A few more summer games for the committee’s consideration

I watched archery today and a spirited round of table tennis between China and the U.S.

I’ve yet to see any badminton, though. Taking those three sports into consideration, I wondered if the Olympic committee is considering adding on any future games.

I am not slamming any of the above competitions. The individuals that make it to these games are the best of the best. I know I probably wouldn’t score a point in table tennis, would be sure to whiff a few in badminton and probably couldn’t hit the back side of a barn in archery.

But since we’re talking about the summer games, here are a few more that I would like to see added, most of which I at least consider on the level of badminton regarding true skill levels necessary to compete.

1. Ultimate frisbee – this is by far the most difficult of the games I’m proposing. I attended several high school games and the competitions are great fun to watch and pretty intense. If we can have beach volleyball and badminton, we can certainly have ultimate frisbee and I think skill levels from all countries would quickly catch up to the Americans.

2. Pool volleyball – I know we already have regular volleyball and beach volleyball but pool volleyball involves a whole different skill set. It could be made more difficult by having uneven shaped pools with semi-deep and shallow ends with slopes, making play more difficult – that’s the way we do it my in-laws pool and I think it would add an interesting element to the game.

3. Croquet – say what you will about this game but it does require skill. Plus, there’s nothing more satisfying than sending your opponents ball into a tomato patch.

4. Jarts – this game has lost its popularity but if it were made into an Olympic sport, I’m sure sales would pick up again. Sure, there’s an element of danger to it, particularly if young children are doing the tossing but Olympic training would weed those players out and only the best would be throwing at the circles.

5. Miniature golf – I don’t understand why regular golf isn’t included as an Olympic sport but certainly they could find room to add mini golf to the games. Every four years, the host country could theme out the course -so this year, Olympians could be putting through a makeshift Big Ben or trying to get their final shot in the Royal Crown.

6. Washers – some people may complain that Americans would have a distinct advantage with this game but over time, the Chinese would pass us by with their amazing precision. Beer wouldn’t be optional, it would be mandatory.

I’m sure other countries may be lobbying for some of their own special summer games to be added to the mix – hacky sack, boomerang, maybe jai alai or spearfishing. The more the merrier and perhaps NBC will be able to add yet another network for their coverage.

It’s all in the spirit of competition. I don’t know how to petition the Olympic committee to get any of these into the mix for consideration so the idea probably dies right here. That’s okay. I’ve got some synchronized diving to go watch, anyway.

In the meantime, do you have any games you think should be considered? Summer games only, please. I don’t want to confuse the committee.






Five guys take the same photo for 32 years


I just read this story and it got me to thinking about my own group of five guys.

Way back in 1976, I set off with four of my best friends from St. Louis U High for our Senior Project.

A Senior Project at SLUH is where you go and do some sort of community service work for a two-week period. Some people work in sheltered workshops, some volunteer to work in Retirement Centers or for special needs kids. During our senior year, we somehow managed to head off to El Paso, Texas where we were scheduled to conduct a survey for Blessed Sacrament parish to determine who was registered in the parish and encourage those who weren’t, to consider doing so.

Joe VonderHaar was the one who managed to get it all arranged. His uncle was a priest and the rector of Blessed Sacrament parish. The others were Joe Berra, John Grigaitis, Mike Salsich and yours truly. We all played football together and were close friends having spent the last 3-1/2 years having a variety of good times wherever we went.

In theory, our trip to El Paso would be a great learning experience.

And indeed, it was. Five male teenagers, packed into a GTO, traveling from St. Louis to Dallas, enjoying an overnight stay in Dallas and then onward we went, driving down to El Paso.

On the grounds that I might incriminate myself and everyone mentioned above, I won’t go in to all the details of our experience.

Suffice it to say, I learned all sorts of things on that trip, not all of them religious in nature.

It was eye-opening – we went into Juarez, Mexico and for the first time in my life, I saw real poverty as young kids were begging us to throw them pennies.

It was hilarious – we were conducting this survey of people who lived in the area and the majority of them spoke only Spanish. Only one of us knew any Spanish at all. I’ll always remember a lady slamming her front door in my face as I mistakenly asked her if all of her children were asses. I was trying to ask the age of her children but ‘age’ and ‘asses’ are quite similar in Spanish.

It was memorable in so many ways. From the five of us sneaking on to the playing field of the Sun Bowl and running imaginary plays to stopping on the highway in the middle of the night somewhere between El Paso and Dallas and gazing up at a night sky filled with more stars than I’d ever seen to this day  – I’ll never forget it.

After our adventure was over and we were back home, we had a little group gathering and I remember my mom snapping a photograph of us all. I still have that photo … somewhere but haven’t been able to track it down so far.

I wish we could have done the same thing as the five guys mentioned in the article. We’ve all changed so much. One of us joined the Jesuits, then left the order, married and now lives in Texas. The rest of us are all still here in St. Louis and we still see each other from time to time throughout the year. Joe V., who had those great organizational skills back in high school, still does – he has a Christmas gathering every year and Chris and I always enjoy attending it.

We’ve lost a lot of hair and brain cells along the way. We’ve raised our own kids and I imagine most of us are grateful that our offspring haven’t totally followed in our footsteps because we definitely wandered astray a few times.

At the heart of it all is the simple fact that I know we will always be friends. Time has aged us. Other obligations and the paths we’ve taken in life have separated us.

Photos fade and so do the memories.

I’m okay with that.

What are you and your fab five doing to stay in touch?


Just what we need – more guns

The latest news out of Aurora, Colorado, today is that gun sales have had a huge spike since James Holmes went on his killing spree during the premier of the Dark Knight Rises.

Perfect. I guess there’s a big line forming in the semi-automatic line.

This morning I read a quote from Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners who said, “If I only had 6,000 rounds for my AR-15s, I’d literally feel naked.”


Dudley then went on to total up the recent purchases of the 24-year old Holmes, noting that he had bought two handguns, a shotgun and a rifle.

“That’s the average male in Colorado,” said Dudley.

I guess I’m far from the average Colorado male. I dislike guns. No, that is an understatement. I hate guns.

I am not a hunter. I am a golfer. I prefer to try and shoot birdies. But I respect those who hunt. I don’t know of anyone, though, who has ever gone on a hunting expedition with an assault rifle as his (or her) weapon of choice. There is no reasonable explanation why anyone who is not in the military or the law enforcement business would ever need a semi-automatic rifle capable of firing dozens of rounds of bullets without re-loading.

Many in the theater Saturday night were lucky that Holmes’ loader jammed and he had to switch to the slower firing pistol and shotgun he brought along. One could argue that if everyone in the theater were packing their own heat that this carnage could have been avoided. But Holmes still would have had the advantage due to the gas canisters he threw and the head-to-toe tactical gear he was wearing.

So I guess we’ll see a big spike in tactical gear sales as well. Maybe it will become the new fashion rage at any major premier party.

More guns is not the answer. Tighter gun control is part of the answer. You would have no argument from me if the assault weapon ban that expired in 1994 was re-instated.

The problem runs much deeper than that, though. We live in a society that places less emphasis than ever on human life. We have a culture of violence, endorsed and promoted by our entertainment industry. Violent movies, violent video games, violence every single night on your local news with stories of murder, rape and beatings of young and old alike.

After awhile, we grow immune to it all. There is so much violence in today’s world that we’ve all become desensitized and the horror of what happened this past Saturday night will soon be swept away, pushed to the side by some other tragedy or media sensation.

I pray for the victims and the families of this most recent tragedy and all tragedies.

I pray for America.

I pray for the future that awaits my kids.

And I wonder, “What’s next?”



The recent shootings at the movie premier of The Dark Knight Rises are appalling.

James Holmes told police that he was, “The Joker”. He supposedly had died his hair red in honor of the comic book character though the people he fired upon never saw his face that was hidden behind a gas mask as he opened fire in a movie theater, gunning down people that he had no idea who they were.

How could he?

He came in fully armed – a rapid fire assault rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, two .40 caliber handguns and wearing protective gear covering his legs, throat and groin. It was a fully thought out attack – with no rhyme or reason whatsoever. Holmes was enrolled in the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine. He was in the doctoral neuroscience program and was due to be presenting a thesis on microRNA biomarkers.

Obviously, he wasn’t stupid.

He may have been brilliant and just cracked. But how?

In today’s society, it is permissible to have no regard for anything. It is possible for ordinary citizens to obtain assault rifles. It is considered great entertainment to go to the movies and watch people be blown away on the big screen – but when it happens in real life we wonder how such a thing could happen.

Warner Bros. had to pull a trailer for the movie Gangster Squad that was airing before the start of Dark Knight – it showed men armed with machine guns attacking a movie theater. Fiction becomes reality.

At least 12 people were killed in this theater that’s about 13 miles away from Colombine. 59 were injured.

People are wondering if this incident will hurt The Dark Knight Rises at the box office this weekend.

Probably not. It might even boost attendance.

This is the United States we live in right now. A place where something like this can happen any time and anywhere.

It is frightening. It is sad. And it makes no sense.



Coach’s last practice

When I was a kid, I always thought it would be cool to be able to coach my kids.

And it was.

I was an assistant coach on Tom Jr.’s CYC baseball team starting when he was in kindergarten. But I was a third wheel, not really ever involved in the many intricacies of coaching 6-year old boys. I’ll always remember Tom’s first game, not for what he did but for the first plate appearance of the coach’s son.

He was an easy-going, happy kid and it was apparent early on that he could hit. He stepped up to the plate and hit a line drive on the first pitch.

Everyone shouted, “Run, Tim!” and so he did, running directly to the third base bag.

They gave him a do-over.

He stepped back up to the plate and hit another line drive to the outfield. This time, he took off toward first. When he got there, he kept on running, straight into the outfield and it wasn’t until he heard everyone shouting, “Come back!” that he stopped and turned around.

When Michael was still in pre-school, we were at one of Tom’s soccer practices and Michael was kicking the ball around and doing a pretty decent job of dribbling. I knew he’d love to be on a soccer team. I called the CYC director and he said sure, it wasn’t too late to sign him up – provided that I’d be the coach as they had enough kids, but no coach.

That was ten years ago. I coached Michael’s soccer team all the way through sixth grade when I had to retire due to getting a hip replacement and running was more or less eliminated from my skill set. But that never interfered with coaching baseball. I started out as an assistant coach for his baseball team when he was in kindergarten and in third grade, I became the team’s head coach.

I loved coaching both baseball and soccer. I tried to make every practice different from the last. I was a huge fan of a soccer coaching website that was full of drills that I was always eager to incorporate. Same with baseball. I tried to switch things up every five minutes or so. I tried to keep it interesting, keep it fun and help the boys learn and was fortunate to have two great assistant coaches that believed the same thing.

We made the playoffs every year in soccer and every year in baseball. In what I thought was my final year of coaching, our 8th grade boys baseball team won our league, won our district, won our first game in the City-County playoffs and lost our last to the eventual champion in a very tight, well-pitched game. I thought I was done.

But then Chris stepped down from coaching softball and Catherine’s team needed a coach. I had no idea how I’d do coaching girls versus boys but it didn’t matter. Keep it interesting, teach new things, keep it fun and everyone seemed to enjoy it. This past year, we had a shortage of players so our team merged with another St. Gerard team and I went back to being an assistant again. It didn’t matter. It was still coaching, still getting time to be with Catherine and her friends.

We finished the season 12-0 with a big asterisk attached. Five of the games were forfeits. The league wasn’t very good and the girls really weren’t tested all that much. We made the City County playoffs and tonight was going to be our last practice before the big game. Five girls showed up and Stan, our head coach, informed us that we were going to have to forfeit on Saturday – too many families on vacation.

In St. Louis, CYC sports used to rule when I was a kid. Now, they take a back seat to select sports in baseball, soccer and basketball. If you miss a CYC game, who cares? It doesn’t matter. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t.

We went ahead and practiced anyway tonight. We did some fielding drills and everyone took one last turn at the plate.

The CYC careers are over for the girls. And now, the book on me as a coach is officially closed.

I enjoyed every minute of it.



So like, how did we like, get here?

Yesterday was the last day of driving car pool for my daughter, Catherine, and two of her summer school attending friends.

It’s about a 20-minute drive to her high school and we always engage in lots of conversation. Thursday morning, I noticed there was an abundance of ‘likes’ in the conversation. You know, “Like, there was this guy who was like, really creepy and like, he looked at me and I thought like, this guy is like, so gross.”

So on Friday, I decided to keep a running tally of the ‘likes’ that I heard on that brief twenty minute ride.


I am happy to say that Catherine only had three ‘likes’ to add to the tally. Then again, she wasn’t doing most of the talking. When she did, she managed not to pepper her conversation with ‘likes’. The other two were knee-deep in ‘likes’. It seemed that every sentence had a minimum of at least one ‘like’, sometimes, there were two, three, even four ‘likes’ tossed in to a single sentence.

I don’t remember the word ‘like’ being an active part of my vocabulary when I was a kid. I know all the ‘likes’ came to prominence with the Valley Girl style of conversation and I guess it’s been going strong ever since.

I think of the word ‘like’ as kind of a bridge between thoughts. It like, connects one thought to another. I can understand using the occasional ‘like’ in dialogue and I’m sure that from time to time, I toss out a few of my own. Another expression that gets inserted all the time is, “he goes,” or, “she goes”.

“He goes, like, absolutely crazy every time he hears somebody like, toss out a like.”

I guess you could say that excessive liking is just a phase, something that most teens go through, some more than others.

But it can be, like, habit-forming.

Parents, if you think your teen might be guilty of excessive liking, bring it up to him or her. But don’t like, freak out about it.

If that’s the biggest issue you’ve got with your teen, you are like, golden.

Have a great weekend.

And let me know if you like this post.

Union Station’s parking problem

I haven’t been to Union Station in – well, I have absolutely no idea how many years it’s been.

Back in my single days it was a great place to be. I spent many a Friday evening hanging out at Houlihan’s (at least I think it was Houlihan’s). Even back then, I never liked the fact that I had to pay for parking. I was going there to spend money at Union Station’s stores or restaurants and other than Laclede’s Landing, or a few lots in the West End, paying to park to go to a place simply made no sense when there were so many other places that were happy to have me without milking me for parking fees.

So now, Union Station has fallen upon hard times. Retail shops have all but abandoned the place. The Hyatt is looking for an overhaul. But there will be no success at Union Station until they figure out that parking needs to be free to anyone who spends money there.

It’s really not a very complex idea. You pull up to the parking lot and get your parking ticket. You take your parking ticket to any of the retail establishments there and if you spend more than $10, you get the ticket validated and your parking is free. Maybe not that many people would take advantage of that during the day – but I doubt if many people are parking there to begin with and if so, they’re in competition with other lots and parking meters and a flat fee may not be that bad of a deal.

At night time though, I would easily spend at least $10 at one of those stores or dining establishments. That’s a beer and some chicken wings at most places.

Of course, it would help if they could get some more interesting shops. A microbrewery would be cool. Maybe a comedy club. How about a new Ted Drewes? And stores that you’d be interested in visiting more than once (I can’t really help in that regard since I so rarely go shopping).

And oh yes, why not figure out a way to re-route a few train tracks so that Union Station could once again become a true train station (with MetroLink, included, of course).

It really doesn’t seem that complicated. They could figure out how to co-op efforts and have shuttles as well as MetroLink running to Blues games, or Cardinals games, or Rams games or Peabody concerts or Lumiere. And if they parked at Union Station and had that as home base, validate those tickets as well but have some sort of markup involved.

Imagine – Union Station could become a hub again.

But it all starts with free parking.

I’d go. Would you?

The advantages of not being a swing state

Election Day is 121 days away and I’m glad I don’t live in Iowa.

Iowa is one of the key swing states in our national election. There are others of course, but I’m choosing to pick on Iowa.

It rankles me that Missouri has lost its swing state status. We’re simply not relevant enough. Both the east and the west coast already view Missouri as a serious fly-over state – “Move along, folks, nothing to see here.”

Now the political elite have deemed that there’s simply no reason to invest any large sums of money in political advertising trying to convince us Show-Me Staters that we should vote one way or the other. As a result, we’re missing out on all the mud-slinging put out by the campaigns of the two gentleman who are battling each other for the right to lead our country.

In Iowa, they’re knee-deep in the muck.

I was advised back when I began this blog to avoid politics. To a degree, I have.

I’m not trying to sway anyone one way or the other in how they should vote. I have voted in every single election and I will vote in this one as well. But I can also see why so many Americans don’t exercise their right to vote – they view it as futile and many are so turned off by the endless negativity surrounding our final two choices that they abstain from voting altogether. That’s not right.

The latest Obama ad claims, “Romney is not the solution. He’s the problem.”

Mitt Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul counters that with, “The American people deserve better than dishonest ads.”

In the meantime, they’ve been airing a commercial where the only voiceover is that of President Obama who declares, “The private sector is doing fine.” Of course as that line is delivered, we see supers of, ‘23.2 million American are unemployed’ and, ’40 straight months over 8% employment’.

It’s easy for advertising to manipulate. In a recent USA Today poll conducted only in swing states, 8% of those interviewed said that political ads had changed their views and 70% of them said that they help confirm their thinking.

So the money is pouring in and local TV stations are the key beneficiaries. That’s got to help the local economy in some way, shouldn’t it? But it won’t be helping ours.

As summer rolls into fall, things are really going to heat up and as usual, it will get uglier and uglier.

What a shame.

We’ll miss most of that national mud-slinging here in Missouri. We’ll have to settle with our own bashing of why our in-state candidates are wrong for Missouri and catch up on the national scene without benefit of these finely crafted attacks on either Mitt or Barrack.

Maybe it will help us make a more informed decision.


The grass doesn’t need to be greener

I ventured out long enough tonight to clean up our dog’s daily output in the back yard. The brown grass crunched beneath my feet. It hasn’t rained here in St. Louis for quite some time. Several weeks ago, I threw in the towel on our lawn and decided that life will be just fine if I don’t water it a single time this summer.

And I haven’t. There are a few homes in our neighborhood that have automatic sprinkling systems. Their lawns remain a pristine green. The rest of us have seen our tributes to suburbia wither and die and you know what? That’s okay.

In fact, in this day and age, it makes a lot of sense.

For years, Americans have been fed the dream that a lush lawn means prosperity. You’ve made it. And the bigger, the better. Is your lawn so big you need a riding mower? You’re living the dream. And you’re really living it if you’re paying someone else to mow it for you.

Scott’s and numerous lawn care companies throughout the country have made a living off of our national obsession with lush, green grass. Crabgrass is such a negative word – it can’t possibly be good to have it greeting visitors as they enter your equally well-maintained abode. Kentucky bluegrass, zoysia – those are the grasses that make neighbors stand up and take note.

Of course, maybe it’s time we all come to the realization that 30% of America’s potable drinking water goes to feed the turf that makes our front lawns green in our efforts to make our neighbors green with envy. Add in the fact that 70 million pounds of pesticides are applied to our green grasses on an annual basis to kill those grubs and knock out those hated weeds and you can see how keeping our lawns green is keeping some companies in the black while slowly draining our water supply that in some areas of the country is on a rationed basis already.

So maybe the American dream needs to shift a bit and instead of lush, green grass we should all have rock gardens. Better yet, maybe we should all aspire to have elaborate vegetable gardens – though those certainly need plenty of TLC and H2O as well. But at least we could get some yields out of the pumpkin patches, green peppers, tomato plants and corn that’s as high as an elephant’s eye gracing our front yards and all-new status symbols might emerge.

“Did you see the kumquats that Jones has going this year? That guy must really be raking it in.”

It could happen.

But it probably won’t.

In the meantime, let the sprinkler do its work on your garden if you have one and leave the grass alone.

Let’s make brown the new green.

This blog entry was inspired by a Facebook post by my friend, Al Stanger, who shared this video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-enGOMQgdvg The facts and figures I used came from that video. I enjoyed it and think you will, too, and I always believe in giving credit where credit is due.

The high price of (Olympic) gold

If you thought you were inundated with endless advertising during any major election year, brace yourself for an Olympic onslaught that’s already underway with opening ceremonies not slated to begin until July 27.

Already, we’re seeing endless promos from NBC (provided you watch NBC). They’ve been airing prime time coverage of the Olympic trials for the past week and during those trials they constantly hype the upcoming games. After spending $4.38 billion dollars to capture the broadcast and online rights to coverage through 2020, they certainly need to do a little promoting to get back their investment.

Still, it’s probably a losing proposition. In 2010, NBC lost an estimated $223 million on the Vancouver games. But they did manage to get in a few plugs for their upcoming fall lineup of shows.

The usual corporate sponsors have signed on and their “proud sponsor” commercials are in full swing. Visa is everywhere you want to be. McDonald’s is proud to support the Olympic dreams of our fast food nation. Coca-Cola is spreading their happiness message while others like GE, Panasonic, Omega and Samsung are touting their respective Olympic tie-in stories to tout their products.

Awareness will be up but that doesn’t necessarily mean sales will also rise. Studies show that unless you are launching a new product line and that it is a fully integrated effort, that merely showing up on the airwaves will be at best a momentary blip in your sales efforts.

If you’re going to compete in the Olympics, you’ve got to go all in and stay in the race.

As for the host country, they’re all set to take a giant Olympic bath. It’s estimated that more than $37.5 billion will be spent by our good hosts across the pond to stage these Olympics. The original estimate was around $12-$14 billion but costs have spiraled wildly out of control, due in part to increased security and infrastructure measures.

When first awarded to London, the Olympics were heralded as the savior to Britain’s battered economy. In reality, these games will do a great job of continuing to land blow after blow to their economic well-being. Even as 40,000 athletes, coaches, trainers and hangers-on descend upon the Olympic Village along with a multitude of attendees, it’s estimated that tourism is expected to drop by 4% as non-Olympic-related tourists are expected to shy away from London town to avoid the gridlock and detours that the Olympics will help create.

I dug around a bit but was unable to find how much U.S. taxpayer money goes towards supporting the Olympics. In Australia, the price of an Olympic gold works out to about $15 million per medal needed in taxpayer support.

There are exceptions, but in general, from the time the first modern day Olympics began back in 1896, they’ve been a losing proposition to the host city and often to the host country. After the Olympics leave town, many of the oversized stadiums used to host some of the games go unused because they simply can’t attract the Olympic-sized crowds.

So what’s my point with all of this negativity about the Olympic games? I love watching the Dream Team, I enjoy the track and field and the volleyball and the diving. I’m all for the Olympics.

But I don’t think they necessarily inspire the average citizens of any country to work out more. I do think some of our youth see these games and pursue their dreams. But there are just as many who pursue their dreams to be doctors or teachers or scientists or NBA stars or whatever. Dreams should always be supported.

Olympic dreams carry high price tags and sharing those dreams with the world costs a lot from broadcasting them to sponsoring them and the returns are far from guaranteed.

So sit back, have a cheeseburger and a Coke and enjoy the games!