Bruce Springsteen concert. I've been to approximately 93 shows since 1980 and several years ago decided that unless someone (like my friend Denis) offered me the chance to see something unique (Bruce solo acoustic at the Paramount in Asbury Park in a benefit show for victims of Hurricane Katrina, thanks Denis), I'd call it a career.

And then last year I thought to myself...Bruce is about to turn 60 and cannot possibly be touring many more times, so I really owe it to my sons (then 12 and 9) to get them to a show. So, I forked over $100-plus for tickets and took them to Giants Stadium last July and got to see Bruce and Patti Scialfa bring their kids on stage for Twist and Shout and, well, it was pretty nostalgic. Me and my kids watching Bruce and his kids...all of us belting out the words and shaking our asses.

Glad I did it. But I figured that was probably it.
Until last week, when the lure of hearing all the songs from my favorite Springsteen album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, drew me back to Giants Stadium. I forked over $170 for a pair of tickets with a face value of $100 (below face value, a sign of the times) then started emailing some of my oldest, hardcore Bruce fans to see if they'd join me for an evening of Darkness.

The regrets were legit for the most part. Business meetings, youth sports practices, tickets to later shows, whatever. Still, I started to feel very 45 as one polite "no thanks" turned into 20. Finally, an old friend got back to me with a positive response. I had a running mate for the show.

There was, of course, a tailgate party. A tame one, to say the least, with another friend and his wife and their two kids, both under the age of six. I had as many burgers (two) as beers. Even with only two brews in me, it seemed like I had to make about a half-dozen trips to the port-o-potty. Another sign of the times. And around 8 p.m., it was time to head in for the show.

And as I stood on the floor of Giants Stadium, giving myself enough elbow room so I wouldn't have to worry about bumping into anyone, I just watched. I sang a bit, not like the old days when I'd leave a Bruce concert drenched in sweat, with no voice remaining. The early part of the concert was perfectly fine, but it didn't take long before I was glancing at my watch, wondering when he'd start the Darkness part of the show. Looking around at the crowd, looking pretty much as young, if not a bit younger, than most of the crowd, I wasn't sure if I should laugh or cry. There was a dude with a hairpiece in front of me dancing like it was 1984. I laughed.

The whole experience made me think about my first Bruce show, which I attended with my brother Bob back in 1980 at Madison Square Garden. I remember that show as an "out-of-body" experience. I was simply mesmerized by Springsteen for, I swear, over four hours. I was quietly thinking to myself that two hours, on this night in 2009, would be plenty. The experience was very much "in-body." Bruce's energy, while impressive for a dude who's 60, is really nothing like it was when he was in his early 30s (hard to fault him there). When I watch old youtube clips, particularly those from 1978-81 shows, I am still blown away by his raw passion. The passion is still there, for sure, but it's different. I'm different, too, so I am understanding.

But then, for nine minutes, I was transformed. At the risk of sounding like an old fool, when piano player Roy Bittan broke into Racing in the Street, I was once again 16 and standing in the Garden. It's never been Racing's lyrics that get to me, but rather Bittan's piano-playing. As Bruce finished the songs lyrics, "For all the shutdown strangers and hot-rod angels rumbling through this Promised Land, tonight my baby and me, we're gonna ride to the sea and wash these sins off our hands...Tonight, tonight..." I felt the lump in my throat growing. I closed my eyes and listened to Bittan play, extending the song some four minutes. It was just so...great to be there.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Kids and Sports...Sports and Kids

I need to begin by saying, "I'm no saint" when it comes to kids sports. I've yelled at my sons during practices and games, including one time when I yelled so loud at my son Tyler that a few dads asked me to take a seat in the dugout to relax. Talk about embarrassing.

This past year, in a Memorial Day baseball tournament, I went semi-ballistic over what I thought was a missed balk call. The umpire, basically, told me to shut up or he'd run me. I shut up.

But later in the spring when I complained to my dad about a Little League coach who intimidated an umpire, my father (as always) was quick to point out, "Was it worse than when you argued the balk call?" My answer was, "Uh, no." Thanks, Pop.

So I make mistakes and, if there's a silver lining to my confession it's that I am usually overcome with guilt immediately. The point is, I know better.

It's so basic, isn't it? The games are for the kids. The games are supposed to be fun. There's really no reason to yell at a kid unless he's really misbehaving or possibly going to injure someone. I honestly believe this to be true, and try really hard to live up to it...even though I fail sometimes.

I do have my good qualities (in my own humble opinion) as a coach. I'm steadfast in my belief that baseball is a game that kids can only play well when they're relaxed. So I am pretty good at keeping kids loose (maybe not as good with my own sons) and staying positive.

I'm also pretty good at letting the kids decide the game. I've never been big on the "hands-on" youth baseball coaches. The guys who, in my opinion, turn the game into Kid vs. Adult rather than Kid vs. Kid. In all my years of coaching town-level Little League I've never told a kid not to swing the bat. In other words, there's no "take" sign. We do try to teach a kid that if he's going to swing at, say, a 3-and-0 pitch, he should be taking a good swing, not a defensive swing.

It's my personal philosophy (it's okay if you disagree) that it's my job as a youth coach to try and help the kids improve their baseball skills. Honestly, I do not think I need to teach a kid how to draw a walk. I've had a lot of my less-talented kids through the years make their best contact on 3-0 pitches, when the pitcher is trying to put the ball right over the plate. Pretty elementary.

I've got other philosophies, but I won't bore you with them.

But the point of today's blog is simply that, more and more it seems to me that the only people capable of ruining kids sports are adults. In recent weeks I've seen:

* A U-11 soccer game called at halftime due to rain, with the score 0-0. OK, fine that the game was called (even though there was no lightning), but then the league officials declared that the game was "official." Now, shouldn't these officials have asked the coaches of the two teams how they felt about that ruling? Don't you think, maybe, the kids wanted to play a full-game? If the coaches were able to get their kids to the field, either for a replay or a resumption, shouldn't the league have given that the ok? Nope. Of course, there was something in writing, in the bylaws or whatever they're called, to back the league's stance. Blech. Let the kids play.

* A U-14 soccer game where a team, depleted by injuries, down to 10 men, was forced to play, even when one coach asked the other ahead of time if they could re-schedule. "No," the coach responded. "Show up and play with 10, or forfeit." Think that coach asked his players, A. How they would feel about a forfeit, or even, B. How they felt about playing a depleted team? My guess is that the kids would've voted for playing against a full-team. Maybe I'm wrong. Doubt it.