Sunday, August 2, 2015

Hot stuff

For some reason, I've always had it in my mind that August is generally the hottest month of the year.


Because coming into today, we've already had something close to 40 days in the 90s this year. Basically, we've already had a month of 90s. And it's only August 2.

The air is constantly running in our house, even though the thermostat is hanging by its fingernails on a barely comfortable 75. Consequently, I feel like I'm moving in slow motion, trying to conserve my cool. I guess we all are.

All of which makes me curious about the joggers that painfully trot past my house each day. Jogging is a great way to initiate and maintain weight loss, but I can't see where jogging in the relentless 90-degree heat resembles anything healthy.

But I guess you get acclimated to it.

I used to play golf in weather like this. And I walked the course, too, carrying 30 pounds of clubs, balls, insect repellent, water and scorecards in my bag. At the time, I thought I was doing myself some good. Now, from the view of my air conditioned house, I see how nuts that was.

I'd come home exhausted and drained, and would feel that way for days. Then I'd go play another round of golf.

I'm older and wiser now. I don't jog. I don't play golf when the temperature could reflect the number on my scorecard.

One way I've found to beat the heat is to satisfy my ice cream habit. Yeah, I know. Ice cream likely clogs my arteries and plays havoc with my lactose intolerance, but when it's 90 degrees outside, all that becomes a moot (toot?) point.

It's even too hot to write intelligently. I started this blog post at 7 a.m. today, and look where I am.

Here's the best bet: See you next week.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hat in the ring

It's been a couple of days since anybody new has declared his or her intention to run for the presidency of the United States, so I thought now would be an opportune time to announce my own candidacy for the office.

While it's true that I have no experience in political circles, I figure it's that very fact that makes me a viable candidate among a disaffected constituency frustrated by partisan gridlock. I proudly claim that I am no politician.

I am unaffiliated, so I am not under the auspices of any political party. I am dependent upon the monies earned from two part-time jobs, which, by necessity, makes me fiscally responsible. I have yet to draw a Social Security check, so I am not a pawn to government influence.

I am mostly of the liberal persuasion, except for the times when I'm conservative.

I have no advisers (other than my wife, who advised me not to do this) and thus I depend on my  common sense and life values when I make decisions. That's the chance you take in supporting me, as you would with any other candidate.

I have no platform, I have no planks. That means I face my challenges unencumbered and without built-in agendas. Why complicate things?

I am no orator and am petrified to speak in public. Therefore, I will not appear in the 24/7 news cycle. Most of you won't even know what I look like. Even now, I am nowhere to be found in the polls, where my graph line hovers at zero while I make great strides laterally. Consequently, my campaign is remarkably efficient.

Because I spent a career as a sports journalist, my presidency will be structured around earned run averages instead of Dow Jones averages; on defensive alignments instead of defensive expenditures; on yards per carry instead of gross national product. Clearly, I know my priorities. Our priorities: sports.

For the most part, I plan to model my campaign after 1968 groundbreaking candidate Pat Paulsen:

Thank you for your consideration in this matter. I remain, as always, your humble servant.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The B's knees

One morning several weeks ago, I woke up and climbed out of bed with an annoying pain in my right knee.

I didn't think much about it at the time because stuff like this happens fairly often as I muddle through my seventh decade: a pinched nerve here, a tight shoulder there. These things usually happen after getting out of bed, suggesting that perhaps I should never go to sleep in the first place because what's going to pop next when I do wake up?

Almost all of the time, the aggravation is temporary. A little ibuprofen and I'm usually good to go.

Well, except for this knee thing. It was persistent, day after day.

So I went to the doctor. I'm one of those people who uses the doctor only as a last resort because, you know, a little ibuprofen a day keeps the doctor away. I just wanted to make sure that nothing was torn. A quick Q & A, along with a cursory exam, ruled out gout and arthritis. But the doc wanted to take X-rays just to make sure.

X-rays? This was getting a little more involved than I wanted it to be. I have my mouth X-rayed every few years to make sure that the tooth pain I woke up with on any given morning wasn't another root canal lurking in my wallet. I'm probably iridescent enough with all the X-rays I've had over the years to generate my own glow.

Plus, I get the feeling most people can see right through me.

At any rate, the X-rays (there were three different angles) showed no tears, and just a little fluid on the knee. It sounded like a sprain.

I'm not sure how this happened. I don't jog anymore because, you know, I didn't want to damage my knees and become a candidate for knee replacement surgery. I don't lift anything heavy at work that puts stress on my knees because, you know, I'm opposed to heavy lifting.

The only thing that made any sense to me was that I may have sprained my knee getting out of the car. I noticed that after I open the car door, I plant my left foot on the ground and push off the floorboard with my right foot to exit the vehicle. Consequently, I put a fair amount of torque on that right knee.

Anyway, the doctor prescribed me a mega dose of ibuprofen (800mg three times a day) and to apply wet heat. "Wet heat" meant dampening a hand towel and then putting it in the microwave (kind of an in-house X-ray machine), heating it enough to slap on my knee.

This actually felt pretty good, except that I had to get up every five minutes or so to reheat the towel. That meant, of course, more work for my knee.

I also wore a Velcro knee brace for a few days, which made me look like some kind of a heroic aging athlete. I was disappointed that I didn't get as much sympathy as I thought I would, however. I couldn't understand that until I looked around me and saw nearly everybody else wearing knee braces, too.

But I think things are getting better. I figure I'm about 95 percent these days.

And at my age, 95 percent is good enough.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


I wanted to write something about the Confederate battle flag being permanently lowered at the South Carolina State House on Friday, but the issue is such a hot-button topic that my own words failed me time and again.

I was scattershot and not really connecting.

But I came across this essay (see here), printed in the Wall Street Journal and written by noted Civil War historian Dr. William C. Davis, the only three-time winner of the Jefferson Davis Award for his books (more than 50 of them) on Confederate history. In my opinion, Dr. Davis cuts to the heart of the matter with reason, forethought and intelligence.

So today, I am keeping my blog short so you can take the time to read Dr. Davis. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Woe is Phillies

While sitting in the coffee shop the other day, I grabbed the sports section of the nearest newspaper and took a quick glance at the major league baseball standings.

I knew I wasn't going to be happy.

But there were the Philadelphia Phillies, my favorite team, wallowing in last place in the NL East Division.

 Today, even before next week's All-Star Break which symbolically designates the halfway point in the season, the Phillies are 27-56, playing at a woeful .325 clip, 19 games behind the first-place Washington Nationals.

They are currently 29 games under .500. And it's only July 5.

Those numbers translate to a record of 52-110 by Oct. 4, the last day of the regular season. And that's barring any kind of an extended losing streak, which tends to happen more often to lousy teams than good teams.

Just by comparison, the 1962 Mets — the worst team in my memory — were 40-120 in their initial season. They finished 60.5 games out of first place.

The Phillies are a franchise that date back to 1883. About a decade ago they lost their 10,000th game — the first professional franchise in any sport ever to reach that mark — but I thought all that was behind them now.

Ha. Obviously I was dreaming.

It makes me scratch my head to realize that the Philllies actually won the World Series in 2008. It's not that long ago.

What the heck happened? I thought then they might be on the verge of a dynasty. Turns out they were on the verge of a precipice.

Back in April, my Sports Illustrated MLB Preview section declared that the Phillies are " absolute mess. The front office is in denial. There are no quick fixes here, because they've traded away a lot of their prospects — and they actually had some good prospects."

That's pretty much it in a nutshell. Last week, manager Ryne Sandberg stepped down on his own accord, signalling his own frustration with the club (and, clearly, with the front office).

I don't know what the answer is, but I feel like my life is flipping back to those horrible days in the 1960s when they really were one of the worst teams in baseball. Yet, I stuck with them. No fair-weather fan here.

Thank goodness there's the American League, where I can follow my other favorite team, the Boston Red Sox.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Legion's distaff announcers

"Landon Michael reaches first on a hot grounder through the 5-6 hole to left field."

Holy smokes. What did I just hear? Somebody on the public address system at Holt-Moffitt Field actually knew what the heck they were talking about during a recent American Legion baseball game there.

Funny, though. The speaker sounded like a woman. That doesn't happen very often.

I looked inside the open door of the press box next to where I was sitting in the bleachers. Yep. There she was, leaning into the microphone:

"Coming to the plate, the next batter, Zack Shoemaker."

When did this happen? I can't remember Post 8 ever having a female P.A. announcer. Ever.

Teresa Dickson loves her job announcing Post 8 Legion baseball games.
"A family friend of ours, David Sellers, coaches the (Junior Legion) Braves," said Teresa Dickson, 19. "He asked me to be an assistant coach for the T-ball team, but we decided I might be a better fit as an announcer.

"They asked me back in May if I wanted to do the Legion games, and I said 'Sure,'" said Dickson, a rising sophomore at Lees-McRae College, where she plays second base for the Bobcats' softball team after she earned a scholarship playing second base for coach Mike Lambros at North Davidson.

"I'd never done P.A. before," laughed Dickson. "I never even spoke into a microphone before. But I have a loud mouth and a friendly personality, and I'm good at talking. And I'm familiar with the game."

After some initial nervousness — she asked her friend, high school teammate Maggie Fritts, to help her with the announcing, and they now alternate working games —Dickson grew more and more comfortable with the job.

She prepared herself for the position by watching some YouTube videos of baseball announcers, and she has now reached the point where she might consider doing more P.A. work in the future.

"I really love doing this," said Dickson. "Maybe some day I can do the P.A. at Turner Field."

She's serious enough about it to consider changing her major at Lee-McRae from biology — she's thinking about a career in physical therapy — to communications.

"It's surprised me how much I really enjoy doing this," she said.

As a side note — and perhaps an indication that this was all somehow meant to be — her grandmother is Beverly Armstrong, who was a pitcher for the Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1953-54.

"She's really been an inspiration for me," said Dickson. "Sometimes when I think I might be burning out, she helps me get through it."

Maggie Fritts never thought she'd enjoy announcing games so much.
Fritts, meanwhile, jumped at the chance to join Dickson in the press box.

"Teresa actually came up to me and asked me if I had a summer job," said Fritts, 19, a rising sophomore at Salem College where she is coming off a standout season (.360 batting average, 6 home runs, Great South Atlantic Conference Freshman of the Year).

"I told her I was looking for one and she said that she was announcing at the legion ballfield and that I should come help her and split the games.

"So she's the one that's kind of got me involved in all of this," said Fritts, who also played high school softball at North Davidson. "I just thought it would be a cool summer job."

It wasn't without a little apprehension.

"I was sooo nervous the first time," said Fritts. "I was so scared that I was going to mispronounce somebody's name wrong and the parents would get mad at me and yell at me. In fact, I was so nervous that I mispronounced the last name 'Leonard.' That's a typical Davidson County name. How do you mispronounce the last name 'Leonard?' I think it came out ' LEO-nard.' It was awful.

"But it's not nearly as nerve-racking now," said Fritts. "They just kind of let you have your own style and they let you put your own twist on it. It's pretty free and wide open here. It's great."

So how do Teresa and Maggie rate each other?

"Teresa's very peppy, while I like to throw in a little pizzazz at the end of things, depending on how I feel that night," said Fritts.

Dickson had her own take.

"Maggie knows the game very well," said Dickson. "I'm the enthusiastic one. I think she's a little more relaxed than I am."

In either case, you'll be well informed with these two in the press box.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

My friend Larry

Several times over the years I've joyfully celebrated my Moravianess in this blog, mostly because that was the culture in which I was raised and, consequently, one that invokes much nostalgia and honest meaning for me.

Today, I gladly became a Presbyterian for about 90 minutes.

Chad (left), Larry and myself celebrate the good old days.
That was the time it took to celebrate the final sermon of my friend, Rev. Larry Lyon, who has decided that at the age of 64, his latest calling is retirement. So we traveled to West End Presbyterian Church in Seven Lakes — along with current Dispatch editor Chad Killebrew and his wife Sheila — where Larry has been the pastor the past nine years or so.

I didn't want to miss this.

I first met Larry in 1977. I was still pretty much a rookie sports writer for The Dispatch, and Larry arrived as the newspaper's newest sports editor. I think we got along almost right away. We shared a small 8x10 office as a two-man sports staff, and if our personalities hadn't somehow meshed, it could have been a disaster.

But we were both the same age. We both loved to write. We both loved sports. We both came into our jobs with our own sense of humor — Larry was a little dryer, and a little more pointed than me, and I guess I was a little cornier and less incisive — but it seemed to work.

To this day, even after my own retirement from journalism in 2006 after 30 years in the business, I still regard Larry as the one person who taught me everything — and I do mean everything — I was to learn about newspapering. More, even, than I learned in college.

We worked together as a pretty darn good award-winning sports staff for about six years, until Larry took a promotion as the paper's editor. He spent another 10 years or so in that capacity, guiding the paper through what I consider to be its heyday.

Sometime around 1997 or so, he announced that he was leaving the newspaper business to enter the ministry.

Say what? I certainly never saw that coming, although I probably shouldn't have been surprised. My own father left public school teaching to become a minister, and a former girlfriend of mine also went on to become a minister. And now this.

I'm not saying I drove these people into the ministry (indeed, years later, yet another Dispatch colleague of mine also went into the ministry), but the odds... the odds... so I can't quite deny it, either.

At any rate, after seminary, Larry and his wife, Martha, went on to have a very successful tenure at Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church in Blowing Rock for about nine years before coming to West End, where it was clearly evident they were both loved and appreciated.

I can only imagine the number of people he's reached, guided, gave solace and inspiration to over the years. So while he's no longer the pastor of a church, I'm sure his ministry will continue in his well-deserved retirement.

I hope he finds a way to write about it.