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Friday, August 7, 2009

This Has Been a Great Week

I know, I know; I'm interrupting my series - again. But I really felt the need to express how great this week has been for me. Rarely have I woken up for work on a Friday morning

1. Last Saturday I made my triumphant return to lacrosse. We did not have many people out, so it was a nice steady return. I was rusty and stiff, but comfortable.

2. Sunday I started working in earnest on a new writing project. It is something that I am really excited about and has the potential to be a life changing event. That potential is very small, but my enthusiasm for the project is great. Details are top secret because I do not want to jinx myself or hurt the marketability of the project. I will say this though: it is a screenplay for a recently optioned licensed character; the studio and production company are taken open pitches.
Working for about two hours on Sunday and during my 45 minute lunch breaks this week, I have completed around 10% of the script already. This is very good. I have also secured a few individuals to read for content and revision. Writing is my strongest passion and something I would love to do for a career. That is why my MA is in teaching high school English; it is the next best thing. Unfortunately I do not teach - my original goal was a PhD in Creative Writing, but that is a complicated matter.

3. A few months ago I applied for a new position at my company. The manager wanted me to move the new position, but my current department refused to let me go. Around the second week of July the opportunity presented itself again. This time my supervisor agreed that it was in the best interest of my career to move on. I found out Tuesday that I am moving to the new position. On top of that, it is a small promotion with a slight raise. Since we did not get company raises this year, this made my week.

4. Tuesday night I paid my deposit for hockey. Last season I played a really short season at Wells Fargo Arena. It was an invitational league that was covered by purchasing a partial season ticket package. It was fun, but inconsistent; some weeks we had one game, some weeks two, and sometimes a month would pass between games. I missed my last games because they were on Saturdays that I was in Omaha with the Valley team. Still, it was better than playing at the Metro Ice Sports Facility in Urbandale/Johnston.

This year I am playing in an invitational league with the same group of guys. We will be at Buccaneer Arena and have weekly games. No double headers (thank God!) this year. I should get plenty of hockey as the Wednesday night league starts on September 16 and ends on May 5. I am not sure which team I will be assigned to, but two of my former teams have moved to this league. One of my friends also recently moved back to Des Moines and will be on my team as well. It is nice to know that I will be playing on the best ice available for the second year in a row.

5. Wednesday night my wife finally confirmed that I can participate in/run the Open Box Lacrosse League at the Soccer House. My promotion and raise played a part in that decision (nonbudgeted money). Ironically so did the series of events causing me to withdraw from lax for the last couple of weeks. She always says that everything happens for a reason; who knew that reason was more lacrosse?!

I still need serious feedback (email me) from people regarding the league. Some decisions I have made on my own based on circumstances. A. We will have assigned teams. The league is 5 on 5 (like real box) plus goalies. Depending on how many we have, goalies may not be assigned. B. We will start no earlier than November 4. Valley's planned fall ball tournament in West Des Moines will most likely be around October 24. We will be outside until Valley's fall schedule wraps up. C. We will only play once per week- Tuesday or Thursday. I am leaning towards Thursday. Depending on how many Valley players are participating in other sports, there may be a second night for open practice; we need our guys in shape if we want to dominate the league. D. Traditional box does not use long poles, but we might change this. I know guys are defensive specialists and it is also good to keep them working with their game sticks. Hopefully I can get in to the Soccer House to determine whether or not we can use long poles.

6. Last night was a great turnout for lacrosse. We had most of the returning Valley players there, a few adults, and a middle schooler or two. It was a good chance to assess the fitness of our players (not so good) in a competitive environment. It was also a great opportunity to see our latest acquisition - an incoming Valley freshman that just moved from North Carolina. Even being rusty from not playing since their season ended and with only two season of middle school experience the kid was good. Last night also gave us a chance to check out Cole, younger brother of Dylan (Valley's resident speedster), for the first time since April. His recent growth spurt makes him more formidable than his older brother while still having significant speed. An incoming Waukee freshman, he was our first youth player as he regularly joined us at practice. Combined with our other known freshmen (Josh-Valley and Ross-Waukee) and our returning players, Valley looks to have a strong core from which to build our 2010 Varsity and JV teams.

7. Last night was also an awesome night for me on the lax field. Somehow I made some pretty good moves and had a pretty sweet goal. My passes were on the money most of the time (sorry Ben from NC - 7th grade solid talent). The only catches I missed were those too far over my head. I was able to run longer than usual and my stick work was better all around (although my cradles were suspect - ok absent). I know I was no Paul Rabil or Matt Danowski out there (not even a Cam Bostwick), but all around, I had a great game.

8. Tonight I am going to Trostel's Dish. My wife and I went there for our last anniversary. It is definitely not cheap, but it is a fun place to go. Everything is served appetizer style and designed to share between a couple. It is very chic and quite romantic. Did I mention it is very tasty? Great martinis too. I highly recommend it for special occasions (which tonight is not).

9. GI Joe came out today. While many purists loathe filmmakers bastardizing our childhood favorites, I look at it from a different perspective. The original GI Joe cartoon that I grew up with (some of which I own on DVD) was essentially a 30 minute commercial. The show was designed to promote the figures and accessories. It was a bastardization to begin with. Still, it remains my favorite cartoon of all time. Did I mention the massive army of Joes that my brothers and I had?

Both Transformer movies were entertaining. I felt they did a good job of modernizing the material and setting it in a more realistic environment. GI Joe has a lot more to work from. Plus Ray Park is playing Snake Eyes! Darth Maul was the only great thing about Star Wars Episode 1. He was also impressive as Toad in the first X-Men movie and as the headless Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow. I plan to see GI Joe tomorrow.

10. Although the game is not on TV, the Long Island Lizards play the Chicago Machine at Soldier Field tomorrow. The Lizards need the win to make the playoffs. Unfortunately the Machine were eliminated in their overtime loss to the Washington Bayhawks last weekend (aired on Tuesday). The Washington Bayhawks played a tough Boston Cannons team last night. Unfortunately, they won. This puts the pressure on Long Island to win tomorrow. Win and they are in; lose and the Bayhawks make the playoffs. I will be cheering for the Lizards, of course.
11. I am not working on Monday. I am taking my nine-year-old sister-in-law to Adventureland. I received two free tickets and $12 of "fun money" from my company. This year she should finally be tall enough to ride the Sidewinder (the only thing she could not ride last year).

12. I slept soundly all week. I may not have hit eight hours (or even six) every night, but I did not wake up. For the past few months I have struggled sleep through the night. Having solid sleep all night was amazing.

Hopefully this streak continues into next week. I am disappointed that the weather forced me to cancel lax tomorrow. Thursday night should be our next session.

My Taste in Sports - Early School Years

"Hey remember the Ei-ei-ei-ei-ei-eightees? I do." -Goat Boy, Saturday Night Live

To those of you that loved Goat Boy, you are welcome! To those of you that hated Goat Boy, sorry, it just popped in there. To those of you scratching your heads wondering what I am talking about, it does not matter. But it does indicate the first stop on this magical journey.

When I was born, Brazilian legend Pele had just retired from playing with the New York Cosmos and German legend Franz Beckenbauer stepped up to take his place. The North American Soccer League was at the height of its popularity. Soccer leagues were popping up all across the country. At long last the world's game had reached the United States in a lasting way.

The Des Moines area had its share of leagues as well; many of them are still in operation today. Influenced by my cousin Brandon's love of playing (Brandon is about four years older than me), my parents signed me up for soccer. Although we lived on the north side at the time, I joined the same league as Brandon - the Southridge Soccer Club (now Soccer South). By the time I went to my first practice, both Beckenbauer and the NASL were gone from the US.

Although I do not remember exactly when I started playing, I do remember that it was because of soccer that I first learned to tie my shoes. In kindergarten class I was struggling with the whole shoe tying thing. The teacher tried this special board with a shoe picture and laces; she tried giving me random shoes she had collected. Neither worked. Then one night before we left for soccer practice, I sat on the floor in my black and neon orange (gotta love the 80s!) Adidas cleats that I received as hand-me-downs from Brandon. I asked my mom to tie them and she refused. She told me that if I wanted to go to practice, then I would have to tie them myself - and I did!

My fondest childhood memories of my dad come from soccer. I can remember riding across town on the back of his Honda motorcycle worried about my cleats falling off on the way to practice. He used to tape my games (and Brandon's) with a massively complicated VHS camera system. I remember him being there for those games; something that fell away later in life.

I loved playing soccer for many reasons, one of which was the fact that Brandon played; he was my hero. Back then the league wore maroon and gold uniforms, symbolic of South Des Moines. I loved pulling on that shiny polyester jersey and jacquard shorts. These days the kids wear meaningless navy and red.

Our "away" shirts were merely white t-shirts, but Coach Barry (or his wife) got a logo printed on them. We were the Tigers and I played with the same team throughout my youth soccer career. Sure kids came and went, but the core group remained in tact.

I played midfield and defense, although our coaches referred to them as halfback and fullback. A few times I found myself as a froward and I was able to play goalie in practice a few times. I always wanted to play goalie and I do not know exactly why. But if I was to guess, I would say that it was the brightly colored or black (depending on the year) long sleeve jersey.

Eventually, like all good things, my love of playing soccer came to an end. While I lived on the north side, practice was on the south side. Unfortunately, it was on the wrong part of the south side for me. The group of kids I practiced with lived in the Park Avenue district (around mostly near Jefferson Elementary and Brody Middle School, both of which I would later attend). At that time I attended Studebaker, the southernmost elementary in Des Moines. Just like soccer, Brandon also attended school there. Both of us went there because of our babysitter/daycare being in Greenfield Plaza (a/k/a Township). None of my classmates played on my team, and I am not even sure that any of them played soccer at all. Fort Des Moines baseball fields were very close to the school and I believe that most of them played there. This was the first instance of peer pressure leading me to change sports...

Continue to Part 3

Thursday, August 6, 2009

We Interrupt These Posts to Bring You a Very Important Announcement

There will be no lax this Saturday - 8/8/09. It is supposed to be in the high 90s with high humidity. These things cause a couple of things to happen:
1. Dehydration
2. Muscle Fatigue
3. Laziness
4. No shows

The first three increase the likelihood of injury. The last just causes frustration. To prevent both, we just won't play this weekend. Sorry.

The good news is that we will still have lacrosse tonight! As usual it will be at Valley Southwoods at 5:30 pm. Incoming freshmen and returning players need to be there or contact me ASAP to explain why you cannot. Everybody else is welcome to attend, as always.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My Taste In Sports - Introduction

I know. I know. I love writing massive posts which I end up breaking up into smaller posts to create a series. Maybe it is my writing background or maybe it is the sheer boredom of my working life. Who knows?

At any rate, this series will be less about improving a specific sport and more about taking a look at myself. Many people (ok, nobody) probably wonder how I got to be sooooo into lax, hockey and soccer. I often wonder that myself, hence this little journey.

The idea actually came about when I was reading one of my old posts a few days ago. When I opened my lacrosse gear, my brother made a snotty remark. "God, a couple of years ago it was soccer, then hockey, now lacrosse?! Would you just pick a sport?" Or something to that effect.

I brushed it off then, but as I peruse my blog subscription list (there are a ton) and look through my closet, I realize that he may be right. I do not know if there is a sport in the United States that I have not either played, followed, or both in my lifetime (other than track and cross country). Some sports have received more attention than others. Some were thrust upon me in my youth. Others are merely background noise for nap time. There are even sports I want to try and have not for various reasons.

In the 30 years I have been alive, I have followed all of the "big four" leagues as well as their NCAA equivalents. For the most part I have maintained my true loyalties though I do admit to fancying a second or third team from time to time. Many times this team rotates. This series will look at the teams I followed and the sports I played at a given period of time. I am sure that through the course of the series, a few readers may find some parallels to their own pasts; I invite you to share your stories as well.

Although my birth occurred in the late 1970s, this series will begin in the 1980s; breastfeeding and potty training are not exactly conducive to following sports. Throughout this journey, please keep in mind the household that I grew up in: My father was a mega nerd in high school. He never played sports and did not really care to follow them. My mother spent her high school years in a very small town. She was a cheerleader, but when your class size is that small every girl is a cheerleader. Unlike my dad, she liked sports fairly well. But she was not exactly a fan of any team or even sport. My older half-brother was a huge influence on me growing up. He stayed with us every other weekend and brought with him apparel adorned in his favorite teams. Many of my early influences came from him. Two of my cousins also helped shape my tastes in sports. Aside from that, it was all self-discovery (and maybe some peer pressure).

Continue to Part 2

Ps. I know that I said the next series will be determined via a poll. I still plan on doing that; this series is different because it is about self-reflection. For all of you crying about that decision, get your own blog! Seriously though, I do plan on using a poll to determine my next improvement series.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Poll Result - Favorite Sport

As I expected, more than half (57%) of the 21 voters picked lacrosse as their favorite sport. It makes sense; after all, this blog was created to spread lacrosse throughout the Des Moines metro. I still try to keep the lacrosse content at the forefront, but I know that other sports have taken over a bit more lately.
Soccer, in particular, has been a primary feature over the last couple of weeks. But that makes sense since July is the pinnacle of the American soccer season every year with the PDL playoffs, the MLS All Star game, SuperLiga, US Open Cup, and other events. This year was dubbed "The Summer of Soccer" by many commentators because of the United States Mens National Team's participation in both the Gold Cup and Confederations Cup, as well as qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup (next game: 8/12 in Mexico City). Perhaps my extensive coverage of soccer over the last few weeks led to the high percentage (23%) of soccer supporters in the poll.
Rounding out the poll, Baseball came in with two votes while hockey and basketball each received one. Most surprisingly, football did not receive a single vote. Less surprisingly, neither did rugby, cricket, NASCAR or track. These results may have some influence on future posts, but for the most part I plan to focus on things I find relevant. Rest assured that racing will probably never receive coverage here unless something truly outrageous happens (beyond the stupidity of driving in circles for hours using gas while oil prices jump as high as they did last summer).
The new poll, which is already up, asks about what my next series should be. Give me your input!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Organization is the key...

It occurs to me that I have done a couple of "series" like the soccer series that wrapped up yesterday. As this month goes along, I plan to include some organization links for each series on the sidebar.
You may remember some of my series dating back to October when I speculated about which major athletics company will be the next to move to lacrosse. Various other topics an in series including restructuring lax from the college level up, my serious of "motivational" posters," how lax can help you in other sports, video tips, and various MLL topics. As this blog cements itself deeper into the sporting world, expect to see more series over time. My next poll might be about determining which sports entity I tackle next. Check back in a couple of days...
On a side note, I've already passed 260 posts without realizing it! Holy crap!

Tribe 7