Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Morning Quarterbacks

**I started this post last year after November 14, the day of the Pacquiao vs. Cotto fight. Since then, many things have happened. The Cowboys did win their first playoff game in 13 seasons. The Colts lost to the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. And, the Saints have not stopped the party. Oh yeah, and Mayweather is not gonna fight The Pacman in Jerry's World.

Friends, Let's see if we can't inspire some good 'ol gridiron talk, complete with Pacquiao thoughts on the butt-whopping he put on another contender, in another weight class...

My first thought after the Patriots lost to the Colts last night -- yes I did stay up for this one! -- was, "WWJD?" I was looking forward to this game as much as I was looking forward to the TCU game. TCU did good on my advertising, as I adorned my home with TCU stuff for all the neighbors to see. The bulldozed the Utes back to Salt Lake without a question, and my neighbors joined the bandwagon.

By the way, for my El Paso paisans, I did good on my roots by wearing my bright orange UTEP pullover during my morning jog. You can't miss that dude. Trust me, my brother has one, too. Well, UTEP did not beat SMU, but instead lost and made the SMU ponies bowl-eligible.

But, back to Belichick and the Pats. Mr. Kraft is not as visual an owner as Jerry is. Well, nobody is, really. But, I wonder what -- if any -- exchange there was between the hooded Belichick and Mr. Kraft back at the clubhouse, when he decided to go for it on 4th down, missing, and giving Manning two minutes to win the game?

"It's OK, Bill, we'll get 'em next time." Maybe that was followed by a pat on the back, a light fist bump (so as not to scratch three Super Bowl rings) and an invitation to the family's estate in some exotic beach. I'm sure the Kraft family has one. They all do.

WWJD? What would Jerry do? A visual: here comes Little Bum, Coach Cupcake, walking down the hall after a similar situation. And, here comes Jerry, flanked by his suited goons, about 50 feet behind him, probably armed and ready to strike at a moments call. Coach Phillips went for it on 4th down at...say...Lincoln Field.

"__________________________________!!" You fill in the blank.

Most of the Western Sports World has already destroyed Belichick on the airwaves. What would YOU have done? What call would you make in that specific situation, remembering Manning scored twice on your defense in minutes?

The Packers shellacked the Cowboys. No arguments. No excuses. And, again, the team which fared the best in the NFC East was the team relaxing on the "bye sofa," the New York Football Giants. The Saints keep marching on, though they play a lowly, dangerous Bucs team at Raymond James next Sunday. And, the Bengals are perfect ATS when they come into a game as dogs. Maybe there is a theory in the works when playing with a chip on your shoulder. Oh, wait, I always preach that! Well, though the fight did go 12 rounds, it should have ended at 10. Cotto keep dancing and dancing. At times The Great Pacman just stood in the middle of the ring, put his arms down and waited. Post-fight, Cotto looked like a man who got stung by 1000 bees in his face. The Pacman showed a bit of evidence he had just gone 12 rounds, but probably karaokeed 'till 3 a.m. like he does after fights in Vegas. Allegedly, the next match will be against the fast-talking Mayweather Jr. at Cowboys Stadium. If Jerry has anything to do with it, it WILL happen and you can bet it will break the record for attendance -- all-time. Put it on your calendar. March. Pacquiao vs. Mayweather Jr.. Cowboys Stadium.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Little Boy Coaches?

I had a lot of driving time today, and a conversation on the radio about who should be coaching the Redskins sparked something in my mind. The thought was sort of convoluted, so, you'll have to kinda stick with me. Over the weekend, I saw some Bengal's highlights. I kinda have a soft spot for them, as I caught and episode or two on Hard Knocks this summer. That and the brothers Palmer are bus-driving that team. The lesser Palmer brought UTEP to the spotlight a few years back, when Coach Price took over a program in desperate need of attention. Anyhow, I realized Cedric Benson plays with the Bengals. I forgot about that...You all may remember Cedric and I are cousins. Yep, football cousins. He and I share the same high school football coach. I say share because, though it's in the long past, it can never change. So, I'll use present terms since Cedric and I are still alive. What?Anyway, Coach Parchman was his name. Coach Parchman was what I call, vintage coach. He was the second generation in this coaching progression I'm about to discourse on. Coach had a huge belly, maybe mostly beer, and a rather dry, angry disposition. Even in our little part of Texas high school football in Socorro, Coach waddled around the field slowly, with a straw hat and dark shades. My fondest memory of him was once during two-a-days watching him -- literally -- laid on his side in the middle of the field, whilst we ran wind sprints, puking and gagging for air. During games, Coach never wore a headset (a key in his generation). He screamed at everyone, and everybody was morbidly afraid of him.

No, Cedric did not play at Socorro High School. He did, however, play at Midland Lee, where he and Coach Parchman won three straight state 5A titles. In Socorro, the closest Coach Parchman got to the tournament was reading about it in the papers, but once he landed the gig in Midland, he became a rock star, along with Cedric.

For you non-Texans, I’m going to give you perspective on Texas high school football. In those days, we (Socorro Bulldogs) played on grass in front of aluminum bleachers with a half-lit scoreboard. El Paso is the fourth largest city in Texas (about 600,000 in those days); so, talent was pretty well spread and hard to get. Midland is in the middle of Texas, thus the name – maybe. There is nothing to do in Midland (probably 80,000 in those days) but drill for oil and go to high school football games. So, Midland boasted a concrete stadium, complete with artificial turf and digital scoreboard. Yeah, Coach Parchman got a huge promotion; raise and I don’t think he even had to teach in Midland.

I can already tell this is going to be way longer than I intended.

Jim Zorn is in dire straights in the Danny’s World. The assumption was made this morning on sports radio that little Danny Snyder, who has the patience of Jerry Jones, will be making a coaching change soon, if not sooner. The host said, “He needs one of the visor coaches,” a term I claim to have copyright on, but alas. The visor coaches refer to the breed -- clad in visor -- the likes of Jon Gruden, Sean Payton, et al. These are usually former quarterback coaches, who didn’t quite make it in the pros, but visualized complex offensives schemes and took the spread offense to new heights.

The way I see it, you had the Tom Landry’s of the world. The pioneer coaches, dressed in a suit, walking up and down the sidelines on Sunday afternoon, usually subdued and cool. Then came the big-bellied, screaming coaches, perhaps with John Madden paving the way. Like the pioneers, they didn’t all wear headsets – yet – like the pioneers, trusting assistants were doing all they could do. This brand of coach was varied somewhat by the likes of Don Shula and Bill Walsh, and perhaps a start to the visor era.

The visor era brought an intellectual side to head coaching and youth. These guys came with thick, complex offensive playbooks, and often ran offensives before being given the gig of leading an NFL team. The brand of coaching was exciting and my favorite until…

What do we make of Josh McDaniels?

Have you seen this coach? He is known around these parts as Little Belichick, as he took Coach Weis position with the Patriots before taking over as head coach for the Broncos.

He looks like he’s 15 and should be learning to drive, not running a National Football League team.

But, he’s 5-0.

Is this the new generation of coaches? I guess we’ll soon find out.

Well, the 2008 world champion of poker is only 22.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Clausen and Weis -- Can we believe?

Friends,First of all, I didn't save this year. You -- or, y'all -- did. If anything, the only thing I've done is getting my azz in gear. Pardon the French, s’il vous plait?

This is your league. I'm here to serve.

Secondly, in the spirit of encompassing all suggestions you gave me, reflection, rally, survival, etc., the word "perseverance" kept circling. We're going to go with that.

I couldn't sleep much last night. I think I might have logged in 40 minutes, if that -- all night. I had some worries with my daughters, but more than that, I was not sure I could give Clausen (QB for Notre Dame) my full respect -- yet. Why you ask?
It all started with a chick flick and some wine. Last night, after a one-sided (and not to my side) agreement with Mrs. Commish about TV rights, I was able to watch most of the end of the Notre Dame game. The pay-off to her, you ask? I had to watch a DVD with Matthew McConauhey. The picture is something about ghosts and girlfriends. Same drill. He's the guy all women want, but his heart belongs to one. The only positive in this movie is Michael Douglas has a part in it. He saves the movie, in a way. Anyhow, it was brutal. And I know Mssrs. Messer, Dean, Hopkins and others are LOLing as they read this. It's all right men. I know you do it, too.

I know a lot of you hate the Irish, but bear with me. Texas beat UTEP 64-7. Nothing remotely interesting to talk about there. Iowa won big at Penn State. Congrats to T-Bone and his alma mater! Tebow got hammered. Wow! Poor kid. There is a moral to this story.

So, again, the Irish are not winning as I turn to ESPN. Their foe? Purdue's Boilermakers, a moniker they've had to live with since 1891. They barely won the Michigan State game. They lost in the Big House. Their only convincing game was against Nevada, but that was expected. Them not winning 35-0 over Nevada would have been like the Cowboys losing their last game ever at Texas Stadium last season.

Oh wait...

I don't like -- and never have -- Clausen. I don't care how many state titles he won in California -- he would not be my choice. But, Coach Weis chose this kid. I mean, he's a good-looking kid, and his parents moved from the West Coast to South Bend to see their boy play, but still not my choice. C'mon coach! He's not Tom Brady or Brady Quinn!!!

So, for two long seasons I've been waiting for a reason to keep watching the Irish, my "closet attraction." I've been waiting for the magic, though last night was looking like a failed attempt. Clausen fell victim to Deion Sanders' namesake injury here in the Chicken Fried Nation-- turf toe. So, he was out a good part of the game.

I got my reason last night, sort of. The Irish were trailing 21-17 with less than four minutes on the clock. Coach Weis had been playing the backup QB, not wanting his golden boy to play in the second half. But, like many football movies and last-minute heroics we hear so many times, Clausen told Weis, "Put me in Coach!" At least, that's the way I'm going to imagine it. And, he did.

Clausen and the Irish drove down to the 4. But, something happened that kind of puts a damper on this Weis-Clausen love affair. The Irish had no time outs, and the clock had less than 30 tics. Instead of Purdue allowing the clock to keep ticking, hastily forcing the Irish to spike or make an offensive mistake, Purdue's head coach makes the mistake, one he won't soon forget.

He calls a time out.

This gives the Irish plenty of time to decide on a play. The men in the booth took this to the bank! "What's he doing?!" Apparently the time out was for personnel changes on defense, to insure the game.

Guess what?

The large-waist-never-played-no-football genius with the Notre Dame coach's polo shirt had extra seconds to plot with his boy. So, finally, Clausen, a-la-John Elway fires left, on a quick out. Irish score. Irish win.

Barely. Again.

I enjoyed the win. Don't get me wrong. I know a win is a win. But, I am still not sure without that time out on Purdue's behalf they would have won. I just don't know, and at this point never will.

Shistekovich! This is Bootleggers word, by the way.

Yours truly, and still doubting,


Monday, August 17, 2009

Just Another Container?

One of the most unique urns I've seen in my career is a pyramid. It's made of wood, stained and adorned with gold-colored trim. When I walked into our urn display room one day, I was instantly drawn to it. You can't help it uniqueness.

But, the question was, more than being a unique piece of art, would anyone choose it for their loved one's ashes? I was about to find out.

Turns out, one fine day, I met with a family and the instant they saw that piece, they declared, "That's the one!" They looked no further. They had found the urn, which fit their loved one perfectly. It was unique to their needs.

Though we strive to find the best offerings in merchandise available, we may or may not have the one piece that meets a family's needs. The pyramid urn was a unique combination of circumstances, but wouldn't it be nice to have a your disposal a place, which will create unique, customized pieces every time?

Matthew S. Kennedy at is doing just that -- offering urn customization.

In reading about Mr. Kennedy of Southern California, I found he takes an artisan approach to each and every urn, rather than mass production by pre-fabricated blue prints. One unique aspect that caught my attention was, "My art is unique and different with the hand carved rocks that adorn the top of each urn for the knob."

On the site, you will find a number of artists pursuing the same cause, each with their own individual style and abilities.

And though jewelry specific to ash preservation is a rather new, especially here in the South, it is also offered here The idea of jewelry as a keepsake may or may not appeal to you, but at the very least it is available.

What is true is that more and more people are considering cremation as a final disposition, certainly my generation. It's nice to know there people painstakingly creating art, which will honor and preserve the most precious of all things -- your loved one's remains.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bull Killers

I love animals, but I don't consider myself an animal lover. I enjoy a good steak and fried fish, and ironically my favorite animals are the bull and shark.

But, that's me. Now I have two daughters and they were formed (biologically) from some of my parts and some of my wife's. Now that they are coming of age they are forming well defined personalities, and one of them is very much a lover of all things natural -- certainly animals. She made me change the channel the other day from a show about loggers, though I really wasn't watching it. And, anytime anything remotely sounds like animal cruelty, her blood pressure rises. It's quite amazing, actually. One of the best parts of being a parent is witnessing your offspring mature.

The other day at lunch, the question was asked of me, "What do you think of bullfights?" He was referring to the mural in the restaurant, where a matador is illustrated as a suave, elegantly poised fighter against beast -- in this case a bull. I have been to many bullfights with my grandfather, the same man who gave us love for baseball. So, in some regard I feel I'm betraying him, as he loved "La fiesta de torros" (the party of the bulls) on Sunday evenings in Mexico. But, even then, I didn't like them. I certainly don't like them now. Internally, I cheered when the bull got the best of the matador (at least temporarily), as anytime the matador would be in trouble, a mob of helpers would come and put down the bull with a combination of daggers, spears, etc.

The only thing bullfights created in me is this: bulls became and are my favorite animal.

My thinking is simple. In a bullfight, the bull never has a chance. He's subjected to a series of rounds, where sharp weapons are employed ( First, a man clad in armor (picador) comes out to ring, galloping on a horse (also protected with a heavy, dense blanket). He has with him a long spear, which he jabs into the bull as it (the bull) comes charging. If he's considered good, he nails the bull right on the mound of muscle on the bulls neck, which brings a lot of bleeding. The idea is to weaken the bull and try and keep his head down for the rest of the sacrifice.

Next, the banderilleros come with wooden rods, adorned in color (like piƱata sticks), and with large razor sharp hooks on one end (meant to penetrated the bull, but hold the rod in place). The idea is for these men to stab these rods into the bull, as close to the wound as possible, further weakening it and "decorating" it. The bull has to endure three rounds of this, with the idea that he'll have six rods hanging from his upper neck, tearing up tissues under the skin.

Violent enough so far? It gets better.

After the bull is taunted and tortured through these two steps, usually a rookie bullfighter comes out to dance around with the bull a bit. It gives the showcase fighter ideas about how the bull moves and what sides he prefers. It also lets spectators get sloshed and become more rowdy.

Then, in grand fashion, and with live traditional music blaring through the arena, the star bullfighter (matador) is introduced. He is essentially wearing very intricately embroidered ballet clothes. As macho as this sport is proclaimed, the man is wearing tights, his hair a small bun, and ballet shoes. No offense to ballet dancers.

During this grand moment, I always stared at the bull. Most of the time, the poor beast was gasping for air and life in center ring, surely wondering, "WTF just happened?!"

The star matador prances out, acknowledging the crowd with a little black hat, meant to emulate horns in some way. He is carrying a red cape and a long sword. His job is simple. He continues to dance with the bull, and when the bull is showing signs of near death, i.e., tripping on his own feet, falling to the ground exhausted, etc., he's to take position, point the sword and charge at the bull. The target is that open wound made by the picador. If he is good, the sword will penetrate the bull entirely, puncturing every major organ in its route.

Every now and then bulls would be lying there, open wounded, six rods hanging, and a 36" sword injected down the entirety of its body. The people cheer the matador, while the bull dies, humiliated in the middle of the ring. I have seen bulls make one last effort to get up, and charge the matador one more time. Once a bull did and knocked the hell out of that man, silencing the crowd. He died immediately after that -- the bull and the matador.

On the occasion when bulls do not die, one last act of cowardice happens. Usually, a little short fat S.O.B. comes behind the bull and jabs a dagger in the back of the bull's head, right under the horns, severing the spinal cord. The bull's head finally falls.

Understandably, this is bull fighting 101 in simple terms. It's not pleasant to talk about, and probably not pleasant to read about, either. And, though it's part of my heritage, I don't support it as an adult.

Bodacious is a famous bull, R.I.P. A few of you, maybe very few, will know what I'm talking about.

Though rodeos are not in favor of many animal lovers either, in a rodeo beast and human truly challenge each other. Specific to our topic, bull riding vs. bull fighting is a whole different story.

Bodacious is in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. At some 1,800 lbs., Bodacious was only ridden 10 of 135 times. If he was a baseball pitcher, his ERA would be 0.07. If he was a NFL left tackle, he'd merit a $150 million contract for only allowing ten sacks in 135 games. Get the picture?

For you rodeo innocent, a successful bull ride must last 8 seconds. A rider falls off before the horn, there is no score. Once the rider is in place, the shoot opens, and his only protection are his athletic abilities to stay on the bull 8 seconds (to make money) via a rope held by one hand, and an non-deadly way of getting off the bull. Yeah, they don't stab or hold the bull down so the rider gets off safely. He's on his own, even if the ride was successful.

One of the men who rode Bodacious (stayed on 8 seconds) was Tuff Hedeman. Google him if the name rings no bells. But, Tuff didn't win the battle against Bodacious all the time. Bodacious got the better of him once, when Tuff's face met Bodacious, Tuff's face literally broke to pieces. Many surgical procedures later, Tuff lived to tell.

Bodacious was retired and died later of natural causes.

Animal rights purists will argue that rodeo animals, circus animals, et al, endure a lot of mistreatment, too.


But, in rodeos, bulls have an equal shot and letting the rider know who the boss is.

Matadores sometimes earn body parts, if those in charge feel the round was worthy. They'll cut the bull's tail, ear, etc. (post humus), and give it to the matador as a further show of the fiesta. I always wondered where they kept those? After all, they do decompose.

History has a long chronology of the fight between man and beast. Every time I see a bull, I hope he gets a fair shot a defending himself in any fight.

Sorry grandpa, I just don't dig it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Daddies

The Jonas Brothers and Six Flags are to me what the Yankees were to Pedro Martinez in 2004 – my daddies.

After reading Drew’s post I was re-inspired. I had prepared a rather somber, serious piece to post in Shauna’s world – she kindly allows me to use her space –, but I realize people come here for laughs and jubilation. The last thing we need is too much reality.

Drew’s post inspired because I tread the waters of fatherhood right along with y’all, everyday. Like Drew has been hinted to, I have been told, “I’ll pay all the ones I owe with two girls!”


You see, when we were PWKs (People Without Kids), life was astonishingly boring, or so we conclude today, my bride and I. I mean, we have no time for ourselves these days, so we musta ran out of things to do before, right? How did we occupy our time before?

The dinner parties and weekend getaways with like-PWKs (back in the day) were dandy, but what did we have at the end of it all? Plenty of hangovers and mostly shallow pleasantries.

Let me explain…

So, we returned from a very tough trip back in the homeland, after a tragic death in our family. We needed a little boost, so, we headed to a local sports bar for some College World Series action. In said place of food and drink, I overheard a lady tell her four girls (an anomaly at this place, the lady and four girls), “Are you ready to see the Jonas Brothers? Let’s go!”

Wait a minute! Did we forget the concert was today? Here we sat quietly – the girls and I – and this lady was headed to the concert?

So, on a trip to the restroom, she stood outside the girls’ and I just had to ask – I’m good like that, approaching complete strangers, probably scaring them to death.

“Excuse me, are you going to the concert today?”

“Oh no, today is rehearsal. You can get free tickets right outside the stadium!”

Decision time…

At this point, none of the girls had noticed I was talking to the very attractive lady by the bathroom. I DIDN’T have to say there were free tickets to the rehearsal, did I? I could have avoided going to the stadium that night. After all, we had tickets to the grand show the next day.

Guess what I did? Guess?

Yes, I told them. Yes, we devoured the rest of our meal and cold drinks. Yes, I ran home to get the SLR and the “baddest” lens I could muster. Yes, we hung out until midnight-ish outside the Dallas Cowboys Stadium’s main tunnel, until finally, the boys emerged each in a separate vehicle.

The silver lining?

Two of the boys – I forget which Jonas bros – lowered they’re windows, slowed down and extended their hands. My girls go to touch them for a second.

The twinkle in they’re little faces? Perfect, as Drew so eloquently stated.

The next day, at the concert, the Jonas Brothers took me for a lot of money, again -- shirts, posters…all of it. On the bright side, I was able to medicate myself with cold drinks, though at $8 a pop, my dosage was low. The concert completely wiped us clean of energy and disposable income, at least for the month.

Yes, the Jonas Brothers are my daddies.

For the PWKs still wondering the earth, yes, get scared. You will be broke and worn out the entire time you have children.

Would I change it? Not for anything in the world.

One of the things I admire the most about Shauna is her honesty. I laugh along with all her fandom, but I know they are happy group. How you ask, since I’ve never seen them live?

Look at all the pictures. It’s reflected in those children.

So, Drew and all of you waiting, trying…I so hope you enjoy my joy very soon.

Oh, about Six Flags…

We misplaced the season passes. Mind you, we’ve been season pass holders since the girls were of age, yea repeat customers.

For a family of four, season passes and season parking for the grand park will run upwards $350.00, and that’s not including all the nick-knacks every time you visit.

You would think that if you’ve been loyal, caring customers for that last 6 years, re-printing ours (at least the first offense) would be a courtesy.

Well, it’s not. Beware. They give you one mulligan to get in the park, once you can’t find yours. After that, you’ll pay some $22.00 per to get new ones. Creative cash streams? Absolutely.

I have no choice.

They are my daddies, too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stats or "It" Factor. You Decide.

The first time Orlando Cabrera stepped onto to the plate at Fenway Park out of a Red Sox uni, after that 2004 championship season, he was given something of a 30-second standing ovation. He was an Angel now, newly signed out of free agency.

Just a short year before, the first time he stepped up in a Red Sox uniform, after a 4-team trade right at the deadline (which included the great Nomar Garciaparra), he hit a home run. The Nomar "Nomah" Garciaparra trade angered many Sox faithful, but the Cabrera HR surely eased the pain. Without getting into the nitty gritty of that trade, Theo sent Nomah to the Cubbies; got Orlando Cabrera from the now-defunct Expos; Doug Mientkiewicz from the Twins; and Dave Roberts from the Dodgers. Indulge me here, while I relive the 2004 season as a Red Sox fan. It was magical.

Recently, a friend and I put up a bet in the first Boston@Texas series. Nothing big. And, as the Texas Rangers were poised to sweep the Red Sox, the trash talk began. And, a comment was made about the desperation of Theo to add bats to the Red Sox line-up by trading for LaRoche from the Pirates.

So, a further conversation ensued. The argument is this: What matters most? The "feel" for a player or pure stats? Numbers never lie, but then again, they have to be the right numbers at the right time. It's, well, like poker.

Of the trade, which brought Cabrera to the Red Sox, Curt "Father Curt" Schilling said, "He is a game-changer in the field for me." The intent in Theo's trades were to fortify the defense. And, he did. Not only was Schilling money, but Pedro Martinez found his form and with then-closer Ketih Foulke, the Red Sox went on a run and made history. The acquisition of Cabrera at shortstop and Mientkiewicz at first gave the rotation a huge boost.

What about Dave Roberts? Did he make a difference?

Top of the 9th. 2004 AlCS. Game 4. Yankees up 3-0. The Red Sox had been strapped down to the electric chair --again -- , and were about to be executed, again. Just as the warden was about to turn the switch, the governor called...

Mariano Rivera allows a lead-off walk to Millar. Dave Roberts, one of the last-minute trades that July, came in to run.

Roberts steals second. Mueller singles and scores Roberts. Red Sox tie the game at 4, and folks that steal began one of the greatest sports accomplishments in all sporting history.

One stolen base by a guy who was not a Red Sox when the season opened in 2004.

The Red Sox would not lose again. They humiliated the Yankees by coming back from 0-3, and swept the Cardinals in the World Series.

Explanation? Was it in the numbers? Did Theo Epstein, boy wonder GM for the Red Sox, "feel"this was the thing to do in July of 2004?

How lonely do you think he was the night it became public Nomar Garciaparra had been traded? Think there was a contract for his head in New England?

We can go on for hours about this topic and probably not come to any logical conclusion. Bill James followers will prove to you it's all in the numbers. Baseball lovers will argue, yes, maybe in the numbers, but you have to have a feel for the game, the players.

And then there's that good ol' luck. It worked for Chris Moneymaker in the most famous World Series of Poker.

October baseball is about many things. The gods of baseball have to be on your side. You can buy free agents all day long (Yankees), but that doesn't guarantee you anything, even a place in the tournament (see 2008 Yankees).

All I can truly tell you about what makes an October magical for a team may have more to do with the gods blessing you with the right players, at the right time for the right reasons.

When O-Cab (Orlando Cabrera) came to Boston, he instituted well documented hand shakes in the dug out, which brought the team very close together. Mientkiewicz is quote as saying he was aghast when he learned his trade to the Red Sox included letting go of Nomar. Dave Roberts will forever be the man with The Steal. There was the Damon hair and beard; Schilling red sock.

The gods were with us.

Amazingly, none of those traded guys were Red Sox the next season.


Most of the time, no.

This 2009 Rangers team seems to have that magic about them.

Magic and luck have a lot to do with winning teams in this free agency era.

Maybe the gods of baseball have made a stop in Arlington this year. Let's hope so.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Favorite Nothing

When I was a kid, I thought I was weird. Everybody had their list of "favorite things," and I could never decide on anything. Color? It usually depended on my mood. Movie? Food? Friends? It all depended on variables.

Deciding on favorite things made/make no sense, so I lied. I always thought, "How could you have a favorite movie at 8, when there's many more movies to come by the time I'm 18?! I would tell people what my "favorite" things were, but it was all, well, made up.

So, I don't participate in many of these Facebook things, but thought the "my favorites" questionnaire might prove to be fun. I knew at best my closest family and friends could not score above 50%. And, I was right.

There were a few exceptions. My favorite color is black. Black clothes did me favors when I was 40 lbs. overweight. Besides, black is the combination of all colors, so, I never have to choose just one by choosing black. But, red is a very second close. Red cheers me up.

The Range Rover is my favorite dream car because it's the only car I can envision myself splurging on, had I the means. I cannot see myself dropping $180,000 for a vehicle that's a conglomeration of metal, plastic and copper. I mean, the Lambo is probably very sweet, but I'd feel guilty every time I'd sit in it knowing that money could be put to better use. I would probably rent one for a weekend and cruise with my girls. The Rover, though, yes, I would get one, though probably used with about 25k miles.

If all the sporting events I listed would be on at the same time, I wouldn't settle on one. If you have been to a Super Bowl party at my house, I have the ability to wire it for at least 5 televisions. So, I'd find a way to have them all going -- at once. Could not miss any of them .

The drinks, book, actors, movies, et al, are my choice when I think of each of those categories. Sometimes, there's nothing better than an ice-cold Miller Lite. But, sometimes the mood calls for a smooth Scotch or Pinot. It's all in the moods.

So, you see, it's very hard to predict my favorites. I like change and thrive in it. I like new challenges and begin to shut down when I'm not advancing.

Idaly just got her hair cut REAL short. I love it. I love change. A couple of my male friends were shocked that "I let her" cut it so short. It's simple. She takes on a whole new personality with a new do. She feels better about herself and even her dress changes. It's like living with a new person, and though that sounds bad, when you think about it, it works. She will always be the mother of my children and my wife, but re-invention is the ticket to longevity.

Don't worry, she knows the above statement. She tells people, "That's fine, as long as he doesn't want to change me for someone else." That's the point. By changing ourselves, it's never in danger of stagnating.

Water? If you let it pool somewhere without flow or new water, what happens? It becomes green and stinks.

That's why I love being a dad. It's never the same. I cut both of my girls' umbilical cords and now go from concert to concert with their favorite bands. Every day its a new adventure with them. It's beyond words!

I think you sell yourself short by having favorites. I've done many, many things in my short life, and many of them do not fit the other.

Anyhow, if you scored low on that Facebook thing, good. It was designed that way. I didn't want anybody to get better than a 50% .

It's all about change and improvement.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Back To The Ol' Days

We've decided to revisit our country dancing days by hanging out at Billy Bob's Texas, the 10-time CMA and ACM winner for country music clubs. On Thursdays, Billy Bob's offers free dance lessons, and the bonus is we can bring the girls!

So, opening night for us saw a real nice family reunion for us, complete with dancing and cold drinks.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Magic Always Happens at the Ballpark

It's never easy to go back to the office after a weekend off. For one, I have too much fun. When 5 p.m. rolls around on Sunday on a weekend off, I am reminded that in a few hours I'll have to go back to the grind.

On this Monday, though, I was the beneficiary of quite a treat. I enjoyed seats 14 rows up from home plate for the beginning of the series against the Angels of Anaheim of Los Angeles of California, or whatever.

The Rangers did not hold up their end of the deal, in spite of back-to-back HRs early. But, just as I was beginning to get distracted, here comes a kid -- and MVP -- walking down the stairs in my section.

Tom Mendonca played third base for the Fresno State Bulldogs in 2008. We saw this man protect that part of the diamond like no other. We saw this guy propel his team to victory and an MVP berth like few others, and here he was prancing down the stairs with souvenirs. He was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the second round, 62nd pick overall in 2009.

My first order of business was securing a Sharpie. I raced to the ushers, beer salesmen -- nothing. To the pro shop. Sharpie? Yes! For $3. Wow, but had to do it. I'll save this Sharpie the rest of my life.

I also secured a $3 folder of some sort for the MVP to sign. So, after buying the most expensive school supplies known to man, I took a shot.

Mendonca was sitting two rows in front of me, right behind home plate. I weaseled my way down and wrote on the most expensive folder I have ever bought:

"Saw you win the CWS in 2008. You were our hero! Welcome to Arlington!"

He turned and gave a big smile. "Thank you, Tom Mendonca," he signed.

No one else in the seats recognized this kid except me. After I reached for his autograph and took his picture, several girls asked, "Who is he?" I told them the story.

I told them he was part of the team who won the CWS as the lowest seeded team in CWS history. I told them he was chosen to play in the USA National Team for the latest Olympics.

Cheers to all true baseball fans and Tom, who I hope will make the roster very soon.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Little Town That Could

The first time I stepped onto the campus of Socorro High School was one hot, dry day in August of 1987. Just a few months before, over the intercom at Escontrias Middle School, the principal had announced those invited to freshman camp at the high school, which included yours truly. I was one of a handful from my middle school, who would try out for the freshman team.

We met in a portable, immediately south of the old Socorro stadium, which still stands today. There were close to 100 hopeful players, of which only half or so would be selected. To my right was a guy named Arturo Lopez, to my left Aaron Sierra. Little did I know then that those two guys would merit district, city and state honors four years later as members of a varsity team, which created history.

Socorro is a town 19 miles east of El Paso, just outside TX 375 Loop. In my day, Socorro was basically one big cotton farm. Acres upon acres of cotton filled the dessert land, land which we used plenty of times for late-night high school gatherings of sorts. There was one high school then, Socorro High School, and during my middle school years, a grand renovation of the school began in earnest. Such was the construction that many high schoolers had to walk to my school -- Escontrias Middle -- for lunch! Their cafeteria was not in operation. Also, district boundaries forced construction of a new high school -- Montwood -- north of us for the exploding population.

Most of Socorro's residents were families of hard labor. Most families bought large parcels of land and built solid homes one cinder block at a time, many beginning with mobile homes. We had a few military families residing north of I-10 (eventually relocated to Montwood) in the new area for the district. Nevertheless, as simple as life was for us in Socorro, the grand renovation of our beloved high school and the booming population east of El Paso brought magic.

The core group of players joined that hot August day stayed for four years. Some made the varsity squad early as sophomores; others as juniors. By the time we came together as seniors for two-a-days in August of 1990, I could feel something special was about to happen. And, it did. With a win over Riverside High School that Fall as the last game of the regular season, that varsity team took Socorro's football program to the playoffs for the first time in the school's history. Many other appearances followed, deeper each time. Tradition in little Socorro had begun.

But, as historic and as proud as I am to tell that story over and over, nothing compares to what was happening to the Socorro baseball team, one pitch at at time -- even back then. Peruse, if you will, what Socorro baseball has done since my time in 198o's:,_Texas)#Athletics.

Coach Chris Forbes was my linebacker's coach in high school. I'm not sure if he still has any participation in football, but back then, he was the man. He was a little younger, but the mustache and his calm, but determined disposition was the same as the one I witnessed on Saturday, June 13, at Dell Diamond.

Looking back, we were always close. Hardcore fans tell you sports are events of inches, seconds, and last minute heroics. What we live for are moments like this, when all that hard work pays off in a big way.

When the game versus Austin Westlake was in the books on Friday, June12, Socorro had already made history. They had made the final four for the first time, and won. They had advanced to the biggest game in the league: UIL Class 5A Texas State High School Baseball Championship Game.

We were at my brother's house in El Paso, after attending a very difficult funeral for a very young member of our family. The play-by-play over the radio waves boosted our morale a bit, and when the game was over and Socorro conquered, we looked at each other and almost all in unison said, "LET'S GO TO AUSTIN!" And, we did.

After packing and finding a rental car suitable for the total group of 16 travelers, we left El Paso that Friday at 11:10 p.m. Mountain, 12:10 a.m. Central. We had less than twelve hours to get to Dell Diamond, in Austin, to see history.

Like Coach Forbes said later, I had a dream as well. I envisioned us in the stadium with a sign, which read, "Drove all night to see this." I had visions of seeing many of my fellow alums, coaches and faculty members. And, I had true visions of watching those boys carry that trophy back to Socorro for the first time -- ever. All this while enjoying the moment with many family, who were troopers under my Nazi-like leadership of getting us there.

We sat in our seats precisely as the bottom half of the second inning was about to start. We had no sleep, famished and probably dehydrated. I felt bad for the ladies in our group, as they certainly put up with a lot to be there. Nevertheless, the magic began and all things painful faded away like a bad memory. The bats came alive.

After a grand slam by Corey Falvey, the dream came that much closer. The Bulldogs led by as many as 12-4. And, though Lufkin made a late game rally to come within 5, the final score was 12-7 Socorro.

For the first time ever in Socorro's history, and only the second time in the city's history, we had a state champion.

Commenting with my fellow alums after in the concourse, we all agreed the ghosts of the past flashed by. All the "almosts," were erased. A cumulative effort by all previous athletes, who graced the halls of that school, came to fruition with that pop fly in shallow center field.

It goes without saying that Coach Forbes and this 2009 championship squad will never be forgotten.

It is a memory we will take with us to our graves. It is a moment, which will live eternally.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Requiescat in pace, Abraham.

The last vivid memory I have of Abraham was a couple of years back, when he and his dad, Tavo, visited us here in Arlington during the summer. Abraham was on the eve of his senior year in high school, and one very vivid moment continues to loop in my mind.

The Guevara brothers, Abraham, and his oldest and only brother, Germain, took to wrestling in high school. They were both well suited for said sport. Short, but genetically gifted in musculature, both brothers accomplished great feats at Socorro, on the wrestling team. His room was adorned with the decorations earned during competition, including commencement from Socorro High School last May, 2008.

Abraham, more than once during his visit here, would awake to purposeful jogs at my home. I remember clearly opening the door one morning, as I was headed to the office, and no sooner had I done that than he sprinted out in full stride. I thought, "Wow. To be 17 again and able to run like that without warming up!"

The picture here is of his pre-K graduation in El Paso, many years ago.

He would say, "Tio (uncle), I'm going for a run. I have to keep in shape for wrestling." "Fine with me," I thought. Except instead of running around our cul-de-sac as I do (It's pretty big), his gait carried him quickly out of our street and my sight! I'm pretty anxious when it comes to childcare. And, while I know he was no child even then, I still reported that to his still-sleeping dad. He mustered a whisper and said, "He'll be fine. When he's done, he'll come right back." With that, I left for work.

That was the last time we spent real time with him. We would see him again briefly at great-grandpa's funeral last year (2008), but the "straw..." was when he phoned us Thursday to announce he was a brand new uncle, for his oldest and only brother had just seen a son born to this life. He was beside himself with excitement, to be in such a honorable position. An uncle...

Those were his last words to us. Early Saturday morning we received that fateful call so many do. Abraham had died at home. A history of epilepsy -- we fear -- got the best of him. A medical examiner's report will say for sure.

What is certain is that our lives have been changed forever. Our little wrestler, brand new uncle and only brother has now departed us. To tell his grandparents was the hardest thing we have had to do in recent memory. The are devastated, exclaiming, "Why wasn't it me!!!!"

Over and over our family motto (Najera family and its extended members, such as the Guevara family) has been to carpe diem, seize the day. We literally waste ourselves maximizing each moment, remembering it may be the last. How could Abraham have known he would only see his nephew once?

We are numb, stunned and deeply saddened by this.

Please, remember to seize the day for you and yours.

Abraham's tentative funeral arrangements are a prayer service Tuesday evening, June 9, 2009, in the chapel of Sunset Funeral Home Americas (9521 North Loop, El Paso, Texas 79907, 915-858-4408, A graveside will follow on Wednesday morning, June 10, 2009 at Restlawn Memorial Park in El Paso.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

$3 Signing Bonus

**The author of the following tale is a good friend, who amongst other things, is a fellow wordsmith of sorts. He and I have had long chats about the probabilities of re-living The Feeling during Digger Bowl IV, an unforgettable event. What is Digger Bowl IV? I'll be happy to tell you, for sure.

Anyway, because life carries us in many directions, the miracle of communication is an occassion like this -- being able to share everyday moments with friends in distant lands via venues like this blog. Like us, the man we call The Teenager From Mars, Mark Bedell, had a memory-lasting event with dad -- his. Cool drinks and fellowship make moments like this carry you through days and days.

Mr. Bedell was kind enough to pen his memory, the one true way to ensure it can be enjoyed for a lifetime. Cheers, TFM.

What does it mean to be a pro? What makes you a "professional?" Indulge me while I explore a little. My current "profession" sees me commuting three hours a day in each direction from my home in New Jersey to New York City, which I utterly despise -- not the job -- the city. It's a dump. It's not like you seee on TV shows, such as Friends.
I'm an educator. I teach grown people how to do their jobs. At times it's rewarding. And, other than having to be in that city, I enjoy my profession very much. There are friends who may read this that can attest to one thing, too: I'm the best there is at what I do. The gig pays the bills, albeit barely.But, is that all it is to be a professional? I chose not be believe so, otherwise I might just fade away enroute to that awful city... lost in thought.
What is my point, already!?!? Allow me to share.
The first time I got paid to play music, I was 15 years old. Add up the digits in that number and you get more than the dollar figure I took home. I've been paid similar amounts and far more over the years on many occasions. I played. I got paid. I'm a professional musician. Truthfully, I'm better at that than anything else I have ever done in my life. I still rule. ;)
Over the years I have been paid to be in pictures and videos. I have been paid to photograph people. That makes me a professional model, actor, and photographer. I've gotten a cut for booking bands and models. I'm a professional agent and manager.
I've won prize money with my beloved former bowling team, from which I take my UFL franchise name, which came from a song by my favorite band. I'm a professional bowler. Heck, I've even got official sanctioned awards for that. But...There is a recent story that I would like to share. This is how I became a professional golfer…
It was a sunny Saturday morning. I stood waiting for my group to tee off. We were second. The foursomes were randomly selected. Coincidentally, my old man was with group one. He led off. I was nervous for him. When his swing is on, he's got a great tee shot. But, when he's not on his game (usually from a sore shoulder) his tee shots go on about a 45-degree angle to the right. This would have put him dead in the woods here. His shoulder must have felt good, because he put the tee shot on this short Par-3 on the green, about 4 feet from the pin. I was overjoyed for him. I knew he'd have a good round. It was the first shot of the day, and we were already joking that he would win the prize for a Closest To The Pin shot. Incidentally, he drained shot number to for a nice birdie. Tweet Tweet. Way to go old man!
The pressure was on as I led off for my group. My practice shot was gorgeous, as I prepared to beat my own dad for the closest to the pin at this early juncture. I lined up and took a breath. Whoosh. I hit the ball about twenty feet, skimming across the top of the grass. Ouch. Embarrassment in my first tee shot in a tourney. Closest To The Pin would not be mine this day. But, I wasn't done -- yet. I made par.My tee shots were dead on the rest of the round.
On number eight I sank a twelve-foot putt, with a big break in the green. Under pressure, I hit the best putt of my life. On the final hole, I had an equally long putt for birdie, which would have put me at one under par for the round. I pulled back, and made the perfect "pendulum" swing. The ball came to rest no more than two inches to the left of the cup. I tapped it in for a par. I finished even. It was my best round ever.
I waited and watched at the first tee for hours after I finished. It was fun seeing what others did. A woman who was easily in her 60's hit the pin on her tee shot. It was pretty to watch. She won closest to the pin for the women.
The round came to an end after a gorgeous Jersey Shore day of golf and fellowship. We saw the final score two days later, posted in the clubhouse. The old man pulled it off. The first tee shot of the day won him the prize for Closest To The Pin. In the standings, it was like poetry. We tied for third. :)We each took home a whopping THREE DOLLARS for that third place finish. He got an additional $4.00 for achieving closest to the pin.And, my friends, just like that... we're professional golfers. Oh what a feeling.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Three Red Gowns, Three Black Gowns, and Three White Dresses

I was reminded of a lasting lesson the other day by my daughter. My mother-in-law, bless her heart (as we say in Texas), has a knack for posing one-sided arguments with the best of 'em. Sometimes her arguments are validated by an underlying purpose, but many other times, she just wants to be, well, right.

Grandma had been complaining about her ex-husband, my wife's dad, and my daughter reminded her promptly, "Without buelito Carlos, we wouldn't be here." Grandma, of course, immediately retaliated saying, "Yes you would, but you would look different."

Think about that for a minute. Would it be just a physical difference? Hardly. Nothing would be the same.

One of the things I value the most in life is loyalty. At times mine is tried in the world of sports due to the situation at hand, i.e., cheering on the Steelers in February, knowing full well they would out-do the Cowboys for Lombardy trophies. And, they are the current AFC kings, where the Cowboys are NFC royalty. So, why do it then? Because my loyalty to a special uncle in Nebraska outranked my relative loyalty to the sports situation at hand. A vivacious Steelers fan since the Bradshaw era, his enthusiasm for the men of steel encouraged me and about 20 others to defend his cause at the Super Bowl.

Loyalty, though, goes much further than sports.

When speaking of life, my loyalty is deeply rooted in family.

On May 16, 2009, a very interesting completion occurred. It was the evening, about 8 p.m., on a windy, breezy day in El Paso. One of the most formidable journeys was completed. My sister -- younger and only -- walked across the stage to receive her degree from The University of Texas at El Paso. With that, clad in the typical black gown of an undergraduate, she completed a very special chapter in our corner of the Najera family. The preamble to this occasion was the day before, at 15:00 hours, where she walked the floor of that small church in far east El Paso, in a white gown.

Truly the journey began one April in 1972, when mom and dad tied the knot for good. A year later, I was born in February. Four and a half years later, my brother was born in September, and thirteen years later, my sister was born in August to complete the set of three.

Three red gowns.

We had the distinct pleasure of attending and graduating from Socorro High School. All three of us wore that red gown, and on different May evenings, completed twelve formative years of education.

Three black gowns.

All three of us chose different fields, but completed a college education. Though not always sure what we should do, or how we could do it, we didn't give up. Again, on different days and seasons, we walked the stage to receive various degrees.

Three white dresses.

All three of us are now married. Though my brother and I did not wear a white dress -- at least not to the wedding -- , we did have three fantastic weddings. Each in the summer. Each well attended (probably a cumulative total of 1,200 people at our weddings). And, at those weddings, there were three white dresses.

The entire journey took three decades and seven years. There's no true way of measuring all the work, persistence, motivation, fear, et al, it would take to get it done.

Yes, I'm tooting my own horn. Though totally exhausted upon my return from my sister's wedding and graduation ceremony, I stand proud when reflecting about this.

I guess this is a good reason why I can't understand people who give up so easily on marriage, family. I just can't.

Maybe mom and dad should have quit when we lost two aunts -- one after the other -- suddenly and tragically. Maybe we should have quit when dad got laid off from a job, right after signing off on a new mortgage. It would be about 3 years before he saw a real check from the new business he started with family. Maybe when said business went bust, and they were faced -- again -- with figuring out what to do , mid-life. Maybe when a son left far away and joined a radical religion. Maybe the countless nights mom spent nursing a daughter, when multiple chronic things kept her sick. Maybe at the news of another son, when he was diagnosed with congenital heart problems. Those are just some of the highlights.


Guess what?

They didn't.

We didn't.


Never have, never will.

If there is a lasting lesson from the last 37 years, it is this: All's Well That Ends Well. It's Shakespeare, but for us, it's been a lasting creed.

Not that it's ended. At least we hope we have many more journeys to live, complete.

Cheers to all of you who continue to fight. To survive. I hope you're able to visualize the possibilities!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why 1440 Is the New Diamond

In our twenties, we had a pretty interesting circle of friends. We were all married, 20-something, and with plenty of disposable income for countless dinner dates, movies, trips, etc. I'm sad to report that 100% of those friends are divorced, save my wife and I. We've actually moved on to other circles, where we are happy to report marriages are much more stable.

So, many times, during those divorces, we were asked, "How do you and your wife do it? What is the secret to remain together for so long (nearly 17 years now)?"

The fact of the matter is, it's not that complicated. Marriage is not 50/50, at least not any given moment. If you think it is -- or worse -- if you force it to be, you will head down the road of separation pretty quick. Maybe, at the end of a day, span of time, or an entire lifetime, it is a "collective 50/50," but at any given moment, one spouse is doing way more than the other.

Don't believe me? Keep tract of yours, if you are married.

In our case, we keep things real and we set parameters that work pretty well.

Where is this going?!

Well, that pristine formula might have come to a crushing end at about 7 p.m., April 27, 2009, in our formal living room, right in front of the piano. One of our most prized possessions -- especially for my wife -- rests on a side table. It's a custom lamp, which incorporates two Home Interiors porcelain figures, a custom made base and a hand-painted shade. I have since learned they -- the procelains -- are Home Interiors #1440 and #1441.

The porcelain is not Lladro, and won't pull thousands of dollars on the market, at least I don't think it will. What that lamp did have is a lot of thoughtfulness from my wife, a brilliant interior designer. Those two figurines were a memory of our wedding until the male, the elusive #144o, fell to it's destruction at the tap of my size 11.5 running shoes. Everyone (who has been to our humble abode) knows our house has not a stitch of carpet. It's all cermaic tile, wood floors and a few rugs. So, when the #1440 landed head first on the ceramic tile floor, it had no shot in hell of survival.

Yes, the event had it all: tears, head resting on her palms, defeat, and lots of silence. Even the girls and my dog, who witnessed the event, hugged me knowing my life as I knew it was over.

See, we have an understanding. There are items so precious to her, I stay a regulated 10-20 feet away. Such is the case for some of my most prized possessions. NO ONE sits on my Notre Dame chair; she can wash my baseball and football jerseys, but they DO NOT go in the dryer; I buy a new Cowboys cap to begin a season, which nobody washes, wears, touches; and my mini College World Series bats cannot be used to air drum. You get the picture.

Protection of our prized personal property is akin to protection given the Shroud of Turin.

I know. What does it matter? We have the economic crisis and a killer virus.

Well, it does.

The #1440 Home Interiors figurine has survived 7 apartments moves, 3 house moves (twice across the state of Texas), and multiple children's' parties, where kids have run dangerously close to the famed lamp.

This fine day, as we were headed out to buy landscaping flowers, I bumped it ever so precisely. Such a minuscule moment in time. Such a lasting effect.

Since then, I've found #1440 on the Net. Ebay, of course. I lost the first auction. I'm on the prowl for another.

Good attorney soon? Probably not. But, I'm into her for many, many favors to make up for the loss.

Pray to the gods of accidents for me.

**Since I wrote this, I have been able to glue most of #1440, except for a big missing piece on the top of his head. I'm not sure that'll fly.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I Come To You in the Name of Jesus!

Last night I was called to duty shortly before the zero hour. I had just positioned myself perfectly in bed, ready for a good night, when the call came.

As I headed to the office, I exited the freeway, and at the traffic light, there was a vehicle stranded. Hood up. People seemingly distressed.

Two disclosures:

1. I grew up in the mecca of people on the street hustling for money (border town), whether their stories were real or not, odds were not good. We rarely gave out money freely, though we were always happy to give a meal and/or a day's work for "earned money."

2. I'm not too keen on people employing terms like, "I come to you in the name of Jesus!" I'm not even keen on athletes pointing to the sky when they have accomplished a fine deed on the field. Granted, I'm glad an athlete displays faith, I just don't think they need to credit the Lord for a double to deep center field. Pacquiao (boxer) is a devoted man of faith, and prays very boldly in his corner to begin/end a fight, but he didn't point to the sky when he mauled Oscar De La Hoya to retirement.

So, it was a couple -- man and lady -- stranded. It was not the man who came rushing to me at the red light, proclaiming, "I come to you in the name of the Lord! Is there any Christian who will help us?" It was the lady. Not only did she rush to my door, but she was consumed with a cigarette of choice, exhaling the Lord's name, along with the remnants of her "fag" (see English slang word for a smoke).

In a guarded manner, I rolled down the window. For some reason, after midnight, this red light will not change. I've often thought somebody's booby-trapped it for lonesome drivers at night. Anyhow, though she's coming in the name of Jesus, she might also be packing heat. I had no clear view of the man in the vehicle. For all I knew, I might be about to meet the Lord at the hand of these late night evangelists.

I was dressed in a suit and tie. Yes, we still make house calls in full suit. On my windshield was my Garmin, where I had input the address I was headed. My vehicle is nearly new, and my disposition is usually gentle.

In this woman's view, there should be no reason I cannot help her.

Red light continues to hold firm, and the same Jesus in whose name her gait announced, is the one I implored for a green light. Wonder how He sees these prayers/petitions?

But, I don't carry much cash, if any at all. I was in a hurry, as my destination was not close.

"Sir, I'm not going to hurt you. In the name of Jesus, we need help. We're supposed to be at Cook's Hospital, but we're in the wrong one."

Smoke comes out of her nose and mouth, and while usually this would have angered me enough to close the window (I don't care if you smoke, just don't blow it in face), I actually didn't mind it this time, in the face of this horrible virus. I figured this was the one time toxic fumes actually benefited my close-range contact with the evangelic lady.

Red light holding on like a champ.

"Ma'am, I'm sorry..."

"But we need your help. We just need some gas money to get to Cook's in Dallas! Please, is there any Christian love anymore!"

More smoke. Light seems to shine a brighter hue of red.


"Please sir, lend us a Christian hand!"

"Ma'am (now irritated my voice was) I am a mortician. On call. On the way to respond to a death! I don't have any cash. I'm sorry."


She backed up and had words with her man, who never made a showing to my door. I'm sure the announcement of my professional career path shocked her enough to cease her request. Finally another vehicle approaches. And, just as I was about to run this light and get on with my evening, er morning, the light shines green.

I'll never know what the real story with these people was. I suspect they ran out of gas and didn't have a dime to their name -- for gas anyway. As my associate and I were returning on this path about 10 minutes later in the company vehicle, I saw the same scene, this time from the other side of the freeway. A large truck was stuck on the eternal red light, but there was an exchange of some sort between the driver and -- this time -- the man.

I guess I wasn't Christian enough. Or, I just plain didn't buy their story. Or, I didn't have any cash. One thing is for sure. That I'm aware of, there is no other Cook Children's Hospital, certainly not in Dallas. They're not as cool as us Fort Worth-ians.

For now I'm just glad I wasn't a victim of the Midnight Evangelists, who might have been violent and/or trying to jack my car. I'm always left with a hint of guilt, wondering if someone really needed help.

The feeling quickly dissipated. By the end of the night, we had helped another family, who lost a loved one. We traveled a distance, putting ourselves at the mercy of the night's mysteries. And though my associate and I didn't audibly announce we were there in the name of Jesus, we are men of faith and hope for the best.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I'm sorry, but I can't get out of the car?!

Routine hump day in the Chicken Fried Nation.

So, we settled on salads today -- the ladies in the office and I. There's a quaint little place, in a newly developed area in Fort Worth, where they sell overpriced salads easily made at home.

Nevertheless, I offered to go get the salads for one reason: I like to drive by a new bar, which posts new thoughts on their sign every week. They're usually brilliant, at the very least very entertaining (see picture).

Well, as I parked near the salad place, I noticed two ladies leisurely walking away from their vehicle, a rather new and expensive SUV. They were chatty and ready to ingest whatever fare they like from this joint.


Well, as I parked my vehicle, I noticed a third member of the lunch ladies club still in the vehicle, but something was wrong. Way, very wrong!

She was frantically pulling, hitting, kicking, and screaming at the door. Think of your favorite cheesy horror movie, and surely there's scene somewhere of a beautiful woman trying to get out of something, possibly a car, before she gets the machete, drill bit, or weapon of choice in her head and blood goes everywhere.

Except, this was broad daylight, in a well populated, fairly urban zone. And, if there was any suspect in this scene, it was Yours Truly. Had I not been enthralled with my Blackberry, I might have noticed that.

Well, I finally did notice the lady. As I got off to see if I could help, she started to honk the horn frantically. I turned to see the other two in the lunch party, and one said, "What is she doing?"

So, they started to walk back toward the vehicle and the owner clicked the clicker. The mad hostage lady finally got out and, first, apologized to me. For what, I'll never know.

Second, she said almost in tears, "I couldn't get out!" The other two started to chuckle and then it became a full-blown laugh.

What I never understood was that the hostage member of the three-way ladies lunch party was in the front passenger's seat. That I'm aware of, they don't have child locks. Second, even if the car had been locked via the keyless entry, you can usually override it by pulling the car door lever.

But, I don't drive a vehicle, whose MSRP is about $67,000 either. So, maybe there's kinky things about these bad boys no one has informed me about.

One things is for sure...

5:1 odds that lunch conversation had many "I was like" sentences in it. And, the calorie count was sub-150.

As I picked up my order, the hostage lady was outside on the patio. She looked up again and said, "I'm sorry."

I'm still confused.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The TOT Tournament. Buy-in is $10,000

The picture was in a recent article in the Star-Telegram. It probably shouldn't bother me -- the problems of others -- but this particular problem does. I can't help it.
If you "Wiki" Mr. Hicks, it states he has a financial worth estimated at $1.3 billion. Google has a satellite picture of his $28 million mansion, one of several residences, I'm sure.
In simple terms, the Star-Telegram article states Mr. Hicks and his sports firm (HSG), which includes majority ownership of the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars, is $525 million in the hole with the juice still running. In fact, he has officially defaulted on loans, missing a $10 million quarterly payment purposely until he "restructures debt."
I was telling my mother the other day I find playing poker surprisingly refreshing. As expected, she was aghast. No, wait, horrified is more like it. For those that know my mother, the reaction is par.
But, it's true.
I find it refreshing to find honesty in whatever way I can.
Poker? Honesty?
Think about it. In the game of poker, the economy is simple. You bring cash and trade for chips with the dealer. You sit at a table and invest/save your chips on every hand against other players, who play with the exact same rules. Some players will have much, much more experience. Others will have a lot of luck. The basic principle is this: if you know how to play the game well, you will have a legitimate shot at millions of dollars.
The main event at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) is a no-limit Texas hold 'em event, where the buy-in is $10,000. Yes, a lot of money, especially considering the fact that there may be 6,000 or more players in that event alone. In order to have a shot at the grand prize, a seven or eight figure purse, you must outlast thousands over a several days.
The 2008 champion is a kid (I can say that now) from Denmark, aged 22. He banked $9 million and first prize.
Real money. A real, legitimate shot at making it big.
For many, comparing poker to real-world finance is, well, heresy. Wealth is a result of hard work, education, etc.
Yes, those things matter (even in poker where most champs spend countless hours playing hands). But, Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers takes exception to the norm, too. In it he explains many of the wealthiest people in world were, well, lucky.
What if (work with me here) baseball teams were up for prize every so often -- say every four years -- to people who won a tournament. Say the MLB suddenly changed all the rules and said, "Baseball fans of all walks can now buy into the Team Ownership Tournament (TOT), where the buy-in is $10,000. The grand prize: your MLB team of choice. You get to own and manage that team for four years.
Are you laughing yet?
But, wait, that's exactly what happens in poker rooms. You have the initial investment (buy-in). You're in. Education? Many hands of poker at home or online. Investment strategy? Fold when you don't have it. Raise when you do. Management skills? Don't donk your chips, and don't fall into a tilt (emotional whirlwind, where players lose most or all their chips 'cause they get pissed). Anything else? Oh yeah. Bluff in key areas to keep your fellow players on their feet.
See, most of us view the rebels of the world as "weird." When I see a lady clinging to her man, clad in leather and tats on a Harley on the road I think, "Wow, what did that dude do/say to convince his lady to wear a tank top and ride behind him on the road?"
I may actually admire that man more than a man like Tom Hicks, who poses as an example of success, but defaults on loans for his alleged assets.
I promise you if I default on my car loan, my bank will not have the courtesy it has for Mr. Hicks.
And, if you saw a picture of Tom Hicks and Chris Ferguson side by side in The Wall Street Journal, first, most would not know who Chris Ferguson is. Second, because he wears his hair long, a cowboy hat and goatee, he'd be categorized as some gambler unworthy of accolades from such a respected periodical.
What you don't know if both of Ferguson's parents have PhDs in mathematics, as does Ferguson in computer science. He just chose a different way of making use of his talents.
Dammit, the point...
It's getting harder and harder to view the world conventionally. No, I'm not suggesting we should all become gamblers and run to Vegas, or that we should buy Harley's, tank tops for our brides and take to the road with no helmets, although the visual is still tempting.
What I am suggesting is there is a lesson to be learned in a hand of poker.
Mr. Hicks, make the payment. You have the money. The people of the Chicken Friend Nation and the one lonesome Rangers fan in El Paso want to love our baseball team. But, when we read the team is broke and its owner is screwing around with its finances because he can, we get pissed.
Fold, raise or go all in. Something, for the love of God.

The Best Fighter


The last time we joined forces at my home to enjoy a little sample of pugilism, we -- the Mexican faction -- were embarrassed. Oscar "The Golden Boy" De La Hoya got the heck knocked out of him by a man they call, The Mexicutioner. Manny Pacquiao was relentless. And though the fight was a "friendly," that is, was not a title fight, the case is not such on May 2. We are expecting this next one to be good, real good.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Martha Stewart-esque Lunch, Finger-eating Grub Worms, and Unidentified Orange Objects

We -- my wife and I -- had the unique opportunity of joining our daughter's first grade class on a field trip this past week.

I'm not what you would call congenial. In fact, at first sight, most have two thoughts about me: he's mad or he's mad. I just inherited a gene from a long line of pensive, inquisitive people that I can't quite shake.

But, to know me is to think TOTALLY different -- at least they say --, especially after enjoying some cool beverages of choice.

Anyhow, certainly, with children, I'm not a big hit. In fact, last year at the school's field day, a day resembling summer olympics, a friend of my daughter caught me making a joke and laughing, to which she hurriedly turned to her mother and said, "Look mom, he does laugh!"

Yes, I felt (feel) bad and do what I can to be less "pensive" and more congenial.

Nevertheless, I enjoy hanging out with kids in this setting. I'm helping out the teachers, but I'm not totally responsible for them. It allows me to relax and observe.

The biggest enjoyment I get from kids is their innocence and simplicity with which they see the world. Yes, today's kids know way more than I did, but the innocence still dominates. And, things like field trips are just the greatest thing since apple pie for them! It's great.

So, the field trip was to the local botanical gardens, in addition to a show of some sort (live) in a local venue. We arrived in earnest, sack lunch and all, ready to ride the big yellow bus with 17, er 34, eager kids.

So, we walked around the gardens, taking in the Spring's offering in many colors. Though it was a bit windy and cool for this area, nothing of great consequence happened in our walk or during the show.

We did, however, miss lunch at the pre-scheduled hour, as we were not allowed to eat at the botanical gardens. So, by the time we made it back to school (around 2 p.m,-ish), everyone was famished, certainly the kids.

Well, we immediately broke into lunch. Most of the kids had the expected lunches: sandwiches, chips, packaged things that resemble food, etc. There was one exception, and she inspired me to write this piece long overdue.

I have since nicknamed her Martha Stewart. When she opened her sack, she had the following items: a package of tuna (yes the fish), some bread, mustard, mayo, and some sort of drink. She promptly and efficiently commenced to make herself one of the best looking tuna meals I've ever seen. Not only was she deliberate and quick with her tiny fingers, but she attracted the attention of those around her. Yeah, that packaged stuff that should be food (her neighbor had) couldn't hold a stick to lil' Martha's fine entree -- all at the tender age of 7.

It's not an event that will change the world, but it is a memory I will carry with me forever. Who knows what life will bring this lil' girl, who for now is my daughter's classmate. Rest assured, though, I'll remember lil' Martha and her fine meal as long as I can.

For her, that day ranks pretty high. It was a day of exciting traveling and fine dining. Oh to be a child again, a world were tuna, yellow buses and fire drills is hard to beat.