Little League Insanity

Posted by: on May 29, 2011 | One Comment

A few weeks back, the Millburn Patch, the local online news and information service, put out the call for bloggers and I figured…what the hell. Earlier today, my most recent blog for The Patch went up. In it, I recall one day on the Millburn Little League field.  You can take a look at
I got a very interesting response from my fellow SU ’82 Dean Stevens, which I’d like to share with you all because it so closely mirrors what I and so many parents that I know have gone through.

An Open Letter To A Little League Coach

“Dad, I love baseball.”
And with those words, I took my boy, then 3, to the local batting cage and started him on his way in America’s favorite pastime.

Three years old, and hitting 25 mile per hour fastballs was quite a feat I was told.  The other kids and parents would surround the cage and watch my little guy take his swings… several comments from the onlookers made Dad feel proud.  The kid had a smile on his face that would last the next 7 years…

“Dad, I love baseball.”  Then on to Little League we go son.  You’re doing so well, we’ll even skip T-Ball and go straight to the big time… live pitching by a coach!  I’ll even offer to be the coach… teach the other kids the love for the game that I’m teaching you.  New friends for the both of us… lots of fun.

Five, six, seven years old, and hitting up to 40 mile per hour fastballs became the norm for the kid.  Batting cleanup with a .700 + average brought more annual accolades from the other kids and parents.  “Hey coach, your kid’s got something special!”  Dad’s still feeling proud.

The kid turned 8… the fastballs at the batting cage were 50 mph and still being hit hard with regularity.  The fielding started to kick in too… the kid played third base and shortstop with a good arm.  A good arm that help the kid develop into a relief pitcher for his 9 year old team.  More friends… more fun.

Then the ultimate season… 10 years old, a starting pitcher and shortstop in a new league (Dad relocated), batting cleanup with a .650+ average, a regular season first place finish and a post-season playoff championship.  The kid was on the mound for the season’s last out and is lifted up in Dad’s arms and carried off the field in celebration.  Teammates are congratulating each other… parents making plans to reminisce next month poolside.  Who’s having more fun now… the kid or Dad?

“Dad, I love baseball.”
Congratulations, kid… you made the post-season All-Star team. You get to enjoy the game for another 2 months. “Great, Dad… you gonna coach?”  No, son… I’ve coached  you for 7 years now… worked with you to make yourself an All-Star… your new coaches are bigger, better, brighter… going to help make your dream come true; show you what it takes to be a major leaguer…

Seven years of loving fatherly advice, counseling, monitoring, instructing… instilling a desire in the kid to win and to improve, striving to impart as much baseball knowledge as possible to the kid and his teammates, shaping acceptable behavior patterns whether the team wins or loses. Time now for Dad to sit back and enjoy his boy’s heroics.  “I could make a million dollars with the Mets, Dad.” Dad’s got a big smile.  The kid’s got a bigger one; great anticipation.

Summer All-Stars… More new friends for the kid and Dad… new coaches in a new town; new learning experience on a new team… more baseball; more fun… %$#@&*!  For the Summer of ’96, hope turned into despair; excitement into disappointment; the kid’s smile into a frown.  Even Dad shed a tear.

Experience the sudden shock of coaches who manage the team as a personal showcase for their own sons… coaches that accentuate the negative without any praise for the positive.  Coaches who ignore the young egos, tirades, moodiness and unfriendly teasing amongst the pre-teens on the field with no understanding of the emotional needs of the age group they supervise.  Coaches (and their sons) who show no appreciation of the philosophy of the Little League in making the program of mutual benefit to all.

Dad’s all for competition – as long as it’s fair.  Your kid plays third base?  Tough… my son’s there.  Shortstop?  Sorry, that’s the other coach’s son’s position.  Pitcher?  First base?  Those kids’ fathers are on the Board Of Directors.  No rudiments of teamwork and fair play here.  Good sportsmanship and discipline?  Not an attainable goal this summer… not with kids who demonstrate anti-social, destructive and immoral behavior… not with Coaches (and their sons) who in 8 weeks can negate the love for a game the young kid had developed for 7 years.

Inning upon inning, hour upon hour, game upon game, the former 3 year old phenom sat his quick bat, fast feet and competent glove in the dugout… left out, confidence wading, with family and friends traveling the State to sit in the stands without a glimpse of the kid emerging from the dugout.  A couple of summer tournaments and a dozen games later, here are the kid’s stats: One (1) at bat: one (1) base on balls; two (2) innings playing out of position in the outfield: no attempts, no putouts… in a League that is supposed to provide an opportunity for each youngster to participate in every game.

“Dad, I hate baseball.”
Tough summer, son.  Breaks my heart.

Hey managers… hey coaches… Little Leaguers are children, not professional players, and need encouragement, not criticism… from you and your sons (it’s a team sport, remember?).  You can exert a wonderful influence upon your players – an influence which can be as fine an educational experience as any youngster might undergo – or you can be a menace to our children.

Let our kids enjoy the game for what it is.  If it isn’t fun… it isn’t Little League!

Graduation Wear

Posted by: on May 27, 2011 | 2 Comments

A couple of weekends ago, my daughter graduated from Syracuse University, a.k.a. The alma mater. One of the more interesting aspects of graduation was to see how people dressed. Let me set the stage.

Graduation took place on a dreary, misty, rainy, central NY day and the temperature hovered around 50 degrees. In order to get to the Carrier Dome where graduation was being held, most people had to negotiate their way across campus. This includes steps to get onto campus, more steps to get into the dome and even more steps to get to your seat. A day like this calls for comfy clothes, good walking shoes and a rain jacket or wind breaker of some sort, don’t you think?

WRONG!  It seems this was perfect weather for 6″ stilettos, thigh high mini skirts and sleeveless tops. I kid you not. Most of these tart-like outfits were worn by very young ladies who looked like they were either dressed for the prom or for porn. The look is so similar that sometimes I get them confused. Honestly, the real insanity was that these young ladies wore these outfits in full view of their parents. I understand you want your 12 or 13 daughter to look like a hooker but not when it’s raining and 50 degrees. A little common sense please.

When we first started walking to campus, it didn’t take very long for me to witness the first in what would be series of mishaps or near mishaps, a slip on the very wet marble steps near the student center. Perfectly understandable as I’m sure it’s a bitch to negotiate those steps when you are wearing those heels and the wind is blowing right up that skirt in an attempt to show off all your assets.

Upon our arrival at the dome, I witnessed one young lady attempt to negotiate the steps that led into the dome. Actually, I should “step” as she took the first one on her feet and the next 3 or 4 on her ass. At least she was smart enough to remove her shoes for the rest of her journey down.

Now it’s into the Carrier Dome, a 30 year concrete slab of a stadium with aluminum bench seats that have no backs (unless of course you are a privileged character and get seats in the press box and thank god we did). And did I mention the steps…no handrails. Not a fun place to walk or sit for 2+ hours when you are dressed like a Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver (the only teenage movie hooker I can think of right now).

In the end, graduation weekend was everything we had hoped it would be despite the lousy weather and our hotel (but that’s another story). We are now down to one active SU student and it’s 3 years until our next graduation…or so we hope.

Ira’s Pet Peeves – Part I

Posted by: on May 19, 2011 | 2 Comments

Ira’s Pet Peeves – Part I

There are some things that occur in life on a seemingly regular basis. I don’t really feel like spending a whole blog, so I’m going to group them into “Ira’s Pet Peeves” and throw a few out at you from time-to-time. Here’s the first in what I plan to be a series of random pet peeves that I think we all encounter.

Pet Peeve #1 – The Call Me Email
The other night, I got an email from a client of mine that read “Call me.” Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence which always gets me thinking “Why? Are your fingers broken?” If you think about it, it actually takes more effort to write the email and send the email than it actually takes to tap in 10 numbers on your phone. Now that I’ve made this pet peeve public, it will be interesting to see how many folks email me to “call them” just to piss me off!

Pet Peeve #2 – Sidewalk Hogs
Yesterday I was walking down Millburn Avenue. Coming at me were 3 people walking side-by-side.  When we got within a few feet of each, I almost had to walk into a building to get past them because they continued to walk side-by-side, never breaking formation. When I said excuse me (slightly sarcastically), they looked at me like I had done something wrong. The only I did wrong was not walk right through them like a bowling ball…assholes!

Pet Peeve #3 – The Textwalker (and I think I just made up a new word!)
Actually, this probably is worthy of more than one blog as it happens so often and I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about (and you may be one yourself). These people walk around, all day, nose buried in their cell phones as they text away. You see them on not so crowded suburban streets, very crowded city streets, malls, parks, supermarkets, etc. I read somewhere that emergency rooms have seen a dramatic increase in injuries that occur because people are walking into objects on the street (telephone poles, street signs, garbage cans, etc.) because texting while walking.  Some of these folks even get concussions! My solution when I see someone like that approaching me on the street is to stop and see if they’ll walk into me. Usually they don’t but I would really like to be the cause of sending someone to the emergency because they were textwalking and just couldn’t react quickly enough to my elbow swinging at their  head.

Pet Peeve #4 – Car Door Swinging Open Into Traffic
Many moons ago, while I was walking home from high school, I witnessed a car accident where the person getting out of their car, swung there door open directly into the flow of traffic and an oncoming car took that door right off. For those of you from Great Neck, this occurred on Middle Neck Road right in front on Nassau McGowan (I kid you not). Luckily, nobody got hurt. I’m actually shocked this doesn’t happen more often. As Linda will attest, this is actually a dream of mind. I’m driving some beat up old car (maybe I can find that Caprice Classic I used to drive a few years back) on Millburn Avenue, somebody in really, really expensive that has just parked swings open their door just as I drive by and whammo! Off comes the door faster than you can say “you stupid moron but at least that was not my fault.” And as I long as nobody gets hurt, I think that would be kinda fun.

I think that’s enough for today. Now go forth, find your own pet peeves and let me know what those. It’s always nice to share!

Allie’s Graduation Letter

Posted by: on May 15, 2011 | One Comment

Back in April, Linda and I got an email from one Allie’s sorority sisters saying that they were putting a senior memory book together and that all the parents could write a short note to their daughter. Our short note turned into a full blown letter to Allie. Do I  act like the type of father that was going to write “We are so proud of you, we love you, congratulations?” Hell no! Why waste a good opportunity to make people laugh, cry and wish they had written something just like this.  So (with Allie’s permission), here’s the top 11 moments that Linda and/or I shared with Allie during her 4 years at SU.

Dear Allie,

 In celebration of your graduation, we now present The Top 11 Allie SU Moments (at least those that we were part of):

  1. August 2007 – The car is loaded and the Berkowitz family officially returns to SU in an academic capacity. In the span of 2 days, the car is reloaded 2 more times (Target, Bed Bath, etc) and your father has the first in what is to become a series of meltdowns over the next 4 years.
  2. Alumni Weekend 2007 – Dad takes you and Bersch to Wegman’s and spends $346.42 in about 20 minutes. Rumor has it your father mumbles that number in sleeps for several nights.
  3. January 2008 – We celebrate dad’s 48th at SU. Dinner at Joey’s. He gets his picture taken with “the 8” which gets posted to facebook. All his friends are soooooo jealous.
  4. Winter 2008 – You’re a TriDelt and we are very proud and happy for you. Your independent streak comes shining through.
  5. Fall Semester 2009 – You start working for the athletic department and get to hang out with the all the people that dad wishes he could hang out with.
  6. February 2010 – SU at Georgetown in the Verizon. SU wins, you hold your now infamous “Your Mom is Ho-Ya” sign. Your recap of the whole event is published on
  7. April 15, 2010 – Your 21st birthday and we are there to celebrate with you and your friends. A grand time had by all (and a little too grand for someone who will not be publicly mentioned). Your mom is still trying to figure out exactly what went on with the birthday cake at the after hours party.
  8. Spring Semester 2010 – You make Dean’s list…and they said it could not be done.
  9. August 2010 – 1013 Harrison Street here we come. Just like we did, you live at Castle Court (shout out to Annie and Sara). Just awesome (although Mike and Dave are bummed you didn’t get “the apartment”).
  10. December 2010 – During one of the many snowstorms, you text to let us know that no in the athletic department could get to work except you and that you are now running the place.
  11. May 15, 2011 – Graduation…so many emotions, so little time. You will laugh, you will cry and everything in-between. We are so happy that you enjoyed the ride, so proud of what you have achieved and how much you have grown, and (this is the most important thing) overjoyed with the relationships that you will take with you forever. We hope that your Syracuse family will serve you as well as ours does to this very day.

With all our love!

Mom and Dad

Gym Hair and Air

Posted by: on May 12, 2011 | One Comment

Not sure why but I have never really gotten any inspiration at the gym…until a couple of nights ago, which was a particular good night for my warped sensibility. It started right when I walked in to the fitness center at the JCC. I start all my workouts by stretching my calves on a calf stretcher that is usually placed by a bank of ellipticals. While I was stretching, I noticed that the man working out on the elliptical was wearing a toupee that was flopping up and down in the wind, sort of like Donald Trump’s hairpiece at the Monday night football game in New England back in December. Not sure what I mean? Take a look:
I did my best to contain myself from laughing out loud (which I did) but that doesn’t mean I can’t tell you all about it (which I am).

After a few minutes stretching, I hopped on a treadmill. About a minute into my workout, I noticed that someone had a pretty nasty case of body odor (I kid you not). My first reaction was that it was me but a quick spot check let me know that I was not the offending person. I was hoping that it was just someone who had walked by but the smell wasn’t going away and I noticed that the BO had a slight cumin aroma, almost like being in a NYC taxi with a driver playing music from some 3rd world country where the cumin seems to ooze out of their pores. A quick look around me let me know that the young woman next to me was indeed the source of my olfactory discontent, so I made a quick dash to another treadmill and my nose was very happy.

So now I’m doing the treadmill thing, when this scraggly gray haired guy walked by me.  He looked like something right out of the hippie commune residents guidebook complete with blue jean cut-off shorts, old school canvas sneakers and a white t-shirt that said something about some far left leaning cause (not that there’s anything wrong with that). A couple of minutes later, I noticed that he was doing some old style calisthenics, which immediately brought on some serious Baker Hill Elementary School gym class flashbacks (with a major shout out to Coach Moss). I’m talking jumping jacks, squat thrusts and a few other exercises I haven’t seen in over 30 years. Again, I did not burst out laughing but I was laughing on the inside.

So, that was my night at the gym. Pretty sure that some day soon (if not today), some young muscular stud will look at me, attempting to lift weights, taking my leisurely stroll on the treadmill and desperately struggling to keep my gut from falling over my waistline, and he will be laughing on the inside. Let’s just hope I’m not the inspiration he’s been looking for for his next blog post.

Years To Our Lives

Years To Our Lives

Posted by: on May 3, 2011 | No Comments

Years To Our Lives

The other day, my golf threesome was joined by a nice gentleman named Zoltan, who originally haled from Transylvania.  Really, that’s what he told me when I asked him where he was originally from. A quick geography lesson – Transylvania is currently part of Romania but has a long history of being dominated by other cultures. I’m pretty sure Zoltan uses that line just to see what people’s reactions are. Sort of like saying “good evening” (think Lon Chaney accent). Saying your from Romania is just not quite as interesting….is it?

The tee to the 16th hole is a long walk up a good sized hill. When our group got to the tee at the top of hill, we were all huffing and puffing pretty good. Zoltan looks at my friends and me and says “My father always told me that he hoped I didn’t die young so I could understand what he’s talking about.” In other words, as you get older your laundry list of complaints gets longer and louder.

I’m fond of saying “they have found ways of adding years to our lives but they haven’t done as good of job of adding life to our years.” At 51 (oh my god!) I’m in pretty good shape. Most weekends when I play golf, I walk and push my bag on a cart. I regularly take long walks with my trusty companion Cosmo and I get to the gym regularly (though not as often as I should). To paraphrase Jack LaLanne, “a body in motion is a body that stays in motion,” so I stay in motion. My waist is size 34 which it’s been for as long as I can remember and I actually was down a pound at my last annual physical. That’s the good news.

On the other hand, my daily dose of pills now includes something to deal with my slightly elevated blood pressure (bad genes), which joins my cholesterol meds (a problem I have had for many years – again those damn genes). My surgically repaired right shoulder likes to remind me that it’s been surgically repaired. My right knee, the one which had the surgically repaired torn meniscus all those years ago, likes to creak a bit too often, and the left knee seems to be clamoring for equal attention. In the words of the great Indiana Jones, “Honey it ain’t the age, it’s the mileage” (and I’m pretty sure I have used that line once or two before in some other post).

What does it all mean? It means I have to work harder just to keep my body the way it is now. It means my wife and kids get to hear me kvetch about my aches and pains. It means it’s going to be up to me to keep the life in my years, no matter how many pills get added to my daily intake. I don’t think there’s any miracle cure, treatment or pill to getting older (although single malt scotch does help). Of course, there’s always prayer and mine goes like this: “Lord, if you even exist, whoever and wherever you are, please let me grow old with grace and dignity, and please don’t let me get fat and bald because everyone who I make fun of for being fat and/or bald will make me old and miserable. Amen.”

Great and sad day

Posted by: on May 2, 2011 | No Comments

As far as historic days go, this one ranks up there pretty high. The man our country has hunted for nearly a decade is dead. It is a great day for our country and a great day for all countries that have been effected by the terrible world events that Osama Bin Laden and his followers have wreaked over the past 10 years. However, this is just one small step in the global fight against terrorism and we must now be on high alert for the inevitable acts of retaliation that are about to come.

Here in America, the other unfortunate side effect of this event has been the sheer stupidity of the far right-wing ideologues. Now that President Obama has presented his birth certificate, these folks want proof of Bin Laden’s death, so they are clamoring for the body. If one of theirs’ was in office, would they want to see they body? Hell no. And everyone right wingers favorite radio host decided to take the first 5 minutes of his show this morning to mock this event and our President.

What is wrong with these people? Did they not hear the crowd at the Met/Phillies game last night chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A”when it was announced that Bin Laden was dead? Did they not see the scenes of Americans gathering in front of the White House to sing our National Anthem and celebrate the moment? Have they drank so much of their own Kool-Aid that they have forgotten that they are Americans first and that this is the outcome they so badly championed when our country got mired in 2 wars?

As I like to say, I’m a died in the wool moderator (which my friend Scott has pointed out makes no sense). The lunatic fringe on either side of the argument makes me nuts. At this moments, it’s these zealots that take the cake. They think of themselves of great patriots but what do you call someone who does not support our President, our leaders, our troops and our country in one of it’s finest hours? I’ll give you a clue: 7 letters, 2 syllables, starts with A, ends with E, and it’s the spot where I think most of these folks keep their brains!