Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fine line between melting heart and meltdown

If I die, please tell my story.

OK, in reality my Crazy Toddler's rare yet outrageous tantrums aren't going to end my life (you can't die from frustration, can you? Otherwise there wouldn't be any Chicago Cubs fans left.) But if I end up in the hospital with self-inflicted injuries stemming from repeatedly slamming my head into the wall, please warn the rest of civilization about my son, because:
  • A) He's capable of mass destruction during his epic fits of rage.
  • B) Based on what they see when CT is around people besides Mom and Dad, many can't even imagine he is capable of the aforementioned tantrums.
I guess this should make me happy in one sense. It's embarrassing dealing with a wild child in public, and luckily CT spares me this most of the time. But on the other hand, no one believes you when you vent about parenthood but all anyone sees is your kid's halo and quiet demeanor.

I wouldn't really mind all this, except that I'm slightly afraid one of these days CT will do some serious damage when everyone least expects it. I wouldn't be surprised to open up the newspaper (you know, one of those archaic bundles of paper featuring current events and comics) and read any or all of these headlines:
  • Tike spurs massive playground fight over 'spilt milk'
    Raging youth cries 'milk fall down!'
  • Police: Lack of sleep caused recent toy store fracas
    Postponed nap brings draws cranky kid's ire
  • Businessman: Parents responsible for eardrum disaster
    Child's piercing screams damage local man's hearing permanently
I'm not saying my son is unmanageable, but that's because I've seen what he's capable of. I know precisely to reap the benefits of his adorableness and when I need to put on a helmet and protective cup and simply ride out the storm.  If you can't recognize the signs of a pending meltdown, you'll never know what hit you.

All I'm really saying is this: If you meet a child with the letters "CT" tattooed, along with barbed wire, on his biceps, proceed with caution. The subtle different between a two-hour nap and one-hour nap might also be the difference between a delightful game of tag and a metal train to the retina.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sick days are for sleep, not 'Saved By the Bell'

My son has mastered something I am still working on after 28 years: sleeping when sick. And I'm a little jealous.

Yesterday my son more or less napped for the entire day, because he was really sick and totally loopy. He had no problem crashing four hours on end, regardless of his surroundings or the position he was in.

I simply can't do this.

When I get sick enough to stay home from work, I usually make the age-old mistake of saying, "I'll just rest on the couch with the TV on." The problem is that this has never worked for me.

Soon after lying down, I find myself sitting up, typing away on the laptop and watching TV reruns that I normally miss because of my job. (Hey, if you have a chance to watch five consecutive episodes of "Saved By the Bell: The College Years," you take it. You ALWAYS take it.)

Soon my "day of rest" has become a day of staring at a computer screen (not unlike what I would have been doing at work) and screaming at the TV because Zach and Kelly never seem to really, you know, click or make it work. The timing is always off, or what have you.

As my son's vocab continues to expand, I'm going to need some tips on how to turn my sick-day doldrums into droopy-eyed bliss.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Head-banging 101

So, I found out my son can't properly bang his head to rock music. In fact, he can't even do the subtle man-nod to rock music.

It's not for a lack of tutelage. I've tried teaching him the art of a well-timed head thrust during a driving rock anthem, but he's not up to the task. The best he can manage is a furious sideways head waggle, as if he thinks his head is a generic can of orange juice for which pre-consumption shaking is vital.

Don't get me wrong; the kid has moves. Crazy Toddler (CT) is like a young Kevin Federline — everything from the Charleston to the macarena. But he if ever wants to look the part in a testerone-laden free-weights workout session, he'll need to develop the head-bang, or at least a variation. Even a slight nod on beat would suffice.

CT has his work cut out for him.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Talking rocks

Talking rocks. I mean, not when self-important adults do it (Are you listening, 95 percent of sports and news commentators out there?). I'm referring to when my 2-year-old son does it.

Ever since my wife first found out she was pregnant, I've been looking forward to when my child could communicate with me on a level beyond pooping and screaming. Now that the time has arrived, I'm far from disappointed.

Everything Crazy Toddler says is cute — and every aspect of the process. The way he grasps at each syllable, elongating words to ridiculous lengths. The shouting of run-of-the-mill words to give them added significance. His insistence on saying "goodbye" to people/places/things when he first sees them.

I was starting to think Bill Maher and Michael Savage had soured me on the English language for good (and on humans in general, for that matter), but I think I'm coming back around. It's all thanks to CT.

Here's to actually knowing what my son is thinking. And another "cheers" to laughing our butts off when our kids can't say things correctly (just make sure to leave the room first).

Monday, October 25, 2010

What's up with the stupidity?

What's up with the stupidity among NFL quarterbacks?

Normally in this blog I try to deftly mingle sports issues with the comings and going of fatherhood. But today I'm loathe to compare to son to the overabundance of block-headed quarterbacks. It's simply not fair to him.
  • Jay Cutler threw four interceptions to the same dude yesterday. At some point don't you consider throwing it to the opposite side of the field, or through a tire swing or something?
  • Brett Favre is slinging ill-advised passes like a drunken Jeff George or, well, Brett Favre. He has officially become the old man who refuses to wear pants, even when the doorbell rings. Brad Childress needs to be the crotchety wife who hits the old man upside the head with a hard-backed Civil War coffee-table book.
  • Philip Rivers is just north of a nervous breakdown. He needs to rent "The Shining," then watch it repeatedly. Consider it a self-help video, man.
I could go on. And on. Aren't quarterbacks supposed to be the smart ones?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My week — in headlines

I've been writing headlines for so long that I am loathe to stop now.

After years of penning scads of these short yet hopefully punchy blurbs, I see headlines in my day-to-day life sort of how Neo sees the Matrix, John Nash saw numbers and Jay Cutler finds surliness in any situation.

From my family to the sports world, here are some of this week's Father Knows (Travis) Best headlines:
Toddler counts to six, fends off MIT
(Quote from story: "It's too soon," Crazy Toddler said during a tense after-bath press conference. "I gotta figure out why Elmo only has eight fingers before I can even BEGIN to think about college.")

Yankees, Phillies take pity on 'little ones'
How else can you explain these powerhouse teams trailing 3-2 to the Rangers and Giants, respectively, in the baseball playoffs. I think they felt bad for these beleaguered fan bases and decided to throw them temporary bones.

Two-year old: 'Bye-bye moon'
I'm not sure why Crazy Toddler (CT) says farewell to the moon every time he sees it. Perhaps he truly disdains it and is simply hoping it will go away forever. It's exactly how I feel about ESPN football analyst Marcellus Wiley.

Cowboys give away ball, Super Bowl aspirations
Dallas still has a chance to make the playoffs, but does anyone think this underdisciplined, overhyped team has any chance to play in the biggest game of the season, which will be held in their own stadium? If you do, I have a slew of Brett Favre "Back in 2012" T-shirts I'd love to sell you.

Big-headed boy wrestles away living-room championship
I was convinced I would win tonight's "King of the Hill" battle between me and CT this evening. I was proved wrong when the lithe youth slammed a wall of plastic blocks into/through my face. This little dude knows how to maximize his talents. Or, as a TV sports talking head undoubtedly would say, "From a testerone standpoint, CT has a lot of testerone." Thanks for that enlightened commentary, Marcellus.

Duke ranked No. 1 in preseason poll
For those of us who enjoy rooting against Coach K, having the Blue Devils basketball team put on such a pedestal before the season starts is delightful. It will make the fall from the top that much more sweet.
(NOTE: I will face a stern talking to from my wife for that last comment, but I'll gladly take my lumps.)

Here's hoping my next headline reads: "Young dad sleeps through alarm during son's world sleeping record." 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The one in the cartoon socks? He wins.

My kid could elicit laughs and comments like "He's so cute!" while wearing a Member's Only jacket over a "I Heart Kim Jong Il" T-shirt.

That's not a statement about my son being so amazing. That's simply the way it is with children; they can pull off almost any look. And I'm seriously jealous about that.

Case in point: I'd most certainly be ostracized for wearing that same (hypothetical) Kim Jong Il T-shirt. (NOTE: Luckily, my Jong Il fanhood went south a few years ago. All Jong Il apparel has long resided in the giveaway clothes box in the spare room, next to my five-sizes-too-big Fila ski jacket from junior high and my MC Hammer pants.)

In fact, I'd be laughed out of most rooms if tried to sport almost any of my son's ensembles. You name it, he has the confidence and dimples to make it work. Overalls on top of pastel polos. T-shirts featuring super-cheesy sayings. Cartoon-emblazoned socks. Black pants with tan shoes. Sweatpants to church on Sunday.

My envy has convinced me to sabotage his outfits time and time again (after all, I help control what he wears), but I've come to realize he's immune to such shenanigans. You win, Crazy Toddler. You win.

Add this to the long list of reasons Peter Pan was a smart dude.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Can a 2-year-old wax my car?

Should a barely 2-year-old be expected to wash and wax the car?

OK, that's my bad. I probably shouldn't have asked my Crazy Toddler (CT) to do that. But seriously, how am I supposed to know what he can and cannot handle at this age?

Here's my best guess, based on my limited experience thus far — along with what I've gleaned from dozens of TV sitcoms:

Realistic Expectation: CT will refrain from throwing food all over the floor, wall and me.
Unrealistic Expectation: He will clean up the aforementioned mess with a Swiffer mop.

Realistic Expectation: CT won't smack me in the face with a sippy cup when he's upset.
Unrealistic Expectation: He will calmly utilize time-tested nonviolent conflict management tactics to diffuse tense situations.

Realistic Expectation: CT will allow my wife and I an hour or so a day of quiet time as he plays with some blocks or something to that effect.
Unrealistic Expectation: He will drive himself down to the mall with a fistful of quarters and play video games for five hours at a time while his mother and I watch movies, take naps and talk about CT behind his back.

At least I'm learning.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Checking it twice: Volume I

Check out this list of the top five throughts going through NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's brain as the first quarter of the 2010 season comes to a close:
5) "Remember when Ben Roethlisberger's biggest problem was that he didn't wear a motorcycle helmet?
      Those were the days."
4) "If we drop Brett Favre off at a nursing home, will he even know the difference?"
3) "Michael Vick? A starting quarterback again — and with good statistics? Man, I owe Tony Dungy $10."
2) "If I promise Kurt Warner a year's worth of free dancing lessons from Emmit Smith and Jerry Rice, do you think he will come back to the Cardinals?"
1) "Man, my fantasy football team sucks. I can't believe I drafted myself in the second round. Stupid, stupid, stupid! You never should draft an administrator until the end of the draft."

Athletes inside the TV haven't appreciated me

As my friend at Life of a New Dad said recently, "I need to be rid of things that take too much time from my family."

His recent blog post about time management for dads detailed why, now that he's a father, he watches far fewer baseball games than ever before. Replace "baseball" with "football and basketball," and you've got my situation down pat.

The amount of time I used to spend viewing football and basketball games is legendary. In fact, I was so over the top with this stuff that now I have a difficult time convincing anyone who knows me that I have turned over a new leaf.

The truth is, these days I usually only watch the two or three teams that I have been ardently following since I was a young child. (NOTE: Listening to sports radio shows via podcasts and streaming are excluded from this conversation. Now back to my regularly scheduled blog.) Between being a first-time homeowner since late last year and a first-time dad for a little more than two years, my weekend TV sports binges have given way to prolonged train track planning with my Crazy Toddler and arduous yard work at length.

I'm not going to lie and say I always yearn to play with my son instead of watching that key late-season football matchup on a Saturday afternoon. Sometimes it feels like work, especially compared to the sweet, sweet laziness that drips from a jam-packed Sunday schedule. Regardless, CT needs that interaction. And I can actually have a significant effect on him, whereas the teams I root for don't seem to benefit from my devotion all that much.

How dare they? Don't they know how angry I get when they lose?

Evidently not. It's all good, though. I've got a burgeoning family that cares about me more than any of those uniformed guys inside the TV ever have.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I won't be wrapped

I'm drawing a masculine yet gentle, stern yet supportive line in the sand.

I'm taking a stand against the "little girl wrapped around daddy's pinky finger" stereotype. I'm sick of hearing about it all the time, which is why it's going to come to a screeching halt with the birth of my daughter about 4 1/2 months from now.

Look, I'm not naive (at least, not about this). I'm sure thousands of men have promised to refrain from the money-draining, inconvenience-fostering practice of never saying "no" to their daughters. But I'll be the first to actually do it. I have the resolve of Lance Armstrong (does resolve = unnaturally high quantity of red blood cells?), the stubbornness of Jerry Jones, the penchant for discipline of Tom Coughlin and the checking account of Maurice Clarett. This should make for a successful combination, don't you think?

No, I'm not a monster. I will love and take care of my daughter. I will show her affection at every turn, and I'll bend over backward to improve her life. But this finger won't be wrapped. No way.

Part of why I'm adamant against being wrapped is that I've seen how this often plays out. The majority of the ridiculous women I know were first ridiculous little girls molded by ridiculous(ly) spineless dads.

I'm putting an end the ridiculousness. Who's with me?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The great toy aisle debate

I made the classic inexperienced father mistake today: the toy-aisle oversell.

It's allowable — while not ideal — to take a young child into a big-box store's toy section. However, one should only proceed into the aforementioned area if he is highly familiar with the acceptable balance of excitement and boredom.

That's where I made my mistake.

Look, I was in charge of my son — by myself — for a few hours this morning/early afternoon while my wife hosted an autumn-themed tea party. (NOTE: Autumn and tea are the two most overhyped things in the female culture. Very weird.). After lunch, I figured Crazy Toddler (CT) would have fun being carted around a big store, amid a sea of shiny products. I was correct — in fact, a little too correct.

CT was pretty stimulated from the get-go once we entered the children's zone. The "Toy Story" aisle alone was ridiculous. Since when do second- and third-tier animated characters get their own action figures and sound-creating dolls? When I was a kid, I don't remember seeing 1-foot-high Green Lantern figures that spout catch phrases when squeezed. Maybe I just wasn't paying attention.

CT was excited enough without any help from me. So why did I start pushing every button and "Try Me" spot I could find? Beats me. Soon it was time to leave, and CT acted like I had dragged him away from a play date with Elmo himself.

Obviously, this one's on me. Lesson learned. Toy aisles don't need any help being excited. They've got that covered.

Luckily I had a trick up my sleeve today. Parks were invented solely for this type of situation.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Every action has equal, ardent overreaction

If everyone overreacted the way our pervasive sports media does, our lives would be a lot different.

When you turn on ESPN or scan CNNSI.com on an autumn Monday, the "experts" are more than eager to fervently tell you which football teams are transcendent and which ones are cesspools of gridiron despair. Luckily one victory the following week — whether by 1 point or 60 — will undoubtedly reverse a down-on-its-luck team's fortunes by 180 degrees.

What if we did this with our children?
— "He did WHAT to the couch cushions???? That's it; this kid is destined to be a loser. Let's just drop him off at the closest payday loan store (probably within about three feet) and be done with it."

Our entertainment?
— (Circa 1990) "Man, that episode was weird. I guess I'm out on 'Seinfeld.' That show will never amount to anything."

Our friends?
— "I could have used a little more 'oomph' from Steve during that phone conversation. Next stop: deletion from my phone. That's a 20-year friendship down the drain. Bummer."

Our employment?
— "Huh. No more creamer in the staff lounge. I wonder who's hiring these days?"

Sometimes people/teams have a bad day. But it's just that: ONE day. I'm pretty sure Colin Cowherd isn't getting fired for accidentally pressing the wrong button at the wrong time.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

It's his "No Easy Way Out"

I think I found my son's "No Easy Way Out" — in a supremely unlikely place.

Robert Tepper's soul-jarring, synth-heavy rock anthem, famous for its placement during the driving montage in Rocky IV, is the song that gets my blood boiling for everything from weight lifting to grocery shopping (you need a little testosterone boost for those shopping-cart battles with the blue-hairs).

For my son, Crazy Toddler, I'm pretty sure the same effect is spurred by the hit cartoon "Wonder Pets."

I know, I know. This is a fairly tame, very positive program featuring talking pets that are the best of friends. Not exactly the stuff that chest bumps are made of.

But it seems to work for him. Today CT was watching that show — a very tame moment even by "Wonder Pets" standards — and I caught him pumping his fists and quietly saying "boom" two or three times ("Boom" is our special phrase for everything manly and physical.).


No worries, though. Whatever gets the job done. And if he needs to tote a portable DVD player and a "Wonder Pets" disc into the lockerroom at halftime of his college basketball games, so be it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tony Robbins, eat your heart out

When did I apply for the title of "Motivational Speaker?"

The other day — in the middle of a loud, cartoonish, syrupy-sweet pep talk to my son — I realized how much energy I constantly put into convincing my Crazy Toddler (CT)  to do stuff.

"Let's eat these ca-RAYZY peaches, OK buddy!!!"

"Oopsy! But you're OK!!! No boo-boo for you! Yay! Yay!"

"Peeing in the potty is the coolest!!! Let's all do it, OK! Yay!"

You get the idea. My voice has gotten two to three octaves higher and much louder since CT entered my life. I can only image what goes through his head when I go off on one of my overly demonstrative, way-too-enthusiastic rants. He must be thinking something like, "This dude needs to get a life. I've never seen someone get this excited about peaches."

That's just the Tony Robbins in me, I guess.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Viewing world through NFL Preview-tinted glasses

Thanks to my good friends at ESPN, Sports Illustrated, etc., I'm beginning to see the world through NFL-Preview-tinted glasses.

The month of August tends to do this to me — and the ever-increasing glut of media nonsense makes the situation more dire each year.

You want proof? Last night I dreamed up this 2010 Playtime Performance Preview for my Crazy Toddler:

Key 2009-10 statistics:
  • Pieces of plastic food eaten: 14
  • Book pages torn: 37
  • Balls thrown at Daddy's face: 142
  • Half-eaten fruit-bar shards fused to living-room carpet fibers: 1,343 (single-season record)
CT is one of the most electrifying ball kickers/throwers in the game today. His ability to throw a tiny soft football at the same time as kicking one of those irresistible big-box-store bouncy balls has scouts drooling — but still not as much as CT drools.

Despite extensive instruction, CT has yet to fully grasp the complex toy-to-toybox technique. At times his innate talent carries him to victory in this regard, but he lacks the consistency that all legendary playtime practitioners have displayed.

At some point CT's rugged good looks and paunchy build will no longer be able to offset this shortcoming.

CT has enough God-given gifts to take his leisure time to heights never before reached. But it's more likely that his impetuousness, refusal to consistently nap and penchant for spontaneous urine will stop him short of his full potential. It will be a good year of playing and general carrying on for CT, but not an epic one.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Puff Daddy (or is it P. Diddy?) said it best

A couple days away with "the guys" wasn't exactly what I expected.

The problem wasn't the company; I was accompanied this weekend by two guys who love sarcasm and sports, so suffice it to say I was comfortable. The problem also wasn't the activity; watching early-September college football in person is better than the crisp fall air, Thanksgiving and pumpkin spice lattes — combined.

The problem was that I missed my wife and son more than I ever imagined I would.

Don't get me wrong; it's truly important to get some "Just dad" time once in awhile. Otherwise my one or two favorite pastimes that bring me great joy would quickly fade into oblivion, not unlike Nick Cage's bank account or LaDainian Tomlinson's chances of being called the greatest running back ever.

That said, we had only been on the road for about four hours when the thought hit me: "What is [Crazy Toddler] doing right now?"

At that exact moment, there's a fairly good chance he was carefully spreading some sort of meat sauce all over his high chair. Or chucking his sippy cup at the TV. Or coloring the ottoman. Pick a frustrating option.

But I like to think he was sitting in his Elmo chair, chewing on a disgusting toddler cookie (does Mom the Shopper hate him or something?) and laughing his butt off at a completely unfunny moment in his "Peter the Rabbit" video.

I returned this afternoon from a junk-food-heavy, football-driven trip that lived up to its billing. Awaiting me were work, writing, bill-paying, a continuous cycle of chores and overall day-to-day doldrums.

I also came back to a supportive, beautiful wife and stud of a son.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Taking my talents to this blog post

I'm officially taking my talents to ... this blog post.

I realize that's already a fairly played-out cliche, less than two months after LeBron James originated it. Now I hear variations of this line — from his announcement to sign with the NBA's Miami Heat — all the time. "I'm taking my talents to the living room, with a Dr. Pepper in hand." "I'm taking my cooking talents to the church potluck." "I'm taking my pick-up basketball talents to a junior-high 'B' team."

This isn't the first time a sports saying has taken the U.S. by storm. Here are some of the best:

—— "Bo Knows." Back when Bo Jackson was the absolute man — a hulking, blazing-fast running back/center fielder — he also was a white-hot pitchman. And his "Bo Knows (fill in the blank)" ad campaign was huge.

In the early '90s, I heard enough variations of this saying to last a lifetime. Luckily Bo doesn't seem to know fame in 2010.

—— "I'm a man! I'm 40!" Some think Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy was admirably defending his player. Others say it was pure arrogance coming to the forefront.

But everyone agrees it was hilarious. The fact that Gundy raged on a reporter regarding a story about one of his quarterbacks isn't funny by itself. It's the way he said it that stands out — like a hungry man yelling at a particularly arrogant slab of steak that he can't afford.

Three years later, you can buy T-shirts, buttons and mugs making light of the rampage (http://shop.cafepress.com/i%27m-a-man-i%27m-40). And I'll buy one if I want to — because I'm a man! I'm 28!

—— "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." Muhammad Ali was part man, part quip machine. This saying in particular has developed a solid foothold in U.S. culture.

Even Niles from the TV show "Frasier" once uttered a version of this phrase — albeit far, far over my head. When this spindly twirp character pays you homage, you know you've hit it big. Well played, Ali.

—— "They ARE who we THOUGHT they were!!!!!" Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green's tirade in 2006 is legendary. After outplaying the Chicago Bears in virtually every way, yet somehow losing, DG went nuts, understandably.

Then the nation went nuts with the line, uttering it in reference to everything from mothers-in-law to smug professors. It's a fun line nonetheless.

By the way, this blog is what you thought it was. I'm really sorry.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fantasy Parenting League

Fantasy sports leagues — most notably of the football variety — are wildly popular as is, but I think there's room to broaden the scope.

For instance, a Fantasy Parenting League in which we draft and track the success of our children. It would take some doing, but it could be a great way to get apathetic adults more invested in children's progress as humans. Imagine how much more they'd be willing to look up from their magazine and actually engage in a kid's development if a $150 pot and a year's worth of bragging rights at the local Gymboree were on the line.

Now to the details.

First, it would have to be a straight-up, round-by-round "snake" draft. An auction setup wouldn't work; there's something about bidding on kids that seems inappropriate. Maybe it's just me.

The draft itself wouldn't be quite the raucous, sarcasm-engulfed get-together that you normally see in fantasy football leagues. Everyone would have their kids with them, plus you'd have to stay quiet because inevitably somebody's kid would have to be put to sleep early in the spare room.

The good news is that, unlike at pigskin drafts, you'd have the "players" front and center to review before and during. If you see a young punk hitting girls in the face and smoking cigarettes in the back corner, that's an obvious "stay away." You can't do that with Laurence Maroney, unfortunately.

The points system would be delicate. It could get tricky because, as opposed to sports, parenting doesn't involved a lot of statistics — at least, not easily tracked statistics. Here are a few ideas to get the process rolling:
  • 4 points for every toy put away in the correct place. The only question is how to determine "the correct place." My Crazy Toddler would argue that the right spot is right behind the couch, right where I walk in the dark when CT wakes up screaming in the middle of the night. Perfecto.
  • 2 points for a successful trip to the toilet. So obviously this puts a premium on post-toddlers.
  • To offset the advantage older children have in the toilet category, I'd hand out 2 points for every time someone stops you in the grocery store to get a better look and say "Oh my gosh! A-dorable." SIDE NOTE: Each adult male receives 5 demerits (not in the league, just in life) if he says "A-dorable." Even if a newborn puppy is present. Leave your man card at the nearest exit. But the word adorable is all right, as long as you don't pause after the letter "A."
  • 2 points for every hug, and 4 points for the ever-elusive kiss. Another wrinkle to this: If a young one can manage a kiss and it's been at least 10 hours since the last nap or sleep, that's 8 points. In fact, even if a child simply refrains from poking you in the eye with a sharp stick and it's been at least 10 years since the last nap or sleep, that's 4 points.
This is just a start, but you get the idea. Of course there would be kinks to work out.

For example, it would be awkward to root for your own child to act up all the time just because you didn't obtain the rights to he/she in the draft. "Jimmy, could you be a dear and throw that Go-Gurt against the wall? I need you to be worse than the Johnson kid this week, or else I won't make the playoffs."

Hey, every fantasy league has its drawbacks.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Parenting Thought of the Day:

Don't give a 2-year-old any sort of drink with a straw. It's like giving Pacman Jones a night of relaxation in Vegas. No good can come from it.

He left his legacy at Leavenworth

A lot of people wouldn't want to point to Eagles backup quarterback Michael Vick as an example for their kids. On the contrary, I wish my son were old enough to study and recognize the effect egregiously wrong actions can have on someone's life.

More specifically, I want him to realize what it means to waste an amazing, God-given talent — and a golden situation.

OK, so Vick isn't exactly destitute. After missing the 2007 and 2008 NFL football seasons during his 19-month prison stretch stemming from dogfighting crimes, he rebounded to haul in more than $1.5 million last year. This year he'll make at least that much.

Still, consider what he has lost:

— Millions upon millions of dollars. The man who once signed a 10-year, $130 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons filed for bankruptcy a year ago. He lost everything his blinding speed and rocket arm had gained him.

Also, what will he do upon retirement? Don't expect to see him on any jaunty TV commercials or as part of an ESPN panel of football experts. No, he'll have to find a completely new profession. I guess that elusive college degree would have come in handy after all.

— His status within the history of the game. As ridiculous it sounds, analysts used to talk about him as potentially one of the best players ever. He was the fastest quarterback anyone had seen, and he had an incredibly strong arm. And he was still in his prime.

I always thought he was overrated — his statistics were average to slightly above average — but now everyone is off the bandwagon. Vick is more likely to land a job as a hall monitor than  to enter the Hall of Fame.

— His physical domination. Once upon a time out, Vick was the kind of athlete who comes along once in a generation — a guy who could throw the ball farther than almost anyone. A guy built like a running back. Heck, he was faster than most running backs — not just straightaway speed, but breathtaking elusiveness in spades.

Turn on an Eagles game these days, and you quickly realize he's a sideshow. In his prime people excused his rampant inaccuracy because he made spectacular plays the likes of which few had ever seen. Now 30, Vick is a very nimble quarterback, but he's no threat to score a touchdown. Those precious years of premium athletic ability died deep in a Leavenworth prison cell.

This weekend Vick's line against the Cincinnatti Bengals read: 1 for 5 passing for 6 yards, 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. And you know what? No one was surprised. That says it all.

---- His free pass. Vick used to get away with whatever behavior he wanted to, based mostly on his status as a superstar. At this point he's done a 180-degree turn. He can't go anywhere or say anything without being second-guessed.

My son is 2 years old, so I really have no idea whether he possesses any spectacular talents. Maybe he'll be a math whiz. Or a phenomenal writer. Or the best dancer (gulp) this world has ever seen.

Whatever gifts my son has been blessed with, I'll make it my mission to help him utilize them. The Michael Vick story might just be one of my go-to tools.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sports Notion of the Day

Sports Notion of the Day:
This afternoon I saw a store window that read, "Sandwiches and Turnovers." Sounds like a midday meal atRyan Leaf's house, if you ask me.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The last confusing birthday

Yesterday my Crazy Toddler (CT) "celebrated" his last confusing birthday.

I say that because while he probably didn't have any clue why we were trying to do fun things with him, it didn't stop his mother and I from treating Aug. 19 like a very special day.

Truth be told, I could have thrown a rag onto the floor and he would have been happy. Still, we did our best:
—— We gave him presents from his grandmother and aunt. I'm sure he has no idea why he was handed cool gifts including a kiddie drill set and a Buzz Lightyear backpack this afternoon, but he definitely enjoyed them. I liken it to opening up a workplace fridge and finding a 12 pack of Dr. Pepper — and not knowing how it got there.

Guzzle first, ask questions later.

—— CT posed for photos at Portrait Innovations. He was wearing his seersucker suit, so he had that extra swagger that can't necessarily be mustered by the henley onesie/pleated jeans ensemble. He was really working it with his jostled-hair look, big blue eyes and muscle-man poses (I made that last one up.).

—— We sang "Happy Birthday" several times at different junctures; I can only imagine what he must have been thinking: "Don't they know any other songs? What about some of Bowie's earlier work? This happy-go-lucky stuff was all right when I was 1, but I'm 2 now. Expand the songbook already."

—— We enjoyed dinner at Sonic. His watermelon slushie was supposed to be a special treat, but it proved to be nothing more than a strange-tasting impediment to what seemingly is his first love: Running into the street or busy parking lots without a care in the world.

I guess that's what you get when you eat outdoors. A padded cell may have been a better choice.

—— We went to the park. At this point I'm too old to remember thinking of the park as a fun treat, but CT likes it more than Keith Olbermann relishes being the lowest common denominator.

After about an hour of swinging; trying to climb up dangerous steps; and inching down every slide in his unique, scared way, we called it a day.

Actually, we called it a birthday — but something tells me he wasn't savvy.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Not even Margot Kidder

At 5 p.m. today, I became self-aware.

Self-aware, that is, of how little I wanted to spend any more time with my Crazy Toddler (CT). Not tonight.

Of course if felt bad writing that. But sometimes parenthood takes you to a dark place — a location where breakables live up their name, food and sippy cups become projectiles, and crying is the only form of communication.

At 5 p.m. today and thereafter, I wanted nothing to do with kids. Not just mine, but any kids. Not my own, not friends' kids and not neighborhood kids.

Not Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba." Certainly not any of Kid 'N' Play's "House Party" movies; in fact, write this rule down for the rest of the time, not just this evening. It's a pretty decent credo.

Tonight I want nothing to do with baby goats. Or Margot Kidder movies (she was awful as Lois Lane, don't you think?).

Ken Griffey Jr., also known as "The Kid," is one of my favorite athletes. But right now I'd push him into a ditch without a second thought.

Not even Nicole Kidman gets a second look from me on this day. Look what you did, CT; you made me   reject the explosive female lead from "Days of Thunder," which is easily one of the top 5 best stock-car racing movies of all time.

I hope you're proud of yourself.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The foot cream was an inappropriate gift

Reggie Bush's feelings of guilt aren't anything new.

The glut of steroid and drug use, irresponsible gunplay and overarching violence that festered in big-time sports for the past several years has also brought about a great deal of apologies -- usually after a many years of lying about the indiscretions in question.

This week Bush, a former Heisman Trophy-winning running back at USC, reportedly called the school's new athletic director to express how bad he feels about his purported illegal acceptance of money leading to USC's extensive sanctions from the NCAA. He even said he would give back the Heisman Trophy if he could. Still, the AD said Bush said technically admitted his mistakes during their conversation.

He will. Someday, maybe 10 years now, he'll spill the beans to a reporter -- once the dust has settled and his conscience can no longer be held back. He'll do exactly what Mark McGwire. And Alex Rodriguez. And Andy Pettite. And Pete Rose. And Chris Webber.

Others undoubtedly will join Bush in their half-hearted apologies. Here are a few to look for in the next decade.
  • Jimmy Johnson, ex-coach, Dallas Cowboys and Miami Hurricanes -- Someday he'll finally admit to using performance-enhancing hair products for the duration of his career. If his upcoming stint on "Survivor" ends up being his low point, the press conference will come sooner rather than later.
  • John Stockton, ex-point guard, Utah Jazz -- This all-time great distributor owes everyone an apology for the obscene rump-hugging shorts he in which he displayed himself throughout 19 NBA seasons. Disturbing.
  • Old people, shuffleboard -- Don't act shocked when a rash of elderly southern-state inhabitants/amateur shuffleboard competitors come forward to say they accepted  under-the-table funds from rogue marketing reps for Ensure, Tommy Bahama and various foot-cream giants.
  • Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova -- These well-known tennis stars took in-match grunting to new heights. Now, unfortunately, their guttural screams have been copied by more and more newcomers. One day Seles and Sharapova will say sorry for starting this trend that has greatly injured the watchability of women's tennis.
  • Tim Lincecum, pitcher, San Francisco Giants -- Someone has to take responsibility for that long, greasy, stringy mane. It might as well be the guy who grew it.I
I have just one request: When Bush comes clean, probably after his retirement from the NFL, don't forget the years and years of bald-faced lies.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Puke in the car, not on the plane

What good are life experiences if you don't learn from them?

Here are some helpful nuggets I gleaned from my first flight/weekend trip with my Crazy Toddler and without my Less Crazy Wife.

  • Getting the puking out of the way on the ride to the airport is a good way to stave off puking on the plane. (Sample size of this study: 1.)
  • Arriving at the airport a bit later than expected when you have a small lad in tow is quite helpful. 15 fewer minutes in the gate waiting area was 15 fewer minutes of apologizing to people whose hair had just been pulled.
  • Coffee is good.
  • Fatigue is bad.
  • It's easier to feel like a man when you, your dad and your son are getting dusty, riding tractors and ATVs, discussing machinery, surveying a wood mill, and eating barbecued elk and salmon.
  • It's more difficult to feel like a man when you come home to an increasingly yellow lawn, an iPod and wireless throughout the house.
  • Grandpas, even tough guys, don't mind a go on the swing set when a grandson's affection is at stake. Digital cameras exist to prove it.
  • Tray tables were made to be overturned — especially when stuff resides on them. 
  • Bags of chips were made to be overturned — especially when a father's sanity is hanging by a thread.
  • Airports are made for business travelers, not dad/son tandems. (POP QUIZ: Out of ChilisToo, a gourmet pizza joint and Quiznos, which one is most suited to a toddler's needs? Answer: If forced to pick one, I guess Quiznos, even though a simple meal is $11.46. Shameful selection, if you ask me.)
  • The ability to double-team a toddler is vastly underrated. Kudos to those who have to play man-to-man.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

'Retiring Minds Want to Know'

How is that Brett Favre hasn't yet landed his own reality TV show?

Don't even try to tell me you wouldn't watch "Retiring Minds Want to Know," a weekly hour-long ESPN drama pitting Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress against Favre's wife, Deanna, with the eventual winner either retaining the 40-year-old quarterback's services or bringing him back home to Hattiesburg, Miss., for some peaceful retirement years.

Considering the prolonged uncertainty that Favre puts his employers through year after year, it's no stretch to put him in the category of "Overly Dramatic Narcissist Who Secretly Craves a Reality Show to Showcase Said Narcissism."

The weekly challenges practically write themselves. In Week 1 the contestants would race up the top of Mount Ego and pin a pair of cool yet comfortable Wrangler jeans to a flagpole at the summit.

I don't want to give everything away (I probably need to keep some leverage for when the TV execs come calling), but let's just say Week 2 would involve jousts, a large pool of Gatorade and the Oak Grove High School football team from Hattiesburg singing Salt N Peppa's "Whatta Man" amid the ruckus.

By Week 3, the game of football would start to be incorporated into the challenges. Maybe Childress and Deanna would battle to intercept the most errant passes from the strong-armed, bravado-ridden QB in a span of 30 seconds.

My money's on the better half. She's been receiving his wishy-washy decisions for years.

Other challenge ideas:
— A mock press conference, evaluated by the show's foursome of celebrity judges: hyper-snoopy ESPN reporters Ed Werder and Rachel Nichols; former pro-wrestler and hyper-emotional Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura; and hyper-moussed NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

This challenge wouldn't be about deftly answering a barrage of questions, but instead about tearfully supporting Favre while sitting by his side while HE answers a barrage of questions. Natural-looking waterworks earn the contestants extra points.

— A 14-hour nonstop flight, to simulate several trips back and forth between Minneapolis and Mississippi as Favre changes his mind over and over. The pair would receive scores in four areas: stamina, conversation skills, tractor knowledge and unconditional support.

— A playbook quiz. The twist? It's not a book of football diagrams, but of acceptable apologies to Brett for insubordinance and lack of understanding when he leaves hanging.

If Favre hasn't considered a reality show like this, he really doesn't understand the marketability of his complete lack of respect for his employer and wife.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pretzel mix ... or else

Can you carry a snake-bite kit onto a plane?

This is the paranoid type of questions I've been asking myself since I first planned my three-day-weekend trip to Grandpa Alger's house. No, I'm not that stupid or that paranoid. My fear stems from the fact that my nearly 2-year-old Crazy Toddler (CT) will accompany me on this trip —without his Mamma.

Not only must I face the pressure of caring for CT without any adult supervision, but I must do so at an airport — the place where my happy thoughts go to die.

Can you get arrested if your baby's in-flight crying surpasses a predetermined level? 

It's difficult enough putting oneself through the rigors of an airport. First there's the pressure to get the little info tags filled out while the luggage loader's patience wanes by the second. Then you have to practically strip so the security workers will let you through. There's even more pressure at this juncture. Loading all of one's belongings into a half-dozen of those gray bins isn't unlike fleeing a fire scene: "Leave it behind! Just go! We can't go back now!"

By the time you're spit out onto the other side of the security gateway, you've just praying you didn't leave anything important behind.

Will a soiled cloth count as one of my carry-on items? 

Now add a toddler to the mix — a potentially screaming pile of slobber and mischief. You can imagine why I'm planning to make the trek completely naked and without paraphernalia of any kind. The fewer belts, shoes, hats, watches, laptops and portable DVD players to contend with, the better.

Traveling with CT isn't too bad when we double-team him. But what am I supposed to do without backup? How can I be expected to keep track of him, carry a diaper bag, listen to my iPod, appease his hunger and mood swings, change his diaper in the ridiculously unsuitable men's bathroom AND utilize the free airport WiFi on my laptop? Perhaps I need to cut one of those action items out. I guess he won't get changed.

Even if I can get all the way through to the plane, other issues frighten me like John Edwards at a marriage-counseling session.

Will CT rifle the pretzel mix at an unsuspecting attendant's head upon realizing assorted nuts was a pipe dream?

Will a kind-hearted grandmother take pity on a dim-witted young father and watch the lad while said father drowns his frustrations in a Dr. Pepper?

Will CT's mother ever let CT's father have any responsibility of any kind after this trip?

This dearth of uncertainty is why I'm going to start packing three days early.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Living the dream — at 2:31 a.m.

Why am I typing this sentence at 2:31 a.m. local time?

I think the impetus is a combination of nostalgia and pride. I'm 27 years old and married, with an early-rising Crazy Toddler (CT), and the last thing I want to do is admit that staying up all night while watching reruns of "SportsCenter" and making fun of local newscasts is getting more and more difficult.

Part of me desperately clings to the Dr. Pepper-aided all-nighters of yesteryear. The other part of me yearns for early-bird dinners and a 9 p.m. bedtime. Maybe even a baked apple for dessert, washed down with a can on Ensure.

Is it inappropriate to blame CT for the rapid decline of my inner night owl? Regardless of whether I fall asleep watching a "Murder She Wrote" rerun at 7:30 p.m. or listening to podcasts at 3 a.m., wake-up time doesn't change. CT gets me up around 6:30 a.m. every day — a schedule that fails to account for my sleepiness.

That said, it's 2:53 a.m. and I'm still typing away. The countdown continues. 3 hours and 37 minutes until I have to get up again. For those of you scoring at home, that's roughly one Yankees-Red Sox game, one half of a Keith Olbermann diatribe and a little more than one viewing of "Titanic." 

Yet I continue to tap, tap, tap. I'm living the dream — if the dream can be defined as drinking five full glasses of Dr. Pepper at a big family function, then returning home to a fresh and empty blog page and the second half of "Father of the Bride II" on TBS. (It's not a good movie, which makes it a great source of 3:04 a.m. background noise/light.)

In a few hours I'll once again be fetching CT's breakfast and addressing the poop issue, but for now, just allow me this one slice of my collegiate glory — Dr. Pepper stupor and all.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tough actin'

"Is it weird that John Madden retired from announcing football but still does Tinactin commercials?"

My friend Ross posed this question today, and it's got my mind humming like a souped-up lawnmower. The question is valid, but to me the bigger issue at hand surrounds his prospective replacement.

A lot is at stake in this decision. For someone who watches the glut of football that I do, the amount of "Tough actin' Tinactin" commercials that I'll see during a season is no less than 7,389. I mean, rest assured that if you marry a pigskin enthusiast, he/she has the most uninflamed feet you've ever seen — like two beacons of pristine lower-leg status.

Given the prevalence of the Tinactin brand in my life and probably yours, choosing Madden's replacement takes on a great deal of importance. The company can look at this from a few angles.

One option is finding a spokesperson who can lean heavily on personal experience. It's tough to surmise who could fill this role, because athletes don't often reveal their athlete's foot, jock itch or ringworm difficulties during postgame interviews. You don't hear Peyton Manning say, "Yeah, we were laboring midway through the third quarter, on account of Reggie Wayne's severe itching and burning south of the Equator, but we pulled through in the end, after he applied liberal amounts of Tough actin' Tinactin to his undercarriage."

Still, maybe an athlete could parlay general foot problems into a successful campaign. LaDainian Tomlinson might not be an athlete's foot sufferer, but football fans are very familiar with his turf-toe travails. Although his days as a top-flight NFL running back appear numbered, he might just have sufficient name recognition and self-deprecating humor for the role of Tinactin legend.

Perhaps the best candidate isn't even someone who has experienced the pain, but instead a person who espouses the core Tinactin principles. This top-flight company's Web site is littered with references to words such as relieve, fight and absorb — traits befitting a rookie backup quarterback. This year Colt McCoy, formerly of the Texas Longhorns and currently of the Cleveland Browns, could be known for relieving Jake Delhomme and jock itch, fighting for playing time and groin comfort, and absorbing the playbook along with excessive moisture.

Tinactin also could go with the heart-strings approach — appealing to viewers' sensitive sides. Putting something sad front and center — maybe Matt Leinart's footwork or Roy Williams', uh, career — on the commercials might elicit some pity purchases of the company's powders and sprays.

It will be awfully difficult to replace Madden as the face of the Tinactin empire. But if anyone can successfully pull of the image of pain and suffering in the souls of football fans, it's Roy Williams.

I think a new spokesman is afoot.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gumption junction

My Crazy Toddler faced a pivotal moment in his young life today.

He was punched in the gut.

Or was it in the face? I heard two different reports, and I'm not sure anyone at the big family/friend gathering really saw it. But here's what I do know: My son took a shot from another kid and kept on ticking.

I whirled around when I heard the screaming, and I sprinted into action. CT was reeling but walking. Though staggering like a Jay Leno monologue, he was keeping it together. Loose, but together.

Once I realized he was fine, my concern turned to pride. This type of resiliency bodes well for his sports future — and for life. Like Rocky Balboa (about 107 times), Dave Dravecky, Willis Reed and Michael Jordan before him, CT bounced back with some gumption. It's the type of extreme will that Alex Rodriguez fakes, LeBron James doesn't have and JaMarcus Russell can't even comprehend.

It's the sort of human spirit that should get him through the rough times that will — yes, inevitably will — befall him in life.

Perhaps I'm reading a little too much into the aftermath of one punch. Still, I'm 99 percent certain CT has enough competitiveness in one toe to knock the purple drank right out of Russell's lazy fingers.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The line between mama's boy and The Nature Boy

There's a line between mama's boy and The Nature Boy — and my son is walking it.

My Crazy Toddler is capable of supreme sweetness and the ultimate mama's boy prowess — we're talking Jonathan from "Who's the Boss" meets the Olsen twins circa 1993.

But the docile, cute side of CT only lasts until Daddy gets home from work. Before too long my pent-up aggression stemming from eight hours of computer work is manifesting itself through wrestling and the throwing and kicking of various balls. That's when CT goes to his dark place.

CT has animalistic capabilities. Until recently his favorite wrestling move — all of his moves are introduced and perfected on me — was the two-handed face push. Not exactly a WWF-approved tactic, but my ability to fake falling backward really sells it.

But recently CT took his repertoire to a new level, adding a move that Rick Flair himself, the Nature Boy, would be proud of. About a week ago he paused over me as my still, faking body lie prostrate on the floor, then he purposefully stomped my stomach with his tiny foot.

"Thatta boy ... er, no, I mean, that's bad, buddy." As I futilely tried to stifle my laughter, my wife sternly told me it's not OK to encourage my son to slam his feet into people's sternums — and especially not with showmanship.

Like I didn't know that.

And so the delicate balance of male progression continues. CT is allowed to throw the ball all over the house, except at the TV. He's encouraged to stomp his feet while dancing to top-40 music but discouraged from crushing my larynx during a carpet battle. His visceral screams are met with parental smiles at the playground yet disapproving cries of "No!" in a coffee shop. 

We want our son to be comfortable in his testosterone-fueled own skin, but we don't want to cultivate a 40-year-old, spandex-wearing professional wrestler.

Sorry, Rick.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

You can lead a man to midseason baseball ...

... but you can't make him enjoy it.

Unfortunately, hardball is the only watchable sport in season right now (I personally don't count golf, because for me it's only enjoyable during the major tournaments.) Don't get me wrong, I love following the MLB season/statistics from beginning to end. But watching 3 1/2-hour games at this point in a 162-game regular season isn't unlike using the Teen Choice Awards as a gauge for the Academy Awards nominations.

There are some benefits to the couple months of relative sports silence each summer. You can spend more quality time with the children and spouse. Long-ignored household jobs can finally be addressed. And you can focus more of your energy on those boxed sets of retro TV seasons you've been waiting to unwrap. ("Simon and Simon," anyone? How about a "Gimme a Break" marathon?)

Then again, the negatives really suck. Waiting for the college and pro football seasons to commence invokes memories of the week or so leading up to Christmas when I was a little kid. By the time collegiate camps open up in August, I clobber something as minor as a blog post regarding a prospective opening-day starting 11 like Keith Olbermann goes after insane diatribes. With vigor.

Plus, the sports-world podcasts really suffer during this period. It's a never a good sign when a national radio show's best guest is light-hitting former Marlins "slugger" Orestes Destrade. Yikes.

But this too shall pass. Like soccer's stateside popularity and the allure of Brigitte Nielsen, it will pass.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Boy Gorge

I'm a prissy, prissy little girl.

It's not as bad it sounds. I don't enjoy figure skating, I've never gone for a luxurious mani/pedi day, and I spend less money on clothes than some monks.

My prissiness is wrapped up in my disdain for getting dirty — an affliction I've suffered from since I was a very young boy. I never liked stomping in puddles, and I used to get really annoyed when my pants would take on grass stains.

I'm not much different today. But my grime tolerance is gradually increasing as my Crazy Toddler immerses himself in the stickiness and ickiness of everyday childhood.

Let's start with food. CT is Boy Gorge. The Sultan of Slime. The King of Crusty Behavior. As I watched him down a banana-flavored snow cone today, the unsteadiness of his hand-eye coordination caused a syrupy mess the likes of which I am loathe to talk about.

But what can you do? He's not even 2 years old. A snow cone is his Everest (another big stumbling block is the 50-cent soft-serve cone at McDonald's. I might as well just strap the thing to his chest and end the dance before it begins.)

There's more. A simple dirt dig becomes a full-on soil relocation project (desination? everywhere in sight). A tumbler full of milk becomes paint for the couch. 0.08 seconds of nakedness on the heels of bathtime immediately leads to pee fountains onto the floor.

I can't blame CT, and I can't really change the situation until he's old enough to sternly shame into submission (just kidding, of course).

I have no choice but to embrace the grossness emanating from my son's body.

I need to "be the pee."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Steel and riffs release the valve

When you're a dad, or even simply a husband, the frustration needs to go somewhere.

Look, I'm not advocating a rage-filled life. But we all know that arduous spousal "discussions," soiled diapers, napless disasters and an array of other issues make for anger now and again.

We also all know that violence against people and personal property is unacceptable. So what's an acceptable place to which the anger can escape?

Mr. Rogers probably would tell you to sing a silly song. But, really, I don't know anyone who enjoys silly songs when they're angry. You just don't see a lot of physical assault prevention attributed to Raffi.

A therapist might prescribe slowly counting to 10. By the time I get to 3, I'm usually throwing my hat across the room.

Many people would suggest a solid hour at the local gym. This is a bit closer to a real antidote, but it's still too vague, at least for me. You see, lots of stuff at the gym doesn't get my blood moving. For example, a slow jog on a treadmill in front of a tiny TV is not unlike enjoying a leisurely picnic in a meadow as deer drink from a picturesque stream in front of you.

Deer watching doesn't drain the anger.

You know what does? Redirecting 200 pounds. Actually, the amount doesn't even matter. Whether it's high-repetition sets of bicep curls with relatively light dumbbells or 2 sets of four on the bench press, lifting weights while testosterone-soaked rock music fills your ears like rushing water is highly beneficial.

Actually, the music is the real key. I've tried and tried to lift with sports radio show podcasts on my iPod. What I've found over and over is that listening to Tim Kurkjian comment on the history of baseball sort of kills the snarl.

The snarl is your friend. It's the release valve for your anger — a valve that is opened by tasty guitar riffs,   excessive bass, incessant drums and guttural screaming. Musical tastes certainly vary, but I can't imagine opening the valve by way of The Eagles, Brittney Spears, Jay-Z or Justin Bieber (note to all big-box gym chains.)

Picking up heavy steel and setting it in a different place is great enough on its own, but combining it with thunderous tunes is wondrous. You'll find yourself punching the air, yelling at the wall and woofing instead of breathing.

And at the end of your hour stint, you'll feel better — and more equipped to handle the tough parts of responsible adulthood.

Sometimes you gotta release the valve.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bad as they wanna be

Being bad is still popular. Michael Jackson and Bryan Cranston would be proud.

The recent drama surrounding LeBron James' eventual decision to join the NBA's Miami Heat brought the worst in various people/groups — once again suggesting that perhaps my minor in sports ethics is an oxymoron.

ESPN — The channel that runs everything related to sports in this country made a mockery of journalism, a craft I respect and am honored to be trained in. Their ridiculously drawn-out infotainment masquerading as a sort of press conference was unfortunate yet not unexpected.

Don't be surprised five years from now, when one-hour free-agency announcement specials run as rampant as Tom Selleck's chest hair. The precedent has been sent.

Dan Gilbert — Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert's bombastic response to James' decision to bolt for sunny South Beach may been fully sincere, with the hurt feelings of his franchise's fans at heart. It may have been a calculated move to save face. It also may have been the result of a glue-sniffing spree gone awry.

Regardless of the impetus, Gilbert's hissy fit was exactly the type of public spectacle he was complaining about in the first place.

Cleveland fans — Sports enthusiasts really need to stop burning jerseys and spouting outlandish venom every time they don't get exactly what they want from their favorite athletes and organizations. Otherwise I'll have to give up my favorite hobby in favor of something boring, such as reading or following politics.

While I understand they're upset about losing such a rare commodity, they are going way overboard. What James did is the equivalent of a gifted young banker leaving a fledgling company for a much better opportunity in a much better city. What's more, James will accept a salary much lower than he could have had in his old job because, evidently, he truly values the success he can help the upper-tier company accomplish.

So, maybe hold off on burning the dude's jersey. I'm just sayin'.

LeBron James — Everything I said above about this guy is true. But he's still a narcissistic, spoiled jerk whom I most likely will never root for.

James had the audacity to pitch an idea to ESPN that had never been done, most likely because it makes the person look like a self-important so and so. What's more, it was a tawdry slam on the area he was raised in. He made what should have been a quite announcement in a close-door meeting with the Cavs into a dancing bear bonanza.

But if you've watched the way he has carried himself and talked about himself for the past several years, his recent behavior should come as no surprise.

James has been taught since childhood that he is better than everyone else and doesn't have to play by the same rules. So he's not going to. He probably never will.

Thus, we'll see the public spectacles to flow freely from this point forward.

Wherever sports meet fast-food culture meet human nature, bad will be.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Vacation nap scheduling gone haywire

I was prepared for many of the pitfalls of fatherhood. I was not prepared for the delicate nuances of scheduling my child's naps.

Vacations are when this problem emerges like a roaring lion. And speaking of this majestic, mane-laden beast, how about the zoo?

The tantrum my Crazy Toddler threw at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo on our vacation yesterday will live in infamy. But who could blame him, considering the events leading up to the aforementioned meltdown?

1) As is the case on almost any trip in which a small child is involved, CT's sleep schedule has been thrown through a loop crushed like a Dontrelle Willis fastball. Three days ago he didn't sleep at all until bedtime, which is never cool. Never, ever cool.

When he finally did get a nap, it was too late because he'd reached the point of no return. This is that awful spot where you're so tired that you literally don't have the energy to nap. It's like the Twilight Zone, except you're too fatigued to enjoy the trippiness.

2) Yesterday CT didn't get his morning nap, due partly to the off-kilter schedule of the day and partly to his particular brand of crazy (He is truly, truly crazy. He should start his own cologne line called "Homage to Howard Hughes."

3) The zoo was basically CT's Everest. If I could do it over again, I would pay a rickshaw driver to take my son from exhibit to exhibit. Instead I pulled the rookie move of letting him walk around. It was my unofficial vote for CT to become ridiculously tired and bump into unsuspecting grandmothers in his path.

4) I had the audacity to tell my son what to do. He wasn't impressed.

5) I tore him away from his new best friend, the carousel. His first taste of sweet, sweet spinning horse delight was too much for his sleep-deprived mind to take. A minute later I heard hideous screaming. I looked back and saw a familiar young man kneeling in the middle of the park walkway, yelling like Nancy Kerrigan.

Soon he was sprawled face first on said walkway, writhing in the treachery of carousel wonderment had and lost.

The tantrum lasted for several minutes. His subsequent nap lasted for many more. 

In the end, I didn't learn anything about nap scheduling that will help prospective dads. But I did live through The Great Zoo Tantrum of 2010 and live to tell about it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

We made it a good one

"Make it a good one, Strap."

This mildly famous "Hoosiers" line flooded my mind today after one of my twice-yearly face-to-face visits with my Grandma J.

It wasn't the subject matter that highlighted our conversation. We mostly talked about society, children, and our likes and dislikes.

It wasn't the setting, either. It was a pretty standard living-room chat, with food and drink intermittently present.

Still, this was a particularly pleasant and substantive talk. It was a great encounter filled with laughter and true, unconditional affection.

It also was, I'm quite certain, the last time my grandmother will be cognizant of who I am.

I didn't write that last sentence for pity or to evoke emotion. I wrote that last sentence because though life is hard, awareness fades and our years ultimately end, there's something strangely soothing about recognizing years of sweet smiles, roast dinners, selfless giving and, in general, amazing love — even as the source of those things is on the cusp of forgetting the whos, whys and wheres.

Today, Grandma J and I took the coach's advice. We made it a good one.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Buzz Lightyear — a lot shorter in person

I thought my Crazy Toddler was fairly smart — until I watched him attempt to shove a chocolate-chip cookie down 2 1/2-foot-tall Buzz Lightyear's gullet.

Don't worry; it wasn't the real 2 1/2-foot-tall BL. The real space ranger resides in Boca Raton. This is a stuffed version that I picked up for CT. Much more humane.

But I digress. I sincerely hope CT realizes this isn't the real Buzz. Because if he does think the toy is B.L. in the flesh, then he's a sadistic monster. He's been tossing this squishy adventurer around the room, sitting on him, shoving a milk cup in its face and generally violating its personal space.

Perhaps more important, though, is the newly hatched intra-crib politics between Lightyear and the Thomas the Tank Engine stuffed toy that previously claimed the territory in the name of Sodor Island. Now CT's wooden prison is pretty crowded with him, BL, two blankets and a whole lot of imaginary tension.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Review of a Debut

Apparently my son is a singles hitter already, at the tender age of 22 months.

Upon my arrival at the abode this afternoon, my wife said Crazy Toddler (CT) made contact with the toy baseball about four times this afternoon. As with any highly anticipated rookie's debut, it's time for a serious breakdown.

The pitches were: A) from my wife, who's no Vida Blue (no offense, if you're reading), and B) from about 1 foot away. Considering those factors, it's basically like he was hitting against Dontrelle Willis, circa anytime in the past few years.

I also don't want to underplay the home-field advantage he enjoyed. Being familiar with the field/living room, CT absolutely knew he couldn't put one over the uncommonly deep left-field wall/couch cushions (It's 4 feet to left, 6 1/2 to straightaway center and 3 to the short porch in right.). Plus, his struggles going to the opposite field have been well-documented. So, he played it safe and poked it through the considerable holes stemming from the fact that his Mommy was the only fielder. And she's no Brooks Robinson, if you know what I mean.

Then again, you can't forget the steroids factor, either. In fairness to my lad, my wife's performance-enhancing drug history is a huge question mark. No one really knows. But I know without a doubt that CT is clean, because he gives me a urine sample every day.

Overall, what his baseball debut lacked in Stephen Strasburg-infused buzz it made up for in Bad News Bears-drenched innocence.

Monday, June 21, 2010

If Barkley was right, world may end

If current events are any sort of indicator, I should probably rethink the whole "raising my kid on the principles of sports" technique.

I used to assume teamwork, integrity, hard work, dedication and grace were principles that could be fostered by playing and watching athletics. I may have been wrong.

1) A nation's soccer team is boycotting practice and possibly actual competition during the freaking World Cup. 

2) Golf fans are cheering wildly for a sex monger making his "comeback" — acting like somehow it would be the feel-good story of the year for this guy who was 100 percent responsible for his actions to win a golf tournament INSTEAD OF his many co-workers who have worked hard and not ruined their lives. I understand wanting to see Tiger emerge from the muck of a life gone wrong, but explain to me why I should be rooting for him more than all these other guys.

3) Basketball players at the highest level are rewarded time and again for falling down when no one touches them. So how am I supposed to explain to my son that this isn't lying, it's acting? Is there a difference?

4) Activities as benign and genteel as small-time high school girls basketball elicits fan ferocity that would make Christian Bale blush. Forgive me for not wanting to take my son to a community event where "30-year-old Former Varsity Athlete at a Tiny School" screams at players on the opposing team — we're talking about 15-year-old girls here — because he thinks they're traveling. Or fouling. Or faking injury to save a timeout (I actually saw this one with my one eyes.).

There's an endless supply of valid reasons to keep my son away from competitive sports — both on TV and in person. And don't think I won't feel bad when I turn a blind eye to all of them, idealistically hoping to steer my him away from the bad (the French soccer team, Tiger Woods, Vlade Divac, high school sports ridiculousness and the like) and toward the good (Nolan Ryan, tee ball, March Madness and such).

Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Father's Day gifts WAY outside the box

I'm guessing my Crazy Toddler isn't going to pick out a gift for me this Father's Day (if he did it would be Toy Story paraphernalia and Thomas the Train stuff). Still, a guy can dream. Here's my wish list, filled with sports-related goodness.

  • The Brett Favre Tough-As-Nails Waffle(r) Iron. This preseasoned utensil makes delicious, fluffy waffles with a hint of that great Wisconsin cheese taste.
  • Landon Donovan Hair Relaxer. When my hair gets a little too long wavy, I'd like to hit it with whatever makes the U.S.' "best" soccer player always seem -- even in the middle of matches -- like Rip Van Boring Athlete.
  • Impala, R.Bush Class. Though this high-powered car isn't the sexiest around, it comes with untold amounts of cash in the trunk, seats, glovebox ... really anywhere where cash will fit.
  • Manhood, by Calvin Klein/Kevin Garnett. The formula for this award-winning scent was simple: Pinpoint the aroma of Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic, then find the exact opposite odor. Bottle it.
  • C.C. Sabathia's Weight Enhancement Program. This sterling Yankees pitcher has put together a truly great eight-week plan based on five doughnuts for breakfast, three footlongs for lunch and a seared wildebeest haunch for dinner. That's the type of dieting I can get behind.

But I guess I'd settle for a garish necktie.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tools of engagement

In the famous words of Samuel L. Jackson, "Hold onto your butts."

My Crazy Toddler (CT) is finally getting to the point I've been waiting for since I initially found out my wife was pregnant: the point where he can communicate in ways I can actually understand and respond to.

It's awesome being a dad, but I don't think it really becomes over-the-top fun until the young'n in question starts doing expressive stuff like this:

— Hugging you without asking. There is no greater earthly feeling —this includes sports-based highs such as watching your lifelong favorite team win the World Series or seeing Kobe Bryant fall flat on his face — then coming in the door at 5 p.m. and finding a sweaty little human running toward you with arms extended and smile spread. It's a kick.

— Tickling you. Toddlers are the all-time worst ticklers. They basically just hit you over and over again, all the while expecting you to laugh heartily. That's what's so stinkin' funny about it.

— Choosing sleep. It's surreal — and quite pleasing — when you get to the point where you son or daughter can actually tell you it's time for bed. Sometimes CT will just lead me into his room and point at his crib. This, my friends, is a boy who has run out of options.

— Offering comfort to those who need it. It was awesome the first time CT offered me aid. I had accidentally slammed my thigh against the table, or something like that. Noticing my anguish, CT had the presence of mind to come over and gently touch the injured area. It still hurt like heck, but it was freakin' cute just the same.

There are many, many ways CT can now communicate with me. And while I've loved him at every stage of the past two years, I've never been more this excited to see him each and every morning.