I will be cheering for the Philadelphia Phillies tonight in Game 6 of the World Series. Truth be told I won’t see much, if any, of the game because I will be at a school board meeting. But, I’ll still be cheering for the Phillies.
I’m not a Phillies fan. It still sticks in my craw the way Pete Rose interfered with a double play ball swinging momentum from the Kansas City Royals to the Phillies in game five of the 1980 World Series. The Phillies won in six.
I have been an avowed Yankees hater ever since first baseman Chris Chambliss hit a Mark Littell fastball over the right field fence in the bottom of the ninth inning of the decisive game 5 of the 1976 American League Champion Series. The Royals scored three runs in the eighth inning to tie the score. I felt confident that the Royals’ reliever, Littell, could take the game to extra innings. I sat on my mom’s lap and cried for at least thirty minutes when the Chambliss fly ball cleared the fence.
The Royals were at the center of my universe from 1976 to 1980. Those were the Royals’ glory years and I was eleven to fifteen years old. A perfect combination. I listened on the radio to at least part of all 162 Royals games for five straight seasons. My neighbor Mamo Hayden is the only other person I know who can make that claim.
We have cheering rules in our house. For college sports, the rules are to cheer for the Kansas Jayhawks first, the Big 12 second and never for Mizzou. The rules for baseball are similar. Cheer for the Kansas City Royals first, then the Orioles, Red Sox and Rockies (places we’ve lived) and never, ever, ever for the Yankees (I don’t care how nice a guy Joe Torre was when he was manager of the Yankees). The Royals losing to the Yankees three straight years in the play-offs etched that ethic in stone.
The Phillies can take heart. A three game to one World Series deficit can be overcome. I witnessed part of such a miracle when the Royals came back from a similar deficit against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1985 World Series.
The Royals were lucky to be in the World Series that year. They lost three of the first four games of the 1985 American League Championship Series to the Toronto Blue Jays. It was the first year the champion series was extended to seven games. Any previous year, the Royals would have been done.
George Brett kept the Royals alive with two home runs in game three. I attended game four of the playoffs with my dad, the night after my 21st birthday. It was a tough night. The Blue Jays scored three in the ninth to put the Royals on the edge of elimination. And, I had to break the news to my dad about some poor choices I made the night before (for another post). But, the Royals somehow managed to win the next three games and set up the I-70 Series against the Cardinals.
I had a soft spot in my heart for the Cardinals. Long time Royals manager Whitey Herzog and catcher Darrell Porter were part of the Cardinals organization by 1985. I loved those guys. But, this affection didn’t temper my passion to see the Royals win.
The Royals dropped the first three of four in the World Series just like they did in the play-offs. My friend Matt Cunningham and I had tickets for game six of the Series and we were just hoping that game would be played. Fortunately, the Royals won decisively in game five to bring the series back to Kansas City.
Matt was already in the television business by 1985 and scored us fantastic seats up the right field line just beyond first base. They were the best tickets I’d ever had up to that time.
Charlie Leibrandt pitched a brilliant game six for the Royals but gave up the games’ only run in the eighth inning. The Royals’ bats were cold. The Cardinals’ Danny Cox was brilliant, too. The feeling in the stands was somber. A Royals’ victory seemed impossible with the team trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth.
And, then, there was the call. A Royals batter was incorrectly called safe at first. Porter followed up the next few plays with a dropped pop foul and a missed tag on a bunt. The miscues set up the Royals for a ninth inning rally for the ages – for Royals fans at least. I will always consider this the greatest game I’ve ever witnessed.
Matt and I, along with thousands of other Royals fans, stood in the stadium and cheered for nearly an hour. We cheered even longer in the parking lot because we could not remember where we parked the car. We had to wait for the lots to clear out to find it. While we were waiting, Paul Hayden jumped out of a passing vehicle and gave us both a bear hug. It was that kind of night.
Game seven was not nearly so exciting. The Royals pounded the Cardinals 11-0. I was watching with about thirty members of my fraternity in the dining hall of our house. The outcome became clear early so we all piled into cars to drive to Westport in Kansas City to join the celebration.
It was a good time to be a Royals fan.
There is much I enjoy about the iTunes era of music.
I like that I can take my entire music collection with me when I go for a bike ride. I can find the music that matches my mood and workout pace whether I’m riding on the highways or my trainer.
I like that I can bypass poor playlists broadcast on the radio stations. I find that I enjoy only about one in four songs when I am forced to listen to the radio. That’s a pretty poor ratio and a good indication of why the iPod is popular.
I’m even warming up to the Genius feature on iTunes that creats playlists I would not think of on my own. But I’m still an album guy. I like to listen to a single artist for an hour or two at a time.
I like that you don’t have to haul around a big appliance to listen to music. It’s much easier to keep an iPod charged than it is to keep a stock of D batteries or always have to find an outlet.
I like that it’s easy to let our kids listen to our favorite music. We don’t have the worry of the past – that the kids might scratch our albums. So, it’s easy to share music among the family. Joni’s successfully nurtured a new generation of Beatles fans.
But, I do miss the social experience that listening to music used to be.
I was feeling nostalgic today for the old Sunday ritual of listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. I asked my daughter Emma what the number one song was these days. She has no idea. I asked her what the most popular songs are among her friends. “We all listen to different stuff,” she said.
We listened to music together even when we were sitting in our bedrooms listening alone. American Top 40 was a stable of everyone’s music week. You could count on a conversation about the new number one song on Monday morning by the lockers in school.
We used to cheer for our favorite songs to move up the charts. I can still remember Tim Yount going crazy with excitement when Kool and the Gang topped the charts with Celebration. I couldn’t stand that song. But, that was part of the fun – hoping that your favorite song would beat out the others.
The boombox was a school bus must on field trips and track meets. The “dj” would try to play a mix of music that appealed to the most people (except country music fans). Again, part of the fun was lobbying for your favorite songs to be played and heckling the choices of others.
Music was something that brought teenagers together – back in the day.
Today, I don’t see young people crowded around a turn table or a boom box sorting through albums negotiating which song to play next. When I see kids traveling in groups, each has their own mp3 player. Where there once was lobbying for songs to be played there is now silence a set of earphones dangling from each person’s ears. Perhaps one or two pairs of kids are sharing earbuds. But, for the most part, they listen to their own stuff.
The shared music experience today seems to be limited to a handful of kids playing Rock Band on Wii.
Music today is one more example of how we are able to tailor our experiences to our individual preferences without having to take into account what others may or may not enjoy. There’s no conflict. No reason to negotiate. We can all do what we want to do.
There is a lot to be said for the individual play list. It’s one less thing for kids to fight about in the back seat of the car when going on a long family road trip. Parents worldwide have fewer occasions to say, “Don’t make me pull this car over.”
But, the individual music experience is one more thing that fragments people from one another. It’s one more shared experience we can cross of the list of shared experiences. A list that continues to grow.
I like my iPod. I use it every day. I have no plans to give it up.
But, today, I’m feeling nostalgic for the shared experience of wondering what will be the number one song this week. I’m even feeling nostalgic for Casey’s corny sign-off, “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” Well, maybe not so nostalgic for that part.
So, to celebrate shared experiences of the past… A tip of my hat to my old friend Tim Yount.
This stinkin’ song’s going to be stuck in my head all day.
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boombox by stereo-240 pictures
Casey Casem from wikidpedia
The Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball team is kicking off the official start to a new basketball season with the 25th Annual Late Night in the Phog. Hopes are running high this year with dreams of reaching Indianapolis for the Final Four. My brother-in-law, Phil Priebe, already is planning the trip.
Like all good fans I am beginning to sharpen my game, too. You might ask what preparation I have to do? It’s not too hard to sit on your butt and watch young men play basketball.
Oh, but the passionate fans know there is much that can be done in the stands or in front of the T.V. to turn the tide of close games in the favor of your team. So that I am prepared when I’m needed I have been refining my technique to deliver the most powerful hex that I know… The Pissy Rivers.
I learned this mysterious curse from my friend, eighteen year classmate (kindergarten through super senior year at KU) and fellow Greg Dreiling Fan Club member Scott Focke, aka Scooter. The Pissy Rivers is relatively easy to describe but extremely hard to execute.
The basic moves of the hex are simple. Cross the first and second fingers of your writing hand. Place your hand with crossed-fingers casually behind your back. Do not make fanfare of what you are doing. At the crucial moment in the game, quickly swing your hand and crossed fingers from behind your back as if you are throwing an underhand curve ball. Snap your wrist just before your arm fully extends. And, at the moment your hand jerks, whisper (or if you are alone in front of a T.V. shout) “Pissy Rivers.”
Sounds simple doesn’t it. Only the masters are consistently effective. There is a lot that can go wrong when casting a Pissy Rivers. The hex can even be reversed on your own team. Overuse is the surest way to ruin the Pissy Rivers. If someone sees or hears you throw the curse, it can kill the spell.
Some people believe a double Pissy Rivers – crossing all four fingers rather than just two – is more powerful than the traditional version of the curse. I’m not a believer in the double Pissy Rivers. I’ve seen it backfire just as often as I’ve seen it work.
Skeptical about all this? Think this is nothing but superstition and coincidence? Well I have evidence.
Scott Focke propelled the Jayhawks over Michigan State in the Sweet 16 of the 1986 NCAA tournament and on to the Final Four. Several members of the Dreiling gang scored tickets to the game in Kansas City’s Kemper arena. It was one of the most exciting games I’ve seen. It included controversy – a stopped clock for 15 seconds when KU was trailing – and role player heroics.
The Jayhawks were down by six points with just over one minute to go. I was a nervous wreck. Scott told me not to panic. I shouted back, “There’s only sixty seconds left in the whole *#%$@ season, don’t tell me not to panic.” But, Scott just gave me a look.
The Jayhawks began to foul the moment Michigan State touched the ball in a last ditch effort to close the seemingly insurmountable gap. That’s when Scott went to work from the top row of the arena.
Michigan State missed the front end of a one-and-one two consecutive times in the last minute of the game allowing KU to tie the score on an Archie Marshall tip-in with just a few seconds left. I still feel hoarse thinking how loud and long we screamed with joy.
KU’s best players, Danny Manning and Ron Kellogg, had fouled out of the game. But the momentum had already swung the way of the Jayhawks and fan favorite Calvin Thompson led the way to a 10 point victory in overtime.
I didn’t see it, of course. But, Scott told us later that he’d used the Pissy Rivers when the Michigan State players were shooting their clutch free throws. That’s the moment I became a believer.
I use it myself now when the moment is right. I’m not a master like Scott. But, occasionally I do my part to help out the ‘Hawks.
I don’t want to claim too much credit. But, I was in the stands in San Antonio when Mario Chalmers hit his miracle shot and the Jayhawks won the national title.
And, you might remember, the Memphis Tigers did miss a few key foul shots down the stretch…
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I’m still learning about blogging. I have now experienced on this blog something others not only know but intentionally exploit: A blog post title, key sentences and photos can help to drive traffic to your site.
The most viewed blog post I have written, Taste of the World, is one that received little attention when I first made the post. It suggests that the regular readers of my blog were only mildly interested, if at all (I always assume there are some accidental and courtesy clicks). But this particular post is visited five, six, sometimes seven times per day.
Why? It has nothing to do with content. The post was about the meal a friend and I prepared for dorm mates in grad school: Manwiches. I added this picture at the bottom of my post.
When a person Googles manwich the photo shows up on the first page of results. When you click on the photo it leads you toward my blog.
I know this sort of phenomenon is old news to many. It’s still interesting to me.
I will be interested to learn if this post becomes one of the most viewed, too.
I often ask myself, “What would Irv and Ruth do?”
That question comes to mind when I’m trying to decide whether or not to get behind a community project – especially projects that take more tax dollars.
Irv and Ruth Hayden are lifetime family friends and parents of my boyhood friend and current golf partner, Paul.
Irv and Ruth, like many people from Atwood and my home, Longmont, have a community first rather than me first approach to the world. I contrast this to a friend who I had lunch with recently. He told me he was “selfish” when it comes to public policy issues. He was unapologetic when he gave a for instance, “If it (a tax increase) benefits my kids’ school, I’m interested. If it’s for someone else’s kids, not so interested.” He said out loud what many of us may think but would never dare put into words.
That’s not Irv and Ruth’s approach. I was back in Atwood last summer (maybe the summer before) a few days before a vote to increase sales taxes to fund a new swimming pool. Displayed prominently in the Hayden’s yard across the street from my parents’ house was a homemade yard sign. I don’t remember exactly what the sign said but something to the effect of, “Vote yes for the pool. The next generation deserves it, too.”
Irv and Ruth are in their eighties. Only two of their seven children live in Rawlins County. None of their grandchildren call Atwood home. A new swimming pool will not likely boost property values – often an argument made to get people behind a new tax. Irv and Ruth’s support for a new tax will most likely diminish and not boost the size of their personal estate.
There are many other people in Atwood in their sixties, seventies, and eighties who supported the pool tax about which the same things can be said.
Irv and Ruth, and others, don’t use self-interest as the criteria to evaluate community projects and new taxes. It’s not about, “What’s in it for me?” The question Irv and Ruth are asking is, “What’s best for the community.” And not just what’s best for the community this year or next. Irv and Ruth are asking what kind of community do we want this place to be in ten, twenty or forty years from now.
My family is the beneficiary of people who took the long view in Longmont, Colorado. People who I never knew invested in parks, community rose gardens and reservoirs. More recent community leaders rallied the community behind rec centers, museums, and ice rinks. Early residents of Longmont planted trees in our neighborhood that now tower over our home and provide us beauty and shade. Those who invested their time and money to place these treasures in our yard never saw what they grew to become. That’s taking the long view.
It can be hard to look beyond our personal needs and interests. It can be especially difficult during tough economic times. What’s more, not every idea for a community project that reaches the ballot is a good idea. Sometimes the best thing to do is vote no on new taxes.
But, it is the long view – people asking the question, “What kind of community do we want this place to be in ten, twenty or forty years from now – that creates wonderful communities to raise children and grow old. Places like Atwood and Longmont.
I walked out of the restroom in the Albuquerque airport last night and got whacked in the face with a lizard.
The father was horrified. Not the lizard’s father; the father of the boy who was swinging the lizard by its tail just outside the restroom door. It was a rubber lizard. The tailed stretched easily and the circumference of the swing went much wider than the boy intended.
“I’m sorry Daddy, I didn’t mean to,” said the three-, maybe four-year-old boy as he tried to collect the lizard from midair.
“No worries,” I said more to the mortified father than the boy. “Been there, done that,” I added trying to smile and trying not to touch the spot on my cheek where I was grazed. I did not want the dad to feel worse than he already did.
Parents live with one minor fear and one major fear when they take their young children to crowded venues. The minor fear is that their young child will get lost or, heaven forbid, be taken by a stranger. The major fear is that their child will do something embarrassing that disturbs nearby strangers and, worse yet, cause people to whisper, “They’re bad parents.”
A little bit of vigilance ensures a child’s safety. Parents hold their child’s hand or perhaps grab hold of the collar of their shirt when passing through a thick crowd of people. If the child’s still small enough and the crowd is particularly large, parents pick up their child and hold them close.
The embarrassing moments are more difficult to avert. It can happen at any moment in the blink of an eye. You can be standing in an airport waiting for your wife and daughter to return from the restroom.
Your young son is fidgety. He starts picking things up off the floor. The unknown object is headed for the mouth so you quickly grab it and in its place put a toy in your son’s hand. You look over your shoulder to see if you wife is on her way back… wham.
A passing stranger gets whacked in the face with a flying lizard.
It’s every parent’s nightmare. Sometimes it comes true.
It is great having young children. There also is some relief as they grow older. You are able to put your minor worries aside and relax, at least a little, knowing your children are savvy enough to stay safe even in crowds.
On the other hand, Joe was dancing down the streets in San Francisco while on our August vacation. He did a spin move as we rounded a corner and crashed into two women walking toward us…
Yeah, been there, done that.
Hang in there lizard dad.
I enjoy driving back and forth on three town blocks for hours on end just as much as the next person. Don’t get me wrong. But sometimes it’s just not a satisfying experience.
Dragging “Main” was our primary activity on Friday (after the football or basketball game) and Saturday nights in high school. We didn’t actually spend much time on Main Street. Fourth Street was the main drag in town.
The Fourth Street circuit was bookended by the Methodist Church and Grade School on the north and Dr. Poling’s office and Leinwetter’s Funeral home on the south. We put in hundreds of miles on that one street over the course of a school year. On a good night, there would be twenty other cars honking as they drove by. Some nights there were only a handful of cars.
Dragging “Main” without getting bored was an art. The best at the craft knew how to mix up the evening with a stop at Dunker’s Radio and T.V. side lot to chat with someone in another car; drive around Atwood Lake; go up High School Hill; around Kelley Park or stop at John’s Dew Drop Inn for a game of pool (or in my case Frogger).
On a slow night, the masters of dragging main would mix up who was in the car or combine one carload of passengers with another. The best nights were spent in cars that could easily pick up KOMA out of Oklahoma City or, if you were lucky, WLS out of Chicago. A good tape deck with 8-tracs from now classic bands such as REO Speedwagon, Journey and Foreigner helped, too.
But, even these tricks of the trade were not enough to satisfy. Sometimes you had to get creative. Or, go home out of sheer boredom.
Matt Cunningham, Tim Yount and I faced that dilemma one night. I can’t remember if it was early fall or late spring. I remember it was cold enough for jackets. We just couldn’t get fired up about steering the family Chevette around the streets of Atwood. Hard to imagine, I’m sure, but that’s how we felt.
Our first attempt to liven up the evening fell flat. Singing Christmas Carols in October or March (whichever it might have been) annoyed more than entertained our audiences. After awkward experiences at three houses we climbed back into the Chevette to brainstorm plan C.
I don’t know who the fourth, fifth or sixth person was to join us in the car. I don’t even remember how we came up with the idea. But, by the time there were seven or eight riding along we were on a mission.
People started to notice the number of passengers in the car as we cruised down Fourth Street and through the Dunker parking area. Some people lobbied to join us. After a few more bodies we realized we had to be more strategic. We needed freshmen and others of diminutive stature. At one point, we stopped at John’s (Dew Drop Inn) in search of people near five feet and 100 pounds.
The rule we made for ourselves is that the car had to be drivable (a relative term clearly with no regard for safety). Our goal was to shoehorn in as many people as possible and still drive down Fourth Street. We packed people on the floor, popped the hatch (the most comfortable seat available) and rolled down the windows to accommodate protruding body parts. Our final tally exceeded 20 in the car.
My dad was in the middle of his take pictures of everything phase of life. We stop at our house where I ran to find my dad while the rest of the passengers tried to hold their positions.
Our night that began in the doldrums became one for the record books – or at least the scrap books.