Tuesday, November 22, 2011


This one won't be long today dear readers, but I think its important and I hope you will read it!

Like many die-hard Razorback fans, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the program that Coach Bobby Petrino has built in his four years at Arkansas.  Seemingly, he has done it the right way, building an identity, having a plan, building depth from the ground up and then developing the talent available and taking it to a higher level.  Because of that plan, hard work by the coaches and players, and the support of the fans, Arkansas enjoys one of its highest rankings ever and is now pointed to a game on Friday with SEC West Rival and Top Ranked LSU.  The winner has a good chance of playing for a national championship.  It feels good to just be able to say that out loud.  PLAY for a national CHAMPIONSHIP.  I can remember the minutes just after Arkansas beat Duke in 1994 for the Basketball National Championship.  Elation and joy are two terms that come to mind.

Sunday, I was driving home from Memphis and listened to several different sports talk shows discussing the BCS Bowl picture and the messes that could possibly be created.  Callers and hosts were arguing their points vehemently, talking about how "criminal" the system was and how its architects should be shot or hanged or worse!  Really?  It's football guys.  Fans get so worked up over their teams and the perceived slights they have received.  How this team deserves this and depriving the players of this opportunity was more unfair to them than anything imaginable.

I remembered that caller vividly when I got the news regarding Garrett Uekman and his untimely death.  His being 19 and not living any longer is much more unfair than not playing in a BCS bowl game.  I have attended a few more funerals this year than I have in the past.  As we get older, friends and family age and become ill and pass.  Its a fact of life.  Without exception, the funerals I have attended have all shared a theme of the loved one going on to a better place, leaving their pain behind, or being in a much better state.  The tragedy regarding Garett Uekman was that he wasn't suffering anything that we know of.  His health was good, he was doing what he loved where he wanted to do it and was surrounded by a strong cast of friends.  By every account I have read he was a good person, someone you would want your kids to be friends with.  The tragedy to me would be living a life not being touched by people like Garrett Uekman.  We come across people in our lives that have profound and positive and lasting effects on us.  They take the shape of friends, teachers, pastors, bosses, love interests and family members.  I would challenge each of us to take a few minutes every day, and especially Thursday on Thanksgiving, to recognize these people and let them know the difference they have made in our own lives.  Tell them how important they are to you and that you are a better person for having them in your life.  If we don't learn anything from Garrett Uekman except for the fact that none of us is promised anything past the next breath we take, then learn and live that.

As a follow up, I have read rumors and stories of Garrett's funeral being protested by a group that I refuse to recognize by naming them.  This group has protested at other funerals, some less successfully than others.  I can't for the life of me imagine the thought processes that would go through the head of a grown person that would approve of such behavior.  I fully support and will fight for anyone's right of free speech.  However, I was taught growing up that my rights stop where another person's start.  And I will fight for their rights as well.  The Uekman family has suffered a tragic loss and will have the support of friends, family, the Razorback nation as well as other college football fans.  They should NOT have to suffer the foolishness of fools.  And folks, these are FOOLS.  I don't know when the funeral is, but it is my hope that the Arkansas Alumni Association puts a call out to every football player that has ever donned the uniform and invites them to stand as color guard at Garrett's funeral.  I have seen the players walk through thousands of fans outside of stadiums and the looks of joy on their faces.  I can only imagine trying to walk through a gauntlet of thousands of Razorbacks fans and players trying to prevent the disruption of such a solemn ceremony.  I wouldn't want to do it!  I hope the reports aren't true and that the protesters stay away from the funeral.  He lived a life of example in his 19 years on the planet.  Maybe they should follow his.....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A pregame for soccer parents and friends

I wrote this a few weeks ago after a soccer tournament and am republishing it here now.  As most of you know, I referee soccer on weekends and enjoy it immensely.  At times it can be a bit challenging dealing with all the different personalities on the pitch, this might give a bit of insight before you attend your next (or first!) match.

Before every soccer match, the refereeing crew gets together to go over expectations, style, etc., for how the game will be worked. I would like to do a pregame with the parents watching my next match. I think it would go something like this.

First, thank you all for your enthusiasm and for being involved in your children's athletic endeavors. Having said that, there are a few things you should know about today's game.

1. Soccer is a contact sport. To borrow from a friend of mine, if you don't want contact, go get yourself a set of golf clubs. Your child may get pushed, pulled or knocked over. This doesn't necessarily mean they have been fouled. It also doesn't give little Johnny or Susie free reign to whack whoever they choose.

2. Just because the ball hits a player in the hand, that does not necessarily constitute a foul. Concepts like undue advantage and natural position come into play.

3. Nowhere in the rule book is there a foul entitled "high kick." Nowhere. There is a dangerous play caused by lifting your foot into a dangerous position relative to an opponents head. That requires an opponent to be involved in the play.

4. There might be five players in an offsides position. That doesn't mean they are offsides. The number of variables involved is vast and almost unimaginable.

5. We will be playing the advantage today. That means some fouls that are fouls won't be called.

6. In an average football game there are 80-100 plays. After each play, the whistle blows, everyone stops, catches their breath and gets ready for the next play. In soccer, play doesn't stop. There is an actionable play about every three to five seconds. Over a 90 minute games, that's conservatively 1080 plus actionable plays. Soccer crews have three or four refs, football has eight. An average center referee runs between 5-8 miles per game, assistant referees 2-4 miles. If this is a tournament weekend, I'm probably doing anywhere from 6-10 games.

7. I will miss a call today. Maybe more than one. If I make 99% of the calls correctly, that means i will miss 11. Most good referees agonize over missing one. I do. I will replay my blown calls over and over until I recognize them from every angle so I don't miss it again. If you don't think that's true, ask me about the missed handball in the Lakewood Fallfest under 14 boys final from 2010. I still remember it.

8. Yell if you must, get emotional and passionate, but be respectful of everyone, the coaches, your opponents, the referees, but most importantly, support the kids. It's the reason we are here, right?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy....a job?

I know, I know....you start a blog and then you don't write.  Aren't you a writer?  The answer is yes...how good remains to be seen.  I've been busy.  Doing what you ask?  "Thank you," says the writer, "and smiles at the self-serving segue."  I've been WORKING. Oh, excuse me for a moment.  Yes...pay that bill and that one...push these other two out a couple of weeks until after the tuition payment is due.  Check the schedule, yes, I can work the soccer tournaments in Memphis and Dallas.  Dallas will be big, Thanksgiving weekend.  I'll miss some family time...but you do what you have to.

Okay...where were we?  Oh yes...WORKING!  I work.  Most of us do.  We work because we have responsibilities or obligations.  A mortgage, car note(s), groceries, utilities...on and on.  So we work to pay for those things.  Some of us have more obligations than others.  College loans, child support, alimony, second mortgages, yacht payments.  Ok, I threw the last one in. I don't have a yacht payment and don't know anyone that does.  The point is the added obligations might be a choice or they might not be.  The reason doesn't really matter...its the obligation that's the point.

And now to the point of the article.  I was scanning my homepage this morning and came across an article about an Occupy America group getting arrested and moved out of a park in New York City.  Apparently, this campground has been in operation for two months now.  What?  These guys are still around?  I thought they just took a break from playing their Xbox for a weekend, yelled through a megaphone for a while and then went home.  They are still protesting?  What exactly are they protesting?  Find one of the people involved in these "protests" and ask them.  They don't know.  So I googled Occupy America and read seven different articles about protests in different cities.  I still don't know what they are protesting.  One protester said they are protesting banks.  What about them?  It seems banks charge fees to their customers in order to make a profit.  (Gasp in shocked horror) NO!  The scoundrels.  Shame...Shame....Shame.  Another protester says they are protesting universities and the reduction in scholarships.  The quote that made me smile the biggest was, "If college is only for people with money, it will be a very unrewarding experience for everyone."  Didn't do so well on the ACT did you?  The most articulate protester I read was angry that he had graduated from college with Bachelor's and Master's Degrees and couldn't find a job in his field that would allow him to pay off his debts and maintain a decent lifestyle.  My heart goes out to you bro.  Articulate, yes...unrealistic and acting entitled?  Absolutely. 

Look at the pictures from these "protests."  A lot of 20 and 30 somethings angry because they are finding the world isn't being handed to them in the manner they want.  HELLO!  Earth to Generation Y.  Please pay attention to the following Public Service Announcement....the world doesn't owe you anything.  If you want something, be prepared to go out and work for it.  And in the real world, you might bust your ass for months and years to reach some lofty goal.  And you might fail.  Miserably.  And you might not get the big house, Lexus, mountain chalet and ocean front villa.  You might even have to work (no, no, please....not THAT) a second job to make ends meet.  (Gasp, louder this time)

I went to a Human Resources managers meeting recently where a speaker talked about the different generations in the workforce today.  For the first time in the history of our economy, four distinct generations are represented.  Traditionalist, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y.  The Millenials aren't too far away, so get ready for them too. Note to the reader, yours truly fell into Generation X...mainly because my parents are Boomers.  I don't necessarily share Generation X philosophies. But more on that another time. Interestingly, if you look at the Occupy protesters, the majority of them fall into the Generation Y category.  What do we know about the Gen Y'ers?  Technologically savvy.  The "I want it now" approach.  Raised by the first batch of "Helicopter" parents that brought forth the fantastic philosophy of "Everyone gets a trophy."  That's right, all you have to do is show up...and you get a trophy.

Can it be that simple?  Can the underlying philosophical and psychological underpinnings of Occupy America really lie in the fact that these protesters are angry about...not getting what they want by just showing up?  Look at the articulate protester...I have my Masters and a bunch of student loans that I can't pay off with the jobs I am being offered, so I am waiting to get the job that will allow me to pay them off and maintain a decent lifestyle.  Really?  Then I read further...twenty somethings are moving back home, living with their parent's longer, delaying kids and marriage because they are unable to find the jobs they want.  Really really?  The government needs a program....I shouldn't have to pay back these loans...its not fair that I can't get what I want.....WAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!   REALLY?

Ok...deep breath.  You can do this...without being self-congratulatory or a know-it-all.  No one likes a know-it-all.  Attention Occupy America.

1.  GET A JOB.  I love that college students walk out of college with a diploma and say, "Here I am world, hire me!"  I thought that for a bit after college.  The real world woke me up quickly.  Bills.  A wedding...new house, used car (Don't buy new cars Gen Y, its not a good investment, buy good used ones.  That advice is a freebie).  I also get that Gen Y'ers are looking for a higher level of job satisfaction.  I would love for everyone to love the job they have.  But you have to start somewhere.  Many many many successful people of all ages started at the bottom.  Its a great place to start to get to the top.  Supreme Court Justices started as law clerks.  CEO's started in the mailroom.  Do they have mailroom's still?  I read an article about the Managing Partner of an Engineering firm whose first job out of college was with a construction company.  As a GENERAL LABORER making minimum wage.  There isn't a job that is beneath you.  Really.  Your identity shouldn't be taken from the job you have.  Your identity should be taken from who you are as a person. 

2.  Be a grown-up.  Being a grown-up starts with getting out of your parents house.  Get an apartment.  Can't afford one?  Get a roommate.  Split the bills...it can work.  Really.  The longer you stay under mom and/or dad's roof, the longer you put off being responsiblr.  Paying rent/mortgage, utilities, all the things that grown-ups do.  Start saving if you can.  Really.  Saving your money is something I wish I had done a long time ago.  Because I didn't do that well back in the day, I am having to work that much harder now.  Make a plan and stick to it.  This applies to saving as well as your job/career/life plan. 

3.  Be a grown-up Part II.  I will repeat something I said earlier.  The world doesn't owe you anything.  Take this to heart and learn to live it.  If you want something, get ready to work for it.  You don't love your job, find one that you do love.  You don't want college loans...study more and get merit based scholarships.  You don't want to pay back your college loans?  BE A TEACHER or any of several other programs that will allow you to defer your payments or even have them forgiven.  Put the video game controller down, stop drinking a $5 cup of coffee every day and put your big boy/girl pants on.  It can be a scary thing being on your own.  But the rewards of doing it and doing it well are beyond what you can imagine.

I count myself among the very fortunate.  I have a great job that gives me a very good living.  My annual pay falls in the upper-middle class range and I am blessed to have it.  I work hard at it though.  I earn it.  With all that, I still have obligations that exceed my income.  Those that know me know that for that reason I have a second job that I enjoy tremendously that I use to meet my obligations.  If my boss is reading this, please note the second job in no way, shape or form interferes with my primary job.  The end of the story for me is that being a grown up means that you do what you have to do in order to take care of what needs taking care of.  I work hard.  I am among the millions of people that work hard.  I don't ask for special recognition.  I don't ask for a trophy because I showed up.  I get my rewards internally...my obligations are met.  College tuition is being paid.  As is the mortgage on a house I really like.  A car that gets me where I need to go.  And my kids are getting what they need and want.  Like the end of the Visa commercials....PRICELESS!