Thursday, December 9, 2010

Our time together as Champions

1978 Returning Varsity players
It was in the spring of 2010 I think when I got the very bad news that my high school friend and teammate
Craig Kurtz had died . All the memories of our youth together rushed through me in that moment.Craig was with my brother and me in 1989 when I celebrated my engagement to my wife.
We drank Champagne and laughed and over the next twenty years maybe we spoke one other time.
1979 Varsity
Craig always  made me laugh and reminded me to never take myself too seriously.There were times that we didn't see eye to eye.
That's to be expected.But we always were able to move forward.
Craig made me a better athlete and tennis player.We pushed each other pretty hard on the tennis court and sometimes off of it over the years.
It had been 31 years since we celebrated our graduation from Walnut Hills High School and the culmination of four years as Greater Cincinnati and Southwestern Ohio's  best high school team in our sport.Our varsity squad had gone to the final four at the Ohio Boys State Team event  four straight years. Craig and the other four year letter winner in our grade Dan Katz had been with me every step of the way.
I reflected over the next few days on how lucky I had been to be a tennis player and part of a team that had been so special.Every year our coach would predict a state championship for our team.
City Champions 1976-79
Most tennis people in Cincinnati didn't even pick us as favorites to win our hometown title.
It seemed on paper that our crosstown rival Princeton High School was the better team.They also had a large indoor tennis facility directly across from their campus where they could have easy access to free walk on junior court time.They had private coaches.They were like the Yankees and we were a bunch of ragtags,misfits and ne'er do wells!
But every season the boys from Walnut would figure out a way to win our big showdown at their tennis complex.One year there was even a parent from the other school that was so enraged that we won that he challenged one of our players to a fist fight. Good times good times.We all laughed at the outburst and  were aware how parents can ruin the sports experience  for their kids very easily.
We at Walnut were not exactly the model for a successful high school championship caliber team.
The fact that our coach knew nothing about tennis totally worked to our advantage.We always looked at our time on the tennis court as fun with our friends.We never felt obligated to play tennis.Obviously we wanted to win as badly as the next guy.When we were on the court we practiced with intensity and still enjoyed the experience.
Coach Moore and later Coach Cowit understood that tennis is an individual sport but we had to come together as a team for the common goal of winning at least 3 matches against the other school.
Since many of us on the team spent a considerable amount of time off the court together we really knew every one's inner workings and what made each guy tick.
I have been married almost twenty one years and my wife knows very well why and how I do what I do.
By our senior year of  1979 there were quite a few guys that could read me as well as my wife can today.
In the spring of 2010 one of those guys was taken away from my life.
We learn so much about our character through sports.Winning,losing,highs and lows.The great expectations of glory.The crush of humiliating defeat. The joy of playing and competing against ourselves as much as others.
In the years 1976 to 1979 there was one thing that we will always have to remember our time together.....
                                   .........."We Were Champions"

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Richard A.(Dick) Weiland(aka Dad) taught me to love baseball

Dad threw out the first pitch on kids first trip to the "Show"


I had a dream  last week of Pedro Martinez standing on a towering mound throwing an inside pitch at my body and as I backed away so as not to get struck by the pitch my bat swatted at the ball   and I hit it over the fence in my parents back yard and into the cemetery.I went over the fence to get the ball back and some ghosts from the graveyard chased me all the way back to my door and I screamed for my mommy!
Then I woke up and my heart was beating like a drum and I lay still for a very long time  and remembered it was the morning of my fiftieth birthday. and then I fell back asleep .....relieved that it was only a dream.
If I ever make it to a cornfield in Iowa in the afterlife  then maybe I would get to take on Martinez and go yard on him without getting chased away by a spirit then again maybe not.
But in the present tense....
 "Oh Lord give me the strength  to get through extra innings ............. or a three set tennis match that could last  for over  four hours".
I have made that statement many times in my life.
When I was a little boy I wanted to be a Cincinnati Redleg.
My dad took us to plenty of games at Crosley Field and Riverfront Stadium where we witnessed the metamorphosis of some guys  into a unit collectively known as the Big Red Machine.
You do not spend time around my dad, Dick Weiland and remain clueless about the game of baseball.
To my dad baseball is more than a game.It is a  religion.Maybe not as holy as an actual organized religion but nevertheless it was presented to us  as a sacred ritual.The "us" I mention being my brother Dave and  my sister Jeanne.
We were inundated with stats,strategies,scouting reports.
Analysis of every move made by the manager and front office were presented to us many times and the  afternoon Cincinnati  Post was picked apart for news on dad's beloved Reds.
So through osmosis my brother Dave (now a Giants fan),my sister Jeanne(still a Reds fan) and  myself (now a Yankee fan) gained a great amount of insight into the inner workings of the game.I also remember that many of those games we sat on the third base side.Sometimes in left field but rarely if ever on first or in right field.
My dad is a lefty is my only thought on this one.
Dad had pitched in college at Williams and was an acquaintance of  fellow Williams student and sports fanatic
George Steinbrenner.They had a mutual friend named Pete Smythe.
I really believe like many sportsmen my dad would have loved to own a baseball team.
He chose real estate,law,lobbying and has all along followed baseball with that same fervor.
I have heard that he has on occasion spoken to the  management of his favorite team to suggest player moves or trades but I will not go as far as confirming whether or not this is true.
After I moved away from Ohio I lost that voice in my ear.
"Go the distance"? "If you build it he will come"? "Ease his pain"? ......Nope not that voice.
My voice said," follow your passion in life and find something you really love because you are going to do it every day".It was my dad's voice.
The voice spoke wisely and I did follow my dream.But things do change in life.By choice sometimes and other times by circumstance.
It's really not how hard you can hit.It's how hard you can get hit then get up and keep going at it .....
going forward.
So here it began in  March of 2008.It was spring training in Florida and my  seven year old son and I were off to our first ever experience that was setting the stage for a memorable year of baseball when both New York teams were ending their runs at their old stadiums and rebuilding  new temples for future generations of baseball worshipers.
My son and daughter at the time liked both teams in New York (even though I was edging them towards the Yankees)  and I took it upon myself to allow them to see as much baseball as my busy work schedule would allow.I bought partial packages to both the Yankees and Mets with one of the games at Shea  being a "Subway Series" .
So our "Journey of Sentimentality " as my wife called it had begun.One of the games was scheduled on my son's eighth birthday in the Bronx and I had arranged to have his name on the scoreboard two times during the game.
Our seats for both stadiums were on the left side.Yankee Stadium at third base. Shea between third and left field foul pole.Dad's influence has rubbed off apparently.
Every visit to games in the Bronx or Queens was like turning a page to a book that you really did not want to finish.
So many things that I connected to had happened at both of these buildings.
Pete Rose fighting the Mets in 1973 at Shea.Seeing the Reds on television as they swept the Yankees in 1976 to win back to back titles.Moving to New York and witnessing the Mets unlikely comeback against Boston in 1986 at Shea Stadium. Seeing Ohio native Paul O'Neill. a champion with the Reds in 1990 move to New York and win multiple titles as a Yankee.Cincinnatian David Justice become a World Champion in Yankee pinstripes. Don Zimmer, the bench coach for the Joe Torre Yankees was a Cincinnati guy.There is a feeling of pride when someone from my hometown or from Ohio makes it under the the bright lights of New York City.
Hey, I'm  a simple  midwest boy tryin' to make it in the big city.
In  2001 after the 9/11 attacks  I witnessed along with the rest of America as our President bravely walked across the field as we held our breath and prayed for his safety with snipers on the rooftops protecting him as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch in the World Series.Baseball helped to ease America's pain even if only for a few hours.
It sounds so damn simplistic that a game could help to heal our souls.
The Yankees lost in the 2001 Series and we as Yankee fans were heartbroken by the loss.
 But it was only baseball after all.........just a game.
Our friends,family,neighbors and fellow New Yorkers  and Americans had suffered an unspeakable tragedy a month before and this Series brought us together as a nation. Baseball was  the safe haven of my youth  on the sandlot fields in Ohio......actually it was a yard or an empty lot.
To me and my friends it was Crosley Field or Riverfront or any place where the big league Reds shined
This is where I wanted to spend my free time in 2008.Honoring these memories with my family on my
"Sentimental Journey".
We went to Shea to witness the final "Subway Series" game of 2008 where my kids proceeded along with the many Mets fans in attendance to drown out the cheers of Yankee fans myself included.
The series always brings out an amazing mixing of families and friends that have sworn allegiance to their separate teams but can remain mostly civil. Unlike when the Yankees play Boston or the  Mets play the Phillies.Those can be bitter contests although compared to soccer(football) hooligans nothing compares.
The Yankees ended up losing the game but both of my kids on that day especially my son swore their allegiance to the Bronx Bombers.
It became obvious as September arrived that both teams would have a limited chance to make the playoffs.
So we bid farewell to both Stadiums and looked forward to renewal in 2009.
All along I talked to my dad about his Reds and their revival.
My dad inspired me to share some special moments  with my kids to pass on his knowledge and passion for the game.
Last year I was lucky enough to take my kids to both new baseball venues in New York.
My son and I were even able to witness the Yankees in some playoff games culminating in a Game 6 victory in the World Series.
It was a defining moment for both of us.Seeing your team fight through a tough year and win it all in front of your eyes is beyond any  words.
When my high school tennis team won four consecutive Cincinnati  and Ohio sectional championships on our way to the state championships it was pretty damn close.I wish my daughter was there as well but her dedication to her  field hockey games prevented her from witnessing the playoffs in 2009.
Her team went undefeated last year and it didn't seem right to miss a game or practice to go see another team play a game(even if it is the Yankees)  and  I  also promised her that in 2010 she would see the Yankees first game if they made the playoffs.
Last week we witnessed Game 3 of the 2010 division series against the Minnesota Twins as the Yankees swept with a 6-1 victory.It was a special night.
The next night I watched on television as the Reds got swept by the Phillies.I really felt empathy for my dad as well as all those friends and family in Ohio.
They waited fifteen years for a playoff game and then got whipped by the perennial  kings of the National League jungle (pre SF Giants) the Phillies.
I still feel bad and haven't called him yet.
Dad has invested a lifetime of passion and enthusiastic energy in his Redlegs.I am sure it stings a bit.
That old familiar refrain "wait til' next year"comes to mind.
Cubs fans know what I am talking about.
So as my team embarks on their next step towards postseason glory I hope I will not utter that previously mentioned refrain.
But as my wise ninety year old coach Bob Ryland would say,"Fred.... tennis or in this case Baseball is like life.Just when you think you got something it can vanish in a split second.Never,ever take anything or anyone for granted." Believe me Bob these days I don't. Life like baseball is too precious.
So to my dad Richard A.(Dick) Weiland
 Thank you for everything you have given to me.Thank you for your time, your  wisdom and
best wishes next year  for your Cincinnati Reds.
Grandpa Fred loved baseball too


Riverfront Stadium

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

1973....Red Powell,Billy Magnus and the Oneida County Mad Man

As a young boy I got shipped off for three summers along with my older brother Dave who went for many summers more than me  to northern Wisconsin to Red Powell's  Camp Golden Eagle in Woodruff.I had been a frequent visitor there as a young boy since I was four.So when my time came to follow in Dave's footsteps to camp it was a pretty big deal for me.
My good friend Josh Harkavy spent the first two summers with me at Golden Eagle and we shared a love for tennis and basically anything that involved sports.In our second year we were paired with a new kid who was from our hometown and the new kid and I got off to a rocky start when I came in our room and discovered that someone had taken my candy off my bed and eaten it.I don't need to explain the value of candy to a young boy of eleven.I might have "accidentally" dropped his guitar on the ground and we had to be separated by the other campers and staff.Eventually the other boy Billy Magnus and I ironed out our differences and became fast friends.He was a great athlete and had a sense of adventure that carried me along on some journeys that I can alternately laugh,shake my head and wince at how things could have gone from bad to worse.
When looking back I now realize that some things that we do in our younger years defy logic and directly put us in harms way.
As a parent I hope my kids exhibit better decision making and  don't sneak away from camp to go to A&W for root beer and burgers.Or sneak out of Hebrew school  at Rockdale Temple in Cincinnati and turn off the electric everlasting Holy  light (we may burn for that one).Or decide to drink whiskey and lemonade in the back of their brother's car before camp lunch.Or smoke a cigar after camp lunch. My friend always had some very unique ideas about how we could make the days more exciting.
Many times I did not go along with his plans especially if they interfered with my tennis or  a couple other sports.But there is one particular moment that will always stand out in my mind when I remember Billy.
It involved incredible bravery,absolute lack of fear and excuse the expression here folks: BIG BALLS.
It was a rainy stormy Sunday  night at camp .A counselor arrived to tell our large group in Cabin number ten which held about fifteen boys ages twelve and thirteen that it was reported on a local radio station that a prisoner had escaped from the Oneida County lock up and was spotted in a neighboring town.
We as a group fired off many questions and were told to stay inside and keep our flashlights next to us at all times and go to the bathroom in groups.We were obviously flipping out.Ten to fifteen minutes passed and the counselor gave us another update.The inmate was spotted on the main highway near our camp.It was at this point that I went into my trunk and grabbed the large six inch pocket knife that I had bought at an Army-Navy store in Cincinnati the week  before camp.I held the knife in my hands as I sat in stunned fear along with my fellow campers  and my bunk mate for the second straight year  Billy.As we sat there discussing our safety,our last few moments alive ,our fears of dying without knowing the company of a good  woman a gruesome face pressed up against our window and we all screamed as loud as a whistle at a factory at quitting time.
Billy reached over and without any warning grabbed the blade from my hand and headed out the back door of our cabin to confront and possibly hunt the escaped mad man.The rest of our cabin sat stunned as Billy bolted after the poor schmuck he was chasing.Imagine the fear of the counselor dressed in a Halloween mask that had attempted to scare the ever loving piss out of some young tween kids and  instead encountered one with the crazed bravado of a Marine raiding the beaches at Normandy.Billy could run like the wind so I can only imagine the other guy whose life was in danger must have sprinted away as if he were running through a
haunted cemetery at midnight.
Billy came back with the knife a few minutes later and had not caught his prey however he had earned the respect,admiration and loyalty of his fellow campers.
Over the years I  occasionally ran into Billy on my visits to Cincinnati.
A few years back he passed away and I felt like part of my childhood had died along with him.
I never had the chance to tell him how much I admired him for his bravery,his sense of humor,his athleticism.
He made me push the envelope on and off the athletic fields.He made me realize that it's okay to take chances and fail as long as you can learn from the failures and in the long run this has helped make me a better person.
I also think of him and laugh as I see him running out that door scaring the crap out of the counselor at Camp Golden Eagle.......Thanks Billy and rest in peace.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Travels with Mom

In October of 2003 my mom died and it was her desire to give myself and my brother and sister each four urns that we could take on our next four vacations and scatter the ashes.
When all was said and done we were each given one urn by Weil's  Funeral Home in Cincinnati in a very fancy pink cloth box with Chinese lettering and drawings.The remaining ashes were scattered in the gardens at Weil's.
As I left Cincinnati with my family I packed away mom's urn in my luggage and thus began the journey of my mom and the dilemma  of where to put my portion of my mom's remains for all eternity. I took mom on our first family trip to Miami in February of 2004.I contemplated spreading mom's ashes on Collins Avenue where we had gone as kids on winter break.Maybe even outside Rascal House deli where we went for legendary over sized sandwiches .Or the tennis courts at Haulover Park where we as a family spent our afternoons with our friends the Browns.
Nope.I wasn't feeling the connection in Miami.Sorry mom.
 Then that summer we went to the Chesapeake Bay .Mom took the trip and I pondered the right spot to empty the urn but as much as mom would have enjoyed the salt air and beauty of the area it wasn't a place that felt special to me for the purpose of my mom and "eternity".
Eventually I thought that maybe I would be driving down the street and a light bulb would go off in my head and I would grab mom's urn open it up and spread the ashes and  it would make me feel as if I had done my part to help my mom rest in peace as in the movie "Stealing Home" with Mark Harmon and Jodie Foster.Mark Harmon carries the urn everywhere until he realizes the perfect spot is a pier on the Jersey shore where Jodie Foster's character had spoke about fondly.

So I took her urn and stuck it in the back of my already overstuffed SUV.Between the tennis rackets,shirts,shorts and other assorted stuff that I am known for hoarding in my car I placed mom and we set about on our journey.Mom went skiing in the Poconos,she went to the Bahamas.I decided that since we both loved the Bahamas that that would be the place where she would end up.I opened up the case and took out the urn and attempted to open it up......The damn thing was sealed shut! I consulted an urn expert who told me that some funeral homes seal the urns.Should I break open mom's ashes?We went to Italy and France. Then finally I thought I had  figured out the perfect spot.On the mantel at our ski condo in the Pocono Mountains.Mom would have a mountain view.Mom would have peace and quiet.Solitude.For the last five years mom had found her resting spot behind our fireplace.
Then last week as I ventured out to the condo on the way to Williamsport to drop off my son off at baseball camp at Little League International I opened the door and the heat from the hottest week ever in the  Northeast made wish we had some A/C pronto.As I went to open up a few windows and put on a fan I glanced over at the fireplace that  we would not be needing on this balmy weekend.
I caught a glimpse of the case with the urn.I walked over and put it next to my overnight bag.
Now it is back where the journey began in the back of my car.
Although I am not sure if mom will make every trip with me I know that she will always be there with me and my family in spirit.She was an adventurer and was not meant to be stuck on a mantel and then blend in with the scenery.I am sure that some people will say that I have to let go and move on.
Everyone has their own way of dealing with a loss. It's not a tennis match or a baseball game.
It's my mom.So our travels will continue and someday I may find that special place that mom really loved more than anywhere else.
Or maybe she just loved going to a lot of places with her family in tow and we will take her with us?

(left photo is mom with my bro Dave)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lessons learned from "Swooping Hawk" a.k.a. Dad ....

I am sitting at my computer working on a USTA Boys 18 L1+ singles tennis event in October 2007 that is taking place later in the week when I get....... the call.
My sister sounds distraught. Our dad Dick Weiland is at 78 years old a bundle of nonstop energy. Dad works 7 days a week and sleeps about 4-5 hours per night. He is a well-known lobbyist in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Dad had been involved in a car accident late in the summer of 2007 that was bad enough that he needed a hip replacement. Dad like most old school guys of his generation never really complains about being in pain because it is not their nature to do so.
My sister informs me that a few days ago dad had taken a fall while on the steps of the Capitol building in Columbus, Ohio.
She had wanted him to see a doctor to get checked out.
After persistent prodding from my sister and my cousin Dr. Mike who was my dad's doctor, he will seek some further medical advice.
He is not doing well. After being admitted to the hospital he starts going downhill rapidly and with a high fever and infection and as well as some respiratory complications Dr. Mike pushes to get him in the ICU.
That is when I get.... the call. Dad is in bad shape.
Dad is on life support and may not make it through the weekend.
I go to work and speak to my bosses Dale and Angela.
They both tell me to drop everything and get back to Ohio. Leaving the tournament in the hands of my co-workers Dave and Lars I book my trip for the next morning. It is hard to imagine a world without my dad.
My Mom passed away almost exactly four years to the day before dad is admitted to the hospital. Upon landing at the Cincinnati Airport (actually in Kentucky) I head straight to Christ Hospital. My brother is also on his way from California.
Dad is alert although can't speak since he is on life support and breathing with help of a machine. But he scribbles stuff on pieces of paper and although most stuff is not legible his mind is still working, and I learn my first lesson from him. One he has taught me many times.
Even when you are in the worst possible situation in life don't dwell on your misfortune...... keep moving forward..... always..... keep moving forward.
Then out of the blue a Hasidic Orthodox rabbi walks into the room making his rounds of the Orthodox Jewish patients in the hospital. He walks in and we exchange pleasantries, and he inquires about dad's Hebrew name. The three of us a have no idea what his Hebrew name might be. We ask dad but he does not respond. The rabbi asks if we are Jewish.
We ignore his rude comment, and he leaves. Then dad scribbles on the paper. We try to decipher the note. It looks like Swooping Hawk?
Then he scribbles again. His camp name at Camp Kawaga in
Woodruff, Wisconsin in the 1940s.
The three of us erupt in laughter. Dad smiles. I have just learned lesson number two.
Keep your sense of humor..... even when the worst possible thing in the world is happening to you. Try to keep smiling.
Over the course of the next 48 hours I see my Dad fight for his life in an ICU room and when it is time for me to fly back to New York I know that he is going to win the battle.
Dad has always taught me that actions speak louder than words. Some people talk the talk but Dad walks the walk. He looks me directly in the eye when I tell him that I love him and I know the feeling is reciprocated as it is for my brother and sister. On my next visit to see him a few weeks later Dad has been moved out of ICU and his room is plastered with cards,flowers,pictures and letters. One is from the President of the United States. After speaking to many of his close friends I am beginning to realize that Dad is fighting so hard to get better because he is a man on a mission. He has lived his life to help other people. He is not about wealth or fame . He is about fighting for what he believes in. He is not about feeling the need to be liked by everyone.
Swooping Hawk makes it out of the hospital after 78 long days.
A long time ago Camp Kawaga gave a kid from Ohio a native American name and from this grown-up kid I have gotten my final lesson.
Never ever give up. Always fight for what you believe is right. Being the best you can be in life is all you can really do and........ try to smile.
Dad,Dicky,Richard...... thanks for being you and for being a great Dad.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The SS Weiland and a 3 hour tour to the old ballgame

Since the days  I began attending sporting events as a kid one thing that I have noticed is the large amount of time spent not actually 100 percent focused on the event. Be it hoops,tennis,hockey,baseball,football,field hockey,soccer,softball and the list goes on.There is one common denominator at every sporting event I have attended......ME! So I say to all those people looking to possibly accompany me to a prospective game. WHY? Is the game that important? Remember here folks that going to the ballpark will require you to sit and talk to ME for three long hours.Think again.Sit  at home watch six episodes of Seinfeld or Everybody Loves Raymond and imagine me sitting next to you..Me in your ear.Me regaling you with tales of my past glories.Me eating Cracker Jacks and drinking Diet Coke with no ice. Me reaching for the Purell bottle over and over.Me taking pictures of you that may end up on Facebook or be sent somewhere into cyberspace.Get the picture yet? I am a lot to handle for three hours.Not counting the ride to and from the stadium! I would think twice before I accepted an offer from ME. God bless my wife for sticking with me for over twenty years plus the dating year and a half.That is a long game! We are in like the third or fourth inning of our marriage. It may go into extra innings if I am lucky.
But getting back to the day to day.As I sit here and ponder my next outing to a game I think there may have to be a criteria list that I come up with for you to follow.
Can me and said invitee converse on a variety of subjects? Food,baseball,politics,women,kids,beer,beach vacations,cars,New York life,comedy and comedy films,wives,parents,tennis,old girlfriends(or boyfriends),pizza(not included in food topic),money,job issues,sleep issues,cellphone issues,computers..... Facebook,texting,email stuff oh and the game that is unfolding in front of our eyes.I would say that currently my nine year old has steadily been winning the golden ticket to accompany me to more games in the last year than any other ? What is the word I am looking for? LUCKY? ....UNLUCKY?
I am not great company folks but he has not noticed yet because enough other things are happening at the game. Loud music,video tributes,rowdy fans,cheering and greasy  food have all kept him distracted up to this point.My cool factor is still there but fading fast with him.
So if I call you,text you or send you an SOS   to take a trip to the old ballgame with me in the near future then run through your mental check list of things we may have in common and balance it out against the list of pros and cons of spending over half a good nights sleep on my private  island.
If the scales tip in my favor then welcome aboard the SS Weiland.If you see Gilligan,the Skipper or Mr.Howell then run for the exits.
If you see Mary Ann or Ginger then you are watching too much old TV and need an intervention.

It's a LONG three  hour tour you are not soon to forget.

Monday, March 22, 2010

From the Elkus hoop to the mean streets of NYC and lessons learned from a 9 year old

 In my dream I am passing the ball to my buddy Andy Elkus ...or Matt"Boomsy" Bloomfield as one of them shoots a three pointer from the farther reaches of the Bloomfield-Elkus shared driveways in our teen years.
Our team wins a three on three game and we all celebrate before we go in   to someone's house to raid the refrigerator.Or we play a rematch. The best of times and the worst of times were competing on the fields of play in my North Avondale. Man I miss those carefree days and they miss me right back.
At  an earlier  age(10 or 11) I remember being very competitive. Whether it was shooting hoops with  my big brother Dave or all my boyhood friends in North Avondale at the Elkus house or at the JCC ,playing some other sport with a  ball in the lot next to Stevie Brown's house or on the tennis courts of my youth. Being handed a ball with or without a  racket at first  was an incentive to not only have fun with my friends but a great way to get exercise and release the stress of a tough day at school. Some where along the way around 5th grade I think the focus was on winning as opposed to just the joy of playing the sport. That took many years to re-capture.I also looked up to my cousin Josh who was an all state football player,world class wrestler and a guy who always competed with class and sportsmanship as did my brother a Division 1 college tennis player at Georgetown.
Two great role models.
My expectations had been raised in tennis at age 10 when I reached the quarterfinals of the Cincinnati Center Tennis Championships.
It was all downhill from there.
For a long stretch of time after that every time on the field of battle be it hoops,baseball,soccer,street hockey,table tennis or real tennis the goal was to win.
It was not pretty when I did lose..... just ask my friends or my big sister Jeanne.
Jeanne was a good athlete and consistent tennis player but not born with the competitive gene that my brother and me inherited from our parents.
After getting to the final eight at the Center tournament I was handily beaten by my sister at our club and I remember the court,the weather conditions,the clothes I wore that day.
Ask my sister what she remembers and it will most likely be my poor behavior on the court.
Tantrum is not a word I like to hear to this day. As a father and tennis coach  I have witnessed my share of meltdowns over the years. Is this my payback?
As a veteran tournament director I have seen  over the top behavior from kids,coaches and parents.
Changing scores ,bad line calls,illegal coaching and many instances of players attempting to win at all costs.
Many people will look the other way.It is not in my DNA to take that approach.
Recently I witnessed my son playing air hockey and pool at our house against one of his young friends.
The other boy began to cheat and  rather  than stepping in I let him work it out on his own.
In the semi-final match of a tennis tournament back in my youth my Dad  witnessed a boy attempt to cheat me.  I was winning by such a wide margin that it didn't really bother me.I was kind of  surprised that Dad stepped in to defend me.I love my Dad and know he was looking out for me.
My son let the boy continue his practice.In spite of the open cheating my boy came back to win the game to five  until his friend proposed extending the game to  ten  to  give him a further chance of winning(reminded me of myself in my youth)after my boy got to ten the other boy proposed they play to fifteen at which point I became my Dad and walked up to the table and told the boys the game was over.
The next day I asked my son about his friends behavior the day before.He blew me away with his answer,
"my friend gets upset when he is losing so I figured Dad that I would let him cheat because I didn't want to see him get upset." My son is a better man than me.
I would probably still be at the table months later debating......well  loudly debating  the tactics used against me.
There would have been no game extensions to ten or fifteen.
Re-matches? Yes.Always a rematch....and another.
Living in New York City taught me to fight harder for everything,to stand my ground and to be true to myself.
I learned the art of teamwork on the back streets of Cincinnati.In New York I learned to get on and off  a subway without getting manhandled.
In Cincinnati I  learned to set a pick and love a friend like a brother.In New York I learned that true friends are few and far between so treasure them.
In Cincinnati I learned that cheating is wrong and if you  get caught that there are consequences so don't do it.
In New York I learned that just because there are many more people in the dog eat dog big city it doesn't mean everyone lies and cheats.Even in politics!
I also learned that whether it be  on the hoops court with Andy Elkus and his big  brother Roger or on the tennis court with Josh Harkavy  the best lesson I ever learned about competing was given to me by a nine year old boy with the same last name as my own  who loves Baseball and many other games and smiles with sheer joy every time he is on the field whether  practicing or in a real game.
Let us all experience that joy in every sport we "play".

  Photos from my archives or  my big bro Dave in photo above with cousin Josh
the world's greatest personal trainer.....really!        is Josh Salzman   aka Boomsy   

Sunday, January 3, 2010

mommy why is the doctor chasing me?

It was 1964 or 1965 and we were going to see Dr.Bernie Gillman for our checkups and shots. .As I am writing this my left arm is aching.But for some reason when we entered the small office on the corner of Section and Reading Roads in Cincinnati's Roselawn neighborhood we were told that his partner and fellow pediatrician Dr. Jerry Rauh was covering for Dr.Gillman that day.
We had no problem with that as my mom and dad were friendly with the Rauh's dating back to their childhood .
As we waited I played with the toys .
Going to the doctor had become old hat to my siblings and me.We were always taking some sort of medicine for sore throats or viruses.I had asthma and chronic bronchitis that was not helped by the fact that my mom was smoking two packs a day of Pall Mall unfiltered cigarettes in our presence.Years later she told me that on nights when I would be in bed wheezing with the vaporizer going full steam ahead that she would be sitting in my room reading and smoking Pall Mall's the whole time.That was obviously before any surgeon general's warning labels were introduced about the ill effects of tar and nicotine.
Back to Dr.Rauh pronounced like the ow in ouch.
Then the nurse ushered us into the room for the checkup.
It was all going pretty well.I stuck out my tongue said "AHHHHH".Dr.Rauh listened to my breathing with his cold stethoscope.Did the reflex test with the rubber triangular thing .Checked my ear ,nose and throat with the light on the portable microscope thing.Made me drink some liquid for polio I think.Pricked my arm  with some 4 pronged thing for a  tuberculosos tine test.Then pulled out a needle possibly a tetanus shot.
This is basically when all hell broke loose.I saw the needle then willed my 4 year old body off the table and ran out of the checkup room screaming.The doctor stunned didn't know how to react my mom followed.
The nurse hearing the commotion entered the fracas.I was heading for the front door but someone shouted out to the nurse to ,"Block the door".I turned to my right and headed for a table in the opposite corner of the waiting area.The adults were trying to coax me out but I was pretty damn agitated and not budging.Eventually the table was moved out and I think kicking and screaming I was brought by force back into the checkup room where against my will(arm still throbbing here) I was administered the vaccine.
There is also the possibility that Dr.Rauh had my mom re-schedule additional shots for the next week when Gillman was back in town.I can only imagine the reaction of other kids and parents in the waiting area.
Not something to boost their morale heading in for their visit with Rauh.
I probably owe Rauh a drink or two if I ever run into him back in Ohio.I am sure he had a couple that night after my hijinx that day. Eventually I had to come to terms with my fear of needles when allergy shots were given to my siblings and me weekly by our Mom on orders of an allergist and the results of his scratch tests.
A few years back I had to take my daughter for blood work at age 4 and remember holding her down as the lab tech stuck her with the needle.There would be no running of the bulls that day in the Smith Kline lab in Rye Brook ,New York. On my sons visit at age 5 to get his checkup he looked the nurse in the eye with a cold stare and stated "I am not afraid of needles".The first two shots went down pretty well.On the third a tear formed in his eye and he had a pained expression on his face but he faced his fears head on and that is really
what I took away from the experience.In my mind it was much worse than I what the reality of the shot was actually.
This past year I had to have three surgeries ,countless MRIs and multiple cortisone injections .Remembering my son's brave statement to the nurse helped get me through the anxiety.
I took my son to one of my doctor's appointments last year and upon seeing the doctor pull out a large needle to inject me with cortisone he started laughing.The doctor and I were both a bit surprised.
"Dude why are you laughing?",I asked. He replied,"Cause you always see me get shots now the tables are turned".
Should I make a run for the door?
I rolled up my sleeve and held out my arm and took my shot.
Dr.Rauh that one was for you.......... Dr Gillman passed away years ago......Dr. Rauh passed away this week I will miss them both. Many nights my mom would call them at home and they would stop by our house to help steer all three sick kids on the road to recovery.