Diamond Time

by Rich on February 20, 2017

Because of the peculiarities of the academic calendar, college baseball and softball seasons begin right about the time that pitchers and catchers report for spring training in the big leagues, which happens while most of the northeast and upper mid-west are still de-icing roads and California is dodging mudslides.

Because I live in a college town, that means that mid February is the beginning of baseball and softball season for me. I mean, I haven’t even filled out my March Madness bracket yet, and we already have stats to look at for our local college team. (Speaking of brackets, I have participated in about twenty office pool NCAA March Madness bracket contests and I have won exactly one of them. The first one. I won $300. I filled out my bracket based on win/loss record and mascot strength. I did not watch one game of college basketball that entire year. Haven’t won since.)

But I’m ok with this early start America’s Pastime. Even though opening weekend usually involves multiple fleece blankets and multiple fortified cups of  hot chocolate, it’s fun to know that the beginning of a sport I love coincides so nicely with the end, and only aspect that I enjoy, of another sport that, well, I don’t really get into that much. I have been known to fill out my bracket while simultaneously scoring a 6-4-3 double play. That’s what you call the sweet spot of sports. And chili dog spot on pants. Hard to juggle all 4 at once (I didn’t spill the afore mentioned fortified hot chocolate. Priorities).

And I have to be honest… it is only recently in my life that I have paid more than cursory attention to softball. Part of that is exposure (non of my 3 sisters played) and part of it is just plain old ignorance. But I have God Daughters who have played through high school and our local college team has become so exciting to watch that they are impossible to ignore, even if you’ve never watched the game. So now I watch. And that’s a bizarre experience. Not softball. That’s not bizarre. That’s amazing. No, having the seasons coincide is bizarre. Because I used to just have one sport to look forward to in the spring while basketball was cruising to an end. But now I have 2 (sidebar: with all the scoring and fast paced action that softball offers, I predict a vibrant professional league in the next 10 years. It is everything that baseball isn’t and yet still everything that it is. Does that make sense? Of course not. That’s why it’s a sidebar. Also, lawyers reading this are pulling their hair out).

So I’m excited about baseball and softball and the end of basketball. And that’s good. This time of year, no matter where you live (unless you’re currently residing in the Cayman Islands, and if you are, just keep that little nugget to yourself), it’s nice to have something to look forward to. Cold, rain, snow, stormy weather and sibling fights over the holidays… we can all use something that signals the arrival of something new and warm and hopeful.

Because we can only dodge mudslides, family, and other natural disasters for so long.


General Moore

by Rich on February 16, 2017

                        Lt Gen Hal Moore
     (photo credit: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)

Imagine if you could meet a real hero. Abraham Lincoln, the Pope, Audie Murphy (look him up, kids). I got to. More than once. And I’m a better man for it.

I don’t remember when I got the book. My best friend gave it to me years ago when it first came out. Craig is one of the few people I know who reads as much, if not more, than I do, though his tastes run in the non-fiction genres, whereas mine tend to float in the spy/mystery novel area. Nevertheless, he gave me the book and I read it.

It read like a novel. Except most novels I have read seemed more believable. And less terrifying. But I’m so glad I read it. It was my introduction to a hero.

Most of you are familiar with the Mel Gibson movie “We Were Soldiers”, and many may have read the book on which it was based. This is a small anecdote about how and why I feel tied to a man I consider to be one of the greatest heroes in our nation’s history.

That man is the late Lt. General Hal Moore.

General Moore passed last week at the age of 94, just a few days shy of his 95th birthday. I won’t go into what makes him a hero. You can watch the movie (which, ironically, only tells part of what happened in that historic battle in the early days of the war in Viet Nam), or read the book, and draw your own conclusions.

Here’s the story…

I was a pharmaceutical rep back in late 2000, and I think that is when I first heard that they were making a movie out of this amazing book I had just read. If memory serves, one of the doctors told me about it and showed me a casting call ad in the local paper. Part of the movie was to be filmed at Ft Benning, Ga, and they needed extras. Prior military preferred.

Hmmmm…. I like to act. I’m prior military. Yep. I was in. So I went. I stood in line for 2 hours (it was like I was back in the Navy again!) and then stepped into a hotel room where I was asked a few questions about my service history, filled out some forms, and had some very tasteful pictures taken. Then I waited.

And I got called. I had been chosen.

For a week I went to Ft Benning every day. Sometimes it was early morning, sometimes it was late at night. Almost always group scenes. The parade ground farewell scene, the rushing to get on the buses scene. A scene where I’m walking with another guy in the background while Mel (as then Col. Moore) and his movie family drove through Ft Benning for the first time. That kind of thing.

What a cool experience. I got to meet Greg Kinnear and Sam Elliot. I got to see Mel work. I was a part of a movie! But the coolest thing was seeing him. The Man Himself.

He stood quiet off to the side. He was with his wife the time I saw him. They stood in the shade and watched. Often Mel would run over between takes and talk and laugh with the two of them. You could tell there was a comfort level there.

That was the first time I saw him.

The second time I saw him was in line at Taco Bell. Yep. Hal Moore. Lt. General Hal Moore. Getting his Gordita Supreme on. Epic. I was with my son who was maybe 6 at the time. He had never met Hal Moore. I asked him if he wanted to meet a real hero. I knew he wouldn’t understand then, but hoped he would remember later. General Moore was gracious when introduced myself, explaining that I had read the book and been an extra. I introduced my son. Hal didn’t kneel down or hunch over. He stood straight and held out his hand to my son and said, “Hal Moore”, like he was meeting a bank CEO. My son was brave and a bit in awe of this old man as he shook his hand. Proud dad moment.

The third time was in Mass at church. He went all the time. I knew he lived most of the year in Auburn, and I knew he was Catholic, but I guess it still surprised me to see him there. Again, unassuming, in a windbreaker, right side, halfway back. The first time I saw him there, I didn’t say anything. I was too intimidated. It took 3 or 4 times of seeing him there before I had the nerve to go introduce myself again. He seemed almost embarrassed. But pleased as well. After that we would exchange greetings at church.

When his wife passed a number of years ago, it nearly killed him and it broke my heart to see him at mass alone. Family and friends rallied around him and cared for him, but we began to see less and less of the old warrior.

So that’s my little anecdote of meeting a hero. I’m not the first to say it, but it’s true… Hal Moore was the real man that John Wayne and Clint Eastwood pretended to be in the movies. He loved his family ferociously, he fought for his country bravely, he served those who served, and he was at peace with God.

That’s a life, friends, any way you slice it. And I feel so fortunate to have met the man.


Not Winning

February 13, 2017

It’s the Sunday after the Super Bowl (I can call it that now, apparently, since I’m not trying to sell anything with it), and since my team lost, I have been reflecting on what it means to be the fan of a team that perpetually disappoints. As someone who grew up in Atlanta, GA., I […]

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Day Job

February 9, 2017

Recently I had a theater student sit in with me during my show. He’s a senior and had an assignment for a class. So we talked about what I do for a living. Michael is a great guy. He and I did a show together a number of years ago when he was in high […]

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February 6, 2017

Hard to believe, but it’s finally here: the official end of football season. It’s time for “The Big Game”. You know the one… the professional football game at the very end of the season between the two teams who have advanced through their respective conferences, the winner of which determines the league championship for the […]

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Too Early For Flapjacks?

February 2, 2017

I can’t help it. It’s Groundhog Day and I always think of the Bill Murray movie. What can you say about the movie Groundhog Day that hasn’t already been said? Not much. So I won’t try. Ok, yes. Yes I will. Because I love this movie. I love it for a thousand reasons, each with […]

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The Sporting Life

January 30, 2017

There was a time when I think we all had a pretty good handle on what constituted “sports”. Football? Sport. Baseball? Sport. Boxing? Sport. Horse racing…? Ok, sure. Sport. And then, as technology developed, the line between sport and game began to blur. So what constitutes “sport”? We use to know, but not so much […]

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Hair-raising Pictures

January 26, 2017

A friend from high school was cleaning out her basement this week and stumbled across a box of pictures. Then she posted them online. On Facebook. Where you can tag people. Ouch. But really, I’m glad she did, because I have laughed so hard at pictures of myself and my friends, most of whom I […]

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The Politics of Sports

January 23, 2017

I promised myself that I would not talk politics in today’s column, which is, ostensibly, about sports, even though you and I both know it’s much more about my own personal ramblings about food and stuff, with just enough sports mixed in to keep it honest. But it’s kind of hard to leave it out […]

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Rule Books

January 19, 2017

Trigger warning: I’m about to sound like a grumpy, “get the hell off of my lawn”, old man. But hey, sometimes you just have to own it. I hate all of you. Not you, individually. No, individually I love you all. But all of you? As a species? As the human race? I hate so […]

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