I’ll run the risk of heresy with this,
But I don’t care,
I’ve grown weary of people.
Red hat wearing angry folks,
Pious cause folks,
Loud talking sports commentators,
These are just a few,
Right of left, rich or poor,
I’m ready for some solitude.

Back in my “yute,” I was sports all the time,
There was nothing else,
Only basketball, baseball, or football.
Into my teens, I branched out, boxing, Olympics, weight lifting,
It didn’t matter, I loved them all, (except hockey)
Playing, watching, dissecting, and dreaming
The games were a joy
Win, lose, or draw,
I was up for it.

Maybe sports media ruined it for me,
24/7 sports, the promise of big money for scholarships, travel teams,
Each began to chip away at the fun.
Rivalries became personal, parents became entitled, coaches local royalty
(Or reviled characters depending on playing time and records).
The pageantry left my soul.
I saw the other side and became disillusioned,
Sometimes even part of the problem, a piece of the machine,
An out of control creation that had lost perspective.

I’ve been getting over that…the things I disliked in other and me…
Slowly the joy has been returning,
My interest in sports growing, my love of coaching developing
“And then… And then…“ (You should hear The Coasters on that)
And then along came the darkness,
Shade throwers, egoists, folks bereft of common sense, decency, or niceties
For in this time of COVID when maybe we could all stop thinking the worst
I nearly got concussed by the reaction of some at being put in quarantine.
Too much for a poem, too little information, but our sports team has been shutdown,
We are done for close contact after a positive test for a player on another team,
A rival, a school on the other side of the bypass,
The side where kids grow up, just like ours,
The side where there are problems, just like ours,
Yet for some reason, the two sides don’t see things the same,
Not even with sports, the thing that is supposed to bring people together.

The ugliness I heard tonight disturbed me,
I have friends on the other side of the bypass,
I have compassion for people who are getting sick,
Each day someone stays healthy, wherever they are from,
Is a good effing day,
But when suspicion mixes with virus chatter over basketball schedules,
I’ve got no time for your Travel Channel conspiracy theory thinking,
No time for your entitled sense of what you should be getting,
You should get punked for rivalry baiting, insinuating, just floating ideas out there
All under an umbrella of being a parent of an athlete.

And just like that my perspective changed,
I still love sports, still believe in the value of learning through competition,
Still value the examples of how sports can help heal, can cross hostile boundaries,
Can bring people together.
I still want to coach, to see the players I am fortunate enough to work with grow,
But…
I have a sour taste for people,
The egocentric,
Non-global thinking,
Narrow minded,
Me, me, me-rs who are ruining everything
From the climate to youth league sports.

Be better.

Flipping the script
Paid dividends for the girls.
Keeping cool, staying strong,
Getting hot at the right time
Gave them the edge to win our game.

The news mentioned impeachment,
I struggled to remember the old president,
Was he even ever there.
Fortunately, the country stayed strong, cool,
Voting to edge him out.

Our game today, was much more enjoyable.
Seeing the girls come together,
To play with trust, teamwork, and shared inspiration.
Flipping the script
Makes everything better.

What will we remember about this year?
The hassles?
The inconveniences?
The rhetoric?

I hope we are bigger than that.
2020 seems to be about fragility,
Not “fragile-eee…”
More like the breaking points around us.

Do not forget how easily we can succumb,
The virus got in,
Did it’s damage,
Showed us we are not perfect.

Do not forget how easily we can be brought to rage,
The injustices mounted,
We had enough,
The fissures grew.

Do not forget how easily we can put it all aside,
For through this, many pulled together,
Seeing how much we need each other,
That division does nothing good.

We can see 2020 as a lost year, but
That is the crib version.
Dig deeper, mine the lessons, and
Bring them to life.

These days are something else,
Sort of free,
Sort of on vacation,
Always with the threat of lockdown,
Always with the idea of change,
The kind that comes from chaos,
The kind that happens when power
Seizes opportunity,
Seizes the sheeple and won’t let them go.
These days are something else.

I’m taking the Avon and Wee-Bey approach
First day, last day,
Everything in the middle is one big opportunity
An opportunity to exercise,
An opportunity to learn new stuff,
An opportunity to rest
Because if I just sit and think about this stuff,
If all I do is listen to the reporting,
If all I do is the time
These days will become something else…

The italics are paraphrases, tributes, expressions of gratitude
For wisdom shared…

“A group who look to me for provocation or narration from time to time..”

I’m a nerd,
One who can clear a coffee table
With a gross joke that is over the edge without a rope
And still find time in the day
To nourish a soul with plenty of exercise,
Mental stimulation, and chilling with a sleeping dog.
It’s that mental stimulation that is calling out,
For I have for too long needed some provocation,
A little narration,
A stiff kick in the ass.

“We have in common a thirst, curiosity, are
Interested in figuring out what’s next…”

I had a moment today,
An intellectual concussion
That broke my mental filament
Which has been dimming
With an apathetic persistence
For the last few years.

“…and who are restless to make a difference.”

Fundamental shifts,
Philosophical tectonics,
This personal quake
Exposed my faults cemented by complacency,
Those rigors of passive acceptance,
The rejection of risk-taking,
An absence of purpose, or
Being ghosted by meaning,
The movement inspired today
Was that kick, the one I needed,
To push me into the open
Where I had not been in so long.

Sliding beyond now,
Drifting into the gray,
The place that matters,
A spongey area of chaotic ideas
Wrestling with what is known
And the fuzzy energy
Crackling when dissonance
Grabs the front of the brain and
Squeezes out the sour thoughts that have been
Clogging potential, shutting off
Excitement, fun, positivity.

“Restless…Curious…Thirsty…”

Finally, it’s happening,
I see it now,
I saw it after being poked
Authenticity has left, mechanized teaching had arrived,
I have become a Tin Man robot
Going through the motions
With no oil to release me from my voluntary servitude.

“Provocation…”

I heard Seth’s narrative,
I really heard Seth’s narrative,
So much so that I could not contain my excitement
I scribbled some notes
With only two minutes to get to class,
Where a disinterested bunch of ninth-graders waited
To talk about the ills of alcohol.

Instead, we drank from a cup of educational inspiration
Allowing a class to raise themselves to heights unseen,
Pushing me to use skills dormant since the end of RJP
Thoughts of self-efficacy rose,
Risking too big of a leap we talked of group efficacy,
And when the emotion was nearly too much,
I pointed out the window with excitement and worry
As a red pickup truck made a tight turn
With palettes stacked high in the bed.
The distraction let me have the moment I needed to clear my head
And wipe the tears from my eyes
As these kids were sending me to that happy place
I rarely get to experience.
I could have been standing below the Pamper Pole
Or having a quiet conversation at the top of a team beam,
There was that kind of honesty and importance
To what we were talking about.

“LEGO…”

Those little effing bricks,
Directions, no directions, bricks, kits

Then, one student said,
“Sometimes you gotta use what your parents taught you
Even when they ain’t around.”

My gosh,
They got it,
No homework,
No quizzes,
No threats of detention,
Only a conversation, something we have been working towards,
Something elusive, just when it was there,
It was gone,
Until today, when we did it,
We broke through and school quit being SCHOOL for twenty minutes,
Becoming realizations, reflections, connections,

Real, messy, untethered to directions,

Alive.

“Raise kids who know what to do when there are no instructions.” Seth Godin

[Inspired by Seth Godin, Akimbo Podcast 1/22/2020, Sportsmanship. Please check it out!]

Races have a soul,
Philly has a soul,
Too often that Philly way
Is a soul steeped in harshness,
Bitterness,
What ifs…

This past Sunday clouds took a break
From draining themselves
On the hopefuls who were looking for personal greatness
Along the streets of Philadelphia
Where dreams are often dashed
In whatever macabre deviance cast out by the city.

With the rain stopped, the cold kept a hold on the scantily clad throng,
Finally, the gun sounded and off they went
Chugging through the neighborhoods,
Looping through the parks, and living in the Philly vibe
That if nothing else, is tough.

A little bitch of a hill in Fairmount,
The uneven pavement of Old City,
Whiskey charity, and the boredom of West River Drive
Each doing nothing to inspire doom, gloom, or failure,
Until they joined forces with Mother Nature.

Or maybe it was Old Man Winter who brought the pain,
With a nasty wind off the Schuylkill blowing heavy rain sideways that
Made a wild trip through Manayunk a serious battle to prevent leg cramps.
The weather and electrolyte depletion could not defy this soul
For lessons from Goggins ran deep and kept purpose in the forefront.

Neither snow, sleet, nor hail could slow the pace,
Not even a full bladder could stop a determined stride
Each hobble bringing the finish line closer until it got real when.
The personal clouds opened up
Letting loose a torrent camouflaged by nature’s storm.

Toughness,
That intangible trait, something the Greek used to factor in,
Before he became a racist buffoon,
Is the one thing that culminates from all those hours of training,
And in the City of Brotherly Love, thousands showed their mettle.

Forget the metal platitudes, the dry fit t-shirts,
Forget the celebrities at the start,
Marathons are about a soul, an ethos
That we can do something crazy, something seemingly impossible,
Something fitting for a city like Philadelphia.

For in all the ugliness of the urban area,
All the pain and suffering that exists at one end of the city’s continuum
Not all hurt must be dire,
Hips might quit, fingers might get cold, hypothermia might be right around the corner,
But soul can soothe all ills.

A soul is an identity,
The energy that lets others know this is who we are
Take it or leave it.
And I’m taking it, the warts of Philly, the gifts of Philly,
The soul of Philly.

Twenty-six miles and change,
Not much on the scale of accomplishments,
Five hours
Not much on the scale of accomplishments,
But I’m damn proud of the experience.

The cold, the cramps, the confluence of cold rain and hot whatever that was,
We were out there testing ourselves,
Treating ourselves to the power of uncertainty,
Gaining new scars, better stories, and callouses against doubt and regret,
Souls, that’s what we got, yo.