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.