Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Heads Up

It was the first half of the game and the opposing team was charging up field. "Hut, Hut, Hike" yelled the quarterback and in an instant the offense exploded as the players ran their routes. One receiver scrambled fifteen yards, halted and spun to receive the ball. The defender over ran his position and as the ball shot from the quarterback's hand, he reverses his back peddling and sprinted to intercept the pass. The ball spiraled tightly, traveling swiftly to its destination. The defender, now at full speed is closing in on the exact spot the receiver anticipates the ball's trajectory. The receiver is holding his position, hands out to make the catch. The three angles of motion meet at the exact same moment in time, the exact coordinates with equal force, colliding together like atoms smashing together in a lab. All three go down fast, the defender, the receiver, and the ball. Both kids are rocking back and forth on the floor, hands on their heads. The three each have a different level of hurt, the ball, no worse for wear, is ready to play again. The defender, able to anticipate the collision, is wobbly but unscathed. The receiver took the full force of the collision, and is feeling the most trauma. Parents run out on the field, each one concerned about their child's well being. After a stoppage of play of about fifteen minutes the game resumes and at the start of the second half, is back to its highly competitive level. Our team won the game and was now in a position to win it all, the Flag Football Championship in the 9-11 age group, a non-contact league, where kids just wore t-shirts and shorts, and no pads or helmets.  We found out later that that gutsy receiver received a concussion, resulting in a terrible week of dizziness, vomit spells and headaches.

I remember that day last spring as I watch my son and his teammates bang heads on the practice field. Coaches yelling "I want to hear those hits!" as pads and helmets crash into each other in scrimmage play. I wonder if flag football, while defied as a "non-contact" sport is safer that tackle football, where there is hitting but a full complement of pads protect the vitals, including the head and face.

There is an abundance of media stories lately covering concussions and football. The NFL has stepped up is education on head trauma during games and on the practice field. Even the Pop Warner leagues are stepping up educating coaches on the facts about concussions, including recognizing its symptoms and how to take action if a player is suspected of having a concussion. All organized sports have risks, but teaching correct technique on the field and education off the field can alleviate some fear that parents experience when signing up for the sports their kids love to play.

There is no reasonable argument that because your child plays football, or lacrosse or soccer, that he or she will eventually suffer from a concussion, or a broken arm or torn ligament. Last year, the week after football ended, my son in the span of three days broke his wrist on one hand riding his scooter and his finger on the other hand playing catch at school. Just ask Carolina Panther wide receiver Steve Smith, who broke his arm playing flag football in the off season.

The kids are just minutes into the second hour of practice when one boy is tripped and is slow to get up. I run out onto the field and assist him to the sideline. His knee got a bit twisted on the last play so we get him some ice and prop is leg up on a cylinder shaped tackling pad. He is anxious to return to play but is informed that his day is over and his job is to rest the knee. He is a good player, but his health is most important and it takes good educated coaches to know that all injuries should be given the utmost care and it starts with knowing your players, recognizing and taking action on any potential injury.

For more information on sport related injuries visit:

Heads Up- Concussion in youth Sports

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I glance once more at the clock on the cable box, its still a long way off until I need to leave. I am sure the house is clean and the garbage is emptied. I got a fresh milk from the store and even did all of the laundry, resetting the chores to zero. I look down at my watch, four hours until I need to be at the airport. Tonight my family will be in the same city after a couple of weeks separated. I know its not a very long stretch, but for me my life seems unbalanced when everyone is away.

It also signifies the end of the Summer and opens the door to Fall. I enjoy the Fall season, the school schedules, the football games, and cool brisk mornings. I get pumped at the start of Fall for my son, the new classroom and new classmates, new routines and the new experiences he shares with us. Fall also brings and renewed set of responsibilities for my son, and for the whole family. This Fall, in particular, holds special meaning, as my son is in his final year of elementary school, and my wife is in her last year of graduate school, and I look forward to celebrating those achievements with them.

I look at my watch once again, three and a half hours to go. Maybe I will leave now...

Summer of 2010 is just about over, and Fall 2010 sits just around the corner.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I am running up the concrete stairs, taking two at a time until I reach the top. I gaze out onto the bright green turf field and look upon the kids kneeling on one knee, with the coach in the middle, waving his arms and stomping around, making eye contact with each kid. As the equipment coach for my son's pop warner team, I am organized and prepared for any popped clip, any broken shoelace or any loose face mask that surfaces. I drop my equipment bag by the scattering of water bottles, and coolers on the sideline and walk over to the pack. 

I shake hands with the other assistants and listen in on the conclusion of the firm monologue covering the lackadaisical effort at the scrimmage the day before. I feel bad for the team, but the coach is passionate in his effort to teach the team proper technique, while playing fired up. I am committed to helping out even though my son is not at tonight's practice. He will not make practice all week, as he is away on his annual cousin getaway at his grandparents. 

As the players break for a drink, many kids ask where my son is and welcome his return, at the same time jealous he does not have to participate in another hot grueling practice. I feel happy that my son is missed by his teammates and feel bad that he is vacationing while his team is running laps and doing endless tackling drills. I take out my phone and call him from the field and relay the team's well wishes, awaiting his return to take his place on the defense, and joining them on those wind sprints. 

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Sunday, August 22, 2010


"Mavel Tov!" announces the Mohel, as he lifts the baby off the table and hands him to my brother. I follow him out of the room and my sister follows me. We enter a smaller room, where the Mohel motions for my brother to lay the baby down on the mat set on the round table and for me to hold him firmly. He dresses the incision while instructing my sister how to clean and care for the little guy over the next couple of days. I am excited for her and happy to be part of my nephew's Bris. 

I do not know how the concept of the Bris started, and for those out there that are not familiar with the ceremony, take a pile of tradition, add a bunch of queazy men, sprinkle on some mom tears, and finish the whole thing off with a hearty meal, and you got yourself a Bris.

My wife and I arrive at the YMHA a little early to help set up and make sure everything is going smoothly.  Just after 10 AM, guests start arriving; family, friends say their hello's and kids immediately run around the big room like the first day of camp. Once the little guy arrives the guests gather around to get look at the new born, peacefully sleeping in the carriage. "Look at him sleep, the little guy does not know what he is in for..." is the common phrase muttered by the men, while the women seem to poll who will watch and who will retreat to the farthest point. 
The Mohel arrives and begins to set up where the procedure will occur, meticulous in where the items are placed on the table. As soon as he is ready, the ceremony starts. I am given the honor of entering with the baby and handing him over to my father, who is seated, alert in his most important assignment. After last minute warnings to the parents to keep the playful kids from distracting him during the ceremony, he performs his Mohel duties. I stand next to my sister who is maintaining a calm disposition and a watchful eye at the same time. 

After finishing with the Mohel, the three of us and the baby re-enter the party room, joining the other guests in the celebration of my nephew's rite of passage. I meet up with my wife on the food line, grabbing a plate and filling it with deli sandwiches and salads. We find a seat with family and partake in the second half of this morning's affair. I pause and turn my head to glance at the little guy, resuming his peaceful sleep, unaware of his significance in todays events.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Good Parent or Bad Parent of the Week? Can't Decide...

Asiatic Black Bear {Ursus thibetanus}Image by Drew Avery via Flickr
Germany: Father saves girl from bear in zoo
BERLIN, Germany (AP) -- A Dutch man braved an angry bear to save his three-year-old daughter after the girl climbed a fence in a German zoo and tumbled into the animal's pen, police said Thursday. Both father and daughter needed to be hospitalized, but their wounds were not life-threatening, police in Trier said.

The incident occurred when the 34-year-old man, his wife and their two children were visiting the Luenebach zoo in southwest Germany on Wednesday afternoon. While her parents were not watching, the girl scrambled over the approximately 3-foot (1-meter) high fence and fell into a moat, police said.

Though her father climbed after her quickly, the 28-year-old Asiatic black bear had already hit the girl's forehead, injuring here, police said in a statement. The father succeeded in saving his daughter and escaping, but not before the bear injured his leg, according to police, who did not release the names of the people involved.Other visitors who were watching the "dramatic situation" called the rescue squad and the girl was flown to a hospital in Trier, police said. The father was also hospitalized.
Police said they were investigating possible negligence by the parents or the zoo. Zoo officials said everything will be done to find out what exactly happened.

Related articles by Zemanta 
Germany: Father saves girl from bear in zoo (sfgate.com)
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dads Show Influence On School's 1st Day

Dads Show Influence On School's 1st Day

An Omaha group hopes a small movement of 50 fathers bringing their children to school will eventually spark a citywide effort to get thousands doing the same thing.
Willie Hamilton has become a staple on the first day of school at Mount View Elementary. All three of his children attended and graduated.
"I love this school. I love this area," Hamilton said.
He's a member of Black Men United. For three years, he has organized the group of fathers who bring their children to school. It's part of Million Father March Day, which Mayor Jim Suttle declared this year.
"Kids remember the smallest things -- a touch, a word, to see men doing positive things -- I think it really inspires them to be more positive," Hamilton said.
To read full article:
Dads Show Influence On School's 1st Day - News Story - KETV Omaha

Monday, August 16, 2010

Next Exit- Anywhere

"And now I pronounce you husband and..." and just like that, a milestone is placed in memory. Today is my twelfth wedding anniversary, a favorite milestone of mine.  A milestone is a marker, a line in the road to indicate how far you have come on your journey. It can also indicate how far you still need to go. The important thing is what you experience when notching all those milestones along the way. Some people stay on a long straight road, passing milestones, but too afraid to stop, electing to wait, until they reach the last one. Some people zig zag from road to road, milestones scattered in all directions, fragmenting the events like shards of glass. My milestones feel like scenic stops, stopping to take in the surroundings, detail its significance, and enjoy the view. Then back on the road to the next stop.

All my favorite milestones began with my wedding. My son being born is one cherished milestone set up by that one event. In the last twelve years I have collected many milestones,  events etched in my memory, to call upon for guidance or just for a smile. I use those events to pick the road ahead, slowing at approaching markers, and stopping to embrace.

This past week has been loaded with milestones, my newborn nephew, my wife passing an important exam towards completing her masters, my son on his annual vacation with his cousin and grandparents, and of course my anniversary, milestone number one.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

And what did you do this week...

This story makes me want to run up and down the stairs in my building. Great accomplishment and congratulations to both Father and Son...
Dad and son on top of the world
by Karen Britton
August 11, 2010

A father and son overcame altitude sickness, extreme cold and dehydration to conquer Europe’s highest mountain.
Will Doherty and his son Alex, 21, with his friend Tim Davis, climbed 4,810m up the Gouter route to reach the summit of Mont Blanc in the Alps, a climb which has killed more climbers than any other mountain.
It was an eagerly-anticipated victory for Will, a former army parachutist who featured in the Express as the pirate runner in Wilmslow’s half marathon.
He tried the feat two years ago but had to turn back when his friend suffered altitude sickness.

But this time the trio battled to the top, and put some recently-learned crevasse training to the test.
To read full article:
Dad and son on top of the world - Manchester Evening News

Monday, August 9, 2010

Inside voice

This past weekend, like any typical summer weekend, was spent enjoying the outdoors. Bike rides, cooling off at the town pool, heading to the playground, and ending with a cone of ice cream were some of the activities that made for a fun Saturday. With the summer half way over, no one wants to spend time indoors. 

On Sunday my wife and I thought it would be nice for our son to call a friend to spend some time with. Our son is always hesitant to make the initial call and after a lot of nudging and pleading to no avail, my wife decides to make the first call. My wife picks out a friend from the class list and dials the phone. The moms say their Hello's, and after filling in each other on their summer, and a some talk about the boy's upcoming class assignments, my wife inquires about the boys hanging out together. We find out that the friend is nursing an ailing foot, bummed to be housebound, and could use a friend to cheer him up. My wife turns to my son, who smiles at the idea of visiting his friend who needs company. 

We drive up the road and find their house number. My son opens the car door and grabs his bag filled with baseball cards, and other activities as we head to the front door. I ring the bell and we are welcomed in. My son sees his friend sitting on the couch, one foot bandaged and elevated on top of a pillow, but quickly perks up at the sight of a friendly face. My son walks over and sits next to him and finds out the details of the injury, then the two of them begin to plan out their afternoon, first a card trading deal session, then lunch, then top it off with a little Xbox. I make arraignments for the pick up and leave the boys to themselves.

Summer fun can be filled with many outdoor activities, but spending time indoors with a friend in need can be just what the doctor ordered. 

Same but different...

New Study Blasts Theory That Women do More Work - CNBC 
He may leave his socks lying around and avoid emptying the dishwasher, but a new study shows husbands do as much work as their wives.
London School of Economics sociologist Catherine Hakim's research shows that when both paid work and unpaid duties such as housework, care and voluntary work are taken into account, men do pull their own weight.
"It's true that women do more work in the home, but overall men and women are doing the same, which is roughly eight hours per day," Hakim told Reuters.  
New Study Blasts Theory That Women do More Work - CNBC

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Former Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith lives dream his father couldn't | Dallas Morning News

By GERRY FRALEY / The Dallas Morning News

The fellas talk about Puddin' and his feats as if they happened yesterday.
Puddin' was really something running the football for Booker T. Washington High School, but you should have seen him in the pickup games at the dirt-and-rock field on Cervantes Street across from the junior high school, they say.
Puddin' was as tough as those rocks. He got stronger every time you knocked him down. The heat never bothered Puddin'.
And what about what he did when his oldest son was a senior in high school? Puddin' wanted to play again and signed up with a semipro team. They put him at safety, and he made every play. The man was in his 40s and could still play.
"Puddin' was smooth, smooth as pudding," said Walt Williams, a contemporary who went on to an illustrious basketball career at Southern University. "He was a hell of a player."
Puddin' went on to be an equally accomplished bus driver. Puddin' left it to his oldest son to, as he said on that momentous day in February, "live my dream."
Puddin' is Emmit Smith Jr., who never left his hometown of Pensacola in the Florida Panhandle. His son, Emmitt, goes into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Former Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith lives dream his father couldn't | Sports News |
News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Every Day, Every Play

"Ready, Set, GO!" and off go the eight kids dashing down the field as quickly as possible. I gaze at them as my son is in the middle of the pack after the first third of the dash, then makes his move to the front. As they cross the white line my son inches forward and crosses first. I am about forty yards away with a black fence between me and the turf and let out a small "Yes." This is day three of football practice. Practice runs every day from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM through the month of August, and after being in camp all day, it is tiring to spend the evening running drills. I notice a determination in my son's attitude this year, a determination to give it his all and hustle every day, on every play. He put in serious time into schoolwork this past year and his grades proved it, now he understands how the hard work gets him to the place he wants to be, crossing the line in the lead...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Giant amongst Giants

"I see a red one!" exclaims as my son punches me in the shoulder. We are in the midst of a marathon punch buggy game as we drive north on the NYS Thruway and scan the road for Volkswagens. We are making our annual trip up to Albany to watch the NY Giants practice during training camp. We actually only started making the trip last year but it has quickly become a summer event.  We drive off the highway after our 150 mile trip, cross the intersection and enter the private roads of the college campus. We find a shady spot for the car and fall in line with the enthusiastic fan base. As we get closer my son starts reacting to the claps and shouts of player's names as they enter the facility to tape up and change from weekend clothes to their proper work attire; shorts, pads, jerseys, helmets and cleats.

We round the building and settle in to a grassy spot along the fence, again hearing a roar as the players trot down to the field, happy to see the faces, at the same time dreading the next few weeks of hard practice. My son is mimicking a play-by-play announcer, calling out the players as they reach the fresh cut grassy field and find their warm up station. The team jerseys are color coded as White for offense, Blue for defense and the always popular Red for the quarterbacks, which is a reminder to the guys in Blue that Red Means Stop. I hear people talking around us, criticizing one player or worried about that coach, and glance over to my son, sitting in the grass, hands cupping his Giants hat and his face, fixed to a smile.
After about an hour, and feeling baked from the sun, we walk up the hillside towards the concession stands and I enjoy the most delicious cherry-lemon ices I have ever had. I ask my son how his blueberry and green apple ices taste and he gazes up at me with a satisfying look, and I am taken back at the sight of his frosty blue lips and bright green teeth.

After we finish its time to plot our autograph signing spot. My son is excited to call out to the players and entice them to come over and sign his autograph ball. He is looking for three players that have eluded him in the past, Eli Manning, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. We notice that practice is about to break so my son breaks off in a sprint to secure a spot along the barricades and gets out his ball and a blue Sharpie. Players are making their way off the field, some run by as fans plead for face time. My son has already got a few when through the gate emerges target number one, Eli Manning. My son yells at the top of his lungs "Eli, over here!, Please sign my ball!" Eli hears him above the other shouts, turns and walks over. My son's hand is shaking as he hands him the ball. Eli takes it, and has a little trouble wrestling the Sharpie out of my son's clenched hand. Finally it breaks free and Eli signs and hands back the ball. My son's voice quivers as he says "Thanks Eli and have a great season." Eli replies "I hope so son.", and moves on to another excited fan. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora were generously accommodating to the fans as they sign all sorts of items for about an hour after practice, but we almost missed them. The two linemen came off the field from a different gate and if we did not innocently turned our heads, we would not have spotted them. My son dashes off to the back barricades, just in time to secure signatures from both players. I was even able to snap a photo of my son and Tuck posing together, which immediately became my son's wall paper on his Mac.

When the players are safely inside the locker rooms, the barricades open and we make our walk back to the car. My son is chatting about the practice and meeting some of the players, then says "I heard people talking about selling their balls , I would never do that, this means something to me, they are my memories and why would I sell those?" I look at him and confirm his observation, saying "I don't know why someone would either."
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Monday, August 2, 2010

A father takes his son to camp

Summers for kids are loaded with all sorts of fun activities, with the main activity centered around camp. Here is a story by JW involving his childhood camp and passing the legacy to his son...

This month, my two older brothers and I took my 12-year-old son to the summer camp that we went to in Maine. This wasn’t his first sleep away camp but it was the first summer at the camp I attended more than 30 years ago. I spent five years at the camp as a young boy and my brothers more than 10 as campers and counselors. Collectively, we had more than 25 years at the camp and I was excited for my son to have the same experiences that we had enjoyed; bunk living, lots of team sports, bug juice, color war, lazy Sundays, bunk nights, college league, dark Maine nights, being in rip during ping pong matches, the cool lake water, the rib splitting laughing, the losses, the wins, and everything else that goes with the summer camp experience. He has been going away during the summers for several years so I wasn’t too worried about him being homesick. Plus, we still have some friends at the camp who promised to keep an eye on him and be available should he need anything.

Within 15 minutes of arriving, he was on the tennis courts where he was in time for the 3rd period instructional lesson. Afterwards he was back to the bunk to clean up for the short walk to the mess hall for lunch. After rest period he was playing basketball in the beautiful new Alumni Hall gym - playing in his first College League Loop tournament (they lost by 1 point). He was a camp boy! When we said good-bye, I could tell he was a bit sad and so was I but I knew he was in a great place and in good hands. I had no doubt about it. He was going to have a blast. There is nothing like being part of it with 200 boys doing what they all like to do – away from parents, teachers, and the stress of the school year.  

As we were leaving, the director/owner said to me "Congratulations". At first I wasn’t sure that was an appropriate comment but after a few minutes I realized that in fact, it was a time to offer congratulations all around. That the camp (which was founded in 1947) is still around, and congratulations that the son of alumnus had returned to continue the tradition. That is not so easy any more with so many summer programs today and so many interests and time constraints, returning to your father’s camp is something special. I have such fond memories of my time there. The anticipation of getting ready to go; haircuts, trips to the store for comic books and candy, to the Sandwich Hut for Italian grinders for the bus ride and breakfast at the Bickford’s for apple pancakes before we got on the bus. Care packages with saltines and cheese wiz, licorice whips, Portuguese sweet bread (which I managed to sell by the hunk) and flag rush, water war, the trampoline, movie night (I saw Live and Let Die for the first time) and the eat-a-thon (it would be years before anyone ever heard of Kobayashi).  The camp nicknames – many simply not appropriate for this column – and everyone had one, it was straight out of that scene in Animal House.

But my time there would be bitter sweet. Between my 4th and 5th summer, the same age as my son is now my mother passed away. The first summer after her death, I was invited to come along on a cross-country trip my friend and his family had planned instead of going to camp. It was a six-week drive around the country in a motor home. We had a blast (most of the time) and hey, have you ever been to the Corn Palace? As soon as we got back from the trip, my father drove me up to camp for the second half of summer but something was broken –it wasn’t the same any more for me - so much had changed - and I never went back after that summer in 1977. I decided to stay home with my father (who was now alone in our house) and work. I try to regret only things I don’t do, not things I do do. Not going back to camp in 1978 was one of them. My wife and I like to think my son is my mother’s gift to us so perhaps things have come full circle – the connection no longer broken – the regret fading away.

JW has his own blog covering great foods and the dining experience. You can find it at www.EatWellsLiveWells.com