Decency

The start of the first American Civil War occurred on April 12, 1861 when Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter. The start of the second American Civil War started on January 6, 2021. In the first American Civil War, the battlefields included Gettysburg, Shiloh, Fredericksburg and Vicksburg. In the second American Civil War, the battlefields will be named vaccinations, Roe v Wade, science vs. superstition, income equality, Black Lives Matter, voting rights, Qanon conspiracies and Trumpism. One side comes with memes, verbal and violent bombast, the other’s armor are facts, data, science, rationality, experience and proof.

Eric Burleigh

“You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” In 1954, these words at a Congressional hearing helped lead to the demise of the demagoguery of Senator Joe McCarthy. These same words can easily be applied 67 years later to a former disgraced President, U.S Senators from Texas, Kentucky and Wisconsin,  a totally incompetent female representative from Georgia and a plethora of anti-vaxxers from government and media. Not to mention clueless distributors of lies, propaganda and false information on social media.

Our culture, politics, economy and government have been subverted by irrationality, superstition, and stupidity. What is worse? That many of our politicians, business leaders, social media executives and  “journalists” are pushing lies, targeted exaggerations and  Or that so many citizens do not have the education, intellectual bandwidth and judgment to read between the lies.

The Republicans and the extremists are fighting the Second American Civil War with haymakers and head shots; the Democrats are content with soft jabs and body shots. Mitch McConnell likes the punchers chance.

Replay in the major sports such as basketball, football and baseball takes place in a matter of minutes. Upon this review, those involved in acts of violence are identified and ejected from the game. Depending upon the degree of the act of violence, an athlete may be subject to a long or short suspension or even possibly expulsion from the sport. We don’t need a 1/6/2021 Congressional Commission. The evidence is on various videos and media reports – – plain for any rational person to see. It’s time to mete out the punishment. Severe punishment. We are talking about treachery here.

Observations on reaching the last year of my seventh decade

From left to right, Sandra, Eric, Joanne and two other unnamed cousins

Feeling wistful, ruminative and a bit thankful…

If life is a train ride, my station may be coming up soon. Regrettably most of us don’t know when our ride will end. A few friends and family members have disembarked too early, leaving me sitting sadly alone in the train car. 

All of us have an “aha” or life changing moment. Mine occurred on the morning of February 14, 1960 when I was told about my father’s sudden death. At age 7, I learned about impermanence, self reliance and responsibility. Some people never receive those insights no matter their age.

I have not measured my life’s success based on my net worth, corporate executive titles or possessions I owned. Simply I wanted to be the best husband, son, brother, uncle and friend I could be. Largely that meant I needed to be “present” when someone needed help or encouragement.

My 44 years of marriage to a wonderful woman represents the best decision and greatest commitment of my life. The joy and love from this woman more than offset any disappointments, failures, and travails I have experienced. Life does not always offer an easy road but I am grateful for my constant and supportive companion.

Some of my life’s biggest disappointments, socially and in business, were as a result of women. This is not an indictment of women as much it shows my lowered expectations of the words, promises and actions of my brother man.

Coincidentally, but not surprising, my biggest supporters and influencers, in my youth, were women. Besides my wife Chris, my sister Sandra was a source of encouragement, love and motivation. Sandra’s death twenty seven years ago is my greatest personal loss.

Two biggest trends in my lifetime: (1) the explosion, breadth and advancement of technology in business and personal life and (2) the disintegration, coarseness and division of our politics and civility.

I have no heirs but I am sad about the type of world that my generation is leaving to those generations behind us. We’ve left them problems with government debt, climate change, rebuilding infrastructure, improving public education etc. Those are issues that we should have been focusing on instead of building walls, creating conspiracy theories and disputing fair elections.

I was looking at some pictures of birthday parties for me or cousins when I was 6 or 7. The black and white pictures were a bit faded, many of my family in the photo are deceased but the memories remain. Was there anything more exciting for a young boy or girl than to look forward to a birthday party with friends and family?

The basic evidence of humanity among people is simply sharing a smile.

I’ve lived 25,202 days. That’s a lot of opportunities to appreciate sunsets, sunrises, great conversations, varied travel experiences, meet new friends, and make social and business contributions. Success and appreciation of life are often measured by how close our results = opportunities.

Sign of the Times:  We need a Facebook prompt to remember and celebrate a friend or relative’s birthday. 

Why is it that despite much improved personal training and sports medicine that today’s pitchers can’t go beyond five innings and basketball players can only play half a season?

Dinks and Smashes III

Third edition of muses, thoughts and rants on pickleball…

If you measure your worth in recreational Pickleball by wins and losses, you are playing the wrong game at the wrong time.

I created an unscientific, no data included chart of how I view the estimated progress of many (not most) pickleball players in their first year of play. My chart is based on an older player, who plays 3-4 times weekly mostly for exercise and to meet new people and is not interested in tournament competiton. Every player is different and their rate of progress is contingent on the following factors below:

  • Health
  • Age
  • Experience with other racquet sports
  • Athletic Ability
  • Injuries
  • Attitude/Motivation
  • Level of Competition/Play
  • Practice
  • Mentoring/coaching

Chart Summary:

  1. The fastest rate of improvement usually starts when the player first starts learning to play pickleball. Credit beginner classes taught by Denise Donald, Cookie Sey, Lori Flickinger and others for the fast start in providing new players the basics of the game and more important, the encouragement to have fun and relax.
  2. One of the most effective ways to increase your rating from 2.5 to 3.0 besides lowering your unforced error rates is not hitting “out balls.”
  3. A performance plateau tends to occur between levels 3.0 to 3.5. Many of us start to pick up nasty playing habits and our performance tends to stagnate.
  4. Many players achieve level 3.0 within a year. Some achieve it within days. Depends upon the individual’s starting points, experience and talents. My guess is that Roger Federer would be a 5.0 as soon as he picked up a paddle.
  5. Many players are content with just reaching an intermediate level. Again due to age, health and time commitments, a 4.0 rating may be out of reach for many. However I am aware of the 60+ age players who invested the time, practice and dedication to reaching an advanced rating.

I’m amused by this description on Meet-Up describing an Advanced only session.  “Come play on 6 courts with like minded advanced players without worrying about the intermediates or beginners jumping on a court with you.”

For many of us, playing pickleball is a short time travel back to our youth…

Inflation: A Players Rogue 2 that I purchased for $89 in 2020 now retails for $124. It is a very good paddle but that is a 40% increase! Tournament fees, paddles, pickleball shoes, and classes are also experiencing significant rises in pricing. Given the sport’s popularity and growth, there must be a public company or companies that may be investment worthy??

Observation: I rarely see two of the same model paddle hanging on a fence or queue at Meet-ups.

Revised edition: With apologies to my past and future pickle ball partners, here’s what you may expect from playing with me (I have added two more to the original post shown in italics:)

  1. I will continually forget the score and you will have to remind me what the score is.
  2. I will poach at the most inopportune moments and leave you to cover the entire court.
  3. I will chase “out balls” like a dog chasing a flung chew toy
  4. My eyes are not what they used to be so my line calls may need a second review.
  5. I will play with anyone and at any level. Win or lose, I want my partner to have fun and to be willing to play with me again.
  6. I am not good enough to offer advice. My best and only advice to most players is to continue to play, have fun and your game will improve over time.
  7. When I “tag” someone on the opposite team, I will generally apologize and check to ensure they are OK.
  8. My hearing is as reliable as my third shot drop – – so you may have to repeat things to me.
  9. If I forget to bring it up before we play, let’s communicate how we will handle lobs and shots down the middle.
  10. I may sometimes forget your name if it has been awhile since we played. I apologize beforehand. The only two things I definitely remember are my wife’s birthday and our anniversary!

Finish Line

In my younger days, I ran 5K and 10K races. When I was able to see the finish line from a distance, I needed to make a decision. Do I finish the race strong with a last minute spurt or do I comfortably finish at a relaxed pace? My decision was not based on winning any medals or prizes as I was a “back in the pack” runner. My decision was personal, primarily based on how much energy I had left in my legs and what I wanted to accomplish in terms of my own goals. I mostly competed with myself and was interested in seeking improved race times.

As one gets older in life, there are a number of finish lines that need to be crossed. Generally, the first finish line is the end of your career or business. For many, the decision on how we finish that race is not made by them. Some don’t get the opportunity to finish but are pulled aside and told their race is over. The lucky get to finish the race on their own terms and with the plaudits and appreciation of their fellow employees and partners. They leave with a sense of satisfaction of a race well run.

Young people are not concerned with finish lines. They are at the beginning or mid-way point of their race. Time is on their side – – they have the energy, ability and opportunity to run more laps and circle the field if they are so inclined. They are in the early stages of a life marathon with many miles to go.

As I have gotten older, I appreciate that a final finish line may be looming. I don’t know its distance but I sense its presence. There are no mile markers in the final finish line. I still have the ability to decide if I want to walk or jog in my last miles or finish with a burst of speed and vigor. There won’t be spectators to cheer me on. How I finish that race will largely be my decision. There are no medals to win. But there is one more chance to make a difference in my life and maybe someone else’s. One more opportunity to overcome a challenge or make a contribution. One more opportunity to achieve a life well run…

Senescence: Round 3

More reflections, thoughts, perspectives and broodings on being older. You can find earlier and similar posts here and here.

Old age: Current age + 10 years; Youth: Current age – 10 years.

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You  can only break my heart, once.

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The ratio of laughter to tears narrows as one ages.

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2:00 a.m. : (age 18) = 10:00 p.m. : (age 60+)

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The penultimate expression of acquired wisdom is when we value health over wealth.

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The value of what we don’t know > the value of what we do know.

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Britain’s greatest export was The Beatles.

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Baseball is this nation’s passed time.

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Picture by Keegan Houser (Pixels)

Many of our sweetest memories generally have a soundtrack playing in the recesses of our mind.

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Investing today is like playing a game at the carnival fair. You know the odds are stacked against you but the allure of winning a proverbial stuffed animal is too strong.

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I wish I had a penny for each time a person changed the channel or fast forwarded a program on their remote or Roku. Within a day or two, I would be richer than Jeff Bezos.

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Mother’s and Father’s Day is “Memorial Day” for many of us.

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Our portals in time travel include old polaroid pictures, a yearbook and ticket stubs from a decades old concert or sporting event.

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Do we ever really “grow up”?

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Not sure that this applies to many 1960’s era football stars, but Jim Brown definitely could have played into today’s NFL.

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In addition to Medicare and Social Security, one of the unheralded benefits for seniors are naps.

Dinks and Smashes II

Musings, thoughts and rants on the game of pickleball…

Ratings:pickleball = handicap:golf

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While I appreciate the need for ratings in organizing tournaments and some meet-ups, I don’t take them as seriously as many recreational players do. In the course of one game, I can swing from play consistent for a 2.5 player to play suitable for a 4.0 player. I rate my game as “consistently inconsistent.”When I played pick-up basketball, I and other players did not have a court rating.

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Huge fan of Ebony J. She won the singles competition at the recent Runnemede tournament that included men. Ebony has the potential and skills to be a pickleball player at a very high level. She’s just in high school and already is quite the athlete in track and basketball. She has incredible court coverage and a booming serve. A very pleasant and mature young woman too…

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Maybe it’s the pickleball company I keep but I have only seen maybe five players use the drop serve since it was approved for play. I also understand that it has been rarely used by advanced or professional players in tournaments. The drop serve can be an effective remedy if one has the serving “yips” as it mirrors the groundstroke motion. I’m not sure its effectiveness as an offensive weapon and that may be the reason we don’t see it used in tournaments by players currently.

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To get a fast start, practice your serves before you play! In most pickleball games, I see that players warm up by practicing their dinks or ground strokes but rarely their serves. Games then start out with service faults committed by players who did not calibrate their serves due to wind or lack of practice. 

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There are no shortages of choices for pickleball paddles. There are 964 approved pickleball paddles on the USA Pickleball website; 42 new paddle models have been introduced since the start of 2021. I think if we took a survey of pickleball players, many have two or more paddles. The paddle market is growing, paddle costs are rising and more companies are producing them. As an aside, I am very happy with my Rogue 2 paddle from Players Pickleball that I have used for over a year.

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The addition of new pickleball courts (River Road, Brush Hollow etc.) in South Jersey will relieve overcrowding and help service the demand for venues to play. That is a very good thing. On the other side, it may fragment what used to be a pickleball community that congregated en masse at Lions Den, Gloucester Township and Marlton Field House a few years ago.

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Ben Johns is easily the best men’s pickleball player today. At last week’s U.S. Open Pickleball Championships, he won the Men’s Pro Singles, Men’s Pro Doubles (with Colin Johns) and Mixed Doubles Pro (with Simone Jardin). I saw the streamed Pro Singles championship where he played Tyson McGuffin. McGuffin played out of his mind the first game of the best of three and won. However Johns recovered and took the last two games and the championship. However Johns is not pickleball’s GOAT (greatest of all time) just like George Mikan wasn’t the GOAT in the early days of the NBA. It’s way too early in the sport for that designation, but Johns does close out matches like Michael Jordan closed out basketball games.

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Being an “older player,” it’s hard to identify with 23 year old Ben Johns. I do enjoy watching Scott Moore who won the Men’s Senior Pro Doubles with Rick Witsken and the Mixed Senior Pro Doubles with Eva Welsher at the U.S.Open Pickleball Championships. Moore is 57 and his instructional videos on YouTube are excellent. Moore was also involved in a singles match against Simone Jardin that mimicked the Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match many decades ago. You can see a video of the match here. The result may surprise you!

“Grand Canyon 2014 Pickleball Tournament” by Michael & Sherry Martin is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Below is a guidance list from the USA Pickleball Rule Book for common scenarios that happen in many recreational pickleball games:

1. Make prompt calls  to stop play on balls that roll onto to your court to eliminate the ‘two chance option’. For example, a player cannot claim a hinder from a ball rolling on the court after they hit a ball ‘out’; they gave up their ability to call the hinder by choosing instead to hit the ball.

2. Call the entire score before the ball is served.

3. Signal “not ready” prior to the start of the score being called. One of the following signals must be used to indicate “not ready”: 1) raising the paddle above the head, 2) raising the non-paddle hand above the head, 3) completely turning their back to the net.

4. Except the serve, any ball in play that lands in the court or touches any court line is in.

5. The opponent gets the benefit of the doubt on line calls made. Any ball that cannot be called “out” will be considered “in.” A player cannot claim a replay because the ball was not seen or there is uncertainty.

6. A player/team may ask the opponent’s opinion to make the line call on the player’s end of the court. If requested and the opponent makes a clear “in” or “out” call, it must be accepted. If the opponents cannot make a clear “in” or “out” call, then the ball is ruled as being “in” on the receiving team. The moment the receiving player/team asks for the opponent’s opinion, they lose their right to make any subsequent “in” or “out” call for that rally.

7. All “out” calls must be made “promptly”; otherwise, the ball is presumed to still be in play. “Promptly” is defined as calling “out” prior to the ball being hit by the opponent or before the ball becomes dead.

8. While the ball is in the air, if a player yells “out,” “no,” “bounce it,” or any other words to communicate to their partner that the ball may be out, it shall be considered player communication only and not considered a line call.

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I find myself awestruck not so much by the skills of advanced Pickleball players I see but by the progress of beginners and novices. Once such player is Celeste Kleaver who started out under the tutelage of Cookie Sey at Browning Road and who now performs as a competitive intermediate level player. When she started to play at Browning Road, she possessed the motivation and enthusiasm to get better. She was always asking how she could do things better. My concern was her footwork, balance and positioning. However partnered with her in a recent game, I saw Celeste digging out shots aimed at her feet and returning sharply angled shots at her opponents for winners. She does all this with a smile on her face and with a joy for the game that I could only envy.