WORLD SERIES REMINDS ME OF MY COACHING CAREER

As the baseball season winds down with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros playing in the World Series, I’m reminded of my career as a coach.

It was brief.

It was nerve-wracking.

It was the most difficult assignment of my life.

My coaching career began when the two eldest of our three sons turned out for a team of third and fourth graders during a summer league. It soon became apparent that BASEBALL PLAYERkids that young became quickly bored, especially those who played in the outfield and whiled away the time by picking daisies rather than watching for flies.

I also found it nearly impossible to keep track of how many innings each boy played and whether each boy had an opportunity to bat, which required the help of an accountant to ensure that we met league rules.

I retired early but eventually resumed coaching when our youngest son turned out for summer ball and announced that he planned to be a catcher.

“But you’re too small to be a catcher,” I reminded him.

“Don’t care,” he responded. “I’m goin’ to catch, or I’m not goin’ to play.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because that is the only player who is in on most every play,” he responded. “Don’t you know how boring baseball really is?”

I thought about that statement a lot during the season, especially when one of the substitute players always called time out when he came to bat and looked toward me on the third base side for a signal to hit, bunt, etc.

The kid would give me a wide grin, pull a card from his back pocket and check to see what all of my gesturing meant.

My son caught that season, but the team was winless until the final game. I suspected that the players wanted to end the game quickly so they would be first in line at the local ice cream shop where parents took turns treating team members.

In any event, I remember a story a parent told me during my brief coaching career that may explain the reason baseball inspires so many people to play and to watch the game.

As the story goes, a spectator drops by a playing field and learns that the Pee-Wee team up to bat leads by a score of 14 to zero.

“Aren’t you discouraged because your team is so far behind?” the spectator asks a boy sitting along in the losing team’s dugout.

“Oh, no,” the boy replies. “We haven’t been up to bat yet.”

BOOK CHALLENGES READER TO HELP DRAIN THE SWAMP

Those people who own the gold run the world.

This age-old adage certainly applies to Congress.

If you doubt this statement, read Elizabeth Warren’s latest book, “This Fight Is Our Fight: WARREN BOOK COVERThe Battle to Save America’s Middle Class,” 337 pages, Henry Holt and Company, 2017.

She documents the need to “drain the swamp” in a way never envisioned by Donald Trump so that members of a once-prosperous middle class have an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Warren grew up as a member of a hardscrabble family, attended college on a scholarship and “a dime,” reared a family, became a law professor, helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and since 2012 has represented citizens of Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate.

You probably won’t read this book if you are a Koch brother, a banker, a big business executive, a lobbyist, a Chamber of Commerce member or a Trump follower. I doubt, too, that you will set your bias aside long enough to read this book if you believe that a progressive like Warren is too liberal to speak on behalf of the middle-class.

Of course, as Warren documents, most of us know that the middle-class no longer carries much clout in the world of governance. The reason? It’s called money.

You need lots of the stuff to run for Congress. Guess where you get it: Deep Pockets.

What do Deep Pockets expect in return? Favorable legislation, limited oversight and accountability, tax breaks.

And as Warren documents, Deep Pockets also influence decisions by members of the U.S. Supreme Court. (pp. 202-206)

I set aside this book several times because it appears that the wealthy wield too much power in Congress to “drain the swamp” and to provide equal opportunity for interests of the middle class to be represented.

I found hope, however, when Warren reminded me that we all have a stake in governance.

She suggests our first fight “is to battle bigotry” in all of its forms.

Next, she says we should “say loud and clear that we will make the economy work for everyone—not just for the top 10 percent, but for everyone.”

The most difficult task, of course, will be draining the swamp of gold.

LIFE’S SCARS DON’T DRAW ‘MUCH SYMPATHY’ TODAY

dishwasher photo

A doctor sewed me up this morning.

I wish I could brag that I was injured while driving a race car that smashed into a wall or while rescuing someone who was drowning in the McKenzie River.

Unfortunately, I ran into the dishwasher door that was open in our kitchen Friday morning, and I began bleeding “like a stuck hog,” as we used to say down on the farm in the Ozark Hills during butchering season.

I had been dodging that dishwasher door for more than three decades, but it got me as I began preparing a gourmet breakfast. After impact, I kicked off my left shoe before it filled with blood. Yanked up my pant leg and stopped the flow of blood with the help of a dozen paper towels.

Blood leaked out of a dozen or more bandages during the next 24 hours. This morning I decided it was time to visit the doctor.

I was quite pleased with the repair of the three-inch-long wound on my shin. The doctor deadened the area before taking out his sewing kit and crafting five beautiful stitches.

“Return in seven to 10 days and have the stitches removed,” he instructed. Ah, I thought, now I have an excuse and can skip my daily physical workouts. I made the mistake of asking.

“No problem,” he replied. “You should be able to walk, run, whatever.”

Meanwhile, no one wanted to see the bandaged leg when I told the story as dramatically as possible. No one offered to buy me lunch or a cup of coffee to advise me how I should deal with the inconvenience of an injured shin. No one mentioned the mental distress that I might experience as a result of this misfortune. No one seemed to care that I would be unavailable to suit up for the Duck football game with Stanford.

All of which proves that scars don’t get a person “much sympathy” when you bump into a dishwasher in today’s world.

THOSE ‘HEY, YOU’ MOMENTS MUCH LIKE FLEAS ON A DOG

A member of our writing group said she couldn’t think of anything to write about during the week so had nothing to share.

Later during the session, with voice rising and hands gesturing she described the reason she had attended a school of theology.Confessions of a Professor cover

“You have just written a compelling introduction to a chapter in your memoir,” I commented and then described how a person can organize life’s story by using the epiphany, i.e. a moment of sudden revelation or insight. More simply, a life-changing experience.

I employed memoir in writing about my 30-year experience as a college professor who taught courses in journalism. In “Confessions of a Professor” I wrote about incidents that stood out in my mind, most of which carried a high risk factor of failure but kept students awake.

Calculated risk-taking has been foundational to my life, but I didn’t realize that until I began writing memoir. As a result, I’m seldom surprised by the outcome when my life changes. Frankly, if my life doesn’t change periodically, I become bored.

I like the way a friend of mine defines epiphany: A certain amount of adversity is good for a person. Like the saying goes, “A certain number of fleas is good for a dog. It keeps them from brooding about being a dog.”

This friend has selected a dozen benchmarks in life in preparation to write a memoir. Continue reading THOSE ‘HEY, YOU’ MOMENTS MUCH LIKE FLEAS ON A DOG