I LOVE April!

IMG_8755I have said for years that April and October are my two favorite months of the year. They just bring so much of what I love.

Sure I love Christmas and the whole Christmas season.

Snowy Renton Street

Snowy Renton Street

The parties and the love shared between people is like no other time. The busyness doesn’t bother me. It energizes me. But December doesn’t make my top list because of the weather. In the Puget Sound, where I live, temperatures in the 30s and 40s and a near constant drizzle or grey cloudy days are the norm. No. I want sun shine. Even if its cold, I want sun shine. So, sorry December you don’t make it.

July and August are very high on my list. It’s frequently sunny. I often enjoy BBQ parties with friends. Sunset at Birch Bay, WA And the baseball season is entering its second half, with pennant races looming. The good weather makes outdoor activities that I love more frequently possible. I love fishing. I love camping. I love driving in my convertible with the top down. It’s all good. But in terms of sports…baseball is the only thing going. I love baseball. But there is no college sports. NFL football is only in training camp and exhibition games that no longer interest me like they did when I was a kid. And basketball is fortunately only limited to the women’s game, which I only tacitly pay attention to. Sorry, all you Storm fans. I’m just not there. And sorry Sounders and MLS fans. I don’t hate Soccer like some who complain of its boring low scoring matches. But they have so many, boring low scoring matches. And I still don’t understand what games count, what trophies count, and how you can play in a tournament in the middle of a season that is completely unrelated to the league in which you play. So, July and August are close, very close. But they fall just a tiny bit short.

Green Bay Packers v Seattle SeahawksOctober is great because the weather at the start of the month is still pretty decent. We have FOOTBALL! Both college and NFL football are well underway, promising fun and excitement every weekend. And Major League baseball is conducting its playoffs and World Series with nearly daily intrigue. I can still go fishing. And, while I don’t do it much anymore…I can go hunting and enjoy a weekend with my dog. October also is the start of the NBA season. Since the Oklahoma Raiders stole my beloved Sonics from Seattle, the start of the NBA season means considerably less to me. In fact, it means almost nothing. I am still a bitter Sonics fan. But…I do love October.

And then…there is April. April is the first month since October or even September some years, when you can expect daily temperatures near 60-degrees. ! YEA! Warmth! I’m a fair weather fisherman, so April see’s me out on my canoe on local lakes.

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

And in terms of spectator sports for the sports nuts like me? It’s a plethora of enjoyment, a cacophony of choices, a riches of experiences. It all starts with the NCAA men’s Final Four basketball championship. And in years like this when a local team, Gonzaga, is playing deep into the March Madness tournament it’s even better. Baseball’s opening day dawns in the first week with every year promising championship dreams…even when those dreams are irreconcilably impossible. I seldom watch golf or play it. But The Master’s this week and every year is not so much golf as it is an event and tradition and history. It’s often high drama. And for others, as I’ve already mentioned this doesn’t really apply to me…much…their is the soccer season underway with the Sounders here in Seattle and there is the start of the marathon NBA playoffs, the only major sport that takes two months to finish the season after having finished the season. Seahawks logo Lastly, us NFL and Seahawks lovers are given the gift of the NFL Draft in April, with the promise of new stars coming to your team to help take you to the promised land by filling the wholes you perceive your team has.

And I haven’t even mentioned the blooming of flowers and their scents and colors, and the return of leaves to the trees and birds and little animals scurrying about after a winter in hibernation. Life begins again in April. I LOVE IT!

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What I Would Tell the 16 Year Old Me

Some time ago I had a strange conversation between myself now and the 16-year-old me from 1980. August 1981 - 17 Years old, 181 lbs.

This farcical conversation was wide sweeping and dealt with the changes in the world that include the introduction of the home computer, cell phones, cable television and 24 hour news and sports programing, and the fact that nuclear weapons have not been used by anyone anywhere in the time since 1980 when such a good revelation would come as a bit of a surprise.

We talked about our mutual love of sports and the pain and joy it has wrought like the fact that my local Seattle teams have never won a single championship in the 34 years since the Sonics won the 1979 NBA title, and the fact that the Sonics no longer exist.

Sonics game, probably 1978

Sonics game, probably 1978 (Photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives)

But the most important part of our conversation had to do with my advice to him as he gazed into an unknown future.

“So what have we learned? What can you tell me?”, the 16-year-old me asked. 
“You want to know what I’d do differently?” I responded.
“No.” he said wisely. “I figure what you’ve learned will answer that question. I just want to know what you’ve found out; how you’ve grown.”
“First” I said, “I’ve learned to happily accept friendship wherever it’s offered and never worry too much if the person offering the friendship is the coolest, or the best looking, or even the most fun. Friendship is a treasure under any circumstance.”
He asked, “Are you saying I’m a bad guy because I’m not friends with everyone?”
“No. But you are unfulfilled because you have turned away from possible friendships for any number of reasons ranging from not thinking someone was cool enough, or pretty enough, or they were too cool or too pretty and you somehow didn’t think you could measure up.” I answered. “Friendships color your world, your life. And you can have more of them.”
Secondly I said, “I’ve learned to move past disappointments. I’ve learned they are inevitable and that if you embrace them too hard they become part of you. If you let them go they’re only part of the past.”
“Anything else?” he asked.
The Author in 2013 age 49 I told him, “I’ve learned to do what makes me happy.” I said, ”Time between where you are at age 16 and where I am in 2013 at age 49 has been a short period of time. And now I know that the time between now and the day I die, whenever that may be, will be even shorter. The time we have is fleeting and valuable. Spending it being angry, worrying about money, or stagnant with immobilization caused by fear or procrastination is a waste of time and a detriment to your happiness.”
“All that seems so simple.” he said.
I closed our encounter by telling the sixteen year old me, “It is simple. And it’s hard.” 

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Let the Sonics Go!

The final logo of the SuperSonics

The final logo of the SuperSonics. Always thought the “S” looked too much like a swastika.

My first love in sports was basketball and by extension the Seattle Supersonics. My Dad was a season ticket holder from year one of the franchise in 1968. I was four years old. Every season until I moved out to go to college in 1982 he would bring home player and team posters from some of the 41 home dates the team played in the leaky T-Pee, the Coliseum. The blanketed my bedroom walls as I grew up.

By the time I was 12 and in the 6th grade, I was 6-foot 1-inch tall, and was taller than anyone at my school. And naturally I played basketball. Had I kept growing, even a little bit my basketball career would probably have amounted to much more than it did. But 6-1 remains my height today.

I grew up loving the Sonics. Leaping Lee Winfield was my first favorite star, though I know now he was hardly a star. I just liked the nickname that Sonics’ announcer Bob Blackburn laid on him. Dick Snyder, Fred Brown, Gus Williams, Jack Sikma, Xavier McDaniel, Tom Chambers, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, and Kevin Durant…to name just a tiny few…were all my primary source of entertainment November through April and if we were lucky, like we were three different Springs, into June. When they won the NBA Championship in 1979 I organized all my friends to skip school and take the bus downtown to watch the victory parade. Pretty heady stuff for a 13-year-old. I’d never been to downtown Seattle unaccompanied by an adult.

English: Supersonics basketball game; City Lig...

When Sonics owner and Starbucks magnate Howard Shultz announced the sale of the team to Oklahoma businessman Clay Bennett I immediately bought a full season ticket package. While I was instantly fearful that Bennett would move the team to Oklahoma City I wanted to make certain I did everything I could to stop him, especially attending all the games and giving him more money than my family and new business, Total Broadcasting Service, could realistically afford to spend.

I didn’t renew my tickets for the 2007-2008 season. At that point it was abundantly clear that Bennett had zero intension of keeping the team in Seattle, Bellevue, Renton or any place else. I still wrote letters to the Seattle Times and watched all the games on TV, that lousy, NBA worst team. And when Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels betrayed us all and sold out the city’s final chance of keeping the Sonics where they belonged and had resided for 40 years a little bit of me died. I haven’t watched an NBA game since.

Image representing Steve Ballmer as depicted i...

Steve Ballmer

Like so many others in the Northwest today’s news that the Sacramento Kings were being sold to Chris Hansen and Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer excited me tremendously. But unlike everybody else, I am not hoping for a return of the Sonics or Supersonics. I know I’m alone in this quest, but I sincerely hope Hansen and his group get an NBA team here to our wet city and give it a name other than the Sonics. To me the Sonics are dead. They are gone and short of the Thunder coming back to Seattle I want nothing to do with them. Furthermore, when Bennett left, Nickels allowed him to keep all of the franchises history, their team colors, even the 1979 Championship Trophy. In catching a glimpse of the NBA Finals last year it made me sick to hear the announcers incorrectly say “…this is the fourth trip to the NBA Finals for this franchise”. NO IT WASN’T. It was the Thunder’s first. Seattle’s 3 trips to the finals are not yours to claim, Clay Bennett. What the hell do you know about the glory of Lenny Wilkens and THAT team, or George Karl and THAT team? Renaming the Kings the Sonics would be hollow to me.

I want a new beginning, a fresh start and the ability to root on a new team with a new name. And that new name should be strong, bold and reflective of Seattle’s history. Before it was even a city it was a timber town. In fact supplying timber pilings for San Francisco construction efforts was what enabled the Arthur Denny Party to establish roots here in 1851. They cleared the hills above the Duwamish tide flats and sold what they harvested to a merchant seaman who just happened to sail into their vicinity. Denny knew they’d be coming back for more and immediately set up the Northwest timber industry.

I’d like to see the new Seattle NBA team take a name no previous sports team in the city ever has. Embrace the city’s beginnings and become The Loggers, or The Timbers (too much like Timberwolves?), The Lumberjacks, Ax Men, Saw Men, Foresters. Such names denote strong men with character. And it salutes our regions past like no other name could and like no other organization ever has.

Realizing this is only a dream of mine I’m eager to hear other suggestions. If not the Sonics, what name should a Seattle NBA team have?

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A Scar from my Dad that Won’t Heal.

This was So important to meWhen my daughter came to me this morning before school to tell me that she and her fellow cheerleaders were cheering at the first girls basketball game of the year I sighed slightly and started to tell her my busy schedule would prevent me from attending. As I spoke these words her gentle and sweet 13-year-old face…sunk. She clearly expected me to be there as I have been for virtually all her cheerleading events of this year and all other flute, choir, school related performances she has ever been part of.

When I realized that my schedule wasn’t THAT busy, at least not busy enough to disappoint my daughter I told her I’d be there. She smiled a broad and bright smile and gave me a kiss. I’d made her happy and it didn’t cost me anything more than my time, a mere 60-90 minutes.

Only this past football season I saw a college football star being interviewed after a big performance in a game when the interviewer asked, “Your Mom is here. I understand she never missed one of your games as you were growing up.” The ball-player laughed, smiled and said, “Heck, she never missed an assembly”.  Pretty special mom, I thought.

Sales-trainer-author Tom Hopkins said some years ago, “When your kids bother to tell you about an event, realize IT’S IMPORTANT TO THEM! If it wasn’t important, they wouldn’t tell you.” I know it may seem obvious to some, and those “some” are the parents of young kids or no kids. When your children reach their teens there are all kinds of things, and events they don’t tell you about; many that you wish they had.

If you are not there, or you somehow prevent your kids from being-there at an event they told you about or participating themselves you could be hurting them for a lot longer than the youthful, immature disappointment of missing something they had a fleeting interest in. My Dad’s ill temper and poor judgement on one such issue scars me to this very day. And it still hurts.

I am and always have been a huge sports fan. My first love was basketball. It’s a love I inherited from my father. He was a Seattle Sonics season ticket holder from their first year in 1967 until illness and disability caused him to give up his tickets in 1997. When I was growing up I had posters on my bedroom wall of all the Sonic Stars; Spencer Haywood, Fred Brown, Slick Watts, Leonard Grey, Leaping Lee Winfield, Coach Bill Russell, and Lenny Wilkins.

I was 15 years old when the Sonics won the NBA Championship in June 1979 and like so many others in the greater-Seattle region I made plans to attend the Championship Victory Parade Downtown the following Monday. Since I lived in Bellevue and the parade was on a school day planning was no small matter. I got permission from my Dad to skip school, then contacted all my friends who I wanted to go with, figured out the bus routes I’d need to take and got really excited. It was gonna be great. Nothing like this had EVER happened in Seattle and as it turned out never would again, at least at this point.

Problem was on Sunday, the day before the parade my Dad retracted his permission for me to go. He had been drinking. He was always an angry drunk. And in a moment in which he felt I back-talked to him (I guess) he told me I wasn’t going to the parade. I was shocked! I was absolutely shocked! This was going to be the biggest event in my life to that point and I had made all my plans. But my Dad had spoken. I got the impression he was genuinely pleased with himself for striking such a moving blow to his son. My size took away the option of him getting physical with me anymore. So his choices of discipline had been significantly hampered.

I was alone at school the next day. All my friends were at the parade. It was an unusually warm and sunny day for the city of Seattle. Everyone was in T-shirts. Estimates put the crowd at well over 200-thousand people. When my friends returned later in the day they stopped by my home to share just how wonderful it was. They didn’t have to. I knew beforehand that it was going to be a memory of a lifetime.

Some days later my Dad glowered over me about it. He says he called my school that day to make sure I’d gone to school. I don’t think my Dad ever fully appreciated the fact that I was a good kid. I did what my parents told me, always. I hadn’t even considered skipping school after he told me I couldn’t. But I would never forget.

As you can probably tell in my writing I still resent the hell out of my Dad for taking this event from me. No other Seattle major sports team has won a professional championship since that sunny week in June 1979. In the 33 years since then news accounts and occasionally friends will reference the parade and how wonderful it was. Trust me. I know.

Talk this week of Seattle getting a new sports arena for the NBA and possibly the NHL has revived the references to the championship and the parade and the long ago ache that never seems to go away. I still have the Seattle PI Headlines and Sports page from the championship framed and on display in my home.

I try to remember the hurt my Dad caused with his temper. Because I have a temper. And unlike my father I would never take joy from crushing my children. I’m not perfect, so I’m not saying I haven’t made mistakes. I hope I haven’t. But I do keep in mind that my words, deeds, and discipline of my kids have impact. Sometimes…lifelong impact. Just like every parent.

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Stern’s trade veto about owners wanting their power back | ProBasketballTalk

David Stern is a prick. The veto of the Chris Paul trade to L.A. hurts all involved. Why do I care? Because the Hornets are not going to stay in New Orleans. Despite Stern’s continued efforts…basketball doesn’t work there. It has failed twice (I’m counting this current version of NBA hoops along with the Jazz). If the Hornets move….easily the most attractive city to move to that doesn’t currently have an NBA franchise…Seattle. In other words watch what Stern and the NBA does with the make-up of the Hornets this year. They could be the Sonics next year.

Stern’s trade veto about owners wanting their power back | ProBasketballTalk.

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