Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rye Lacrosse

Rye Follows the Passion of its Captain

Rye's Emma Brinkman does't deem it necessary to hide behind a rugged facade of team captain when it comes to getting clubbed by a field hockey stick. "It hurts a lot," she says, so shedding a tear is fine as long as they are in step with the passion she brings and ready to proceed in the direction her leadership can take them.
"I want our team to play with heart so I try to leave everything on the field and hopefully they will follow," says the senior.
An undefeated 2011 and a trip to the section finals indicates that they do. "It was a good feeling and we both played well but Lakeland ended up winning," she says.
Off to a 2-0-1 start, the Rye girls are making due after a lot of turnover on their end of the field. "We are building the defense again," she says after losing all four starters.
On the attack, she and her forwards will use familiarity to advantage. Continually rotating, she says, "We look for each other and we usually find each other."
Otherwise, Coach Fitzgerald is not at a loss and drills the basics, while the team bonding she emphasizes seem to go the distance. "It works for us," says Emma.

Then Field Hockey will give way to Lacrosse for Emma as easily as the weather changes. "I think they both help me get from season to season," she says, but it's Lacrosse that she hopes will accompany in college, where she'll pursues study in the humanities. 

House of Sports

The House of Sports in Ardsley is Worth the Trip

For Northern Westchester, 30 minutes separates parents and their student/athletes from a cutting edge sports facility that will certainly add mileage to busy schedules but put real distance between the baseball, softball, volleyball, basketball and lacrosse players who stay behind.

The House of Sports in Ardsley is a three story behemoth of sports instruction, academic engagement and adult recreation off exit 17 on the Saw Mill. While the main focus is youth sports of all levels, says Andy Borman Executive Director of Basketball, “We want this to be a one stop shop for the community.”

In other words, parents don’t have to run off to a separate gym as their children are upping their game. “We have yoga, Pilates, spin classes and weight training,” says Borman, and open adult volleyball and basketball follow youth hours.

On the other hand, the full fledged grill and cafeteria gives parents the option slow it down on Saturday afternoon with College Football and Nachos or stick to the program and eat healthy afterwards with their kids.   

At the same time, “the House” is attuned to the dual commitment athletes must adhere to as students – providing an education room for studies. “The NCAA has upped its academic requirements,” says Borman, which means 43% of today’s NCAA athletes would be ineligible, he adds.

If setting a study room aside sounds more like lip service, parents will be reassured by the set up they encounter. “The House of Sports Youth Foundation is our separate nonprofit entity that will provide counseling and tutoring services,” says Borman.

Closing the books, basketball and volleyball players can hit the open floor with two regulation sized courts. “You can tell it’s the right size because the three point lines aren’t out the door,” he joked.

On the far end, basketball players can launch their jumpers in synchronization of 21st century science.  “Each of the eight baskets in our shooting lab has a device developed by NASA that tracks the trajectory of your shot,” he says, and adjustments can be made accordingly.

Upstairs, arcs are not necessarily among the equations the nearly full sized lacrosse field will try to solve. 80 yards by 35 with synthetically appropriate turf, the field can be partitioned five times to occupy the different levels of instruction.
But that’s not the thing the serious lacrosse player will notice first, according to Borman. The surrounding walls give players the opportunity to continually improve their ball handling skills with a sturdy bounce, he says.

Not to be left out, softball and baseball players will also get the chance to knock down some walls with batting cages and the same synthetic surface to hone fielding skills. But it’s not just about technique. “Our performance floor will improve speed, agility, flexibility and strength,” says Borman.

Of course, none of this matters without instruction that goes the distance. “We will feature a litany of NCAA champions and coaches who know what it takes to make it as both a student and an athlete,” says the back up point guard for the Duke University team that won the national title in 2001.

Who knew the opportunity for such success could be so close.

Amanda Gisonni - Hudson Valley Express

Hudson Valley Express to Colorado

Last June, 12 girls from The Hudson Valley Express arrived in Colorado to compete in two national softball tournaments - most notably the Triple Crown Sparkler. Accompanied by their parents and families, Coach Mark Sergio described his Dutchess County girls squad as a really nice bunch that is intense when they have to be. On the other hand, the 585 Sparkler teams that are made up mostly of girls from the south and southwest bring a different connotation to the notion of team spirit. 
"It's like a religion to them out there," he says. Still, The Hudson Valley Express held their own and put some meaning behind their own non-stop aspirations to be the best.

  Before re-boarding their planes on July 5th, Hudson Valley Express became the first east coast team in the 14 and under age group to reach the gold medal bracket. That shakes out to a ranking of about 24 out of 75. Not making any excuses and very proud of the effort, he thinks it's numbers not athletic ability that separates east from west.

The seriousness and sunshine puts about 120 games under the hats of most of the competing teams, while The Express came in with about 40. "They see the same plays over and over," he says, "and we're kind of still at the beginning of their season."

The girls, though, left all that kind of thinking to their coach. "These kids have been playing tournament ball upwards of six or seven years, and they're not intimidated at all," he says. That showed itself in most spectacular fashion against a Texas team that went very deep into the gold bracket.

Shut down by a 4-0 score until the 6th inning by "Texas Elite," Hudson kept their heads and hearts in it. 14 year old Catie Conboy, who doesn't regularly shine as bright as some of her teammates, but has a knack of coming up key in big spots, started the 6th inning rally. Mr. Sergio's daughter, Savannah, ended the affair with a walk off single to win it. Otherwise, Ailish Hogan, Moriah Feeney,Christina Graff,Katie King,Nicole DeCosta,Marisa Delzio did all the damage in between and exemplified how this team faces adversity, according to Mr. Sergio. "The one thing they don't do is they don't give up," he says.

Within that mind set, someone always demonstrates that notion above the others. Pitcher Kelly Wicks would be "someone" in this case. Taking a blow to the head in making a tag play at second, she certainly made a double entendre like head-strong seem insufficient. "She wouldn't come out of the game," says Coach Sergio - only to find out later that she sustained a concussion.

Mr. Sergio also wanted to single out the grit of his two other pitchers, Amanda Gisonni and Katie King. No matter if faced with bad calls, good competition or tough innings, he says, "They know it's their job to go out and throw strikes," he says.

Of course, painting the corners and cutting the bag speaks nothing to the strong chemistry that plays a role in the success of this team. In addition, with 10 days in a team hotel, families in tow and the difficulties that could possibly overcome a dozen teenagers, he says, "You know 13 year old girls." For Hudson, he adds, no problems to speak of. Valley

It helps too when the parents are on the same page. They kept the water and snacks coming, helped organize after game activities and always stayed positive. "I've been on teams where there's been a real mess. This happens to be an exceptional team from both the kids' standpoint and the parents' standpoint," he says.

Looking forward, they're hoping to keep this team together as they move up to the next age level. As for the siblings who made the trip as spectators, he says, "There's an opportunity to do a trip like this, to play against athletes like this and prove you are as good as they are."

Friday, January 23, 2015

You're a Twifty

Twifties are Nifty

If you're approaching 50 or long passed it by, but you're lifestyle seems better suited to someone who's nowhere close to seeing a half century worth of life, there's a new word (and movement) that befits the way you live.

Combining twenties and fifties, semantically and as they might zip past the former on their snowboard, and you have a Twifty, according to Lauren Traub Teton of Pound Ridge , New York . "It's derived from people around their 50's who act like they are in their twenties.
A snowboarder herself, she got the idea to bring attention to this naturally occurring demographic - with hopes of connected them - as she saw Twifties descending past her on the slopes and heard of their ascent as rock climbers, belly dancers and hockey players. "Unless you're in one of these micro groups, you have no idea of the fabulous things that people our age are doing," she says.
With a website that currently is a work in progress, she stops well short of describing this as a Facebook for older people. Envisioning for people who don't want to spend a lot of time in front of a computer, she says, I want to connect people in real space as opposed to the cyber kind the kids are used to.
Additionally, she thinks that between internet connections, cell phone voicemail systems and Blackberry enslavements, there are far too many holding centers that are in need of regulation for all out unwanted entanglements. "I told my web designer, I don't want an inbox because an inbox is just more work," she says.
She is looking for something synonymous with the inherent spontaneity of a Twifty. "There's a great band at Northstar Restaurant in Pound Ridge tonight - see you there," she says she sees the future posting to the website.
Once congregated, Twifties will find each other she predicts by wearing some sort of identifying "Indentabalia." "People could walk right up to you and say, 'Oh, you're a Twifty,' she says, "and then you have an immediate icebreaker."
Otherwise, they might very likely find each other by the good state of fitness a Twifty more commonly will occupy, but she's definitely not excluding anyone based on waistline or dress size. She does, though, believe, the basic commonality of a Twifty is having a core strength. If you allow your core to weaken, your not going to have the strength and stamina to do fun things, she says.
Still, if a recent divorce or a partner who lacks the active mindset has left you in a lifestyle downturn, she sees the Twifty in good standing as a role model to get them looking up. "If you're not fit then you've got to come over to the Twifty's side - we're there to reach out a hand and pull you over," she says.
Regardless, Twifty's pursuits don't necessarily have to conform to some predetermined speed limit. Whether it's crossword puzzles or the opera, she says, "If you have a passion and it keeps you going and it keeps you enthusiastic about life then it's a Twifty's pursuit."
In its infancy, she is broadcasting a public access show from Yorktown to shed light on whatever Twifties are already out there. "We interview Twifties and we find out how they have fun, how they manage their lives, and how they live their lives with passion," she says.
From there, she will diversify to the internet in a more segmented form. "Nobody sits down to watch a half hour show on the internet so it will be in short five minute segments," she says.

In the near future, she plans to organize an event at an adventure park in the Berkshires but she is definitely shooting for something beyond her own local confines of Westchester County . Thinking nationally and internationally, "It's a movement of the people," she concludes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Somers Little League Champs

Somers Red Storm does the Little Things En Route to Undefeated Season

When compiling a 15-0 record in which your team outscores opponents 263-43, paring the unavoidable bloop with a multitude of blasts must be the general mindset. But en route to this undefeated onslaught, the coaches of the Somers Red Storm WPBA Little League team drills an understanding that baseball success largely hinges on maximizing the minutia
“The little things are what makes the difference,” says head coach Joe Barbagallo
Moving the runners over with productive outs or taking a pitch if the runner is on the move, he says, “We started that message last year, and we continue to reinforce it.”
Of course, if the fundamentals succumb to a big blast, Barbagallo doesn’t give their best hitter a lecture on the basics. “Brandon LaSpina is hitting the ball really hard and leading the team in most batting statistics,” he says.
Helping him ring up the ribbies, John Mollaghan leads off with the table setting and makes sure – for the meat of the order – that the meals are always on wheels. “His on base percentage is .657, he’s fast and a good base runner,” says Barbagallo.
Even so, the coach quickly realized that the bottom of the order would not only be able to roll the top but give it a run for its money.  “In our first game, it took eight batters before we had an out,” he recalls, (while boasting a team OBA of .518).
Foretelling, in his estimation, the season’s success. Still, Barbagallo knows that keeping the ball down and hitting the corners makes all those runs across matter. “Our success is really built around our pitching,” he says – singling out starters Joey Iorizzo, Mike Napolitano and Logan Carriero.   
But in that regard, winning takes a backseat to preserving the health of his slingers. “I used to pitch, and nobody really took care of my arm,” he says. “I ended up hurting myself so I try to focus the boys on throwing the ball right.”
A caution he puts into practice. “If somebody has any issue we shut them down,” he says.
Luckily, his 11 man roster is the definition of depth. Great middle relief from Brandon LaSpina, Drew Lasher, Joey Carino lets them mix and match, while son Michael Barbagallo and Dylan Morzillo put out the game ending fires.
Not overlooking catchers Jack Gorton and Anthony O’Donnell to drop the signs, the resulting goose egg in the loss column only provides a one game edge on Larchmont/Mamaroneck.
A 13-3 loss to Somers, a climatic final game awaits and then the playoffs.
Nonetheless, Barbagallo believes Somers holds an edge when the little things can’t equal a two out clutch hit. Citing all the tournament play Somers did this spring, he says, “We have an advantage in the pressure situation because we put ourselves in that situation a lot.”
Their performance at The Cooperstown Dreams Tournament in July speaks directly to this. Playing six preliminary games to bracket play, Somers ranked 31 of 104.
Barbagallo was particularly proud of the team’s first round 10-6 comeback win against the 34 seed. But the fundamentals can only go so far when you share the bracket with a team consisting of players from all across Nevada and California. “I don’t really want to say the score,” he laments the blowout to the second seed.
But conceding the details of the 24-0 drubbing was eased by the support his boys received from Somers fans. Every strike thrown, out recorded and batted ball was met with resounding cheers. “It was really a special game for us – even though we got beat so bad,” he says.
Certainly doing Somers proud, Barbagallo notes that these kids not only play well inside the lines but are pretty good at reading between them. “They all take their academics seriously and do very well in school,” he says.
Looking forward, he doesn’t have a read yet on next year since teams usually disperse at the next level. He’s got his pitch ready, regardless. “If this team stays together, I will assuredly being coaching them,” he concludes.

Note : Red Storm won their final three games and then cruised to the championship with 16-4, 1-0 wins over Lewisboro and Bedford and a 17-7 win over Mamaroneck in the final.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Somers, New York, Author Recalls 1959 High School Championship Baseball Team and Season

Somers, New York, Author Recalls 1959 High School Championship Baseball Team and Season

Without a cloud in the sky, a spring day begs for baseball for kids across Westchester, as the High School Sectional Championship is on the line in Mt. Vernon, New York. The normal butterflies apply and the players understand the magnitude of the game. It's safe to assume that the school and the city are equally as excited - or not.
Save a few dads who came to watch, says Somers Resident and 1959 Mount Vernon Baseball player Bruce Fabricant, "No one gave a hoot or a holler."
But this was a different time, he admits. One that he has recaptured in a self-published novel called, "That Perfect Spring."
Despite baseball being king at the time, he believes the lack of hoopla emanated from the simple expectations parents had back then. Mostly first or second generation Americans, he says, "They basically wanted us to stay out of trouble, go to school and have fun."
So long before the 1959 season, an acumen (without the need for acclaim) developed on Mt. Vernon baseball fields. "You played all day long," he said.
Unfortunately, the hyper-structure of sports today has put kids at a loss. In order to reserve fields, rosters had to be filled out and forms submitted at City Hall. Your parents didn't do any of this, he says, and it taught you responsibility.
In turn, the process probably helped kids put aside the politics of deciding who played where. We knew in our hearts who was the best shortstop or leadoff hitter, he says, and there were no arguments.
On the other hand, Mt. Vernon was one of the first Westchester cities to have Little League Baseball. "It was very organized," he said, and when the coach showed up at your house with the uniform, he added, it felt like receiving a gift from Bloomingdale's.
Entering high school, the core of the Westchester Interscholastic Athletic Association Champs started as sophomores on JV. Otherwise, the 1959 season began unceremoniously. Among a league consisting of schools such as White Plains, Roosevelt and Yonkers, he says, after four games we were 2-1-1.
Belief emerged in the form of a fifth game no-hitter. "We had tremendous pitching from Eddie Martin," he says, who finished the season 7-0, and propelled the team to a 12-3-1 record.
Given the bigger biceps that produce so many fly ball homeruns today, the younger fan might be shocked at a team batting average of .245, which consisted of one triple and no dingers. "Good defense and pitching wins," said the starting second basemen.
In this team's case, he says phenomenal defense, but another difference is the manner in which the title was won. Mt. Vernon needed a win coupled with a second place loss to secure first place and the championship. No sectionals, he says, "Basically, you played your season and that was the end."
Nonetheless, only passing reference in the school newspaper didn't dissuade him from writing this book. It came to him at his 40th High School Reunion in 1999.
Coupled and inspired by a book called, "The Glory of their Times," Mr. Fabricant mirrored his book after this oral history of turn of the century baseball players. Written by Lawrence Ritter, the author traveled the country interviewing baseball players in the 1960's and came up with what Mr. Fabricant calls, "the greatest baseball book ever written."
Tracking down his teammates, he took his tape recorder and let them talk. Aside from one season in the minors by the team's catcher, it doesn't matter that most of these stories ended in slow-pitch softball leagues after high school.
In fact, for Mr. Fabricant, the most important payoff came only years later. In those days, he says, dads would never give out compliments and mostly remained silent.

But through his uncle, he learned that his father couldn't say enough about his play. Concluding in yet another instance of this lost past, he says, "It was like the cat's meow."

Baseball Boys Recreates 1950’s Little Baseball Youth of Heritage Hills’ Resident

Baseball Boys Recreates 1950’s Little Baseball Youth of Heritage Hills’ Resident

Little League Baseball was born in 1939. By 1950, it made its way from Pennsylvania to Bruce Fabricant’s hometown of Mt. Vernon. In 1953, he got the call, and on a cold April morning, the Heritage Hills resident tried out. The times didn’t allot for a participation trophy, but finally getting the chance to play on a real field, with adults who could teach the game easily made up for lack of metallic luster and the frostbite. In actuality, what he did get was far more important and is never far from what he is trying to document in Baseball Boys – a self-published novel on 1950’s Little League baseball in Mt. Vernon.

“I got a postcard in the mail, that said, ‘you didn’t cut it son,’” he remembers.

He persevered to make a roster the next time - the life lessons obvious. “You learned how to lose, dealing with adversity and rising to a challenge. That’s what I’m trying to impart in this book,” he says.

He’s not advocating, a la Bill Cosby, that kids go back to walking to school, in the snow, uphill, both ways, or trying out just to play. But when he goes to his granddaughter’s soccer game, and parents aren’t allowed to cheer, because someone might feel bad, child development is the loser.

On the other end, Fabricant sees too many parents transformed into agents. Jockeying managers for marquis exposure, they envision a scholarship before shaving is even a consideration. “Parents get involved with organized sports to a degree that they are overstepping their bounds rather than leaving it up to the kids on the field,” he says in paraphrasing the piece Rick Wolff of Sports Illustrated contributed.

But his dialogue on these societal deficiencies don’t dominate Baseball Boys. Filled with old newspaper clippings, game summaries, boxscores, anecdotes from the players and interviews with Mt. Vernon’s Ralph Branca and Ken Singleton, the book recreates the era and serves as an example not a lecture.

He also just loves his hometown, the lost youth and the part baseball played. As such, Fabricant felt an exploration of these early years of organized play was warranted. 

Beforehand, it was all on the kids. “We played baseball in the streets and so forth, but something was missing,” he remembers.

World War II over and fathers coming home, an interest emerged in organizing and a former major leaguer named Carl Stotz seized upon it. Stotz enlisted a local newspaper editor to publicize the initiative and Ralph Branca endorsed it. “I remember it vividly, so many kids like myself at the first tryout,” says Fabricant of the scant 75 slots that the first few years could support.

Additionally, Stotz made it his mission to provide a contrast to a cultural makeup that mostly had the various ethnicities sticking to their corners of the municipality. “The greatest thing he did was to integrate the league so you played with all the different types of players,” said Fabricant.

He also got out front when an entry fee was initially proposed.  “Carl said no. We won’t do that, and local sponsors put up the tab,” says Fabricant.

The rest was left to the managers. “I heard from many friends about the men in the dugout, and the instrumental part they played in their lives,” he says.

As for his discussion with Ralph Branca, the exchange stuck to the small stuff. “I didn’t talk at all about his major league career,” says Fabricant, and the two had more in common than baseball.

Prompting Branca if he remembered the Fabricant dry cleaning business, the Dodger great was quick with the Brooklyn wit. “Of course I do. I worked at it. I probably made 50 cents an hour because your father was so cheap,” Fabricant relayed the story with a smile.

Ken Singleton, on the other hand, lamented the disarray of the fields he played on as a kid. “A sign of the times,” says Fabricant, “the kids aren’t playing as much.”

But back then, the league expanded along with the demand. In that, he hopes the natural order of things can be restored and rollback the excess. “Just let the kids play,” he concluded.

The book can be found on at "Baseball Boys Rediscovering 1950s Little League Baseball in Mount Vernon, NY"

Jeff Pearlman Comes Home to Discusses His Latest Book and The Life of Walter Payton

Jeff Pearlman Comes Home to Discusses His Latest Book and The Life of Walter Payton

On Sunday, December 11th, Author Jeff Pearlman came back to his hometown of Mahopac, New York to discuss his most recent book Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton. At the Mahopac Library, before an audience of about 30, Mr. Pearlman not only delved into the complex life of a giant but also the controversy he endured in light of an account that had much of the sports world aligned in outrage by the book's insights.

"Google my name and Douche Bag," he said, "it's unbelievable and it hurt deeply because I developed such a love for Walter Payton in doing this book."

Of course, the brunt of the controversy ensued out of the obligatory Sports Illustrated excerpt that ran prior to publication. Set around Payton's induction into the Hall of Fame, the scene with his wife in the front row and his long time mistress in the second, encapsulated the running back's struggles with infidelity, depression and painkillers. "He was a great iconic football player. People loved him and no one had a bad word to say about him. The problem is if you're going to write a biography, I believe you can't really appreciate their greatness if you don't understand where they came from and the struggles they went through," he said.

That said, the New Rochelle, New York author loves the opportunity to get into the psyche of his subjects, and in this case, the journey in pursuit of Walter Payton's ghost took him to Columbia, Mississippi where the NFL's second all-time leading rusher grew up. "The Supreme Court instituted the desegregation of schools in 1954," he said, "but Columbia simply ignored the law until 1970."

The stereotype of a small southern town steeped in racism was so pronounced that integration literally shook people in their seats. "White parents refused to allow their children into the black high school until all the toilet seat covers were replaced," he said.

Walter Payton's senior year coincided with the upheaval and his influence had a marked effect on bringing the community together but it had a lot more to do with success on the field and all the defenders left in the dust. "He was such a great kid and did more than any single one person to bring change to Columbia," said Pearlman, who also wrote The Bad Guys Won,” on the ’86 Mets and an expose on Barry Bonds called, Love Me, Hate Me.

Sociological study aside, Payton's athleticism set him apart from all college contemporaries. Pearlman recalled Steve Bartkowski’s introduction and an entrance that had everyone on the balls of their feet – save the standout from Jackson State. “Walter Payton walked in on his hands and didn’t come down until he covered the field three times,” Pearlman relayed the account of the former Altanta Falcons Quarterback.

His sense of humor also went the distance and could put friends and teammates at a playful loss. With the high pitched voice, he would call the wives of teammates and claim to be a girlfriend on the side. “This is Ginger and our baby really needs shoes,” was a Thanksgiving Day message he once left, according to the author.

Only after a good deal of begging – among a front lawn full of the teammate's belongs – did Payton let the wife in on the joke. But playing for the horrendous Bear teams of the 70’s, a sense of humor provided the only cover for the workhorse back. “I’m a brother so you don’t see my black and blues,” Pearlman said he once told a reporter.

Sadly, his nickname implied a sensitivity that also had a downside and came at the moment of his greatest success. As the mighty Bear defense eyed a shutout in the 1985 Superbowl, Payton fumbled on the opening play. Leading to the Patriots only points, says Pearlman, “He was devastated.”

The ultimate indignity came later when William “The Refrigerator” Perry barreled his caricature into the endzone instead of the Bear’s all-time great. “He just about donated a kidney to the organization,” said Pearlman, and as the team went onto to celebrate victory, Payton disappeared into a broom closet to cry over the slight.

Payton’s agent eventually coaxed him out into the celebration but if the pinnacle of his career amounted to such an emotional low point, retirement would have to be typical of what most athletes go through. “When professional athletes retire, it’s a nightmare. You basically go from being a fixture to becoming a storyteller of past glories, he said.

And as a sportswriter, who first gained national attention from the SI story on John Rocker, he knows nothing angers an ex-athlete more than retelling old stories. Still, Payton positioned himself at the end of his career to become the first NFL player to partially own a franchise. The Cardinals having vacated St Louis, he spent all his time there for about two years. Unfortunately, the NFL would expand to Jacksonville and Charlotte – thus killing his dream and future. “His life fell off a cliff,” he says.

He went on instead to take up race car driving and was almost killed before quickly giving up on the dangerous outlet. Payton then succumbed to a wave of suicide notes and phone messages in which he would tell friends they would never see him again.

But it was the contraction of a rare liver disease that eventually undid him and the ending revealed the chaos in which his personal life descended into. Never officially ending his marriage, among a string of affairs, he moved back home to an obviously awkward situation with his wife.

Complicating matters was that he was never a very good father, according to the author, so nobody really cared about him or helped him through his last days. His actual death was the culmination and embodiment of the decline that began when his ownership dreams fell through.

There was no one to even call the funeral home or decide what clothes to put him in and the family disputed whether to honor his wish to be cremated. Out of those circumstances, the funeral service was a farce in which a slick haired televangelist-type preacher stated, “He was elected into the Hall of Fame and now he’s elected into the Hall of Faith.”

“It was the worst funeral I’ve ever seen,” said Pearlman.

In turn, the dynamic among the mourners would become a preview of sorts for what the author would later find himself embroiled in. “A wife who was “full of it,” a “crazy” brother, an assortment of girlfriends and a collection of children born in and out of wedlock created a room full of factions.

All knowing full well I was writing the book, he says, “It was really complicated,” and he could feel the ire as he circulated among the groups.

On the other hand, Pearlman believes Walter Payton's true shinning moment came in the midst of all the life ending turmoil. In his dire state, there was no real possibility for a liver transplant or even the chance to survive if one was available. Nonetheless, the Chicago hero allowed momentum to build on his behalf for a liver and he began making public service messages on organ transplants. "Organ donors skyrocketed in Illinois," he said.

Regardless, for Mr. Pearlman, delivering both sides of the Walter Payton story gave rise to the vitriolic backlash. His justification is simple. “That’s the process of understanding history,” he says, but the effect on him was not something that was easy to endure.

“It was like getting stabbed in the heart,” he said – especially given the effort and love put into it.

Of course, the twitter driven anger, which he says has drastically changed our discourse, would eventually subside. Former players and fans had time to read the book and come around. Mike Ditka who initially told a reporter he wanted to spit on Pearlman, has since apologized.

All told, Mr. Pearlman doesn’t elevate his difficulties to a level anywhere near that of Walter Payton. Despite the god-like place he occupied in Chicago and the respect and friendships accumulated as a player, the title tragically provides the epilogue. “Nobody knew really him and nobody had a full grasp of his life,” Pearlman concludes.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Softball Cliches Fast Approaching Their Expiration Date

I've been playing softball in leagues for 20 years and I'm having my best season ever. My team is 7-1 and I'm hitting over .600 so I hate to raise concerns over something as great as softball. The problem is the 100 year old softball cliches. It's bad enough in polite conversation when you feel like your stuck in some old Saturday Night Live rerun where every conversation ends with "I hate when that happens." It drives me more crazy on the softball field. But there's something more significant at stake here. Do we really want to burden our sons and daughters with these "dinosaurs?" And if we don't come up with something new, they're surely going to point to their dysfunctional softball upbringing like we are the Osbournes. We don't need that. Just ask Ozzy. Here's some candidates for replacement.
  1. "Pick me up" - You know, after a batter pops up to the shortstop with the bases loaded and leaves it to you, he'll dejectedly say, "Pick me up" to unselfishly attempt to contain the pessimism. When it's me, "I should be caned," is what comes to mind. You just feel like with a ball as big as a grapefruit moving slower than a butterfly you should be able to get a hit every time. You can't, but you should have a guilty conscience anyway and there's nothing you can say that can fix it like a good triple.
  2. "It looks like a line drive in the boxscore tomorrow" - A 22 year old bloops a single over the second baseman's head and he springs this one on the 50 year old first base coach like he has come up with the "Must See TV" promo for NBC. OK, I figured I invented the line when I was 22 also, but what's your excuse when you're 50.
  3. "It hurts with two" - Yes it does, but it hurts a lot more with none. (Is that a new cliche on the horizon?) And when the 10th batter gets a hit with two outs, I'm not sure who it hurts more when the top of the order doesn't get a run in.
  4. "Ducks on the pond" - I can still live with this one but before we wear it out, how about we throw in a "Seagulls on the Beach" or "Bears in the Park" the next time there's runners on first and third.
  5. "Can 'a Corn" - Same here. "Shaker of Salt" could keep it from becoming a problem.
  6. "It wasn't you" - You just looked at a meatball and somebody usually yells, "It wasn't you." Well, now that you're stuck in an 0-2 hole, do they really think any of the next few pitches has any chance of being "you." If I were "you," I'd ignore the cliches and start digging.
  7. "Help your cause" - I guess if I played in the National League, I could put up with this when the pitcher bats. On my team, where our pitcher is hitting about .800, I'm usually thinking, if he really wanted to help his cause, he'd get on a team with a bunch of guys who could hit like him. As for most pitchers in Softball leagues, they're older and are teeming with savvy. They know how to hit. Plus, their low key demeanor and maturity prevents them from getting overly emotional about any game situation (except maybe from an overabundance of worn out cliches).
We're all having a good time out there but let's remember to think a little about the future the next time we cut out of work early to hit the field.