Dusty Baker… Please Change the Batting Order!

Baseball Managers are petrified to make wholesales changes to the batting order, especially to a first place team, but actually the Nats are barely playing .500 ball (14-13) since a 16-6 start; and they are going on a West Coast trip for 9 games which can be a disaster.

If I were a manager making $1.5 to $7 Million to coach a bunch of overpaid athletes, how fun would it be to screw with the line-up and to see them act like babies. I do it all the time on my Coed Softball team and they could care less (relax that was a joke…but true).

Here is the line-up now with their OBP (On-Base-Percentage), when they are not ‘resting’ playing for their tummies hurting or a broken fingernail –

Turner .277, Werth .384, Harper .447, Zimmerman .405, Murphy .371, Rendon .391, Wieters.349, Taylor .298, Pitcher.

Here is what the line-up should be with their OBP –

Werth .384, Murphy .371, Zimmerman .405, Harper .447, Rendon .391, Wieters .349, Turner .277, Taylor .298, Pitcher.

The top five hitters in the revised line-up all have the top OPS (a short explanation – they get on base and they hit the ball farther). They also see a lot of pitches (a good batting eye) which means they wear out the starting pitchers faster.

Turner and Taylor are the best base stealers on the team, but they are not getting on base to be at the top of the order, so with the revised order, the pitcher can sacrifice them to second or third when they do. T & T can also hit for power, so in fact they can produce their own runs or be on base for the top of the order after the pitcher bats.

Obviously this makes too much sense for Dusty Baker to actually do it, but Turner and Taylor lead the team in strikeouts as well (a bad thing). Taylor is at the bottom of the order for that reason, and so should Turner until he starts hitting again.

Dusty Baker might need a meeting or two to soothe out some feelings or just do it, like most managers who make changes and ignore the players – for example like me and my Coed Softball team (again a joke…but true).


Other than watching the Fireworks, nobody in their right mind looks forward to July if you live in or around DC – except for the Nats.
It is usually so miserable around here in July that I am considering going to my Condo in Cape Canaveral, Florida to avoid some of it. Yes it is hot in Florida, but at the beach there is at least a breeze and it storms every day around 3pm for a respite – plus the A/C is cheap and fantastic!
The Nats are run by the Lerners, who are the most successful Real Estate developers in modern times. If they lived 2 thousand years ago, they would have owned half of the Roman Empire because of their ability to spot a great deal. They paid $450 Million for the Nats in 2005, had a beautiful stadium built for them (by the city to make more money), and received a stake in a Sports Network to make $30-70 million a year – eventually. All of this is worth at least $1.5 Billion or more at this point, not to mention the millions in cash flow every year. Not bad to triple your investment in 12 years. Good for them.
They just built a Spring Training Facility(in a record 12 months) in the richest area of Florida, Palm Beach, for less than $20 million (after receiving $150 Million from the Palm Beach County). Now everything is in place for a franchise only 12 years old for the next 30 years or more.
Except for one thing – THEIR BULLPEN STINKS!!!!
For some reason the Nats shop at Saks and Gucci for their starting pitching (Strasburg & Scherzer $475 million total) and hitters (Werth, Harper, Murphy & Zimmerman $75 Million per year), but shop at Yard Sales and Flea Markets for their Relief Pitching.
Ted Lerner, a brilliant man, is 90 and wants to keep within a Budget! Can you imagine the patience? God luv em, as my Mom would say.
So… July is when Teams are out of the pennant race and need to placate their fan base by declaring they are “building for the future.” And the bargains will be available(woo-hoo!), for the Lerner’s to go shopping.
The Nats are betting that over the next 50 games, they will go something like 25-25 and still have a 7 game lead in the horrid NL East, just to save a few million dollars or a prospect or two.
They host the last place Padres this weekend and then go West for 9 games against the Giants, A’s and Dodgers. They are notoriously terrible on West Coast trips. For Nats fans, Memorial Weekend through the July 4th Holiday week, will be painful to watch as their bullpen pitching blow lead after lead.
All to stay within the budget. God luv em!

Goin’ Back To Houston

Last Fall, driving somewhere on the lowlands of South Carolina, I turned to the 60’s channel on my XM radio (which I rarely do) to hear some tunes from my past. Within a couple minutes, a song came on that was strangely new to me. And now has officially changed my life. With a simple bass line it started;

“Well it’s lonesome in this old town, Everybody puts me down, I’m a face without a name, Just walking in the rain, Goin’ back to Houston, Houston, Houston.” Dean Martin was in trouble…sounding sad and vulnerable like I had never heard before. My body was tingling as I turned it up;

“I got holes in both of my shoes, Well I’m a walking case of the blues, Saw a dollar yesterday, But the wind blew it away, Goin’ back to Houston, Houston, Houston.”

It was getting worse, Dean was on the ropes. How was it possible I had never heard this song? Apparently it made it to #11 on the Billboard Top 40 Charts during the summer of 1965. Somehow it eluded me. As I listened, It reminded me of Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John” in 1961. That song made me cry as an 8 year-old and still does today. But now, Dean Martin was making me sad. The always happy Dean…impossible! This feeling was explanding my unending love for Dean, who always made me feel good.

The great Dean Paul Martin was born nine days after JFK in 1917, on my birthday June 7th. His grandparents lived in Montesilvano, Italy in Abruzzo about thirty-five miles north of my maternal grandparents. I know… we are practically ‘cousins’!

Besides being a successful Boxer and working in a Steel Mill in Ohio as a teenager, he started a career as a solo artist, singing in the 40’s. He gained initial success working with Jerry Lewis for ten years in nightclubs and movies; then an impressive solo acting career in movies for another ten years (remember Matt Helm?) while recording 63 Studio and Compilation Albums (16 Gold & 2 Platinum albums). He was a founding member of the famous ‘Rat Pack’ that helped Las Vegas explode as an entertainment center. Those accomplishments by the mid-60’s would have made him one of the most successful entertainers of all time, but then he started a 20-year domination of television with ‘The Dean Martin Show’ & ‘Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts’ until 1985.

So, back to the lowland of SC. I thought, maybe Dean was just having a bad day, feeling the blues and homesick, but then it went downhill;

“I haven’t eaten in about a week, I’m so hungry when I walk I squeak, Nobody calls me friend, It’s sad the shape I’m in…” No kidding! Why didn’t I know about this? But finally, after a blistering harmonica solo, some hope as Dean tries to rally;

“I got a girl waiting there for me, Well at least she said she’d be, I got a home and a big warm bed, And feather pillow for my head…” Some doubt about the girl for sure, but at least he has a pillow! I bring mine everywhere I go. Then in the final verse, Dean repeats the first verse with only a lonely tapping in the background;

“Well it’s lonesome in this old town Everybody puts me down, I’m a face without a name, Just walking in the rain…”   I was numb when it was over and could not wait to pull over at the next rest stop and recover mentally. He was so comforting, but was obviously in stress. How did he show such strength when facing such peril. I had to find out! When I recovered, I turned to some sports channel, not able to listen to anymore music for the next five hours.

I arrived at Cape Canaveral that afternoon and had one goal in mind, listening to ‘Houston’ over and over to get to the bottom of this emotionality. I went to the Verizon store and got a new phone, then figured out how to use my new blue-tooth earplugs. I downloaded the Amazon Music app and searched for ‘Houston’. Within minutes, I was walking on the beach, heading north to the rocks to sink into Dean’s and my world. I put ‘Houston’ on replay. Finally, after two miles and ten replays, I was singing it out loud, thrashing my feet through the ocean, unaware of how silly I must have sounded. Whatever was wrong with me, Dean and ‘Houston’ helped heal me. Eventually I downloaded hundreds of songs, made playlists, and walked every day for the next three months. Within a week, I created another character for my stalled, third novel and now can see the finish line of completion.

My wife came down in the next two weeks and we went to dinner at this seafood place that overlooks the beautifully-wide, Banana River in Cocoa Beach. Halfway through the meal, a woman on the other side of the bar, announced it was time for Karaoke. I laughed and said to my wife, “you should sing something, you would be great.” She replied, “I don’t have a song ready, but you should do that Dean Martin thing.” I muttered something like, “I can’t image they have that song.” She responded, “you have such a great voice! I’ll check with her.” Boom she was gone, and before I knew it, I was up next, never having done Karaoke before. Whether there was a conspiracy involved or not, I will never know.

My experience was surreal and successful. I pulled out my inner ‘Dean’ and survived without embarrassing myself. I realized how flawless Dean’s performance was and now it means more to me than ever. I cannot imagine songwriter Lee Hazlewood’s reaction to Dean’s performance of his masterpiece, a barebones song of sadness and survival. He also wrote, “These Boots are Made for Walking” for Nancy Sinatra, another amazing, heart-pounding vignette and work of genius.

Dean’s 100th Birthday will come in June along with my 64th on June 7th. I may have to perform my second Karaoke of “Houston” after I blow out my candles. I look forward to practicing for my possible performance with ‘cousin’ Dean singing in my ear.

Baby Boomers and the Cycle of Life

In 1986 and 1987 I went to 13 Weddings, soon after that, it seemed, there were new births every other month for 15 years. Now Baby Boomers are on the end-of-life watch. Soon, in some 2-year period (if I am lucky I suppose), I will attend 13 Funerals – the Cycle of Life will continue.

In 2010, the Census counted 74 million Americans as being Baby Boomers. Someone who was born 1946-64. It makes up almost 25 percent of Americans with current ages of folks that are 52-71. This group of Americans experienced the biggest change of traditional values in our country’s history. They experienced Space Travel, the Computer world, a Music revolution, the Vietnam War, Assassinations, a resignation of a President, an Energy Crises – to name a few.

Those Boomers not afraid of transformation, have welcomed the Social Media revolution and a little computer in their pocket to keep up with an ever-changing world. Most of us remember sneaking upstairs at night to get on the house phone, to talk with our friends for an hour if we were lucky.

Our biggest challenge will be viewing Death in the next 20-30 years. A lot of friends of mine, read the obituaries every morning like it is the comic section of yester-year. First, Baby Boomers will be watching our heroes born between 1920-1945 go into failing health and then passing on into the next world. If we have not buried our parents already, we will learn quickly how to process the lives of people important to us, dying on a regular basis – sometimes daily.

Like experiencing the wonderment of birth, remembering someone life is an amazing experience. Some people fear it, I tend to jump in and swim in it. The amount of learning or re-learning is important to our development. It keeps us fresh and appreciative of our current life.

Yesterday was my parent’s 75th wedding anniversary. I put out a picture of my parents and the four brothers when I was about four to my family and friends. It was a joyful response and gave people a chance to believe there was happiness and normalcy in the past, even if it was just for a moment captured by a camera. These flashes of memories are important to witness as we face the Cycle of Life.

By 2040, we will have landed on Mars, developed cures for cancer, started moving away from the coasts, have driverless cars in front of us on the highway. Generation-X will be in charge of everything with the Millennials right behind them ready to take over. Baby-Boomers will be falling off Medicare and Social Security by the millions and those of us still around will be using a walker (I sure hope they look cooler by then!).

If we enjoy the stroll, the Cycle of Life will be a great ride and perhaps land us in a great new place.

Certainty vs. Doubt

“Certainty is the deadly enemy of tolerance. Our faith is a living thing, precisely because it walks hand in hand with doubt.”

These words come from the novel, “Conclave” by Robert Harris. The character is the ‘Dean of Cardinals’ giving a homily to the ‘College of Cardinals’ before going into the Conclave, where they will stay until 79 of them agree on a new Pope. The just deceased Pope, in the Novel, is someone with views closer to our current Pope and the novel’s ‘Dean of Cardinals’, character, is someone who held great allegiance to him.

He is speaking to the conservative segment, within the ‘College of Cardinals’, hoping to secure the past Pope’s legacy, but fearful that this election of a new Pope, might wipe out the last Pope’s courageous decision-making to open the church to new believers and Catholics that left the church. In the conservative wing, the idea of Doubt in your faith is almost blasphemy and in their world, a leader, can never ponder Doubt.

This stark contrast of terms plays out in our present-day world with world leaders taking no-doubt stands on their view points. I was struck by these words written by Robert Harris for this character as an act of leadership and bravery, not weakness. But present day groups will never tolerate their spokesman or woman ever talking without total Certainty about their issues.

It is written, that Thomas the Apostle lived with great Doubt about accepting the Certainty of Christ’s Resurrection, until he could put his fingers in his Savior’s wounds. This story in the New Testament shows the tension between Certainty and Doubt and living with that tension. As Harris writes for his ‘Dean of Cardinals’ character;

“Even Jesus has doubt about why his heavenly Father would forsake him in his greatest need on the Cross.”

Whether one believes in Christianity or not, the Certainty vs Doubt tension only strengthens one’s spirituality. It is the heart of prayer, meditation or deep thought for the day; to explore what you are feeling, and not a weakness to be feared.

FDR explored this tension in his first inaugural address as President on March 4, 1933. These were the first words he uttered as President;

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing to fear is…fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give support to leadership in these critical days.”

I believe present-day citizens want frankness from their leadership in government, and sometimes that perception of reality will change over the years. The real challenge in leadership or in life in general is to know when Certainty can be doubted and when Doubt can become certain.

As I look out my window at Cape Canaveral, I can see the waves forever coming to the shore, but four times a day, the tides move that process hundreds of yards towards or away from the shore. Low tide brings openness but the ocean is farther away, high tide takes away the beach but brings the ocean closer to us. Each peak can create Certainty or Doubt, but appreciating that tension of each peak can sometimes be gratifying.

Attention… Baseball’s Opening Day

It is time for my annual plea to pay attention to the upcoming baseball season. I did not say you had to be a die-hard fan or even follow your home team (god forbid!). I am saying Baseball is a no-doubt, American sport that waves the American Flag, sings the ‘National Anthem’ the loudest, and even plays ‘God Bless America’ every seventh inning in every ballpark. At Nationals Park, you can watch Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy (at their tallest) run in a non-political race every game. In what History class does that ever happen? You should pay attention to Baseball even if you do not like it, as a matter of respect for a great institution, played in every town, coast to coast for the last 180 years.

At the worse, Baseball is a sport that is perfectly harmless. Yes, I get it… some of you would watch it more if they cleared the benches more often for fighting, but Baseball is not Hockey or MMA fighting. It is a game about two intense skills, the hardest in all of sports – hitting and pitching. It is played in a more gentlemanly, intense fashion, too survive the heat of the summer. It is more competitive than golf, but has less concussions than football. More scoring than soccer, but less frenetic than basketball. More breaks in the action if you need to answer e-mail or facebook, but more intense match-ups when the bases get crowded. There’s swigging, stealing, sliding, snagging, squeezing, safe-calls and strike-outs. You see diving, leaping, climbing, pick-ups, throwing and tagging.

If you (again… god forbid) go to a game because some friend talks you into it, at the worse you get an excuse to eat a hot dog or a sausage with peppers and onions, followed by a funnel cake and drink a beer or two; and not have to count the calories because you are doing a civic duty.

If you have to watch a game at home for a few minutes, because some family member is dominating the television in the family room (I admit guilt), then you get points for sitting an inning or two while working on your computer or watching something on your I-Pad (with earplugs on of course); and then when a home run comes you get to participate in the high fives (additional points) and see the replay of what you missed. This can do wonders for a relationship!

Last October, I helped my wife prepare for a possible job promotion by suggesting that she memorize the Nationals batting order (Turner, Werth, Murphy, Harper, Rendon, Ramos, Zimmerman, Espinosa) going into the playoffs (that was easy, right?). Relax…I know you are thinking coercion like in the movie ‘Diner’, but she knew most of it anyway; and I was certain that seeing officers of the company every day at the office, and being able to spout off baseball information with a male dominated culture, if necessary, would be politically brilliant. I was right, of course, she got the promotion.

As I point out in my first novel, “Big Train’s Backyard” (which is a fabulous read for the summer), the current National League has been playing continuously since 1876. Really? Wow… that’s called forever in this day and age. Civil war hero, Ulysses S. Grant was President on the country’s 100th birthday in 1876. Accept the history, Baseball is our national healer and pastime, so buckle up and get on board.

Here are some tips to help you act like you care (especially for women who don’t):

  • Check out the studs in the Nationals line-up, 23 year-old Trea Turner and 28 year-old Adam Eaton will steal your hearts with their incredible speed and boyish looks. Daniel Murphy, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon are simply three of the best hitters in baseball – all with great behinds. Jason Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Wieters are the old men in the line-up (in the over thirty-club), but they still can hit sexy home-runs.
  • Watch the first inning whenever Stephen Strasburg or Max Scherzer pitch. If the first few batters walk away looking stupid, then you could be in for a special pitching performance with lots of strikeouts. I was there in 2010, with my son, to watch Strasburg strike out 14 batters in 7 innings in his first major league performance. I still get chills thinking about it. Scherzer has thrown two no-hitters and struck out 20 in his last 35 starts. These two pitchers are the closest things to Walter Johnson (read my book), we will ever witness in DC.
  • Download the ESPN application and check the score of the games every few days and watch some highlights of home runs. This keeps you informed enough to banter with those at work or in the neighborhood; and with your partner if they are a fan.

I could go on, but I’m guessing that is enough about baseball for now. Just remember, Baseball can be a dazzling display of defensive dives, and heroic hammering of high homers; or pleasingly patriotic and fantastic fun. Either way, give it a shot this spring and summer. Besides, the Nationals could be terrific this year and you want to be on the bandwagon if that happens. Just read the book if you want a preview of what DC could be like. Remember 5 million people celebrating in Chicago last year? Now that was a real party!

Sadness And Celebration

It was a funeral on a Saturday morning, like many before, on my home court of funeral homes where my parents, uncle, aunt, in-laws, friends and generally anybody Catholic has been viewed. No church service this time after the viewing, eliminating a destination before the cemetery. Much more logical for a non-church going, but I’m still a Christian, person. A Deacon from the local Catholic church showed up, seemed genuine, and led a short service in the very crowed viewing room. It felt exciting to be all jammed in there, like we were in for something special. When the Deacon pulled out the “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” he looked right at me and from there on I was hooked and ready for the ritual of a funeral.

I delayed my Florida trip for this rite and was only looking forward to the good food at the country club after my appearance, but surprisingly the ceremony hit me pretty hard. Like being at a wedding before I was married, I always think of how my own funeral should go. Cremation or Casket – open or closed, viewing or memorial service, church or just the cemetery, restaurant or people at the house, catered or cook-out, one or two speeches or kumbaya with everyone sharing. Too many questions and too many options. This one seemed about perfect.

After the service at the funeral home, I skipped the car procession to get air in my tire and some water and chips (I was already starving after the Deacon eyed me down). I arrived at the vast cemetery and found the landing site staffed by three U.S Navy personnel in their full whites. Having arrived before the procession, I alerted the uniforms to get ready and took a spot near the canopy, especially to witness the flag folding and hand-off. It was about 200 hundred yards from my parents site and I had been there before for the wife in 1998. The shade cover had filled in nicely. The Navy folks were solemn in their positions as the hearse drove up. I am a sucker for the slow salute, the Taps solo and the Flag folding ever since I was ten and was glued to the Television watching our President being buried in 1963. I got close enough to hear “On behalf of the President…” It was breathtaking and perfect.

If you knew the man, you realized how coincidental it was that everything was in seamless harmony on that hillside. Simple, elegant, efficient and respectful. A WWII veteran, he worked forty years for ATT (when they owned everything), married for over fifty years, raised five children, ten grandchildren, more great-grandchildren than I can count. He could build anything and was idolized by his family. He celebrated his 94th birthday on a Saturday with his son’s family, and talked to everyone on the phone that could not be there. He got sick on Sunday and died on Monday. Not wanting to cause a fuss, he gave people a whole week for the Saturday funeral. He was always planning ahead.

As predicted the Country Club food did not disappoint. The oldest daughter, herself a young 70, led the room in courting 20 minutes of story-telling from family members. I, of course, felt the urge to speak right at the end because suddenly I had something to say. As I got up there and looked around the room, I realized I had grown up with his children from the age of 9, playing baseball, softball, golf, volleyball; went to dances in junior high, football games and double dates in high school, beach vacations and parties, weddings and birthdays. We were all so close at one point in time.

My story was funny and to the point. As I walked away, I realized those in charge, during my childhood, were all gone now. The sadness felt overwhelming, but then the laughing in the room from my story helped eased those feelings into a celebration of emotions, some sad, some happy, but it was very much affecting of all my senses.

The ritual of what we generically call a funeral, let me know I was still alive through my eyes, ears, touch, smell and taste. It helped me focus on my trip and destination; to smell the air, walk the beach and feel christened by the ocean. And much, much more thinking and feeling about life.

The Apex of Sports

Being the best at something is all relative. I mean with 7 trillion of us walking around this planet, it is pretty hard to nail down the top spot in anything. So first, let us narrow down the competition to our country – that is still too many. How about our State, four or five million – way too hard. My County, almost a million – come on! Silver Spring, a hundred thousand – maybe. Neighborhood, much better; Family, okay, now we’re on to something relative.

When you catch the disease of competition at an early age, you spend your whole day figuring out what you can win on that day. You start your early, early morning with your paper route, folding and then throwing the newspaper to land perfectly in front of the door (95% accuracy was acceptable) and trying to finish 75 houses in under 45 minutes. Then maybe as an Altar boy, later that morning at mass, you say your Latin in record time, remember to ring the bell three times at the offering and catch any crumbs during communion. In the afternoon, you memorize the American Presidents for History homework on the mile walk home and then hit the playground, where you dominate the seasonal sport you’re playing, Later at a friends house you win a game of spades or a match of ping-pong before heading home. A full day getting to the ‘Apex of Sports’.

As you get older, the competition grows, other neighborhoods, schools. It’s much tougher to establish greatness. My peak as an athlete was in the mid-seventies when I won two County Touch Football Championships as a QB. That involved 72 teams, which was a pretty cool accomplishment considering the great competition. In the eighties, we won some division championships in Volleyball and Softball, but being at the ‘Apex of Sports’ have cratered since I was 25.

As a sports nut, you make the transition from individual athletic performance to watching professional sports as the way to make it back to the ‘Apex of Sports’. I have had a pretty good run with DC teams from 1972 to 2002 with 3 Super Bowl wins in 5 appearances, an NBA Championship in 4 Finals, a Stanley Cup Final & an NCAA Basketball Championship in 2 Final Fours. I even got baseball back in DC in 2005 and have 3 NL East Titles in 5 years (Still waiting for a World Series or at least a playoff series win).

But things changed over the weekend. I am back baby! In the top 1% of the ‘Apex of Sports’ because of my one and only March Madness bracket. I filled it out, reluctantly this year because I knew Maryland had no chance to advance, but my son needled me to do it on our ESPN account, like we have done every year for the last ten years or so. The result – I am in the 99th percentile, 27 out of 32 for the first round(including a Maryland defeat that I knew was going to happen) and 12 of 16 in the second round. With 510 points out of a possible 640, there are only 186,000 people ahead of me out of 20 million players. More importantly, I have a chance to advance 7 of my teams to the Elite 8 and 3 of the Final Four. Not a likely scenerio, but for this moment in time – I’ll take it!

It may not be a true  ‘Apex of Sports’, but nowadays it’s the closest I am going to get.

Update: After Thursday night action, I missed winning all four games(won 2) by five points and dropped to 97th percentile. Still better than 18 million bractateers on ESPN. Still acceptable on the Newspaper Throwing and Landing Scale!

The Spring Equinox Birthday

Today on March 20th at 4:30pm EDT, Spring officially begins. We have survived winter’s last, best punch of snow, ice and 20 degree weather last week. It was almost a knockout, but the temperature Saturday finally melted the ice off of my north-facing, front steps. On Friday, my mail carrier had enough of scaling my K2-type steps, and decided to throw my mail on my top step, gift-wrapped with a rubber band. I don’t blame him a bit. My $20 tip each Christmas was not enough incentive to do the luge up and down my five, thick-as-a-brick, frozen heap of concrete steps.

Today is ready to be Spring, as I look at my window and see no evidence of last Tuesday’s mess. My dogwood, with buds extended, cannot wait to dazzle me with its’ white petals and my weeping cherry has come alive, still holding back with buds that survived the cold snap of weather. The forsythia and dafodils are withering, but have done their thing by giving us beauty and early hope of Spring with their yellow flowers.

More importantly today is my wife’s birthday. She is a dozen years younger than me, so I revel every time she tries to catch up to me. When she complains about her age, I need not point out, but just kindly stare with love, with her knowing that the great likelihood of her out-dueling me to be on planet longer than I, is astronomical. I am guessing, she just needs reassurance that she is the most beautiful prescence in my life.

March seems to be full of birthdays for my extended family. The last time I checked, we have a dozen or so in this month. I guess we could blame it on the celebration of love that starts with couples from the Memorial Day weekend to the Independence day holiday, when school gets out, kids graduate, families go on vacation, people go outside, more exercise, less clothing…you get the idea. Something about the outside air, cooking on the grill, drinking beer, mixed drinks, a little toke can get couples in trouble.

Today is also the 2nd month anniversary of our new President on Office. For many, the last four months have been a nightmare that has just started. Being older, I remember the JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Reagan experiences all too well. For 28 years, things went from idyllic to awful pretty fast and stayed that way for three decades. So 2 months, with an economy at almost full employment and no service men dying every week that could be in the hundreds, this is the minor leagues. War, unemployment, dirty water, no fuel, high interest rates, untreatable disease are the things to worry about. Remember if you want change, 22 months comes in a hurry(mid-term elections) and 46 months (next presidential election) is just around the corner.

Enjoy and welcome the Spring Equinox; and count how many birthdays are in March in your extended family, then you can keep an eye out for smiling faces and happy couples at the next graduation party in June.

Reading Books To Blow Your Mind

From what I can gather from news sources that might be real, our new President does not read books. He reads newspapers (from real paper and probably just the headlines), briefing papers (again from real paper), and watches cable news shows. The Oliver Stone movie about him (which I bet is a certainty) should be filmed in 3-D to present the complexity of the man. His 3 am twitter messages will be the highlight of the film – obviously! I have decided John Lithgow with a perfect wig should play him.

Anyway, my concern for today is not his politics, but I am worried (not really) that reporters will not be able to report what books our President will be reading during his August and Christmas vacations. Even George W. Bush read books. You laugh, but this is an epidemic – most kids and millennials, especially males do not read books.

The information that our next generation and our President takes in, is now supplied mainly by social and on-line media. Learning to take in information first hand, by reading several hundreds of pages,and following a plot in a book, is now a rarity for a young person. Our President comes from a generation of reading, but the idea of having a book or two on your night table next to your bed, to at least impress your women, apparently never crossed his mind. The art of literature is now discussed only by an elite class that reads the New York Times and vacations on Martha’s Vineyard. I exaggerate, but you get my drift?

Here is my speech to get men to start Reading Books To Blow Your Mind.

Reading is a gift to the brain. It is like going to the gym for your muscles. At first it is painful, but quickly it releases a feeling of power and creativity. You start to have things to talk about with your significant other. Your taste buds of learning come alive and will only be satiated by new knowledge. Suddenly, you start to think for yourself and get bored with video games. You catch old movies again that you thought were boring, but realized you missed the point. It’s like getting stoned without getting the munchies and becoming a zombie. Your brain becomes more peaceful because you are giving it some home-grown, decided-on-your-own nourishment of information and ideas.

Sometimes you must trust certain concepts like brushing your teeth as a kid. It seems boring, but it can end up saving your life and prevent painful visits to the dentists as an adult. My father always emphasized the importance of reading to me as a kid. I hated the idea, but trusted the concept and found it to be a life-line as an adult. He lost most of his sight when he turned 50 and turned to talking books (now called audio books) to continue his life-line of information. That passion he showed to overcome his disability, was a life changer for me to witness.

Here are some books from my library, especially for men, to get excited about reading fiction again. I suggest reading actual books in your hand, but downloading on an I-Pad or Kindle are also great ways to get started. Audio Books are now available as well for download. This list starts with my favorite authors. I suggest to read all their books, after that there great books by authors (of course I had to include mine) that I have enjoyed immensely. Have fun with the search.

My Favorite Authors:

Andre Dubus III – House of Sand & Fog (great movie), The Garden of Last Days, Townie (non-fiction), Dirty Love, Bluesman

F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby (decent movie with Leo), Tender is the Night, This Side of Paradise

Richard Ford – The Sportswriter, Independence Day – Pulitzer Prize Winner 1996, Lay of the Land, Let Me Be Frank with You – Pulitzer Prize Finalist 2015 (all four books about Frank Bascombe character), Canada, A Multitude of Sins

Jonathan Franzen – Freedom, Corrections – Pulitzer Prize Finalist 2002, Purity

John Grisham – The Firm (bad movie), Pelican Brief (great movie), The Testament, The Rainmaker (great movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola), The Racketeer, Gray Mountain, Sycamore Row and many others

Scott Turow – Presumed Innocent (great movie), The Burden of Proof & Innocent (both good TV movies), and many others

Other Great Books:

Robert Harris – Pompeii, The Ghost (great movie called Ghost Writer), Conclave

Russell Banks – Affliction (great movie), Continental Drift – Pulitzer Prize Finalist 1986

Stieg Larsson – The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo (great movie), two others in the series

Dan Brown – The DaVinci Code (great movie)

Carl Sagan – Contact (decent movie)

Pat Conroy – Beach Music, The Great Santini (great movie)

Stephen King – 11/22/63 (great mini-series on Hulu)

Cormac McCarthy – The Road (tough book & movie) Pulitzer Prize winner 2007

Pat Barker – Union Street, Another World, Border Crossing, Regeneration Trilogy

Nick Hornsby – About a Boy, High Fidelity (both great movies)

James Michener – Chesapeake (a must for those from or living in DMV)

David Guterson – Snow Falling on Cedars (good movie)

Chad Harbach – The Joy of Fielding

P. Edmund Fischetti – Big Train’s Backyard, The Safety

Brad Thor – Lions of Lucerne

Andy Weir – The Martian (great movie)

Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl (great movie)

Paula Hawkins – The Girl on The Train (great movie)

Michael Punke – The Revenant (great movie)

Viet Thanh Nguyen – The Sympathizer – Pulitzer Prize Winner 2016

Tempting the Gods!

It is easy to understand why our early ancestors decided that Gods ran their world. Because it seemed that somebody from above was always harming them, or as we say in today’s English – “screwing with them.”

Paranoia has been around since the cave men days, and for good reason. They could take nothing for granted; making sure they had fire, weapons, shelter, and food would take up most of the day. Clothing was the first luxury item and I am not talking about great fashion choices.

Living in a nomadic tribe was all about suspicion. After preparing weapons in the morning, the commute would start early with the hunt for food, while fearing attack from other tribes. The trek home was not about avoiding traffic, but concern that their dwellings and families were all still be there. At any time, they had to be ready to hit the road for safety or to find new sources of food. Temperature changes forced seasonal changes of venue as well.

Several tribes of homeless come through the Silver Spring area every year. They hang out in the local shopping centers, and patrol the intersections for income to take care of their basic needs. There was a permanent clan that lived in the woods of the two south exit ramps of the Beltway, that were sent packing when the County or State cut down the underbrush exposing their dwellings. It was meant to keep the deer population from eating the vegetation while roaming the highways and the local neighborhoods, but it exposed their shelters and forced a change of scenery for those folks.

Nothing can be taken for granted. When we start to predict, or depend on something, the Gods can rise-up and change things. Sure, I understand this phenomena can be explained beautifully with Quantum Physics or coincidence, but maybe our early ancestors had it right. By praying to the Gods, they meditated and honored the unknown and feared both the quiet and the noise of nature. They expected the worse and never looked past the next few days. Vacations were invented much later, probably by the Egyptians.

Our civilization has created things to make us feel safe and assured. We have comfortable homes and retirement accounts. We like to follow politics, listen to good music, watch sports, wear comfortable clothes, eat tasty food, discover vacation get-a-ways, plan on living to 100, and enjoy the luxury in our cars. Fearing nature and keeping ourselves alive every day are generally somewhere down that list of concerns, luckily for most of us.

Just in the last four months, the civilized world assumed, that working together was a good thing. Agreements and Treaties were monumental achievements. Trade, travel, health, energy, environment and nuclear arms would be problems to tackle together rather than retreating to our corners of the world. This past few months has changed all that, first with Brexit and now with the Presidential election.

In sports, a 3-1 game lead in the NBA finals for the defending champions, Golden State, who had not lost two games in a row all year, ultimately meant nothing. They lost to Cleveland 4 games to 3. In the NHL, the Caps had the best record in the regular season, by far, and lost in the second round of the playoffs. In the Super Bowl, no team had ever come back from more than a 10 point deficit. Atlanta lost a  25 point lead in the second half to New England.

Did I mention the Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908?

Should I even bring up the fiasco at the Oscars?

How about the first 50 days of the new Presidency?

There is no certainty in day to day events. We tempt the Gods every day with our predictions. Remember the 80 degree weather just a few weeks ago, and the lack of winter this year in DC. Sorry!

The unpredictability of predictability is here tonight and tomorrow. Put on your boots and gloves, and get out your shovels – THE SNOW IS COMING !!!!


Finally Facing a FACEBOOK Frenzy

I was not prepared for the barrage Tuesday Morning, when a Facebook Frenzy arrived on my phone.

After joining on Monday night (I know…you’re not on Facebook yet?), I woke up to more requests than ants crawling after picnic leftovers. The work seemed endless; the decisions, answering questions, looking at pictures, reading comments, writing comments, making invitations, digesting profiles, adding pictures, when to share, what to like, how to ignore, and learning to stop!  Before I looked away it was Wednesday.

The genius of Facebook is overwhelming to comprehend. Just the initial algorithm to this thing must be like the beginning of the universe. And how did they get a friend of mine from the 20th century (that means no contact for at least 18 years), appear immediately after I joined, looking better in the 21st century. It must be all spectacular magic.

I think this Mark Zuckerberg guy is on to something! Is he really going to run for President? He will just turn 35 years old (age of eligibility & half the current President’s age) during primary season in 2020 and I hear he is not an atheist anymore.

Being an independent writer, I had to figure out the self-publishing thing, which took some uploading, downloading, cover designing, editing, fonts, ISBN’s, prologues, epilogues, dedications, disclaimers, and a progressive family tree.

I am not complaining, but writing hundreds of pages and keeping track of characters & time-lines are hard enough tasks, and didn’t most authors in the 20th century drink all the time, party and just write? Yes… I know, they were immensely talented and had publishers kissing their ass most the time, not to mention die young or commit suicide. Well this is the 21st century and over the past five years I have been, along with a million other independent authors, trying to figure out this marketing thing.

I have been involved with marketing in three prior small business careers: finding clients for a private practice, expanding a supply business, and buying or selling real estate. The change in talent needed and the tasks involved in marketing, in just the last five years, is staggering.

The reality in selling books is that very few men read fiction anymore. Men that do read books, really like non-fiction – especially history. Women authors dominate the world of fiction with 7 of the 10 spots on this week’s New York Times Best Seller List and none of them are writing stories with sports as a driving theme. Novels like The Natural, ‘Field of Dreams’, ‘The Art of Fielding’, ‘The Swinger’, ‘Bleachers’ and ‘Playing for Pizza come around every few years as a popular summer read on the beach.

In August 2012, when I finished ‘Big Train’s Backyard’ after 6 months, here was the check list for becoming a self-published author: Build a Website, Network through LinkedIn, Start a Blog, Join Twitter, Expand your E-Mail List, Print up Cards, Write Notes, Make Calls, Give Book Readings and Parties. I thought I had it all covered, but then I read an article on Monday that basically said, “you’re an idiot if you don’t market through Facebook.”

For years Facebook seemed like a kid thing, and I was right. But then of course the business world noticed and it has expanded like the Martian creatures in the movie “War of the Worlds”; they started coming out of the ground – all over the world!

This year as my story grew for my 3rd novel, I hit a marketing groove, I rebuilt my website, re-started my Blog, increased my Twitter feeds, and updated my LinkedIn profile. In February, I wrote 22K words for my story and published 8 Blog posts. My miniscule audience has increased, a few more interested souls. Small steps of growth.

The difference with Facebook it appears, is the energy level. It is a party without bringing beer or wine. I remember how I lived on very little sleep for three semesters of college when I lived in a Fraternity house. Instead of connecting with a ‘Friend on Facebook’, I would just travel a few feet down the hall looking for the next gathering, usually listening for the laughter or a sweet smell emanating from under the door. With no cell phones, the upstairs had one phone in the hallway that rang incessantly and was rarely answered. ‘Roger’, whose room was the closest, would say famously after a toke as the phone rang, “Dammit, I never answer that phone, but I still answer it ten times as much as anyone else!”

This is the Frenzy of Facebook that I am Finally Facing. Learning new things as I approach 64 is tough but exciting. It appears Facebook was built for college kids, but brilliantly it has tapped into the ‘Party Generation’ of the ‘Baby Boomers’ as well. My intent was to promote my writing and even sell some books, but it appears that my ‘party animal’ has awoken, as I go from room to room looking for the next gathering. Maybe this is what 21st century authors do all day instead of drinking and partying – friending and commenting.


A Full Moon + Time Change = Celebration

This Sunday, for the first time since Daylight Saving Time was extended (March – November from April – October) in 2005, we will have a Full Moon on the first day with an extra hour of light. Spring weather my still be a week away at that point, but at least we will have escaped from the prison of darkness.

I have never understood the logic of “I like to wake-up with daylight rather than coming home from work with extra daylight.” Let’s face it, waking up is always the same amount of work in the light or in the dark, it usually sucks either way. That is why most of us need Coffee or a shower in the morning to become human. At least when it’s dark out in the morning, you know daylight is coming soon. On the other hand, working 7am to 5 pm means you leave the house with darkness, stay indoors during daylight, and then come home during the death of sunshine with no hope for more coming before sleep. It is the definition of depression.

Starting next Monday, instead of a quick dash out when you get home to catch the thirty minutes of Dusk left for something like a run, a walk, a drink, or grilling on the deck before the sentence of darkness comes on like a punishment – you can do it all!

With the added excitement of a Full Moon, the Time Change should make the onset of darkness in the evening an exciting experience. It should be a National Event and celebrated with an outdoor feast from the grill. With Spring Forward, taking an extra hour of sleep from everyone, one’s energy for the party could be hindered, but everyone should rally for drinks at 5 pm, dinner at 6 pm, dessert at sunset and more consumption until the Full Moon is clearly visible around 9 pm.

It would follow the same schedule as a Super Bowl Party, but outside without all the cheering, betting and commercials.

The entertainment would be all Natural – Fresh air to breath, the freedom of daylight into night and the full face of the Moon shining brightly until the Sun rises in it’s full glory.

Enjoy the celebration!

It Keeps the Peace Being a Sport Fan

In my Novel “The Safety“, I start the Prologue with “During the post-Civil War era in the United States, organized Sports slowly replaced war between states, cities and towns as acceptable aggression between conflicting sides.” I bring this up because I wonder sometimes, why I feel so terrible when my DC teams are losing?

For years I was convinced by my father that I was “too into sports” while growing up in the 60’s and that working in the industry “was not a real job or career.” It was tough to swallow considering he had been an All-State Guard and State Champion in New Jersey during his only year of playing high school football in 1929. At the beginning of the depression, he had to turn down a Princeton scholarship to take a “real job” in the post office and support the family.

I discovered, just after my first communion and confession (sorry…serious Catholic stuff) at age 7, that I was a closeted sports maniac. I can still feel the marrow in my bones quiver, when I remember witnessing Roger Maris smash a home run in my first baseball game at Griffith Stadium or seeing Sonny Jurgensen sling a missile to Charley Taylor at RFK or experiencing Earl “The Pearl” Monroe twirl and double pump in the lane at the Baltimore Civic Center.

Finally ESPN started in 1980 and being crazy about sports became a badge that I could wear openly. Before my father passed in 1993, I think he realized, that I was right about the importance of sports. Either way, he was pretty excited that Notre Dame football was finally on every Saturday afternoon.

On Wednesday night, March 1st, four of my favorite DC teams that played (Wiz, Caps, Nats & Terps) all won, snapping losing streaks for two of them. About 10 pm that night there was a quiver in my bones, I felt human again! So, for the millionth time I asked myself at age 63, why does this keep happening?

The reason, I learned and now believe, came from my reading of how organized sports evolved after the Civil War. The first announced College Football game was in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton. Baseball’s current National League started in 1876. I believe the progression of these two sports, to organized amateur status in College Football and professional status in Baseball, after the Civil War, helped keep the peace between the States.

Every little to big town in the Nation had a baseball or football team that traveled to play other towns. The players were supported by local businesses with jobs and free accommodations. Each town, big or small, learned to have pride by supporting their team. Winning “the game” replaced the need for killing each other. Eventually every neighborhood or local school had teams, these competitions helped lower the need for gang warfare. The pride of one’s community winning “the game”, started seeping into the DNA!

Now to be clear, this is just a theory, but the more I have learned about myself and others over the years, the more I see the bravado and pride of wearing a team jersey and the almost fisticuffs (and yes the occasional, but…rare violence) between team fans, the more I witness the ups and downs from the sheer joy of winning and the pain of defeat, I think the evidence proves my point. It may not seem like it, but It Keeps the Peace Being a Sports Fan

7 Reasons – Why I Now Officially Hate All Awards Shows

Yes I know, I am over reacting to the Oscar fiasco, but it has been coming for awhile. Last night, like an idiot, I stayed up for the sole reason to see “La La Land” win 7 Academy Awards. Yes you guessed it, 7 is my favorite number.

My birthday is on June 7th, Mickey Mantle wore 7, there were 7 original Astronauts, 7 days are in a week (hey I’m not even using the world was created in 7 days thing) , 7 deadly sins (okay that’s a bad thing), 7 wonders of the world (yes a bit outdated but historical), 7 hills in Rome (sure I’m stretching a bit now), 7th son of a 7th son & 7 is a lucky number (nice finish you have to admit).

So anything 7 is cool and having your favorite movie win 7 Academy Awards would be amazing and easy to remember for future arguments. Let’s review; “La La Land” is a once in a generation movie and had already won 7 Golden Globes and was nominated for 14 (2 X 7) Academy Awards. If you are a guy, you could score some amazing points in your relationship if you bring your gal to see “La La Land”. Make it dinner and a movie. Remember that concept? Plus you will love the movie, it has great dancing, great songs, funny scenes and Emma Stone. And your gal will appreciate watching Ryan Gosling and John Legend sing, dance and play piano.

But the losers at Price Waterhouse Cooper and the Academy screwed up everything. The producers of “Moonlight” got their moment destroyed and the producers of “La La Land” were embarrassed beyond repair. It was like seeing a replay official in football take away the winning touchdown (there’s one I forgot, 7 points for a TD & Ex.Pt.) in the Super Bowl. But to be clear I am mad most about the 7 thing. It was all set up and they actually announced it. Are you kidding me?

Finally to Explain my over-reaction, here are my 7 Reasons – Why I Now Officially Hate All Award Shows:

1) The Shows are More about Promotion than Awarding. Washed up Musicians, Actors or Athletes just want to get Air time on Television.

2) The Women’s Gowns make me Nervous. You know what I am talking about.

3) Too Many Thank-You’s. This makes me uncomfortable because you know they are leaving out someone. Suggestion – All Nominees should submit Thank You Lists ahead of time, then put them on the Screen while they give a speech.

4) The Hosts do Ridiculous, Over-Produced, Opening acts. What happen to Johnny Carson just doing a monologue?

5) The Shows are Too Long and Have More Commercials than Usual. This supports my first reason.

6) My Favorite Nominee Rarely Wins. We now know that all Elections are Rigged.

7) Acceptance Speeches should be Sweet and to the Point. Otherwise they better be amazing. They just won a made-up award, not cured cancer.




Finally – Spring Training Games Are Here!

For unmentioned reasons, I think the country needs Baseball to start playing REAL games soon. We need a daily distraction from the upheaval hitting the world. New Movies don’t help, (unless you’re still catching up before Oscar night this Sunday)  because they’re almost unwatchable until December. Football does not start until the Fall, Basketball peaks in March, and Hockey only breaks your heart if you live in DC. Golf…well you have to really appreciate it like I do (so I wasn’t going to even mention it).

OK, Twin Peaks is coming to Showtime in May and “Billions” is decent, but that isn’t fiction is it? Rectify”, “The Night Of”, “Westworld” and “The Young Pope” just ended. “Timeless” is good (Reminds me of “The Time Tunnel” in 1966), “24: The Legacy” Will get a chance with me, because Jack Bauer saved the world. Speaking of Jack (Kiefer Sutherland), “Designated Survivor” is decent, but more probable than I’m comfortable with in the real world.

Are “The Sopranos” coming back? “The Wire” set in Chicago? No and No, would be my guess. David Chase is still recovering from the “Vinyl” series disaster on HBO last year in which Olivia Wilde was completely nude. What was she thinking?

Yes, there are great things on Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Video. I have them all and have checked out everything watchable. My wife is already down to watching Japanese dramas with sub-titles on Netflix, because every else is either too violent or reminds her of work. Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead… please! If I wanted to watch the end of the world, I would turn on Reality TV shows on Cable or read the News more than I do (which is impossible).

It helps that winter hasn’t shown up yet, and being outside has been great. I bought new clubs that I need to break in, but the evenings still need a constant like baseball, coming on at 7pm every night. Even If I don’t watch, I can check the score or listen on the radio. It makes life feel normal to know that 162 games will be played over the next 6 months.

But until April 3rd, Spring Training games will have to do. Baseball starts Saturday, February 25th when the Nats play the Mets. Those two teams will likely fight it out for the NL East Crown this summer. The Nats have a loaded line-up of hitters, a great bench, decent to outstanding starting pitching (depending on health) and some questions in the bullpen. In other words, they should be fun to watch or follow.

Spring Training Baseball is usually unwatchable unless you see it, live in Florida. This year the Nats are in a new facility with the Houston Astros in West Palm Beach. I am heading down in three weeks for some games especially to see the young talent, and the new stadium in West Palm. And yes, I am taking my clubs, hence the need to break them in soon.

So starting tomorrow, I will check the box scores and start watching some highlights. Maybe a game or two, when they broadcast the Nats on the MLB channel or on MASN. The time change is two weeks away and the real season five weeks away. How bad can the real world be? Please don’t remind me!

Becoming a Part-Time Garbage Collector

I need to become a part-time Garbage Collector because my community has become a Garbage Dump.

My neighborhood built in the post-WW II era has been a nice, middle-class, melting pot of families working hard to achieve the American Dream. I moved here in 1984, and along with my wife, raised our two children, now out of college and in the work force. We have enjoyed great relationships with our neighbors all over the community, and have made life-long friendships.

This community is about 670 homes just inside the Beltway in Silver Spring, and in the past few years it has become a convenient Garbage Dump, specializing in bottles and cans of beer, wine, liquor, water and soda. It is time for some action, but first here is some past Garbage from this century, that might explain why people think this community is a Garbage Dump.

Our Home Values dropped over 40% and are still down 10-15% since the recession of 2008. Scores of houses sat abandoned for years, before banks bothered to auction them off. Some were nicely re-modeled and sold, but most became upkept rentals.

Our Pool, the longest running community pool in Montgomery County, was an oasis in the community and rebuilt like new in 2003. But it had to close in 2014, because of a lack of membership. Luckily it has income from a Cell Tower to pay for upkeep and taxes to keep hope alive for a future re-opening.

Our Elementary School was closed in the early 80’s and torn down, but there was great excitement when the County decided to build a brand new elementary school in 2005. To mixed reviews, it became the first school in Montgomery County built for grades K-2. This meant that hundreds of kids are bussed from north of the Beltway to the new school and hundreds out of the community north to the 3-5 grade school, causing massive traffic back-ups for an hour, twice a day. When they finally widened the main entrance to our community, they removed our beautifully built, wooden sign announcing our sub-division to the world.

In 2012, a Ride-On Bus, that runs through our community, forgot to turn right, and barreled directly into a house and landed in the living room.  Fortunately, no one was hurt, but it was years before the house was repaired.

Recently a small truck purposely drove over a curb, through a metal fence, down a hill and made a right in the backyard to smash the back door of a nice brick rambler. It was such a precise hit that replacing the door and bending the fence back upright, should make it look brand new. Scary behavior.

A nightmare in our community continued last week, a life-long resident, now 27, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for brutally shaking his infant son and eventually causing his death. He was both a star football player in high school and swimmer on our team. As President of the pool for three years, I hired him as a lifeguard and found him to be a decent, responsible kid. Who knew? What a tragedy.

Sorry…let me get back to writing about our current Garbage problem!

Good news first, our inactive, Citizens Association has become active with 130 e-mail addresses on a List-Serve and monthly meetings at the Elementary School averaging 17 folks last year. They sponsored two major cleanups, last Spring and Fall. My wife and I, worked on the Spring creek clean-up and filled up eight big garbage bags. Not since the first Earth Day in 1970, had I picked up so much trash.

The Fall clean-up near the highway did a great job as well, but since then the view has gone downhill. Last Wednesday, I lost my mind and I picked up 50-60 bottles and cans in a few minutes, and threw them in yet-to-be, picked-up recycle containers on the curbs. It hardly made a dent. I tried to calculate how many people it would take to decide to throw a weekly spree of bottles and cans just in that area of our community. Conservatively I surmised, it must be at least 20-30 people dumping glass and plastic containers of beer, wine, water, energy drinks and soda in the streets, on the grass or under trees every week. Being a flower child of the 60’s, I really hoped that behavior went out of style in the 70’s.

I refuse to accept this trash mentality about the human spirit, somehow, we must be contributing to it. So instead of continuing to being infuriated about it, I have decided to turn the other cheek and become a part-time Garbage Collector. I bought an extra box of 80 tall kitchen bags (good ones on-sale for $6.99) for this purpose. For my next 80 walks in the morning, I will try to fill up at least one whole bag and put it in recycle trash each week.

By Memorial week it could go two ways; it might get worse, attracting a whole new army of trash throwers excited about the fool picking up the trash, or maybe, just maybe, the perpetrators will get the message. The Garbage Era is Over! We are not a Garbage Dump! We want it clean in our Community!

I will let you know.


I have followed the Baltimore-Capital-Washington Bullets-Wizards since they moved to the Baltimore Civic Center (currently the Royal Farms Arena) in 1963. At the time, I was ten, and a big Football and Baseball fan, but loved to watch Wilt Chamberlain (who went to my Mother’s Overbrook High School in Philadelphia) usually play on the NBA’s, ABC game of the week on Sunday afternoon between Football and Baseball seasons.

I served the Washington Post back then and easily followed the box scores of the Bullets in my morning scan of the sports page before deliveries. When I was 12, I had grown to 6 feet tall, and decided to add becoming great in basketball to my crowded schedule of being already great in Baseball and Football on the Parkwood playgrounds. In 1966, I discovered WBAL 1090 AM on the radio dial and fell in love with the radio voice of Jim Karvellas broadcasting the Baltimore Bullets on my transistor radio (normally used to hear Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones new songs and Senators & Redskins games).

The 1966-67 Bullets won 20 and lost 61, but it fit in nicely with my sports portfolio of the 76-86 Senators and the 5-6-3 Redskins, not to mention the Maryland Terps Football team fumbling to a 4-6 record and the Basketball team dribbling in at 8-16.

The Bullets in 1966 had a great starting five of Leroy Ellis at center, Hall-of-Famer Gus Johnson & Ray Scott at forwards with Don Ohl and Kevin Loughery at guards. Duke rookie, lefty sharpshooter Jack Marin, Bob Ferry, little Johnny Egan  and Jumpin’ Johnny Green came of the bench. They scored 115 points a game, but unfortunately gave up 122. Too me it did not matter because they became my team with Jim Karvellas turning out gems like “yo-yo-ing the dribble”, “up and in” on lay-ups and my favorite the “bulls-eye” call on outside jumpers.

The next year they drafted Earl “the Pearl” Monroe and in the next, Wes Unseld. In the 70’s they went to the NBA Finals, 4 times and won it all on June 7, 1978 (my 25th Birthday!). So with the 2016-17 season being my 51st as a die-hard Bullets-Wizards fan, you can see why I might be excited about the current season.

After starting 2-8, the Washington Wizards, led by All-Star point guard John Wall, have won 32 of 45 games. They sit at the top of the Southeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference. This is the most balanced starting five in the NBA, leading the league with the number of games that every starter has scored in double figures. Their back court of Wall & Beal averages 45 points a game, small forward Otto Porter leads the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage, center Marcin Gortat averages a double double in points & rebounds; and Power forward Markieff Morris adds meanness inside the lane, along with a 3 point shooting touch while adding 15 points and 7 rebounds per game.

The Wizards face a difficult final third of the season, playing 17 of 27 games on the road, including a four week (3/7 – 4/2) period when they play 12 of 16 away, including two 5 game West Coast trips. It is possible the Wizards may try to strengthen their bench by the February 23rd trade deadline. Health-wise they are at full strength with back up center Ian Mahinmi working his way back to game shape to help off the bench.

The Wizards will need to survive this brutal stretch of road games to stay in the 2nd or 3rd spot in the Eastern Conference. If so, it is possible to imagine, if the Wizards get by a first round opponent, they will have to face the hated Boston Celtics to get to the Eastern Conference finals, and perhaps a meeting with the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James.

Be ready for Nils Lofgren (A fellow WJ alumni) to update his famous song from 1978, “Bullets Fever”, to “Wizards Fever”; and for DC to “Feel the Fever” with the tonic being more Wall, Beal, Porter, Morris & Gortat leading the Wizards to victory.

Now that would be old school, DC!

Another Example of Alternate Facts Used by the Left-Wing Media to cover President Trump (Satire!)

A buddy of mine, Rudy, drove up to West Palm from his winter place in Boca Raton, this past weekend with a friend, to play on a Trump course they heard was Tremendous. Amazingly, the course was vacant for their 10:15 tee off, except for a bunch of Black Suburbans in the parking lot. They loved playing quickly with nobody in front of them, but by the par 4, 7th tee, they saw dozens of secret service agents on the fairway and in front of the green.

They realized President Trump and the Japanese President Abe Shinzo were in front of them, putting out on the green. After their tee shots, they were informed that the President and his guests were playing only 9 holes. They finished the 7th without delay, and paused in the fairway of the par 5, 8th hole, for a few minutes, watching the Presidents leave the green; laughing and playfully bowing to each other.

When they made it to the Par 3, 9th Tee, they were close enough to see President Trump read the green on President Abe’s 25-foot putt for birdie. Standing behind President Abe with his Large Hands on President Abe’s shoulder, he told him the Fantastic news of the Huge break on the upcoming putt. President Abe listened to the Very Smart businessman, now President, and holed it. He celebrated quietly as he left the green, Fantastically happy that President Trump would retrieve the ball from the cup for him.

After a few seconds, a secret service agent waved for Rudy to hit his tee shot. Rudy, of course, was very excited seeing the friendliness of the two world leaders and thought that maybe the next four years would not be so bad. He swung with a ton of Adrenalin and hit his five-iron to the Far Right. President Trump had paused, twenty feet off the green, to present to President Abe his ball from his birdie putt and congratulate him for his Amazing Success, with a final bow following Japanese tradition.

Suddenly, Rudy’s Loser golf shot turned Farther Right, aiming like an Armed Missile at the two Very Smart world leaders. He yelled FORE, appropriately and Politically Correctly, in both English and Japanese. A Winning secret service agent pushed President Trump to his knees and covered his Amazing hair, but the Moronic and Very Weak, Made-In-China golf ball hit the President on his Terrific rear, then rebounded off a Wall (built by American workers to keep out Undesirable, non-paying players), bounced on to the green and rolled against all Rules and Regulations of Real Science into the cup!

Rudy woke up Sunday morning and could not wait to check out the New York Times, to see if his golf shot was covered by the Media. He shook his head realizing the Left Wing always had their biased version of what happens to the new President. “Golfer Hits Trump’s Ass, Hole-In-One”



Something New in Sports! – No Post-Football-Season Blues?

It took almost 60 seasons, but the Super Bowl LI overtime win by the New England Patriots over the Atlanta Falcons, finally surpassed the Sudden Death win in the 1958 NFL Championship by the Baltimore Colts over the New York Giants, as the greatest game ever played. The 1958 game was the last and only time a NFL Championship went into overtime. Most historians believe that game made the NFL, America’s favorite television sport.

The Monday after the greatest Super Bowl ever played, looked like the beginning of the ‘Dead Zone’ for sports fans, when Football is at least 6 months away and meaningful baseball months away. Usually that leaves us with a meaningless Basketball or Hockey game to watch on a Monday night to survive the first night of the Post-Football-Season Blues.

Except last night!

The NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers came into Washington for a regular season matchup. Okay not bad, we get to watch the greatest basketball player on the planet, LeBron James. But maybe he’s out of line-up because of injury or being rested?  Not on this Monday Night. The Red-Hot Wizards, winners of 7 in a row and 17 in a row at home, are led by All-Star John Wall. For those of you that call yourself sports fans, but are really only football or baseball fans, you may not be aware of the season that THEGREATWALL is putting up. Let me spare you the stats, It is the greatest guard performance by a Bullet or Wizard in DC – EVER!!!! Not since watching Earl “The Pearl” Monroe play in nearby Baltimore in the late 60’s and early 70’s, have DC fans ever seen any guard play like John Wall this season. Of course, it does help to have sharpshooters like Bradley Beal and Otto Porter on the wings, and toughness like Marcin “The Polish Hammer” Gortat and Markief Morris inside.

The game was outstanding with spectacular shooting, passing and defense. The Wizards looked like sure winners with a 3 point lead and 3.2 seconds left in the game, but LeBron James made a turnaround 3-point jumper, while going out of bounds to tie the game at 120 a piece, leaving a worthless 0.3 seconds left on the clock. All-Star forward, Kevin Love threw the inbound pass, of a thirty-inch wide basketball, seventy-five feet (try it sometime), perfectly to LeBron in front of the Wizards bench, who caught it with his back to the basket (25 feet away with Beal all over him). and somehow turned and banked a shot of the backboard just before the buzzer.

Ironically in overtime, the Wizards took a five point lead as LeBron fouled out, which led to their third All-Star, guard  Kyrie Irving taking over by scoring 11 points in overtime to cement a 140-135 Cleveland win. Both teams shot over 50 percent on 191 shot total shots, including 67 3-point attempts. It was a once in a lifetime game. Hopefully these teams will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals in May.

So maybe the ‘Dead Zone’ is cancelled this year and the Terps, Caps, & Wiz go deep into the playoffs, the Nats win a playoff series and it stays 70 degrees all Winter, Spring and Summer. And yes, I become a 9 handicap in golf!

It’s nice to get carried away every once in a while. It can help all of us survive the Post-Football Season Blues.

Jerry Smith should be in the NFL Hall of Fame

With the NFL Hall of Fame(HOF) Class of 2017 being announced this weekend, I want to focus on a great player who has not received decent consideration by the voters for election to the Hall-of-Fame, Jerry Smith. He played for the Washington Redskins from 1965 to 1977, but started as a 9th round draft choice in 1965, out of Arizona State(ASU), where he played for a season with Redskin Hall-of-Famer Charley Taylor.

By 1967, the Redskins passing attack was arguably the best in NFL history with Hall-of-Famers Sonny Jurgensen at QB, Charley Taylor & Bobby Mitchell at WR’s; and Smith at Tight End. The trio of receivers finished #1, #2 & #4 in receptions. Jerry Smith, at Tight End, was an unheard of #2 in receptions and had 12 TD receptions, still a single season Redskin record. His career 60 TD’s as a Tight End was a record for 26 years, until Hall-of-Famer Shannon Sharpe beat the record in his last season with 62 TD’s – played entirely in the post-1978 passing rule change NFL era.

There are two arguments for electing someone into the Hall of Fame the first is entirely statistical, and the second is about leadership, which can involve acting with dignity and class during a career. In both cases, Jerry Smith should be in the HOF. There is no question in my mind that Jerry Smith dying of AIDS in 1986, three years after he was eligible for the HOF, ended his consideration. This was a time of great prejudice and hatefulness towards the LGBT community and especially those suffering with the virus. Ironically it was the greatest period of success in Washington Redskins history, winning 3 Super Bowls in 10 years and having Sonny Jurgensen, Bobby Mitchell, Charley Taylor, Sam Huff, Ken Houston and John Riggins enter the HOF.

The first argument is statistical. In the 1960’s, the pass-catching Tight End emerged. Up until then, the Tight End did a lot of blocking and maybe caught a pass or two per game. There are 4 Tight Ends of the Era that are now in the HOF, Listed below is a comparisons of their statistical careers with Jerry Smith:

…………..Jerry Smith / Mike Ditka / Charlie Sanders/Jackie Smith/John Mackey……………

Receptions                    421                427                   336                        480                 331

Yardage                      5,496             5,812                4,817                     7,918              5,296

Yds per Recp.               13.1              13.6                  14.3                       16.5                15.8

TD’s                                        60                 43                     31                          40                   38

Games Played               168               158                   128                        210                 139

Fumbles(net loss)        0(5/5)            1(9/8)               5(6/1)               10(12/2)           7(11/4)

All-Pro/ Pro-Bowl            2/1                2/5                    3/7                         0/5                   3/5

Years in Playoffs              5                   5                       1                              3                          5

Fantasy Points             910.2             830.4               661.1                    1068.5              753.3

Approx. Value                  69                  67                    65                           95                    68

After analyzing these statistics(most of you either fell asleep or went wow I did not know that), it becomes clear that Jerry Smith had a career that matched the four HOF Tight Ends of that Era. Smith is 5th in only 2 cat.(YPR&Pro-Bowl appearances), 3rd or 2nd in 6 cat. and 1st in 3 cat.(TD’s, Net Fumbles, Yrs in Playoffs). Scoring TD’s, not fumbling and getting into the playoffs are the most important things in the NFL.

It is important to point out that in 1978, the NFL drastically moved the hash marks towards the middle of the field, changed the way defense could play receivers and the offense could block the pass rush, opening up the passing game we see today. So comparing him or the other Tight Ends of that Era to the post 1978 Era Statistics is ridiculous.

The second argument is about leadership. At 6’3″ 210 lbs, Jerry Smith was put at Tight End by Coach Frank Kush at ASU. Kush, a known taskmaster in the torrid heat of the desert, knew the undersized Smith could handle the blocking and be a weapon in the passing game. In his one year at Tight End, he caught 42 passes for 618 yards and 5 TD’s in 10 games. He and others on the team believed that Jerry Smith was the toughest football player they had ever seen. Smith was inducted in the ASU HOF in 1976, the 2nd year of existence. Calvin Hill called him “fearless”. Charley Taylor said that Smith “would do his Mike Ditka thing” even 20 lbs lighter than most Tight Ends.

Brig Owens,a safety, was his roommate and best friend. He played with Smith for all 12 years of his career. He knew about Jerry’s gay lifestyle, and was accepting, but said Jerry never talked about it. When Vince Lombardi took over the Redskins, he loved Jerry Smith and knew about his lifestyle, having a brother that was gay. Lombardi made it clear to the team that discrimination of any kind was unacceptable.

Oh yeah…I just remembered a third argument! Watching number 87 catch a football was like witnessing a Great blue heron swooping down to the ocean to snag a fish, inches above the water. Long and slender, with a beak like receiver hands with the strength of steel and the touch of velcro. Jerry Smith was my Great blue heron. Everytime he had a chance to touch the football it would make my heart flutter, like watching something special in nature that only certain beings could do.

When I worked at the Bethesda YMCA in High School at the front desk, Jerry Smith would come in during the off-season to workout. I would hand him a towel and stand in awe for the five seconds that he would humbly pass by me. He looked like a surfer, always with a smile and great hair. Once on his way out, as he turned in his towel, I awkwardly stuck out my hand and said, “I’m a great fan!”. He shook my hand and said meekly, “appreciate it”, and quickly moved on. In life he did the same thing, never drawing attention to himself and just doing his own thing. Now it is time to appreciate his NFL thing and honor his career, his class and dignity. Just keep him in your memory at this time of year and if you are a Redskin fan you should know about his career statistics that matter and his toughness as a player. Maybe some day the HOF voters will do the same thing and put him in the NFL Hall of Fame.


Thirty Things Trump Tackles

Anytime a new President is elected, a flurry of energy overcomes the Nation. There is usually great bipartisan support for some period of time. That has not been true for the last four new Presidents, or at least it has become less and less. There are various explanation for that happening, but I will not go into it in this article. The 55% percent that did not vote for this President may find the following list helpful. The 45% that did vote for him may not be aware of all the things he will try to change in government. As good citizen, I believe all Americans should follow these changes and know what to vote for or against in the next election, starting in some states this year, but nationally again in 2018..

For those of you having trouble keeping up with the whirlwind of activity the new President has created in his first days in office, here is my list of Thirty Things Trumps Tackles in his administration(in alphabetically order for easier memory retention):

1) Budget Deficits – Long Term deficit spending will increase by approximately $8-10 Trillion.

2) Business Deregulation – “2 for 1” will be strategy to cut regulation on business.

3) Coal – Support for Production and Use will increase

4) Climate Change – A de-emphasis on support of Global Treaties and dismantling of the EPA are in the works.

5) Defense Dept – An increase in spending for ships and for weapons.

6) Dodd-Frank/CFPB – a dismantling of the post-2008 recession oversight of Banks and the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau.

7) Education Dept.- A new Secretary will increase support for School Choice and less Federal intervention.

8) Ethics – Congressional Ethics Office oversight will be changed and Federal employees will not be able to become a Lobbyist for five years after leaving government.

9) FCC – Major changes coming on the “Net Neutrality” position on Internet Bandwidth

10) FDA – Changes to the agency may come on funding and interactions with “Big Pharma”

11) Federal Employees – A hiring freeze and no pay raises in sight

12) Foreign Policy – Huge changes to relationships with China, Russia, Mexico, Canada and others.

13) HUD – Department of Housing and Urban Development will be run by a Brain Surgeon, who will operate on housing issues.

14) Immigration – Seven countries have been identified for a 90-day freeze on travel and increased vetting on immigration.

15) Iran Nuclear Deal– Expect changes to a Treaty negotiated last year.

16) IRS – A continuing defunding this department will be expected.

17) ISIS – Defense Department has 30 days to come up with a strategy to defeat ISIS.

18) Israel – US Embassy will likely move to Jerusalem & the Israeli right-wing government will be given total support.

19) Labor Dept. – Expect major changes to workforce rule enforcement, and a lack of minimum wage increase and union support.

20) Marijuana – Expect backtracking of Federal cooperation with States allowing pot sales.

21) Medicaid – Block grants to states and other changes may be supported by Congress. Changes to Obamacare may decrease Medicaid availability to 15-20 million people.

22) Medicare – Changes to age eligibility may increase and funding formulas may happen.

23) Obamacare – Repeal and Replace

24) Oil – 2 Pipelines will be supported and increased drilling will be encouraged. The goal will be to make the US the number one Oil supplier in the world.

25) Social Security – Changes to age eligibilty and funding will be considered by Congress.

26) Supreme Court – New Nominees will be Conservative and against Roe vs Wade.

27) Tax Cuts – Obamacare taxes will be eliminated for those making 250K and above. Individual Tax rates will be decrease 25% and Corporate Tax rates will decrease by 42 percent.

28) Trade – NAFTA and PTP Trade laws will be changed. 20% Tariffs could be put on goods from Mexico, China and others.

29) VA – Veteran’s Administration will be reorganized and possibly health services privatized.

30) Women’s Issue – Abortion Rights will be challenged. Planned Parenthood will be defunded. Equal Pay issues will be abandoned.