Revenge is a Dish Best Served with Toilet Paper

As I made my morning sojourn up to the local deli for 24 ounces of coffee, I couldn’t help but notice the strands of toilet paper hanging from the trees, the bushes, the fences.

Last night was “Mischief Night” — or, Halloween Eve, if you will — and in the never-ending tradition picked up youngsters in the neighborhood that meant toilet paper, shaving cream and whatever else they could come up littering our little corner of the world.

When I saw one long stretch of toilet paper laying against a fence I smiled.

This was funny to them? One long string of one-play toilet paper strewn along a fence.

I felt my mine racing back in time, unable to stop it … away it went … 5 years back, 10 years back, 20 years back … all the way to the Spring of 1983.

The greatest toilet paper prank ever.

And it was nothing but a case of pure revenge.

One of my good friends, Scott, had gotten me good the night before.

I had spent the previous evening with my First Love and as part of our night out we found ourselves parked in our usual secret location that all 16 and 17 year old kids find in order to cherish alone time in a world of parents who try to slow down the growing-up process.

This spot was tucked away enough from the world that privacy was ensured, but also unique enough that I had to share it with friends just for the laugh factor. (It was behind a church in Hampden, Maine).

That mistake is on me.

With my friends knowing the place we would be, they decided it would be funny to play a joke on me and my First Love … placing large logs underneath my rear tires so when it was time to leave we weren’t going anywhere.

Looking back on it, it was a semi-good one.

Imagine two amorous teenagers already pushing curfew when suddenly their car isn’t going anywhere.

It’s time to panic.

We figured out the joke soon enough and right away I knew the culprits.

Revenge would be mine.

The funny part was turning one of the jokesters into a double agent.

It didn’t take long for that happen. He was always up for a good joke and could play anybody against somebody else if meant he got what he wanted.

So we hatched our own plan.

We would go and buy rolls of toilet paper and proceed to drive to Veazie in the wee hours of the morning, and wrap our protagonist’s car up from front bumper to rear bumper.

And that’s what we did.

I wish I could remember how many rolls it took. I wish I could remember how long it took.

What I do remember is what the car looked when we were done.

White, from end to end.

Well a pretty good practical joke took on a vastly different life the next morning when we saw the car’s owner at school.

The one thing we didn’t account for — the one thing that really drove in the knife and twisted — was the morning dew.

It had settled over Maine during those overnight hours and when the sun came up the next morning, he walked out to his car and discovered it was not just wrapped in toilet paper … but it was covered in wet toilet paper.

Now anybody who handled toilet paper in the past — and let’s face it that better be all of us — knows that the light airy toilet paper of the dry world is vastly different when its wet … and clumpy … and falls apart.

Poor Scott …. (That was the jokester).

Instead of just pulling the toilet paper of his car in a matter of seconds and laughing off the revenge factor, it took him more than hour.

Every time he reached out to grab the toilet paper, it did what wet toilet paper does and fell apart at his touch.

It might have been Spring, but that’s a trick and a treat all wrapped up in one.

 

Give Me The Cubs, or Give Me … Gulp … Death?

Never has the World Series been a life or death thing for me.

Not in 1975, when the Boston Red Sox first broke my heart. Not in 1986 when the Red Sox took that broken heart, ripped it from my chest and sent it rolling between Bill Buckner’s legs.

Ditto in 2004, 2007 and 2013 when us Red Sox fans became spoiled by the fact we won three World Series championships in nine years time.

Nope, it’s taken the Cubs vs. Indians to make the World Series life or death for me.

So let’s take the Cubs —preferably in four, but more likely in six.

There are two reasons why I want the Chicago Cubs to end their curse and win the World Series. First and foremost is because they deserve it.

The Cubs were not only the best baseball team in the land in 2016, but long suffering fans should feel the joy us Red Sox fans have gotten to sunbath in time and time and time again since the 21st century changed anything.

Oh yeah … and there is this.

If the Cleveland Indians win the World Series, chances are I’m not here to see it.

You see when I was a much younger and far more stupid scribe I wrote a sentence that appeared in the Bangor Daily News.

“The Cleveland Indians will not win a World Series in my lifetime.”

It was the 1980s. I was brash, cocksure, silly and stupid all at once. All too often I wrote first, asked questions later.

Kent Ward (Photo courtesy of the Bangor Daily News)

I remember the great Kent Ward, who was the assistant managing editor at the Bangor Daily News back then — and a big Indians fan, if I remember right — calling me out on that column.

As such, I’m thinking of him a lot today. It would be great for him to see his team win a World Series, sure … but at my expense? Sorry, “Dawg” -— as he is called — I just can’t get on that bandwagon. Too risky.

I’ve dodged some bullets with the baseball Tribe, back in 1995 and 1997. But I was 28 and 31 back then.

I’m 50 now. I’m getting old. There are some days when the end feels far too near.

So, yes, I’m afraid the Cleveland Indians are going to win the World Series … thought I won’t be alive to see it.

Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona. (Photo by USA Today)

So with all apologies to Terry Francona — the most beloved former Red Sox manager of my lifetime — I must pull for the Cubs.

My life depends on it.

I can’t imagine Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein putting together a team that would let me down. This team reminds me a lot of that 2004 Red Sox club, a mix of talented youth and cagey and unique veterans who found a way to have fun and win.

So there it is.

I’m pulling for the Cubs and now you why.

It’s No. 1 on my Bucket List — “See the Cubs win a World Series” — simply because otherwise my bucket list my become useless.

So sing it with me, “Hey Chicago what do you say? The Cubs are gonna win today … Go Cubs go, go Cubs go.”

Technically, they don’t play until tomorrow.

But I’m not sure how many tomorrows I have left.

 

Sharing A Story of Strength

When I started The October Weekend blog back on Feb. 22, 2013, I pictured it as a place where I could write about things I wanted to write about.

I also saw it as a place where I could share things that I discovered with my family and friends, and whatever loyal readers I have who keep coming back to see what I’m spouting off about.

Emilie Throckmorton, center, poses with her two children. (Photo courtesy of onemominmaine.com)

Emilie Throckmorton, center, poses with her two children. (Photo courtesy of onemominmaine.com)

This is why today it is my honor and pleasure to be sharing this: The story of Emilie Throckmorton — a story I just discovered last week when I discovered her blog “One Mom in Maine.” You can click on the blog title to read her posts.

I discovered it on my Facebook page, a share that somebody else had posted. I took some time last night and started perusing Emilie’s last three posts and was simply blown away by what I read.

First some background: I don’t know Emilie Throckmorton at all. I do, however, know her husband, Tim … and many of my Maine-based readers are likely to recognize that name immediately.

When I was cutting my teeth in journalism back in the 1980s and 90s at the Bangor Daily News, Tim Throckmorton was working things on the TV side of things with WABI-TV. He is a great guy and his love of local sports is something I’ve always admired about him.

Since leaving Maine, I lost track of Tim and what was going on his life, only to rediscover most of it in the posts I’m about to share.

This isn’t Tim’s story, though he plays a big part in it … one I think you’ll come to admire and respect.

This is Emilie’s story and it’s about a health scare that only a few of us can understand. The way Emilie tells her story is open, honest, beautiful and emotional. I suggest you have tissues nearby.

And it should be read in order.

Here is post one

Here is post two.

Here is post three.

I hope you take the time to read Emilie Throckmorton’s story and truly appreciate. I’m sure many of you have been through similar things and can appreciate it on a more personal level.

Others who have never dealt with a near brush with tragedy might have their eyes open, too.

I know I did.

And I know I’ll be reading Emilie Throckmorton’s blog more often in the future, as well.

 

 

Running From The Confusion

Hours after Jamie Taylor ran for his touchdown, Trinity Gay didn’t even have time to run for her life.

And now here I sit in my apartment as the weekend comes to an end, the darkness lit only by a computer screen, trying to make sense of this emotion that’s swelling up inside me.

Trinity Gay of Lexiongton, Ky., was gunned down and killed this morning. She was 15.

Trinity Gay of Lexington, Ky., was gunned down and killed this morning. She was 15.

I think about my weekend and I feel the catch in my throat, my eyes trying to water enough for a tear or two to escape … but I refuse to let it.

Instead, i wonder what kind of world I have helped create. I question God and all that he has created,

I think back over the weekend and wonder how the hell I went from one extreme to the other. I try to sort out my feelings and emotions … but like life itself it’s all a jumble. Nothing makes sense anymore.

On a gorgeous Saturday afternoon I was given a tip while at a football game. Jamie Taylor was about to do something special on the football field.

Third down. Wait for it.

The play was called “Ice Cream” — named by Jamie himself.

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Jamie Taylor lifts his coach into the air after his 60-yard touchdown run. (Photo by John Nash)

I met Jamie a few years ago while covering the Brien McMahon High School football team in Norwalk, Conn. But I really I got to know him last year when I did a story on him being a member of the Senators’ varsity football team.

Jamie loves football. Eats it, sleeps it, just loves it. Division 1 scholarship winners in Florida and Texas and New Jersey have nothing on Jamie when it comes to a love for playing the game, that’s for sure.

Jamie has Down Syndrome and while he may not have been blessed with God-given talent to go the next level, he has the ability to embrace life and live it to the fullest.

So when his coach called out “Ice Cream” early in the second half, Jamie rushed out onto the field, ready for his moment in the spotlight.

He took the handoff and ran 60 yards for a touchdown.

There were smiles. There were tears. And there was Jamie embracing his coach and lifting him right off his feet into the air.

I even smiled as I watched all this play out through the lens of my camera and the first chance I got I slapped Jamie’s hand in congratulatory fashion.

For just a moment, everything in the world seemed blessed and right.

This morning, though, I woke up to the news out of Lexington, Ky.

Trinity Gay, the daughter of Team USA sprinter Tyson Gay — who if it wasn’t for Usain Bolt would be the fastest man in the world — was killed in a random shooting outside of a restaurant.

She was 15 years old.

Like her father, she was fast. So fast. Last year, as a freshman, she finished fourth in the 100-meter dash at Kentucky’s state championship meet.

That’s fast enough to outrun trouble if it tried to track her down, right?

It wasn’t fast enough to outrun a bullet.

Two cars started firing guns at each other outside a Cook Out restaurant in the wee hours of Sunday morning. And because of this latest senseless shooting in America, nobody will know what Trinity’s future would have held in store for her.

She wanted to be a doctor and an Olympian.

What else do we need to know?

“She was so innocent, she was so innocent,” Shoshana Boyd, Trinity’s mother, told the New York Daily News in a heart-breaking, tearful interview. “I just want people to stop shooting and realize who they’re hurting. It’s just random. They don’t understand, they don’t understand who they’re hurting. I should never have to bury my child.”

Nobody should.

But the shootings won’t stop.

Neither will the confusion.

Jamie runs for a touchdown. Trinity will never run again.

I sit here and finally let that one tear run down my cheek because I know there is no answer out there.

When Right Is Wrong and Wrong Is Right

Outside of some of the most successful Madden NFL video game seasons in history, I only played one season of football. Real football.

I was in eighth grade and I was a running back/linebacker for a Brewer Police Athletic League team. All that I remember from that eight-game season is Jeff Mitchell was our quarterback and a Richard Brooks was our coach.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I remember the one game we played at Doyle Field — which was like playing in Giants Stadium back in the day. I had a nice 15-yard run, but I fumbled. And, I had a nifty interception at the goal line.

American Football Close up on Field with yard lines in the distance

Beyond that, I suppose, head injuries have cost me most of my memories, at least if you believe the anti-football pundits of today.

It might be just age, too.

The reason I bring up my fleeting football career is because the sport made the news twice this past week in these parts. I and I don’t mean the sports pages. I mean the “news.”

On the one hand, one of our more “tradition-rich” football programs made news because it had a play a called “Hitler.”

Yes, you read it right the second time.

Hitler. As in Adolph. As in one of the most reprehensible figures in the history of mankind.

One can only assume it was some sort of all-out blitz play, but when the Greenwich High School freshmen team called the play last week — According to a newspaper report, “The signal for the play is an index finger laid across the upper lip.” (Click the link to read the entire story) — and all the players started calling out “Hitler” as they ran onto the field.

This caused quite a stir in this part of the world for obvious reasons.

In this day and age, what kind of football coach would be … un-wise, perhaps? No, no, only stupid does it justice … stupid enough to slap such a moniker on any kind of football play?

The game happened in Trumbull and while the home team parents were aghast when they heard it, they were wise enough to confirm with the Greenwich coaching staff that they had heard it correctly.

When a coach confirmed the play was indeed called, “Hitler” the story began.

Now credit the Trumbull parents on this one: They didn’t go seeking heads, demanding that a sub-varsity coach be fired, or players be kicked off the team.

Instead, they took the high road.

Debbie Levison of Trumbull was a parent who heard the play call and couldn’t believe it. She is of Jewish descent and lost family members in the Holocaust. But she knew something more important was at stake. She recognized it for what it was … a teaching moment.

“I am not out to punish anyone or embarrass anyone, but rather educate,” Levison told the Connecticut Post. “I think this is symptomatic of the general blurring of lines in our country of what is right and what is wrong.”

And in this day and age, with the disgusting ridiculousness of what is Trump-vs.-Clinton, more than ever we as a country need to be taught the difference between right and wrong.

It doesn’t matter if we’re 14-year-old kids who weren’t even alive during 9/11, much less caring about the atrocities of what Hitler actually did 75 years ago, or the adults who need to be reminded what it means to be an educator, even if they’re just football coaches.

So in Greenwich, we have a bunch of kids doing wrong and being taught what is right.

Well, in Wilton, a town situated between Greenwich and Trumbull comes the story of a football player who literally defended his home turf … with his fist.

But it’s not quite what you think.

In August, back before school started, a group of senior student-athletes from Wilton’s rival school — Ridgefield — put together a scavenger hunt.

One of the big-ticket items, it appears, was to make the drive to Wilton and urinate on the logo at midfield of their rivals new football turf.

Of course the students were … un-wise, perhaps? No, no, only stupid does it justice … stupid enough to discuss their plans on social media.

So when a Ridgefield contingent of 10 arrived at Wilton’s Veteran’s Memorial Stadium to do the deed and earn their precious points, a group of Wilton student-athletes were there to greet them.

While I’m sure there was some stress and intensity being shared during the how-do-you-do’s amongst the two rival sides, all was fine and dandy and seemed diffused until one of the Ridgefield football players decided it was time to whip it out and state his case the importance of doing “No. 1” on the field.

He then proceeded to be get punched out by one of the Wilton football players.

Once upon a time, hometown police would have looked at the situation, laughed and said the Ridgefield player got exactly what he deserved. The offending players then would have been sent out of town.

But alas this is the 21st century and personal space can’t be entered without a 10-page written contract of consent for fear of lawsuits filed by rich parents with a shit-load of money and even more self-importance.

So the Wilton football player, who was 18 when the incident occurred, was arrested this week and charged with breach of peace in the second degree. (A third-degree assault charge was considered, but the state attorney rejected that request).

Wilton plays today and we’re still waiting to see if the player, an important two-way lineman, will suit up and play. Or, will he be suspended for defending his team’s home turf? Let’s remember this was before school started and the only connection was the fact it happened on school property.

Bottom line, though, was the player who threw the punch was literally protecting his turf, and God speed to him for that. So few people stand up for anything more and he did.

I’ll take him in my fox hole anytime, so the Wilton Warriors are lucky to have him, and in my opinion he should be out on the field today.

Yes, it’s wrong to throw a punch and knock a kid out. But, let’s face it, the kid deserved what he had coming to him.

Sometimes, in football and in life, a wrong can be turned into a right, or sometimes just doing the wrong thing is right, as well.

 

The Unfollowing

During the summer months, I had a right-wing Republican “Facebook friend” of mine unfriend me because as I was taking pot shots at this entire electoral process her precious Donald Trump got caught in the cross-fire.

So be it.

I don’t cry over spilt milk and nor do I weep over people who no longer follow me on Facebook. I think it says more about her than it does me and the sun came up the following day without her in my Facebook life.

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With the election just about a month away, though, my Facebook feed is being inundated with political postings. Right-wing. Left-wing. Funny. Not funny. True. Blatantly false. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

Considering the fact I often read my Facebook feed while sitting on my couch, or glancing at it while at work, I’ve noticed that I’ve become less and less enamored and more and more put off by the entire process.

I don’t come into your living room or office and deliver a brown bag of expletive deleted, so why do you need to cyber your way into mine?

Thus I have decided as of this day – Oct. 12, 2016 – that if you are my Facebook friend and you post something political that is “anti-candidate”, I’m going to unfollow you until after the election.

In other words if you post something negative against Hillary Clinton, you are excused until mid-November. If you post something negative against Donald Trump, you are feed-less until Thanksgiving.

Now if you want to support your candidate … if you want to tell me why you like either one of them and that’s why you’re casting your vote for them, I’ll listen. I value your opinion as my friend.

But if you’re going to take the lazy way out and just post or repost something you didn’t even create, then I’m sorry. Consider yourself unfollowed.

I will do my best to write down your name so that once all this craziness is over, then I can follow you once again. After all, I do want to keep watching your family grow up, and I want to see what meals you’re eating … you know, all those things Facebook is created for.

And when I do unfollow somebody, I’m going to proudly announce that I’ve unfollowed a negative-posting person. (Fear not … you’ll remain anonymous).

Bottom line is I have some pretty big negatives going on in my life right now and I’m trying to fight my way through them.

I will not unfriend you for your thoughts.

I’m bigger than that.

But unfollow? It’ll be my pleasure and it won’t be a negative experience.

I Will Not Call Him Coach

From time to time, in my business of sports journalism, a story pops up where a coach is front and center and surrounded by controversy.

Earlier this fall, back home in Maine, there was a story about a coach “forced into resigning” because of a parental pressure.

Now, this week, here on the Gold Coast of Connecticut a football coach from a tony little town was suspended for two weeks for smacking one of his players up side the helmet with his hand.

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This always starts the argument of what makes a good coach, what makes a bad coach and, of course, how kids in this day and age aren’t tough anymore, and can’t handled being coached a certain way.

Looking back over what feels like 100 years since I was a student-athlete, I can say with some what authority that I was coached by some pretty good people.

Lenny Miragliuolo, Jim Nahra, Dick Balentine, Norm Prouty, David King … These are all men I respect today.

However … Yes, let me step into the role of whiny athlete who hated a coach because that coach was both bad and a had a personal vendetta against me.

The “vendetta” might force a few eye rolls for those who take the time to read this, but more than 32 years since my playing days ended I still feel that way.

Maturity hasn’t changed my mind one bit. My opinion of this man is resolved and I’m pretty sure I’ll take it to my grave.

Consider: For three years in middle school — sixth, seventh, and eighth grade — this man was our school’s coach and each and every year he cut me from his team. While I wasn’t the best player in my middle school, I know in my heart I was better than most of the kids that made the team.

Upon going to high school, though, and getting away from that man (I will not ever call him “Coach”), I made the Junior Varsity team as a freshman.

I didn’t play a whole lot, but that team was the central core of a team that two years later would win a state championship.

My sophomore year I stayed on JV as only one sophomore was called up to the varsity level. Again, I felt I was better than this other sophomore. One of the highlights of my basketball career was when my JV coach set us up in a game of one-on-one and I beat this other sophomore. Looking back on it now, I can say I understand the varsity coach’s decision. This other sophomore was a 6-foot-1 or so “big” while I was a 5-9 guard. A team’s need would likely come first and it should. Today, I understand that. Back then? Not so much. But at least I got to play JV and get better instead of sit varsity all year.

Then came my junior year — the only year of my life that I hated basketball.

A man with a familiar face to those of us who grew up in Orrington, Maine showed up to oversee that JV team that season — It was the guy from middle school coming back to haunt me.

The season started with a major miscommunication between the school and its student-athletes. A handful of athletes didn’t show up for the first day of tryouts because they thought they were ineligible to play.

That wasn’t the case, however,

We were allowed to tryout on the second day and I was fortunate enough to be retained by the program.

The varsity coach even told me I was good enough to make the varsity team, but due to the “academic” situation I found myself in, I was being placed on JV until I got things straightened out in the classroom and earned the right to move up to varsity.

With the guy with porn-star mustache (See? I’m holding a big-time grudge here) heading up the team, though, I never got that chance.

He was forced to take me by the varsity coach’s orders and I don’t think he liked that much.

He sure didn’t like me.

Playing time plummeted. A JV starter my sophomore year under a coach I respected, a coach that got the best out of me, and suddenly I was person non grata under this guy.

Like I said, it was the worst year of basketball I ever had, but I didn’t quit. I thought about it. More than once. But unlike many kids today who walk away from a game because they don’t like something, well, I couldn’t do that to my friends and teammates.

I stuck it out.

I wound up transferring to another school for my senior — a school that had a far better basketball tradition than my previous school.

I made varsity.

So, yes, there are bad coaches out there. Really bad coaches who use personal vendettas against student-athletes for no reason at all.

I know because I’ve lived it.

And, I’ve never forgotten it.

He’s dead now, perhaps free from whatever psychological pleasure he got from taking joy from a young student-athlete.

But I’m still holding that grudge.

And, as Chaucer once said to Peter the Pardoner and Simon the Summoner, “I will eviscerate you in (print). Every pimple, every character flaw. I was naked for a day; you will be naked for eternity.”

All that being said, though, when people rip coaches without knowing the situation first-hand I always know there are two sides to every story.

More often than not, I’d say the coach is right.

Having lived through the other side, though, I know that’s not always the case.