Archive for the 'Kids' Category



20
Jan
14

Alpha Tween’s Poetry Corner

Howdy folks!

I’m writing this to you from Mobile, Alabama, where I am covering the 2014 Senior Bowl for my day job.

Recently, Alpha Tween has been writing poetry in school and he asked if I would share some of it with you. So, this week I’ll be posting some of his work here at Dad Moon Rising. It’s pretty good stuff, and it’s interesting to watch his “writing voice” start to form itself.

This poem both I and my wife found particularly moving, as it shows just how aware he is of the world he lives in and how what happens in it impacts his life.

Enjoy.

In spirit

I am Trayvon Martin

I am Sandy Hook

I am 9/11

And the Holocaust

And all the people in impoverished countries

Though nameless they may be in my poem

Are not nameless in my heart

I am the people who died for no reason

Other than that someone else had a thought

From racism

To pure insanity

I am just that someone couldn’t get by

I am one of the people who remember

When others have moved on

I am one of the people who see

What others overlook

I am in spirit.

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15
Jan
14

TV Review—Friday Night Tykes Episode 1: “Weakness Leaving the Body”

via Hollywood Reporter

“You have the opportunity today to rip their freakin’ head off and let them bleed. If I cut ’em with a knife, they’re gonna bleed, red, just like you.”

“If you believe in yourself, you can do whatever it is you want to do in life.”
— Charles Chavarria, Head Coach, Jr. Broncos

There are a ton of quotable moments in Esquire TV’s new documentary series “Friday Night Tykes,” but those two—said by the same coach at almost the same time—perfect encapsulate the thorny and complicated series.

Which, in turn, perfectly encapsulates the complicated nature of youth sports in America in general, and football in particular.

Before we get too much further here, a few things you should know about the show and the world surrounding it.

In Texas, football is king. Roll your eyes if you want, but it’s true—you need only read Buzz Bissinger’s excellent book Friday Night Lights (which you can bet the title of this series meant to evoke) to know that it’s not hyperbole to say it.

Even before I started coaching youth football last season, I’d heard stories about the intensity with which the game is played at a young age in Texas. To be fair, I have heard stories from throughout the south which echo the same fanatical intensity you hear about in Texas.

So when you watch this show, you have to know going in that this is going to be ratcheted up a few notches beyond what 90 percent of anyone attached to youth football—player, coach or parent—has experienced.

Beyond that, remember that this is a “reality series” more than a documentary. Which is to say, editing for drama is a must.

Which also means we are not seeing well-rounded people—actual people—so much as characters. Because a multifaceted person doesn’t always make for compelling television.

Finally, this organization—the Texas Youth Football Association—does not appear to be a Pop Warner football league, though it may be associated with USA Football, which is the governing body of youth football in America.

They are not associated with the NFL’s youth football safety program, Heads Up Football, according to the website For the Win.

You can tell it’s not a Pop Warner team because not everyone plays—in Pop Warner, everyone has a set amount of plays they are required to participate in, based on the size of your roster.

My son has played youth football both on Pop Warner and non-Pop Warner teams, and both were good experiences, though it is hard to watch from the sidelines when your team is losing and you know you aren’t getting in.

The problem this show—and because of the show, youth football—faces is that most people won’t know any of the above. So this show—for good and ill—is now the face of youth football in America.

And yet, the uncomfortable reality is the picture isn’t all that far off.

In every league, in every city, you have the super-intense coach, the more “positive” coach, and the “lifer” coach. You have the parents who have their son playing because they miss it as much as because their kids want to play, the parents who are clearly uncomfortable but not wanting to make waves and the parents who don’t know enough to know when their kid needs to step away.

Watching the initial trailer, I was put off for a myriad of reasons—not the least of which is that making a documentary or reality show about 8 and 9 year old kids makes me uncomfortable—but as the first episode progressed I recognized that there was far more nuance than I expected.

That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to shake your head at.

image via Awful Announcing.com and Esquire TV

Jr. Broncos coach Chavarria may love to try and give a rousing speech like Vince Lombardi, but he’s far from able to do it.

While he comes off as a blowhard, as you watch the show you can see what he’s trying to do—he just doesn’t have the words or technique to pull it off. Nor does he seem to have the understanding that the way you might fire up or drive a high school kid isn’t likely to work well with grade schoolers.

The most over-the-top coach we see in the initial episode, Chavarria is the one who has a kid puking mid-practice and then praising him for “playing through it.” He’s the one telling his defensive player to jump a whistle and hit the center early to “set the tone” and the coach who is saying he doesn’t care if the other team gets hurt or injured.

Every series needs its villain and Chavarria serves as Tykes’ bad guy.

It’s hard to blame it all on editing either. You can’t listen to him for five minutes and not come away feeling at least a bit off about him and some of his techniques.

But—and here is a hard truth—if you hang around August football practices, you’ll see a slightly less intense version of some of what Chavarria does. Kids run in the heat, kids get banged around and kids sometimes get yelled at. Chavarria may take it to an extreme, but the work is hard and the expectations often high (though it can be said that for 8 and 9 year olds, these expectations are too high).

image via USA Today

The most disturbing moment of the episode is that aforementioned vomiting.

Colby Connell, a 9 year old returning player, gets sick running laps and ends up throwing up pretty violently. Chavarria praises Connell in a voice-over that ‘the kid didn’t quit’ but you’re left with the feeling that maybe the parents and coaches should have made his take a seat for the day.

And here is the difficulty the series will face—while we see a coach pull Connell aside, we don’t see any examination or steps being taken to make sure he is fit to continue playing. And yet, as a youth coach, I find it hard to believe that there weren’t precautions taken. There must have been some time taken to make sure that he wasn’t about to collapse with heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

You don’t see it though, so you’re left wondering whether the Jr. Broncos coaching staff didn’t care or if the editors and producers felt that spending time showing the staff making sure Connell was OK robbed the moment of drama.

And that, more than anything else, was my issue with the show. All too often I was left wondering how much was left on the cutting room floor. I’m pretty sure, for example, that the coaches spent time on proper tackling technique—if just so their own players aren’t hurt. You’d never know it though, as barely a minute is spent total on any sort of coaching beyond admonishing the kids to hit harder, faster and more brutally.

Having been on the practice field, I can tell you that any practice has moments during which a team or coach looks bad or harsh. The team I coached, we spent countless hours drilling the kids on proper technique but if you just filmed our tackling drills, I would imagine we’d look a lot like these coaches. If you filmed only portions of our practices, you might see us yelling at some of the kids (that we were dealing with 12 year olds is besides the point) but not see the positive reinforcement we constantly gave them.

You might see the kids who came early trying to lose weight so they could play sweating and moaning and stumbling, but you wouldn’t see the extra time, effort, support and praise we gave them.

I know all these things and even I had a very hard time trying to keep perspective on what was happening during this show. I can imagine that parents or people who are not or never have been involved in football will look at it and be horrified. And while some of that is certainly justified, some of it is also unfair as we know we aren’t getting a balanced view of anyone.

You’re left with the impression that most of these coaches are insane but the feeling that something is missing.

The show does have a counter-balance to Chavarria and the other coaches in Brian Brashears, the head coach of the Predators.

image via EsquireTV

image via EsquireTV

Brashears, while certainly tough and demanding in his own way, is far more of what people might feel is the “ideal coach” for youth football. While winning is important, he clearly wants his kids to have fun (he even says so—a rarity by any adult during this show) and seems to come across as there for the kids, not because he wants to be Bill Parcells.

During the final ten minutes or so of the show, the Jr. Broncos and the Predators square off and there is definitely a bit of a “good vs. evil” vibe to the setup. Chavarria is angry, grouchy and has a player take a penalty early to “set the tone” (which may seem like poor sportsmanship but is not an uncommon tactic). Brashears encourages his kids, tells them to have fun and comes across as supportive, relatively calm and cool.

In true Hollywood fashion, the white hats beat the black hats but even that feels a bit empty and staged.

Overall, the show is far more intriguing and nuanced than I expected it to be. I came into it assuming I would be disgusted and horrified for 43 minutes—and to an extent that was the case. However, while there are moments that make you cringe, there are also moments which were good food for thought and debate. There are concerned parents, struggling with how far to let their kids get pushed. There are kids who make you wonder how long they’ll be able to—or want to—put forth the massive effort required. There are coaches who go too far and some who seem even keeled.

While I mistrust a lot of what I see and feel that a lot of the events will be made out to be far worse than they are, I am interested to see if the show can strike a balance between the inherent drama of yelling adults and colliding kids with the positive aspects I have seen in my son’s three years playing. How kids can learn leadership, how they can learn to work as a team, how they can overcome adversity.

While Chavarria might seem nuts—and he does—he isn’t wrong when he says that you can learn how to overcome anything if you believe in yourself. You can learn that on a football field and I have seen many kids do so.

Whether we see that in this show is something I am interested in finding out.

My recommendation is to watch, but to take it all with a grain of salt. As I have said before, football isn’t for everybody and every team is very different. Don’t paint every one of them with the same brush as these teams.

Even watching this show, we really don’t know what’s real and what is manufactured.

You can catch the first episode at Esquire.com.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?

31
Dec
13

The Great Jingle Bell Caper

I know this is late, but it’s been a busy few weeks and I’m (as we all know) inherently lazy.

My fondest Christmas memories are of the night before Christmas when my brother and I were tucked into our beds, excited and trying not to fall asleep, only to hear jingle bells outside.

We’d both run into each other in the hall and run to a window. We’d never see anything and our mom or dad would show up and point out that if Santa Claus was close enough to hear, we’d better get to sleep.

Of course at some point I stopped believing in Santa and discovered that the ringing had been coming from bells my father had set up outside our window, with a string running to the back of the house and into their bedroom window.

So my other fondest memories are of the years I assisted my parents in staging this all for my younger brother’s benefit.

Not shockingly, when I became a dad, I wanted to continue this tradition.

I recall my wife not being sold but to me, it was something that would bring a little magic to their young lives—and perhaps a little to my own as well.

We travel a lot during Christmas, so my opportunity to do this has been sporadic. Sometimes the kids would pass out on the way home from somewhere and the last thing I’d want to do was wake them up. Sometimes we weren’t in a place where jingle bells weren’t feasible to ring.

I didn’t really get started until we moved away from California and to New York.

One year I ran a string across the roof of our apartment in Queens, dangling jingle bells down next to our kid’s window. The string ran back to the kitchen in our apartment where I could reach out a window and pull it.

It worked a little bit, but I ended up having to go up the fire escape, onto the roof and ring it by hand.

In the dead of night. In ice and wind.

Which ended up working so much better because the kids heard footsteps on the roof which made them insane.

This year was the year Alpha Tween stopped believing. I don’t remember when it happened and was not a shock—his faith had been tested two years prior when he found candy alarmingly similar to what was in his stocking in the kitchen cupboard.

We pointed out that certainly we could buy the same candy as it was in all the stores and—because he still wanted to believe I’d guess—he let it go.

But at 12, most kids are done and so was he.

He was excited by the prospect of helping me continue the tradition with his younger brother though, so when I went to tuck in the Professor, Alpha had already hid two sets of jingle bells out on the covered front porch of our apartment.

So as I lay down with our youngest, down below Alpha was leaning out of a window with bells in his hands and gently ringing them.

The Professor flew out of bed and looked out the window to their room. He spied a red light in the sky—what I can only imagine was a plane—and while he mentioned it might be a plane he also thought it might be Rudolph.

Shortly after, Alpha came upstairs to get changed for bed and I went downstairs and duplicated his efforts.

When I passed Alpha on the stairs to the boy’s bedroom, he smiled and nodded and I knew they had heard.

This could be the last year for The Professor to believe. As a younger sibling, it seems the magic doesn’t last as long.

No matter how long though, these are the memories I will always cherish—and I hope they will as well.

There’s precious little magic in the world, save for what we make.

Perhaps we just need to make more of it.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?

12
Dec
13

Keep Calm and Nerd On

keep calm and geek onThe way I got here was so circuitous (as it is with most ‘places’ I arrive at) I won’t confuse you with it, but I found myself back reading a Tumblr post I had come across months ago by artist Joel Watson of the webcomic Hijinks Ensue.

The story Watson shares is a sweet one, about an interaction between a father and a son at this year’s San Diego Comicon.

It’s about acceptance and taking a few moments to enjoy time with the people you care about.

It struck home with me for a couple of reasons but the biggest one was the part about acceptance.

Of course, as a self-proclaimed nerd, geek or whatever the whole “acceptance” thing is important. I certainly have felt alone or different most of my life.  I’m willing to bet most of us have whether we admit it or not.

It took a long time to feel comfortable in my own skin—and I readily admit there are days I still don’t. Which is amazing because the more I work in media and the more people I meet, the more I find they hold very similar interests to my own.

So the post hits home because one of the things I really want to do with the boys is to empower them to love what they love and not worry about what others think of it.

Not long ago Alpha Tween (who recently I considered re-naming Sullen Tween because hormones) relayed a story to me about something that happened at school.

image via 4kids Entertainment

Despite being 12, Alpha is still a fan of Pokemon. I’ve never totally understood the fascination (though I am a fan of Psiduck) but hey, whatever floats your boat, right?

And he definitely has friends who still enjoy looking at and playing with the cards and video games.

He was with his friends at lunch and two of his friends were doing something with Pokemon cards. Alpha was watching, not playing but hanging out when he ended up in a conversation with two 6th graders.

The younger kids asked him if his friends were really playing Pokemon. Alpha responded, yes they were.

They then asked him if he liked Pokemon too. Alpha said he did.

The two kids then proceeded to make fun of all three kids, laughing as they walked away.

I asked him how he felt about it and he shrugged.

“What do I care what they think? I like what I like.”

I’d like to think he learned this from my wife and I. That when his younger brother was running around in pretty princess dresses and we didn’t bat an eye, he learned it’s OK to be different.

That no matter what others think, who you are is fine.

That’s going to be a fight, especially for the tween/teen years which are all about standing out by fitting in. But we’re well on our way.

I think, ultimately, this is why geek culture has become such a “thing” over the last decade. It’s about acceptance. It’s filled with people who “didn’t fit in” to what the norm was, who learned to embrace differences in others because they had their own rejected and in some cases belittled.

Sure, there is infighting because every group on earth has jackholes in it (I believe that’s a law) but by and large it’s an accepting bunch.

Everyone wants to be accepted and liked—even the people who try hard to make you think they don’t. On some level, they absolutely do.

Hopefully my wife and I can put together a pair of kids who will help them feel that way and who will always feel that way themselves.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?

08
Dec
13

My Son Wants a Hogwarts Scholarship

So, as you know (or maybe not), I write about the NFL for a living.

As I watched the Sunday Night Football game between the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, the players were introduced to the TV audience by a little video presentation along the bottom of the screen.

During the first or second series of plays, the defense and offense of each team get a moment to say their name and what college they went to. I’m not sure why but it’s nice advertising for the universities, most of which don’t really need it.

Sometimes players will say their high school sometimes and some will make stuff up.

Sunday night, we saw this:

Alpha Tween was up at the time and I thought it was amusing so I told both he and my wife about it. Nobody found it quite as funny as I did but when the video popped up on Twitter and YouTube I dragged him into the office anyway.

He watched and laughed then looked thoughtful for a moment.

Alpha: “What if it was real? What if he really did go to Hogwarts?”

Me: “That’d be awesome.”

Alpha: “I could get a scholarship.”

So that’s the agenda now. Hell if Harry Potter and Greg Hardy could get scholarships to the Big H, why not my boy?

He’d look good in Gryffindor scarlet.

UPDATE:

Because the Internet is Awesome, it’s already updated Hardy’s Wikipedia page:

HArdyWorts

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?

05
Dec
13

Sometimes Kids Will Surprise You aka My Child Has Become Socially Conscious

My kids are a constant source of surprises.

Sometimes those surprises are terrifying but for the most part, they are cause for wonder and joy.

Over the last two months Alpha Tween has lamented to me that he isn’t “doing enough with his life.”

I have a very hard time wrapping my head around a 12 year old “not doing enough with his life” and when I’ve pushed him, it’s more that he isn’t doing enough for other people (charity work or helping his fellow man) more than he’s not experiencing life.

My wife tells me that it’s not uncommon for kids in middle school to become more motivated to change the world. I can’t speak to that—either because my memory is bad and I can’t remember worrying like this or because I was insanely shallow.

I’m fine with either, by the way.

But I’m told some kids go through this. I’ve offered suggestions in the past about how he could donate time and effort but I get the sense that everything seems too big to tackle head on right now—plus he’s in school on an extended schedule (8:20 am to 4:10 Monday-Thursday) and is constantly worried about getting other things taken care of in his free time.

So it shouldn’t surprise me—though it did—that when he wrote out a list of things he’d like for Christmas “donations to charities” was on the list.

I overheard my wife pressing him a bit as to what charities he’d want people to donate to and why—to think carefully and research where he wants money to go to so that he knows it’s being used effectively.

Right now he’s thinking about the Make-A-Wish Foundation (he was captivated by the Batkid story from a couple weeks back) and a Save the Rainforest charity.

I’m really proud of him. I’m not saying he decided “no presents for me, thanks” or anything—he still wants a Nerf gun and video games—but it’s heartening to see him care about others.

He always has—he’s an empathetic kid and we raise him in a house which is filled with discussions about all sorts of social issues.

As I see him becoming a man, things like this make he very happy with who he is going to be.

I think it’s rare and worthy of comment when a kid decides something like this is important enough to put on a Christmas list.

And given how much we’ve lost touch with what Christmas is supposed to be about—the giving and not the receiving—it’s heartening.

I don’t expect things like this.

But surprises like this are a wonderful bonus of being a dad.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?

03
Dec
13

HOW TO FIGHT A BABY

My friend, Carolyn Nagler, posted this on Facebook and I have to say—as a baby-fighting guide, it’s top notch.

Many people see a baby and panic because said baby looks fierce and smells like death incarnate but as this video shows—beating up a baby isn’t all that hard.

So as you can see, there’s nothing to fear when a baby approaches you in a dark alley and starts pushing you around, getting all up in your face yelling GOO GOO GAH GAH.

You can show that baby who is boss.

Unless he hasn’t trimmed his nails in which case you’d better run your ass off.

(hats off to Gavin McInnes for an entertaining video)




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Reading: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher Listening to: The Heist, Macklemore Watching: Damages
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