Monday, August 25, 2008

The US Open

Well, the Olympics have come and gone. Overall, a great show. As I was flipping through our 99 channels, struggling to find anything worth watching (really looking for Law and Order), I came across Tennis on the USA Network. The US Open. This is one of the four “major” tournaments in professional tennis. Most of you don’t know, and nobody would ever guess, but in my younger days, I was a tennis player. I loved to play and managed to play decent. I grew up watching Jimmy Connors and Chris Everett. One year, I got a treat and got to attend the US Open with my father. It is one of my fondest memories. I actually got to see Andre Agassi play. Talk about an incredible player. I think what made it partly special is my father managed to sneak us into Center Court to watch him play. You needed tickets to get in, but some how we got in and managed to sit mid court. He was a special player and I got to see him play at the Open!

As I looked to see who was playing tonight, I didn’t think it would be a big name, but as it turned out, it was James Blake. He is considered to be one of the best American players today. He was playing someone I had never heard of, Donald Young. On paper, this should have been a one sided match, 3 quick sets. But somehow, Blake had been pushed to 5 sets. As I watched the 5th set play out, Young looked like a top player. Now this happens often, a lesser player plays above his potential and gives the star a run for his money. But this kid seemed to be playing his game. Nothing seemed to get to him. Blake was giving him his complete arsenal and the kid hung in.

Now I am a believer that experience plays a huge factor in situations like this. In big pressure matches, you can’t sweat the small things. You have to see the big picture. With experience comes even temperament. If you can keep an even temperament, you are better served (unless you are Connors or Mac). I sat there thinking out loud, “Is this unranked kid really going to beat one of the better US players in the 1st round?” But then it happened. The lack of experience got to the kid. At 4 all in the 5th set, he lost the vision of the big picture. He was serving at 15 all, and a shot of Blake’s hit the baseline and was called in. Young challenged the call, perfectly within his rights. But when the computer proved that the ball landed in, he lost the vision. He was visibly shaken. With the score now 15-30, he proceeded to double fault. Now it was 15-40, double break point. If he loses the next point, he would be down a break, and most likely, the match would be over. His inexperience was getting the best of him. He served the next point, managed to get the serve in, but hit the returned shot into the net to lose the game. Blake was now up a break at 5-4 and in control. Young could not regain the focus, the vision, or his game. 5 quick points later the match was ended. In reality, the match was over the game before.

I wish I had seen more of the match, but I got to see the important part, the end. It was sad to see Young lose the vision, but it happens all the time. It was not the first time it happened, nor will it be the last. In Blake’s career, he lost his first nine 5 set matches. Since, he has won 4 of 5. Focus is important in anything you have passion for. Lose the big picture, and you may lose out at a chance to be great. Not to worry, Donald Young will be back with many more chances to capture the big picture. He just better hope not to face Blake in the first round again.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Class of 2012...

This years Freshman class was born around or in 1990. Here are some interesting facts about their lives:

They have never known a life without cell phones.

The only host they know of from the Tonight show is Jay Leno.

They will be the first freshmen class in history to receive more of their news from the internet than from television.

Many of today’s incoming college freshmen have never used a traditional dictionary, encyclopedia or even a phone book.

Many have never consumed tap water.

Many have never owned a cassette tape.

Many have never seen a movie on VHS.

Most have never owned a camera where film needs to be “developed”.

Harry Potter could be a classmate, playing on their Quidditch team.

GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.

Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.

Shampoo and conditioner have always been available in the same bottle.

Gas stations have never fixed flats, but most serve cappuccino.

Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.

All have had a relative–or known about a friend’s relative–who died comfortably at home with Hospice.

Universal Studios has always offered an alternative to Mickey in Orlando.

Martha Stewart Living has always been setting the style.

Haagen-Dazs ice cream has always come in quarts.

Students have always been “Rocking the Vote.”

Schools have always been concerned about multiculturalism.

IBM has never made typewriters.

McDonald’s and Burger King have always used vegetable oil for cooking french fries.

They have never been able to color a tree using a raw umber Crayola.

Pee-Wee has never been in his playhouse during the day.

Authorities have always been building a wall across the Mexican border.

Lenin’s name has never been on a major city in Russia.

Employers have always been able to do credit checks on employees.

Personal privacy has always been threatened.

Caller ID has always been available on phones.

The Green Bay Packers (almost) always had the same starting quarterback.

They never heard an attendant ask “Want me to check under the hood?”

Iced tea has always come in cans and bottles.

Soft drink refills have always been free.

They have never known life without Seinfeld references from a show about “nothing.”

Muscovites have always been able to buy Big Macs.

Off-shore oil drilling in the United States has always been prohibited.

Radio stations have never been required to present both sides of public issues.

There have always been charter schools.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Same old Mac

John McEnroe is back to his old ways. He is back playing tennis competitively on the Outback Champions Series, an international circuit for stars over 30. After many years of commentating, building goodwill for the game of tennis, he has picked up his racket and is playing in some tournaments. I was excited when I saw his name. I was not a big fan of his when he played on the pro tour, but his game was incredible to see. Over the years, he has become an author, raised a family, became a respected voice for the game of tennis, and even made commercials mocking himself and his temperament. I would have thought the lack of respect for the game and other players was in the past. I was wrong. Mac was tossed from his opening-round match at the Hall of Fame Champions Cup on Thursday. When I first read this story, I thought it was a joke. I was hoping that it was a set up playing on the old history we all know too well. Unfortunately, this was no hoax. Mac was disqualified from his match for cursing, arguing with the chair umpire and making an obscene gesture at fans. You have to feel bad for anybody that had to be apart of this. He started by arguing a line call. No big deal. Lots of players question calls. After he drew a code violation for cursing, he continued abusing the umpire and got 2 abuse of the official penalties.Just like the old days, Mac kept it up. When the fans start to complain, you know he has gone too far. Fans started yelling at McEnroe, telling him to resume play. He responded with an obscene gesture and was thrown out. Some things never change. He is an embarrassment to the game and to himself. Tennis should not let him play in any tournament again. I really liked to hear him commentate matches, but I will have a hard time listening to him now. Deep down, he is a jerk. Hats off to his opponent, MaliVai Washington. The only quote he gave after the match was "I guess he has one of those explosive personalities, you could say." During the match, Washington could take no more. "There are a lot of things I can deal with -- disputed line calls, stoppage in play. I have an issue when my opponent starts berating people, fans and umpires. I said something to the official." It's a shame that he had to. It is sad to say, but John McEnroe has hurt tennis again, hopefully for the last time. If we were only that lucky...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Charlie Hustle...

It was on August 14th, 1986, that the great Pete Rose got his last hit. It brought it career total to 4,256. This is the most hits by any player in the history of the game. He played an amazing 23 years. He was player of the decade in the 1970's. Because of the way he played the game, he was nicknamed "Charlie Hustle." Rose once said that he'd "walk through hell in a gasoline suit to keep playing baseball." He truly love to play the game and it showed. One of his most memorable plays was during the 1970 All Star game. It had gone into extra innings, and he came around to score. The catcher was guarding the plate and Pete barreled through him. When he was asked why he did it, he said he "always played to win." I can remember seeing him play through high school. "The Big Red Machine" was my favorite team and Pete was my favorite player. It was fun to root for the Reds because my best friend rooted for the Dodgers and they always seemed to play each other a lot. It is rare when you find a player that loves the game like Pete did. It is sad what happened to him after he retired. He could have been a great manager. Only after 15 years, did he publicly admit he had bet on baseball, which lead to him being banned from the game. He always bet for his team to win, not that makes it any easier to understand. At this point, he is easily one of the best to ever play the game. The Hall of Fame should look at his accomplishments as a player, not at the events that led to the lifetime ban. The fact that he is not in the Hall is a black eye on the game. I loved to watch him play. I wish there was another cut from the same cloth, but there never will be. Charlie Hustle, the game will never be the same with out you!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Take me out to the ball game...

Friday night, Kyra and I got a treat. We got to go see the Diamondbacks play. Just the atmosphere of the game is enough to entice me there, and Kyra was game. It was nice to get to do something and have it be just the two of us. I think she enjoyed just spending time with her dad one on one. The seats we had were in the 1st row of the upper deck, between home plate and first base. Because they were the 1st row, leg room was actually existent! Given my fear of most heights, normally these seats would cause me a little anxiety, but I was able to control it and enjoy the view. I even looked over the rail and down at all of the little people below. I made a point to tell Kyra to make sure she could back up the story. We got there about 45 minutes before the first pitch, and parking was a breeze. As a treat, we rode in one of the rickshaw’s that dropped us off right in front of the ballpark. In we went, up the escalators, bought our bag of peanuts, found section 310, and settled in. Perfect timing, the starting lineups were being announced. Kyra was a trooper; she actually made it 3 innings before getting a little restless. We then got up and explored the ballpark. We walked all the way around, finding many different things. We found Baxter’s Den. This is where in the forth inning the D-backs mascot hangs out and lets the kids get their picture taken with him. Not all of them though. A little boy who had been patiently waiting his turn got snubbed because the inning ended and Baxter had to leave. He was about 4 years old and was quite upset. I felt bad for him and his mom. I know that the policy of him leaving after the 4th inning is posted, but it still was disappointing to see Baxter leave with out letting the boy sit with him. Next it was on to the Peter Piper Pizza play zone. Kids were running around playing all the latest video games and having a good time. Some of them had sooo many tickets that they had won; they must have been there the whole time. So much for the game. We looked around a bit and were on our way. By the time we had made it back to seats it was the 7th inning. I got a hot dog (no game is complete unless you have a hot dog), Kyra got some popcorn, and we watched the rest of the game. It was fun singing "Take me out to the ball game" with Kyra for the 7th inning stretch. After the game, we were treated to a pretty good fireworks show. They opened the roof and had about a 5 minute show. Not a bad way to finish the night. On the way home, I told Kyra that when I was a kid and my dad would take me to games, on the ride home we would always listen to the post game show on the radio. After about 3 minutes, Kyra asks: “Do we really have to listen to this?” So much for traditions. Overall, we both had a good time. Here are a few observations I had during the game:
The scoreboard is truly amazing! It is huge and crystal clear. It is a really big HDTV
.If you like the game of baseball, there are no bad seats in Chase field.
The arm strength of the players amazes me. Mark Reynolds was standing 15 feet behind 3rd base in foul territory and was throwing the ball to first like it was on a rope. It looked like he wasn’t trying!
I think it is important to settle in to your seats and enjoy the game, not the drinks. The lady next to us had a different idea on why she was there. In the first three innings, she had left her seat 4 times, each time getting a refill of her refreshment. I missed Stephen Drew’s home run because she was in the process of stepping on my toes and blocking the view.

Late in the game, Tony Clark got a pinch hit single. I love Tony. He is the oldest player on the team and one of the elders in the league. The D-backs were losing pretty good at this point. Tony never was a threat to steal 2nd base even in his prime. It made me laugh that the Atlanta Braves held him on 1st base. He wasn’t about to steal. Tony even managed to make the pitcher throw over to make sure. Tony took about two steps and he was on the bag before the ball was even on its way to first. Really, if I know that Tony is not going to steal, shouldn’t the Braves know as well?
Fireworks are fun to see. They are also an emotional treat for me. The show we saw was good, but since it was not the 4th of July, I didn’t get the enjoyment out of it that I normally do.
Everybody that attends a game (including me) can umpire a game better than the actual umpires. It amazed me how many times the fans thought the umpires blew a call. The guy behind me seriously thought the umpire behind the plate couldn’t recognize a strike. Like he could! We were in the upper deck and he actually said, ”There is no way that was ball 4!”

When the pitcher pitches the ball, anytime the ball hits the ground or is tipped by the batter, the umpire removes the ball from the game and replaces it with a new ball. Why then, when a batter gets a base hit, does the ball not get replaced? I would think if the ball is going to be altered in any way; it would be when it is struck by the bat. MLB must pay a fortune in baseballs.

Throughout the game, the crowd (starting in right field) tried to do the wave. This drives me crazy! It just shows you that Diamondback fans are not pure baseball fans. The wave is a FOOTBALL event, not a baseball event. I wish the fans would learn this. If I write a letter (or an email) to the management of the Diamondbacks, do you think they will request that the fans not be so green? By the way, it never got past the lower level, but it did make it around a couple of times late in the game.

As it turned out, the Diamondbacks lost. But it’s OK, because it really wasn’t about who won, it was about taking in the experience and more importantly, spending alone time with Kyra. Thank you Clint and Jaylee for the tickets!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

How many of these did YOU know about?

A sealed envelope - Put in the freezer for a few hours, and then slide a knife under the flap. The envelope can then be resealed. (Hmmm.....)

For icy door steps in freezing temperatures: get warm water and put Dawn dish washing liquid in it. Pour it all over the steps. They won't refreeze. (Wish I had known this for the last 40 years!)

To remove old wax from a glass candle holder, put it in the freezer for a few hours. Then take the candle holder out and turn it upside down. The wax will fall out.

Crayon marks on walls? This worked wonderfully! A damp rag, dipped in baking soda. Comes off with little effort (elbow grease that is!).

Permanent marker on appliances/counter tops (like store receipt BLUE!) rubbing alcohol on paper towel.

Whenever I purchase a box of S.O.S Pads, I immediately take a pair of scissors and cut each pad into halves. After years of having to throw away rusted and unused and smelly pads, I finally decided that this would be much more economical. Now a box of S.O.S pads last me indefinitely! In fact, I have noticed that the scissors get 'sharpened'' this way!

Blood stains on clothes? Not to worry! Just pour a little hydrogen peroxide on a cloth and proceed to wipe off every drop of blood. Works every time! (Now, where to put the body?)

Use vertical strokes when washing windows outside and horizontal for inside windows. This way you can tell which side has the streaks. Straight vinegar will get outside windows really clean. Don't wash windows on a sunny day. They will dry too quickly and will probably streak.

Spray a bit of perfume on the light bulb in any room to create a lovely light scent in each room when the light is turned on.

Place fabric softener sheets in dresser drawers and your clothes will smell freshly washed for weeks to come. You can also do this with towels and linen.

Candles will last a lot longer if placed in the freezer for at least 3 hours prior to burning.

To clean artificial flowers, pour some salt into a paper bag and add the flowers. Shake vigorously as the salt will absorb all the dust and dirt and leave your artificial flowers looking like new! Works like a charm!

To easily remove burnt on food from your skillet, simply add a drop or two of dish soap and enough water to cover bottom of pan, and bring to a boil on stove top.

Spray your TUPPERWARE with non-stick cooking spray before pouring in tomato based sauces and there won't be any stains.

Wrap celery in aluminum foil when putting in the refrigerator and it will keep for weeks.

When boiling corn on the cob, add a pinch of sugar to help bring out the corn's natural sweetness.

Cure for headaches: Take a lime, cut it in half, and rub it on your forehead. The throbbing will go away.
Don't throw out all that leftover wine: Freeze into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces. (Left over wine? What's that? :))

To get rid of itch from mosquito bites, try applying soap on the area and you will experience instant relief.

Ants, ants, ants everywhere. Well, they are said to never cross a chalk line. So, get your chalk out and draw a line on the floor or wherever ants tend to march. See for yourself.

Use air-freshener to clean mirrors. It does a good job and better still, leaves a lovely smell to the shine.

When you get a splinter, reach for the scotch tape before resorting to tweezers or a needle. Simply put the scotch tape over the splinter, and then pull it off. Scotch tape removes most splinters painlessly and easily.

Now look what you can do with Alka Seltzer...

Clean a toilet. Drop in two Alka Seltzer tablets, wait twenty minutes, brush and flush. The citric acid and effervescent action clean vitreous China.
Clean a vase. To remove a stain from the bottom of a glass vase or cruet, fill with water and drop in two Alka Seltzer tablets.

Polish jewelry. Drop two Alka Seltzer tablets into a glass of water and immerse the jewelry for two minutes.

Clean a thermos bottle. Fill the bottle with water, drop in four Alka Seltzer tablets, and let soak for an hour (or longer, if necessary).

Unclog a drain. Clear the sink drain by dropping three Alka Seltzer tablets down the drain followed by a cup of Heinz White Vinegar. Wait a few minutes, and then run the hot water.

To get rid of ant mounds, pour several packs of artificial sweetener with aspartame on mounds and lightly wet with water.