Are You Friggin’ Kidding Me!…

I can’t believe the display currently set up at the grocery store where my talents (?) are currently on display…it spits in the face of every Eagles fan and gives us just one more reason to hate the Dallas Cowboys…not that Eagles fans need any added incentive…this is Eagles-Cowboys week…the first of 2 games against the team Eagles fans LOATHE and DESPISE the most…maybe more than the Giants and the Redskins, the other 2 teams in the NFC East… combined!…at least I know I do…

So what is it that has my midnight green shorts in a bunch?…let me start at the retail level and my current employer…although if they keep displaying silly things like the one I’m going to get around to eventually describing, it may be not for long…but, how in thee name of “Concrete” Charlie Bednarik can any self-respecting manager allow this particular item to enter a store in SE Pennsylvania?…makes me wanna start throwing snowballs again (remember?…the whole throwing snowballs at Santa?…it’s supposed to be a joke?)…anyway, I tried to use all the leverage that a junior Front End Service Team Leader…in training…can muster up, and I demanded the store powers that be remove this insulting, ridiculous item immediately!…yeah?, so no, not gonna happen…

Okay, that having failed…I now have to rely on a groundswell of customer complaints to any retail business that chooses to stock this ridiculous item…what is it that some Droll employee over at NFL Marketing has decided every Eagle fan needs?…that Eagles-Cowboys week would be the best time to roll this abomination out?…take a look at this piece of NFL collectible garbage!…

That’s right Birds fans…don’t know how good you can see it, but that beloved Eagles helmet has been placed in a Dallas Cowboys box…where’s the outrage?…why isn’t Eagles owner Jeffrey Laurie demanding these be removed?…immediately…getting paid is probably why…but this thing sucks…I’ll bet money it isn’t sold at the Linc on gamedays…can you imagine the riot this thing would cause?..and before you fans of other NFL teams start thinking this is just an Eagles-Cowboys thing…check your local grocer..bet they have one for your squad too…and finally…please keep in mind…NFL helmets…even from official suppliers…do not prevent concussions…your kid would have just as good a chance if he/she wore the box it came in…that unfortunately is no joke…

 

The Return of Darth Neighbor

Yes, the name Darth Neighbor is a cheap rip-off of Star Wars evil-doer Darth Vader, but when I was swinging plastic light sabers in the back yard against my 6-year old son and the neighbor kid, I was usually forced to represent the Dark Side of the force. No problem, we all know Lord Vader had the highest Midichlorian count in the Star Wars universe, so it stands to assume the Dark Side would have ruled my neighborhood as well.

Always cast as the villain, I created a dark Star Wars persona of my own, that of Darth Neighbor, the ultimate power not only in my back yard, but possibly in all of the Providence Ridge housing development.

My own interest in Star Wars ended with Return of the Jedi and the destruction of the second Death Star, however the release of The Phantom Menace inspired a new generation of fans in the franchise (not me though), and inspired the galactic battles that raged in my yard after I got home from work. And of course, only after those little Jedi nuts had finished any homework assignments for the day.

The battles usually took less time than it took the Millenium Falcon to complete the Kessel Run, were always un-choreographed, usually just me chasing a couple of pint-sized wannabe Jedi Knights around the yard, through swing sets, around bushes and trees, between cars, whatever obstacle they could run around or hide behind. But unlike Star Wars, in the universe called my back yard, the Dark Side always prevailed.

Just as Old Ben Kenobi had buried the memories of his days as Obi-Wan, I also forgot about my days as the ass-kicking Darth Neighbor. Until this year, when my daughter reminded me of those days when she sent me my personalized magic band for my trip down to see her at Disney World.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Katie is like a Star Wars historian, but she’s also a pretty good athlete. And she knew the one way to guarantee my attention was to pull out the hockey net and it wouldn’t be long before I showed up. To her credit, she also padded up and laced on her roller blades for those father/daughter games in our driveway; so how could I ignore that much effort? 

When my son and the neighbor kid played, the games deteriorated into watching two Tasmanian Devils hitting the ball everywhere but at the net. It was their own out-of-control brand of “dump and chase” hockey, and like two Unmoored ships in a hurricane, they crashed into each other often and knew no boundaries of any kind, and it went on until one of them slashed the other hard enough in the shins or on the hand with their stick. This usually sent the aggrieved party home or back in the house for first aid or to have a sandwich and a glass of milk or some damn thing, leaving just my daughter “Skates” and me to practice our slap shots and our triple deeks.

And when that box with the magic bands arrived, she also reminded me of the times when father/daughter fun was spent just shooting pucks at a net in my driveway…just the two of us.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Been So Long Since I’ve Seen My Friends…

I grew up in South Jersey where I lived until 1995. Hung around with a pretty small circle of friends in the 70’s through the mid-80’s; got married in the late 80’s; bought a home; and in the early 90’s, through very little effort on my part, fathered a couple of great kids. My wife of course did all of the heavy lifting and required pushing to bring them out into the world. Since then parenting has been one long tag team event; we usually win, but once in awhile we let the kids have one just for their confidence. It’s also called picking your battles or the more graphic but appropriate…choosing which hill you want to die on.

In 1995 we moved to Southeastern PA; the move necessary due to the constant consolidation in the drug industry. I should probably clarify that by saying we didn’t lose our corner to a rival drug gang, it was the consolidation in The Big Pharmaceutical Industry. The guys who sell the drugs with the incredible side effects which seem to be worse than the actual ailment your treating with their product. You know, the really big drug gangs.

It has been a long time since I’ve seen or talked to any of my friends from South Jersey, We need something like this back home between us and the Mittlebeelers!apparently crossing the Delaware River is every bit as daunting a task as climbing up and over the Great Wall of China. But then that goes both ways, doesn’t it? It also put us in the geographical center between our two families. Closer to her family; but farther from my family with the…been nice knowin’ you attitude.

I tried thinking about some of the changes in my life since I’ve seen any of my friends (still can’t bring myself to call them former) which I estimate to be September of 2001 or just once since 1995; changes in my personality, family changes…what my kids do now…called parental bragging if you will; changes to technology, things like that.

I have a much different personality than I did in 2001. A change in jobs from a comfortable middle management existence to a failed entrepreneurship with FedEx has made me much more cynical when it comes to the motives of corporate America; I now understand that I wasn’t a partner with Fred Smith and FedEx, I was a business model that saved them millions upon millions of dollars in employer taxes, insurances, and employee benefits. And stupidly, instead of putting FedEx in my rear view mirror, I’ve chosen to stay on and now drive for the company that owns my former route. The owner is a good guy and probably one of my three or four friends, but like my friends from Jersey…would I ever here from him again if I were to leave? Cynical…angry…distrusting…grumpy…sober…old man. Much different than the often intoxicated, lovable loser my friends knew. Sometimes I really miss beer.

And that may be one of the biggest changes since I last saw my friends. Beer! Growing up cash strapped and in need of a couple of beers, often me and the friends would settle for anything cheap. Genesee Cream Ale, the disgusting, but affordable King of Beers, Budweiser, and whenever possible a cold Carling Black Label, free from mom and dad’s fridge. Not only do I no longer drink, I wouldn’t know what the hell to drink anyway. With all of the craft beers and small micro-breweries around, simply choosing a beer would be enough of a chore to turn me sober. The last time I had a beer with my friends, not one guy said it was too hoppy or too wheaty or whatever. You just twisted off the cap and talked or argued about sports or girls or cars. 

The last time I saw my friends, my daughter was in elementary school and my son was just beginning kindergarten. Actually, he was in kindergarten twice a day, once in the morning in daycare and then in school in the afternoon. He really hated that. Since then, my daughter has graduated with honors from an expensive liberal arts college that my wife and I probably couldn’t afford, and my son will be graduating very soon. My son has earned his Eagle Scout rank from the Boy Scouts and my daughter has moved to Florida where she works for the House of the Mouse. All of this…since I last saw my friends.

The last time I saw any of my friends, I didn’t own a cell phone. The only two people I know imagewho had cell phones were Gordon Gekko and Maxwell Smart. I had never sent a text message, never skyped, opened a Facebook account, tweeted anything, or created and saved anything to the cloud. I didn’t know I would one day own something called an iPad; never created my personal playlist of music that I could save on a SmartPhone and play over a Bluetooth wireless speaker…none of these things were mine the last time I saw my friends.

The last time I saw my friends was September 9, 2001, when we watched the first game of the Eagles season. And just two days before the terrible events of 9/11, a day no one should ever forget. Since I last saw my friends hundreds of thousands of lives have been changed forever because of the War on Terror. Why do the wars on our societal issues never seem to have a solution…a compromise; how long have we been fighting the War on Drugs…On Cancer…On Poverty…On Gangs…and even on Christmas? 

Since I last saw my friends, the country was once swept up in the great secrecy around Ginger, an invention many thought would change the world, an invention that would change the way cities are laid out, an invention that ended up being The Segway. An imageinvention that nobody thought to ask one simple question, “Where the hell can we use this thing?” How cursed was this invention? The owner of The Segway Corporation drove his off a 30 ft. cliff and into a river below. Irinically…he has seen his friends for the last time.

The last time I saw my friends, Peter Jackson had yet to send Frodo, Aragorn, and the rest of The Fellowship to return The One Ring to Mt. imageDoom…They had yet to prove or dis-prove anything on The Big Bang Theory…Jack Bauer still hadn’t killed anybody on 24…Colonel Jessup had yet to order the Code Red for Private Santiago in A Few Good Men…Sean Bean still had numerous death scenes to play on TV and in the movies…The Philadelphia Eagles still haven’t won a Super Bowl, and the Flyers haven’t heard the ovation that comes from parading Lord Stanley’s Cup down Broad Street in over 40 years.

A great many things have come and gone since I last saw my friends from South Jersey; I often think about them and their families, wonder why they haven’t called, or why I don’t pick up the phone and call them. I guess the real reason is because I don’t want to think of those friendships also as come…and gone.

Ovation

Mr. Unremarkable vs. The Power of No!

Another historical fiction from South Jersey’s favorite 1970’s SuperHero In Training.

Anyone who has ever participated in Superhero (S.H.I.T.) training or simply struggled to find an answer to a personal question knows the power of this one simple word. The word No can be a bulldozer in training, it oozes with negativity and can often be the final opinion in the daily decision making process. It’s probably one of the reasons there are so few superheroes around. Just like me, you may have experienced this verbal phenomenon early in your own life...

Hey Dad, since I haven’t mastered Fire Manipulation yet, can I soak these cattails in gasoline (not to be confused with cat tails or cat’s tail), imageand don’t you think they would make great torches for running around the neighborhood?” Of course my Dad replied with the one and only correct answer in his mind, “Noooo!” This was followed by a fast trip into the garage to see what fresh hell I had dreamed up. I swear he had developed Teleportation skills. Now as somewhat of an adult I can see why he was concerned,  but as a S.H.I.T. I was disappointed his No put an end to my daring idea.

Like most regular kids in the neighborhood, I spent many weekend summer days winning the imageWorld Series. Unfortunately, unlike so many other kids who had one of those pitch back nets, my bottom of the 9th inning was played out using a tennis ball thrown against a broken mirror propped against the side of the house. It worked pretty good for me once I broke the glass in the mirror, on just the second pitch I’m proud to say. Mom and Dad…not as proud however. And after a wild pitch broke 2 shingles on the house, the power of No won out once again. As in No more balls against the side of the house. The garage then? “No!” It was here that it became painfully obvious, if I was going to pitch in the World Series it would only be by my superpower to change reality, known in the world of S.H.I.T.’s as Reality Warping.

As a youth playing baseball in rural South Jersey in the ’70’s the yes vs. no debate was also a mental altercation I had with my coach during my first year in Little League. While I knew that Yes, I could and wanted to pitch, he felt that No, I wasn’t a pitcher, his son was, and my best talents that first year were to keep the official score book. And I have to give him credit, no matter how much I used my power of Mind Control, he fought it all season.

Unfortunately for my coach, league rules said I had to play at least one inning in each game, meaning someone else had to keep the book. So around the 7th inning of each game I would get up off of my glove (I liked to sit on it so I didn’t lose it) and take my place in right field or wherever he chose to play me. And God love him, he over-managed us all the way to the league championship game. And in that game, all of the double switches and pitching changes he made finally caught up to him. I would have to hit. With a runner on first and one out, down by a run. The air was filled with drama, or the remnants of Billy Zawatawicz’s last flatulent masterpiece, I’m not sure drama ever smelled like that. Happy to be off the bench, away from Billy, I made the most of my at-bat and lined a 6-hopper through the infield into center field allowing the runner on first to go all the way to third.

As a bench player, you would think that would have been my biggest accomplishment and I would be satisfied. It was, but I was not. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who has ever coached at the Little League level knows what should have happened next. A double steal. Make the other team throw the ball. Worse case, I might be out at second, but the runner on third would score on the throw to second base and tie the game. It was that obvious. Except to the coach who treated every game like it was Game 7 of the World Series, but was now incapable of that type of second-level thinking. And after no sign from him on the first two pitches, it would be up to me and my Superhuman Speed. When the next pitch crossed home plate, I was off and running to glory. About half way there I looked back to see the catcher had made up his mind to attempt and throw me out at second. It was working, by God my plan was working!

Now, following up on part 2 of my plan, I took a look over to third base, and what I saw shocked me. Not only was my coach there, waving his hands over his head in a, “Who told you to do that?” kind of way, but the runner on third was still there, standing on the base, laughing at another round of commotion Billy had caused on our bench.  As I started my slide, several questions popped into my head, the most critical of which was “Why was I the only one running?”  But as my foot touched the bag, barely ahead of the tag, I felt only vindication for my decision to run. It was up to the home plate umpire, the game’s only umpire, had he actually seen the play, would he make the right call? The answer was No to both questions. And as I laid there in the dirt, I had an epiphany. “When trying to think like an adult, sometimes you remove logic and common sense.” I’m still not sure what that means, but as we stood in line to get our Second Place trophy, my coach questioned my decision to try and steal second base. Would he ever have the logic to see the strategy in what I tried to do? Would he ever question his own lack of vision that stranded a runner at third base? Would he suggest to Billy’s parents a common sense low flatulent diet for Billy? Maybe, but if I had to make a guess, it would be No, all three times.

 

I Really Hate It When…

Is there such a thing as a journalistic code of ethics in sports? If not, when and why did it disappear?

Does anyone share my irritation when the sports media uses “sources close to”… or “sources with knowledge of”… as their way to substantiate information used in a report or column? To be honest, if you won’t name the source, then you’re report simply amounts to here-say. 

…and if you’re a source willing to give information, go on the record.  If you won’t go on the record…again, how can you be considered a credible source?

I know, this is only sports, grown men playing kids games, not the Watergate Scandal and it’s confidential informant Deep Throat. That kind of journalism brought down a President and earned a Pulitzer Prize for The The Washington Post. Much of today’s sports commentary is just not that important. And if an important event occurs, whether an actual sporting event or something in an athlete’s personal life, be it legal or illegal, just about any caller can get on the air and present him or herself as an expert, someone with inside knowledge, someone with a phone, someone given the use of public airwaves to say just about whatever they want. Mostly unsubstantiated. Not vetted. Just like information we get from some members of the media.

Consider the 2014 release of the Eagles DeSean Jackson. The original NJ.com report quoted only “sources within the organization” regarding Jackson’s ties to 2 Los Angeles gang members. The story also quoted the “infamous” source within the organization saying the team was concerned about Jackson’s influence on younger players.

Meanwhile, Derrick Gunn from Comcast Sports Net broke this story wide-open with information from his well-founded sources:

“I talked to someone (?) this morning that basically said that when a player is one of your highest paid players in the Eagles’ organization, especially with the new culture and the new attitude, the new direction they’re trying to build now in Chip Kelly’s regime,” Gunn said, “they expect you to hold yourself to a certain standard both in the locker room and outside the locker room as well.” 

You could almost see Chip Kelly’s hand in D. Gunn’s back manipulating his mouth. 

“And there’s a lot of stuff (really, someone and stuff?) that probably hasn’t even come out about DeSean yet (and it never did) that we’re going to find out in the days, weeks, months and even a year from now that we’re going to learn about, but he was not the kind of player in the locker room that the Eagles wanted to have an influence on the younger players.” and…“I was told by a couple of sources that he did not have the best work ethic in the locker room.

So D. Gunn, gives us “someone?”,”a lot of stuff?” and “couple of sources?” See any Pulitzer Prize winning journalism there? I realize that DeSean Jackson getting cut is an old story, but this story says more about the not so ethical environment that exists in the world of sports talk radio, internet reporting, and even TV news and talk shows. And let’s not be naive, sports teams use these guys all the time to advance their own agenda. And the media knows it, sometimes they have to walk a thin line between what information the team wants released versus the opportunity for future stories.

Remember all of those book reports and term papers we did in school? If we wrote that something was a fact, we had to list the source of that information, be it encyclopedia, newspaper article or some other source. “A lot of stuff” wouldn’t have been accepted as fact, and “unnamed source” wouldn’t fly as a reference. When did members of the media decide that this fundamental rule no longer pertained to their reporting?

I know, I can hear the battle cry now, ” We have to protect our source. If sources can’t remain anonymous then we won’t be able to get the information needed for the article. After all dear reader (or listener), it’s all to keep you better informed.” I have a different theory. How about the lack of naming a source comes down to a couple of simple factors…

…the unwillingness of the reporter to keep digging for a credible source who will go on the record and the competition between news agencies to….get it first!

Honestly, I can’t see how it matters who got a story first with the way the the news is reported, especially in the case of sports, where stories are hashed and re-hashed by multiple hosts over and over again on multiple media outlets for days and weeks at a time.  After beating a story like a rented mule for a day or two, most fans don’t remember or care who got the story first. And if you listen to multiple stations as I do, often times you can recognize the same caller on those stations voicing the same ideal or opinion. Over and over and over…To be honest, it must be difficult for some sports talk hosts to show up for work everyday given the repetitive nature of their industry.

So in the true spirit of some of today’s media employees…

“Unnamed sources with first-hand knowledge of the decision, say the Sixers are considering trading this year’s first pick in the draft Ben Simmons, to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Cavaliers 2017 and 2018 first round picks. Someone said he believes the Sixers need more assets if they are going to make a run at the 2022 playoffs. The source also said Sixers coach Brett Brown couldn’t be happier and is excited about starting the 2016 season with the same team that finished last year.”

There, see how easy that was? I didn’t even get off the couch or call anyone. And if it doesn’t happen, I’ll just blame it on my source, that I can’t name. You heard it here first!

Like many sports fans I listen to sports talk radio during the course of my workday. I understand that interviews are a part of the job, but isn’t it somewhat disingenuous for a host to call for the dismissal of a team’s general manager or openly criticize an athlete’s play (pick a player, any sport) then fail to bring up those criticisms when interviewing that front office person or athlete? Consider the end of Phillies G.M. Ruben Amaro’s tenure with the team. Talk show hosts openly called for his immediate dismissal daily, then complimented him on his “honesty and his availability to the fans”. A typical interview might consist of a question or two about what to do with Ryan Howard, the teams current home stand or road trip, and maybe a hot prospect in Reading or Lehigh Valley. In other words, largely vanilla and lacking any controversy, and filled with clichés like, “one game at a time”, ” I can’t say enough about him”, or “he always gives 110%.”

Some members of the media bill themselves as the voice of the fans…and I guess that’s true, however with that claim comes the requirements of objectivity, accuracy, fairness, and accountability. And adhering to those principles are where some members go off the rails.

Don’t be too hard on yourselves sports media, at least you’re not sensationalizing the weather like our local TV/radio stations or The Weather Channel.

More Origin Tales of Mr. Unremarkable 

More disappointment and underachieving from the one who wasn’t expected to deliver much else anyway.

As I mentioned in the first origin story of Mr. Unremarkable, also known to the super-poweredpowerless and most muggles as, Me, I already had mastered the power to Outswim, as demonstrated by my ability to make it to the egg first. And as I learned in my high school Math class, with two destinations to choose from, the subpower of Probability Manipulation gave me the ability to choose the correct tube the required egg had dropped into, creating the most unremarkable of superheroes. So I also had that going for me.

Yet, for reasons unexplained, it was felt that I needed swimming lessons during my adolescent summers. Were my parents not there during my creation, did they not know of my heroics, what were they thinking? Swimming lessons? And, since I didn’t know how to generate the power of  Superhuman Speed, I was forced to take the slowest, most pedestrian form of transport available to every kid in the summer swim  program, a school bus. And not a good school bus, this was one of the buses they didn’t use during the school year. This was a bus they rolled out when all of the good buses were taking the summer off. A bus with no suspension to speak of, a bus that appeared to be spraying for mosquitoes as it choked and sputtered along the road, a bus where the front appeard to be going to the right while the back appeard to be going to the left.

I won’t say that I didn’t enjoy those early morning swim lessons at Cedar Creek Lake…in the cold refreshing waters of their…well, cedar lake. What I will say is that I would have preferred to have my lessons in the comfort of the heated pool not far away from that cold lake. I really feel like I could have reached my true Aquability with such a simple change to my training venue. But instead, those who taught me, as usual, failed to identify and match my true potential with the proper training environment required for one with my certain set of skills. So, just like every other kid there, I would stretch out my beach towel and learn to overcome another one of the hindrances to becoming my true heroic-self, Sand in my Shorts. Not exactly a battle with a kraken, but truly uncomfortable in many ways.

For some reason, Mr. Forrester, who owned and operated the Creek (my little nickname for the place), along with his staff decided that myself and the super-powered powerlesses needed to learn four different swim strokes. Freestyle, which let’s face it, I already had that one, the Breast Stroke and the Butterfly stroke, and finally, the Backstroke. Master them all and I would achieve true Aquability, if not then I would be just another kid battling Sand in my Shorts. 

There was one unintended distraction that both Inspired and Motivated. It could Elevate young males to swim faster and father than ever before, or Reduce lesser-willed males to something like a cedar lake jellyfish. I’m sure by now you’ve guessed it-a female swim instructor. Complete with blonde hair, a black one-piece bikini bathing suit, and a whistle just in case the first two characteristics didn’t capture the attention and imagination of the older pre-teen boys. I however, still saddled with Balls That Haven’t Dropped, hardly took notice. I was there to achieve Aquability only, anything else would only Distract and Deter me from achieving that goal

These training sessions were hot and grueling early morning tests meant to discourage the super-powered powerless. Or Camp Fishes as I would refer to them. These Camp Fishes all had jobs to do. Some were there to challenge my Swimability, some were sent to simply kick Sand in my Shorts, you know, the kids with the suddenly big feet who felt it necessary to kick sand on you and your towel as they trudged by. These older, usually bigger than me kids, who hadn’t learned to even float yet, also helped me develop the power of Danger Sense, a sense that would serve me well with two older sisters and a little too much attitude for someone my age.

Using my sub-power to Skip the Details, the culmination of all of this training was the traditional Test of Strokes. The annual Ordeal where all of the little Camp Fishes and little S.H.I.T.(s) (this was the acronym the instructors used for those of us SuperHeroes In Training) swam the length of the Creek to the amusement of the instructors…and of course to see who could swim the farthest using the strokes taught us. This is where I would separate myself as a little S.H.I.T. from the simply ordinary Camp Fish. Of course, on my way to growing my legend as Mr. Unremarkable, I failed to achieve my desired result. I did not swim farther than everyone else. I did not swim faster than everyone else. As I sat in the lake, marking my spot for the length of my swim, I watched, as even some of the Camp Fish stroked right by me. Kicking their legs, leg kicks that propelled them further and faster, leg kicks I forgot to employ. And I wondered, why had my instructors failed me…again? And from who or what did this sudden small flow of warm water emanate from?

And in the end, when it was time for my certificate, “Old Man Forrester”, handed me my “has participated in” certificate and not the “has achieved True Aquability” certificate I needed to further my cred as a superhero. But then the Old Man did something that brought the whole Cedar Creek Lake experience into perspective. Along with a coupon for a Famous Cedar Creek Lake Teenie Weenie and a free drink from any water fountain on the property, cup not included, (not redeemable on date of issue) Old Man Forrester gave me a leaflet to give to my parents so they could sign me up for another round of swimming lessons.

Riding the bus home from Cedar Creek Lake, my sisters in the front of the bus going right, me in the back and going to the left, I stared at that leaflet, at that certificate that represented my newest disappointment, and it finally came to me. This whole thing was a simple money grab. Cedar Creek Lake would continue to give me a “participation” certificate until I was too old to take their training lessons. It would be years before I received a “has achieved True Aquability” certificate, if at all. How could I continue to swim in that cold lake water each morning? All so I could end up with a teenie weenie and a certificate?

…No, not me, not this little S.H.I.T.

My Best Friend And A Ball Game

Baseball, probably more than any other sport, is constantly promoting the next big give-away day at the ballpark. Teams also have “special events” such as a 4th of July Fireworks show to lure in more fans. As a Phillies fan, one of the biggest events the team has each year is celebrating the Phillie Phanatic’s birthday. Mascots from everywhere show up, some recognizable, some not. This year marked the Phanatic’s 38th birthday in human years, not really sure what that adds up to in Phanatic years, and of course his mom Phoebe was there to help celebrate the big day, along with the Zooper Stars (Ken Giraffey Jr., Shark Mcguire, and the umpire-eating Clammy Sosa).

Unfortunately the Phanatic and I don’t get along ever since he climbed into my car at a public appearance and knocked a box of popcorn out of my hand, (true story) making my then 2-year old daughter cry. Apparently it’s okay for him to unroll that tongue of his in your face, but don’t ever give him a playful slap to the back of his fuzzy green head. He doesn’t like that. Of course my daughter being just 2 got over it, but being somewhat of an adult, I just can’t let it go. 

This month’s Can of Corn Challenge is to write about your favorite give away day that you’ve attended. For the sake of transparency, I’ve never been to a baseball game where something was “given away”. I did almost get a foul ball once, however my friend was able to grab it from underneath of the woman’s seat next to him before I could get to it…

…the ball’s live until it’s in someone’s hands. Beneath someone’s seat doesn’t establish ownership.

That was our rule back then, but to be honest, I always thought he should have given the ball back to her so she could give it to her grandson. Especially since he was sitting right next to her. But, it was the Vet in the late 1970’s after all, a place where manners and common courtesy went to die many deaths.

My choice of games to attend would be one of the newer, more popular event days baseball teams have, an event that is on the schedule of over 20 Major League teams…Bark At The Park.

Dog days, or nights, have become so popular in 2016 that many teams are offering them multiple times during the season. In Arizona, the Diamondbacks have made dogs welcome every Sunday in 2016. The Texas Rangers even combined a bobble head give-away, (for you traditionalists), followed by a post game concert by Cody Johnson. I don’t know who that is since my music knowledge ends at 1990, but I’ll assume he’s a Country & Western singer?

In May this year, the Phillies held their Bark At the Park Day for 300 of our Best Friends and their families. Dogs were encouraged to wear their Phillies gear for the chance to win the Becst In Show contest, and participate in the on-field parade prior to the game. The opportunity to be on a Major League Baseball field was a dream I was encouraged to give up when I was 12. Who would think a 13 inch Beagle would give me the best chance to ever “live that dream” imagesome 40+ years later? Of course, just like my inability to hit a curve ball, his love of a good cheesesteak would make it a challenge to get him by the concession stands in Ashburn Alley and make it on the field for the parade. I know, I know…the Phils are too smart to allow dogs in Ashburn Alley, they prefer them to be on the field. (You can interpret that last statement however you want.)

Bark At the Park Night also helped to raise money and awareness for PAWS (the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society) and ARF (Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation). Representatives from PAWS had some adoptable pets on-hand and fans were encouraged to bring much-needed items like food and cleaning supplies.

Maybe someday Bailey and me will make it to a Bark in the Park game because I can’t think of a better way to spend a day with a loyal best friend. 

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