Saturday, October 18, 2014

Our Winless Season

My high school football coach, Mr. Pfeiffer, reached 100 career coaching wins this week, so I texted to congratulate him.   I told him that he would have gotten there much quicker if it were not for the 1997 season when our team won a total of zero games in the season.  Coach Pfeiffer responded that the winless season was one of the most enjoyable years he had in coaching, and I told him it was one of the most enjoyable that I had playing.  That season was the only one in which my high school played 11-man football (or, as it is more commonly known across the United States, "football") instead of 8-man football (which is a weird Corn Belt thing that is largely ignored elsewhere).  However, adding those three players makes a world of difference, as our team found out.

I have tried to remember that season, and, like most of my memories, I can remember an overarching narrative (no wins), a few various scenes (shown below), and little more.

To wit:

Our first game of the year was the closest.  We might have lost by single digits, definitely not more than 20.  We were playing a consolidated team that involved a direction, a county, and black uniforms.  I believe it was the Northeast Fillmore County Raiders.

Later in the season, we took a very long bus trip to Ravenna, Nebraska.  I don't know if that game was close.  But the memory that is crystal clear is when our quarterback Jay Theis (who honestly should have his own 30 for 30) was being chased by enormous pass rushers, as he was every time he dropped back to throw.  But this time, rather than take a huge sack, he heaved the ball in my direction.  The referee on the other side of the field -- thinking that Jay had thrown the ball away to avoid the sack -- threw a flag for intentional grounding before the ball had actually hit the ground.  However, a 5'10" 140 pound wide receiver with what could charitably called poor speed -- me -- swooped in and caught the pass and advanced it for a good gain.  The referee sheepishly picked up the flag as the fans screamed that you can't have intentional grounding on a completed pass.  I don't blame the official.  I was hard to see me out there.

Just briefly on Jay Theis: he was the best athlete I ever saw in person.  I played baseball, basketball, and football with him on basically a daily basis for seven or eight years.  He would do truly amazing athletic feats like it was nothing.  His knees then entirely fell apart when he was 17 years old.  It was very sad, but unlike a real 30 for 30 like "The Best That Never Was" on Marcus DuPree, Jay never made bad decisions with his life or felt like things had been unfair.  But I was there and know how good he was.

Back to the winlessness:

We are playing a team in red, maybe Stromsburg, maybe Red Cloud, maybe Hebron, maybe the University of Nebraska JV.  We are, unsurprisingly, punting.  I'm running down on coverage, and I see four or five of their players forming a line in the middle of the field running parallel to the side line.  The punt is coming down on my right as I am running down, and the line of blockers is to my left.  I know what is being set up because I can see it happening.  The returner is going to run across the field, the line of blockers is going to crush us, and he will run for a touchdown.  Seeing this, I run to the other side of the blockers to make the tackle where the runner will be, not where he is.  The returner stays on the same side of the field (were too many of our players too smart? Seems unlikely.) and, I think, runs for a touchdown.

I always knew it was important to play smart, and I liked that in football you had the best opportunity to see things that could help you play better.  On defense, I always tried to pick up tells and watch for tendencies that could help me make up for my lack of speed, size, athleticism, confidence, and determination.  While I did not watch film, I did try to watch for keys before and during every play.  I can remember a practice where we were scrimmaging, and I was on defense and a sweep was run to my side.  However, because the end who was my assignment had run away from the direction of the sweep, I stayed with him.  It was odd to leave the area where the play seemed to be going, but when the throwback pass occurred, I looked over and saw every that every other player on defense was far from the ball, except for me.  And I have often thought about this play in other contexts when I wonder if I am right about something, even though everyone else seems to think otherwise.  I had a reason for doing what I did, so I knew it was right to stick to my assignment.  So whether it is life decisions or law decisions, I normally trust my instincts, and they have rarely steered me wrong.  I'm not a contrarian by nature and I'm not advocating thinking with your gut instead of your brain, but I like to think that this experience in football has made it so I am not the type of person who would follow the crowd in the Solomon Asch conformity study.  If I was in that position I would say the obviously correct answer no matter what other people had said because -- during that one practice, on some October day in the 1990s -- I ended up where the ball was, not on the other side of the field.  (Of course, I may be overthinking it, which I did back in 1997 and still do today),

OK, back to the winlessness, once again:

I really cannot remember any other games.  I think we played eight of them, but I have already related every game I can recall.  I remember as the losses piled up, Coach Pfeiffer's pregame speeches started to center on a theme.  The theme was: tonight we are playing a football game; this is an opportunity to win a football game; let's win a football game.  As we continued to hear this speech, we started treating it as a mantra, repeating it at practice, and incorporating it into other aspects of our lives.  (Now it's lunchtime.  This is an opportunity to each lunch.  Let's each lunch.).  It was a back-to-basics analysis of the situation that, while humorous to us, was also inspiring.  However, even with this mantra in our minds, we could not seem to, you know, actually win a game.  I remember Jay Theis achieved some sort of overall yardage record, which was good.  But I honestly don't know if any of the games after the first one were close.  But I also know that we never gave up, and Coach Pfeiffer was a big part of that.  We played hard every game, and that is why I can remember a winless season fondly.

That season was, for me, as I type here today, more than half a life ago.  But I still take certain lessons from it.  You can be dignified when facing long odds.  You will, someday, laugh at your own misery.  You will forget the details, but not the people.

I enjoyed our winless season.  I thank Mr. Pfeiffer for coaching us, and I thank my teammates for playing.  While we could not, in the words of Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap, "go to 11," I enjoyed the attempt.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Great Child

Ada has taken to asking us whether she is being a "great child," and most of the times that she asks she is being just that.  However, there are also plenty of times when she is not so great, but I think I will focus on the positive.  Some recent highlights:

During our trip to Florida, she informed an entire plane of passengers that she did not have a brother because "My mom only likes one child."

The following conversation occurred;
Ada: Can I watch another kid's show?
Kat: No, I think it is turning your brain to mush.
Ada: What's mush?
Me: See, your mom is right.  Last week you knew what mush was.

I took Ada to the park yesterday, and we had a wonderful time.  She is becoming an excellent companion, although she is getting much heavier on the back of my bike.  It gets harder and harder to ride up the hills, but our time together is very enjoyable.  We played "freeze tag" at the park for quite awhile.  In Ada's universe "freeze tag" is a game where one person chases another and when the chaser yells "freeze" the other person has to freeze like a statue.  Then the chaser says "unfreeze" and the chase begins again.  There is no point and you cannot win, but Ada really likes it.

This week Ada and I are starting Itty Bitty Sports at the YMCA for soccer and basketball.  We went to the Y today to attempt to get a preview, and it went well.  She was doing a better job of not touching the soccer ball with her hands and kicking it with more velocity.  I also attempted to try her out as a goalkeeper, but I did not like the looks I was getting from some of the other people at the gym.  I tried to tell them, How do I know if she's good if I don't fire some shots at her?  Oh well.

While it was sad to say goodbye to my Grandma Gautreaux, I was glad that she had gotten a chance to meet Ada.  The photo of me, my dad, Ada, and Grandma Gautreaux that was included among the remembrance photos at the funeral was my favorite.  I was also glad to see my brothers, the two people who make me laugh more than any other people in the world.  It was a sad occasion, but it was nice to be together.

I enjoyed being in Florida.  The beach was great.  However, I do not know how people on the East Coast watch sports.  I fell asleep before most every game was over.

Speaking of sports, the Kansas City Royals magical season continues.  I attribute much of the success to their number one lunatic fan, Shirley Gautreaux.  Mom and I got to see the Royals dismantle the Arizona Diamondbacks in early August, and the Royals have not lost many games since then.  I am excited for the Royals-Orioles series, although I cannot think that the television executives at the network that  who owns the rights to the ALCS is quite as excited.

Kat has given me a book about raising a three-year-old and another about four-year-olds.  It makes everything sound rather complicated, but the thesis, from what I can gather, is that children are insane.  But all I know is that I do enjoy being a parent, even though I guess I never thought much about it when I was younger.  October 6, 2014 is the four-year anniversary of when Kat told me that she was pregnant.  I can remember the date because the Bar Exam results came out on October 7, 2010, and Kat gave me the news one day before.  I can remember thinking that obviously I really need to pass the Bar Exam now (even though I could do nothing to change anything at that point) because I don't want my future child to ever realize that I was not even a lawyer when he or she was born.  I have no idea why I found this important.  I also remember thinking that I was glad that I would be 30 before the future child was born because I would seem more mature.  I was no more mature than when I was 29, and I don't think that Ada will ever think of this.  But at that time, I cared.

I did not think a whole lot about what it would actually be like to be a parent, and I would say that I don't really know much more about it now.  All I know is a little bit about how to try to co-exist along with Ada.  She makes things fun and interesting and occasionally harrowing, and each day is an adventure.  We received her first school pictures last week, and she is looking very grown-up already.  However, she is the same kid that needs to be rocked like a baby after her bath.  So, like the book says, three-year-olds are a mass of contradictions.  And, more and more, so am I: I can't wait for each new milestone, but I feel it is all moving too fast.  But I just have to enjoy it, because Kat and I "only likes one child."

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Ada is becoming quite adept at looking at me with disdain.  I will admit that this is the only sensible reaction to some of the things I say to her, but I must admit that she has acquired the ability to provide me with withering glances at astonishing speed.  Like most everything with Ada, she is rather precocious.

I did not think that facial expressions were hereditary, but the look that Kat gives me that she calls "dead eyes" has clearly been passed down to Ada.  It took Kat a few years to master, but Ada is already a pro.  It is a look that says many things at once: "I have no respect for you"; "I did not choose you as a parent"; and "I would prefer to be doing basically anything else but listening to you."  This is a look that I know well.

Even despite these occasional looks, I could not be happier with Ada.  She is a great kid and a lot of fun to be around.  And she is blessed with a brand of amnesia that allows her to still want to spend time with me, despite my track record.  Yesterday, for example, Ada suggested a bike ride to the park. Upon our return, I was drenched in sweat. Ada was just sitting in the seat on the back of the bike and riding along.  However, this did not stop her from immediately telling Kat as soon as we returned that 'The bike ride made her really tired.'  I asked her which part made her tired: the sitting on the bike or the sitting on the swing while I pushed her for an hour.  She said it was the combination.

She also requested that I juggle for her yesterday.  And when I briefly stopped to try to explain something to her about how it had probably been about 20 years since my parents bought this juggling equipment for me, she gave me the dead eyes look and said tartly: "Juggle, clown."  I then started doing a terrible impersonation of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas and asking her if I amused her, which led to much more dead eyed staring.  So I went back to juggling.

Ada had her first sleepover with a friend last night, and apparently she did quite well.  She absolutely does not seem fazed or concerned by almost anything and continues to be frighteningly confident.  She does not seem to need her parents, which is an interesting thing for me to ponder. Basically all kids grow up and then do not need their parents, which can be difficult to come to grips with for parents.  It is why I often hear people say that they want to freeze their kids at a certain age or have them stop growing.

I do not feel this way, and I do not know at what age Ada should "freeze" because each year brings new and interesting challenges.  But I do have some concern about the fact that, at her current rate of development, Ada might decide it is time to strike out on her own at age 11 and begin panning for gold or running a travel agency or flying planes.  She might decide she has learned enough from us and is ready for her own adventures.  Everyone fears being outgrown.  And that fear is at its apex with children because all parents know it will happen.

However, it is easy to remind myself that Ada is three, not thirty-three (which is what I am, and I still see my parents with regularity -- see you soon, Mom!).  When we are at the park during our bike ride, this fact was made rather frighteningly clear.  Ada decided to reach for the bar that holds up the rings on the playground, but she missed.  And she was going to take a scary tumble.  But I caught her, and she instantly started crying because of how scary it was.  It scared me quite a bit, too.

I don't like staying so close to her on the playground because I want her to learn to be careful and to have her own fun.  But I don't want to be so far away that I can't help.  I know Ada doesn't need as much help as many other children, but I still like being there for her.  Despite the dead eyes and "Juggle, clown" and everything else that goes along with trying to raise a three-year-old, I truly enjoy it.  I may not have looked thrilled to be trying to bike uphill in the heat with a 40-pound kid on the back singing songs while utterly oblivious to my labored breathing, but if you were right up close you would have seen a smile. Bike rides with Ada are the best stress relief I have ever found.  I look forward to many more years with a perfect, confident kid who will soon be riding her own bike next to mine.  Even if it means I have to hear "Don't sing, Dad" come from the backseat every time I so much as hum along with the radio, I don't mind.  I look forward to it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Remembrance of Easters Past

It’s time for a little holiday nostalgia, so I return you to the years of 1981 through 1994. Although I have no records to support this, I believe that I traveled at Easter to the Rinne farm near Keytesville, Missouri, for nearly every one of those years. (I can’t really recall when Grandma and Grandpa moved to Cordova, Nebraska, and if I text my mom to find out she will instantly call me, talk to me for awhile, and then close by thanking me for calling. At which point, I will sheepishly point out that I only texted her. But anyway, to avoid all that, I'll just guess.)  But I want to take you back to what it was like to make those annual Easter trips.

School would be for half a day on Thursday. My dad would get to the house early Thursday afternoon and then begin cursing at how utterly unprepared we were to actually leave. We would throw things together haphazardly and then get into a poorly-made vehicle. Some of these trips may have been made in the "drug van," which was a giant brown van with two front seats, one row of seats, and then a black void. (I nearly got frostbite on my toes one year on a Christmas trip to see my other grandparents due to the van’s complete lack of insulation). But my more vivid memories of the Easter trips are being in a sedan of some kind (possibly even the old Cutlass) and being crammed in with my brothers in the back seat with limited leg room. Keith and I on each side, and Elliott smushed in the middle. I would stare out the window as the countryside changed from farm fields to farm fields to farm fields. Maybe changed is the wrong word.

It was a six-hour trip, which was interminable to the young me.  I can remember the towns: Beatrice (this meant stories of my mom's childhood, which were ... uh... something); then the Missouri border (bathroom break); then St. Joseph (could only be referred to as St. Joe, who always seemed like St. Joseph's cooler alter ego); then Chillicothe (which I always enjoyed saying); then Marceline (I'm probably asleep by this point) and then the farm.  During the last few miles, my dad would claim he could turn on road signs by flipping from dims to brights.  This did impress and confuse me at the time, which is a sad commentary on the young me.  At this point, it's about 10:30 p.m.  And the second I step onto the back deck I can smell the popcorn.  Grandpa has his air popper going, and I've got popcorn soon after I've gotten a hug from my Grandma.  This was an era before cell phones, so my Grandpa only vaguely knew when we would be arriving.  But it seemed the popcorn was always hot and tasted perfect.  He might have been making it all evening just to be prepared, but this could simply be the magic of grandparents.  Then, I would get in bed -- either the foldout bed in the living room or maybe a bed upstairs -- and try to fall asleep.  It wasn't always easy because I was excited for the next day's adventures.

Friday would be a day of four-wheeling and sports and good meals.  That evening, we would travel to Salisbury to go to Good Friday church, which was always a somewhat scary service.  Lots of darkness, terrifying scripture readings, people whispering.  It was a rather chilling scene.

Saturday would be more adventures, maybe some exploring, croquet, basketball, or fishing.  We could go with Grandpa to feed the giant catfish.  And, of course, copious amounts of good food.  In the evening, we might sit down with even more popcorn to try the TV to see if any stations come in.  Maybe there was a movie of the week (I think I remember seeing LA Story there, but I remember nothing of the movie.  Could have been Roxanne.)  Sometimes at the end of the late newscast, Dr. Red Duke would appear.  He seemed like a cable access "doctor" who relied on remedies that "Big Science" did not want you to know about.  These segments were always enjoyable for their occasionally bizarre turns.
Easter Sunday would be a much happier service, and then an Easter Egg hunt in the front yard.  It was thrilling to find an egg with chocolate in it or a dollar bill.  Then, a big lunch and our goodbyes to Grandma and Grandpa.  Then, it was back in the car to head home.  Six more hours in the car smushed in with my brothers, and trying not to have my dad yell at me too much. 

Those Easter weekends are what I think about when I think about my grandparents.  I probably am getting numerous details wrong (maybe we left on Wednesday, maybe we did not go through Marceline on the way, maybe we didn't have popcorn right away, maybe Dr. Red Duke was a staid and sensible doctor, maybe he was not even a doctor).  But it does not really matter what the truth was now.  The memory is what I treasure.  I loved those trips.  I loved that farm.  I loved spending time with my grandparents.  I love that I can still go back there in my mind.

But of course I can only return in my mind.  One of those people is no longer with us.  I would never, under any circumstances, want to ride for six hours in the backseat of a sedan.  Someone else owns the farm.  But if I just smell the popcorn, I go back. 

Sometimes when I'm watching Hulu Plus, they have a commercial for Disneyland that attempts to guilt parents into bringing their children to Disneyland to "create memories that will last a lifetime."  But honestly, the Dumbo ride probably is not that memorable.  Long car rides, the anticipation of seeing your grandparents, frightening church services, and Easter egg hunts, those are the memories that will last a lifetime.  That is what childhood is about.  Now that I have my own family, I hope to start making those kinds of memories with them.  (I'm sure they are not looking forward to it.)  But I hope someday they can look back with a smile the way that I do.  We are not going anywhere this Easter, but, like the Chicago Cubs, there is always next year.  I hope that when Ada is older, she can think about Easter and have similar happy memories.  We should all be so lucky.

Happy Easter.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

I only blog when it rains

We have been in a long drought that finally ended yesterday, so I decided it was time that I get back to dropping my witticisms on my eager audience.

Emma the English setter puppy and I went for a nice hike today.  We walked the Enchanted Canyon subdivision that is near our house and then part of the Centennial Trail.  Emma is a good companion, although she is far from trained.  Each good thing she does is tempered with something terrible, like stomping on me when I'm sleeping, licking my face when I'm sleeping, biting my ear while I'm sleeping, or barking at me when I'm sleeping.  In other news, I'm tired during the day sometimes.

Ada is continuing to do good stuff most of the time.  She is getting quite good at recognizing different letters and numbers, even without prompting.  I was wearing my Basketball Jones T-shirt yesterday and she pointed out many of the letters on it.  However, there was some confusion regarding the fact that the letter "T" was on the shirt, but the entire shirt was a T-shirt.  I know I am on record as saying that the language skills of young children are not that impressive because they are being taught language every day of their lives with literally no other responsibilities, but even I have to admit that English is a confusing language.  Sometimes I think that my bad puns may be stunting Ada's growth.

The all-too-common scenario is that I will be driving with Kat and Ada in the car, I will see a sign, and then make a bad pun.  Ada will then say "Daddy, what you saying?" (Ada speaks a pidgin of 2.5 year old and jive).  Kat will then begin to explain the terrible pun, give up, and say she is taking a nap.  This happens at least twice a week.

Ada is great at asking questions.  She may not be quite so good at listening to the answers, but I am glad that she is inquisitive.  She is also excellent at saying her last name and listing the names of people she likes.  That list is Mommy, Daddy, Marc, Susan, Eric, and Grandma Shirley.  Sometimes Gpa G makes the list.  Keith and Elliott you have work to do.

Ada has also been helping Kat with a painting project in the house.  Now that we finally own the floor we walk on, Kat has thrown herself into painting the cabinets.  The lower cabinets will be blue (the actual name is calm ocean or itinerant whale.  Something like that, I don't recall exactly).  The upper cabinets will be cream.  (Actual name cream, I think).  Anyway, I think it will look great.

In law news, I really have nothing for you.  Although I was interested in this opinion from the California Supreme Court denying Stephen Glass admission to the California bar.  As a journalist and now a lawyer, it was quite interesting to me as Glass was a disgraced journalist turned law clerk.  Maybe it is just my forgiving nature, but I feel like Glass should have been admitted.  Telling the truth in written work is sort of a lawyer's stock-in-trade, so I understand a hesitancy to admit someone who lied in writing for years.  But it seems that Glass has made the necessary changes.  And it seems like he would be a very good lawyer.  I simply do not see the grounds for not admitting him and giving him an opportunity.  Every year hundreds of lawyers make bad decisions, and they face the consequences and are later reinstated.  I think it is naive to pretend that Mr. Glass can never be a lawyer because he invented a web site for Jukt Micronics.

In other news, I heard some rumblings about controversy regarding Arizona, but I have been pretty busy lately, so I am not super familiar with it.  I've got nothing for you on that matter.

I recently read Johnny Carson by Henry Bushkin, who for many years was Carson's attorney.  I expected more discussion of the legal ethics of writing a book like that, but the book did not have it.  I think it likely that the publisher reviewed the manuscript and said something alone the lines of "99% less about boring law stuff and more salacious details about a contract being out on Johnny's head."  I also did some online checking to see if lawyers were complaining about the breach of confidentiality, but I did not see much.  Now Carson treated Bushkin shabbily and the end of their relationship was not pleasant (similar to all of Johnny's relationships), but the details of the representation are still confidential, except for certain exceptions.  And I don't think that the mob putting out a contract on Johnny's head in the 1960s falls under any of those exceptions.

It's much easier to maintain confidentiality when an attorney has information in which there is little interest, but I still think it is important.  My thought is this: you take it to the grave.  The best example of this might be in the documentary Shadow Billionaire when the titular billionaire Larry Hillblom's attorney is interviewed.  Even though Hillblom was dead, his attorney said that he had asked Hillblom (during his life) whether he was the father of certain children who were claiming to be heirs.  The attorney said he told Hillblom that he would not tell anyone what Hillblom said, and then the attorney looks right into the camera and says "And I'm not going to."  That is what confidentiality means, and that is how such things should be handled, at least to my mind.

OK, that was too much typing.  And I did not even get into sports.  However, mark your calendars for March 16, 2014, when Ada will attend her first spring training baseball game.  She is already excited.  It's the Angels and Mariners with Ada and I on the lawn for probably like two and a half innings!  Pujols! Trout! Cano! Ada! Funnel cakes!  It should be great.