UNC – 2017 NCAA Basketball Champs

Last night UNC won their 6th national championship.

I’m amazed how little this mattered to me. I didn’t even watch the whole game. I turned it on shortly after tipoff. For the first half I only partially paid attention while I did other things. For the second half I watched less than 5 minutes of the game before deciding to go to bed.

This amazed me because UNC’s 2nd national championship is one of my earliest sports memories. It was 1982 so I was only 7 years old at the time. I don’t know if I remember the actual game or if I only remember the countless replays I’ve seen over the years of Michael Jordan’s go ahead shot and James Worthy’s game clinching steal.

What I definitely remember from that night was how important it was for me to watch that game. As a Second Grader with school the next day I had a bedtime too early to watch the whole game. After being sent up, I snuck back downstairs to the office to watch the rest. I turned the TV on and lowered the volume to a whisper. It was still a flawed plan because the bathroom was right next to the office. Eventually my mom came back that way and I was busted.

I was generally a good kid who rarely caused any problems for my parents, so Moms went easy on me. The fact that I even did this must have showed her how important the game was to me so she let me stay up. I don’t recall if that meant for the whole game or just until halftime.

So today there is this clear contrast in my head. As a 7 year-old, I’m doing everything possible to stay up and watch this game. As a 42 year-old, I can hardly be bothered to pay attention while it is on and don’t care if see the outcome until the next day. It’s strange to be able to see such a clear progression of how my priorities and things I enjoy have changed over the years.

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Tradition

(Bear with me…this whole article really has nothing to do about baseball, but there is a lot of stuff that happens around baseball that relates to what I want to write.)

Earlier this week Rob Neyer of Fox Sports wrote that it was the 12th anniversary of the release of Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball”. “Moneyball” is my favorite book of all time. (Side note: I’m not a big book reader, so there really aren’t a lot to choose from.) Neyer’s retrospective reminded me how much I like the book. Yes, “Moneyball” is about baseball, but baseball is just the delivery system for Lewis. Lewis writes about financial markets and economics. His purpose in “Moneyball” was to talk about recognizing inefficiencies in a market (e.g. on base percentage (for the record, this is a dramatic oversimplification)) and how to take advantage of them.

But I got something else out of “Moneyball” and the related exposure to Bill James, sabermetrics, etc. I realized that things I believed could be challenged and I could change my mind. So in this instance, I changed from thinking that RBI’s and pitcher Wins were important.

Yesterday The Hardball Times had a post about the 169th anniversary of the first baseball game to be played under a formal set of rules…and how that is mostly a myth. It’s a lie that is retold over and over, so people believe it. Worst than that is the myth that Abner Doubleday invented baseball.

Coincidentally I went to the Phillies game last night with Pops and Dave. (Squirrel!) Pops went on about how smart of a guy Doubleday was in laying out baseball. I didn’t correct him. He can be bothered by change or challenges to his beliefs. I understand that this is typical behavior to think that things were better in the past or that they should be the way they always have been.

I understand it, but it’s definitely not me. As I get older I’m somehow getting more progressive in my thinking. And I’m willing to challenge accepted norms more often. Craig Calcaterra does a great job in expressing this in a post about baseball cards (yes, more baseball).

Last night at the game, they asked for people to remove their hats before the national anthem as a sign of respect. I blurted out “why does removing your hat show respect?” These rules that continue for no reason other than tradition make no sense to me. Does removing my hat make me happy? Does it make me money? Does it negatively impact anyone else? Does it really accomplish anything at all? Then how can it be respectful or disrespectful? It’s not. It’s just a meaningless tradition at this point. (As I was researching the origins of this I found this quote I liked: “I always thought showing true respect for the flag and song itself was in having the right to choose whether to keep my hat on or off.”)

(OK, I think I’m done with all of the baseball-related stuff.)

These are the kinds of traditions that I find myself rejecting more and more often. Gay marriage? I don’t care…because it doesn’t negatively impact me. I have stopped saying “bless you” after people sneeze because I know it’s unnecessary. I don’t get bent out of shape thinking it’s the end of civilization when states legalize marijuana. When I got married it was important to me that Pam take my last name. Now, I would want that she keep hers. I have stopped standing during the Pledge of Allegiance after reading about the Bellamy Salute. The Pledge is creepy and feels like propaganda – and again, it’s unnecessary. Earlier this week I read that moral acceptance of polygamy has more than doubled from 7% in 2003 to 16% now. I paused, but then thought as long as it’s not a sheik acquiring wives or a religion preying on children…yeah, go for it. I’m OK if everyone is consenting adults entering into a polyamorous relationship. It doesn’t negatively impact me. All of these things are unnecessary traditions.

Religion seems like they have more of these unnecessary traditions than anything else. As I like to say…thank God I’m an atheist! I grew up an atheist (or for a time before I was willing to commit called myself an agnostic). I have never been religious and therefore never had a religion to challenge. But I wonder if I was indoctrinated to faith how accepting I would have been of all of the rules and how soon I would have rejected them.

So ditch your unnecessary traditions. The 2016 presidential campaigns have kicked off. At some point a candidate will be called a flip-flopper, and it will be considered a bad thing because politicians are never supposed to progress. I don’t see it that way. I don’t care that they changed. The change itself isn’t bad. You can change your mind on things. Maybe there is new research, or more science, or a better understanding after reading a persuasive argument. In that case it’s OK to abandon past beliefs. Looking at things with an open perspective is good for progress…just like I learned from Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball”.

Asthma

Welp, I got “something“. After months of having an annoying, unknown, sporadic breathing problem I went to a new doctor. I’ve never felt out of breath, gasping for air, or like I was in danger, so I didn’t know what I was dealing with. Plus, I always thought that asthma was something that you always had…didn’t know you could develop it later in life. Well, the new doctor told me otherwise. He said it is very hard to diagnose something so sporadic and mild like I have, but the description I gave was asthma. He prescribed an inhaler. He said if it seems to make me breathe easier when I’m having difficulty, that will be another data point in the diagnosis.

It’s weird. Not the asthma itself, but the “something”. I’m not exceptionally physically fit, but I’ve always been healthy. But now having “something” is messing with my head more than the asthma is messing with me physically.

It is similar to when I turned 40. The number itself wasn’t that big of a deal, but it was something. A few months ago my cousin Terri died. Even though I wasn’t close with her at all (to the point where I wouldn’t recognize her if she walked by), she was the first one of my generation. Then Col’s dad died. These are the life milestones, and they are hitting closer to home and with more frequency.

Ron Connors

Colleen’s dad died on Sunday. He was a good dude. I would see him 4 or 5 times a year at Dave’s house. He seemed like he should be gruff, but I always found him affable.

He had been sick for awhile. I think like 6 years. He had “one of everything”…heart attacks, cancer, COPD, emphysema, etc. Honestly, being a step removed, I couldn’t keep track. I do know that if he was a cat, he well out lived his 9 lives. He had a lot of reasons for his health issues. It was a combination of smoking, exposure to Agent Orange while fighting in Vietnam, and even possibly working in a commercial bakery (fine flour in the air all the time).

A couple weeks ago he had a stroke. We found out the night we went to Moms & Pops for Pam’s birthday dinner. Col wasn’t there. She was shooting us text message updates throughout the evening. In the middle of all that she managed to apologize to Pam for missing her birthday. She is too considerate.

He made it out of the hospital, but never fully recovered. He was weak and fell and wound up back in the hospital. He was then diagnosed with kidney failure, sepsis, and probably some more stuff. He only lasted a couple days more.

The funeral was on Wednesday. This was the first time that the girls were going to a funeral. They wanted to go to support their cousins. Pam and I were fine with it. We felt like they were old enough to handle it. At no point through his up’s and down’s over the last few years did we ever hide any info from them. We’re generally pretty honest with them about everything. I think kids are more capable of dealing than most people give them credit for. Plus, they know when something is going on anyway. We figured this would be a relatively good funeral to expose them to for their first one.

In preparation for Wednesday, I gave them a rundown of what to expect. The main thing I wanted to make sure they were ready for was the open coffin. I tucked in Julia first Tuesday night. Before I left the room – unrelated to anything – she asked me how many seconds there were in a day. I told her we would look it up tomorrow. “Go to bed!”

Next up was Susie. We talked for a while. We came back to a discussion of the open coffin. Good thing we did. She said she was envisioning something out of Indiana Jones. I’m not sure if she meant one of the mummified bodies or the guys whose faces melt off. Either way, I’m glad we got it straightened out before I left her because she probably would’ve been up all night.

After I left her room I figured I better go back to Jul just in case she had the same misconception. I popped open her door and she is sitting up in bed, reading light on and pan and paper in hand. “What are you doing?!?” “I’m calculating how many seconds there are in a day.” Little wacko!!! She asked why I came back. I explained Susie’s confusion. Julia, confused by Susie’s confusion, “He’s just going to look like he’s sleeping, right?”

I’m usually not really bothered by funerals. I don’t know if it’s because I never lost anyone I really cared for or if it’s just because my black heart inhibits me from having any feelings about anything. I remember being a little weepy at Grandmom Girgenti’s funeral. I was 14. It wasn’t because I personally felt a great loss – she wasn’t a warm person (as evident by the generic name “Grandmom Girgenti”). I think it was because I was envisioning my other grandmom dying.

Of course when my other grandmom did die 11 years later, I don’t recall being broken up about it. I knew that I would miss her – she was a great lady…I have lots of special memories with her – but I don’t remember crying at all. Maybe because she was very realistic about life and death. (I’m realistic too, but dammit, I want to live forever!) Maybe because my mom wasn’t outwardly upset. For the record, if emotions can be passed through hereditary, this is the family line that I can blame for me not having any. My mom has been nicknamed The Rock because she doesn’t break for anything. I know it’s a stereotype, but there might be something to the thought that Germans lack feelings.

Ron’s funeral pretty much played out the way I expected. Susie cried a lot, Julia didn’t cry at all (Rock v3.0), and I just took everything in a practical manner. But then Colleen got up to give the eulogy. It was awesome! She really did a great job highlighting interactions from his life. And it was…moving? I guess. What were these feelings I was having? I really got choked up, especially when she talked about moments her dad had with his grandchildren. I can’t believe I got upset. I was shocked, confused…and excited! Yay, I do have empathy!

The last highlight of the funeral was communion. It was getting close to lunch time at this point. Julia saw they were handing out food at the front of the line. She looked at me like “heyyyyyy, can I go get a cracker?” I should have let her go just to see how quickly Pam could pull her out of that line. I’m sure it would’ve been less than a second.

Here is Ron’s obituary:
http://obituaries.expressionstributes.com/?of=fb46357843