Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sports: Why We Play and Why We Watch

I'm getting old. (Some would question the need for the word "getting" in the previous sentence.)

But, despite the fact that I'm getting old, I still like to get out and play some basketball. And I'll keep playing basketball until either a) my aging, creaky old body won't let me anymore, or B) the young guys I play ball with lock me out of the building or move the games to a different time and/or place and "forget" to tell me about it.

Ready for my 1950's yearbook photo.
(Yes, my shirt says "Dad" on it. Because I am.)

I play basketball twice a week at the church. I'm the oldest, slowest, and fattest of the regulars (and irregulars) who come to play. (I've got shirts older than some of the other guys.) I'm not strong enough to guard the big guys, and I'm not quick enough to guard the little guys. I'm not a very good shooter, and I frequently make bad passes. Day in and day out, I'm the worst player there.

So, why do I still play? Because some days I'm not the worst player there. Some days the shots actually go in. And some days, even if I am still the worst player there, I'll deflect a pass, or I'll get a good box-out and grab the rebound, or I'll make the perfect pass, or I might even block a shot. And that's enough to keep me coming.

There's something about the feeling when you make a good play, or you contribute to a team that is doing well. It's a feeling you can't really get any other way than playing sports. It's a physical, visceral feeling, and as long as I can, I'll keep trying to attain it. (Even though I'm old and slow.)


I have been a fan of the Minnesota Vikings since the Richard Nixon administration. (That's a long, long time ago, if you care to look it up.) I've been with the Vikings through devastating Super Bowl losses, disastrous playoff losses, and disappointing regular season losses. Over all that time the Vikings have usually had a pretty good team that just happens to lose in the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion.

My wife wonders why I still watch and cheer for the Vikings. Every year they get my hopes up, then, just like when Lucy pulls the football away from Charlie Brown, every time they end up letting me down.

Vikings on my desk and wall.
This past weekend it looked like it was going to happen again. The Vikings rushed out to a 17-0 lead over the New Orleans Saints, but then the Saints fought and clawed their way back into the game. When New Orleans kicked a field goal to take a 24-23 lead with less than half a minute left, I thought it was going to be another in a long line of heart-wrenching Vikings playoff losses.

With ten seconds left and no timeouts, the Vikings had one desperate hope. They needed to gain about twenty yards and get out of bounds to stop the clock just to get the chance to attempt a long field goal for the win. (And Vikings playoff history is littered with failed field goal attempts.)

And then, the unbelievable happened. Vikings quarterback Case Keenum lofted a ball toward the sideline, and receiver Stephon Diggs leaped in the air and caught it. But then, instead of getting out of bounds to set up the field goal, Diggs turned up the field and ran all the way untouched for the game-winning touchdown! It was one of the most remarkable plays ever! (It was the first time in the history of the NFL playoffs that a game ended in regulation with a touchdown as time expired.)

That play is the reason why I keep watching and cheering. Sometimes the miraculous can happen! And maybe it will even happen to my team. Every once in a while the team that has never won comes through and finally wins the championship. (Just ask fans of the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs.) Maybe that can happen with the Vikings.

The Vikings still have to win two more games in order to bring that first Super Bowl trophy home. Maybe they'll win it this year. Maybe they won't. Either way, I'll still be watching.

Friday, January 12, 2018

How to Celebrate Your Wedding Anniversary (According to a Nine Year-Old Girl)

I married the love of my life eleven years ago today! It seems like just yesterday. It seems like a lifetime (and four kids) ago.

It was the best day of my life! (Except for maybe every day since.)

How do you celebrate the anniversary of such a wonderful day? Well, according to my oldest daughter, this is what we should do: "You should go dancing all night at the Cheesecake Factory, then throw pies in each other's faces."

On our wedding day we didn't need Cheesecake Factory because we had real cheesecake!

I don't know if I should be happy or frightened that this is what my nine year-old thinks a romantic evening should look like.

Unfortunately, there are a few problems with my daughter's plan:
1) The nearest Cheesecake Factory is about an hour away from where we live.
2) The Cheesecake Factory isn't known for its dance floor.
C) If we had some pie, I wouldn't want to waste it by throwing it in anyone's face.
4) We didn't go for that "smashing the cake in each other's face" on our wedding day, so I don't think we'll go for it today.

So, even though I hate to disappoint my daughter, I don't think we're going to follow her plan for our anniversary celebration. (Maybe we'll dance all night at Applebee's instead.)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Ickety Doo Dah (And Other Songs from My Three Year-Old)

Never underestimate the ways a three year-old can make you smile.

My three year-old girl shares a room with her year-and-a-half old brother. He is in a crib, and she is in a toddler bed. They go to sleep better with music playing, so we'll put on a playlist of random songs for their goodnight music. What often happens is that he'll go to sleep, but she'll turn on the lights and grab a bunch of books to bring to her bed to read. We'll open the door, shut off the light, tuck her back in, and close the door. Usually by the second or third time we do this, she'll finally stay in bed and fall asleep. It's a routine we go through more nights than not.

The other night I walked by their room and saw that the light was on. So, I opened the door, expecting to find her in bed with a bunch of books, or over at the book shelf gathering more nighttime reading material. That's not what I found. The song my iPod had randomly pulled up to play was "Shake Your Booty" by KC & the Sunshine Band. The Boy was asleep, his face pressed against the bars of his crib, but the girl was not in her bed. She was near her brother's crib, dancing to the music.

When she heard me open the door, she turned and looked at me, stopped dancing, and, anticipating a scolding from me, said in a very defiant tone, "I was just shaking my booty!" I closed the door on her, laughed, and let her finish. She was, after all, just shaking her booty.

(Yes, you might judge me harshly for having KC & the Sunshine Band on a playlist of nighttime music for my children. I have no defense other than that that's the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it.)

She drives me crazy!

A few days earlier she was playing and singing to herself. I listened for a moment, then did a double-take, because I wasn't sure if I heard her right. I listened again. She was singing, "Ickety doo dah, ickety-ay. My, oh my, what a wonderful day!"

I stopped her and said, "I think that's supposed to be 'Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.'"

She considered what I said for a moment, then dismissed it. "Nah. It's 'ickety.'" Then she went on her way, happily continuing to sing "Ickety-doo-dah."

Who am I to argue? When she's around, my, oh my, what a wonderful day!

Friday, January 5, 2018

5 Questions You Should NEVER Ask

A few years ago I was exchanging pleasantries with a casual acquaintance/co-worker, when out of the blue she says, "So, are you having any more kids yet?"

My immediate reaction was, "That's none of your dadgum business!" But, instead I gave her about as vague of an answer as I could, "Well, I don't know."

Undaunted, she pressed the issue. "How old are your kids now?" When I answered she said, "Well, you definitely need to get some more! You don't want there to be too big of a gap! You're not getting any younger! You gotta get going on that!"

I hem-hawed another general response, "Well, you never know," then looked for any excuse I could find to remove myself from the conversation, something along the lines of, "Sorry, I've got to go check and see if my shoelaces are the same length. I'll talk to you later."

This incident got me thinking about some of the questions that you just shouldn't ask people. So, I thought I'd gather up some of those questions and show why they should remain unasked.

Question: When are you going to have kids? (Or, if you already have kids, change that to: When are you going to have more kids?)
Almost every newly married couple, almost every engaged couple, and even many couples who have been on more than two dates have been asked this question. The answer, of course, is: "None of your dadgum business!" (If you want to replace "dadgum" with something a little stronger, please feel free to do so.)

When or if couples decide to have children is a private decision. So is how many children they have. There may be personal, economical, physical, or other factors that effect those decisions that you might not be aware of.

For example, some friends of mine moved to a different state and were promptly excoriated by their new church leader for being "selfish" and "putting their careers above family" because they had been married for over five years and didn't have any kids yet. Aside from this being absolutely none of his "dadgum" business, this idiot knew nothing about the miscarriage or the visits to the fertility clinic. (This guy was a special kind of stupid.)

And while we're here, how many children a family has is a personal, private matter, too. You may think you are being funny or helpful, but no one wants to hear "Are you trying to repopulate the earth by yourself?" or "Are you trying for your own baseball team?" or "helpful" tips about birth control. Again: none of your business!

Exception (When this question might be asked.): Immediate family and close friends might ask this question in a quiet, private setting, but even then it is iffy. It's probably best not to ask unless they bring the subject up.

Pregnant? Don't ask.

Question: Are you pregnant?
It's pretty simple: you should never ask this question unless you are 100% sure the answer is "Yes." And, if you are 100% sure the answer is "Yes," there is no need to ask the question, is there?

Just because someone has put on a few pounds or is a little rounder in the belly, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are pregnant. They might have eaten three pieces of pie too many, or have clothes that fit oddly.

Generally speaking, if a woman wants you to know if she is pregnant, she will let you know. Leave it at that.

Exception: If your wife just went into the restroom with a pregnancy test.

Question: Are we there yet?
This one is very easy. If you are traveling somewhere in some sort of vehicle, be it car, airplane, bus, boat, train or whatever, and the vehicle is still in motion, chances are you are not there yet.

Exception: If you wake up in a vehicle that is no longer in motion.

Question: Does this make me look fat?
If you ask this question, I have a few questions for you. Do you really want to know the truth? Are you sure you want to put the person to whom you are asking this question in a position where they might have to decide whether to hurt your feelings or tell you a lie?

Or, more simply, have you heard of a mirror? And, do you know how to use one?

Exception: If you are trying to dress up as Santa Claus.

Question: Don't you know who I am?
Oh, so you are famous. Or you are important. Or you think you are famous and/or important.

Well, guess what? If you find yourself in a situation where you are indignantly asking "Don't you know who I am?" chances are you are not as famous and/or important as you think you are. (This question is often posed by celebrities or sports stars when they get pulled over for drunk driving.)

And, by the way, even if I do know who you are it doesn't mean you are entitled to special treatment or anything. You might just have to slum it with the rest of us schlubs.

Exception: If you are talking to someone who has amnesia.

Sometimes it's best to just keep your questions to yourself.

Edited from a post originally published on 10/18/2013

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Looking Into the Crystal Ball for 2018

Welcome to 2018!!! It's an exciting new year, and a lot of fun and exciting things are going to happen! I've looked into my crystal ball and seen into the future. (Okay, so I don't really have a crystal ball. I used one of the little plastic balls from the ball pit my kids got for Christmas. It should work about the same, shouldn't it?)

I can see the future!
Here's a few of the things I see happening:

January: A severe winter storm dumps over two feet of snow on Washington D.C., forcing the government to come to a standstill. Nobody notices. Meanwhile, President Trump sends a tweet from his resort in Florida that many people find offensive.

February: The Minnesota Vikings become the first team in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl on their home field. They lose to the New England Patriots when an apparent Adam Thielen touchdown catch is overturned on review after officials rule he didn't maintain possession of the ball for at least 45 seconds after entering the end zone. In other news, President Trump sends out a tweet that some people find offensive.

March: Taco Bell introduces a new product called the "Crunchilada." It's a crunchy enchilada, featuring meat, beans, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes in a crunchy tortilla shell. (Kind of like a taco, except slightly different.) Elsewhere, President Trump sends out a tweet so outrageous that some people are sure it will be the one ends his presidency. It doesn't.

April: Microsoft, working in conjunction with noted hypnotist The Amazing Kreskin, sends out a software update that, when people stare long enough at the twirling circles, hypnotizes them into deleting Google Chrome and Firefox from their devices. Meanwhile, President Trump sends out a tweet that offends absolutely nobody, a fact that confuses many pundits.

Don't look directly at the twirly circle!

May: The movie Avengers: Infinity War opens at theaters in a few select cities. The movie features more superheroes than you can shake a stick at. (Depending upon how skilled and quick you are at shaking sticks.) When President Trump's Twitter account is quiet for 37 consecutive hours, there is rampant speculation that the President is dead. (He isn't, he was just binge-watching the first eight seasons of NCIS.)

June: After losing in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors for the third time in four years, LeBron James surprises many by signing a contract to join the Warriors. The Warriors then also sign Chris Paul, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, and the entire freshman class of the University of Kentucky.

July: Ohio governor John Kasich announces he will sue any national media outlet that refers to Ohio as a "red state" or a "blue state." He declares, "Ohio is a purple state." Back in Washington, President Trump sends out 17 tweets in one hour; pundits take offense at only four of them. Some worry the President is getting soft.

August: Republicans and Democrats gridlock over which type of font should be used on all government publications, Helvetica or Times New Roman. No compromise can be reached until the print house takes it upon itself to alternate fonts with every other word.

September: Taco Bell introduces a new product called the "Tacorrito." It's a combination of a taco and a burrito, featuring meat, beans, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes rolled into a soft tortilla and placed inside a crunchy tortilla shell.

October: The Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the Houston Astros in a rematch of last year's World Series. Political pundits hail it as a great victory for the blue states over the red states. Meanwhile, when President Trump wishes his daughter a Happy Birthday in a tweet, pundits assail him for using Twitter for non-political messages.

November: In a shocking development, every single incumbent, both Republican and Democrat, is voted out of office by a fed up populace! Unfortunately, the newly elected officials are split between the two new Independent parties, the Common Sense party and the We Need Change party. Political gridlock continues.

December: McDonald's offers a new item, the McEggnog McMuffin, which is basically an Egg McMuffin drenched in eggnog. While many people enjoy the taste, they find it too messy to eat in their car. In his final presidential message of the year, President Trump tweets something that many find offensive, and many others don't.

It should be an interesting year.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

'Twas the Day After Christmas

'Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,
All the garbage was strewn on the floor and the couch;

The stockings, once hung by the chimney with care,
Were down on the ground, contents flung everywhere.

The children were still nestled snug in their beds,
Asleep, with their favorite new toy by their heads;

And Momma and I, still in need of a nap,
Were staring at wrappings no longer a-wrap.

Looking over the living room, so full of clutter,
That I thought it was hopeless and started to mutter;

There was paper, and boxes, packing peanuts, and more,
There were those stupid twisty ties-- all over the floor.

Then, all of the sudden, I moved like the Flash,
And gathered up garbage to throw in the trash;

The Wife and I picked up and swept with the broom,
And worked 'til we'd cleaned up most all of the room.

When what to my wondering ear did appear,
But the sound of the garbage truck rumbling near;

With a little old driver, all bearded and thick,
That he looked, for a moment, like a grungy St. Nick.

I gathered my bags and I ran to the street,
For I knew that the garbage truck I had to beat;

'Else I'd live in a house full of garbage all week,
And if it sat around that long, no doubt it would reek.

I stuffed bags in my dumpster, one, two, three, and four,
And when I thought it was full, I stuffed in several more!

I filled it so full I could not close the top,
It was bursting with garbage; it was ready to pop.

Then the truck it approached, and it was sort of smelly,
It picked up my trash and dumped it into its belly.

And dropping my empty bin back to the ground,
The truck pulled away with a loud revving sound.

And the driver yelled out as he left in a streak,
"Merry Christmas to all! I'll be back here next week."

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Family Christmas Form Letter

Does anyone ever look forward to writing the family Christmas letter? It's one of those things that starts nagging at the back of your mind as Thanksgiving approaches, and stays there until either you get it written or it's New Year's Eve and you can free your mind by declaring "not this year, but maybe next year." (Then the whole cycle starts over again next Thanksgiving.)

It shouldn't be that hard to write a family Christmas letter, should it? It's not like it's ever original. You could say the exact same thing every year, with the exception of the kids' ages, and no one would ever notice. (Except maybe for Aunt Beverly. She's a stickler.)

So, to fix this problem, I have created the easy solution: a form letter you can use every year! All you have to do is fill in the names, ages, and a few other simple details. It's simple and effective!

The family Christmas letter doesn't have to be difficult. (Or any good.)

To use my Family Christmas Form Letter, all you have to do is put your personal information in the blanks between the brackets (these things: [    ].) That's it!

So, without any further ado, here is the SlowJoe40 Family Christmas Form Letter:

Dear [friend, family member, casual acquaintance, random person],

Merry Christmas! [Happy Holidays/Happy Hanukkah/Festive Festivus, or other salutation] I hope all is going well for you and your [family/significant other/cats/imaginary friends]. We are doing [great/fantastic/better than you].

We had a wonderful year! We did [Exciting Thing #1]! We also did [Exciting Thing #2]. And, we also did [Optional Exciting Thing #3]. It sure kept us busy this year!

[Child #1] is [ ? ] years old now. Time sure does fly! [He/she] [is in ? grade/will start school soon/just got married/just got engaged/had another baby]! [He/she] really is becoming a mature young [man/woman].

[Child #2] is [ ? ] years old now. [He/she] is doing great [at school in ? grade/at work/with his/her wife/husband]. [He/she] really enjoys it. [He/she] likes to [favorite activity] and [other favorite activity].

[Optional: Child #3 through Child #?? (Just make sure you don't forget any.)]

[Wife/Mother] had another big year, taking care of all [specific number of] children, and working on [job/hobby/community service/church calling], and [job/hobby/community service/church calling], and [job/hobby/community service/church calling] [Note: Must have at least three items listed in order to be doing an acceptable job as Wife/Mother.] It sure keeps her busy, but she wouldn't have it any other way.

[Husband/Father] keeps busy with [job]. He also spends time doing [hobby/household project/church calling]. [Note: A second hobby/household project/church calling is optional, but not necessary.]

We send you our warmest greetings and best wishes this holiday season. May you have a [Merry/Happy specific holiday] and a Happy New Year!

[With Love/Sincerely/Seasons Greetings],

The [    ???    ] Family

(Wasn't that easy? You're welcome!)