Archive for November, 2010

The IWLCA Convention

November 30, 2010

By: Megan Moore
Assistant Women’s Lacrosse Coach

I’ve been traveling a lot lately. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving break Brooke and I headed down to Naples, Florida for the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Annual Meeting and high school recruiting tournament. Do I dare stir the already over-heated pot and discuss airport security? There were no pat-downs involved and we made it to all of our gates unscathed. So I do not dare, and would prefer to keep the post much less controversial.

Jen Adams finished her career as the NCAA all-time leader in points (445) and assists (178) and was the three-time National Player of the Year

It’s intimidating when you realize that you’re going to spend three days in the presence of some of the greats of your sport and profession.  Perhaps this isn’t as ironically funny to the rest of you as it was to Brooke and me, but there is nothing like scoping out a dinner table on the fringe of the patio only to have the one and only Jen Adams approach us, introduce herself as if we might not have known her to be the greatest player of all time, and ask to join.  I haven’t often found myself in a situation like that, but it’s quite difficult and a little awkward to make conversation with someone whom you and every other girls lacrosse player tried to emulate by wearing your hair in two messy buns and striving to play for the Maryland Terps. “So, how exactly did you perfect that no-angle lefty shot from virtually behind the cage, because I never could quite get that one,” didn’t really seem appropriate. Instead I played it cool, said about six words to her, and managed to give a friendly smile and maybe mouthed hello in passing for the remainder of the convention.

Jan receives the IWLCA lifetime achievement award

One would think having spent significant time with one great in particular that I wouldn’t suffer from such intimidation. Jan Hathorn ranks right up there with the best of the best in women’s lacrosse and was so deservedly honored at this year’s convention with the Diane Geppi-Aikens Memorial award. It’s next to impossible to summarize Diane’s triumphs, spirit and valor and the impact she had on the game.  If you are not familiar, Diane was the 13-year head coach of the Loyola College Women’s Lacrosse team, leading them to 10 trips to the NCAA tournament and seven to the Final Four. For eight of those 13 years she battled brain cancer. In 2003 she coached the Greyhounds to a National Semi-Final appearance, only one month before the cancer took her life. Jan accepted the award on Thursday night with grace and charisma and it was her telling of stories and the camaraderie that ensued after the banquet that inspired a shift in my sentiments from intimidation to humility.  It was awesome to see and hear some of the most winningest coaches and former players congratulate Jan and share their remembered tales.  I felt an overwhelming sense of community and pride for the game and a new understanding of what so many of those people have given to it to help shape what it’s become today. In spending so much of their lives dedicated to the sport they have formed lasting bonds with each other. And the coolest part is they’ve become great friends, despite being or having been fierce competitors on opposing sidelines.  It was not only the success of these people that made the experience so awe-inspiring, but their genuine and unassuming demeanors and as Brooke so aptly put it, “that they are truly good people.”

Diane Geppi-Aikens

I was also fortunate to get the chance to spend time with former teammates and opponents who have become some of my best friends.  We absorbed our surroundings, listened to many passionate debates about NCAA tournament seedings and shooting-space rules, and happily recounted the glory days. But not without realizing just how large of shoes we face to fill; there seemed to be an unspoken understanding between the younger generations that at one point all of those coaches who we’ve come to admire were in our positions, wide-eyed and star-struck and anxious to prove themselves.

I can’t say that the celebrity sighting wore off completely, as I was very aware of the legend joining us on our flight home and am pretty sure I adamantly caught Brooke’s attention to let her know that Gary Gait was sitting three rows ahead and across the aisle from us.  I watched from afar with envy as another ODAC coach tossed his carry-on in the bin and saddled up in the seat next to Mr. Gait’s.  But I couldn’t be bitter remembering the knowledge, inspiration and experience I’d gained in the few days prior.  Besides, I’d already had dinner with Jen Adams, and who gets lucky enough to have two encounters with celebrities in one weekend?

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Sports Biographies

November 23, 2010

By: Rachel Buck
Sports Information Assistant

Now that it is basketball season I will be spending a lot more time on the bus, traveling with our women’s team to all of its away games. That time on the bus allows me more reading time than my usual hour or so every night before I retire to bed, so I tend to cover a few more books during basketball season.

And while this affords me to continue to put a dent in one of my personal goals to complete a list of the top 100 novels ever written (a list one of my college friends gave me when we graduated and a challenge we have undertook together), being around a sports team also leads me to read more sports-based biographies.

Working in sports information, I have the opportunity to get to know the players I work with on a daily basis more personally than fans, given the access and amount of time spent in such a small group. And that is one part of the job that I’ve always enjoyed…anyone can look at a website and spew stats for a player, but I think it adds another interesting layer to get to know a person, what drives them and see other special interests that not many other people get to see.

Which is why I also love reading biographies. It sounds weird, but biographies often help to give a human element to my favorite sports personalities. Often we see our favorite stars just as that: head coach, all-star right wing, gold-glove shortstop; but we forget that they are humans too, often going through the personal struggles that so many of us experience.

While the list of sports biographies that I have read is extensive, below are some of the favorites on my list. Obviously open for comments, but this list represents some of the best books that capture coaches, players, fans and the human nature of some of my favorite sports personalities.

Al McGuire

1. Cracked Sidewalks and French Pastry: The Wit and Wisdom of Al McGuire – Tom Kertscher
When I think Marquette basketball two names instantly come to mind: Dwyane Wade and Al McGuire. McGuire is the namesake for the gorgeous arena where our women’s basketball and volleyball teams play, but his presence seems to be everywhere on the MU campus. A collection of his amazing common-sense attitude paired with his amazing knowledge and love of basketball, I read this book in one sitting. You get a sense of the man, his impact on the MU community and of course the city of Milwaukee. Especially infamous with the Marquette student population at Real Chili, to this day after bar close (well, I guess anytime, but it seems to be more prevalent at 3 am) you can go to the restaurant on Wells St., sit in the same spot McGuire did and recite his famous quote “if the waitress has dirty ankles, the chili is good.”

2. When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi – David Maraniss
Much like the book on McGuire, the novel gives a setting to Lombardi, his personality and his time in Green Bay. Not growing up a Packers fan, I still appreciated the book, and the way it is put together. It is more about the man and what made him special than his football accomplishments, and that is always a refreshing change from the usual banter of a coach and his on-field success rather than what makes him, him. It also paints a picture of small-market Green Bay, and what the organization and Lombardi meant to the people of the town, especially as the NFL was in its infancy as a sports powerhouse in the USA.

3. Home Ice – Reflections on Backyard Rinks and Frozen Ponds – Jack Falla
This book reminds me so much of home and how much hockey means to people in the upper Midwest and Northeast (where the author is from and his reflections are based). Growing up in the Midwest, my hometown had five outdoor and two indoor rinks and numerous lakes, ponds and rivers that people would meticulously groom from the first freeze to make a great skating surface for shinny hockey. A great collection and reflection of skating with family, friends and the love of the game that shows it doesn’t necessarily need to be played on a perfectly groomed sheet to be fully appreciated.

Travis Roy

4. Eleven Seconds:  A Story of Tragedy, Courage and Triumph – Travis Roy
An emotional story of the author who, while playing UND, skated through a check he was trying to finish and crashed head-first into the boards, leaving him a quadriplegic just 11 seconds into his first collegiate game at BU. It is an amazing story of his recovery, with candid accounts of the successes, struggles and everything involved in overcoming an injury. Where many people give up, he continues to fight and work hard everyday to regain some normalcy, all while still loving the game that nearly ended his life.

5. Catcher in the Wry – Bob Uecker
Obviously a homer pick, but it is a book that truly captures everything that makes Uke, Uke. From his days in the minor leagues to his broadcasting career and all of his time with the Milwaukee Braves/Brewers organization, it is a great memoir from a man who quipped that he “made mediocrity famous”.

6. Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby
I loved this book because it captured what it really means to be a fan. A great image of the extremes that some fans go for their team, even though he bases the book around his love of Arsenal, you don’t have to be a soccer fan to appreciate. I was able to identify how I act with many of the same mannerisms he did in regards to my favorite teams, and how that truly becomes part of a person’s identity, whether others around them fully recognize it or not.

If you liked the movie, you'll love the book!

7. The Natural – Bernard Malamud
Also a good movie, but like most movies based on a book, the movie does little justice to the actual print. The book takes you a little deeper, darker and covers the trials and tribulations of Roy Hobbs in more depth. While watching the movie I felt like I could cheer for Hobbs to not succeed, the print connected me more with Hobbs, and I found myself hoping that he would be able to overcome his struggles and really become “the best player ever”.

8. They Call Me Coach – John Wooden
I couldn’t do a list without a John Wooden book. An amazing look at an extraordinary man, it covers not only his time at UCLA, but also his playing career and life off of the court. Wooden is open to giving his own opinions about the NCAA and how it could be improved, in addition to his coaching philosophy and how he groomed young men to be not only athletes, but also contributing members of society. Amazing life lessons that he taught people who crossed his path are easily accessible and applicable to everyday life (as my friend described it, almost like a self-help book in disguise, mixed with sports).

9. Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports is Crippling Undergraduate Education – Murray Sperber
This book is a discussion of how athletics often gets in the way of academics, especially at a Division I level. He paints a vivid description of how big-time schools often use athletics to increase its applicant pool, but then neglect those students when it comes to their undergraduate education. Students graduate with a degree, but don’t necessarily receive the quality education they could have, instead being sold on the “experience” of college while the school funnels tuition money toward graduate programs and continued marketing to promote athletics as the reason a prospective student should attend the university. The book is a great snapshot of big-time athletics, even with the author’s limitations on content (which he states in his forward, due to publisher restraints).

10. The Courting of Marcus Dupree – Willie Morris
The history and sports nerd in me enjoyed this book because the focus of the novel is not only on a young man, how he played football and his path to becoming a college player, but it also touched on race relations in Mississippi. It was amazing to me how one state, especially one that was so racially divided at one point in history, clamored to one young African-American player as its star, unifying sports fans of all races. ESPN recently made it into a 30 for 30 film, and while it was captivating, it really didn’t do the book justice (glad I read the book before the feature was released).

Art Imitating Life or Life Imitating Art?

November 19, 2010

By: Bryan Snyder
Assistant Athletic Director/Head Volleyball Coach

As I was running on the treadmill in the fitness center a few weeks ago and flipping through some channels on the TV, I came across the movie Major League II, and watched the final 20 minutes or so of the movie.  I love sports movies, and even though baseball is far from my favorite sport, there seem to be more good movies about baseball than of any other sport, and in fact, my favorite movie of all time, Bull Durham, is a baseball movie.  In sports, anything is possible, and oftentimes in sports films, improbable situations play out that remind us of just that fact.

Jake Taylor (left) speaks with Ricky Vaughn (right) in one of the best sports movies ever made (even if it has been proven inaccurate)

So, as I watched the final scenes of Major League II, in which Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn comes into the game as a relief pitcher and tells his manager that he wants to intentionally walk the first hitter he is scheduled to face so that he can pitch to Jack Parkman, who absolutely owns Vaughn, I started thinking about the original Major League movie.  It too has a great ninth inning scene that includes Vaughn entering the game to strike out the Yankees’ vaunted Clew Haywood in the top half of the inning before the hero of the film, Indians catcher Jake Taylor, lays down a surprise bunt with two outs in the bottom of the inning that scores Willie Mays Hayes from second to win the game.  However, if you pay close attention to the set up of that scenario in the movie, you will notice that even though anything is possible in sports and movies, that outcome could not actually have occurred as scripted.  Let me explain …

In the one-game playoff between the Indians and the Yankees, Hayes leads off the seventh inning by making an out, and Taylor follows that up by grounding out (he appears to hurt his hamstring while running out the ground ball … which helps to set up the ninth inning bunt).  The next batter, Roger Dorn, gets on base before Pedro Cerrano hits a two-run homer to tie the game, and the score remains the same until Taylor’s “epic” bunt in the bottom of the ninth.  This is where the chronology seems to come unraveled.  Since no more runs are scored we know the maximum and minimum number of batters who can come to the plate in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.  First, assume that the batter after Cerrano (we will call him the #5 hitter) makes the final out of the seventh inning, and then, the Indians go 1-2-3 in the ninth (batters #6, #7, #8).  That would make the #9 hitter the first out in the ninth inning, brining Hayes up with only one out, as opposed to the two outs that the scene shows.  We can also try the maximum hitter route, where the #5, #6 and #7 hitters get on base in the seventh after Cerrano’s homer before the #8 hitter makes the final out (remember, no runs score in the 7th or 8th after Cerrano’s blast).  Then, in the eighth, three men reach base, and three men make outs (#9 through #5 hitters), meaning that the #8 hitter would be up with two outs and nobody on in the ninth, and Hayes is the #1 hitter.  I hope that doesn’t ruin the ending of that movie for anyone (it doesn’t for me), and I like the poetic license taken by the writers and producers on that one.

Many hours were spent playing RBI baseball around college campuses in the early 1990's

As I was thinking about that movie and how it ends, it also reminded me of something a friend of mine sent me a few years ago via email.  The original Nintendo video game system was a huge hit when I was in high school, before the proliferation of all of the other game systems that are out there now, and I brought mine with me when I came to W&L as a freshmen.  Needless to say, many hours were spent playing all sorts of games, and all of our favorites were sports games, one of which was RBI Baseball.  Just as the writers of Major League wanted to create the most dramatic effect for the ending of their film, sometimes, re-creating real-life drama can be quite amazing as well.  Check out this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t12qml7up-o to see how one man recreated the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets via RBI Baseball.  I was 13 years old when that game occurred, and I can remember the ball going through Buckner’s legs like it was this fall.  I was rooting for the Mets in that Series (I am a Cincinnati Reds fan, but that Mets team, with Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, etc. was “cool” to those of us just entering our teen years) and was elated when the Mets came back to win.  I also played several thousand games of RBI baseball between 1987 and 1993 (when Sega Genesis took over the home video game system market), so this story was just unbelievable to me when I first saw it.  RBI Baseball has its quirks and tricks, as any video game does, so I can see how this guy was able to pull this off, but I also realize how hard it would have been to do and how long he spent doing it.  Makes me wish I would have thought of it 20 years ago!

The Chatroom Experience

November 16, 2010

By: Kelly Mathis
Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach

After graduating from College, moving home for a little while and re-connecting with old familiar faces, my hometown local newspaper approached me and asked me to sit in the “chat room”.  As a new face in Lexington and around the University, I thought it would only be appropriate to share the questions and answers of my “chat room” experience.  Here it goes, I hope you enjoy getting to know me a little more. For the full article you can visit the Blount Today.

Who are you most like, your mother or your father and why?
“I would say that beauty and smarts come from my mom, Lynn Mathis, and stubbornness and work ethic from my father, Barry Mathis.”

How do you like your steak cooked?
“I like a steak cooked medium or medium well.”

What are you guilty of?
“Eating too many hot fudge cakes from Shoney’s. They are the best hot fudge cakes. I had five knee surgeries and every time after surgery, someone would bring me a hot fudge cake to help my recovery go a little faster.  It always worked!!!”

If you could do one impulsive thing, unrestricted by cost, what would it be?
“Book a flight and go around to different countries to teach less fortunate young girls how to play basketball.”

What is your favorite material possession?
“My hair straightener. I could not go a day without it.”

What is your favorite quote from television or a movie?
‘”You know that thing when you see someone cute, and he smiles, and your heart kind of goes like warm butter sliding down hot toast? Well, that’s what it’s like when I see a store. Only it’s better.’ Rebecca Bloomwood in “Confessions of a Shopaholic.”

What are you reading currently?
“ ‘Standing Tall:  A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph’ by Vivian Stringer.”

What was your most embarrassing moment?
“I would have to say after basketball practice my freshman year at Pfeiffer I flushed my car keys and keyless remote down the toilet. The maintenance men went to get it out of the sewer. When they knocked on my door to tell me they have never had to fish keys out of the sewer, it was terribly embarrassing. But I got the keys back, and they still worked.”

If you only had a week to live, what would you do and why?
“Go sky diving, and pray for more time.”

What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon and why?
“I was more of a ‘Saved By the Bell’ and ‘7th Heaven’ watcher because I was not a morning person. Saturday mornings, I slept for as long as I could.”

What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
“Determined. My senior season at Pfeiffer I played with a meniscus tear in my right leg. After the season I had my fifth knee surgery. I have had three ACL reconstructions, one scar tissue scope and one meniscus cartilage repair.”

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“I really would not change anything because every obstacle that I have encountered has taught me a lesson, made me stronger and molded me into the person I am today.”

What is your passion?
“Sports. My family has always been tied to sports, and I was able to go to Pfeiffer University on a basketball scholarship, major in Sports Management and now I’m coaching.”

With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“Pat Summitt. She has always been a role model of mine, and I have always been a big Lady Vols fan. Now that I have graduated and become a coach at the collegiate level, I would ask her some advice and, of course, her secret to winning championships.”

If a movie were made about your life who would play you and why?
“Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts. They are both hilarious and very confident.”

What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“Not sure if I received it in a box, but the best gift I ever received were Billy Ray Cyrus and Dolly Parton concert tickets. This was when Billy Ray Cyrus had his hit song ‘Achy, Breaky Heart.’”

What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
“Study and save your money.”

In the workplace, would you rather be powerful or popular?
“I think if you are popular and well-liked in the workplace then you earn the respect of your co-workers therefore becoming powerful.”

Do you use Myspace, Facebook or Twitter?
“I use Facebook, but I enjoy texting a lot more. Unfortunately, it is a more expensive habit because I pay for unlimited text messaging.”

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
“If you ever drive by our house, you will see my mom in the yard doing yard work. When my sister and I were little, my mom would make us earn a Sonic drink. We would help pick weeds out of her flower beds, and each weed was worth a penny. Once we picked 100 weeds, we would get to ride down to Sonic and enjoy a nice, cold drink. So it was rewarding, but hard work.”

Road Trippin’

November 12, 2010

By: Adam Huchinson
Head Men’s Basketball Coach

For much of America, the culminating moment of college basketball is watching “One Shining Moment” at the end of the NCAA Division I Championship.  That segment represents the dreams, talents, heartbreaks, and triumphs of thousands of college basketball players, boiled down to a 3 minute clip.  The one thing that all college athletes are intimately familiar with that never makes it into “One Shining Moment”:  buses.

Road trips can be both exciting and tedious, often at the same time.  Given the length of basketball season, and the great investment of time by the athletes, you always want road trips to have a “feel good”.  Generally the enjoyment of road trips is primarily affected by the outcome of the game or games.  But there is on other variable: food.

Team meals can be a tremendous bonding experience and are an important part of every season.  This is true about the bad stops that your team can laugh about, and the good stops that your players can’t wait to hit the next time we play in that area.  Most of my former players think that I love Cracker Barrel, because it seems like we eat there on every trip.  Honestly guys, I don’t.  It just so happens that there is a Cracker Barrel a perfect distance from every single ODAC opponent that we play.  Listed below are my 6 favorite eateries from my 8 years of W&L basketball trips.

The Shark Bar, NYC – Exposed brick interior, subdued lighting, good music, friendly wait staff, and soul food that is OUT OF THIS WORLD.  Recommendation: try the blackened catfish, yams, collard greens and wings.

BD’s Mongolian BBQ, Cleveland Heights, OH – Definitely a 17-22 year old kind of vibe, but the food is really good, and it’s all you can eat.  Fill your bowl with whatever you see, and tell them to cook it up.  Just remember to save room for dessert.  Recommendation:  The apple caramel cobbler sundae is huge and delicious.  Plan on not eating for 24 hours before and after.

The Original Texas Wiener, Plainfield, NJ – This is a sentimental choice for me.  I remember eating here when I was a small kid, and I later learned to drive because my mother would send me over to get dogs.  Classic NJ cuisine.  Single counter, 3 stools, nothing else.  I am pretty sure the same family has owned this establishment since 1975.  Recommendation:  chilli dog with everything on it.  Just don’t get back on a bus for a 6 hour drive back to Lex after eating here.

Paschals, Atlanta GA – Great music and ambiance, terrific soul food.  Recommendation:  shrimp etouffee.

Eats, Atlanta GA – Aptly named establishment, since the food is the only reason to recommend the place.  It looks like an old auto parts store that they neglected to redecorate, and your order will come on a paper plate and wrapped in tinfoil.  Nonetheless, the food is delicious.  Recommendation:  whatever they are cooking, you should be eating.

Pizzeria Uno – I don’t know exactly where in northern VA, this is, but we stopped here after playing in DC a couple of seasons ago.  Recommendation: the Uno.  Can’t beat Chicago Style deep dish pizza.

As opening night approaches I am looking for good places to eat, so please feel free to respond with recommendations (especially for the upcoming Philly trip).  For ODAC games, I need something, ANYTHING, besides Cracker Barrel!

What of Milestones?

November 9, 2010

Joe Paterno recently won his 400th game

By: Jan Hathorn
Athletic Director

Milestones.  I’ve been thinking a lot about them lately.  Maybe it’s because I just recently celebrated my 50th birthday. Or maybe it’s because I’m officially eligible for such things as AARP and Lifetime Achievement Awards (who knew?!).  Or maybe it’s because we’ve celebrated several milestones on our coaching staff this fall: Wendy Orrison earning her 100th win at W&L; Neil Cunningham earning his 200th career win; Bryan Snyder earning his 300th win at W&L; and Frank Miriello as the football coach with the most wins in program history – 82 wins and counting.  Or maybe it’s the unimaginable 400 wins of Joe Paterno.

Which has gotten me to wondering – what exactly is a milestone?  What do milestones represent? The dictionary lists two definitions for the term milestone:

1. a stone pillar that shows the distance in miles to or from a place

2. a significant event in life, history, etc

When I see these definitions, I realize they both apply to the milestones that have been celebrated lately.   When someone reaches a significant event in their life, almost certainly there are pillars that mark the miles they have journeyed to get there.  (In my own life, these pillars ARE made of stone, since I am now officially OLD!) And these pillars, these markers, represent all kinds of events or happenings that created the miles someone has traveled.  I mean, the markers that appear along the path of someone’s coaching career definitely represent a whole lot of ups and downs, wins and losses, blood, sweat and tears along the way; the good, the bad and the ugly, if you will, of getting to those career numbers.  It’s not an easy road to travel, this coaching career thing.

One thing’s for sure: implicit in the definition of a milestone is longevity, which is why I have such great respect for coaches who achieve career numbers.  These are people who have been committed to their profession for a long time and have spent a great deal of their life’s time and effort to achieve remarkable things.  It speaks of a coach’s resiliency, dedication and passion… and maybe their mental state… as well as their love for their sport and the athletes they coach. And when you think about the pillars that appear on the path of these journeys, it’s hard not to respect them for all they’ve been through to get there because anyone who has ever been involved in athletics knows: the highs are so high and the lows are so low.

Most of our coaches would never brag to you about these achievements.  It’s not in their nature.  But I think it is only right that we honor you in this way. Heaven knows how hard you worked and what you’ve sacrificed to achieve this.

So, I offer my sincerest and heartiest congratulations to all of the coaches in our department who have realized these achievements. Thank you for what you have given to so many as you traveled this journey of many miles.

Family Bonding Abroad

November 5, 2010

By: Megan Moore
Assistant Women’s Lacrosse Coach

Atop Jungrau in the Swiss Alps

I’ve had the luxury of traveling throughout Europe for the past 10 days. I could give a play-by-play of the trip but I’ve already spent an embarrassing amount of time captioning my European album on Facebook and have realized, as most people who have been abroad know, words can’t quite do the experiences justice.  I was fortunate enough to be included in my parents’ plans to visit my younger sister who is studying in Geneva, Switzerland for a fall semester in college.  I questioned my adulthood and independence more than a few times riding in the backseat of our rental car, feeling incredibly lucky if not a tad bit guilty that I had landed myself a free trip to Europe. Not many self-sufficient 24 year-olds can say that, and having spent time studying in Italy in college, I realized just how much more I valued the opportunity this go-around. I owe that realization to the unusual amount of time we spent as a family in close quarters. It’s been awhile since Mom, Dad, Kaitlyn and I have all lived under the same roof.  Spending 10 days in the same trains, planes, hotel rooms and one very homey station-wagon led me to see the whole experience from their different perspectives.

The Moore family with Kait's swiss parents

My sister has been living in Europe for almost three months. She lives with a terrific older couple in their suburban home that they share with their son and daughter-in-law and grandchildren.  The house is always buzzing with something going on, in French of course, and is complete with a big fluffy dog named Elliot and a cat who thinks he’s big and fluffy named Nintendo. Her home-stay mom and dad are wonderful cooks and serve delicious cheese, wine and chocolate with dinner; the meal we had at their house was by far the best of the trip. She lives within minutes of beautiful Swiss country-side and the majestic Alps are in her backyard. She’s heard lectures from prominent NGO leaders, has access to international resources including the U.N. library and has spent most of her weekends exploring the continent.

Kait and I at a beer garden in Munich

Despite all of this, she has become disillusioned.  She misses her friends, she misses American eating habits (terrible as they may be), she misses American prices (Switzerland is unbelievably expensive), she probably misses her mom, dad and sister when we’re not cramping her style abroad with her and she misses English.  She is grateful for her time there and puts on a happy face about it, but my instinct upon first hearing her discontent was to jump all over her. “So what if you have to spend every lunch time wandering the streets eating nothing but bread and Nutella – you’re in Europe!” Meanwhile I was spouting off the little French I knew to her home-stay family, much to her embarrassment, and gleefully entertaining holing up in a small cottage somewhere in the foothills, writing stories and living off of a garden and a cow for the rest of my life.  Ok, maybe just for a few years, but I tried very hard to explain to her that too soon it would all be over and she would find herself daydreaming about watching the boats sailing on Lake Geneva and that her friends, family and the Dollar Menu would always be waiting for her in America. But of course, I “just didn’t understand.”

Munich

And if I didn’t understand, then my parents who’ve had less travel experience than their two daughters half their age, were completely unable to empathize.  Their approach at handling European train-stations, driving, tipping and basic communication, while anxiety-inducing and borderline mortifying for my sister, became more and more endearing to me as the trip went on.  At first I was pleading with my Dad to at least try to say a few words in German or French and persuading him to please not call the front desk and ask for “warsh rags” (in Eastern Shore of Maryland speak those are wash cloths) since they probably wouldn’t know what those were. I realize that English is an international language but I pushed him out of respect as visitors and because I remember vividly the day an Italian Auto-Grille worker became furious with one of my fellow classmates for assuming she would understand his English order.  My pleas were to not much avail, and the only foreign words he recited were the German “dunkel” only after we convinced him that this was the way to order dark beer and a very surprising French phrase he remembered from high school and later found out means the equivalent of an English curse word.  However many groans my parents’ small blunders incurred from my sister though, I began to see them as a sign of how fortunate I was to even be there in the first place.  Hearing my mom recall that she would not have believed she’d be approaching her 50th birthday and listening to the Vienna Boys Choir or sitting in a beer garden in Munich put a lot into perspective. Here was my sister, who in plain terms had started to take her time abroad for granted at 20, and my mom and dad thirty years older and just happy to have made it to Europe.

The homestay's cat Nintendo

I write this not to paint little sis as unappreciative and I actually find her outlook to be not unlike my own was when I was her age. Yes, I realize how akin that statement is to something that would come out of my grandmother’s mouth (and those kids whipping in and out of the parking deck really need to slow down!). Aphorisms aside, I remember missing the comforts of America just as much and even for only 10 days found myself longing for the seemingly easy task of ordering a glass of water or a convenient place to go for a run. My older and wiser self though understands that going without what were once necessities not only teaches you the values of other cultures but is a small price to pay for an opportunity you might never get again. As for the embarrassment caused her by her very American family, it was as if after each major feat we accomplished my sister relaxed a little bit more. We navigated train stations and identified track changes, perfected the art of riding Vienna’s underground transit and mastered the Autobahn all without any (major) mishaps.  There was that small incident with the Austrian Border Police that threw a bit of a kink in the works, but really that could’ve happened to anyone…

We passed the big test of spending the evening with her home-stay family with flying colors and, once she saw that our request for the wrong aperitif or cheese-plate wasn’t going to cause World War III, had a wonderful time.

The trip itself was unbelievable but it is almost more enjoyable to reminisce about.  We saw some awesome places, ate some delicious food, drank some great beer and wine and if nothing else, got to know each other a little better and survived some serious family bonding in foreign countries.

Happy Election Day

November 2, 2010

By: Brian Laubscher
Sports Information Director

November 2, Election Day

Well here we are on November 2 and even though I’ve had the opportunity to turn the page on my desk calendar once again, I’m struggling to think about what to write about.  Truthfully, I’ve become much better at suggesting content for others rather than creating my own original content for this website.  Sad for a writer I know.

Given that today is election day, I could choose to write about that.  But after consulting Nate and Rachel about that in the office this morning, I decided that maybe that wouldn’t be the best idea since politics seem to be a little too involved for something like this blog.  I must admit that I am very non-political and have voted just once in my life (last presidential election).  My wife Mindy has tried to persuade me to vote today, and I began writing this blog to say that I don’t know who is running and worse yet, I’m pretty indifferent.  But, alas, I have decided to do some research and head to the Presbyterian Church to vote this evening.  I hope that I can just vote to re-elect whoever it was that pushed through for Virginia to up its speed limit to 70 mph in rural areas.  My commute to and from work just got a little quicker and I love it!

Since I can’t seem to find one common topic to write about today, I’ll continue to keep it light and write about some more meaningless issues that may just strike a cord.

I started thinking about this after Mindy and I purchased some candy for the trick or treaters on Sunday.  How many people out there end up buying the candy that you like just in case you have some left over?  I know we did!

After a rush of four trick or treaters in about 10 minutes on Sunday, I thought we were going to run out of candy and luckily Mindy picked up two more bags at the store around six o’clock just in case.

Is there anything out there more delicious than Reese's Peanut Butter Cups?

We had a grand total of four more trick or treaters after she returned leaving us with heaping amounts of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Kit Kats.  Though I was having fun handing out candy and experiencing trick or treaters for the first time in forever (I used to live on Ross Road which is a little too far outside of Lexington for children to trick or treat), I must admit that I wasn’t disappointed to see leftovers of my two favorite candies.

I’m not much of a sweet-toother actually, but sometimes I do get the craving and if you are going to have some left over, it might as well be something that you would throw in with your lunch for dessert … or that you can sneak into the pantry and devour while watching the end of the Monday Night Football game and the World Series like last night.  Now I can’t stop.  I give that candy one shot in 10 at making it through the weekend.  Now, if it were say …  Whoppers or Tootsie rolls … that is a different story.  Those might stay in that pantry until the walls start falling down around it.

On to my final subject for today and it deals with my beloved Philadelphia Eagles – well sort of.

We had a good run of success in the 11 years that Donovan McNabb was our quarterback.  During that span from 1999-2009, McNabb helped guide the Eagles to five NFC East titles, eight NFC playoff berths, five NFC Championship games and one NFC Championship that resulted in the Eagles playing in the 2005 Super Bowl.

Through it all, I considered McNabb to be a good quarterback.  I was not a McNabb hater like many out there, but I also was not in love with him being our quarterback.  There are those that would scream and say ‘how is this possible’ given the team’s success with him under center, but I definitely never fully embraced him.  I am not alone in this and many would try to point to race as a factor in this.  I disagree in that he could have been the color of his college mascot Otto the Orange and I would have loved him if not for the fact I could not identify with him.  I feel like his coaches probably feel the same way.

Another one of Donovan's great joking moments that was not so funny.

I am writing this because I feel some sense of vindication for my feelings towards McNabb now that the Redskins coaches and fans are starting to experience the pheonominon.  I can’t put my finger on why McNabb is in a constant state of controversy, but maybe it’s that both organizations and their fans are starting to realize that perhaps McNabb isn’t the reason for all those conference titles and playoff berths.

Listen, I’m not saying that we didn’t win because of him, but I am saying that many of the things that frustrated me are starting to show to everyone.  The low completion percentages because of the poor throwing mechanics, the antics that people just don’t think are funny because football is serious business to front offices and fans.  Last but not least, his poor clock management skills and inability to come through in the clutch.  I have been screaming about this for years and never was it more evident than the Super Bowl.  The coaches took the blame on that one, but plenty of teammates have stepped forward to mention that it was McNabb that slowed the offense late in the game.  People thought I was going to have a stroke when this was going down.

Interesting now that Mike Shanahan pulled McNabb on Sunday and allowed Rex Grossman to run his 2-minute drill against the vaunted (sarcasm) Lions defense.  And now, there are a lot of questions surrounding McNabb.  Are Andy Reid and Mike Shanahan both crazy?  Have they not won enough games to know a lame duck QB when they see one?

I started to let go of any good feelings about what McNabb did for my team when Jeff Garcia took over in 2006 and led the Eagles to the playoffs.  From that day on I believed that we won despite our QB.  This article from the sports blog Bleacher Report agrees:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/81731-does-donovan-mcnabb-really-fail-in-the-clutch

And now, there is this line from Peter King’s column on SI.com today:

“I think the Redskins have long-term questions about Donovan McNabb’s work ethic, mechanics, footwork and ability to play well in the clutch.”

People, this was the lead to the story.  Hello.  I warned my friends who are Skins’ fans what they were getting and they thought I was crazy to refer to him in this way.  Maybe all those Philly fans, including me, weren’t just angry, racist McNabb haters after all.  Maybe we just knew what everyone is now finding out — that McNabb just isn’t as great as many would believe.  We’ll take that third round pick from Washington, THANK YOU!

Happy election day everyone.