#BuckFiftyADay Since March, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay Since March, 2014

Saturday, June 26, 2010

South Africa: Day 19

"If they are brave enough to play, then you should be brave enough to be in the stands."

These were the words spoken to me by an old friend who works with my brother. I wasn't sure if I had the toughness to go sit in the stands today, but these words got to me.

So, I'm going to take a two-hour ride in a van with a bunch of my colleagues who are going to work. And I'm going to watch. I stand by what I wrote yesterday. I'm admittedly biased. Whatever happens today, my pride is intact. I'm in complete awe just being here.

I'll go back to being a know-it-all eventually, but for now I'm a know-nothing, completely blind to what's going on. Blinded by love and admiration. Nothing can change that.

The photo above was taken by my niece Kerry on Christmas Day, 2008. It's Rob and Michael playing ball with my two sons. This photo is in my office and is one of my prized possessions. What's funny is that I'm way more in awe of Rob and Michael than my two boys are. I remember that day so well, because the four of them returned from the park drenched in sweat.

To Tyler and Beau, they're just Uncle Rob and Michael, and when they're playing ball together, they might as well be some kids in the park. There's a purity in that I can't really describe. If my boys were here, they'd have no problem sitting in the stands today. They wouldn't consider it some act of bravery. They'd just be wanting to go to the game, and probably wishing they could go on the field at halftime and kick the ball around. I'll try to keep that in my heart today.

Friday, June 25, 2010

South Africa: Days 15-18

There's no way I could be any more distracted.

Trying to stay focused on what I'm supposed to be doing here while something else is going on that not only has my stomach churning but also has a good part of the USA's stomachs churning...not easy. As my old friend Bruce Springsteen sings, "Some day we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny." But for now, not much funny about it.

I want to write a little bit today about the emotions I've been feeling, mostly the overwhelming pride that literally brings me to tears once or twice a day (no lie). But I don't think everyone gets it. Some do. Many don't.

Something happened on Wednesday that took 12 seconds and it totally changed the perception that Americans would've taken away from this event. In 12 seconds, Americans went from a bit angry and very frustrated to, quite simply, overjoyed. But if those 12 seconds had not happened, while I'd have been sad, my pride would not have been altered even a little bit.

It's said often that it's not the results that really matter, but the journey. I've witnessed a four-year journey from close range. I know the sacrifices that have been made, the hard work that's gone into it. I'm pretty close to a couple of incredibly dedicated guys.

My pride was intact, regardless.

In my line of work, I'm often asked to analyze, to critique, to break things down. But in this case, I refuse to do it, and I am trying my best to tune it all out. It's not easy, but I'm doing my best.

I know not all my friends can get on board this train, where it's all about love and hope, where there's no room for criticism. I don't expect everyone to jump on.

Just understand it's the ride I'm taking. The journey.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

South Africa: Days 12-15

Getting brave.

Not sure if was a touch of boredom -- not a lot happening the last three days -- or just that I was trying to be a nice guest here in South Africa, but this afternoon, I ate a worm.

To be more exact, I ate a Mopane (Mo Pah Nee) Caterpillar (worm, I dunno). It was fried, I guess, and covered in some kind of red sauce. It was crunchy, chewy, gamy, nasty. I thought it would be rude not to try it when our driver Jan ordered it up for the table, but after me and my two colleagues each choked one worm down, we noticed Jan wasn't exactly digging in. "No, I don't like it," Jan said with a smirk. "But a lot of people do!" With that, Jan chomped one down, then handed the rest of the order over to the folks at the next table. They left the dish alone.

Again, not a lot going on the last few days here. Work and hotel meals. The restaurant serving the Mopane was in downtown Johannesburg, and music filled the air and local artists and craftspeople were selling their stuff. It was a pleasant lunch break, all in all...except the worm.

And then it was back to work in Mission Control. It's been good to catch my breath here after traveling around the country for the better part of a week, but working in the International Broadcast Center is kind of a drag. I do get to go to a game tomorrow. Not "that" game.

Big day tomorrow, obviously. Huge day, actually. 'Nuf said.

I'm going to write in the next few days about the amazing side trip my nieces, Kerry and Ryan, took to Kenya to see their little sister Beatrice, a young lady they've been sponsoring for the past year for an organization called Oasis for Orphans.

Kerry has promised me photos of "Little Bee" but in the meantime, check out this video from Christmas 2009, where Beatrice introduced herself to my brother's family. If you enjoy that one, here's another taken a year ago where a soccer field was dedicated.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

South Africa: Days 10-11

It's a mystery to me.

Whenever I travel abroad I become the world's clumsiest man. To date, I've stumbled and fallen to the ground twice (and I was not fouled), dropped important things (plug adapters) into places I could not reach without getting on my belly to find them (in public places), spilled drinks, and backed into about 1,000 people with my overstuffed backpack. Thankfully, folks here speak English (and most speak at least one other language), so "I'm sorry" and "Excuse me" work.

No explanation for any of it.

Let me ramble a bit. If anyone is thinking this trip is anything like my Angolan adventure, rest assured it is not. Not only are the people of South Africa extremely hospitable, the country is well-developed. No issues eating salads. You can order a steak medium. If you and your driver are starving after a long day, you can hit any number of drive thrus. Most of the hotels I've stayed in are of Holiday Inn caliber. Functional, clean, etc.

I had a little setback in Bloemfontein when I was assigned a handicapped room that did not have a shower. Not much of a bath guy, honestly. Especially when the room is cold and the bath water stays warm for about three minutes. I thought that was a pretty big inconvenience until I got to my latest hotel in Rustenberg. Yeah, it has a shower, but it would more accurately be called a trickle. And the H/C controls are pretty archaic. I got into a warm trickle and had to jump out of a scolding trickle. I've been going with the homeless man look a lot lately. It works for me.

Anyway, I work with sadness in my heart today. It's my son Tyler's 14th birthday, the first of his birthdays that I've missed, and hopefully the last. He's a stoic young man and he understands why I'm here, but that won't keep me from feeling sad today.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

South Africa: Days 8-9

Trying to keep the glass half-full here.

Been a long couple of days, post-game reserve. A 4 a.m. wakeup call, a long ride in a van, a couple of flights, a couple of delays, a lot of metal detectors, a freezing cold hotel with no shower, many cups of bad coffee, and the overall tension of something going on in another part of this country that I have no control over (yeah, "that"), but which occupies a lot of my brain.

But, as the kids like to say, it's all good.

The last few days sort of bring me back to my days as a baseball beat writer, the unusual rhythm of life on the road. I think Bill Bradley wrote about it in his book "A Sense of Where You Are," which I read as a young kid. He was describing the life of an NBA player. Something like this: A cab, a plane, a cab, a hotel, a game...repeat. Days turn into weeks, I find myself looking repeatedly at my watch, not to see what time it is, but to see what day it is. Scarce little time for this blog, but hope my handful of followers are checking out my real work at this little site.

Those who know me, know nothing means more to me than my family. As we near the end of Week 2 in South Africa, I continue to relish the experience, but also have to fess up. My son Tyler turns 14 on Saturday and I won't be there to celebrate. He's about to graduate from Manasquan Elementary School, and I'll miss that, too. My son Beau made Little League All-Stars and has begun to prepare for the Districts. This is the time of year when my sons run home from school, sling their backpacks in the door and ask me if I can throw them batting practice. It pains me to not be home with them. And, of course, that's not to mention my wife Linda who has to bear all the responsibilities of making sure they're prepared for their final exams, on-time to practices and games...and, of course, able to participate in all those "kid things" that go on at the close of a school year. Lin's pretty amazing at keeping it all together, but it doesn't erase the pain in my heart when so much of this goes by while I'm away.

A long drive through South Africa awaits me tomorrow, about five hours with my new driver, Jan ("Yon"), and hopefully back in JoBurg in time for "that" thing I'm stressing about.

Glass is half-full, trip's about one-third over. Peace all.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

South Africa: Days 5-7

The dominant emotion I’d describe right now is guilt.

But that’s just my nature when things like this happen to me when I’m traveling on business. A slip-up in reservations left me without a hotel room in Port Elizabeth, on South Africa’s Eastern Cape, so the best our company travel service could do was a "private game reserve" about 100 kilometers from Port Elizabeth.

That sounded nice, but when my driver Chris started taking me north on the N2, and kept driving and driving, passing nothing but wide open space, I started to wonder to myself, is this going to turn out ok? When we finally made it to our turn-off, and started heading down a dirt road, well, then I really started to have my doubts. When that dirt road, full of potholes and rocks, stretched on and on, for about 30 minutes, I began to wonder if I’d be better off sleeping in the airport on Tuesday night…my final night here.

But then we arrived. Breathtaking does not begin to describe this place.

I’m staying in a grass-roof "hut" that’s simply gorgeous. My room has a waterfall shower, a fireplace, mahogany floors, a deck overlooking a pond where a family of hippos play. In the distance are the hills of the reserve. There's also an outdoor, open-air shower and a jacuzzi, too bad it's winter.

When a sweet woman named Tanya showed me to my room, she asked if everything was ok, I could barely spit out the word, "Amazing." She then told me, "Mr. Bradley, one thing. After dark, do not leave your room alone. Call the office for assistance. At night, the animals sometimes walk right into the village. There could be a lion waiting at your door." I laughed, but she told me she was not joking.

A fellow named John took me on a two-and-a-half hour safari, where we saw giraffes, wildebeests, warthogs, a variety of deer with a variety of names I can’t remember. We went looking for the lions (there are 11 here) but found none. John explained to me that this is not like, say, the Disney safari where staff members feed the animals. This is survival of the fittest. He talked of how the lions weigh “work vs. satisfaction” when choosing their prey. In other words, they’d rather wait for something big and slow (a buffalo), than spend all day chasing something thin and fast (a blessbuck). Giraffes, he said are not very protective mothers, so a lot of baby giraffes become snack food for the lions. It’s nature, John explained to me. "We don’t interfere," he said. Pretty cool.

Anyway, back to guilt. I wish Linda and the boys could be here with me. But, the adventure will be over quickly. A long trip into Port Elizabeth today, a long trip back here tonight. I’ll probably miss dinner, and I have a 5 a.m. wakeup call tomorrow.

Fun while it lasted, no doubt.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

South Africa: Day 3/4


The only word I can come up with to describe this day. Here I sit thousands of miles from home, on the continent of Africa, in a small hotel room that just happens to be only about 200 miles from where my brother and his family are. Tonight, I will sit by myself in this hotel room and watch my brother and nephew on a 13-inch television screen.

Probably not the way most of you imagined I'd be spending this day. But that's sur-reality, I guess. In a way, I wish I'd figured out a way to get to the match, but in a way, it's probably better for me to watch it alone.

I keep telling myself, it's just a game. And I know it is.

Meanwhile, adventure has kicked in for me. I'm in the township of Polokwane, which used to be known as Pietersburg. The driver who has joined me out here could not be nicer. We had a great chat and I learned a lot about South Africa and, believe it or not, there's a lot of issues here that mirror those in the States. Things like illegal immigration. He explained to me that a number of folks from Mozambique and Zimbabwe make their way to South Africa to become day laborers on farms and on constructions sites. Many risk their lives to make their way across the border.

"Some come by way of the river and are eaten by crocodiles," he explained. "Some come by land and are eaten by lions." He explained how many of these people are willing to work for 70 rand a day (about 10 bucks) and put in more than a full day's work.

Sound familiar?

Anyway, not going to get too serious here, because I've lived a virtual Bloopers Video here in South Africa so far. You heard about the monkey/pigeons growling outside my window in Johannesburg, well that was just the beginning.

Yesterday I had my first freakout moment when I thought I'd lost my passport. Understand, I'm about to embark on a bunch of travel and losing a passport would be catastrophic. So, I went nuts. I checked the pocket of the jeans I "knew" I'd worn the night before. Nothing. So I began to turn my hotel room upside down.

I saw "another" pair of jeans, but I "knew" I had not worn those the night before, so I emptied my two suitcases and my laptop backpack (that was ugly, sort of like when Brodie cut open the shark's belly in Jaws and the unthinkable appeared). No passport.

More on the laptop backpack in a minute.

Now, the 9 a.m. bus was leaving for the stadium and I was, well, panicked. I went down to catch the bus and was told there'd be another leaving at 10. I did not say a word to anyone about the missing passport, but simply said I'd take the 10. I repeated the process described above. Suitcases emptied. Crap strewn everywhere. No passport.

I mean, there was still that pair of jeans that I "knew" I had not worn. Well, what the heck, at this point, I figured I'd check them even though I "knew" I had not worn them. Well, what do you "know." There was my passport. Sigh of relief.

Meanwhile back in the laptop backpack, I was a bit disgusted by all the crap, so I went to cleaning it out. First time in a while. Nice clean backpack for my travels.

So, with my nice clean backpack, I took off for Polokwane and when I got here, I took out my laptop and prepared to do my workout DVD (stop laughing), the DVD would not go in the slot of my MacBook. What the heck? Well, turns out in my nice, clean backpack there was an old hotel keycard that somehow found its way into the disc drive.

Now my DVD doesn't work. The lesson I learned is, don't clean out your backpack.

Peace everyone. Go USA.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

South Africa: Day 2

"It" starts tomorrow. Thankfully.

For two days now, I've basically been office-bound. See the photos? That's the Master Control Room and the door that leads to my desk. Yeah, that's where I've been.

It's no one's fault, it's just the way it's been at some events. It has nothing to do with South Africa as much as it just has to do with a massive event, lots of folks who do what I do working in one location and also needing transportation here, there and everywhere.

Not complaining, just excited that tomorrow I will actually get to see some very talented athletes perform on a brilliant stage.

Then, after tomorrow, it should get exciting. Solo flights to parts unknown. Various forms of transportation to get me to all sorts of places. Can't provide much more detail as much of it is a mystery to me. Fun, right?

My heart is very torn, of course, because I'm here, but I'm not exactly where I'd be if I was here in a non-working capacity. I'm actually fine with that, because the work manages to distract me from something that would be all-engrossing and nerve wracking.

I did some radio shows today. One with some old friends from Hull, England, and one with my employer. I had to explain to both that I'm here, but I'm not here to cover my brother and my nephew. When asked to provide analysis on them, all I could say is I know they've poured every ounce of their heart and soul into this endeavor.

And that's the truth.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

South Africa: Day 1

And so it begins, my 35-day South African adventure.

Most of you know why I'm here, but I'm not really supposed to write about "that" on this blog, so you'll have to keep tabs on www.espn.com/worldcup to read what I've got to say about "that."

What I can write here is about my journey, which began with a quick flight to Atlanta, a six-hour layover that was supposed to be a three-hour layover and a little 16-hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. All told, about 26 hours of travel. Piece of cake.

For those who followed my trip to Angola, well, this is nothing like that. Not so far. Hotel outside of JoBurg is very nice, and across the street from a swanky casino with about 30 different restaurants. I feel like I could be in Anywhere, USA, so far.

"So far," is probably the operative phrase. On Saturday, when most of my friends and family are going to be watching my brother and nephew trying to do something pretty special, I'm going to be flying to Polokwane, which I'm told is going to be "different." Again, I'll reserve judgment until I see it for myself.

The only bit of adventure that happened so far occurred in my hotel room. First, I flooded the bathroom. I turned on the shower, which is one of those phone booth-sized units and the nozzle was pointed straight out the door. All it took was one two-second blast of water and I had an inch of water in the bathroom. Four towels dried it up.

Then, when I went to bed, exhausted from the day of travel, I woke up to what sounded like a growling animal. Now, understand, it was 3 a.m. and I was working on only a couple of hours sleep in the past 30 hours, so maybe it didn't really sound like growling. But that's what I heard. And it sounded like it was in my room.

Remembering a time when a raccoon somehow got into the hallway of my Boston apartment, I wasn't ruling anything out. So, when the growling sound persisted, and I began to think, "This is Africa," I reached for the rolling desk chair and rolled it toward the window, which is where the sound was emanating. I figured if there was indeed a wild African animal in my room (perhaps a monkey?), the chair would startle it, and I'd have to make a bee-line for the door.

No animal emerged, but a short while later, the sounds persisted and continued on through the night. In the morning, when I drew the curtains, I saw animal feces on the window sill. I'm guessing the growling was pigeons. We'll see what happens tonight.

The better part of Day 1 was spent in the International Broadcast Center, where we picked up our credentials, got a lay of the land, and watched (in amazement, as always) as 99 percent of the non-American journalists chain-smoked cigarettes in the courtyard. Food in the IBC was decent. Things will pick up day by day as we get ready for you know what. Yeah, I'm talking about "that."