Majors Made

Mini-post. There really isn’t any heavy content to share here. I don’t have a story or any reflections. But as the title suggests: Jack made the majors. The tryouts were a big deal, but the news of making the majors was sort of a fizzle.

So that’s the update: Jack made the majors.

Other updates:

  • Alex’s lizard (Josh) has eaten 11 crickets
  • Jack’s basketball team won the championship
  • One of Jack’s best friends won the free-throw shooting contest (made 6 for 7)
  • Alex earned his orange belt
  • Shani and I have given up drinking in the house for Lent
  • Baseball season starts in 18 days

That’s all I’ve got.

Alex-Based Post: Comments Required

Alex asked me: “Why is your blog called NuckolBall?”

“Well, it’s our last name and also the name of a pitch in baseball. I combined them.” I was surprised he didn’t know that.

“Yeah,” he said sadly, “but why does the blog have to be about baseball?”

OH. Alex got the name. He got it completely. I was the one not getting it.

Here’s the deal: Alex doesn’t like baseball that much. Jack and I are nuts about it, and Alex is basically along for the ride. So he’s left out from the blog. Add to that the fact that I just had a guest post on a Yankee beat writer’s blog, and the post was entirely about me and Jack. I completely ignored the fact that Alex was at the game I described. (Note: in many cases, NuckolBall stories bend the shit out of the truth.)

So this post will be entirely about Alex. This post will be rambly, overly-long, and completely Alex-esque. Also, it means that you need to write a comment about how much you like Alex. Feel free to stop reading and do that now. In fact…

The remainder of the post will really only interest:

  • Alex
  • People who love to read about Alex
  • People who love lizards
  • Local people who need chores done

Two weekends ago we went to PetSmart near our house. Alex has saved up an astonishing $102, and we were inquiring about getting a lizard. A very helpful girl walked us through the cost of the cage, food, lizard, etc – and it was clear that we were looking at over $200.

“But what about a frog?” she said.

“Ooh!” said Alex.

So she walked us over to the frog tank. We added up what cage we needed, water treatment, crickets, meal worms – it was awesome. She even let Alex hold one of the frogs. Best off, we were looking at around $80 for everything. Perfect.

“Can we get it now?” Alex asked.

“No way. You’ve got karate in an hour and then basketball after that. We can come back this afternoon.”

Alex was on Cloud 9. He hopped around the basketball court like he hadn’t peed in 2 days, paying no attention to the game. His friend Aiden asked him to come over to play, but Alex barely answered him as he ran for the car. Back to PetSmart we went. New staff people had replaced the girl we spoke to that morning.

“Oh no, that tank isn’t nearly big enough. A frog needs at least a 10 gallon tank.” [Add $15 and now the tank is much harder for Alex to lift and clean himself.]

“Oh no, they eat about 8-10 crickets a day. Plus that cardboard cricket box won’t work for a frog because it’ll get wet.” [Add $3 a week to feed the frog plus $20 for the cricket keeper cage that Shani will not deal well with.]

“Let me just get the paperwork. This type of frog has to be registered in NJ. That’s a ten dollar fee.” [Registration?!?]

“You need gloves to hold it. Human skin is dangerous to the frog and the frog’s skin has an irritant that can create a rash.”

So here I am in this pet store with a kid sooo excited to get this frog and I’m learning:

  • It’s going to cost way more than expected to buy
  • It’s going to cost way more each week to feed the frog
  • I need to buy a “Cricket Keeper” cage to house live crickets, plus food for the crickets – in essence Alex is getting a pet frog AND pet crickets
  • There is no way Alex can possibly clean the cage on his own – which has to be done 2/week
  • Alex will not even be able to TOUCH his pet

After 30 minutes of heart-punching facts about frog ownership, I pull the plug.

“Alex, this isn’t going to work.”

“I’m getting a frog!”

“Alex, it’s not going to work. We’re not going to do this. I’m so sorry, bub.”

“Croaky?” (This was the name he had selected.)

Tears. And not a few tears – lot of tears. Alex proceeds to bawl. He knows I’m right and he is heartbroken. He will not be going home with a new pet. He will not be going to bed that night with his new frog sitting on his dresser.

We got home and watched the Justice League together, cuddling on the couch while Alex recovered. After 3 episodes he seemed to be all right. By that time I had received a text from my friend whose son has a lizard.

Go to Bill’s Wonderland of Pets. They know their stuff.

Fast forward to the next weekend. We find ourselves in a non-chain, locally-owned pet store. A gothy girl with tattoos and black eyeliner helps us out.

“I’d recommend a Max Land gecko.”

Turns out “Max Land” is an actual person who breeds geckos. Goth girl walked us through all the stuff we would need, and then took us over to the tank where she pulled out a gecko and showed Alex how to safely hold it. The thing was crawling all up and down the boy’s arms as he gently handled it.

“See, after you handle him a while they get comfortable. You’re really good with him,” goth-girl told Alex.

Total cost: $135. Which means Alex is short $40 – but he is not to be denied. The boy is saving up. Every day he asks me about doing extra chores. He’s carried wood for me. Done dishes. He cleaned two bathrooms for Shani. He is saving up.

Which leads back to YOU…if you’re local and you’re still reading. If you have a chore for a detail-oriented, diligent 8-year-old, Alex is your guy. I’m not talking about some bullshit thing you give him to do and hand over $10 because he’s cute. This isn’t about fund-raising. I’m talking about an honest-to-God chore that would be worth a few bucks to you. If you have some work, let me know and I’ll get my lizard-lover over to your place stat.

Christmas Eve and the Power of Baseball

The cliffhanger trivia question from my last post:

Q: Name the only team in four professional sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) to win the championship every time it has qualified for postseason play.

The answer:

A: The Florida Marlins (great job Matt A. for texting me the answer within minutes of posting)

Here’s another:

Q: Theoretically, what is the minimum number of pitches that must be thrown in a regulation, nine-inning Major League baseball game in order for a pitcher to be credited with a Complete Game?

A: 25 (A visiting team pitcher must have every batter his the first pitch. One batter hits a HR and the others all make an out. The visiting team then bats in the top of the ninth and loses 1-0. The visiting team pitcher throws 8 innings, loses 1-0 and gets a Complete Game.)

About 2 weeks ago our school had a fund-raising event at Barnes and Noble. We ran into one of Jack’s best friends and his family. The grandfather was there.

“Hi there, I’m Dick. I know who you are.”

“What?” I asked.

“I read your blog. Love the thing. Think that minor league project with your son is terrific. Ok, here’s this: Name all the World Series managers who have never lost a single World Series game.”

“Oh – OK, hang on. Terry Francona…Ozzie Guilllan.” I was immediately intrigued. Baseball is a language and I could tell I had come across a true master. I couldn’t come up with the other managers.

“Lou Pinella with Reds in 1990 and then Hank Bauer with Orioles 1966. I got all kinds of these crazy things. How about this: Name the last team…Oop!”

The whole time I was talking to Dick, he seemed cagey. You’d think the police were after him. And in mid trivia question he’d seen something that scared him, let out a whoop, and then bolted without saying goodbye or anything.

I thought it was a bit strange, but mostly I was struck by the fact that I actually had my first fan. Holy crap! I assume anyone who reads this blog are reading it because they know me. I’d never met Dick, but there he was reading my blog and all kinds of excited to talk baseball. I never had a fan before; it was awesome.

So Christmas Eve, Jack’s friend’s family invited us over Christmas Eve for drinks. We wandered over there around 4:00 and found it was them, their family, and us. It was actually quite touching to be invited into this. There was good wine, good food, and best of all…Dick.

“Hey there, nice to see ya, how ya doin? Hey here’s this:”

Q: Name the first black pitcher in the Major Leagues.

“OK…how about this:”

Q: Name the last teams in the NL & AL to integrate African American players?

“I got lots of these. In fact I got them for ya’. I typed ‘em…oh boy!”

Then he darted away again like he’d just heard the building was on fire. Once more I didn’t know what had happened. I sorta shrugged it off and got into a different conversation. But 20 minutes later, Dick was back. This time we got into it about who we thought was the best athlete of all time. Jack has been drafting this list up and sending me barrages of texts with his revisions.

“Babe Ruth,” Dick declared. “He could pitch and then he hit too. Nobody was like him.”

He kept up on this subject for a bit, until once again Dick disappeared in the blink of an eye. I was beginning to think that this guy was actually a superhero. He would hear someone in South Jersey calling for help using his super hearing, duck out, change into his costume, fly off and save them, then fly back and rejoin the party as a mild-mannered baseball fan.

Over the course of the night he kept this up. He was like a boxer – he’d move in quick, stick me with trivia questions, and then duck back out. Finally late in the night I figured it out. We were debating who the best basketball player of all time was, when he stopped mid-sentence.

“All right, all right, I’ll stop. I somtimes talk so much, I get carried away.”

Dick had obviously been scolded for bad behavior. He had been told by his wife, daughter, someone – that he was not allowed to pin someone down and talk about baseball trivia. I’ve been given instructions like this before. Try and talk to people at this party. Don’t just find a place to sit by the food and ignore everyone. Keep your clothes on. I think Dick had gotten a permanent Don’t talk too much about baseball.

The best part came as we were leaving. Dick snuck over to me and handed me 15 typed pages.

“I spent today typing these up. Thought you could maybe use ‘em on your blog, I don’t know!”

Dick had typed pages and pages of baseball trivia questions.

“Wow – that’s super!” I told him. “Can you email them to me?”

“Ah…Uh…that’s not really not specialty. Printing out stuff, emailing it. I’m not that good at that.”

Poor Dick had literally typed the pages. He could not email them; this was the only copy.

Q: The first 9 MLB players to win back-to-back MVPs played the nine different positions. Name them.

Q: Name the last (maybe only) team to have 4 20-game winning pitchers in the same year.

We had a tremendous Christmas. Idyllic, in fact. On Christmas Eve not one, but two, different friends invited us to family gatherings. Christmas Day the boys woke up at 4AM but were forbidden to wake us until 7. At 6:50 they finally resorted to re-setting Alex’s clock ahead 10 minutes and then charged into our room. Then that night we went out with close family friends for our traditional Chinese dinner in Philly.

As for Dick, I hereby indemnify him from any baseball talking restrictions his family has placed on him when it comes to talking to me. Just print this out and show it to your family as proof. Or email it to them. Either way, you should be fine.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone. Each day is one day closer to the 2014 World Series and the end of the dark period where the Red Sox are the reigning champs.

Answer key:

A: Dan Blankhead, 1947 Dodgers.

A: NL: Phillies (John Kennedy-1957) & AL: Red Sox (Pumpsie Green-1959).

A: 1B Jimmy Foxx (’32, ’33), P Hal Newhouser (’44,’ 45), C Yogi Berra (’54, ’55), OF Mickey Mantle (’56, ’57), SS Ernie Banks (’58, ’59), OF Roger Maris (’60, ’61), 2B Joe Morgan (’75, ’76), 3B Mike Schmidt (’80, ’81), OF Dale Murphy (’82, ’83).

A: 1971 Orioles (Dave McNally 21-5, Pat Dobson 20-8, Mike Cuellar 20-9, Jim Palmer 20-9).

Winter Sports: Wrestling

If I were to blindfold you, take you into a room, and ask you to identify the room without seeing it: one sniff and you’d yell out: Wrestling Gym! Then you’d cover your nose.

This is Jack’s second year of wrestling. Here are some observations about kid wrestling:

1)    The smell

This cannot be mentioned enough. Wrestling rooms are covered wall-to-wall in a 3-inch mat that is essentially a sweat sponge. They mop it with some toxic liquid, but it does nothing. And for some reason wrestling rooms always have low ceilings, so they get hot hot quick – to generate more sweat and trap the smell is a smaller, more concentrated area. Each rooms is a shrine to male sweat.

2)    Cauliflower Ear

No disease has ever had a more fearsome name. This is a condition wrestlers get from having their ears mushed into the mats. The ear permanently puffs up to look like cauliflower. It’s very rare, but still my wife lives in fear of Jack getting this disease – and for good reason. Google it – I dare you.

3)    The singlet

In no sport is the outfit so ridiculous. Football players look like armored gladiators. Baseball players look sleek and athletic. Wrestlers look like this:

adam06

Skin-tight lederhosen with a Lobot headset. Every wrestler looks like they just got a massive front wedgie.

4)    Crying

Other sports have only sporadic moments of intensity. A soccer goalie sits around 95% of the time – the big moment of a shot on goal comes only a few times a game. Baseball you stand around most of the time until the big moment when the ball bounces your way or when it’s your turn to bat.

With wrestling, the entire sport is that intense moment. The instant it begins you are locked face to face in conflict until one boy literally overwhelms the other. I would guess that 1 out of 3 matches ends with a kid in tears.

5) Matches = death

Soccer: 2 hours and you’re out of there. Baseball: 3 hours. Basketball is 90 minutes.

With wrestling, you go to a gym and camp out there for 6-8 hours. There is a table with three sweaty statistician dads madly shuffle through dot-matrix printouts and determine the schedule of the 150 kids present. You wait hours for your kid’s three 5-minutes matches to come up. We pack food, books, homework, iPad…it’s like waiting overnight for concert tickets.

But Jack loves wrestling. He’s such a gentle-hearted kid, and watching him face off head-to-head with some strange kid seems so against his nature. His first match last year he faced a kid who had obviously wrestled before. Jack spent 6 minutes getting mashed into the mat again and again. He lost the match 17-1, and while the other kid totally dominated, try as he might he could not pin Jack. Jack wriggled and twisted and could not be pinned. After the match was over Jack’s face was covered in red scuff marks.

“I got killed!” he said to me with a big smile as he panted for breath back in the bleachers.

He got killed every match for the next 6 weeks. But he really liked it. It seemed strange that he would; Jack avoids intense conflict. In soccer or basketball he can’t pass the ball fast enough rather than try and get through a defender. It was only at the end of the season he won a couple matches.

The last match of the season was a tournament. I had to take Alex to a party. Shani took Jack and her phone died, so I didn’t hear a thing beyond the fact that Jack had lost his first match. But at 5:30 they got home and Jack sheepishly produced a medal.

“I won second place.”

He had pinned the next 3 kids he faced and came in second in his weight class.

“Milkshake!” Alex yelled in glee.

And so begins Jack’s second season of wrestling.

Winter Sports: Man Laws of Air Hockey

With baseball season over (with the worst possible result), we are exploring various winter sports. For this episode, we explore air hockey.

We recently received an air hockey table from our neighbor. The thing has been awesome. We have a ping pong table and a knock hockey set, but neither has ever gotten much traction. Air hockey we play constantly.

When my cousin Sam turned 13, my Aunt Mary threw a hippie “right of passage” ceremony for him. Not sure exactly what it was. I suspect she had hippie friends who did hippie ceremonies for their daughters when they got their first period. But Mary has 2 boys so she had this wacky man ceremony. God only knows with that crew…but my contribution was to send Sam a list of “100 Things You Need to Know Now That You’re a Man.”

#94: Air hockey should always be played with your shirt off.

My brother and I were in the local arcade, Aladdin’s Castle, at the Oakdale mall in our early 20s. We went to play video games but discovered an air hockey table in the back. We played for a solid 30 minutes without shirts on. The guy who worked there came and asked us to put our shirts back on. We said OK, put them on, and then pulled them right back off when he left. He came back, asked again…same result. Third time he asked us to leave.

Fast forward to my home this past week. Me and the boys were playing air hockey with great intensity. I remembered my air hockey rule and said:

“You how the professionals play air hockey? No shirt.”

I tore my shirt off and the boys followed suit. Two minutes later Alex scored a goal on me and then took it up a notch.

“You know how the legends play air hockey…” he smiled.

We spent the next hour playing air hockey in our underwear. I have a photo, but I’m not posting it. Yup…these are my boys. We’re making the best of the offseason.

Here’s the list I sent Sam. I wrote it almost 15 years ago. Most of them hold up:

100 Things You Need to Know Now That You’re a Man

1. You can and should pee everywhere – the front yard, left field, the snow. Think of the world as your urinal.

2. Do not grow a moustache. Gothe, beard and moustache – OK. Just a moustache says, “I have a small penis.”

3. Other ways to say “I have a small penis:” Car stereos that can be heard a block away, motorcycles without mufflers, cigar smoking when not playing cards.

4. Wear a seatbelt, always.

5. Your first beer will taste awful, drink it anyways.

6. Your 50th beer will taste awful, drink it anyways. Trust me, eventually this will make sense.

7. When a man makes fun of homosexuals, deep in his heart, he is terrified that he is gay.

8. When you want a woman’s interest, your impulse will be to be loud, run around, tell jokes and generally try and draw attention to yourself. This is exactly the wrong thing to do. The right thing to do is ignore her. Don’t even look in her direction. If you have to speak with her, don’t be nice. Be short and uninterested. Does this not make sense? Good – neither do women.

9. Wear a condom. Do not break this rule.

10. When faced with a mugger, the heroic thing to do is to slowly and without a word hand over your wallet.

11. When in an argument with someone you love, the one who says “I’m sorry” first has won the argument.

12. By the time you’re 25, you should have visited a minimum of 5 National Parks.

13. “I’m bored” really means “I’m boring.”

14. Do not drink and drive.

15. Fear is not the opposite of bravery.

16. When dealing with people over the phone – electric company, ordering parts, whatever – first thing you do is get the person’s name. Things will go much smoother.

17. When in conversations with a woman you’re attracted to, keyword: listen. If you’re talking, you’re losing. If she’s talking, you’re winning.

18. By the time you’re 25, you should have tried a minimum of 5 ethnic foods.

19. Learn to tie a tie.

20. When you crap and see corn in there, immediately yell, “CORN!” That’s what the professionals do.

21. Treat you mother like a queen. If you won the 50 million dollar lottery and gave it all to her, you still couldn’t pay her back for all she’s given you. What she wants is your time – give it to her. Put your stupid friends off for an hour and sit and talk to her at the kitchen table. Ask her to go get some ice cream – she’ll probably even pay. Write her deliberate, personal letters often. Call her. Tell her you love her every day.

22. When you’re doing something and you’re scared, it’s usually an indication that you’re doing the right thing.

23. You cousin Mike DID NOT FAINT.

24. Pick up things for no reason and spike them on the ground.

25. Learn to love to read. Once you do this, you’re never bored again.

26. Be very loud when playing video games.

27. The word “shit” is pronounced with no “t” at the end.

28. But yourself a Rolling Stones album and play it until you understand why I made you buy it.

29. Say “please” and “thank you.” It opens many doors.

30. When leaving a local bar, carry your empty glasses up to the bar on your way out.

31. Lights, whites, colors, darks, delicates, cold wash – it’s all a plot to sell more soap. Throw it all in together.

32. Jump up and hit things.

33. If you’re in a relationship and don’t hang out with your friends much anymore, it’s usually the sign of a bad relationship.

34. If you and a friend are looking for something to do, try this: Go to the supermarket, buy a box of sweet cereal and a carton of milk, go home, sit at the table and eat the entire thing.

35. When you’ve had your first love and it all comes crashing down in devastating heartbreak, say out loud, “Well, I’m glad I got that outta the way.”

36. Putting a can of tuna fish into mac & cheese really makes a difference.

37. Do not put the seat down.

38. Go to college and graduate. Not for the education or the better job prospects, but because it’s a lot of fun and you don’t want to miss it.

39. Do not spend your college summer breaks at home in a stupid job.

40. Sports and crying do not mix.

41. Take things apart and try and put them back together.

42. California has a total of 19 good drivers. Try and be #20.

43. Make a list of the “Top 100 Things I’d Like to do Before I Die.” (Meet the President, Climb Mt. Everest, Learn to Play Guitar, etc.) It probably won’t be 100, but don’t worry about that. Maintain this list throughout your life.

44. The remote control – that is your property.

45. Never throw away a pair of underwear without a fight.

46. When you streak, do it with your shoes on.

47. The toll-free number to get on the Victoria’s Secret mailing list is: 1-800-888-1500.

48. Do not try the McRibs.

49. If you’ve never seen Die Hard, rent it stat.

50. Learn to change a tire, jump start a battery and check your oil.

51. It is far better to be seen naked than wearing only underwear and shoes.

52. In a pinch, a sock can double as toilet paper.

53. There is not right answer to “Do I look fat?” Leave the room and pour yourself a shot.

54. When a buddy is drunk an flirting with an ugly chick, as his friend it is your duty to make fun of him the next morning.

55. Happy wife = happy life.

56. Don’t ever find yourself saying, “farts aren’t funny, they’re gross.” Farts are hysterical – it’s your butthole making noise for God’s sakes. Farts are funny because they’re gross.

57. Eyes forward at the urinal.

58. Pleasant, wonderful and delightful are no longer words in your vocabulary.

59. When a woman asks you if you want to go shopping, your answer in NO!

60. That date on the milk, don’t worry about that. That’s just the sell-by date.

61. If you have paid more that $11 for a haircut, you have been ripped off.

62. Always double down on 11.

63. Never be without duct tape or a hammer.

64. For a first date, ask women out to breakfast. It catches them off guard sometimes.

65. The food at Hooters is delicious.

66. When a Michael Bolton song comes on, change the station.

67. Do not wear Speedos.

68. This one will be long, but it’s important. You need to know about the word “fine”.

When a man says “fine” he means fine. How’s the car run? Fine. Does this shirt look OK? Fine.

When a woman says “fine,” it’s a death sentence. Ask a woman if she’s all right and she says “fine,” what’s she’s really saying is: “I am not fine. Something is wrong.”

So now you’re expected to plead and cajole her into telling you what’s wrong, thus she has shuffled responsibility onto you, allowing her to be able to say that she tried not to make it a problem or complain.

Here is my thought, my revolution: If we men all got together and did not play the game. It we simply took fine to mean fine, maybe women would stop messing around with all this “fine” crap and just tell us what the hell’s wrong. Let’s us men get together and stop being losers.

69. We men – we’re losers.

70. If you don’t have a toothpick, you can use the mail.

71. Your cousin Mike DID NOT FAINT.

72. A great way to meet chicks: volunteering. You meet nice women and the ratio is about 4 girls to every guy. And 2 out of 3 of the guys are gay.

73. When you make reservations at a restaurant or hotel, your name: Phil McCracken.

74. Never ride a bike with a basket on it.

75. Vote.

76. Do not litter. Imbeciles litter.

77. Whenever you camp or hike, you should leave the wilderness cleaner than how you found it.

78. Do not get married until you are 24 and until you’re dated for at least 15 months.

79. The difference between a man and a boy is that a man takes responsibility for his life and actions.

80. #1 profession for meeting girls: bartender.

81. #1 location at a party for meeting girls: near the bathroom.

82. The Chris Nuckols Psych-out Method for Darts:

When people throw darts, after each throw, they look away to the same spot. Find that spot and stand there, so after every throw, your opponent finds himself looking at you, making eye contact. This will shake most people pretty badly.

83. Learn to type.

84. If you’ve done car repairs yourself and then bring the car into a repair shop, blame it on a buddy.

85. Get regular oil changes for your car.

86. The key to a live-in relationship: the dishes.

87. A burp is not something to be ashamed of – display it with pride.

88. When the question comes about: “Should I jump in the water?” Ask yourself this: “Tomorrow I’ll be dry – but tomorrow, will I know what that water was like?”

89. For some reason, women like you more when your clothes are clean. Keep it in mind.

90. If you’re in a wedding party, one of your jobs is to have breath mints at the ready.

91. If it itches, then scratch it by Golly.

92. If you hate your job, you should quit. If you hate where you live, you should move. This may seem obvious, but to most people it is not.

93. Call her up and ask her out – right now.

94. Air hockey should always be played with your shirt off.

95. Very often “I don’t like…” means “I haven’t tried…”

96. A strong smell is the sign of a strong man.

97. The bigger they are, the harder they hit.

98. Notice sunsets and pay attention to your sense of smell.

99. Say “yes” out loud very often. Say it for no reason at all, in response to no one. Yes yes yes yes yes!

100. Laugh loud, dance like a lunatic, take spontaneous road trips, be nice to people, love with every ounce you’ve got. Breathe deep, it’s good to be a man.

Outer Banks: Baseball Observations (Part 3 of 3)

Baseball, right? Can’t forget about baseball. Sure we’re in the Outer Banks, but there was a minor league team 45 minutes away (Norfolk Tides).

Shani and Alex both said no way. Plus, since we’d cut the kids off from screen time, I couldn’t very well watch baseball on TV. But it occurred to me: what team to they root for in the Outer Banks? Hell, there’s not any baseball in either of the Carolinas. There’s barely a football team – I mean, sure they have the Carolina Panthers, but how boring can you get? The only interesting thing to ever happen with the Panthers was 5 years ago when those two cheerleaders got arrested for having sex in a bar bathroom.

My point being – who do you root for in the Outer Banks? Washington Nationals? Atlanta Braves?

Well there were a lot of Yankees jerseys and hats. Not to mention, at any given moment either Jack or I are wearing some type of Yankee gear. This brings about a lot of stranger comments. Mostly negative.

“You guys Yankees fans? Heh-heh. They don’t look so good this year.”

And lots of people want to talk about A-Rod. After one conversation, Shani admitted that she had hidden Jack’s A-Rod jersey because she didn’t want him to draw any controversy. Jack – smart boy – was in full agreement with her decision. He treasures his baseball shirts, but told Shani she should burn that one.

Sorry, remedial baseball note: A-Rod is Alex Rodriguez. He is the Yankees 3rd baseman and the highest paid player in the game (10 years, $275 million). He has just been busted for taking steroids –second offense. He’s currently facing a 2-year ban from baseball because he tried to obstruct the steroid investigation. It also looks as though he leaked the names of other players who were under investigation for steroids to the press so he could take attention away from himself. And finally, he has an orange face. Jack (wisely) cannot stand A-Rod. Me either.

But the team we saw the most hats, shirts, and flags for: The Pittsburgh Pirates. This fills me with happiness. This is a team that has sucked for 20 years and they finally have a good team. It’s a fanbase that has been dying to re-surface and re-surface they have. One day at the beach I started counting how many Pirates fans I could see. I saw 3 hats. 2 coolers. 2 twin kids wearing Pirates swim shirts.

Then out of nowhere one of the guys in a Pirate hat came over to Shani and me.

“You guys want a hot dog?”

“What?”

“I made way too many. I make ‘em a special way and I made 50. No way we can eat any more. You guys want one?”

Shani looked a little uncertain about what to do. I had no such hesitation.

“Hell yeah! Thanks.”

The guy came over. Asked me if I wanted mustard or ketchup, then hurried back and gave me a squirt of spicy brown mustard. Tremendous. Go Pirates, right? Hell yeah.

Oh — here’s a shot of the lesbian cheerleaders (cheerleader portraits and mugshots). No relevance to the blog post, but they’re hot, right?  I bet it’ll make people more likely to click the Facebook link for this post.

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Outer Banks: Kid Observations (Part 2 of 3)

If you’re driving through Philly and heading for the Ben Franklin Bridge, there is a light that always has a few panhandlers shuffling around asking for change.

My kids would be great at that.

Spending a week in a beach house is about my boys begging me for sweets and for screen time.

“Can we have a fruit bar? Pleeeeese?”

“I want to watch another Jessie!”

“But I’m hungry!”

“I started watching one and I have to finish it!”

“It’s vacation! Can we get ice cream?”

Christ with a crutch it was annoying. Until finally at the end of 2 days, Shani got smart and cut it out completely.

“No more sweets. No more screen time. We’ve got the beach. We have a pool. No more. Done.”

And it worked like a charm. Take away the obvious, easy route to entertainment and the boys will find all kinds of things to do.

Jack and I played Stratomatic. It’s like baseball cards on steroids and you roll dice to determine the outcomes of each batter/pitcher matchup. We re-played the 2012 World Series over the course of days and in this case, Detroit won it in 5. It was a blast.

The other big thing Jack did was write his first draft of his minor league baseball article.

Now look, I’m his dad, but I’m also a creative director of an entire team of writers. I will report to you that in my expert opinion, my son is a very strong writer. His first draft had a point of view, a great tone…the first draft was literally better than I expected the final product to be after I’d worked with him through several revisions. If I’m being honest, I did not really think we’d get this into Sports Illustrated for Kids. I figured we’d find some online publication to publish it. But now I genuinely think there is a shot the article gets in SI for Kids. I think it’s that good. I’ll post it when he’s done revising. I’m excited to share.

Alex broke out his Rainbow Loom. For those of you who don’t know, this is a huge thing with kids right now. They weave tiny dime-sized rubber bands into patterned bracelets and rings. It is also a tremendous case to allow child labor. Alex can weave tiny, complex marvels together at an astonishing rate. Check this out

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He even invented his own pattern (the Double Decker), and we filmed a demonstration video which we’ve posted on YouTube. (1238 hits and counting)

We returned to the beach daily and the boys spend countless hours out in the waves. Here is a short list of some of our wave-related activities:

  • Wave worship: Boys throw both hands in the air in some form of rapture and let the wave smash over them. Repeat this for 30 minutes.
  • Fosberry: Boys run at wave and try and jump over it without the wave hitting them. Rate of success: 0%.
  • Epic battle: Boys (and I) face off and wrestle. The object is trick your opponent into turning their back on a big wave so they are unsuspectingly slammed. In spite of the obvious object of the deception, they both fall for each other’s tricks quite often.
  • Rhino charge: One or both boys climb onto Dad’s back and try to hold on as Dad charges head first into a monster wave.

We bought flashlights and hit the beach at 10 PM to search for ghost crabs. Finding these crabs takes seconds – the beach is teaming with them. The crabs are a translucent yellowish white and they skitter at terrifying speeds around the beach. They range in size from smaller than a quarter to bigger than your hand. The boys whooped and fled and chased crabs down. We had 9 in our bucket at one point. Although none of the big ones were allowed in because the boys didn’t want the big crabs to hurt the little ones. (It certainly wasn’t because they were scared of the big crabs.)

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And on the final day, Jack could go no longer without his fix. He pulled a wiffle ball bat from the trunk. I was doing dishes and saw him out the window. He was on the front lawn in the midst of his own imaginary baseball game (complete with announcers: “And Jack swings…connects…that ball is…it’s out of here!”).

I watched him. He’s so little but he’s gotten so damn fast. I saw him fly around the “bases” and it felt like my chest was suddenly filling with beach sand. He’s 10. 10 years have gone by so impossibly fast. I’m more than halfway through my time with this boy. In less than 10 years he will be gone from my home. He will live where I am not. It felt like an aperture opening wider and wider right in my damn heart. That space where my boy, my son…just the thought that he’ll keep running faster and faster and someday literally be gone.

I had to wipe my eyes and I got soap in them, which burned like a mother. And in all honesty I was pretty appreciative for the change of sensation.

Scripts from Jack Nuckols, Announcer

As the Voice of the baseball team playing the front yard

“And Jack Nuckols is up. This pitcher has been unhittable tonight, but Jack Nuckols is known for making adjustments. Here’s the pitch…swing…he gets it. The ball is going. Jack Nuckols is heading for first…that ball is…out of here!”

As the Voice of the gold glove fielding in his bedroom (accompanied by much thumping as he dives and rolls for the imaginary ball)

“That ball is hit hard, Jack Nuckols dives…gets it! Throws from his knees…in time! The runner is out – what a play by Jack Nuckols!”

As the Voice of the waves in the Outer Banks

“Here comes the next wave…and this one is a monster. It’s rising…rising…holy cow that thing is huge! And here it comes! POW! That wave has slammed down and smashed everyone!”

StickBall – Official Rules

Here are the official rules for the relatively constant game of stickball being played in front of my house.

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1. The game is played with a tennis ball and a wiffleball bat

  • The wiffleball bat should be wrapped in duct tape or electrical tape
  • The more tape the better

2. The pitch is delivered with one bounce to the batter

3. There are 2 outs in an inning
4. The game will continue to be played regardless of any rain

  • This includes torrential rain
  • In the case of torrential rain, players on the batting team can huddle on my porch
  • If for some reason you decide to have a rain delay and come into my house to play video games expect me to yell at you to take off your shoes and dry your hair
  • The game will continue until it is so dark you literally cannot see the ball

5. Acceptable reasons to try and pitch another inning, even though you promised that another kid could pitch

  • You will let them pitch next inning
  • Their best hitters are up and you need your best pitcher and that is you
  • The game is close and you need your best pitcher and that is you
  • You have a no-hitter going

6. If you hit it past the car it is an automatic home run

  • If one of the kids’ dads comes out and hits a TITANIC shot that actually hits the car, expect that dad to gloat, sing victory songs, and throw his hands up in joyful celebration as he rounds the bases
  • If the ball bounces off the car and into the air, and some rotten neighborhood kid catches the ball in the air off the bounce that dad is not only out but will also look like a complete and utter loser
  • Expect that rotten neighborhood kid to never be allowed back into my house to play video games during a rain delay and he’s certainly not getting a snack even if he says please

Crazy Hair Day

NOTE: The boys’ photos are at the end. You have to earn it.

It’s spirit week at the boys’ school and today is their absolute favorite part: Crazy Hair Day. At 6 AM the boys got up, ate breakfast and made sure we were at the barber shop nice and early. The whole ride over they giggled and compared ideas for what they were going to do to their hair.

“I’m gonna do a triple Mohawk.”

“I’m going to have them shave and A into my head.”

“That’s what I’m going to do. But I’ll get a J. Then I’ll spike it up and paint it purple.”

“Wait, what if I got them to shave it so there’s just a square of hair left on the front. That would be so awesome.”

It’s really a game-time decision with this. When they got there, Alex told the barber to shave the front half of his head and leave the back half long. Jack opted for the reverse mohawk with the sides spiked up like Wolverine.

This all sounds like fun. I took photos in the front yard. But I want to make it clear that the person that makes this the most fun is:

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I will explain by telling you a puke story.

In my early 20s, I lived in LA with a bunch of guys. We did a lot of drinking, which led to a fair amount of puking. This led to the creation of “The Puke Chart.” The Puke Chart was a large poster where we recorded the time, location, distance, volume and description of each puke. Then at the end of the year we all got dressed up and had an awards ceremony. It was quite an honor to win Puke of the Year. In 1995, my friend Chief won it. Here are the details of that glorious achievement:

His friend Josh had just moved out to LA that week and we all went out to a bar about an hour away. Josh drove. We stayed late and drank too much, then all piled into Josh’s car at 2 AM for the ride home. It was a boring ride. Josh had an awful mix tape in. We were falling asleep and passing out. I was riding shotgun and talking with Josh, and I thought it would be funny to take my clothes off. So slowly I managed to take everything off until I was riding naked. Josh had no idea I had done this. We just drove along, chatting. Everyone in the back seat was either passed out or asleep. Then suddenly from the back seat we heard Chief.

“Pull over.”

The voice was murky and deep. Like he was pretending to speak in slow motion. It sounded like his mouth was stuffed with marshmallows.

“Puwwl….oovaah,” he gargled again. We heard the window being rolled down frantically.

“Pull…ova…BWAHHHHHHH!”

Shooting down the 118 Freeway, Chief hurled out Josh’s window. Josh freaked.

“AAAAH! Are you throwing up?!? Don’t throw up!? AHHH!”

The car swerved wildly as Josh craned his neck around. Then he noticed me.

“You’re NAKED! Why are you naked?!? AHH!”

Everyone was suddenly awake and cackling like Chief’s evil demon sidekicks. It was a truly awesome puke. But really what made it so great wasn’t Chief throwing up. That was pretty average. What made it the Puke of the Year was Josh freaking out. The reaction made the puke.

THUS…on crazy hair day, it is not these haircuts that make it so much fun.

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What makes it so fun is Shani. Her intense disapproval and disgust is what makes a pink and blue tonfa so damn fun for Alex.

“Shani, don’t you want to come drop the boys off at school? You can see all the other crazy hair.”

“I find Alex’s hair disturbing and I don’t want any part of this.”

So big thanks to Shani for making Crazy Hair Day the boys’ favorite day of the school year.

Drive-by Crank

Warning: this is a cranky post.

This weekend I drove by something that invariably drive me nuts: a lemonade stand. See photo:

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Now, if you find lemonade stands wholesome and cute. If you think they are great ways to teach kids about work ethic and money, let me ask you a few questions.

  • Did the kids pay for the lemonade they are selling: No.
  • Did they make it themselves: No.
  • Did they carry that table to the curb: No.
  • Did they carry the lemonade to the curb: No.
  • Did they make a sign: Yes.
  • Will lots of cars stop and tell them to just keep the change: Yes.
  • Will their parents tell them how proud they are that they worked so hard: Yes.
  • Did I feel super creepy pulling over to snap this picture: Yes.

Next stop, at the intersection near my house they have put up cones for a fundraiser for the junior high swim team. See photo:

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This type of fundraiser is common around where I live. They take a corner and ask for donations as you drive through the intersection.

Some questions:

  • Do I think swim club is a worthy cause: Yes
  • Does it stop up traffic: Yes.
  • Were there any junior high kids collecting money: No.
  • Was it their parents standing out there: Yes.
  • Is this the lamest, weakest, most effortless, creativity-free fundraiser imaginable: Yes
  • Is this actually just panhandling: Yes.
  • Did I give them any money: Hell no. Not a goddam dime.

Final question:

  • At the age of 42 have I become a cranky old man: Apparently, yes.