Monday, July 20, 2009

You Never Forget Your First Beanball

Even at 6 years old, Clark is a lot tougher than his old man. He proved that over the weekend.

Clark got hit in the eye with a baseball during warm-ups for his Little League All-Star game, resulting in a first-class shiner. A lesser man – his dad, for instance – might have packed it in right there. Clark not only played in the game, but got a couple hits.

I speak from experience on this. My Little League career ended at about Clark’s age when a manchild nicknamed Froggie beaned me in the head with a fastball. I continued to play after that, but spent most of my time in the batter box trembling with fear. Because of Froggie, I was much more worried about getting hit than getting a hit.

After getting hit, Clark wasn’t too eager to mix it up again, either. Something about the thud of a hardball against soft flesh will do that to you. But Clark did play. In fact, in true Hollywood fashion, he darned near had the game-winning hit. Unfortunately, the lead runner was sent back to third. We lost in extra innings. The storybook finish will have to wait for another day.

I’d like to think it might still happen, however. Perhaps on some cool October evening many years from now with the Reds leading 3-2 and just one out from clinching the World Series, Clark will be called in from the bullpen to save the day. With 45,000 people watching anxiously from the stands and millions more on national television, Clark will wind up, muster all his strength and promptly drill Froggie’s offspring right in the head.

That kid has one coming.

Friday, July 10, 2009

An Izzo Elevator Encounter

As it turns out, Tom Izzo apparently felt as badly about his Michigan State Spartans knocking my Louisville Cardinals from the Final Four chase as I did. At least that’s what he told me in the elevator of Cleveland’s Renaissance Hotel.

I was in town to promote the National Senior Games. He was in town to attend the LeBron James King City Classic basketball tournament, featuring the best high school players in the nation.
As fate would have it, we ended up on the same elevator at the same time, along with Illinois Head Coach Bruce Weber.

The last time I saw Izzo was at a distance. He was patrolling the sidelines in Indianapolis as his underdog Spartans easily dismantled my beloved Louisville Cardinals, depriving me of the joy of a Final Four appearance. This time, the personal space between us was much more intimate. We were in a cramped elevator instead of the Lucas Oil Stadium. Because of the man next to me, I would never see T-Will in a Louisville uniform again. I couldn’t possibly let the moment pass without letting him know just exactly how I felt.

“Coach,” I started. “Why did you have to beat my Cardinals like that?”

“Well,” he replied sheepishly. “Um, I’m sorry about that.”

Witnessing this, Weber chimed in instantly with “I’m not!”

Apparently that Big Ten blood runs pretty thick.

Regardless, I left the elevator feeling better, knowing Izzo didn’t really want to beat the Cardinals like that. And at least he didn’t take the UK job.

There’s one postscript to this story. On my return trip, I ended up right behind West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins in the airport security line. Huggins is a hated Louisville rival way from way back in his days at Cincinnati. I thought about giving him the business too, but held my tongue. After all, we beat West Virginia.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Take My Advice: Kick Wedding Planner to the Curb

My wedding planner was organized, detail oriented and determined to squeeze every last dollar from the ceremony. She also happened to be my wife, Kim.

Kim didn’t have a whole lot of help either, particularly from me. I was living in another city at the time. Even if I hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have been much help. After all, I’m the kind of guy who thinks a daffodil is a type of pickle.

Under these circumstances, I really admire what Kim was able to accomplish. While working full time, she was able to plan a simple, but beautiful ceremony. At the reception, the food was hot and the beer was cold. The floor was filled with people dancing the electric slide.
Most importantly, it didn’t cost as much as a house – or even a sports car.

Today, more than 15 years after I was married, planning your own wedding is becoming a real rarity. Most people turn to outside consultants to plan and execute their “big day.” It’s a great convenience, but it also comes with a price tag.

I question the wisdom of this approach. After all, money is one of the main stressors in a relationship. Isn’t it more important to start your relationship on solid footing than to throw a good party … even if it means doing the Macarena in a union hall?

Following is my advice to those with impending nuptials.
  • Call in favors from friends and family: the cousin who is a photographer or the uncle who has a timeshare at Gulf Shores.
  • If you find yourself shopping for a gown in a place that has its own reality show, then turn around and run for the exits.
  • Keep the ceremony short and sweet. Your wedding is not as entertaining as a Hollywood blockbuster and shouldn’t last as long.
  • Go with the finger-foods instead of the sit-down dinner. No one is expecting your reception to be featured on The Food Network.
  • Cut the big-man table a break and start service before you arrive.
  • I can’t stress this enough: no beer can pyramids in mixed company.
  • Be realistic when it comes to your honeymoon. Pictures of the two of you on a private island are nice, but you can’t live in them.

On last thing, in this economy, it might be time to kick the wedding planner to the curb. Trust me, it can be done. I’ve done it … or at least my wife did.