His shining star

The past few times we’ve gone to Wal-Mart, Gavin was unexpectantly really excited. As soon as we turn into the parking lot, he begins. “Cowboys store! Cowboys store!” At first I was at a loss. Then his sister explained it to me. Kinda fitting, really.

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Cats scratched fever

gavincowboy

A friend of mine is a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. When his son was around two, I gifted him an Aikman jersey. A few years later the jersey was given back to me as a gift for Gavin. And stupidly I accepted it.

And now I am the father of a … (cringing) .. Cowboys fan. It’s now his favorite jersey. Sickening.

Dog Pound

Went to a Fayetteville Swampdogs game last Friday night. Amazingly, Big G overcame his “Large Mute Animal” fear to give the team mascot Fun-Go some digital love.

This came after his sissy put him to shame. She’s doesn’t hug mascots as much as tackle. And I love how the crowd made sure to get that Dawg’s attention.

This was my first trip to J.P. Riddle Stadium since the 90s, when my aunt abandoned me and two friends in the parking lot. We barely escaped with our lives! (Not really, but it’s a long story). My grandfather was also a HUGE supporter of the team. He had players over to his house for dinner. Collected broken bats to make pencil holders. He was honored by the team with his own card, labeled “No. 1 Fan.”

Of course, that was when the team was called the Generals. They later became the Crocs; now the Swampdogs. And they’re good too!

Best part of the night? We apparently scored seats in the heckling section, aka the Dawg Pound. Best taunt? “Hey pitcher! Your momma called! She said it’s time to walk the dog!”

Second best part? Whenever the home team crossed home plate, the home PA played .. of course .. “Who Let The Dogs Out?” It was just the chorus. And in the break between lines, the crowd chanted the pitchers number.

SONG: Who let the dogs out?

CROWD: 2!!!!!! … 1!!!!!!!!!

SONG: Who let the dogs out?

CROWD: 2!!!!!! … 1!!!!!!!!!

They did this while madly stutter stomping on the metal bleachers. Awesome.

Kick start

A couple months ago the wife was at the local Habitat ReStore and found – brand new and unopened – a baseball pitchback. For $10. What a deal! Saturday evening I finally got around to putting it together. It was meant for Big G. But that bad boy is now for me!

I think I’m in glove!
pitchback
I spent an hour throwing at it Saturday, and another hour yesterday. Both days till my elbow felt like strained pebbles. I felt pretty good about hitting the strike zone …. until I actually bothered to look up the actual distance between a hitter and pitcher. Sixty feet!?! I measured it out. Really? That far? Randy Johnson throws THAT fast THAT far? No Rookie sequel for me.

Gavin watched me attempt to pretend to try and be a real pitcher. He saw some minor leaguers do it live. And on his first try, he did his best to imitate.

PERFECT!

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Crawdad conflictions

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Went to the Hickory Crawdads game last Friday night. It didn’t take the Gs long to spot Conrad, cause the costumed crustacean crept continuously around the crowd. They were obsessed with him. When finally he passed our way, they rushed to him!

Gabby, of course, was overjoyed!

As for Gavin? Well … He made this face, and made this sound. That’s him sqealing at the end of that video up there. He no liked Conrad. Uh-uh.

For Gabby, this is her fifth encounter with a cottoned one. Her first, with Yosef, went the way of Gavin. But since then she’s loved them. So far in her four years she’s met –

Yosef
Dora and Diego
Chick-Fil-A cow (Gavin liked him)
– Smokey the Bear (no photo, cause Gavin was suddenly getting his Jamie Lee Curtis on)

Getting our kicks in

gatsoccer

A few weeks ago I had to drop the wife off at the high school for a parent-teacher conference with the Teen. As we pulled in, I saw soccer practice ongoing down the hill. So before leaving I went down toward the field and stopped. I told the Gs to looks outside at the soccer game.

“They’re playing soccer, Gavin!” I said. He was, of course, mesmerized. And every morning since then, as I drive up to the high school to drop off the Teen, Gavin insists, “Wanna see soccer ball game, daddy.” And I have to disappoint him with, “Sorry Gavin. They don’t play soccer in the morning.”

So yesterday, after leaving the end-of-year celebration for him and Gabby at their day care, I took Gavin to his first ever soccer game. We stopped an Mickey Ds on the way. Dinner in the stands! What more could a father-son mandate require?

We got to the game, Watauga High against South Caldwell. It was a girls’ game. We found a seat off to the side. I got out our burgers. And took in the game. Gavin had a ball. He sat upright on the bleachers, holding his burger, rocking his feet, and – taking the cue for the crowd – occasionally yelling, “Kick it!”

We lasted a good 25 minutes. Never did he get bored. He was into it. Then came halftime. Only then was it time to go.

So a few weeks shy of his second birthday, Big G has taken in the following games live – football, basketball, baseball (all college) and now soccer (high school). Next up? Maybe some Crawdads.

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Hat to the back

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I keep a stack of ball caps hanging on an old bottle on my dresser. One day, Big G happened to take notice of my little ornamental tree. “Hat! Hat!” he cried whiel pointing. So I pulled one off and have it to him. It was a Cleveland Indians hat, one I bought more than 10 years ago.

I put it on his head and told him, “It’s a baseball hat!”

He was smittin’ with the fittin’. For three days he refused to take it off. He wore it to school. He wore it outside. He even wore it when begging for cookies at the neighbor’s house.

“Bah-ball hat!” he’d said, when asked about it.

His fascination came to an untimely end when, for lack of rocks and sticks, he decided to throw the hat into the creek by our house. I saved it, but it was rather muddy. It went into a dirty clothes pile and, like most all things drawn to this pile, it disappeared. It was found yesterday. He promptly wanted to wear it to school.

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Big G pretending to drive the neighbor’s riding lawn mower

Fantasy Finish

So another NFL regular season has come and gone. That’s 256 games. Playing the ESPN Pigskin Pick’em fantasy game, I tried my hand at guessing the winner in every one. The end result?

I broke the 90th percentile. 91.0% to be exact. Not too bad. Not too bad at all.

Five weeks in, I was En Fuego. Then I did something stupid. I started listening to what ESPN – or, more specifically, Mike and Mike, and PTI – was saying. Among the pronouncements at some point during the season –

1. Dallas is the greatest team evah! (Weeks 1-3)
2. Without Brady the Pats will be lucky to win eight games (Weeks 1-6)
3. Philadelphia is done. McNabb is gone. (Week 11)
4. Indy should be 0-4. They’re old and they stink. (Week 6)
5. Miami is a fluke. (Week 7)
6. HERE COME THE JETS! (Week 12)

So after a good start, I peetered out. Weeks 9, 13 and 16 were brutal. I only got seven picks right. Then came last week. The final week of the season. One last chance too redeem myself. One last chance to pretend I know what I’m knowing. And, hug a Kasey, I went out on top.

15

Of 16 games, I nailed 15. (Stupid Bucs. How in the name of Gruden could you lose to the Raiders?) I won the “week” amongst all 587 people in the Deadspin group.

For the season, I ended tied for 75th best in the group.

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Among all entries at espn.com, I finished 32,646, which sounds nowhere near as impressive as 75th among 587.

Next year, I’m playing again … with spreads!

The game of Risk

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What I was doing this time last year

SETUP. Last year Appalachian State went to its third straight national championship football game. Even before the semifinal game was finished, the game sold out. Tickets with a face value of $20 sold for well over $100 on ebay. I lucked out getting two as a gift from a great boss.

THE GAMBLE. This season I wanted to avoid last year’s panic. With three weeks still left in the regular season, I bought three championship tickets. One for me. Two for a friend. Within two days the game sold out. I also booked a hotel room.

TOTAL INVESTMENT. Three tickets at $32.50 each. A hotel reservation I could cancel. I put $97.50 on the line.

THE COLLAPSE. ASU lost in the second round to Richmond, thanks in great part to three interceptions by Spider Seth Williams. After the game, my brother calls to let me know Seth is a friend of his from high school. Salt.

STRIKE ONE. Overnight ebay was flooded with tickets. Few bids would come. One four-ticket auction went for 99 cents.

STRIKE TWO. I called to cancel hotel room; was told I had made a non-refundable, non-cancelable reservation. Spent 20 minutes with customer service arguing. And lost. Bank account was docked $69.95.

TOTAL LOSS. $167.45.

HAIL MARY ONE. I put all three tickets individually on ebay. Starting bid $10. Shipping $2.50. One sales. For $10. Other two never do. Shipping *just* covers ebay costs.

HAIL MARY TWO. A co-worker told me Tuesday he’d sold his tickets to a Richmond fan living in Atlanta. I asked if he thought they’d want more. He called them. They said yes. So I call. The buyer is a die hard Georgia Southern fan, but her nephew is the starting quarterback for Richmond. I mention my brother’s relationship with Seth Williams. Turns out, her nephew and Seth are roommates and good friends. She buys my tickets for $25 each. I overnight them to her out of my pocket, $16.95.

TOTAL LOSS NOW. $124.40

LUCKY FUMBLE ONE: Hotel leaves me voicemail Wednesday asking if I’m showing up Friday. I call back Thursday morning, wondering what’s going on. Front desk attendant has no idea. Just says she has a note indicating I was called and asks if I’m coming. I repeat that I’d love to cancel and get a refund, but was told that was impossible. She says she can’t help me. I hang up. Inspired, I email both the hotel and corporate headquarters. I ask why one day I’m told I can’t cancel, tough, deal with it. The next I’m getting asked if I’m going to show up. I ask again for a refund. Wthin 10 minutes hotel responds. There were problems with online booking, they canceled my reservation, all money refunded.

LUCKY FUMBLE TWO. My Atlanta ticket buyer calls me. She says she just got the tickets. She saw how much shipping cost. She’s sending me a check to cover shipping.

TOTAL LOSS NOW. $37.50.

POSTGAME HANDSHAKE. Friend for whom I purchased two of the three tickets agrees to pay two-thirds the loss.

TOTAL LOSS. $12.50.

Not a bad gamble, huh?