Basketball for the Very Young

My six-year old boys are on a basketball team. The Sandy City Parks and Recreation department has christened the team the Suns, after the Phoenix Suns, which sent one of the twins into a paroxysm of rage.

“I want to be the BYU Cougars!” he shrieked, yet they’re still the Suns. The universe is a harsh, unforgiving place.

In order to accommodate six-year old basketball players, the standards have to be lowered by about four feet, but that’s still not low enough to overcome the 80% Principle: Approximately 80% of all shots only get about 80% of the way to the actual basket. Of remaining shots that are high enough to go in, about 80% of them don’t.

I think when they start playing competitive games, they could win with a score of 2-0.

The highlight of practices is watching them learn to dribble. One of the boys dribbles two or three times, stops, takes three or four steps, and then obligatorily dribbles a few more times before flailing the ball futilely into the ether. My other boy dribbles too hard, and pretty soon the ball is bouncing two feet above his head, and he’s straining to reach the top of it and get it back under control. Both he and the ball proceed in what is vaguely the same direction, but usually the ball gets there long before he does.

If you think there’s a problem with the fact that no one calls traveling in the NBA, you should see what happens in these VERY minor leagues. I don’t know why they actually learn dribbling, because it seems to be optional. And double dribbling is quite an accomplishment in a game where quadruple or quintuple dribbling are the norm. In a scrimmage, one kid ripped the ball away from another kid and started tearing down the court with his hand outstretched like a linebacker who had just recovered a fumble.

Even the most basic rules come into question. “What do we do after someone makes a basket?” the coach asked. Nobody knew the right answer. “Who’s ever seen a basketball game on TV?” Lots of hands went up. “On TV, what do they do with the ball after they score a basket?” My son was the first to answer. “They kick it!” he said.

Note to self: Watch more basketball with my son on TV.

It’s a lot of fun to watch my boys expand their horizons, especially since I wasn’t much of an athlete myself back in the day. (The preceding sentence demonstrates my considerable talent for understatement.) The sad thing is that, at 6’4”, I might have been a decent ballplayer if I’d applied myself. My two sons are below the 50th percentile in height – it’s their 5’2” mother’s influence, I’m afraid. Their spirit is willing, but their flesh is too short.

They’d probably be pretty good at chess, though. That is, until they start kicking things.

Moist Blog: The First 100 Years

OK, first 100 posts. Close enough.

This is Post #101.

I should have made a big deal about post #100, but I’m focusing on this one because it’s the beginning of the next 100. (Also, I didn’t notice that the last one was #100 until today, but that’s a less dramatic reason, so I’m improvising.)

Although this blog began in late August, Google Analytics has only been tracking visitors since September 15. However, that’s been long enough to get a good sense of who’s visiting this blog from where and how often. (As for why, that’s between you and your therapist.)

Over the past 89 days, this blog has been visited 4,318 times – an average of about 48 unique visits per day. That’s a different statistic from the much higher number “hits,” which is recorded every time anyone – including me – visits a web page. Visits are recorded when a unique IP address spends any time on the site, and Analytics discounts any of my own visits when I’m logged into Google. That means that 48 times per day, on average, one of you pulls up my blog to see what nonsense I’ve written recently. The stats say you view between two and three pages every visit and spend about six and a half minutes here.

Those are six and a half minutes you can never have back again.

For those of you who think all these visits came from my immediate family and/or Foodleking, who is essentially the same thing, think again. Only 17.5% of the total visits come from my home state of Utah, and the percentages are even lower for my parent’s/siblings’/Foodleking’s home states – California (11%), Arizona (10%), and Virginia (3%). So a solid majority of you readers are people I’ve never met.

Case in point: Apparently, I’m a big hit in Massachusetts, which is just below Utah in terms of site visits. I’ve never been to Massachusetts, and while I do have relatives there, I doubt they would read this blog without medicating themselves heavily first. I’ve got readers in Ohio, Idaho, Wisconsin, and a healthy contingent from the Chicago Ridge area in Illinois. (Hi, Languatron!) In fact, I’ve had visits from every state in the union and the District of Columbia, except, inexplicably, the state of North Dakota, where I’m pretty sure they don’t have the Internet yet. (Don’t get all offended – I know you’re not in North Dakota, so let it go.)

However, U.S. traffic only accounts for 91% of my site visit totals. 3.5% of all visits come from the UK; 3.25% from Canada, and then a scattered handful of visits from Australia, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland, India, Spain, France, Turkey, The Phillipines, New Zealand, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, The Sudan, The Czech Republic, Finland, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand, Poland, Israel, China, Gibraltar, Denmark, and Hungary.

I can only assume that most people stumble across this blog by mistake.

This site received the most visits – 110 – on Wednesday, October 24 right after I put up A Very Manly Post, which was actually pretty stupid. The site had its smallest day – 19 visits – on Saturday, October 6, right after my Aargh! Languatron Invades Real Life! post, which I thought was better than it was. Most people visit the main page when they come, but the five pages that have gotten the most accumulated hits over time are, from most to least:

The Lost Art of the Crank Call
Preserving a Teacher’s Right to Suck
Languatron’s Book: A Review
Holiday Euphemisms
The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen

A Very Manly Post doesn’t show up until number 11. And, to spite Nigel Tufnel, my list doesn’t go to 11. But my total posts now go to 101.

I’ll keep going if you will. In fact, I’ll probably keep going even if you won’t. Someday, North Dakota is going to get the Internet, and I need to be ready for them.

Our Christmas Letter

Finished Christmas cards today. We’re sending out a picture along with a form letter that gives everyone the update as to what’s going on. Many readers of this blog will be receiving said letter within the next couple of days. But for those of you who won’t, because I don’t know your name or address, here’s an expurgated version suitable for public consumption. (The names have been changed to protect the flatulent.)

_________________

December 2007

Dear Friends,

We invite you to review the photo that came with this letter. Behind the wheel of the train you’ll find Mrs. Cornell, without whom this family would get absolutely nowhere. She somehow juggles the responsibilities of full-time motherhood with per diem work as a physical therapist, service as a Sunday School teacher, and all the responsibilities of coordinating the elementary school book fair. She sleeps occasionally, but not often.

Directly above her on the roof of the train is Cornelius, a six-year-old Reflections Award-winning author for his magnum opus Worm Man II: Fox Man Returns, in which superhero Worm Man befriends longtime nemesis Fox Man and both jump on a trampoline together. Cornelius enjoys soccer, basketball, and losing teeth.

Just to the left is Cornelius’ elder-brother-by-two-minutes Corbin, who, while still in first grade, has already begun preparations to play quarterback for Brigham Young University beginning in 2022. He’s convinced that his red blankie will survive the intervening decades, but the prognosis is not good. Corbin likes his waffles hot and his hair spiky.

Next to Corbin on the ground, you’ll find Stallion, who now has a job renting vacation condos on the island of Kauai. He lost the goatee, though, because it was starting to itch.

Stallion is holding his two-year-old son Stalliondo, who no longer sleeps in a crib and has taken to crawling into bed with Mom and Dad so he can kick them in the head. His vocabulary continues to grow, as do his feet.

At the front of the train is eldest daughter Cleta, the world’s only ten-year-old teenager. She is an accomplished pianist, a voracious reader, and a surprisingly experienced babysitter with diaper-changing skills of girls twice her age. She also knows everything there is to know about American history and/or Calvin and Hobbes.

Next to Cleta is eight-year-old Chloe, a fine pianist in her own right, as well as an artist, writer, photographer, soccer player, and American Girl Doll enthusiast. Last spring, she appeared in a ballet production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, wherein she danced divinely and tried – and failed – to resist the temptation to wave at her parents.

Hope all is well with you – we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Christmas Music

Three FM radio stations – 106.5, 100.3, and 97.5 –  have been playing Christmas music in the Salt Lake City market since the day after Halloween. Both major Salt Lake newspapers have been filled with letters to the editor screeching “It’s too soon! It’s too soon!” To those secular Scrooges, I say “bah, humbug.” 

Or, in a more 21st Century vernacular, “Up yours.”
Granted, Halloween is too soon for seasonal Wal-Mart ads, but it’s never too soon to hear Christmas carols. When I was an actor in the Playmill Theatre in 1993, we had Christmas in Yellowstone on the 25th of August, in commemoration of a year when the Old Faithful Inn was snowed in right there at the end of the summer. We drank hot cider, exchanged gifts, and sang “Silent Night.” When I ran my own theatre in Jackson Hole, we did the same thing every year. It was good stuff. And it was the music that made all the difference.
Christmas music never gets old.
Of the three radio stations who play Christmas music, I try to avoid 106.5, because even though I have yet to hear them spin a single Kwanzaa tune, they insist on using the phrase “Have a happy holiday” as an insipid jingle. Not even the despised “Happy Holidays,” which could, theoretically, include New Year’s. Nope. Just “Have a happy holiday.” 
Which holiday, guys? Festivus? Would it friggin’ KILL you to say the word “Christmas?”
100.3 says Happy Holidays, too, but, to their credit, they always refer to themselves as “your Christmas music station.” The genericism of Happy Holidays gets offset by using the word Christmas in close proximity. Somewhat.
97.5 is the only station that uses the words “Merry Christmas” in all of their promotions, which is why I press their button on my radio first.  I think more and more businesses have noticed that there are financial consequences attached to treating the word “Christmas” like a sign of leprosy. In Target the other day, the “Happy Holidays” banner was right next to the “Merry Christmas” banner. In previous years, “Happy Holidays” stood alone. 
I think the backlash against the anti-Christmas PC Nazis is finally starting to kick in, and that’s a good thing. 
Christmas is all about tradition, and those traditions are reinforced by timeless music. That’s why very new Christmas songs survive from year to year, although “Mary, Did You Know?” and “Breath of Heaven” seem to be hanging in there. They’re not “Silent Night” or “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” though. (Every time I hear “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” I think of a beautiful, Dickensian English village coated in lightly falling snow,with a lamplight burning on the end of a deserted street.  This image is not geographically, meteorologically or theologically sound, but it’s dang Christmasy.)
Singers would do well to remember that when they sing Christmas tunes, the song is the star, not them. Hearing Celine Dione butcher “O Holy Night” with self-important bombast  makes me want to drop a bowling ball on my head. Donny Osmond’s “poppy” Christmas album is equally wretched – no one really wants to Donny do a techno version of “Angels We Have Heard On High,” do they? I think that’s why Harry Connick, Jr.’s first Christmas album is so beloved – he sings it straight, and it’s filled with traditional arrangements that would have been right at home alongside Nat King Cole, AKA the Honorary Voice of Christmas. (Connick’s second album, where he pushes the jazz elements too far, is forgettable at best and, more often than not, just plain unlistenable.)
It’s hard to make any hard and fast rules about good Christmas music, though. Mannheim Steamroller is always great precisely because they break with tradition. They play with different tempos, styles, and arrangements, but you always know they respect the songs, so you’re willing to go along for the ride. Whereas the Mormon Tabernacle Choir approaches every song with such a sterile reverence that listening to them becomes really dull really fast. 
Everyone has their own favorites, I suppose. For me, I’ll always have a soft spot for Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town,” because, even though it’s probably crap,  it makes me feel 16 again.  Also, I hate “My Grown-Up Christmas Wish,” because it sounds like it was written by the Democratic National Committee. Yet I love John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” for reasons I can’t explain. I mean, it’s a political carol co-sung by Yoko, so I should loathe it, but I don’t. Whereas Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time” sounds like a tire commercial. 
And what’s up with Wham!’s “Last Christmas?” Why do stations keep playing it? 
“Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
But the very next day, you gave it away.”
To who? The Salvation Army? Goodwill? Deseret Industries? What is this crap?
The best modern Christmas song, hands down, is Spinal Tap’s “Christmas with the Devil.”
The elves are dressed in leather and the angels are in chains (Christmas with the Devil)
The sugar plums are rancid and the stockings are in flames (Christmas with the Devil) 
There’s a demon in my belly and a gremlin in my brain
There’s someone up the chimney hole and Satan is his name
106.5 hasn’t played this once. And don’t tell me it’s because it’s offensive. After all, they play Wham!’s “Last Christmas” every fifteen minutes.