Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hoop Dreams

The kiddo isn’t a great athlete, but he’s not horrible either. He has a zest for life and an enthusiasm to everything he throws himself into. Currently, he’s playing in the school’s youth basketball league. There are five third grade teams. They practice on Tuesday nights and play two games Saturday mornings through all of November and most of December. Games are played at the two middle school gymnasiums – they play half court games, but the full width of the court.

Each team in the league (third grade through sixth) is given the opportunity to scrimmage on the high school gym floor during halftime of a varsity boys basketball game. The kiddo’s team’s turn was Friday night.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I’ve been traveling a lot for work the last couple of months, but I’ve made it home every weekend for the kiddo’s games. I was in Pittsburgh again this past week, and I knew I needed to get home in time for his big moment on the court.

Because nothing goes as planned, I had actually padded my calendar to accommodate my leaving Pittsburgh late, and I’m glad I did. I ended up leaving an hour-and-a-half later than originally planned, and got stuck in rush hour traffic downtown. But I caught a break when I called Tracy from the road and realized the varsity game was starting at 7:30 instead of 7:00.

I ended up walking into the high school gym with two minutes left in the first half! Prefect timing. And the first person I saw was the kiddo, who was lined up with his team, waiting for their big moment. After I got a giant I-missed-you-all-week hug, I found my way over to Tracy and the other youth parents we’re friends with who were all sitting together.

Halftime wasn’t very long, but sandwiched between the dance squad’s routine at the beginning of it and the varsity teams warming back up at the end, the kiddo and his mates had their five or so minutes in the sun! Playing full court ball, running hard end-to-end, hustling, and trying their best.

Before their scrimmage started, I told Tracy, “You watch, he won’t touch the ball once tonight, but will still have the greatest time ever.” And I was right. He didn’t get his hands on the ball, but he had fun. He hustled on defense, ran the length of the court hard, and was clearly having a blast out there with his friends. I was so proud of him.

Leaving the school later, there were a couple of high school girls at the entrance. They saw the kiddo – still in his basketball jersey, shorts, and sports goggles – and told him he did a nice job. The kiddo said “Thank you” in that awkward eight-year-old-getting-a-compliment-from-a-high-school-girl kind of way, and I know he was proud of himself, too.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Yo, Joe!

I love G.I. Joe. Not the action figures. I bought and played with them briefly in the early ’80s as a preteen. Not the cartoon. I was in my mid-teens by the time the cartoon hit the airwaves. But that original Marvel comic book series was the centerpiece of my comic world in the ’80s. I read and loved that book for half a decade. It was the last comic I collected before walking away from comic books completely in high school. To say G.I. Joe holds a special place in my personal comic pantheon would be an understatement. So when you go and make a movie of it, you better believe I’m bringing a footlocker’s worth of nostalgic baggage to the table.

I admit I was swayed by early reviews and a lack of positive buzz around this summer’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra big-budget flick, so I stayed away from the theater. My friend David and I have a theory: If a movie – especially a movie with roots or ties to the comic book culture – is not getting good reviews, then avoid the flick’s initial run and catch it later at home after the hype machine has died down. It worked for Ghost Rider. It worked for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And, I am thrilled to report that, yes, it worked for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, too.

I couldn’t believe how readily I was able to suspended disbelief for anything the movie threw at me and just surrender to the thrill-ride fun. And I was even more surprised at how easy it was for me to set aside everything I know and love about the history and continuity of the G.I. Joe franchise and embrace [SPOILER] Baroness and Cobra Commander being siblings, Snake Eyes taking a vow of silence, The Pit located in North Africa, Duke and the Baroness linked romantically [SPOILER], and so on.

Even Tracy, who has no point of reference whatsoever for the franchise outside of the chapter I devote to the Real American Heroes in my book, enjoyed the movie. We had a fun time passing a couple of hours, and I would definitely check out a sequel… after it makes its way to DVD, of course.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

’Tis the Season

After dragging my sorry ass out of bed and eventually out of the house after a grueling Black Friday morning, we headed out for our annual Downtown Akron tree lighting festivities. The city’s budget-cutting done back in July was felt on this cold November night when compared to last year’s event. Main Street wasn’t blocked off, the NBC affiliate personalities MCs were replaced with an Akron radio station DJ, and Santa didn’t arrive by train.

Everything was held completely within Lock 3 this year, but the fireworks remained a crowd-pleaser. The sky lit up beautifully in golds and reds and greens and purples and bright whites! It was a gorgeous display behind a beautiful tree, reminding us, once again, why we love this city and this community.

This year, we took our neighbors with us, who had never been before. We had a great time huddled together during the presentation and fireworks and ta
king pictures in front of the big blue-lit tree, and at the end of the night we ended up back at our house for hot cocoa and warm conversation, the always-perfect beginning to the holiday season.