Iowa State: The 23rd Birthday…

This memory came up because of the recent death of one of my best friends. He was there in a key role that day back in 1991.

So back in June, 1991, I was in grad school at Iowa State, working on my English M.A. (it paid off…ultimately if you go to my About section, you can find some of the stuff I’ve written). Julie was busy doing whatever she was doing in Champaign (or Herrin).

Conveniently, Flag Day was on a Friday that year. That meant Eric and Erik were both free for the weekend and it turned out newly-married Paul (yes, Paul from Foster) had a get-out-of-jail-free-card…usable until midnight. That meant that after we had dinner, we had about three hours for carousing in Campustown.

The place of choice was the same as it had been when I was an undergrad: Welch Ave. Station, pretty much a go-to for ISU students of all sorts going back to about 1981. It’s still there, longest operating bar around campus.

Now, we had about three hours. The goal (because we were young and stupid) set by me and Eric was 23 beers for a 23rd birthday. Yes, that’s about eight per hour. Believe it or not, we made it to the goal. Of course, we were not sober by the end of it all. That bit will matter later.

In the meantime, we were having a good time. Erik offered a pretty good insult of either me or Eric…I don’t remember which. It was good enough that Paul gave him a high-five…Paul was horrible at high-fives. HORRIBLE. I don’t know why. That night–no exception. He went for the high-five and proceeded to spill Erik’s beer into Erik’s lap. Dead center and onto his right thigh…a problem made worse because Erik was wearing khaki shorts and now he looked like he’d peed his pants.

So Erik got up, walked the length of the establishment (full on a Friday night) to the bathroom and cleaned off his shorts. Paul was embarrassed, flustered back at our table (I think me and Eric were about ten beers into the evening at that point). Erik came back, Paul apologized and bought Erik another beer to replace the spilled one. The waitress brought the new beer, Paul apologized again, explaining exactly what had happened…and in the process of demonstrating what caused the accident…proceeded to spill the still-foaming full glass of beer right into Erik’s lap. Again.

The expression on Erik’s face was awesome. Paul turned red like a fire engine and as Erik made the long walk back to the restroom, Eric and I were laughing our heads off. Poor Erik.

So, it gets to midnight, Paul’s wife picks him up (he’d stayed mainly sober…part of the conditions of his parole), and we head out, walking back to my apartment. I won’t lie–I have no memory of that walk. My next memory was Eric and Erik collapsing in my front room with Erik deciding to sleep in the ‘mushroom chair’. I went into my bedroom and fell on the bed, noticing that the walls were spinning quite a bit.

About two, I woke up and heard the TV still on–Erik had put it on Sports Center. I went to the bathroom and sat there for a while…no idea how long…because my stomach suggested that could be good or necessary. It wasn’t. Never puked…haven’t ever puked from drinking (though now I should write up the Jaime and Kent story…). Instead, I listened to Sports Center and for whatever reason, I remember Tom Browning winning his game and the SC overnight guy making a big deal of that. When Sports Center was over, I went back to bed, this time leaving a foot on the floor–that ended the spinning–and fell asleep (or passed out…whichever).

I woke up mid-morning. Maybe it was nearer to noon. It was really bright, I remember that. I walk out to the main room and Erik’s there awake. Eric was asleep with his neck at a right-angle against the legs/brace of one of my chairs. Apparently he snored all night.

It turns out I missed the excitement though overnight. At some point while it was still dark, Eric got up and walked over to Erik. Erik was awake and saw this. Eric turned his back to him. Erik thought Eric was going to fart on him. Instead, Eric pulled his pants down. Erik immediately rolled out of the way, knocking the chair out of its spot as well. Eric thought he was in my bathroom–and proceeded to pee in the middle of my floor. When he finished, he waved at the air (courtesy flush) and went back to his right-angle sleeping position.

Yeah…mid-morning. The wet spot was still there in the middle of the room. I asked Erik why he didn’t do anything…he said, “Not my piss, not my apartment.” True enough. I wound up needing half a roll of paper towels…there was no urine smell, only beer. It had that 1985 Wallace Hall smell.

Erik telling the story though–that was hilarious. His expressions, the pauses as he told the story…all things I wish I could communicate in writing, that I could remember fully but no longer do.

My friend, Erik

My friend Erik died Friday, September 17. He was 52. He died after a long fight with cancer that he conducted privately and with courage.

If you would be so kind, read and think of him. We need music to set the mood first, though.

Erik’s favorite movie

Why not start with The Blues Brothers as a memory?

In late summer of 1988, I was moving out to DC to work at the State Department. Erik was going to school in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins. It seemed logical to us for me to hitch a ride with him…so off we went. This was before inexpensive car CD players (let alone MP players, etc), so people relied on radio. Unfortunately, once we got past Columbus, Ohio, the radio choices became limited.

Those were not acceptable, so we were driving with the windows down through eastern Ohio and into West Virginia…and then western Virginia. How do you entertain yourselves on such a trip?

We performed The Blues Brothers. Both of us had seen it enough that at that point in life, we had it memorized. In time, I forgot all but the famous parts. Johnson? Dude had an eidetic freakin’ memory for movie scripts. We knew every line, every song. That covered about two hours of the trip without good radio available. At that point we broke out with:

We sang that for another 30-40 minutes while the sun started setting behind us…until we finally knew we were nearing civilization and picked up rock stations once again.

And then all this makes me think of another movie in July, 1986. That was the year that Duck Creek Mall stopped showing movies. We’d been gaming in Bettendorf when someone had a nuclear fit when things didn’t go his way playing Car Wars, single-handedly ending a 10-person game with the tantrum. Left with nothing to do, me and Erik decided to go to a movie–driving past Duck Creek Mall, we saw it was showing Aliens. We had not yet seen it…it had opened the previous week, I believe. We also saw that that was the last night they’d ever have movies, so in we went , watching the last movie ever shown, but what made the night better is that afterwards, heading to my mom’s house and Erik’s car so he could head home, we detoured to North Park Mall. North Park had huge parking lots with a ton of space and its own roads connecting the various lots. This was perfect for driving my LTD at recklessly high speeds!

Except North Park had installed speed bumps since we’d been out there a few weeks earlier. Oops. Speed bumps at 50mph aren’t good for cars. But we had a good time.

We had a good time that next summer when we took the LTD and was part of a car rally–we sucked finding the navigation points, so we just came back early…got cheered as the first returning car and mentioned on the radio. That was through The Filling Station in Davenport.

One last car story before really getting rolling. My dad died in May, 1989, just before I graduated college. A month later, I turned 21 and my mom (my parents were divorced) knew I was struggling emotionally for a lot of reasons…decided one of my birthday presents was use of her car for a day and a full tank of gas–I could drive as much as I wanted, but the tank needed to be at least a quarter full the next time she got into it.

What a wonderful gift–because that car was a 25th anniversary Mustang convertible, fire-engine red with a great sound system and a big-ass engine that could go 0-50 in the space of an intersection (I’m sure of that because we did just that…at several intersections). I spent the day with Erik driving around the Quad Cities–drove other friends around, too, but Erik was there start to finish.

The best part–I drove over to his house in Moline and when I picked him up, we also picked up his little sister and drove her around for 30-40 minutes, too, so that she could enjoy being in a convertible–and I think feel like a big girl. I think Patty was 5 or 6 at the time. That was a rough summer for me yet 30+ years later, what remains is that sunny day, my time with Erik, and Patty laughing in the back of my mom’s Mustang.

So it’s time to get to the truth of things. I’m hurting. A ton.

Back in January, 1985, Erik transferred in to the school I was attending. A small school, I’d pissed off a couple girls so pretty much no one was supposed to talk with me–pretty much a pariah. When Erik started, he got told he should avoid me, not talk to me. That’s the thing. Erik did talk to me. We quickly became friends. His logic was simple–I hadn’t done anything to him and until I did, he was going to be nice.

36 years–and in all that time, regardless of politics, sports, whatever, I can offer ABSOLUTELY ZERO recollections of Erik pre-judging someone. In those 36 years, I never heard him raise his voice in anger (hah–other than a couple of issues with siblings but that’s different, right?) We get told to go through life being decent to one another…and I look around and I see hundreds and thousands of counter-examples and yet, through it all, Erik was quietly treating people with decency and respect. We give attention to the loud and the bad and we miss the silent good right next to us.

Erik is one of the guys I named my oldest son for (the other is Eric, so my son is Erick).

A mini-APBA gathering, winter 1994, Erik is bottom right. His namesake, Erick, is in my arms back center.

When you name a kid, you hope that child somehow absorbs the power of the name, the positive traits of a person. It doesn’t work that way, does it? Well, I believe names have meaning, they give power. 27 years later, I’m still good with my son’s name!

I’m really sad right now, one of the best friends I’ve ever had is gone. 36 years. But I should be happy–36 years is a long time. If it was a marriage, those 36 years would be praised and honored and others would be impressed. It would have been easy for him to not talk to me, never become a friend. It would have been easy to go separate ways after high school or with college or any dozens of point that came after; life does that. That didn’t happen and I am immensely thankful for that.

I will miss so many things…

*Fridays at Kevin’s and Ovrex Oll
*Dr. Pepper
* a multitude of Paula Abdul references
*Turning him into an APBA fanatic
*the AMC Hornet
*The dinner at Godfather’s Pizza with me, Erik, Eric, and Baron
*his Twins hat with the brim turned up while he did the Benny Hill salute
*a movie quite from memory for any occasion.
*his dry humor
*his commentary on a different friend’s wedding apparel
*His expression on New Years Eve when I single-handedly polished off a Grinders and Spaghetti gallon of ravioli and a loaf of their ‘cinnamin’ bread. (I also miss being able to eat like that)
*The –vicious– Mario Kart battles with him…as well as his mastery of “Baseball Stars” and ‘lucky 7 fight’
*The Chinese fire drill on I-95
*The Great “Navy” Incident at Trinity College
*The Cub game against the Marlins with the great seats behind home plate and Zambrano pinch-hitting…May of 09, I think.

And all this leads me to a different movie Erik enjoyed and a classic scene.


Hah…I have to mention APBA. His first year in a league playing with dice…and facing my “DC Nine” and me whooping him 27-5 and his reaction to it. Equaled a few years later with the ZZ innovation preventing walks when first base was empty…he had a pitcher with it (Garrelts?) and then proceeding to watch Garrelts walk six different guys…ball two, ball four.

I do not know what comes next, what comes after this life whether it be the afterlife, reincarnation, or travel across the multiverse. I do hope that it is a good journey for Erik and that whatever it holds, that eventually our paths will cross again. Every time we get together, you will be mentioned and remembered. Godspeed, my friend.

Freedom of thought in volleyball

One of my favorite news periodicals is The Economist. It recently published an issue dedicated to the assault on classical liberal thinking from extremists on the far right and far left–because, as always, people use words improperly. To understand, it really would help to know what liberalism actually is. The article of note is “Echoes of the confessional state.”

While that’s about political ideology, consider the relevance to coaching and education. To force people to think in a specific way, groups are applying institutional tactics that ultimately constitute a form of bullying. You can see this with volleyball and the people who swear by what they heard with GMS or the Art of Coaching. To them, there’s only one way to do it–and to be clear, that’s not the actual GMS/AOC people…usually they are quite open about looking for newer, better ideas. And that’s the problem–the acolytes distort what they hear as they seek to make their newfound belief widespread, dogma.

Hey, since you’re reading…have you considered hitting the “FOLLOW” button? That’ll notify you when I post new blog entries…who knows, you may learn about volleyball passing, about old-fashioned history terms, or some good music stuff–and the blog is free.

So what are these tactics? The things dangerous to open thought?

  1. Imposing orthodoxy: In coaching, how many times do you see coaches insist that one specific approach is superior (conveniently, it is always the way they already do things…).
  2. Proselytising: There’s no one so fanatic as a convert. Worse, because they insist they are correct, they actively attack anyone who disagrees, continuing to do so until the other side shuts up and gives up. They try and do this even in the face of science, research and large sample sizes.
  3. Expelling heretics: Go ahead and try and express independent ideas to get hired. It doesn’t work. The ‘old boys network’ of coaches doesn’t want independence–they want those who play within the system, believe as they do.
  4. Book Banning: If you don’t like an unpopular opinion, ban the author. Consider the social media groups you belong to and whether members have been expelled for a specific position–one that is verifiable and correct…I’m not talking about anti-vax morons or stolen election idiots still spamming away with ‘do your own research’ pap.
  5. Creeds: Consider the number of administrators, head coaches, and interest groups that demand hiring is done in a certain fashion. As bad as finding a college job is as a male (because of constant agitation for “We have to hire a woman”) since volleyball becomes the sport for token gender hirings (never basketball, rarely softball)–it REALLY sucks for black males. Really. Go count the number of black male volleyball head coaches in the NCAA. Want actual diversity rather than a manifested creed–start advocating for a group REALLY GETTING SCREWED in the hiring process.
  6. Blasphemy: Put something in a VB forum saying “I think underhand serving is good” or “I use a 4-2 with my college team” and watch the derision. But this works a different way, too. While I don’t believe in punishment as an effective form of conditioning, boy do people pounce if someone mentions they use it.

As a coach, do you demand conformity? Do you automatically conform to what other coaches tell you–do you believe them automatically or do you ask ‘why?’ What is your response when someone discusses something you have not thought about as a possibility? What would you think if I told you blocking isn’t really critical for success and that the number of aces you have isn’t really a determinant in winning? Would you immediately disagree–or begin thinking of ways to confirm or deny that assertion?

And, this is important, while it may seem I’m pointing fingers, I’m living in a glass house (like the mixed metaphor?). I’ve been guilty of the items above–all of them at one point or another. This is not about singling out people for their mistakes; it is about recognizing the mistakes we make and moving beyond them, getting better, not repeating those same mistakes.

Society at large, the coaching fraternity in specific, those work against open thought. Peer pressure is a massive force. You can see the effects of peer pressure within a single team of 10-14 athletes. You know it from the bureaucratic mating call of “This is the way we’ve always done it.” You know it because you, yourself, don’t report it when someone cuts a corner…’snitches get stitches’ or ‘no one likes narc-ing’ in a lot of cases. So–are you doing what you do from peer pressure?

The greatest gift we have is our mind, freedom of thought, the ability to consider multiple ideas, sort through the good and the bad, the ability to come up with something new and wacky that winds up brilliant and timeless. Use that gift–think for yourself…and then help others learn to think independently, too.

Legacies

So, this past weekend was a bit emotional for me since I’m done as an active coach. I wrote a blog post about it, Beginnings, Endings, Legaciesbut somewhere in my fuzziness, I didn’t really address the idea of legacies. The English teacher in me is severely upset for a misleading title (then again, it’s the social media age, so what’s another inaccurate title among friends?)

Legacy is a heavy word.

Legacies are usually used in terms of famous people, political leaders, but ultimately, everyone has one. Everyone has something they leave behind for others–sometimes it’s tangible (money/inheritance), sometimes it is a philosophy or ideas adopted by others. Most of the time though it is what remains in the memories of others.

Just as important, legacies are usually post-mortem affairs. It is rare to think of a legacy of your own–indeed, it’s downright awkward, let me tell you!

So what do you want in a legacy?

Obviously I have quite a bit of time now to ponder it, think about it.

Let me make an aside here–legacies can be tainted and perverted. Consider what is done in the name of Jesus or Allah. Or for a great short book on how you can create lasting legacies, it’s worth reading “The Marble Man” which documents how white Southerners turned Robert E. Lee intentionally into an ‘American Jesus’.

So–what do I want my coaching to be remembered for?

I’d like it to be for the relationships:
*The friendships with coaches and officials
*The relationship evolution with athletes from player-coach to mentee-mentor to friends and colleagues
*Cooperating with assistants and then watching them become head coaches in their own right

I want it to be for my students’ academic success. That has set us apart from 95% of the schools we compete with. It’s also what sets up the next point–>

I’d like it to be for the athletes’ life successes, that I was able to help them become better humans, helped them find careers and avocations that they find rewarding.

I’d like it to be that everyone knew where they stood with me. I never lied, never reneged on a promise. Mistakes? Oh, good god…thousands.

I’d like it to be that if you looked at everything I did as a coach, asked the question “Is this in the best interest of the young person?” that you’d be able to see my logic, that I believed the answer was ‘yes’ and followed that course.

I’d like to think people understood I saw coaching as service, that as I reached my 30s then my 40s, and then my 50s, I realized it was about the kids not me and that with each year that passed, I gave all I could for their benefit.

I want those who taught me, mentored me to be proud–that I took the gift of their teaching and wisdom and payed it forward, that I took all that was good that I was taught and passed it down the road.

That’s really about it. Really.

So if you regularly read the blog, sorry for this follow-up bit. But having read it, consider my situation…then consider where you are in life. What is YOUR legacy? What do you wish to be remembered for–do you think what you wish and what others will say will be the same?

Beginnings, Endings, Legacies

Before actually writing stuff, I need to start with one of the songs that has been running through my head for several days. (Please, take the time to enjoy the music…)

In the fall of 1989, I went to a volleyball match. I’d never been to one before but Illinois was playing Iowa and the only good Hawkeye is a losing Hawkeye. These were GREAT Hawkeyes. It was in Kenney Gym, now used by Uni High in Urbana:

Yup–that’s the home court of Illini volleyball through Spring, 1990 when I got involved in women’s sports and volleyball. I knew nothing at that point but I got there. I found I loved stats and that became my ‘thing’ while at Illinois and Iowa State before I got REALLY good at volleyball stats/metrics out at Ohio State…but that was the future. In August, 1990, the first thing I “got” to do as a grad asst/manager for Illinois was to move all the VB equipment from Kenney (no A/C by the way) along with Terry, one of the main facilities guys, to Illinois’ ‘new’ gym, Huff Hall where Illinois continues to play today.

Women’s athletics were treated like crap–and I remember bells ringing (end of class) and students walking THROUGH a Big 10 team’s practice without caring…and without the Athletic Department caring either. That changed me. I’d never really cared about women’s sports to that point–but I DID and still DO care about fairness of opportunity…and that wasn’t happening. That’s stuck with me for 30 years and the athletic directors I’ve worked for know that I push for the equal treatment of girls and young women–especially against the egos of boys’ basketball coaches who consider themselves above everyone else.

Iowa State’s athletic department was worse. No paid assistant, practices moved depending on the need for intramurals, and an administrator in charge of women’s sports who would not let me or Troy travel with the team because young men should not be coaching women. It was only after that head coach left that Iowa State began providing a full-time paid assistant and it took years to permit the Cyclones VB squad to compete in the same facilities as the men’s teams. I am thankful though because the coach was just happy to have extra people helping and I was permitted to do stats independently–what I thought was valuable and then having those accepted as legit. It was enough for her to recommend me to her former boss, knowing I was heading to Ohio State the following fall and so in 1992, I got to work for Jim Stone and Ohio State for three amazing years.

Those were great years. Beyond picking up Stone’s lingo and Vb philosophy, I was given even more free rein on stats, introduced to his stat-head friend Herb Summers and to the VB writings of Jim Coleman. Jim Stone let me ask a billion questions–from anything from practice creation to stats to “Why is this done this way?” never once saying ‘Because it is.’ I’d like to think having me there may have helped him come up with new ideas. The time there convinced me that I wanted to be a volleyball coach.

By 1994, I was married with a child. I moved to where my wife was employed (and still is, in a job she loves and is amazing at) and because of the politics of NCAA hiring, being a white male who never played, that was the end of my D-1 coaching. Instead, central Illinois introduced me to club volleyball and in 1995, I was able to coach a ton of great athletes with Twin City Volleyball and Craig Jones and Mike Deterding. Because of that year, I was able to get hired as a head HS varsity coach at a school called St. Anthony (also helped that I was the only person to apply–it was a bad program at the time with a coach who played fast and loose with rules…and went on to a long NCAA D-1 coaching career….)

I was at St. Anthony for eight great seasons, building from inheriting a team that had never had a winning season to a state-qualifying team of professional killers (Jody, Beth, Sarah, Emily, Stacey, Katie, Carrie). I remain naive in life and after eight years, refusing to play politics cost me my job. I kept playing a 6’3 kid instead of the rich dad’s kid. I was told if that continued, I’d be out of a job…and I’m proud to say in 31 years of VB, I never compromised my integrity or ethics. Not once…so I was out of work.

Until that August–a WEEK INTO THE NJCAA SEASON!!!–when a coach suddenly quit at Allen County Community College in Kansas. The school president took a chance on a just-fired high school coach and two days before the first competition, I moved to Iola, KS, away from my wife (and three kids)…gotta have money to pay bills. Allen was a wonderful community of faculty and coaches. It was there that I learned to recruit, made the adjustment to coaching year-round rather than just within either the HS or Jr High seasons. I will be forever thankful to John Masterson for that opportunity and to the chemistry instructor for stepping up and becoming a volleyball assistant coach (he’s still there now as assistant!). But in March, 2006, a job opened much closer to home. I was offered the job and accepted it. That was at Lincoln Land.

I didn’t expect to be at LLCC for 16 years. I was led to believe that if you succeed at the juco level, you can work your way up to D1. That, sadly, is a lie. Or is it sad?

Not really. In 16 years, I had the honor of coaching 130 young women (110 who graduated from LLCC and I believe 104 who completed four-year degrees…with a dozen holding Master’s and a couple of Ph.Ds). They have gone on to do everything–moms, coaches (hs, club, college), business execs, and all sorts of teachers and nurses. The 2012 girls became the first to go all the way to Nationals and the 2015-17 groups made three straight Final Fours (2018 ‘only’ made the Elite Eight).

It wasn’t always perfect. Some players had to be dismissed for skipping class or other serious offenses (I think LLCC is the only juco in our region that actually drug tests athletes. That cost us making nationals in 2013 and 2019. But those are the minority of those 130 athletes. Rules are rules and discipline should apply equally to stars and non-starters; academic requirements, the same thing. I wish other schools out there would take academics seriously.

And then we reached the pandemic and Spring, 2021. I had a COVID-induced heart incident. I recovered and came back this fall to coach a talented group of ladies…except I didn’t recover, not completely. I’m one of those long-haulers and the things which caused my BP/pulse spikes are universal in juco volleyball–facilities with bright white LED lights along with echoing, loud noise. Every day we were competing, I suffered small-scale heart incidents similar to those from this past spring even as I wore ear plugs and blue-light-blocking clip-ons for my glasses The incidents take a couple days to recover from…unfortunately we play on WED and SAT/SUN. You can see the problem.

So it is over. Yesterday COVID ended my volleyball career (because I can’t officiate–the lights/noise are there for officials, too). My involvement in volleyball started with 90 minutes in Kenney, became a season at Illinois, a year at Iowa State, three years at Ohio State, eight years coaching JH/HS, eighteen in the NJCAA…and then rather than a few years to go, last Wednesday night, that incident meant it was time. Not in two years, not the end of this season, but now. In an instant, years away became days.

Thursday–last practice as a coach
Friday–start of last tournament
Saturday–last match, last team meal, last team discussion, last teaming it out.

And, frankly, it’s hard to write all that with tears. Because Saturday I had to tell kids I love I was done. I had to have a final conversation with a *great* athletic director as I turned in my keys. I had to contact former assistants, my alumni with the news. The email to alumni I was able to write in a couple of minutes. It took me another ten to be able to hit ‘send’.

Years became days became hours became…the end. It went fast and it sucks it is over so suddenly.

But I’m thankful for the end. I was permitted to tell my team, not have someone else do it. I was able to reach out to the alumni. I’ve been able to call or contact a number of coaches to be able to tell them directly though I must also admit, this has been hard. No matter how many times I share the story, I choke up, and that’s uncomfortable.

Endings are emotional. People have reached out, concerned about depression and my mental health. It’s appreciated, but I’m good. This is not a choice with regret. It is one so that I lead a healthy life.

But I will miss the rest of this year, watching Katie spastically dance in practice, little things like Abby exaggerating shagging balls, talking to Macey about ‘goldfish attitude’, or the overwhelming joy of players getting ready to do ‘corners’. I’ll miss Bella Pas’ directness, calling Josie ‘Mepo’ and having no one in the gym understand it (except when we were in Iowa). I’ll miss Kennedy’s laugh and people coming in to the office for a snack, promising to pay for them tomorrow…and now tomorrow will never come. And that’s okay. With food, it never has.

130 young women (many now repeating anniversaries of their 29th birthday…) and still in touch with most. I love them dearly. I pray they know that.

A few years ago, athletes in the department (I think VB started it but I don’t know) began using the hashtag “Loggers4Life”. I’ve tried to take that seriously. I’ve been privileged through 25 years of head coaching to gain a couple hundred daughters. I’ve loved going to weddings, hearing their stories, seeing their photos, sharing team memories. Ultimately now, in terms of volleyball, now I am a memory. I am ended.

And that’s okay. No one should ever permit themselves to be defined by a profession. Without volleyball on the daily docket (and juco coaches do *FAR* more work than any NCAA D-1 coach ever has), I will now have hours to dedicate to my other pursuits–writing novels, coaching books, and running an education foundation, producing books, a coloring book and boardgames to teach subjects in new ways and eventually use that income to endow scholarships for future teachers. Coaching may end, but helping young people will not. This becomes the beginning of full-time writing and production work.

I’ll be able to visit my daughter. I’ll be able to go to my youngest son’s college track meets. I’ll be able to go away for weekends with my wife, to visit my in-laws. I’ll be able to go see my sister, so we see each other more than once a quadrennial. It’s a beginning–of me getting to see people I see rarely and am always wishing I could see more.

It’ll be the beginning of me eating healthier. On the road all the time, I can tell you ever fast-food place in central Illinois. Now I can eat better, get back to walking our dogs daily.

And Lincoln Land? It’s a beginning there, too. When it’s appropriate, I’ll go back to campus. I’ll see the girls, see the other coaches and begin the adjustment to being an alum or emeritus myself.

So if you’ve reached out to find out if I’m doing fine. No, I’m not. Yes, I am. With each hour, it becomes more real and thus easier to accept. In days, I will have a new routine, and within a year, I’ll be neck-deep in the rest of the world.

I am thankful for these years. I’d like to think I’ve given back to the sport what it has given me…because now, it is the beginning of volleyball becoming my past.

And here at the end, the other song that has been an earworm today. The past is past but tomorrow is a brand new day.

Fixing Voting in the US

There’s a simple way to fix election issues. I think it could be done fairly, nationwide, AND without the federal government having to be in complete charge of the entire project.

There’s a problem though–history. My solution is something that was done previously and egregiously abused by rich white southerners. I’m aware of that–and that that alone would create skepticism and resistance to my idea. To that, all I can say is–I understand what happened, the abuse…and that I’m trying to avoid that with this idea.

So we have problems with who gets to vote and unfounded arguments of voter fraud in many states–generally these are special-interest group efforts to deny certain other groups access to the ballot box in order to tilt elections to specific candidates. Along with gerrymandering, this is unacceptable.

So how can we maximize participation AND make sure voters are ‘legit’? (Still getting to that….) There’s one other question we should ask though–>SHOULD everyone over 18 be permitted to vote automatically?

Nope. Automatic voting privileges, the expansion of voting rights to those under 21, etc, has not improved participation. Indeed, since the advent of television, the best looking presidential candidate has won every election. That’s not policies…that’s decisions being made for irrelevant reasons and has led to questionable choices as candidates or as winners. Trying to expand the system, there are now proposals to lower the voting age to SIXTEEN!! …why? Isn’t that just adding votes to the same party the parents already vote for (of course it is…which is why that idea sprang from Republicans in the South….)

The solution?

A voting license. Yup–sounds an awful lot like a poll test or literacy test…but it isn’t. This is not about denying anyone a vote. Read on.

In society, licensing is required for nearly every serious profession, ranging from bar exams for lawyers dow to accrediting for barbers and stylists–yet for voting, you basically show up, get auto-registered, handed a ballot and vote. It doesn’t matter if you are mentally incapacitated or senile…over 18…you’re voting.

So why not mandate a voting license?

The license would be good for four years–covering at least one state, one local, and two federal election cycles. There would be no charge for the license and you could acquire it at a designated state office–like where you get your driver license for instance. If you change your state of residence, you automatically get to transfer your voting license as long as it is at least one year away from expiration.

To get the license, you have to pass a test. The test would be automated, handled online/via the web with your results printed out upon completion. If you pass you get your voting license. All you have to do on election day is show the license (or scan it since this is the 21st century…) and then you get to vote. Because it’s like a driver license, it’s got those holograms, etc, so it can’t be faked. Perfect.

BUT WHAT IF YOU FAIL??? With past literacy tests, etc, you didn’t get to vote–because they were done at the poll. With my idea, you may retake the test again in 30 days. You may come back and take it an unlimited number of times–just not within 30 days of a state or federal election…you don’t get to swoop in at the last minute. Voting is something that requires thought–and if you can’t think about it in advance, I don’t want you selecting representatives or voting on referendum.

This means that if you are committed and dedicated–you are absolutely able to get that license. You aren’t going to get blocked/denied the right to vote…you’re just going to have to show you take it seriously enough that you can pass the test.

And what’s the test??? –that’s a big question because those southern literacy tests would give white voters ‘See Jane, see Jane run.’ while forcing blacks attempting to vote to read Shakespeare–with even a single mispronounced syllable disqualifying the person from voting.

To get past this–the test MUST be fair and appropriate. Questions should be random, so that there should be a possible list of 35-50 questions and when you sit to take the test, you will be given 20. Passing grade is 70%, so you’ll need to get 14/20 to get your license. Again, this isn’t meant to deny voting–this is meant to insure voters are at least politically semi-literate. Do we really want someone voting who can’t answer at least 14 of the questions below correctly??

What questions could/should we ask? (Again, these are things that should be known if you are voting)

*Name the President of the USA
*Name Your Governor
*Name at least one Supreme Court Justice
*Name one of your Senators
*Name your representative to US Congress
*Name a US cabinet member
*Name your US representative
*What is your state capital
*What is your county seat
*Name one of the amendments that are part of the Bill of Rights
*Name the three branches of government
*What are the two levels of government mentioned in the Constitution
*Who was the first US president?
*Name one of the past three former presidents
*What are Miranda Rights
*What do you need a FOID for
*How long is the term of office of a US Senator
*What is the term length for the US House of Representatives
*What is the title given to the US House leader
*Who takes over if the President is incapacitated or dies
*How many amendments are in the Bill of Rights
*Do you have to be a member of a political party to vote
* +/- 10 …how many US senators are there
* +/- 10 …how many US representatives are there
* +/- 10 …how many state senators are there for your state
* +/- 10 …how many state representatives are there for your state?
*Who is your state senator
*Who is your state representative
*True/False Standing for the anthem/pledge is mandatory by law
*Name two Supreme Court decisions (anytime 1800-current)
*True/False The Constitution provides for civilian control of the military
*Name one of the cities that has served as the US capital at some point
*What is the term for the US system with power divided between a national government and state governments
*Who is mayor of your town
*Name your alderman or any town council member
*True/false: Referendums are how you remove corrupt officials from office
*True/false: The federal government’s rules automatically are superior/take effect over laws made by states
*True/false: You must be registered as a member of a political party in order to vote in a federal election

Get the idea? This is about showing you have some clue of your own about politics. These are pretty much the questions you are supposed to have answers to when you pass a HS Civics class (though unfortunately those are often taught by sport coaches with no interest in actual teaching…they’ve been put there because Social Studies is where they do the least damage…the past 30 years shows the folly of that belief).


Iowa State: Reggie and the Water Tube

It was spring of 1987. Eventually the story will come to a fateful Monday evening.

And for mood–I’m listening to the key songs of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” (The Trio, Ecstasy of Gold)

One of the guys on our floor was named Reggie. He was about 6’3, 240–total muscle, a farm kid. He was friends with Stevie, a shorter, thinner kid from a farm who had farm-boy strength, too…just not 6’3. Also important, he’s ‘Stevie’ because we had multiple Steves on the floor and since Stevie had a boyish face–Stevie it was.

These two would play pranks on one another on a regular basis–the one I remember was Stevie tying the knob of Reggie’s partially open door to the door of Trent/Arnel across the suite. Stevie then knocked on Trent’s door. He pulled the door which slammed Reggie’s shut. That annoyed Reggie so he got up and opened the door which immediately slammed the other one shut–which got Trent to yank his open again…until about five minutes later Reggie and Trent figured out what was up….pretty good, non-damaging prank. It was a never-ending cycle of revenge between Reggie and Stevie…good times!

So in April of ’87, Reggie was working as a lab assistant in the Chemistry department. That gave him access to some equipment…extra stuff no one would miss…like surgical tubing. Reggie ‘requisitioned’ quite a bit of the stuff though initially I think he intended to use the tubing to create a slingshot or like a rubberband to snap at Stevie.

But now we get to the south-end drinking fountain which could ‘go pee’ on the floor. If you turned the knob, the water pressure was immense and it would shoot 6-8″ past the drinking fountain. This gave Reggie an idea–why not tie a knot at one end of a bit of tubing, fill the tube with water, then clamp the other end, releasing the clamp to shoot a stream of water–as a homemade water gun? It was a great idea and worked. Reggie did this first with a small half-foot bit of tubing…the proof of concept (these guys were mostly engineers, so you HAVE to have proof of concept….). Unclamped and with a little squeeze, he could hit someone with water 3-4 feet away…but with Reggie, bigger was always and inevitably better.

So he took a bigger piece of tubing. I recall it being 2-3 feet in length. On a Sunday afternoon, we were sitting in the Foster lounge–I think we were playing a card game called ‘Nuclear War’ when Reggie came in carrying the tube. We knew Reggie was going to do something–we also knew he wouldn’t do anything to destroy our game…good pranks don’t destroy. Reggie walks past us to the window–which only opened a little (to prevent…I don’t know why really…for safety? But out at Towers, the windows opened fully on all ten stories of the buildings.) “You guys wanna know how far I can shoot this?”

Hah–of course we did! Just as important, we wouldn’t be the people getting in trouble if things went south. SO we moved a bit away from the window to let Reggie have room. He stuck the untied end under the opening, facing south towards the Presbyterian Church across the street then released the clamp, squeezing the tube under his arm simultaneously to maximize the pressure and water distance.

Oh.
My.
God.

That little tube of water shot out over Westgate’s entrance, over the sidewalk, OVER THE STREET to splatter on the sidewalk in front of the church. I don’t think Reggie thought he could hit over there, but it was clear he realized he had a brand-new weapon in the infinite war with Stevie. He had an evil twinkle in his eye.

By Monday night, Reggie was ready with the ultimate tube. He wrapped it diagonally across his torso twice, filling it at the high-pressure water fountain, able to bear the weight of more than eight gallons of water now in the water tube. [Eight gallons is nearly 70 pounds by the way]. He had a nozzle to maximize the direction and with the tube under his shoulder, he could squeeze it like a bagpipe to force the water out.

Stevie was not a fool. If you knew you were the target and your attacker was looking for you, you’d be somewhere else…and so Stevie was at a girlfriend’s or Parks Library–nowhere near Westgate. Reggie didn’t know this–I suspect he thought Stevie was still there after coming back from dinner. I was in my room (307-B) when I heard a voice from the far end of the hall. “Stevieeeeeeee…Stevieeeeee…where are you? I just want to talk to you. Stevieeeeeee….” It was the song of the executioner. This was when I stuck my head out the door to see the tubing, the fully-weighted down hulk of Reggie walking down our hallway. I did what you would do in the moment–went back to my own work. I knew how this was going to end…and it wasn’t good for Stevie.

Our RA was a senior named Mike. Mike had a 6-9pm class on Mondays; I think it was one of those mandatory senior capstone classes–the sort that if you don’t pass, you don’t graduate. When you’re in your last semester, weeks from graduating, that keeps you focused. We all knew each others’ schedules so we knew Mike had likely just left (thus Reggie free to stalk Stevie). No, that Monday, Mike was still on the floor for some reason.

“Stevieeeee….”

At that point, there was a massive boom followed by a massive ‘whack’, like someone dropped a stack of pallets onto a concrete floor. I mean loud. I got up, looked out into the hall–like a dozen other people. Reggie was standing by the drinking fountain. I’m not sure he was aware of much in that moment–such a great plan, how could it go wrong?

Reggie never considered surgical tubing wasn’t meant to contain water for the long-term, wasn’t designed to be used as the water equivalent of a flamethrower. Well, not until that moment.

That’s also when Mike O. popped into the hallway, backpack over his right shoulder. Mike was a good guy (best RA I ever had) but he could have a temper. For a split second, I wondered if Reggie had lived his last day on Earth (hah). Mike took one step towards him and then said in a cold voice, “That better be taken care of before I get back.” He turned and walked out the north end of the floor.

So–how do you clean up eight gallons of water on carpet over a solid concrete floor underneath it? Towels aren’t going to work. Reggie wound up getting a trash can and a dustbin, scooping water into the trash. Most of the water disappeared eventually…of course, on Lowe, the floor below us, they suddenly found themselves in possession of two waterfalls pouring down their walls. No worries there because the water kept on going, forming a nice swamp in front of the building’s Hall Advisor’s room.

It took days for the carpet on our floor to dry out–the hair dryers Reggie used to blow on it had little effect. Needless to say, there was disciplinary action. I remember part of it. Reggie wound up having to do an ‘educational program’ the following week at our floor meeting discussing the dangers of misusing materials like water tubing…and shaving cream, talcum powder, etc….every thing he’d ever used in his war with Stevie.

Good times…good times. My opinion, this is a story worthy of a college movie…though I’m not sure it could ever happen now in the social media era–too many reasons to sit with a computer or phone, too many distractions from getting into good old-fashioned trouble.

If you’re ever in Ames, heading west past Beyer and State Gyms, past the Health Center, you’ll see the Presbyterian Church and a parking lot across the street. That lot was where we lived and it was glorious.

Life in a Texas school….coming soon to a theater near you.

Just a bit from a new movie coming out…:

*Green screen showing the MPAA has rated the film “G” for scenes of beautiful violence, gun pornography, and titillating clothing on female teachers [who all look like 23-yr old Cosmo models….]

NARRATOR (with a deep voice): “In Texas, kindergarten is like the ocean…never turn your back on it for more than three seconds…now, from Go-Pee Productions, directed by Harlon Carter…coming soon to a theater near you…”

*cut to Nathan B. Forrest K-8* [‘Murican patriotic country music twanging as the camera goes inside the building…]

Mrs. Smith: “First row, I want suppressing fire down the 3rd Grade Hall. Second row, you’re with me. Third row…no, Joey, we’ll do show-and-tell later…anyone peeks their heads out from the administrative corridor, no more than three-round bursts.”

*scene of kids scrambling to follow orders*

Mrs. Jones: *finger to lips* “Quiet boys and girls. This is why we’ve been discussing ambushes.” *cut to little girl with a hand raised, AR-15 in her lap* “No one pops up until at least one third of Mrs. Smith’s…Tina, we covered fractions last week…one third of 21 is seven…when seven of Mrs. Smith’s kids have passed, then Timmy’s fireteam…you remember that because we discussed it last month in Tactics Hour…will spring from the boys bathroom while Lena and her spotter provide a crossfire from Mr. Aberjack’s janitorial closet.” *girl lowers hand*

*scene of room to room combat…it may be Nathan B. Forrest school, it could be Stalingrad (1993) or the conclusion of Saving Private Ryan (1998), too.*

*Cut to Jr High Teacher’s Lounge, curiously looking like the Fuehrerbunker from Downfall (2004)

Mr. Harris: *pointing at floor plan* “We cannot let the grade school principal convince Der Fuehr…Dr. Schmeiling, that they need these two rooms for grade school expansion. We need room.

Ms. Rutencroche: *nodding* “We do not need those rodents interfering with our classes. We must have room and they won’t let us send them across the district line back to Hooville!”

Mr. Harris: *looks at camera* “That leaves one solution. Blitzkrieg.

*scene of Junior High kids mowing down 4th-6th graders…Peckinpaugh-level slo-motion violence

*cut to grade school principal’s office*

Principal Strawman: *looking sternly at a 2nd grader* “Henry, you know we have a dress code. It’s Thursday. Today is Urban Camouflage day. What is that? *cut to kid wearing a Captain America t-shirt and khaki shorts and tennis shoes* You’re not even wearing combat boots for God’s sake!” *kid begins crying* “Davey, until you wear the day’s proper camouflage, you do not get ANY hallway live-fire shooting range privileges.”

NARRATOR: “The forge of fire…the brotherhood of combat…the struggle to be first in line for lunch pizza…”

*Peckinpaugh violence as kids realize there’s a Student Council bake sale with chocolate-chip cookies and a four-person 3rd grade fireteam takes out a dozen 5th graders just about to purchase the cookies.*

*Cut to the superintendent’s office*

Dr. Poofin, (on the phone to the State Board of Education): “Yes, yes, our metrics are outstanding. We’ve got 20% shots on target with our grade schoolers and we’ve upped our kill rate to 36% once you remove bystanders and police unintentionally shot. We should be able to fully promote 100% of survivors to Junior High this may.”

*Final Preview cut to an 8th grader*

Those who run are liberals! Those who don’t run are well-disciplined liberals! Yeah, git some! Git some!

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-gtFcnluNOHU/UzYd68nimII/AAAAAAAAHh4/T0HPabuptwA/s1600/Downfall.jpg
(8th Hour Pep Rally to support the football team against Rooskie Intermediate)

Dr. Poofin meets the 2nd Grade Teachers during In-Service Day

This moving scene of Dr. Poofin with the Nathan B Forrest Weisssaengers was cut due to inappropriate language for Texas (ie. Spanish….):

Yadier Molina –Not a Hall of Famer

Ahh, hype. If you watch/read/listen to baseball, especially when the Cardinals are playing, that Yadier Molina is a Hall of Famer. To back this up, most writers use anecdotes from former teammates or past Cardinals. This is not objective. Many will discuss Yadier Molina’s ‘brilliance as a pitch framer’.

That’s fine, but framing requires three people, not one. Giving Molina credit for it all means the umpire and pitcher are not involved–but research shows that some umpires are more susceptible to pitch-framing than others and that pitch-framing is more important for breaking balls than fastballs in terms of umpire judgment. Basically–Molina doesn’t deserve 100% credit for pitch framing. I’d reckon it’s somewhere between 33-50%.

Also noted for his credentials is his rate of throwing baserunners out–an impressive 40%. Now, that IS impressive, but writers then talk about how over his career, teams have run on the Cardinals 500 fewer times than against any other team….which sounds impressive until you find out that there are fewer stolen base attempted today than any other period of baseball history other than the late ’40s-early ’50s.

The other argument is Molina is a better catcher than others not in the Hall of Fame, therefore he should go in….poppycock. He is perhaps the fifth best catcher not in the Hall.

So to the issues:

40% CS rate – No different than Bob Boone. Boone is actually more impressive. Teams attempted 90 steals/year against Boone–in an era where teams averaged 180-200 attempts…so that’s 110 fewer attempts/year…over 19 years, that’s more than 2,000 fewer (the actual number is closer to 1,500 by the way)–he prevented 1,000+ more attempts over the same length career.

Gold Gloves – Molina has a ton, but isn’t that reputation rather than data. There’s an argument against several catchers that they aren’t that good because they don’t have Gold Gloves. The catch? 1970-1985 was dominated by Sundberg, Munson, Parrish…and Boone. You could’ve been the second best in every season for two decades and not picked up an award. Now look at NL catchers over the past 20 years…not inspiring.

“Best at his position” – This is the argument to negate Boone, Freehan, Tenace, et al. But really this damns Molina with faint praise. We could just as equally say “Dave Concepcion was the best shortstop of his era” and be equally correct. Is Conception a HOFer? Not at all. He played in an era of incredibly horrible shortstops–Metzger, LeMaster, DeJesus, Uribe, etc. Really, go look up 1970s NL shortstops…you’ll come away horribly unimpressed.

What about modern stats? Here’s best and career OPS+ [OPS measures your performance compared to league average…100 = average]
Boone: 115 / 82 (Over average 5 of 19 years)
Molina: 137 / 97 (137 is a GREAT season…he’s been over 100 6 of 19 years.)
Posey: 171 / 129[!!!] (Over average 10 of 11 years…129 for a career is WAYYY into HOF territory)
Tenace: 176 / 136[!!!!} (Over average 13 of 15 full-time seasons)
Freehan: 145 / 112 (Over average 9 of 14 years)
Joe Mauer: 171 / 124 (Over average 14 of 15 years) –note: Mauer only played 9 seasons at C
Munson: 142 / 116 (Over average 9 of 11 years…died during that 11th year while at OPS+ of 96)

So–offensively, Molina is currently no better than 6th of catchers not in the Hall. If we decide to ignore Mauer (who won Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and an MVP at catcher), then Molina is 5th. I choose not to ignore Mauer–he switched due to concussion…but was behind the plate for a career the same length as Munson.

How about an evaluation of overall ability? That’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR). That takes into account ballpark, the era played in, etc. Here’s the top 20 for WAR at catcher:

In order…: Bench, Carter, I-Rod, Fisk, Piazza, Berra, MAUER, Dickey, Hartnett, Cochrane, Simmons, MUNSON, TENACE, POSEY, Ewing, FREEHAN, Campenella, Schang, Posada, Bresnahan.

No Molina (because he’s Bob Boone with good PR). Molina is actually 22nd. If he performs at career average next year, he’ll climb to 19th on the list (which is 20% below Hall of Fame average).

BTW–here’s Posada and Kendall for offense:

Posada: 153 / 121 (over average 13 of 15 years)
Kendall: 137 / 95 (over average 7 of 15 years)…I won’t even try an argument that Kendall was a decent defensive catcher though. He wasn’t.

So–even guys I didn’t previously mention are far superior at the plate…probably a good time to mention that there are only two catchers worse than Molina in the Hall–both old-time selections by the Veteran’s Committee…

What about defense though?

Boone: 40% (30% above league average) 5pb, 30wp / season
Molina: 40% (40% above league average) 5pb, 30wp / season
Posey: 33% (20% over league average) 2pb, 20wp / season
Tenace: 36% (league average) 6pb, 16wp / season
Freehan: 37% CS (league average), 8pb, 27wp / season
Joe Mauer: 33% CS (20% over league average), 4pb, 24wp / season
Munson: 44% CS (20% over league average), 9pb, 30wp / season

Since we’re talking defense, let me look up Rick Dempsey. He’s famous for the line–just throw it low, nothing will get by me.

Dempsey: 40% CS (15% above league average), 2pb, 15wp / season (yeah, he blocked everything)

Anyways–there’s nothing there that stands out for Molina to mark him as superior to those other non-HOF catchers.

What does it all mean?

It means my flip comment that Molina is Bob Boone with good PR is pretty much accurate. Based on WAR and OPS+, Molina’s inferior to a lot of guys out there and not in the Hall of Fame–and while Molina’s defense is absolutely excellent…it doesn’t stand out above those same guys performing better at their peak and over their career.

One last thing…fandom does not mean irrational. I’m accused of opposing Molina because he is a Cardinal–but it’s forgotten that I actually believed Ted Simmons was unjustly overlooked for the Hall…so here’s the poop on Simmons:

OPS+: 118 / 148 (over average 13 of 18 seasons behind the plate)
Defense: 34% CS (league average), 10pb, 27wp / season (a bit sub-par…but well made up for by the massive OPS+)

Iowa State: My First Two Weeks of College (R-rated) or “Wallace Hall, The Residence Hall Sodom and Gomorrah”

I was a bit naive when I went off to college. I didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, wasn’t promiscuous. I went thru high school bored to tears by crappy teachers, despising my high school’s administrators–and living for weekends when I’d get to play board games and role-playing games with friends. That’s what got me through a hellish three years.

College was different–and because I was late applying to Iowa State, my housing priority was low–I didn’t get any of my preferences. Instead, I wound up in Wallace Hall…the Towers. That was an interesting semester (before thankfully moving to Foster House in Westgate).

My Towers memories are amusing now to have lived through but nothing I would want to repeat. Homesick, not knowing anyone in the Towers (I knew two people in Friley, one in Westgate), I was very alone. WIthout a distraction that first weekend, who knows, maybe I would’ve cashed it in and gone home, admitting I couldn’t hack it. Hah–wasn’t gonna happen. Fuck Novello.

In ’85, the drinking age was 19 in Iowa–and that meant almost everyone on campus (except me) was legal. Most who were 18 had fake IDs…and parties off-campus or in the Greek system didn’t check anyways. So…I was sitting in the Foster lounge on that first Saturday watching TV when there was a big boom from outside–there was no A/C so all the windows were open…the better to enjoy all the loud stereos from all four of the Towers’ towers. I had no clue what happened–but it was big. There wound up being a lot of flashing lights on Welch Ave–cops, fire trucks, the works. From where Wallace was, I couldn’t see anything other than the strobing lights. I wound up going to bed–and I’d check things out in the morning when I headed over to my friend Jeff’s.

I did that the next morning–I think I was probably the only student awake/moving that early on a weekend morning. I walked up Welch towards Friley and saw what had happened. A fraternity there (Pi Kappa Phi) had had an accident–I’d stayed there when visiting ISU the previous spring as I had a friend who had been a member there…I was not impressed. Anyways, it was an older building and it had a huge balcony on its second floor. I’d been on it–it was creaky…but still sturdy (my opinion). But on that Saturday night, the frat boys threw a party and it was a big one–bigger than permitted and that meant they crammed that balcony with people. And they all started jumping up and down. And then the balcony collapsed, enough damage that the house wound up being vacated–and eventually enough that they suspended the frat and tore the building down. There had been 100-150 people on that balcony…and walking by it, it looked like it had snapped like a graham cracker. Among other things, that sealed my opinion of fraternities. WIth that said, my first thought, seeing the damage, was wondering how many people were killed (it was carnage) and how many were injured. It turned out only one female student was injured–she broke her leg. No one else wound up hurt.

The following weekend, there was another party. This one was on Lancelot, the floor I lived on. Floors in the residence halls were permitted two parties per semester. Students paid dues for the privilege of these parties. I’d never seen anything like them in my life…though I had a clue because every floor of Wallace Hall smelled of stale beer. It was in the carpet, in most of the furniture. In hindsight, I’m shocked Mom didn’t comment on it when moving me in–then again, she was too busy thinking about her oldest child heading off to college and being emotional…moms.

These parties were what you see in movies. Kegs? Sure. Five or six–no problem Anything not finished when the party ended at 2am, well, then, that would work for Sunday during NFL games…not to mention the people who would mix Everclear with Jello. The floor lounge area (with the kegs) would be packed, the music would be loud, and out in the elevators’ area (a floor was shaped like a “H” with the ‘vators in the middle) people would be dancing–music from the lounge 60’ away was still loud there.

I tried to be a ‘good’ college student, but since I didn’t drink, wasn’t 19-21years old, and was part of a school with 1/20th the # of kids as Wallace Hall had living in it (and Towers was a four-building complex), I didn’t fit in at all. In the moment, it was a horrible feeling–everyone wants to fit in with roommates, neighbors, to make new friends. Now–I was just in the wrong place and a few months later, I’d be okay once I moved to Foster. The world wound up working out…but that’s now not then.

Rather than continue to feel isolated and socially awkward with so so so so much beer being consumed…I decided to withdraw to my room (7312), I could read, and wait for everything to end and I could resume ny normal socially-awkward existence. Life doesn’t work that way.

College in 1985 was crowded, residence halls were overflowing with people so I had two roommates in a room meant originally for only two people. One was Mohsin. He was from Pakistan, his dad was a government official, and Mohsin was in the US to have some fun–whether that was eating some pork or consuming alcohol. Mohsin’s proud and joy though was a top-end stereo system and turntable that occupied most of his desk.

The other roomie was Al. Al was from Rockford, Illinois, and he’d just come out of overflow housing (people who didn’t have a room and were on bunkbeds in what were normally common areas). Al wanted to be an engineer. He also wanted to have a good time. Al had a good time. Regularly.

That night, I went back to the room, unlocked it, and walked in on Al and a girl named Sheila. Al was sitting on Mohsin’s desk. Sheila was standing between Al’s legs. I’d never walked in on something like that before. Hmph. Al looked at me and he was far, far, far past the legal alcohol limit. The girl didn’t notice me. So I did what I thought was the decent thing…I backed on out of the room and figured I’d need to look awkward at the party for another hour or so. Sigh.

Mohsin spotted me–knowing I’d intended to go back to our room. He asked what was up–and I told him. Mohsin immediately charged to our room and opened the door, furious. “You ASSHOLE. You’re sitting on my turntable. That’s a thousand-dollar turntable! And she’s leaning on my god-damned leather jacket. That cost me as much as the stereo.”

Al smiled, stood up, came to the door with no pants on, and slammed the door in Mohsin’s face. Mohsin stood for a moment then yelled through the door, “Anything gets on my jacket, you’re paying for the dry cleaning you ASSHOLE.”

The door clicked and the black leather jacket flew in Mohsin’s face. The door closed. Mohsin looked at me and shrugged, “At least my jacket’s okay.”

We went back thirty minutes later–Al and Sheila were gone. They wandered the stairwells the rest of the night, trying to smoke cigarette butts they found on the stairs and landings. Of course, when Al got back on Lancelot around 11am, about a dozen stereos immediately started cranking recordings of ‘Oh, Sheila!’ Al never said anything. Then again, as far as I know he never talked with that Sheila again after that night either.

Welcome to college. Somehow I suspect it’s not much different in 2021 than it was 36 years ago.