sports


The Greatest Play

As a life-long sports fan, I was recently watching a program showing videos of great sports plays. It got me to thinking about some of the great plays I’ve seen thoughout my lifetime. As I’m sure many of you have witnessed some great ones, I’ve definitely seen my share. But what was the greatest sports play of all-time? I believe I have the answer.

Now, I don’t want to get into a “my dog is bigger than your dog” situation, but I do feel I have excellent qualifications to make such an assertion. I played several sports growing up and my life’s goal was to be a professional baseball player. Eventually, while playing winter ball with the Los Angeles Angels, an arm injury ended that dream. My wife and I have three sons, all of whom are tremendous athletes, and my nephew whom we consider our fourth son is also an athlete. Our oldest son was a member of Pepperdine’s NCAA Championship Baseball team, our middle son lettered in four different sports, our youngest became a professional baseball player and is now a college coach, and our nephew was a pitcher at UNLV. Probably a little over the top, but getting a chance to brag about these four young men is always fun.

O. K., given my qualifications to judge, what is the greatest play? It happened several years ago when our youngest son was playing for a Little League all-star team at the Little League Western States Regional Championship in San Bernardino, California. You probably expect I will now regale you with some play my 12-year-old made in one of those games. It’s tempting, but I’m going to be very honest. Arriving early to get good seats, we were in time to watch a game being played by young boys from the challenger leagues. These are leagues designed for boys with physical handicaps that prevent them from playing on a regular Little League team. Watching this game was very heartwarming and actually quite interesting. At one point, a very spirited young man without the use of his legs and in a wheelchair came to bat. After striking the ball, he began yelling at he person pushing his wheelchair to go faster. He barely beat the throw to first and was safe. He was so thrilled and animated; he drew the attention of everyone watching the game. What happened next was “the greatest play.” The next hitter got hold of the ball and drove it to the outfield. As the ball was being fielded, the boy in the wheelchair was yelling for the pusher of his chair to go faster. He then made the decision to try for third base. He was yelling “third, third.” The pusher was trying, but pushing the wheelchair in the dirt was a difficult task. By now everyone was on their feet cheering him on. We could see the throw was coming and he was clearly going to be out. At that point, in desperation, the boy unbuckled his safety belt, and with just his arms launched himself out of the chair and flew head first into third. He was safe. It was an incredible moment. He was dirty and scratched up, but the smile on his face was unabashed happiness. The coaches lifted him back up into the chair, and when the next batter got a hit, the young man was pushed triumphantly down the third base line and crossed the plate with both arms outstretched with a broad victorious smile on his scratched and dirty face. His dive from his wheelchair into third base was no doubt the greatest play ever. I don’t think anything else could ever come close.

I’ve never forgotten that young man (I wish I knew his name), and in difficult times I still think about his enthusiam, courage, and effort. If I could meet him again I would say thank you for the inspiration. It’s a life lesson I will never forget.

Hey Joe

While we are on the topic of sports, here’s something you senior football fans might get a kick out of. On a recent trip to Florida while I was checking out at a local grocery store, I saw a gentleman who looked familiar walking out of the store. I rushed outside and said, “Hey Joe.” Sure enough, the man turned around and smiled. It was Joe Namath, legendary Hall of Fame quarterback for the New York Jets. I’m happy to report he was as friendly, funny, and personable as you might guess. We actually talked for several minutes and I snapped this picture of the two of us.

Me and Broadway Joe

Me and Broadway Joe

 

 Happy Thanksgiving

     My wife Trisha and I would like to wish you and you family a very heartfelt and blessed Happy Thanksgiving.

Trisha and John Parker

Trisha and John Parker

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Military Benefits

As we age, our mortality is not a favorite subject. The fact is, we can really make it much easier on those we leave behind if we do some planning. I have mentioned in a previous blog the wonderful planning forms in our book The Best of Our Lives. Not trying to sell you a book because the forms can be found free on our website www.TheBestofOurLives.com. I’m sure most of you have had the experience of dealing with the death of a loved one, and our complex society makes these situations increasingly more difficult. Be responsible and make your plans now, your loved ones will be forever grateful.

For those of you who have served in the military, remember, with anything other than a dishonorable discharge you are entitled to a cemetery plot and burial service. In this day and age, that will save your family a large amount of money. For those of you retired military, your family is also eligible for other monetary benefits.

A few years back, my mother was reading a newspaper article about a woman who had lost her husband on D-Day in World War II and discovered she was elegible for monthly benefits. One of my mother’s best friends had lost her first husband on that very day. She was also struggling financially. Mom called her immediately to tell her about the article she had read. Currently her friend is not only receiving monthly benefits, but she got a sizeable retroactive sum. If you need any information related to your veteran’s benefits, you can go to this website: www.va.gov.

I am very proud of my military service (USAF) and feel very strongly about the men and woman who serve this country. If you are a veteran, check out your benefits and make it part of your planning. Be a responsible retiree.

CBS Evening New Story

Let me begin by thanking all the people who have called and written with wonderful comments about the CBS Evening News story on my late father Frank Parker. When you do any kind of a media interview, you never know how it will turn out. For the most part, CBS did a good job and the way they edited the photos and videos of my father were very touching. Of course, I would have preferred more than a fleeting shot of my wife and grandson, but that’s television. Understanding the pre-determined conclusion of their story, that Dodger fans were unhappy with ownership, I’m not pleased with the story’s last comment which paraphrased me as saying the only good thing about my dad’s passing was he did not have to watch what’s happened to his team. Let me be clear, although I was asked numerous questions that tried to get me to make such a comment, I did not. There was nothing “good” about my dad’s passing.

If you haven’t heard, there’s trouble brewing. Last week, a Giant fan was knocked down and seriously injured outside Dodger Stadium. He’s currently in an induced coma and believed to have suffered brain damage. No one could or should excuse the thugs that did this horrible thing.

In listening to some of the commentary this week, I’m struck by the nonsensical arguments. Your fans are mean, our fans are saints. Teams are teams and fans are fans. There isn’t any real difference between them. I’m in a unique position to observe this low point in sports history. As a Dodger fan living the last twenty years in the bay area, the plain truth is there are plenty of thugs to go around. Both cities have them, and unfortunately, some of these cretins go to baseball games. There is nothing inherently good or bad about either team or their fans.

Right now, Giants fans are howling because one of their own was struck down. I agree. Catch the s.o.b.’s who did this and hang them. The fact is, upon our arrival in the bay area, my wife and I were excited to take my parents to a Giants-Dodger game at Candlestick Park. Being Dodger fans, and used to the friendly atmosphere of Dodger stadium at that time, we weren’t ready for the abuse we received that night. After returning to the car, my parents thanked us for the game, but advised we should not invite them again. They’d had enough.

Then there is my nephew Robert. Several years ago, he took his girlfriend to a Giants-Dodger game and wore his Dodger hat. As they were walking across the parking lot, he was blindsided and struck in the head. Nearly unconscious and on the ground, he looked up and saw his girlfriend chase down the thug and jump on his back while punching him in the head. Robert decided to marry that girl.

I also have to admit to a brief encounter with a Giant fan several years ago. During the game, he insisted on turning around each time a Giant got a hit and would put his hands in my face while taunting me. I was there to watch a game and not get into a fight, so I simply let him enjoy his fun. By the end of the game, with a few beers under his belt for courage, he decided to give me a shove as we excited. I’m not proud of it, but I did cross-check him into the exit wall. I said I wasn’t proud of it.

Is my point that Giants fans are bad? Not at all. In fact, most of the ones I’ve encountered since they built the new beautiful stadium look like the frat boys from college. Mostly corporate types with sweaters tied around their necks and wearing penny loafers. Not particularly intimidating. The point is most everyone who goes to a sporting event is there to have a good time and enjoy the game. Unfortunately, there is a growing subculture of thugs, who on a daily basis, can be seen everywhere in our world. They also attend sporting events. At the first sign of trouble, these jerks should be unceremoniously thrown out. For a myriad of reasons, violence has always been around sports. While living in Italy many years ago, I remember a game in which a soccer official made a call that went against the home team. Several men jumped the fence and stabbed the official to death. I couldn’t believe it happened.

Our society has this odd notion that we must tolerate everyone. I disagree. I’m all for freedom of expression, but in public we need to raise our standards and expectations. I know I’m an old guy who probably doesn’t get the modern culture. For instance, I don’t understand why a person needs to tatoo every square inch of their bodies, pierce body parts, and swear with every other word. And those are just the girls. I would just like a return to the days when you had friendly rivalries among sports fans. Believe it or not, back in the day, there were many times I witnessed a Dodger fan buy a rival fan a beer and shake hands during the game. It had become a bit of a Dodger Stadium tradition. Times have changed. But good people are still good, and the bad ones have become worse. Our teams are our teams, and mindless thugs have no place stealing our good times. The color of their hat means nothing.

These are two different views of time. I wonder if the old Stones still think time is on their side?  The obvious fact is, none of us, young or old know how much time we have left on mother earth. It then follows we should  spend our time in ways in which we give some serious consideration. Just yesterday I watched a young mother walk by my window holding the hand of her precious young child. It caught my eye because she walked by twice, and during the entire walk, her cellphone never left her ear. The child looked tired and a bit confused. I could not help but think someday she will regret not savoring every minute of time she had to spend with her young son.

Remember, The Cat’s In The Cradle, a song about a father who didn’t have time for his son, then when he got old, his son didn’t have time for him? That song was written and performed by Harry Chapin. He and his wife co-wrote the song about their relationships with their own fathers. As luck would have it, it’s believed Chapin had a heart attack while driving and died in the resulting traffic accident. He was 39. On his tombstone are the words from one of his songs: “Oh, if a man tried to take his time on earth, and prove before he died, what one man’s life could be worth, I wonder what would happen to this world.”

Truth be known, I actually take a very libertarian view of how one should spend his or her time. If you choose to lie on a tropical beach and ponder cloud formations, that’s fine with me. I do, however, hope that people give their choices due consideration. As we grow older the sands truly do run through our hourglass more quickly.

Is Journalism Dead?

Have you heard about the George Washington University sports story reported on their website? The writer of the story spent six paragraphs describing the GWU baseball team’s 2-0 loss in a recent game. Finally, in paragraph seven, the writer finally shares the fact the opposing pitcher had pitched a perfect game, only the eighth perfect game pitched in NCAA Division 1 history. Here is the link:

Strong Pitching By GW Not Enough In 2-0 Loss To No. 1 Virginia – GEORGE WASHIN

Funny

The elderly married couple had argued and fought their entire life together. Finally, they had gotten so old they had to move to a care facility. They still continued to argue and fight. The management of the place called them in and informed them the arguing and fighting would have to cease or they would be thrown out. Sensing the seriousness of the situation, the wife suggested to her husband they kneel and pray for one of them to die. “What then,” said the husband. “Then I’m going to move in with my sister,” replied the wife.

After a sports filled weekend with every kind of football bowl game possible (my favorite has always been the San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl), I want to make a suggestion intended for all television sports directors. Enough with the up close and personal shots first employed by ABC Sports and ballyhooed by Howard Cosell.

The picture quality is so good now days, we don’t need to be looking up the nose of every baseball pitcher, football coach, or even the occasional fan in the stands. I have actually squirmed in my chair while watching a camerman zoom in on a baseball pitcher looking for the sign. It starts with a full body shot, then rapidly closes in on his face for a view which should be reserved for only those with whom he shares an intimate relationship. Ugh! As a matter of fact, the way a baseball game is covered now days, if you had never seen a game in person you wouldn’t know what was going on. First we get the pitcher’s eyes (and sweat), then the batter’s face (and spit), then if the ball is hit, a close up of the player making the play. Is there a field? Was that grass I saw?

When watching a football game, which is not quite as bad, I still long for the days when we could see all the players at once. Wouldn’t it be fun to watch the reciever’s run their patterns as the quarterback decides who to throw to? Just because technology allows us to see every skin flaw doesn’t mean we have to do it. Please Mr. Sports Director, back off just a little. Let us see the field of play. Let us watch plays unfold more naturally. Thank you.

As for the cheerleaders, you”re doing a hell of a job!