Thursday, March 1, 2018

Adventures in Youth Sports - 6 Year Old Soccer

The older I get, the better I am at recognizing my faults when interacting with others. That doesn’t mean I’m good at correcting my faults. That doesn’t even mean I necessarily WANT to correct my faults. I’m just saying that in recent years I have developed an ability I didn’t have before that allows me to analyze a situation (usually after the fact) and figure out where I was the culprit or the instigator. I’m not yet to the point of feeling as though I was ‘wrong’ very often but who knows what my 40’s might bring?

So, in my experience, the three areas of my life that seem to be magnets for the most conflict are as follows: Social Media (duh), Driving, Youth Sports…not necessarily in that order. I’ve already blogged about conflict while driving at least once (maybe more times than that?…dammit, memory, would you just WORK again?) so I won’t address that too much here. And one day, probably AFTER Dennis Yamnitsky’s memorial service, I will probably write up something about my social media experiences. But for today…today let’s dive into the wonderful world that is the sideline of a youth sporting event.

How many different people do you think have cast an F-bomb in my direction while watching my kids’ sports in the last 3 years? If you said 3 you’re probably low but those are the only ones I have actually HEARD because they were very very apparent and direct and LOUD. Unce, tice, fee tines an eff you.

Before I dive into Episode I of the “Eff You Sports Dad” (actually it turns out I already did Episode 1 and completely forgot about it because I write so infrequently! Episode II will be forthcoming) series let me back up to my very first sports confrontation as a dad. It was so long ago now that I’m sure the other parent was found in a gutter with a needle hanging out of her arm and that the kid involved was long ago sentenced to life in the state pen. That’s right, this was about 7 years ago when my oldest was playing 6 year old soccer.

What’s great is that I was the assistant coach to Bobby Dickerman who is like the most positive, upbeat dude you could ever want to meet and have your kids play sports for. High fives all around. I sat next to him at the Positive Coaches Alliance seminar a few weeks back and he could have been teaching the class. To me it was like a foreign language (hash tag kidding not kidding…did I do that right?).
How could you not love playing sports for this guy????
Bobby Dickerman - How could you not love playing sports for this guy???

Well, one day Bobby couldn’t make the game which made me the head coach and we were playing against a team that had a bully kid on it. Even at 6 years old there was one completely undisciplined kid (we will call him Shtunk) who just shoved the other boys over, gave not one but two craps about ‘rules’, called names, cussed at our players and didn’t talk back at his mom (the assistant coach of their team…we’ll call her Shtink) so much as YELL back at her when she occasionally attempted to correct him. In my harsh blogger-speak it was obvious this kid had no father-figure.

So there was a rule at this age that was kind of unique. There were little pop-up goals but there were no goalies. To keep kids from guarding the goal (goalie style) there was a coned-off area about three feet in front of each goal in which neither team was allowed to kick the ball. This way if the ball was rolling in, it would roll in. This was not a rule that Shtunk cared about. As I said, for this one game Bobby wasn’t there to be the good guy and my frustration, if you were watching me and not the game, was visible on the sideline. Shtunk kept kicking the ball out of the no-touch zone (thereby taking goals away from our players) and was truly unteachable. And Shtink, as I said, was their assistant coach…and their head coach was missing on top of everything so she was also in charge. Every time I became frustrated Shtink had some sarcastic remark for me…she took it upon herself to strain to hear what I was saying to myself and project it across the field for all to hear. It was clear that the Shtunk apple was leaning right up against that Shtink tree…a real Shtunk off the ole’ block. I did my best to ignore her but did come back with things like “you have to teach him the rules…all the other kids are playing by them.” Anything I was going to say to her at that point was going to be taken negatively so that’s about all I offered.

Well, the next time we played against that team (a few weeks later) both our head coaches were back. Their coach was the kind of guy you would see driving around with metal testicles hanging off the back of his truck…you know the guy. He’s brawny and unshaven and walks real shouldery and loves NASCAR. And he came in with a major chip on that shouldery walk. Why? Because Shtink had been chirping in his ear about me, that’s why. And it was evident all the parents had been riled up too because they were loud and it was all directed at me. Whatever. I’m a big boy. I rise to adversity. I drive a Toyota Prius.

So Shtunk did the same thing he always did a couple times in the game. I can’t remember how it was handled. But then, in the second half, it happened. One of our better players saw the other team take a shot and he just started sprinting. He caught up to the ball just short of the goal and slid and kicked the ball away. Total rule violation. First time I’d seen anyone on our team do that intentionally all year. I’m sure I hung my head. And this is what was amazing…the entire side of the field…all of their parent section just lost it! “OOOOOoooohhhhh…THAT’s AGAINST THE RULES!” “CHEATER” it was loud. They’d been waiting all game for it. I took a few steps toward them and yelled “That’s a goal! It counts as a goal.” I mean they’re pissed at me (thanks to Shtink) and now they’re trying to belittle this really good natured 6 year old on our team. Well, the testicle truck guy’s wife, who I actually went to high school with, wouldn’t let it go. Yelling. Yelling. She’s in crazy good shape and muscular and looked and acted roided up…it was literally just like having Jillian Michaels go off the rails nuts at you. Finally I just said loudly while pantomiming like I was talking to a little kid “If you (pointing at them) can’t cheer (making an exaggerated slow, silent clapping motion) for your (pointing to them) kid (pointing to the kid who just scored the goal) when he scores a goal (pointing to the goal) then I can’t help you (animatedly shrugged my shoulders while shaking my head condescendingly).” Then I clapped toward the kid and told him “nice goal, kid!” because nobody else was gonna do it.
After the game the kids did the handshake thing or high five or whatever. Their coach didn’t participate. I walked up to him to clear the air. What was great about this is that Shtink was over on the sideline yelling at Bobby to go break this up because (loudly) “they’re gonna fight! They’re gonna fight!”. It was nuts. I just went over and talked man to man with the guy about where the conflict originated and how I thought this obnoxious woman on the sideline was just an instigator, agitator, perpetuator, alligator?, and escalator of conflict. I remember saying matter of factly “I don’t have a conflict with you” kind of pulling from Martin Blank’s “there is no us”’ conversation in Grosse Pointe Blank. I addressed the rule that I had been concerned about and gave him my concerns about the way the Shtink had played, shook the man’s hand and walked away. That was it. We never played them again. I couldn’t recognize any of them if I saw them now. And I’ve grown up a lot since then…or have I?

I guess you’ll have to wait for next time when things get crazy at 7th grade soccer.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Crappiest Teacher

Artist's rendition of what Ms. Vasbinder might look like today

I said aloud in the car yesterday that I thought I might write a blog about the crappiest teacher I ever had. My 11 year old son asked me “what if she sees it?” with concern in his voice. And it reminded me of just how I felt when I was in her class. It reminded me of a time when I, too, feared the judgment and respected the opinion of any person who the school district assigned to stand in front any class I was enrolled in. His question reminded me of a time in which I might be scrambling to reword the previous sentence because it ends in a preposition for fear of the dreaded red mark!

But a lot of that changed in 8th grade and red marks be damned! Maybe it was because I was beginning to come of age. Maybe that was when I transitioned from shy little guy to obnoxious goofball. Or maybe, just maybe, I began to dole out respect to teachers based on their character and teaching ability simply because I had to endure a year with Ms.Vasbinder…a lonely, chain-smoking bar-fly whose hypocrisy knew no bounds.

I’m pretty frequent with the humble-brags and here’s another: I was one of those kids in all the advanced classes (until my junior year in high school when I became too lazy to yearn for this thing the grown-ups called ‘achievement’). In 7th grade the advanced Language Arts was taught by Mr. Fuller. He was a nice enough guy. We all liked him. And we envied the hell out of him because he was totally dating Ms. Weber whose classroom shared a door with his. And Ms. Weber made your imagination run a little wild because you were a 12 year old boy and she was your basketball coach…

What was I saying? Oh, right…most of us did just fine in Mr. Fuller’s advanced LA class and were moved along the following year to 8th grade advanced LA class. Where we were introduced to…DUN DUN-DUNNNNNNN!...Ms. Vasbinder…aka The V.

I wish I could tell you my first impression of her, but there were a lot of teachers at Rowe Jr. High and the day I met her I probably met 6 other teachers. What I can tell you looking back is that she had a very raspy voice, she smelled of cigarettes and she ALWAYS wore what was either an oversized sweater or an undersized knitted dress with stretch pants (yes, I know this is now fashionable with leggings replacing stretch pants, but I can assure you that in 1993 it wasn't and it wasn't flattering for her).

It’s been so many years that I can’t remember too many details, but I can tell you this with certainty: The V did not like men.

One of our term-long study units was on sexism. And there are, of course, many many many valid points to be made on that subject. But it was clear from the beginning that Ms. Vasbinder wasn’t teaching this class to make kids aware of and to recognize sexism. The V was speaking directly to the girls in the class and leaving the boys to sit aside as bystanders. I would give you examples, but this was 25 years ago and most have faded away. What I can tell you is that instead of creating an environment of equality in her classroom she clearly was building a female-empowerment space to intentionally ostracize the boys. From a distance you might see that as constructive in a creative way that flips social convention on its ear with a larger purpose creating a new perspective on gender relations. But I’ll tell you this, (insert fart noise here) it wasn’t. In fact, the other class (there were two advanced classes) had a male revolt of sorts. They turned the entire session on its ear and wrote about the objectification of men through song/media/advertising. As for me and my class? Us guys just whimpered, cowered and conformed.

The three units I remember studying in the V’s class were 1) Sexism 2) The Holocaust and 3) Discrimination. All I remember about the Holocaust section was that The V encouraged all the girls in the class to openly weep and sob with her while watching videos. They were incredibly sad videos but the weeping and wailing made me just want to leave. Which I did the moment the bell rang. On my way out the door I noticed The V hugging and consoling her fellow mourners.

The last unit was on discrimination. And this is really the reason I’m writing this post. You see, there are many types of discrimination in the world. But when you’re an active life-victim like The V it’s impossible to fully grasp the larger picture while blinded by your own emotions. The V assigned a paper. Each of us was to write about a time in our own lives when we felt we had been discriminated against. Well, to that point…despite being half-Japanese…I swear to you I couldn’t think of a time I had been discriminated against on the basis of race, sex, religion. Knowing that the class was mostly a bunch of white kids from Milwaukie I didn’t know what anyone was going to write about. I didn’t know many racial slurs at that point in my life. I simply hadn’t been exposed to it…despite this bleeding heart trying to cram it down my throat to make me feel guilty about it.

Then it hit me…my topic. You see, in jr. high I had always felt out of place. I had a solid group of friends but we were not at the top of the social pecking order. There was clearly a caste system in our jr high, like most others. And between my horrible hair, crooked teeth, acne, membership in the band and poor fashion sense (anything neon is cool, right?) I didn’t often feel great about who I was or where I fit in. So I chose to write about feeling picked on and belittled by kids who were cooler than I was. And I included my sister in that group of kids because she hung out with more popular kids than I did. I wrote that she and others called me names like ‘nerd’ and ‘dork’. It was hard to write and it was hard to really think about and put into coherent thoughts. But I wrote it and I turned it in and I was proud that I had at least dug deep and found a place in my life where I felt there was discrimination. I could have just made up a story about someone slanting their eyes at me and calling me names but I’m not the type to fabricate things like that.

I got the paper back with a big, fat D -. I had never had a D in my life. There were notes all over the paper about how this was not the assignment. I felt like Ralphie seeing his teacher’s response to his Red Rider Bee-Bee Gun essay. I had poured my heart into it and it had been rejected...much like I had felt this school’s social order had done all along.  

You probably think that’s the end of the story. You probably think I’m just whining because I got a bad grade on a paper one time and I didn’t get along with the teacher. Well I’ll tell you this…that wouldn’t be worth writing about. What IS worth writing about is this: when I got home from school my sister was there and one of her friends was over. And this is what my sister had to say: “Ms. Vasbinder showed me that paper you wrote about me. She said you were being a whiny little baby and that you deserved an F for writing it. She said she likes me and she thought I should know you were writing about me.”

Wait, what? I was asked to write about being discriminated against. I did just that and the authority figure who assigned it took this paper to the person I wrote was discriminating against me so that together they could perpetuate the ridicule? I guess it would take 25 more years and the internet to make it not okay for teachers to bully their students. Because that’s what The V was. She was a biased, cruel, dirty person who took out the frustration of her own failed life on select students, most of whom were male. She was an oversized bully who would have better served society by staying 100 yards from any school yard than by teaching.

I was glad that when I tried to Google her before I wrote this that a) I couldn’t find her on the internet and b) I couldn’t remember her first name.

And just to prove to myself that The V was a dark soul who had it out for me I tried a little experiment. I had written a research paper on the early life of Adolf Hitler as part of her Holocaust unit. She gave me a B -. I worked my ass off on that paper and she gave me a B -. Two years later I had to write a paper for my sophomore English class. It had to be a biography. So I took that B - paper from The V and I turned it in to Ms. Nemes (who, by the way, was totally dating Mr. Gilbert and made your imagination…). When I got that paper back it had a big, fat A on it.

And one day I still believe I will walk into a depressing little alcoholics’ tavern and see a solitary lump at the end of the bar and I’ll think to myself:
 “I think that may be Ms. Vasbinder but it’s hard to tell because of the glare of the neon lights reflecting off her shiny, balding head.”

Friday, October 23, 2015

37 Years a Curmudgeon

I was once at an Eastern Star (what the old-timers call “lodge”…think The Masons) installation for my grandma and I heard someone at the microphone refer to my grandpa at a “curmudgeon”. My grandpa didn’t know what that was so it kind of pissed him off. I guess the guy at the mike knew what he was talking about (although, in general my grandpa was one of those guys who would go far out of his way to help just about anyone in any situation).
Well, now I’ve reached that age where 40 is on the horizon and my body doesn’t always do what I ask it to anymore. So you get to listen to me slap on my suspenders, yell at the kids to get off my lawn and complain about the government.
1. My Finger Hurts
There’s a scene in Happy Gilmore where a lady at the retirement home complains to Ben Stiller’s character as she is being forced to relentlessly sew. She says “my fingers hurt.” His response? “Now your back’s gonna hurt cuz you just pulled landscaping duty.”
Well, I’ll tell you something. My finger hurts. And my back doesn’t feel so great either. The middle finger on my right hand is sore at the first knuckle. I don’t remember doing anything to it, but every time I make anything more than a typing movement it really hurts. I’m 37 and my wife asked if I have arthritis…and she was serious…and I didn’t know the answer.
And just about every day I get up out of a chair at some point and say “oh, hello there back…thanks for reminding me you’re there.” It wasn’t too many years ago I didn’t even know I had a back unless it itched in a spot I couldn’t quite reach. Now I’m aware of it…ALL THE TIME.
2. Customer Service is Garbage
I called the eye doctor’s office a day before my followup appointment during my trial week of contact lenses. I said I needed another brand because these ones were uncomfortable. Andrew, the lazy dope of a receptionist who has no customer service skills, replied “oh…Abie just left for another office but I’ll try to get her a message.” The tone he used when he said “try” had two meanings: a) I was really burdening him and this was going to be a difficult task b) there was no way in Hell Andrew was going to call Abie. I showed up the next day for my appointment. Andrew had no idea who I was (my third time there in a week) and Abie had no idea I wanted another brand of contacts. Result? They gave me a new brand in the wrong prescription. So I have been wearing glasses all week instead of trialing the contacts because I can’t very well be blurry all day. It’s exhausting. Screw you, Andrew.
I also had a debacle trying to get an exchange on the baseball (Cubs) shop website. That’s a whole blog unto itself. I hate that place. Two hours of my life later I have nothing to show for my efforts. They literally ‘accidentally’ hung up on me AND put me on hold for 10 minutes because of an ‘emergency’.
And would it KILL any single fast food or fast casual employee to grab a moist towel and wipe down a few tables? Are employees allergic to terry cloth? Why do I have to ask every time I go somewhere for one of the 4 gossipy employees doing nothing to break away from their catty chat about Tracy and how she was flirting with Jimmy to wipe down one of the EVERY TABLE IN THE STORE for me to sit at because they are ALL covered in food? And why, after they have wiped down said table, is it STILL DIRTY??? For this we are asking THE LAW to pay them $15/hour?
3. Warranties
Remember when you would go to a store and buy something and then it would perform the function for which it was MADE and you didn’t have to worry about it? Remember when even if that item broke you could take it back and the store would replace it? What the hell happened to THAT? I guess you can still find it at Costco, so that’s good. Other than that every store basically asks you to gamble your money, one way or the other, on whether or not that piece-of-crap-Made-in-China thing is going to make it 12 months. “Sir, this is a $1,000 TV…are you sure you don’t want to lay down that side bet of $150 that it’s going to roll over and die like a diseased feral cat? Roll the dice, sir, it’s fun!” Screw you. Everybody knows that side bets are sucker bets. If this TV breaks I’m going to punch you in the face…which is really going to piss off my arthritic finger.
4. Lanes Merge
There are four working theories on how to merge in a “this lane ends” scenario:
a. Left-Wing Driver Guy:
Tra la la, I have a bunch of socialist bumpers stickers on my car so I’m far too intellectual to care about things like driving etiquette. I’m not really even certain which lane I’m in and the divinity of nature is far too important for me to do anything but weep about my carbon emissions while I’m driving, let alone pay attention to merging lanes.
b. Continuing Lane Only Guy:
This person finds the long line and stays in it no matter what. When you are this person you hate the guy in the right lane with a passion. You say things like “What? Is he so much more important than the rest of us? What an a-hole.”
c. Merging Lane Only Guy:
This is the a-hole. But the thing is, if we all played by either b) or c) theory then there wouldn’t be an issue here. But there are two competing theories in play. So this guy, who rides the ending lane all the way until he’s about to run into the barricade, pisses off the other people. And the other people want to punish him. Everybody thinks they’re in the right. There are a lot of slow motion near fender benders that really nobody is going to let happen, but everyone claims they will. There is also a lot of cussing behind closed windows. Also, many of this guy is driving a BMW.
d. Merge Before the Lane Ends Guy:
This guys screws up the whole system. He’s your typical timid driver. He wants the advantage of the fast lane, but he’s insecure about it. So he stops halfway up the waiting line and turns on his blinker until some a) lets him in because she’s so involved in her Ani Defranco music that she didn’t notice the line was moving…or that there was a line…or that there’s something called ‘shampoo’. Meanwhile the true b) people are irate because now d) has merged in before the lane ends and c) is zooming by to merge in up there too…all the while pushing the b) line back into oblivion.
The point is we all need to subscribe to one system. My suggestion is that all of us b) drivers literally smash into every c) driver out there. Also, the a) drivers need to have their licenses taken away and d) guy should be confined to the retirement home.
5. Gluten
Sure, some of you may be allergic to gluten. But you know what? Most of you aren’t. And I don’t care. I really don’t. Unless you’re in front of me at Chipotle the ONE TIME the line isn’t 20 miles long. AND YOU INSTRUCT THE EMPLOYEES TO STOP THE LINE AND WIPE OFF ALL FOOD SERVICE SURFACES FOR 5 MINUTES BEFORE PREPARING YOUR FOOD. Sure, you’re 23 and you and your life partner have bonded over this hypochondriatic sense of self-righteous gluten evasion. But you know what? The only damn thing on that line that has gluten in it is a stack of tortillas that is sealed in a plastic package. Every one that has gone down that line was on a sheet of foil. If you want the employees to change their gloves, be my guest. But you, ma’am…sir, you are a self-important tool. And I’m hungry. If I take a bite out of your arm in lieu of my carnitas bowl, will that make you change your actions next time? WILL IT?
6. Microsoft Windows
Windows 8? That was a joke, right? Oh, yes, I upgraded to 10 for free. IT’S THE SAME PROGRAM! Hate.
7. Your Dog
I know you don’t think you’re part of the problem. But you know who isn’t part of the problem? Me. Do you know why? Because I don’t have a dog. Your dog barks at 6:30 am and it barks at midnight. Sometimes the excuse is ‘there was a raccoon’ and sometimes it’s just ignorance: ‘I had no idea…’. Your dog craps in my yard and sometimes you even pick up that steaming hot pile of dog ass. But even when you do pick it up you’re leaving feces, excrement, sh*t smears in my grass and I’m going to step in it (or roll in it when I’m playing with my kids). Also your dog leaves snot on my arm. It glues my arm hairs together. It makes me go to the dry cleaners and pay $8 to have my pants cleaned. Your dog knocks over my kids and licks my sandwich when nobody is looking. But we live in a society where all of this considered cute because dogs are basically stupid people. So maybe I AM the problem. But still, just for good measure, screw you and your baby (dog). Keep it out of my grocery store you selfish prick.
8. Healthcare Costs
We always talk about how everyone needs to have health insurance. But you know what we really need? A healthcare system that doesn’t gouge the crap out of us every time we get a paper cut. Do you know what insurance does? Creates a GIANT bucket of money so hospitals can charge outrageous prices for just about everything.
When Taela and I were first married she cut her hand washing dishes. We went to the ER to get her stitches. The itemized bill came. Suture string? $65. Latex gloves? $30. Umm…what? Yes, I’m serious. And that was 15 years ago!
Ever notice that different clinics and different pharmacies charge different prices for the same care or drug? No, you didn’t. Do you know why? Because none of them ever talk about prices. It’s all hidden behind the copay on your insurance. Is there ANY OTHER SERVICE/ITEM IN THE WORLD that you buy that doesn’t show you the price before you pay?
We get mad at this guy:
 Martin Shkreli
Because he is openly holding sick people hostage. But the entire medical industry does this! They just don’t openly throw it in our face.
Get off my lawn!!!!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Youth Sports

One of the things I have begun to figure out as I have grown older is that there is a story behind every headline. So often I scroll through the news and I read some sentence fragment in bold print and draw critical and judgmental conclusions from it. But the more I live the more I realize that I get myself in some situations and there are a handful of small steps, some of which aren’t all that irrational, that lead to whatever situation I happen to be recounting in my head. There is, of course, at each step the option to walk away…but we’re all human beings right? We all have the “fight or fight” instinct, right? Wait…wasn’t there supposed to be an ‘L’ in there somewhere?

So this past winter I was at my son’s basketball game. He was 10 years old at the time and on a team of 5th and 6th graders. Remember that 6th graders are technically middle-schoolers now so we’re not talking about tiny little children running around here. One of the kids on his team has a very ugly (please shave it now!) dark but not whiskery teenage mustache. One of the kids clearly has BO.

The point is that while these are kids, they are kids who are at an age where they need to be playing the game by the rules. And, as with any youth sport, the referees are a total crap shoot. Now I’m not talking about literally firing guns at feces here, I’m talking about the dice game craps. Or, as Mama always said, youth sports is like a box of chocolates.

At this particular game our family had a pretty good turnout. The folding chairs line the sideline and we occupied 7 of them. We were near the end of the court and were seated as follows: my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, my dad, my 3 year old son, me, my wife, my 8 year old daughter, some guy, his 8ish year old daughter.

Well my father-in-law, John, gets into any game he attends. Doesn’t matter if it’s minor league baseball or youth soccer or church league softball…John hates poor officiating. And he’s vocal about it. He also happens to look exactly like every adult male cast member from Duck Dynasty. So his manner is abrasive when it comes to being a spectator. I happen to be similar in that regard, but I do my best to be sensitive to the fact that someone’s parent is likely sitting somewhere near me.

During this game the referees were seemingly calling some rules but not others. Two of the things they just kept allowing were travelling and double-dribbling. For you non-sports folks out there those are the rules that relate to how you have to bounce the ball while moving around on the court. They are foundational to how basketball is played. So when the refs kept not calling it John would bark something and then I would yell out something like “come on! You’ve gotta call that!”.

After another of these incidents a voice came from my left. “Are you guys coaches?” I ignored it because nothing good could come from walking down this path. 15 seconds go by. “Are you coaches?” I turned to him and played dumb “What?” “Are…you…coaches?” “Are we coaches?” “Yes. Are you coaches?” “No, obviously not. We’re sitting over here. (as opposed to the other side of the court with the team)” “Then shut up.” “These kids need to learn how to play the game the right way.” “F%@# you.”

Screeeeeeeech….this thing just got bumped to a whole new level. I have some decisions to make here now. This guy is sitting next to my sweet little daughter. My wife is between us. His daughter seems unfazed so I can only assume this guy acts like this regularly and she’s going to grow up with a warped sense of what being a human living in a society is supposed to look like. Decisions, decisions. My blood is pumping.

“You’re going to say that right in front of my kid, huh?” (More slowly this time) “F % @ # YOU”.

There are certain lines you do not cross with another man. I don’t pull out this rule often, but I do believe in it. One time a neighbor who I like and get along with was mad that there was cat poop in his bark dust so he flung it all over onto my walkway and my house and I nearly stepped in it before I realized what he’d done. There are certain lines you don’t cross with another man. I gave that neighbor a pass on that one but I did talk to him about it and let him know I was aware he was flinging crap at my house. And had he done it again we would no longer be cordial neighbors.

Back to this situation at the basketball game…there is no solution here that will not leave me with regrets. I was at a cross roads. Either I can do what really SHOULD be done and tell the guy to follow me outside and break his nose. But then I end up in the newspaper tomorrow (or the following Thursday…whenever it is the newspaper actually gets delivered anymore). And that leads me back to my original point: every headline has a story. Everyone to the last person will read the headline about the two guys who got in a fight at the youth basketball game and shake their heads and talk about the demise of society as morons are fighting over youth sports. But this wasn’t about youth sports. This was about learning life lessons about how not to conduct yourself with other adults in front of their spouse and children. I truly believe even now I SHOULD have punched this guy. And a very big part of me regrets not doing it.

What I did do was say “You’re a really classy guy. Class act.” And then full on turned my back to him. Now the astute reader is remembering that my back turning, while demeaning to him, has left my wife and daughter kind of isolated by this guy. I thought about that too. But the truth is my daughter didn’t know what this guy was talking about. And had I traded places with her I’m almost certain we would have fought. It’s an aggressive move and I was literally trying to stay out of the newspaper, really.

A few minutes later a hand came into my vision. He was trying to shake my hand. “I’m sorry.” I looked at him. I almost shook it out of pure instinct…someone extends a handshake you usually take it, right? “Last week the parents were pretty out of control and I got pretty worked up.” So I looked him right in the eye and said “apologize to my daughter.” He did. She had no idea what was going on. I think he extended his hand to me again and I turned my back again. That’s the last I saw of him. Never looked at him again.

My wife says I should have accepted his apology. And to an extent she’s right. But my point is that he needs to learn you don’t go where he went. I don’t know who’s right…maybe we both are.

Good news though! I didn’t end up as a punchline at the water cooler. I didn’t lose my reputation or job. I didn’t get a black eye. All I lost is a little bit of self-respect. But I don’t really count that up very often anyway.