Friday, November 11, 2016

The Way a Blog Ends ...

            More than eight years ago, I started writing this blog. I’ve published nearly 350 posts in that time, and it’s been a tremendous experience. I started out with the idea of connecting baseball and life, and even named the blog and the web address after that idea. One year, I even wrote 162 baseball-to-life blog posts in 162 days, choosing a different player each day as inspiration for that post’s topic.

            Eventually, I started shifting away from the baseball-to-life theme, and began writing more about life itself, with a focus on parenting. At times, I snuck in a little bit about teaching, or politics, or baseball. But whatever the topic, I tried to use the blog to explore the ways in which we might find some elements of hope and connection in this crazy world.

            At its best, the blog might have approached the writing style of Anna Quindlen, the columnist I grew up seeking to emulate. At its worst, the blog read like a cheesy greeting card. Most of the time, it was somewhere in between, with a style that read like a combination of Dave Barry, Charles Schulz and a Sunday sermon.

            Today, it is time to move on, and leave The Pitch behind. For one thing, it still bills itself as a blog about baseball and life. And really, after a month in which the Chicago Cubs won the World Series and Donald Trump claimed the White House, how can any baseball-to-life story top that drama? Secondly, I am ready to write with a bit more focus on the things I know best – education and journalism. I will continue that in my new blog, There’s already a post there, ready for you!

            So for those who have checked out this blog over the years, I thank you so much for taking the time to read my writing. I appreciate your comments and feedback, and I hope there’s been a post or two in here that made your day a little bit brighter; that’s really all I was striving for to begin with.

            These are extraordinary times, and all of us are trying to figure it out, no matter where we stand politically. I have no interest in saying it will all turn out OK, because I don’t know that. But sometimes songs creep up on you during stressful times, kind of like a prayer. I’ve been reading Bruce Springsteen’s book Born to Run lately, and this week I’m hearing the lyrics from the final song of his Nebraska album in my head:

            Still at the end of every hard day people find some reason to believe.

            I’ve got no words to improve on that. Thanks for reading, and may we all find our own ways to keep the faith.

Monday, November 7, 2016

November 8, 2016

            Tomorrow it will finally be over. The most stressful presidential election campaign in recent memory will be history, and we will all move on.
            And finally, the story will become what we have long been neglecting: For the first time in the 240 years of these United States of America, a woman will have been elected president.
            I will keep this in the forefront of my mind as I walk into the voting booth tomorrow. I will think of the famous women who have served as trailblazers in our country, from Harriet Tubman to Susan B. Anthony to Amelia Earhart to Eleanor Roosevelt to Oprah Winfrey.
            I will think of my grandmother, Anne Hynes, who was a tremendous bank clerk, but whose gender and family obligations kept her in that position, even as she trained the man who would eventually run the bank.
            I will think of my mother, just a year older than Hillary Clinton, who was told as a young woman that she had two career choices – nursing or teaching. She chose the latter, and did a tremendous job of it. But what else could she have excelled at had she been given the opportunity? Those of us who know her can tell you: A whole lot.
            I will think of my wife, who like so many mothers in our generation has juggled the “mommy trap” of full-time job and full-time parenting, finding a way to make every school function and game and cookie-baking for our girls, while also shining at her job each day.
            I will think of all the young women I worked with in the sports department of my college newspaper, who did not pay attention to professional stereotypes and knew that glass ceilings were ultimately made to be shattered.
            I will think of the supervisors I have had in my jobs, so many of them women, who have led newspaper sections, English departments, schools and school districts with tremendous skill – all while also leading their own families as well.
            I will think of my female students, who have soared through their academic careers and into every conceivable profession – from education to medicine to writing. I will like their proud social-media posts tomorrow, and I will wonder if one day I might find myself voting for one of them.
            And, of course, I will think of my two daughters, who at 14 and 11 believe they can do anything they set their minds to doing. When they awake Wednesday morning, they will believe that even more.
            It has been a hard election, and we all know that. But tomorrow is a day for history, and a day to celebrate. I’m going to do that. Whatever your political viewpoint may be, I hope you will find a moment to acknowledge this too. It has been a long time coming. I’m glad the wait is over.

Friday, November 4, 2016

This Is Us

            The other day, my wife told me we needed to watch a new TV show together. This is significant, as it will be just the fourth show we’ve watched together this century. Other than The West Wing, Glee and Friday Night Lights, we’ve missed out on this “golden age” of dramatic television. We heard great things about Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Wire, The Sopranos and Homeland to name just a few, but have found ourselves feeling lucky if we’re able to catch an inning of a baseball game or the opening skit of Saturday Night Live.
            The reason for this is very simple: We had our first child in January 2002, and have spent the past 15 years absorbed in that work. It has been the No. 1 priority in our lives, and will remain so for as long as they’re beneath our roof. Even now, as I write these words, I sit in a Starbucks on a Friday evening while our younger daughter plays laser tag at a friend’s birthday party. Sure, it’s prime date-night time or, at the very least, DVR-watching time. But an 11-year-old and 14-year-old need you to make dinner, wash the clothes, clean the house, enforce the technology time and chauffeur them everywhere. We’re Uber-parents, all right, but we work for free.
            The show my wife selected is called This Is Us, and from what I hear lots of people are watching it. After just two episodes, I’m not sure if it’s a bit too melodramatic for me, but I can definitely connect with its depiction of ordinary life in extraordinary ways. The average day of parenting consists of more ordinary moments than I can name, but when viewed through a wide-angle lens it is extraordinary enough to take your breath away.
            Take this past Halloween, for instance. I had to work until 6, and when I got home the girls had decided not to go trick-or-treating but to focus instead on giving candy to the little ones in our neighborhood. Then they changed their minds, painted their faces, and headed into the neighborhood with bags. Then the older one, Katie, changed her mind again after two houses, and they came back with about four pieces of candy. Chelsea, our younger one, held a canvas trick-or-treating bag that had the year and name of every costume she’d every worn written in marker, from Boots the Monkey to Glinda from Wicked. It was kind of sad and depressing to see them bail out on the only thing they’d ever done on Halloween night, but we made the best of it and spent time together until Katie headed up to her room to clean her fish tank.
            Sometime toward the end of the tank cleaning, we heard Katie start to cry. She had filled the tank with water that was too warm, and it had killed the Betta fish. She’d fed and cared for her fish every day for the two months since we’d been given a tank and she had bought the fish, and now this. So at 8:30 on Halloween, I found myself holding a spade in our backyard, digging a hole for Polly the fish. No one else wanted to see me do it, but flushing had been declared out of bounds. So it was just me and Polly, in the darkness of Halloween. I tucked her into the ground, patted the dirt and headed back inside.
            This is us. There’s nothing all that unusual about our domestic life, but at the same time we are making our way through these days together, and when families do this they carry a resiliency and poetry that is hard to believe sometimes. As parents, it feels like we’re in the trenches so much of the time, but at the same time we’re also helping lead a parade of pride and progress.
            We negotiate phone time, beg for clothes to be put away, celebrate improved math scores, discuss friendship choices and encourage their development of identity. We love them madly, but we parent with maddening inconsistency at times, and we find ourselves mad at each other and ourselves when yet another day goes by without any couple time. We bury the fish, tuck away their trick-or-treat bags, and give them a hug. We tell them we love them, and they whisper “Love you too” before we close the door.
             One of these days, Amy and I will watch another episode of this show. The free time will surface eventually, and we’ll cuddle up together. As we watch, we’ll notice the parallels between life and art. We’ve missed a lot of good TV over the years, that’s for sure. But we’ve been busy – writing our own story.